26 October 2013

In A World Where Lake Bell Will be a Star...We are Very Lucky

Lake Bell the star writer and director of In a World... just has that look of the kind of woman lots of men love she's pretty not beautiful -- what some might call a handsome woman -- which makes her seem available or accessible and she's intelligent and not high maintenance and funny and fun like she's got a sophisticated sense of humor and is good at being clever and snarky and has a decent education ya know like not Harvard or Princeton but maybe a really good public university or a not too snooty small private fine arts college and she's read a few books and likes movies and is not what guys consider slutty but certainly no prude and probably even likes sports or at least a sport and maybe even played one like in high school probably lacrosse or field hockey so anyway guys with a modicum of intelligence (of which there are a few) are attracted to such women because they seem like someone you could marry and really guys for the most part are way more interested in getting married then they let on and usually its the woman in the relationship who's reticent about the big step and oh yeah she looks like she'd be a good mother although she's the type who'll make noise about not wanting to have children but she'll definitely change her mind certainly by the time the biological clock starts ticking down if not sooner oh yeah and this woman also knows her own mind and wont get pushed around by any guy and there's another thing that's attractive to men because men are mostly post feminist or at least should be.

So that's my take on Lake Bell.

She looks kinda like that.

So she's a natural to appeal to audiences because she's non threatening to other women I imagine they see her as potential friend maybe even a confidant. Ms. Bell is not age specific in her appeal either. Younger people would like up to her as a big sister type and older people would see in her a favorite niece or daughter or in some instances I suppose a younger lover though I don't get that vibe from her especially as I am blissfully married (my marriage is the kind where people think: what the hell does she see in him she's so nice -- I know cause I think that myself).

As a film star Lake Bell has a niche and is good to go. As a writer she's pretty good and boasts a future and as a director she's got some work to do.

I liked In a World... although I'd hoped to love it (full disclosure I never pay coin of the realm to see a film unless I believe I'm going to go gaga over said movie). There was a messiness to the editing that bothered me. It looked like one of the movies that are edited down to the standard 90 to 100 minute run time without respect to the fact that some of said editing would hurt the film. At one point we jump one from one night to the next in an instant and it's confusing as hell. There are also subplots and characters that could have used a little fleshing out. Some of the casting was questionable but I'll not name names as its not a huge deal and I come to praise Lake Bell not to nitpick her film.

Ms. Bell plays Carol Solomon who wants to break into the exclusive and exclusively male voice over business. Her father (Fred Melamed) is one of the members of said club and he's a selfish prick. Which is to say an interesting film character. Carol also has a an admirer (Demetri Martin) who's also in the biz and a married sister (Michaela Watkins) who she has to stay with when dad boots her because dad's very young girlfriend (Alexandra Holden) is moving in. There is also one of dad's rivals who Carol sleeps with after a party and it really doesn't make sense anymore than her sister's sort of cheating on her hubby...and well there's a lot going on very quickly and its too much. Plus I'm not sure how we're supposed to feel about the manner in which Carol does or does not land a huge job (no spoilers from me) or the direction of her romance or much of anything else.

There were problems with this movie.

But there was no problem with its star who we can happily expect to see more of in the years to come certainly as an actress and if she gets it together as a director/screenwriter too.  Ms. Bell is fun to watch and listen to and root for. The combination of acting skill comedy and charm will serve her well as we see in abundance here. Indeed more of her and less of the side stuff would have improved the movie immeasurably.

In a World.... did not live up to my expectations but Ms. Bell surpassed them which makes for a good enough day at the cinema.


25 October 2013

On the Importance of Being Useful

I have found that people like to feel useful. I know I do. It's not just that we want to keep busy but we want what we are busy with to have a purpose. This is why some old people are horribly depressed wither away and die. They feel useless. If you spend too long watching mindless TV or aimlessly surfing the web you can and will get depressed. I know this from experience. But if you are doing something you feel good. I suppose humans are hard wired that way. We joke about being lazy and not wanting to have anything to do but we also want to earn that free time. Come about honestly if you will.

Even just washing the dishes doing the laundry taking out the trash and recycling can feel good. Purposeful actions as opposed to thumb twiddling. I feel this more acutely now then I did when I was younger (and by the way I've always been younger than this and have never been any older than I am now; in the future I shall be older in the past I was younger). I was recently asked when I might retire. Mind you I'm way to young to retire but old enough to think about it. Anyway I answered by saying that I would have to be mad to retire from teaching ESL to adults. Who would want to walk away from work that is so bloody much fun? Now it is true that I have done some crazy ass things in my life but I have assiduously been working on cutting down on oddball behavior. Retire? In a pig's eye.

Retirement is a frightening notion for a lot of people. Not because they love their work but because they fear the absence of it in their lives. How will they fill the time? My dear old dad faced the same dilemma and for a short time after retiring was depressed -- although he'd be the last to admit it. But he found satisfying ways to fill his days. Fulfilling.  My father grew one bad ass garden in his spacious backyard which he tended lovingly and unfailingly. He also became as devoted a grandfather as one would ever hope to meet. He continued fishing and I do not mean sitting on a dock with a beer in one hand and a fishing pole in the other waiting for some poor sucker to take the bait. He went on salmon fishing trips out into the goddamned Pacific Ocean is what he did. And came back with fish for his sons and grandkids to enjoy. On the days he didn't fish he would often go down to the wharf and see how the boats did and swap lies with a bunch of old cronies. He also stuck his nose into politics volunteering for the local branch of the Democratic Party. He kept busy and happy.

I'm prone to short lived blue moods. I can only imagine what great sufferers of depression go through. Experiencing raging melancholia for even a quarter hour is truly awful. Days of it? No thanks and my heart goes out to people who endure it. Sometimes an attack of the miseries cannot be chased away and just must be outlasted. Other times there's a sure fire cure in the form of identifying a cause and addressing it post haste. Maybe there's an unpleasant errand that's been put off or a problem to be faced or a confrontation that can't be dodged. But other times it requires simply getting off one's derriere and doing something -- could maybe be anything -- useful. Writing always works for me. I feel like I'm feeding my soul. It's akin to the feeling after a run. Not only have I released endorphins but I feel damn good just for having done my body a huge favor.

I am reminded of the title song to the play and film Cabaret in which we are asked what good it is sitting all alone in our room and that as an alternative we should come hear the music play. This is of course figurative (although literally listening to music can be good for you too). Action activity movement purpose are all good for us.

I heard someone on the trolley in San Francisco today say that he could now cross seeing the Golden Gate Bridge off his bucket list. I find the very notion of bucket lists ridiculous. Really what does one do after crossing the last item of the bucket list? End it all? Maybe I'm taking it to seriously and literally but I would never want to have a finite number of tasks to complete before my life ended. There are places I want to see and things I want to do but they are endless and eternal even though I'm not.

Speaking of death. I have been reading James Agee's Pulitzer Prize winning masterpiece A Death in the Family -- ironically the Pulitzer was won posthumously. It of course deals with the premature death of a young husband and father of two (based on the author's childhood) and thus concerns itself with death. It is beautifully realized and elegant and so very real. Thus one cannot turn away from the central fact of the book. It is not so much mortality that we ponder (although that we do) but the loss of loved ones. This is at the core of human experience. It is one thing to face our own limited time in this life we also must face the losses of many of those around us. Some will go in due time when they are old and have lived a full life. As happy as we may be for their lives their deaths still bring sorrow. But there is also the specter of others passing well before their time. I have endured the death of two great friends a brother and former students all of whom were gone much too soon. One learns that any time we see someone it could be for the last no matter their health or good fortune. A Death in the Family is proving a stark reminder. I think of putting the book aside for another time....But instead I read on. If slower than I would if the subject matter were something cheery and light.

I can hear the question: why fill your days with morbid thoughts? For one thing they often come uninvited and refuse to leave unless seriously pondered. Also there is something curative about contemplating the worst. On the one hand it allows us to prepare ourselves for the worst should it ever happen. On the other hand it can help illuminate how damn good we have it. In my case I am at the current moment in superior health enjoying my work loving my family and surrounded by the arts. All this can change in the blink of an eye I know (knocking on wood won't change matters one iota) and its good to know that but even better to appreciate the moment which is all one ever really has anyway.

My advice is to be ever useful. To yourself and others. Never stop growing and learning and pushing the boundaries. One of the worst things many of us do is settle. If there is more or better to be had we owe it to ourselves to pursue the more or the better. We also owe it to ourselves (and those who love us) to grow and learn and explore and make the most of whatever gifts and opportunities surround us. Try never to surrender to the negative. Don't be consumed by anger or sorrow or ennui. Go forth. Always. Go forth.


19 October 2013

The Incredible Story of a High School Teacher Who Fell in With a Bad Crowd -- Himself (AKA My Month With Breaking Bad)

Great white arcs. A fist crushing a sad face. The addict desperate and dying but unrelenting. Cold desert morning and men at work. The cough so ugly and hurting and persistent. Always the persistent and the unrelenting. The hardened American man of law obsessed with pursuit and capture but taking time for the poolside barbecue. Morning cereal or pancakes and consumers happy with normality. Craving it. The bored stone faced listening to the lecture. The magic man spinning his web and unknowingly caught in it. Twisted. Always twisted. The death of reason and the rise of the ego and the id and the superman and the victory over compassion. Cerebral Palsy. Cancer. Poison. Retching over toilets and outward appearances and blood everywhere. The innocent killed. As are we all innocent and dead. And you Walter White are in all of us. Heisenberg. Bang!

So the story goes of an American dream.

And so now its over. After watching 62 episodes in 30 days I am left on my own. The greatest TV show binging of my life the hungry consumption of every detail every raised eyebrow every nook every cranny every gunshot every threat every shocking turn of Breaking Bad. The best television drama I've ever seen. For the last two weeks it was twice a day. Sometimes three times. All that time with Walter White. With Jesse. With Hank. With Gus. With the murderous Uncle Jack. With poor Walter Junior who suffered so to see his hero his father exposed as a dirty no good skunk of a drug lord. I was enslaved by Breaking Bad. I was powerless over it. I was mainlining it. Breaking Bad coursing through my veins. I couldn't wait to finish it all. Now I miss it. God how I do.

It took me awhile -- longer then I care to admit -- but I finally figured it out. Walter White was a very very bad man. This is a great part of the genius of Vince Gilligan's Breaking Bad which ended its six year run on the telly last month. We are witness to the devolvement of a human being from an earnest educator and family man diagnosed with cancer to a sadistic megalomaniacal drug boss and killer. It's as fascinating as anything that cinema has put forward and I include The Godfather's Michael Coreleone in the mix. No less a personage than Sir Anthony Hopkins called Bryan Cranston's portrayal of Walter White as the greatest acting performance of all time. Who am I to argue with the likes of Mr. Hopkins?

Walter. He is the one who knocks. But who will protect the family from the one who protects the family?

We can't help but root for Walter from the very beginning. What's so stunning is how long we stay with him and how subtlety he changes from accomplished chemist to evil genius. I remember watching him as he watched Jesse's girlfriend Jane choke on her own vomit after a night of heroin. It made rational sense for him to let her die but it was so callous so morally indefensible that I actually finally thought that this Walter fellow was an abhorrent character. But I stayed with him. Until the end. I often hated the way he treated poor Jesse. Walter was contemptuous and dismissive of his underling from the beginning. He ultimately used and abused him. But the most shocking moment was when Jesse was being led away seemingly to be executed and Walter just had to tell him that he had watched Jane die. Jesse looked back at him in wonder unable to believe that such a cold heart hadn't frozen. And so did we.

Jesse (Aaron Paul) was also a compelling character. Troubled and tortured by inner demons. Falling in love twice with tragic consequences. It seemed he could never find his purchase in life. No wonder he was beaten so often and so brutally. He was a small man a bit of pretty boy playing in a world with brutal criminals and hard-nosed cops. Jesse was everyone's whipping boy. But he was never pathetic. There was something totally redeemable about him. He was after all able to love -- though with tragic consequences -- was good with children and was young and vulnerable and resilient. We admired Walter but we liked Jesse. Liked. He was ultimately unbeatable. The kid could bounce off the canvas.

Was this a show about choices? The choices we make. The old bit about the road not taken? I dunno cause Walter took a lot of roads. Like a lot of great fictional characters he just kept going and his ego let him. Down the rabbit hole. It started out as small time stuff. Cooking meth in an RV to raise cash to fend of creditors with cancer treatment costs ready to mount. Really it was for the family. Hey somebody was going to supply the stuff. Why not Walter a man who could cook it damn near 100% pure. But you know these things have a way of just taking off and there you go. Thousands become millions. As in dollars. Then tens of millions. And when is it enough?  You hire people you have enemies you make deals you're working with people contemptuous of human life you make compromises and you strangle someone and shoot someone else and tell big bold lies and that stuff you make being so good and all that money coming in and you winning all these battles you go quickly from cancer victim to Mr. Invincible. Hell you've beaten the cancer. YOU CAN DO ANYTHING. Once you shoot one person it gets kind of easy. Power is as power does and all. You can't see the forrest for the trees when your the fucking forrest.

Skyler. The missus. (Anna Gunn.) She's a strong woman with a healthy independent streak. A damn good mom and devoted wife. You meet her type all the time all over this great land of ours. Salt of the earth and the modern wife/mother who knows and speaks her own mind. Can she believe what her Walt is up to? Can she countenance his means of supporting them? Can she turn a blind eye? Here's the thing: Skyler is not comfortable with any of this wants a divorce she can't get has an affair that she rather enjoys (its revenge you see) and next thing she's laundering money and in on the lie. Expands the lie. Happens.

The poor lady was trapped in an eddy reaching for a tree root. Took to smoking and staring off into space and wondering how the hell....

Ya ever notice in life how some of our choices are no choice at all. Decision points come to as disguised as choices we have to make but there's really no alternative and lord have mercy if that path we're stuck in flies in the face of proper morality law and the like. Poor Skyler. She was the ultimate combo of victim perpetrator.

Life happens fast sometimes. There's no time for contemplation until the deeds are done. The meth is cooked its sold Gus has been blown up others have been paid off or bumped off and we're left to live with the consequences of actions we had barely any time to consider or reconsider.  And one of our gang shoots an innocent kid because he was at the wrong place. At the wrong time. Aren't we all.

In the last episode Walter finally tells Skyler an important truth: he did all for himself. One reason being that he was so good at it. It's hard to keep from displaying our talents. If our skills lie in singing or architecture or teaching this is a good thing. If they are in producing meth and running a drug empire...not so much. But Walter was true to himself. At least give him credit for that.

I watched all 62 episodes of Breaking Bad and enjoyed each one. Not a clunker in the bunch. That falls under the category of AMAZING.

The writers stayed true to the characters and the reality they created never straying too far building from within. There was no supernatural or extended dream sequence or tedious back story or sidebars. It all fit. The characters were fully realized and allowed to develop without detracting from the momentum of the story line. Betsy Brandt as Skyler's sister Marie was dead on as the busy body kleptomaniac wife of DEA agent Hank Schrader (Dean Norris). She seemed like so many people we have known or met in other words so goddamned real. So for that matter was Hank as the obsessed pursuer of Heisenberg -- Walter's non de plume -- and the jolly uncle and brother-in-law. Bob Odenkirk's Saul Goodman flirts with going over the top but because he doesn't is a masterfully colorful and interesting character who contrasts nicely with the uber serious personas of Walter and Jesse.

Walter and Jesse. There's a relationship worth studying. Father figure much? Son or student? Their's is the ultimate love hate relationship. A stunning fist fight. An awkward hug. Guns to the head. Business partners. The complexity of their reliance on one another and their coldness to one another and their constant battling is particularly compelling theater. What were they to each other?

More. Gus (Giancarlo Esposito) the wealthy philanthropist businessman who is really head of a drug cartel. Now there's a character and a story and an acting performance and a creepy depth and soul and an oh he got his just reward. Jonathan Banks as Mike is first his and then Walter's right hand man. Chews nails for breakfast this one. Streetwise and tough and a devoted granddad. He has Walter sussed out from early on. Trouble he sees and trouble het gets. And Laura Fraser as Lydia the uptight little business woman in heels adding the illegal meth business to her lengthy agenda. She is so vulnerable and fragile and yet not unwilling to order hits on a dozen men. Lydia seems more in the self preservation business than anything else.

Breaking Bad. One month. Binge watching. Consumed me as I devoured it. For many it was spread out over five years and nine months. I can't imagine a week let alone a month long wait between episodes. I hated waiting 24 hours. Now I'll wait a lifetime for  TV that's as good. What a ride.

(This post is dedicated to youngest daughter my fellow Breaking Bad lover. Even though she says I can't get the Heisenberg hat.)


12 October 2013

A Single Teardrop Floating

I had a dream last night in which I opened the door to the tree house of my childhood. In the dream I studied its four walls and tried to conjure memories. None were forthcoming. I moved on. I later in the dream was cleaning out the basement of the house I grew up in. My brother was helping me. It was all very melancholy. It felt slow and defeated and sad though purposeful and necessary. A lot of what we do in our waking hours is like that. There can be a great joylessness in completing certain tasks but then once they're done we're rewarded with a sense of accomplishment and perhaps some free time gaping in front of us.

Free time. It can be dangerous. If we misuse it. I have a large block of time in the middle of my work day. If if use a chunk of it to get caught up on and ahead of work and another chunk to walk and another chunk to maybe write or read I'm left unsatisfied. No matter how I use my free time its never good enough. I always could have done more or less better. Maybe it'll be that way at the end of my life too. So much misspent time so many things done too much or too little.

Blade of grass poking up from the dirt all alone. No other grass nearby. The solitude. The magnificence of being that lone piece of green around the brown. The life-force of the grass. The power and dignity. The grace of living proudly. Hold your head up. Always.

Today I got out of bed and it being Saturday enjoyed a shower unencumbered by thoughts of work and commuting and making lunch. It was long and lazy. Then daughter and I headed for the nearest cineplex where we were to see what would be my first 3D movie -- Gravity.

I had been reluctant. I'm very traditional about films and don't go in for new fangled things like 3D. But oldest daughter insisted we see it in 3D and I complied. Good thing too.


I flinched. I actually flinched when space debris came -- seemingly -- flying towards me. This should have been disconcerting and annoying and a distraction. But it wasn't. The whole thing worked. For this movie is set almost exclusively in outer space and the depth the dimensions added immeasurably to the cinematic experience. It's like when special effects are used to further the storytelling rather than to replace it. Hey it's been know to happen.

I've never had strong feelings one way or the other about Sandra Bullock before seeing this film but I was quite impressed with her here. She shares equal billing with 3D and the vastness of outer space. Oh and that teardrop. The one that starts from her face and -- because of the lack of gravity -- floats to the the corner of the screen but thanks to 3D we see so clearly and sharply. We are meant to it is insisted upon. Director Alfonso Cuaron has us focus on the little in the midst of the huge. He doesn't mean to dazzle but to invite. We are cordially invited to note the teardrop. And we do.

In its own way Gravity has the ambition of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Gravity does not have the same grand ambition in storytelling but does seek to explore new possibilities in films set in space. In her own way Bullock's Ryan Stone is reminiscent of Sigourney Weaver's Ripley in Alien (1979). Both are vulnerable alone and game battlers in outer space. One faces a monster the other the reality of being stranded in space.

It has been pointed out that Gravity is not scientifically accurate. This is not uncommon in films. To be wrong. It happens a lot in movies that show historical events. That battle was in the winter not the summer or Lincoln never said that or that vase is from another century. If it bothers you it does and that's that and you may not like a movie because of it. But the fact that the Earth's orbit is something or the other that would have meant something or the other in Gravity couldn't have happened that way is of no never mind to me. I remember seeing a film set in the 1970's in which one could see a huge billboard with a web address on it. Ruined the whole damn picture for me which wasn't hard because it wasn't that great to begin with. I never fell head over heals for Field of Dreams because I loved the book upon which it was based -- Shoeless Joe -- so much and the film in my mind had mangled the book so badly. I wasn't too bothered but what the filmmakers did to another beloved book -- Cold Mountain -- just didn't care for the film on its own merits. Or lack thereof. These things happen. Gravity the film defies scientific logic or fact. I'm glad that was pointed out and it should be duly noted. But its not going to effect the way most of the view the thing. Movies -- after all -- often have the excuse of just being movies.

I appreciated Gravity because it took me seriously as a film goer and used 3D and outer space as a vehicle and a venue for telling a story and one where character was as important as that space debris that made me flinch.

06 October 2013

What the Young People Call "Random" Stuff; Breaking Bad Binging; And A Not So Great Gatsby

THIS IS THE PART WITH THE RANDOM STUFF

If necessity is the mother of invention who is the father? And if we don't know who the father is then is it not true that necessity is a harlot? And can it be further stated that invention is a bastard? Asking for a friend.

I am -- generally speaking -- a very happy person. When my head collides with the pillow at night it is usually the end of another fruitful enjoyable day. But there are any number of things that annoy the hell out of me. Take for example the phrase "no worries." Every time someone says this to me its like being stabbed in the thigh by a serrated knife. I'm not even exaggerating. It is exactly and literally the same as knife plunging into the meaty part of my leg. And being twisted. Really no different at all. The other day I nearly bumped into a co worker and offered an "excuse me." She answered with the odious "no worries." Ya know what? I wasn't worried at all. I don't think anyone was or should have been. Once someone emailed to ask if I had a particular DVD they could borrow. I replied that I was sorry but I didn't have it. This person took the time to compose the following email which I quote verbatim: "no worries." I wasn't not at time worried in the slightest that I did not have this particular DVD for them to borrow. Not even a little bit. If someone you know is saying no worries please report them to a mental health professional or apply duct tape to their largest visible orifice.

If a white person jokingly said to you the following: "if I were black I'd totally name my son Rastus just to fuck with people," would you accuse the speaker of being a racist? Culturally insensitive? A nitwit? Me I'd chuckle maybe even guffaw but then I'm somewhat of a nitwit. Just ask my wife.

Back to things that bug me. There is no s at the end of the word anyway. I've said this before but obviously it bears repeating. When you say or write anyways you seem like a functionally illiterate teenager high on bad pot. Allow me to refer you to the Urban Dictionary on this one.

A message to people having loud cell phone conversations on public transportation or in stores: WE CAN HEAR YOU! Furthermore we really don't want to hear you and quite often you're saying things that you probably don't want other people to hear if you think about it. Oh yeah I forgot you don't bother with niceties like thinking.

THIS IS THE PART CALLED BREAKING BAD BINGING

I know from addiction and so I know when I'm hooked and can't control myself. With drugs and alcohol its not an option any longer so I've taken recommended measures. Other forms of addiction are less likely to have devastating effects on one's family or bank account or health. So maybe not so bad. Case in point is my recently acquired addiction to Breaking Bad which I only recently discovered for myself. Two and half weeks ago to be kind of precise. It started with watching an episode a day but now I'm up to two sometimes three. But I can totally handle it.

Suffice to say that I find this show (they used to be called programs as in "there's this program I like to watch" dig) to be quite enjoyable. The thing with TV shows is that you can really tell a story. You don't have 90 minutes or two hours or three hours tops like in a film. You can go on for years which can total 40 plus hours. That's not to guarantee quality. As we've seen countless times most of what shows up on the boob tube is rubbish -- which I realize is harsh on rubbish. But every now and again you get something like The Sopranos or Boardwalk Empire or Band of Brothers or Breaking Bad which is right up there among the top four or five programs I've seen on the small screen. I'll  discuss the show at greater length once I finish which at this rate is likely to be in less than a fortnight (for those of you scoring at home I'm currently on season four and just finished episode four of said season). I will now put in a plug for binge watching. (Writer humorously mimes insertion of plug.) With old fashioned viewing it would have taken five years to watch the total series but I'll be doing it in just over a month. I don't have to wait a week for the next episode or in the case of a season finale months. It's great for continuity and one could even argue this is the way episodic TV should be watched. Story lines and characters are fresh in my mind and connections made more easily. I'm digging it. And I can quit anytime (no I couldn't there's no way I could stop.)

THIS IS THE PART CALLED A NOT SO GREAT GATSBY

Watched Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby last night for the first and last time. I'll forever think of it as Who Framed Roger Rabbit meets F Scott Fitzgerald. Hearing Jay Z and other current performers as the soundtrack for this film set in 1922 I had to wonder why Lurhman didn't just give his characters cell phones. Nick Jay and Daisy could have texted each other and checked one another's Facebook status.

Here was a Gatsby told at a frenetic pace -- no it never lagged would that it had -- and replete with CGI.  The colors the scenery resembled something from a sci fi action movie. Here's the horror of the modern film which in total contrast to works of art like those produced by Antonioni and Bergman allows no space for the viewer to contemplate or ruminate. We are overawed with spectacle with nothing being asked of us. This is cinema for a generation too zonked out on video games and texting to bother with ideas.

The actors were all fine -- Leo DiCaprio Carey Mulligan Toby Maguire Joel Edgerton (an excellent choice for Tom) and Elizabeth Debicki (yum). They gamely read their lines and demonstrated a true commitment to Fitzgerald's story. But Luhrmann is nothing if not a big show off. I really don't understand the point of this exercise. Taking one of the great works of American literature and making a spectacle out of it. One shudders to think what Lurhmann will desecrate next. Maybe he'll put Ulysses* on the big screen with Justin Beiber doing the soundtrack and a highly stylized Dublin with merry leprechauns cartwheeling past a bemused Leopold Bloom.

Shocking stuff.

*Carraway's cottage boasts a copy of Ulysses though the film is set in 1922 and the book was at that time banned in the US and not available until 1933. Oh well.