You ever see experience something so ridiculous that you can’t help yourself from commenting? Maybe it’s because I’m living in Los Angeles where ridiculous grows to exponentially scary heights, but what I saw surrounding the release of The Great Gatsby certainly gave LA a run for its money in the redonkulous race.
The reactions, critiques, and the conversations that the adaptation inspired really fascinated me, and I thought I’d break it down for ya’ll:
1) The film simply can’t be made into a movie
What I find hilarious about this argument (if you’d even like to grant it the compliment) is that the American movie industry can make multiple movies stemming from board games, iPhone apps, and ridiculously unending revisions of superhero franchises without so much a blink of an eye, but try for the fourth time to make a movie out of “The Great American Novel” and all of America’s hidden cultural purists come out to judge.
I’d like to admit I haven’t seen the other versions, especially since the first silent film was lost to the ages, but I saw this one. I’ve been waiting to see it, and have been looking forward to seeing it because I love the director, and most of what he’s put out. It’s the same reason I look forward to sitting in a theater to see whatever P. T. Anderson makes. Different experience, but the same reason.
The issue I take is that Lurhmann’s not even allowed the opportunity to fully show his creation before everyone and their mother takes issue with it. Will it be a flop? Will it be amazing? The speculation circus was so intense that it made his interviews on the press circuit feel like a grilling. It’s a shame that we as a culture can’t let things just exist without first speculating as an appetizer and then critiquing with disappointment as dessert.
2)Baz Lurhmann’s version is awful/not faithful, etc.
No one will ever say this about a Baz Lurhmann film: “A subtle, quiet, and ultimately timid journey through the inner workings of 1920’s society” but I think that’s probably okay with him. After seeing Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge, Australia, and now this delectable glittering jewel, it’s safe to say that most (if not all? but I won’t pen his genius in) of his work will be an overblown uberglam spectacle of eleganza on film, and we should probably just accept–and then expect it– from here on in. But that’s not what’s happening. What’s happening is that people are judging Baz Lurhmann’s creative tendencies from their own personal or maybe other contemporaries lens’, but in my mind, Baz has no contemporaries. Perhaps if I had to name it could be the outlandishness of Lady Gaga mixed with the show-stopping power of Freddy Mercury, tinged with the audacity of Kanye/Yeezus, but those aren’t really contemporaries– more like intergalactic counterparts.
Baz’s films are huge, bright, and at least 3 out of the 4 listed involve some aspect of creative appropriation. Romeo + Juliet was turned from fair Verona to gangbanging LA (I will always love John Leguizamo as Tybalt), Moulin Rouge introduced me to mash ups (ugh are you kidding with that tango sequence?!) and The Great Gatsby paralleled (in the smallest ways between these 3 films) our time with the original source for the novel through the use of Jay Z’s awesome musical prowess. I thought it was done extremely well, and for all of Baz’s tendency to overdo it, was NOT overdone in the least!
Sigh, can’t please everybody–especially when they don’t accept even the smallest gist of who you are.
What I find incredibly fascinating is how everyone can accept Michael Bay’s overblown schlock fest as acceptable overblown schlock, but seems to treat Baz’s overblown artistic drag queen-esque style as a joke. Yet Andy Warhol’s work hangs in museums. The whole thing baffles my mind.
3) The movie tie-in cover is a culturally shameful choice for a consumer, judged accordingly.
This article came out and was retweeted by a pretty big name in the graphic design industry as “distressing”. I clicked on it, but as I was reading through it, I got the overwhelming sense that I was reading an Onion article. No, no,This article was from the New York Times. The Grey Lady.
Yeah, the newspaper that’s supposed to have gravitas; and the articles within (supposedly) carrying a level of quality, perhaps also, authenticity.
Yet the article I’ve got in front of me, retweeted by Pentagram’s own Michael Beirut as ‘distressing’, holds none of those tenants of journalism. You’re totally right, Mr. Beirut, this article IS distressing, but not because the redesigned cover boasts actor’s faces.
It’s because an entire article has been conceived, penned and published, damning the social/cultural awareness of people purchasing a book with a movie tie in. A social/cultural awareness that is bereft in every other aspect of American life! Oh the humanity.
I’ll admit I saw the article as a piqued reaction to what was so distressing. The same man that designed the logo for the new Grand Central Terminal can definitely be trusted with some design commentary that is for certain, but the article’s topics read more as satire than something legitimately upsetting.
I read the whole thing desperately wanting to read an Onion tagline at the end. “Why oh why can’t this be from The Onion?!” I cried as I shoved it in Jake’s face. Why is the saying no longer “don’t judge a book by it’s cover”, it’s “judge the person by the cover of the book they buy”, and why is The Great American Novel’s true message being slicked over the dazzling veneer of the (supposedly) intelligent design community?
The (abundant) thematic information is pretty clear: superficialities will never replace genuine interest, kindness, friendship, etc. so why is it that a superficial cover replaces the genuine art inside its pages? Of course reading the comments, you see that it never does, but good lord NYT. Get your shit together, girl.
Now that enough time has passed (what? less than a month seems like plenty of time), the film goes on being watched without so much of a comment, but there’s still an entire forum on LinkedIn of people debating (read: bitching, mostly) about the logo/type treatments and whether or not it’s successful. Sheesh! You think creative people can ever be happy?