Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby is an unapologetic, over-the-top kinetic fantasy. Everything is big (Klipspringer plays a castle-sized organ, not a piano), loud (the deservedly much-hailed soundtrack delights), and bursting with color. The camera zooms, twitches, leaps and dances through a roaring feast of 1920s decadence and despair. It also relentlessly pushes in on the titular character: self-made myth Jay Gatsby. And that is the reason you should see the film.
In the midst of all the swooping 3D (meh) and exquisitely detailed sets (woot!), Leonardo DiCaprio’s depiction of Gatsby is sensitive and real. Just as Fitzgerald introduces us to the mask Gatsby presents to the world then peels it away page by page, DiCaprio and Luhrmann start with Gatsby’s facade (that famous smile, lit by fireworks) and then let it fall away scene by scene. We see the longing, the panic, the joy (what’s this? DiCaprio laughing on screen?), the fear, the anger, and most importantly, the hope. In short, they get Gatsby, and they get him right.
A nuanced coming of age story with a few epic bends, Jeff Nichols’s third feature, Mud, is both the story of every kid and this one kid: Ellis, played with remarkable vulnerability by Tye Sheridan, whom you might recognize from Tree of Life. Ellis is a 14-year-old river kid who faces troubles both common (crushes and domestic uncertainty) and uncommon (a sunburnt island-squatter—Mud—offers Ellis and his pal Neckbone a deal they can’t refuse).
It’s been a week since I saw writer/director Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond the Pines, and I’ve been puzzling out how he created such an immersive film ever since. With my notebook and constant (over) analysis, I tend to watch and deconstruct movies at the same time. But this film pulled me under fast, leaving me to figure out why after the lights came up.
Cianfrance’s background is the first clue: Documentaries outweigh fiction on his resume, though he’s most well-known for 2010′s heartbreaker Blue Valentine, starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. The non-fiction practices of gathering moments as they happen and storytelling by way of context (as opposed to highly constructed dialogue) served The Place Beyond the Pines well. We get to know these characters by their clothes (oft unflattering), their houses, their sad tattoos, how they move, how others react to them. And in a story that unfolds over almost two decades, we only see the needed moments. There’s no fat to distract, only one loaded look, layered interaction or can’t-be-unmade decision after another.
If you like your twists uncomplicated with heart or soul, you’ll love this flick. As an exercise in compelling confusion, this mind-heist movie by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours) works. The shooting is stylish, and the acting is intriguing. As Simon, James McAvoy’s baby blues convince you that a bump on the head really did leave him with no memory of where he left that stolen painting. Vincent Cassel delights as Franck, the leader of the scrambling gang of thieves. (If you take one thing away from Trance, make it a resolution to watch Cassel’s back catalogue, especially 1995′s Cannes favorite Le Haine.) And Rosario Dawson appropriately mesmerizes as the hypnotherapist, Elizabeth, hired to retrieve the memory of the robbery from Simon’s troubled mind.
The plot ducks and weaves entertainingly. Early on in the film, I guessed the who but not the how, which let me feel smart for guessing correctly while leaving me with enough questions to be interested until the end. Interested, but not satisfied: (SMALL SPOILER) The beginning of the movie had a playful wit that quickly darkens; when the grimness suddenly flips to sunny at the end—upbeat soundtrack and all—the tonal shift felt un-earned.
If I have an excuse for taking so long to post about the True/False Film Fest (February 28 – March 3 in Columbia, MO), it’s this: I just didn’t want it to be over. In its ten years of bringing the best documentaries (and kinda documentaries) to the heartland, True/False has created an army of fanatics who talk about the fest with fervor usually reserved for barbecue and college teams ’round these parts.
I attended last year and was converted to the event’s infectious spirit immediately. The fest is designed to break down the walls between filmmakers and film-goers. Each screening has a filmmaker Q&A, parties mix fans and documentarians, and the compact festival traffic patterns ensure you’ll run into the person responsible for that fantastic film you just saw in line for coffee or a slice of Shakespeare’s pizza. The fest also seems calibrated for filmgoers’ maximum happiness. “Buskers” serenade you while you wait for films to start, hundreds of friendly volunteers keep things running smoothly, and an ingenius “Q” system helps latecomers get into sold-out films.
10:58: Ben Affleck just thanked Canada. And Iran. “I want to thank my wife, who I don’t usually associate with Iran.” Thanks people for helping him when they had nothing to gain from him. Classy. Sneaks in his kids names at the end. Fast talker, that Ben. Doesn’t mention Damon.
10:55: Argo. “That is strange. That is weird. I mean, I’m glad for him.” — Lauren. My thoughts exactly.
For your Oscar-watching pleasure, may I present The Official Gimme Some Film Acceptance Speech Score Card? Simply circle the points as the winner earns them, subtract a subjective number of negative points for any unpleasant annoying-ness, and total. Then let me know who your high-scoring winner was post-awards! Enjoy, Oscar-fiends!
Ok. *Deep breath* I have a confession to make: I did not love this movie. I’ve put off writing about this film for almost three months, and now it’s time to come clean. Please argue with me in the comments section if you love it—and know that the Academy clearly agrees with you. (But commenter David H. doesn’t.)
I think I procrastinated writing this post for so long because I wanted the reasons for my dislike of the octo-nominated movie to be more complicated. But I haven’t read the novel by Matthew Quick for an in-depth literary analysis. I don’t really have much to say as far as social commentary on mental illness goes. All I’ve got is this:
They’re finally here. The love-to-hate-’em-hate-to-love-’em Oscars. One whole week where almost everyone is talking about movies? It’s a little slice of cinema-crazy heaven. I’ll be delivering some Oscar party games and a couple late-coming Best Picture reviews this week, plus live blogging on Sunday night. To start prepping for the festivities, read up! Here’s what Gimme Some Film is currently serving for your Oscar-reading pleasure: