Tag Archives: Rolling Stone

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/

How Rolling Stone Broke My Heart

– Mike Munoz

Usually, finding the latest issue of Rolling Stone in my mailbox is a very exciting occurrence. It means I get a chance to see what new CDs and singles are hot or not, what Peter Travers thinks of the latest Hollywood blockbusters, and most importantly, who’s on the cover. So when I opened my mailbox Tuesday afternoon and saw the latest issue of Rolling Stone, I couldn’t help but be excited. But my excitement quickly turned to disappointment when saw Snooki from MTV’s The Jersey Shore straddling a rocket with cowboy boots on the cover.

First off, you have to understand how hard it is for me to write this post. For as long as I can remember, Rolling Stone has been my Bible.  Their album and movie reviews told me what artists to look out for and which ones to ignore. Their tweets keep me posted on the latest news in the music world. Their feature stories and profiles are what got me interested in journalism in the first place. But in that last couple of weeks, I’ve started to question my faith in the publication.

This wasn’t the first time in recent memory the cover story had caused me to question my loyalty. Last April, the magazine released an issue with the cast of Glee on the cover, and since then has showered the show with non-stop praise. Don’t get me wrong Gleeks – I can appreciate a show that re-popularizes classic songs for a younger audience. But it’s hard to see a cover that has been graced by the likes of John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix be given to a show based on afterschool special clichés and irritating covers of iconic songs.

My disappointment continued to grow when their last issue had a picture of Justin Bieber in a leather jacket on the cover. Now it makes sense that Rolling Stone would want to do a story on one of the biggest names in the pop world right now. But this is not Tiger Beat Magazine, and Justin Bieber should not be a cover story. To make matters worse, one of the other feature stories mentioned on the cover was an in depth look at the history of The Clash. So instead of featuring a cover with one of the most iconic bands in the history of the punk movement, they decided to go with Justin Bieber; a Grammy-less 17 year old who’s fan base consists of primarily 12 year old girls. I have yet to open the issue.

Surely it couldn’t get any worse.

You’d think their next cover story would be on Arcade Fire’s big night at the Grammys, or Radiohead plugging their new album, The King of Limbs. Even a Lady Antebellum cover would have been fine. But Rolling Stone decided to go in a completely different direction and put Snooki on the cover. How can this be? How can one of the most highly regarded magazines in the music industry do a cover story on a woman who is famous for getting smashed and humping anything with (or without) a pulse? Do I even bother to read this issue? Or is it time to start reading Spin instead?

While I admit I will never stop reading Rolling Stone altogether, I’m finding it harder and harder to remain loyal with some of the questionable people being featured on the cover. So this is my plea to the head editors at Rolling Stone magazine. Next time you’re choosing a subject for a cover story, try to pick an artist who has actually won awards and isn’t still going through puberty. And maybe stray away from reality stars that are only famous for having their hooha blurred out a record number of times on national television. After all, this is a music magazine. Right?