Tag Archives: film

Popcorned: Gatsby on the big screen

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-Casey Klekas

When I walked out of The Great Gatsby, feeling a little drunk from all of Leo’s deliberately lavish soirées, I was like Nick Carraway when he finally left the East, wanting “no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart.” Director Baz Luhrmann did a fine job making me sympathize with the narrator in his adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “great American novel” of the same name. This is a film that was surrounded by controversy well before its release on May 10. The soundtrack was filled with modern artists like Beyoncé, Jay Z, and Jack White, and I would have the choice of viewing the film in 3-D. I was not excited by these facts, but was still anxious to see the latest variation of one of the few books I actually read, let alone enjoyed, in high school.

The reviews have been mixed. Indeed, I saw the film as part of a book-savvy foursome and we were evenly split on the way back to the car. But, I was full of things to discuss with my companions whose patience would be strained in the next few hours. I wanted someone to convince me that Luhrmann’s adaptation merited more than a “meh.” Since then, I re-read the book (how cool am I?), and more and more I find myself defending the film from its critics (which I smugly find to be in an earlier stage of my own rational evolution toward appreciating Luhrmann’s Gatsby).

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone called the film “boring, artificial and god-awful.” His criticism, if we can call it that, is superficial and empty, if that’s not a tautology. He was angry at being given an option to watch the film in 3-D and did not have much patience for the soundtrack.

All I can say is, that movie was made for 3-D. It would be lame and cartoony if it weren’t viewed that way, because let’s not forget that this is all a memory of the narrator, so things are always a little larger-than-life. The orgiastic excesses really only come at you when you’ve got those cheap glasses on.

Regarding the soundtrack, I think it would have been weird to hear scratchy ‘20s jazz in the foreground of Luhrmann’s picture. Considering how desensitized our ears have become, I found the music fitting. I still say it was gimmicky at times—like when Jay-Z’s “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” plays over Nick’s glimpse into a convertible full of dancing and champagne. I LOLed pretty GDL, right there.

This scene gets me into something that has been missing from other discussions surrounding the film. The question of Luhrmann’s faithfulness to the novel has been covered by Slate’s David Haglund where he points to missing characters such as Nick’s Finnish maid. This is what distracted me from being able to passively enjoy the movie instead of constantly thinking, “I don’t remember that in the book!”

In the book, the narrator marvels at a group of wealthy black people in a limousine, driven by a white chauffeur. He says, “I laughed aloud as the yolks of their eyeballs rolled toward us in haughty rivalry.” His other description of the group we might consider (borderline) racist.  In the film, these lines are omitted, and Luhrmann puts Jay-Z over a scene we might describe as progressive. This makes Nick’s next line something we can admire rather than wince at: “‘Anything can happen now that we’ve slid over this bridge,’ I thought; ‘anything at all…’”

Again, when we meet Gatsby’s business associate, Meyer Wolfsheim, based off Arnold Rothstein, who is beautifully played by Michael Stuhlberg on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, Wolfsheim is supposedly some kind of gambler. “Gatsby hesitated, then added coolly: ‘He’s the man who fixed the World’s Series back in 1919.’” In the novel, it is hard to read Carraway’s (or, really, Fitzgerald’s) description of Wolfsheim as anything other than mildly anti-Semitic. Was director Luhrmann to be faithful to this part of the novel? How would that add to the story? In the book we can at least read past these lines and shrug off the ignorance from an earlier time. For example, Luhrmann gave us a Wolfsheim played by Amitabh Bachchan, an Indian actor, rather than the actual ethnicity Nick describes in the novel. As Slate’s Haglund pointed out, “Faithfulness in this case probably would have meant anti-Semitism.”

Even though I crossed my arms well before entering the theater to see Gatsby, I didn’t really give it a fair chance when I saw it. But, maybe that is an inevitable problem for any director who tries to adapt a classic piece of literature for the big screen (especially for viewers who are used to 3-D and grind-worthy music). It is practically impossible to separate this film from its literary inspiration, so, for that reason, I don’t think it is possible to give this film or any other like it above a B+, no matter how I feel about it this week.

My grade: B+

Image from http://thegreatgatsby.warnerbros.com/

Translating the (Ridiculous) Language of Redbox

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-Reed Nelson

Take a trip to your local Redbox. With you, take a pad of paper, preferably pocket-sized, and a writing utensil, preferably not a fountain pen. Write down the movies you see.

Go ahead, I’ll wait. You can find more of them in this town than street signs in the University District.

But if you don’t want to scroll through such memorable titles as Stitches, Skew, Pawn, and Expiration, here is what you missed: an electronic box featuring a mystically infinite selection of films with titles like Stitches, Skew, Pawn, and Expiration.

Sure, Academy Award winning films can be found at most locations (Silver Linings Playbook, Life of Pi, and Django Unchained to name a few), but why would anyone rent something that pretentious when K-11, the story of Raymond Saxx—two x’s, in case the first one got lost in plot detail—is available. According to the informational screen, it’s about a businessman who gets sent to the LGBT wing of the Los Angeles County Jail where he then gets Nasty-Nated by “Mousey, a malicious transgendered inmate.”

Redbox, you have my attention. Especially when the opening line of plot info on Life of Pi reads, “A Montreal writer in search of his next project happens across the incredible story of Piscine Militor Patel.” Boring.

Why would I want a title longer than ten characters, anyway? 140 is so 2010. If I’m renting a movie, I’m renting Jacob, a movie that most definitely stars the Baby Sinclair puppet from Dinosaurs, but all grown up.

Or maybe I’ll just go with The Wicked or The Collection or The Bay. Or another one that starts with “the.”

Lord knows I’m not making that intrepid journey up to the last remaining Blockbuster in South Eugene. So what if I wanted to rent Annie Hall or The Squid and the Whale? I came home just as happy with The Marine 3: Homefront and Ghost Storm, the latter of which is a movie about two heroes saving the wonderful folks “on a small island from a strange electrical storm which is led by angry souls looking for revenge.”

(Again, their words, not mine. But, information authors at Redbox, that whole leaving-out-the-name-of-the-island move? Well played. I need to know. Like, right now.)

But Redbox is like Steve Jobs: I don’t know I want it until Redbox gives it to me. Vengeful Ghost Storms? Yup. I’m in. I already have so many questions. Like, is this based on a true story? How many ghosts does it take to make a Ghost Storm? Are there Ghost Drizzles? How about Ghost Hurricanes? Or do supernatural atmospheric occurrences peter out around Ghost Nor’easters? Are the individual ghosts visible during one of these storms? Or is it just like a collective energy kind of thing? Why is there no mention of Ghost Cellars? If this is a remote island, shouldn’t they have severe storm precautions? How does a Ghost Storm differ from, say, a Mount Olympus-inspired Midwestern thunder-and-lightening throw-down? Could those two types of storms duke it out in the sequel? Can you start a Kickstarter for the sequel involving warring storms?

See. Redbox was right. Ghost Storms are infinitely more interesting than stories of human behavior, test of will, and interpersonal relationships.

That’s why I don’t go to Blockbuster anymore. And it’s the same reason I traded in my working automobile for a Segway. Gas-mileage, baby, I’m progressive.

Blockbuster, after all, is so expensive. three dollars for a movie? Rather have a Red Bull Special Edition Blueberry, thank you very much. It doesn’t matter if I’ve seen all the award winners at Redbox, I’ll pay a dollar to see them again.

(I will then let them sit on my kitchen counter for the next six days, allowing them to become, individually, six dollar movies instead of one dollar movies, thus defeating the entire purpose. But, in the immortal words of Icona Pop: I crashed my car into a bridge. Wait that wasn’t right, I was looking for: I don’t care, I love it. That’s right, I love holding onto movies that I’m not all that into for an extended period of time, bleeding my bank account like some mini-Office Space siphon job.)

So, next time you want to rent a movie that you haven’t seen in a while, or maybe you just want to finally watch Shawshank Redemption for the first time, go instead to Redbox, and grab yourself a copy of So Undercover, starring Miley Cyrus. It’s totally the same thing, I swear.

Image by Valerie Everett.

“The Greatest Film Never Made” is about to be made (into a miniseries)

-Casey Klekas

Kubrick. Spielberg. Napoleon. What do these three great men have in common? In a word: miniseries. Director Stanley Kubrick’s unfinished project about French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte will be realized as a miniseries by director Steven Spielberg. This is the story of a movie thirty years in the making.

Kubrick had received mountains of praise for his science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey, released in 1968. He then turned his eyes to making a historical epic about Napoleon Bonaparte. He began research for the film, plotting out locations, costume designs and tentative casts, rumored to have included the up and coming Jack Nicholson as the emperor himself.

The film was about to go into production when another film on the era, Waterloo, hit the box offices. Although a beautiful picture, Waterloo was a commercial flop. Kubrick’s investors were shaken and pulled their backing from his project. The movie was resigned to be one of Hollywood’s missed masterpieces. He turned his eyes to Anthony Burgess’s novel, A Clockwork Orange, instead. Jack Nicholson would never wear any those glorious hats; he’d have to settle for the ever-maddening caretaker at the Overlook Hotel in Kubrick’s The Shining.

Kubrick wrote the full script for his Napoleon project, now freely available online. A collection of research and pre-production material was assembled after Kubrick’s death in 1999 in a book called Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon: The Greatest Movie Never Made.

Another unrealized Kubrick was “Super Toys Last All Summer Long” about artificially intelligent playthings. Kubrick worked extensively on the project in the ’80s, then decided it wasn’t his style. He offered the directing position to Steven Spielberg, who made it into the 2001 blockbuster A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, appearing just after Kubrick’s death.

But that wasn’t the last time we’d see Spielberg take up an unfinished Kubrick project. Spielberg has announced, “I’ve been developing a Stanley Kubrick screenplay for a miniseries–not for a motion picture–about the life of Napoleon.”

Spielberg is known for his monumental miniseries airing on HBO, such as Band of Brothers and The Pacific. Kubrick films are infamous for their length, often over three hours. I think it’s fantastic that Spielberg is thinking miniseries. For one, it will let him explore all parts of the Kubrick original with plenty of room for his own visions. Also, as a miniseries, the pressure on Spielberg will be less. After his titanic success with another of history’s strongmen, Lincoln, he’ll get less flack from the general public demanding he bring off a second miracle at the box office with Napoleon. For me, this is a victory on all fronts. Kubrick is my favorite director, I’m fascinated by Napoleon, and I love me a Spielberg miniseries.

Image by Renaud Camus.

Anna Karenina: How Life Is Driven By Love

-Marissa Tomko

I personally did not know much about the story of Anna Karenina before I saw the film. I generally have a rule of reading a book before I see the movie, but I didn’t have much time before my family’s spontaneous decision to go see this one. For that reason, I went into this film with a completely open mind and lack of background. I viewed this film not as an adaption of Leo Tolstoy’s work of literature, but as a work of visual art that stood on its own—and it marveled me.

Anna Karenina, directed by Joe Wright, starred Keira Knightley as the title character. It is impossible to describe here what this story is fully about, but I think that it is best summed up as being about how love can change your entire world. Anna Karenina spends this film torn between her marriage to her husband, Aleksei, and her new found romantic love with Count Vronsky. Her character is deeply troubled and complex, and even I could tell that there was no way to explore her complexities found in the print version of Anna Karenina—or those of any other character for that matter—in one hundred and twenty-nine minutes. That being said, I thought Knightley was perfectly cast in this role; you could see Anna’s troubles in her eyes. She portrayed a deeper story, something that is integral to making a film based on such an intricate text.

My personal favorite part of this film is also the most criticized part: its theatrics. Parts of this movie were shown on a grand stage, and I loved the abstractness it brought to the scene transitions. It portrayed the emotion of this film on a deeper level. It made me feel like everything that happened in the characters’ external lives was just a show—but the changing emotions, represented by the transition from stage to movie set, were real. As a piece of art, this film portrayed that the private and internal moments of love are what connect the less important, staged moments of our lives. This abstract idea is a hard one to portray visually, but I found Wright’s tactics to be successful.

Image from http://www.beyondhollywood.com

Women in Film: A Feminist's Take

Women making many sandwiches for man

Image by user Pink Ponk via Flickr.

-Riley Stevenson

I’m a feminist.

Say that most places and you’ll receive an up-and-down stare, a scoff, or worse, be asked to justify your identity.

“But you don’t have hairy armpits!”

“Where’s your megaphone?”

“So, you hate men?”

I value my personal hygiene, think I sound like Darth Vader on a megaphone, and very much love men. But yes, I’m still a feminist.

Now, before you return to your Facebook page or stumble onto a new cat video, bear with me.

I should probably clarify that this feminist thing is new for me. A couple of months ago, I used “trick” as a term of endearment and started many of my sentences with “I’m not a feminist, but . . . .”

However, on the first day of spring term, everything changed. I was in a class called Gender, Media, and Diversity class, when my professor asked the class, “Who here is a feminist?”

I slouched down in my chair, rolled my eyes, and waited for short-haired, sweaty, raging women to raise their hands. To my surprise, more than half the class’ hands shot straight in the air (they weren’t sweaty and raging), leaving me looking like an idiot.

But how could this be? I care about equality and women’s rights, but a feminist? That’s absurd.

So, with the help of my friends, I devised a checklist to see if I passed the feminist test. And you can too, America.

1. Do you believe in equality and social justice?
2. Do you believe women should be paid just as much as men for the same work?
3. Do you need a man to make you happy?
4. A woman’s place is not in the kitchen. Agreed?
5. Women can enjoy sex without being called a slut, skank, or whore. Am I right or am I right?

If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, congratulations! Let me be the first to welcome you to the world of feminism: where women are classy, sassy, and not the slightest bit hairy. But if we wanted to be, that’s fine too.

Now that you’ve entered this super exclusive club, you might begin to see things differently. I don’t speak for feminists or the trees; I speak for me and say that I have begun to re-evaluate the way in which I watch movies, read books, and interact with friends since coming out as a feminist.

I was recently introduced to the Bechdel Test—a quiz used to evaluate the movies we watch. Here’s how it works: when watching a movie, ask yourself:

1. Does this movie have at least two women in it whose names we know?
2. Do the women talk to each other?
3. Do they talk to each other about something besides men?

You would be surprised at the number of movies that fail this test, including: The Social Network, the original Star Wars Trilogy, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Dark Knight, Slumdog Millionaire, Shrek, Ghostbusters, Pirates of the Caribbean, Austin Powers, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I would continue on, but don’t want to depress you too much.

Whether you’re a man or a woman, a feminist or not, is it too much to ask for movies that have a female presence that doesn’t revolve around men?

In 2010, only six of the top 50 grossing films were women-centric, and women comprised 9 percent of all directors, according to the Center for Study of Women in TV and Film at San Diego State University. In the words of Keenan from Saturday Night Live, “What’s up with that?”

Without strong female leads, young girls will grow up thinking our only career options in life are being damsels in distress, sex-deprived secretaries, and scandalous stay-at-home moms.

Because of this, I would like to recognize the dynamic trio who has made great strides for women in film and television: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Maya Rudolph. From Saturday Night Live to Bridesmaids, these three women have transformed femininity. No longer is it taboo to be outspoken, independent, or enjoy potty humor (the rumors are wrong: women poop).

In Tina Fey’s book, Bossypants, she has a particularly poignant section that describes the impossibility of living up to the images displayed in film, advertisements, and television.

She writes, “Now every girl is expected to have…

– Caucasian blue eyes
– Full Spanish lips
– A classic button nose
– Hairless Asian skin with a California tan
-A Jamaican dance hall ass
-Long Swedish legs
-Small Japanese feet
-The abs of a lesbian gym owner
-The hips of a nine-year-old boy
-The arms of Michelle Obama
-And doll tits”

Books largely influence images of femininity as well. When looking at three popular franchises of our time, Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games, the female leads of each series speak volumes about womanhood. Although at times women may curl up in the fetal position after being left by their boyfriends/partners/significant others as Bella does in Twilight, we learn from characters like Hermione and Katniss that our happiness is not dependent on our relationship status. If Hermione were to meet Bella, I have a strong feeling she would say, “Just because you’ve got the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn’t mean we all have.”

I idolize Hermione for many reasons. For one, her idea of a romantic statement is, “Ron . . . you are the most insensitive wart I have ever had the misfortune to meet.”

If Hermiones ran the world, we would all live happily ever after. But not in a castle after being rescued by our knights in shining armor. We would be doing the rescuing, thank you very much.

For those who doubt women’s capabilities to rule the world, an indigenous matriarchal community in southeast Mexico, Juchitan de Zaragoza, proves you wrong. In this town of 66,000, women are outgoing, run the economy, and do the catcalling. Women say they prefer to be alone than with a lazy man and being a single mother is respectable. Residents describe a society with little malnutrition, emigration, and intolerance. Could this system work on a large scale? Maybe, maybe not. But the world could use some change.

The purpose of this article is not to initiate a widespread conversion to feminism, but to take a moment to question the portrayal of women in the media, to challenge the way women present themselves, and to ensure that if you’re ever asked ,“Are you a feminist or something?” you don’t roll your eyes like I did.

 

Adrenaline: 72-Hour Film Project

[cap]E[/cap]ach team gets a prop, a line of dialog and a genre. Then over the next 72 hours, each group of would be auteurs must write, shoot and edit a film. Welcome to the Adrenaline Film Festival at the University of Oregon. Throughout this frantic three-day madness, industry professionals mentor each team as they pitch story ideas—from action to horror, comedy or western—write scripts, shoot scenes, and make final edits. After three sleepless nights, the teams compete in a showdown as the Cinema Pacific finale. Which team will make the movie that wins it all? This documentary follows one of the teams from start to finish.