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Gatsby, what Gatsby?

As the movie began, there was no telling where it was going. Unless, you know, you read the book in tenth grade like half of the English-speaking world did (or read a Sparknotes summary online like the other half)…but nonetheless, it was the film’s stylistic intelligence that was unpredictable. It had the cinematic masterpiece quality that Luhrmann has perfected through his theatrical musical films like Moulin Rouge! and Romeo + Juliet, translated beautifully into an amalgamation of culture, sex, and hope that is The Great Gatsby.

gatsby nyc

The cinematography is pretty damn flawless, from the white-curtained introduction of Daisy Buchanan to the practiced presentation of Gatsby himself. The book was followed to a tee, for the most part, and translated shockingly well onscreen. The National Post called it “less a movie than an event,” and – without taking away from my respect and enjoyment of the film – that’s exactly right. Scott Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby over three years, from 1922-1925. Luhrmann has been working on his production for roughly five years now, and the world has been waiting.

gatsby houseCall it “computer-generated whoosh” if you must, but its looks are pretty fucking epic. And underneath all of that, the novel stands tall. Much of the dialogue comes straight from Fitzgerald in 1925, and while I could have done without the fluffy skywriting sequences from Carraway’s alcoholic future, it wasn’t a bad way to lay out the movie. While much of the opening half of the movie is rushed brilliance and forced flow, its crazy atmosphere sucks you in.

gatsby dancing

Carey Mulligan’s dewy, soft complexion and gentle stature set up Daisy perfectly. Last played by Mia Farrow in 1974, Daisy is one of those controversial characters that stirs up a lot of conflict. Luhrmann cites Daisy Buchanan as “a kind of social supernova; she’s so attractive and dazzling, and she makes you feel as if you’re the only person in the world… In everybody’s mind they have a Daisy Buchanan. It’s like Scarlett O’Hara, how touchy a subject that is. I think of Scarlett as being this precious child star who’s been a star all her life, and that’s true about Daisy.” Luhrmann calls the Gatsby-Daisy relationship “one of those chemically dangerous relationships,” and there’s no better way to put it.

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During the (long) audition process for the role, Leo, the fountain of all modern wisdom, said “Daisy has got to be a kind of hothouse flower, something that Gatsby has never encountered before, such that he feels and obsession to protect her.” Carey Mulligan does just that. She enamours you with her innocence and docile geniality, and wraps you up in her creamy speech.

gastby daisy smoking

Her voice is a major part of her character, described in Fitzgerald’s novel as “low, thrilling,” “exhilarating,” full of “fluctuating, feverish warmth,” and “full of money.” Speaking of full of money, she’s also married to the talented and delicious Marcus Mumford.

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LOOK HOW PRECIOUS. Their children will be phenomenally ahead of our time.

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Leo DiCaprio’s Gatsby was even better than I expected. He had perfect timing, an incredible measure of Gatsby’s delicate control and internal servitude, and was seriously fucking awesome. Granted, he’s pretty much got the world’s respect behind him before he even walks onscreen, but his Jay Gatz speaks for itself as well. You can feel the delusion, reminiscent of his tortured characters in Inception and Shutter Island, a balance of crazed obsession and classy-as-fuck confidence. Gatsby is a measured, detailed man of expectation, and DiCaprio is the same. He “burrows deep into the role, loosing the obsession at the heart of Fitzgerald’s tale; beneath Gatsby’s smooth exterior roil the same tightly wound furies that hounded DiCaprio’s Howard Hughes in The Aviator.

“If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about [Gatsby], some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away. This responsiveness had nothing to do with that flabby impressionability, which is dignified under the name of “creative temperament”- it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again.”

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It had the grandeur that you expect from Luhrmann’s musical past, the expansive, wide-angle, 3-D takeover that brings the film to life. If you liked Moulin Rouge, you’ll likely enjoy TGG. Bright, vivacious, and never lacking in depth, the setting and lush atmosphere worked  perfectly to set the scene. The introductions to Tom and Jordan felt observed and far-away, like you were watching a piece of theatre, rather than cinema. Luhrmann explains his decision to make the film in 3D in the May 2013 issue of Vogue. After seeing a screening of Hitchcock’s Dial M For Murder, what struck him:

“…wasn’t that things come out of the screen, it was watching Grace Kelly move in space where the camera wasn’t moving. It was much more like the theater. It brought power to the performance. The actor was more in-control of the drama. The camera didn’t have to generate energy. It blew my mind… the real special effect in Gastby could be watching some of the finest actors in the world doing a ten-page scene in a room in the Plaza Hotel. That could be a visual effect.”

This was the first (and most epic) adaptation of Gatsby in several decades, and the book has often been dubbed “unfilmable.” Literature learned lessons from Gatsby, and continue to ’til this day. Film might be able to learn something too.

gatsby cinema

While the Jay-Z produced soundtrack may have taken some people out of the roaring Twenties zone they were in, I thought it was balanced perfectly. With big, power voices from Lana Del Rey, Florence, and Queen Bey, the power-pop side of the soundtrack shone. While “Young and Beautiful” might have finished the film as a slightly overused motif theme for Gaisy (looool), the jazzy mash-ups from Will.I.Am, Fergie, and Kid Koala kept it fresh and entertaining.

Leo was sublime, and Mulligan balanced beauty and carelessness as only Daisy Buchanan can. Jay and Daisy were casted to perfection, but I still can’t help but feel awkward about Tobey Maguire. Maybe it’s because even in 3-D, he has no visible lips. Maybe it’s because he’s Peter Parker. Either way, it took me out of the scene and I felt genuinely uncomfortable with his Carraway at parts. He just didn’t fit.

haters gonna hate poppins

“Baz felt very strongly that the book’s nature was quintessentially modern, that the twenties was the time when everybody came to grips with the twentieth century,” said his wife, Oscar-winning costume designer Catherine Martin. Luhrmann takes that modernity to a new level with this visually-laden piece of work, and it deserves some respect. Five years, people. That’s time for like five babies. Or six. Or something.

A sick soundtrack, incredibly strong performances, and a decent rendition of a great American novel on the big screen… just go see it. It’s fancy and fun and exciting; you know you’re curious. 3-D or not, I seriously recommend catching this green light before it goes out.

Watch it once for the music. Beyonce, Lana, Florence, it’s just a shitstorm of epic-lady-voice-power, and it’s awesome. Plus the Beyonce song is an Amy Winehouse cover and it’s featuring Andre 3000.

epiphany omg

Watch it once more for Leonardo DiCaprio.

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Watch it once more for the cinematography. And the vibe. And the general epic 20s-ness.

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Watch it again for the music. GAH, Florence.

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Now go put on some headphones, lock your doors, turn off your lights, and fullscreen it.

Watch it once more for the green light. Go out and read Gatsby again if you seriously didn’t get that reference and you actually want to maximize your enjoyment of the movie.

The tracklisting for the soundtrack (produced by Jay-Z, who I’m seeing perform with JT this summer, just saaaaayin’) was released today as well:

  • 100$ Bill – JAY Z
  • Back To Black – Beyoncé x André 3000
  • Bang Bang – will.i.am
  • A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got) – Fergie + Q Tip +GoonRock
  • Young And Beautiful – Lana Del Rey
  • Love Is The Drug – Bryan Ferry with The Bryan Ferry Orchestra
  • Over The Love – Florence + The Machine
  • Where The Wind Blows – Coco O. of Quadron
  • Crazy in Love – Emeli Sandé and The Bryan Ferry Orchestra
  • Together – The xx
  • Hearts A Mess – Gotye
  • Love Is Blindness – Jack White
  • Into the Past – Nero
  • Kill and Run – Sia

An orchestral version of Beyonce’s CIL and new Jay-Z? So. Down.

recordplayer

I haven’t been finding much exciting new music lately. I don’t know if it’s the Motown zone I’ve been living in for the past few weeks, or what, but musically, I’ve been living in the past. Here are my ten favourite rediscoveries from this week:

Days Like This – Van Morrison

Aw yeah. I always get really into this song when the seasons change. I just feel like it fits.

1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin’ New) – Coolio

Hell yes I’m serious. It’s got a fun beat, it’s catchy and dancey, and it’s been my guilty pleasure headphone hit of the week. When was the last time you listened to Coolio?

dancefreshprice

Jealous Again – The Black Crowes

I F%$(#ING LOVE The Black Crowes.

Memphis – Chuck Barry and John Lennon (Bill Burr Voice-Over)

Just watch this. It’s not like the world really needed another reason to hate Yoko Ono, but this is just too priceless to ignore. Enjoy the absolute stupidity of Ono, and the comedic stylings of Bill Burr.

Love of My Life – Santana ft Dave Matthews

For whatever reason, the only CD in my father’s truck for as long as I can remember has been Carlos Santana’s Supernatural. Hearing the songs from that album is the musical equivalent of wrapping myself in baby blankets climbing into the back of a time machine to 1999-2006 in daddy’s Dodge. My unrequited love for Carlos Santana will never be quenched, and this collaboration with Dave Matthews, who stole my soul with Crash, and has never given it back.

Even though he cameoed in that horrible Adam Sandler movie in 2009. He was in House once, too!

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Uptight (Everything’s Alright) – Stevie Wonder

It wouldn’t be a post about music without some Motown! Stevie proves himself as a mainstay in my top 25, and tells a lovely story along the way.

Try – Janis Joplin

Mmmmmmm Woodstock video. Thanks to my pop music prof for reminding me of this song. When I was a kid I used to think Janis Joplin was the best.
Yeah, I’m still pretty much a kid, and I still think Janis Joplin is pretty much the best.

And, for the bitchy twenty-something-ish in you, enjoy:

thankyou

 

 

10. “Keep your freedom for as long as you can.”

The song says it best: “Just because you’ve become a young man now / There’s still some things that you don’t understand now / Before you ask some girl for her hand now / Keep your freedom for as long as you can now, / My mama told me…’you better shop around.'” I don’t know what’s with people and jumping the gun on marriage and commitment lately, but I feel like everyone just needs to stop and take a big ol’ breath of Motown.

9. “War! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.”

Sound familiar? Oh, just sing along. Betcha didn’t know this was Motown!

8. “Superstition ain’t the way.”

STEVIE! He was 12 when he first got signed, and by 20, had full creative control and freedom. By 1973, the world knew he was incredible, he’d had a number one album (the youngest ever on the pop charts) and several number one songs before “Superstition.” But damn, nothing feels better than the recognizable riff that opens this song. Superstition ain’t the way, but Stevie sure is.

Plus, remember when Raven did this song for the Haunted Mansion’s soundtrack? Loooool.

7. “Please, Mr Postman.”

Motown taught manners. Berry Gordy instituted an Artist Development Department at Motown, where his stars learned how to walk, talk, breathe, light a cigarette – everything was coached and perfected so that they wouldn’t give white people any more reason to avoid buying their records. Their interviews were amiable, their music was tasteful, and Gordy had a hand in it all. This was Motown’s first #1 on the Billboard Pop Charts, covered by the Beatles, the Carpenters, sampled in Juelz Santana and Lil Wayne songs, but here’s the 1961 original, by The Marvelettes!

6. “If I have to beg and plead for your sympathy, I don’t mind, cause you mean that much to me.”

Put your pride away. Everyone wants a man that ain’t too proud to beg, and nothing says it better than this 1966 classic. The Temptations are pretty easily one of my favourite bands of all time, and this song is just the most infectious, dancey songs… ever. Fun fact: The Temptations, upon their begging and pleading for your sympathy, would have used their manners. Berry Gordy instituted an Artist Development Department at Motown, where his stars learned how to walk, talk, breathe, light a cigarette, and carry themselves in public – everything was coached and perfected to Gordy’s specification. He knew what he was doing, and we are eternally grateful. Now, DANCE!

5. “Music is played for love, cruisin’ was made for love.”

Growing up in Windsor, there’s one thing that everyone enjoys and takes for granted in the border city. The quality of radio is fucking incredible. From our historic CKLW to the crossover stations from Detroit, the airwaves are brimming with variety. Because of all the shared airwaves with the Motor City, we got a lot of Motown, and Smokey was a big part of that.

4. “A, B, C!”

A pretty basic lesson, Motown even taught phonetics. Fun Fact: This song knocked the Beatles’ “Let It Be” from the top spot on the pop charts.

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This must be John hearing the Beatles’ watered down Motown covers for the first time. It’s okay, Lenny, nothing will ever be as awkward as some of Jagger’s takes on the classics. Just keep reading.

3. “You can’t hurry love.”

I die a little bit inside every time someone thinks this is originally a Phil Collins song.

And mmmmmmm, this isn’t even that good, but mmmmmm..

2. “Only love can conquer hate.”

Marvin Gaye said it best in What’s Going On. He had full creative control on this album, but boss-man Berry Gordy called it “the worst record” he’d ever heard. One of the most socially-conscious songs of the 60s, and one of the best songs/albums of all time (according to Rolling Stone, Time, Billboard, fucking everybody, google it), and it practically got rejected.

1. “All we need is music, sweet music.”

Alright, so most people know this one. And rightfully so! It’s got a great big opening and an awesome groove, so enjoy the original, by Martha and the Vandellas!

David Bowie and Mick Jagger covered this song for god knows why, but if you want a really, really good laugh, I suggest the video below.

Speaking of sweet, sweet music…
Here are my five Motown favourites (and some fantastic montages) that just didn’t fit into any of the categories above. Cheers!

“Do You Love Me” – The Contours 
You know it from: Dirty Dancing! And because you just know it.
It makes you want to: Werk! Werk! Ahhhh work it out, bay-beh.

“The Way You Do The Things You Do” – The Temptations

You know it from: a few commercials, 2004’s Raise Your Voice.
It makes you want to: marry Smokey Robinson. Although, most Motown songs make me want to do that, the lyrics to this song are just so perfectly written, so adorably strung together and comfortable. The lyrics started as a joke on the tour bus between members of the Miracles, and penned to music for the Temptations. Quite literally one of my favourite songs of all time.

“I Want You Back” – The Jackson 5
You know it from: living on planet Earth.
It makes you want to: cartwheel down a beach and land in a 60s ball pit of flowers and stylized baby Jacksons.

“Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch (Can’t Help Myself)” – The Four Tops
You know it from: countless American Idol auditions and reality singing competion covers.
It makes you want to: start a quartet so you can dance in synchronization and just jam out.

“The Tracks of My Tears” – Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
You know it from: having great taste in music, congrats!
It makes you want to: sing and cry with mascara and dance and fall in love with Smokey again and again.

And here, might as well fall in love with Gavin DeGraw, too.

Eight songs hand-picked to enhance your life on this miserably March Monday. As I put this together, a relax-y, chill theme sort of came into play. Maybe it’s the endless paper-writing and study-zone I’ve been in lately, or the dreary season-change outside my door… but either way, it makes for a great soundtrack. Put on some headphones and block out the rainy pre-spring weather with some great tunes. The full playlist is available here, each song’s video posted below (for the picky folk).

1. The Lumineers – Dead Sea

Jesus, if you haven’t heard this whole album, you’re missing out. It’s perfect quality study music, it’s soothing and relaxing and easy to listen to, and if you actually listen, the lyrics tell incredible stories. It’s just so easy to enjoy. There’s a reason their Toronto shows sold out in 15 minutes, and here’s one of them:

2. Tupac ft Elton John – Ghetto Gospel

Mmmmmmmmm so good. An all-time favourite.

3. Stormy Monday – Bobby Bland

A little blues for this rainy Monday afternoon. Give 1962 a chance, people. Musical education!

4. Everywhere You Look – Jesse Frederick

Take a deep breath and listen:

5. She & Him – Never Wanted Your Love

Zooey Deschanel somehow found time between being loved by the entire world and starring in her quirky little hit comedy New Girl to record new music. General consensus: yay! The song’s pretty good, deserves a listen. Very She-&-Him-y, with maybe even a little more of a seventies feel than usual. I like.

6. Ed Sheeran & Passenger – No Diggity / Thrift Shop

Oh god, I just love Fifi and Jules. If you haven’t heard of them, they’re an Australian radio show, they post all their cool, awesome performances online (Of Monsters and Men and Jessie J have both appeared, and T-Swift did a full acoustic set on the show, check them out!). They’re always different and entertaining, and this combination of soft-voiced men crooning two pretty solid songs acoustically WORKS, and deserves some attention.

More Fifi and Jules performances, cause I had to:

(Holy shit I had no idea that’s what Of Monsters and Men looked like)

(^why I like Jessie J)

7. Pick Me Up – Hollerado

And a last little pick me up to wake you from your study trance! The weather’s changing, summer’s coming. We’re almost there!

Follow me on Twitter here.

And here’s the full YouTube playlist:

Three songs I rediscovered this week that deserve to be rediscovered by you:

In case you heard the horrendously shallow piece of actual crap that I somehow find pleasure in that is Nelly’s latest single (“Hey Porsche”), and need to remember why you care about Nelly at all, remember how randomly diverse he can be:

Because I feel like everyone forgot about this song and Outkast in general:

…and just in case you don’t know why Kanye & Jay Z’s “Otis” is so awesome:

In case you missed it, sign here. (A whitehouse.gov account is required to sign petitions)

Direct from the website petition itself:

“We, the undersigned, would like the Obama administration to recognize the need for a new national anthem, one that even a decade after its creation, is still hot and fresh out the kitchen. America has changed since Francis Scott Key penned our current anthem in 1814. Since then, we have realized that after the show, it’s the afterparty, and that after the party, it’s the hotel lobby, and–perhaps most importantly–that ’round about four, you’ve got to clear the lobby, at which point it’s strongly recommended that you take it to the room and freak somebody. President Obama: we ask you to recognize the evolution of this beautiful country and give us an anthem that better suits the glorious nation we have become.”

Absolutely crying.