Monthly Archives: May 2013

The Great Leonardo…I mean, Gatsby.

This review is for people who have read the book and either don’t mind knowing what the movie has done, or have seen the movie.  Okay? Okay.

My sister and I went to see The Great Gatsby last Saturday.  I am an English major, and have read the book twice.  She isn’t much of a reader (although she’s been reading more lately; yay!) and hasn’t read it yet.  We both really enjoyed the movie.  I know there are a lot of people who just thought it was all right, or even completely hated, but I am not one of those people.

And so, here are ten things I loved about this movie:

(So I guess it’s not actually a review.  It’s a list.)

  1. My absolute favorite thing about the movie is how it de-romanticizes Gatsby’s love for Daisy. One of the professional reviewers said that Gatsby and Daisy don’t seem like star-crossed lovers, but like a man with an unhealthy obsession with a “bauble of a woman” (or something like that).  And that’s the point.  It is not a love story. The scene in New York where Gatsby flips out on Tom is an example.  Even before, we see Daisy sitting there, looking a bit lost, while the men argue over who she actually loves.  And then he loses his temper.  That particular act is not in the book, but it does help to emphasize that, either path she chooses, neither is going to grant her freedom.
  2. Okay, this I didn’t necessarily love, but I did like a lot and I think I got it: the modern music.  That was the only thing I was really skeptical about when I started, but I thought it really worked, and here’s why: I didn’t see this as a period piece.  If the music had actually been from the 20s, perhaps it would have been, but having modern music helps to sell the thought that this illusion, this breakdown of the American dream, could happen at any time.
  3. The opening scene that has Nick in the sanitarium, making that the frame for the rest of the movie.  It was different, and it made a lot of sense.  (These aren’t all going to be a whole paragraph long, apparently.)
  4. That being said, the ending where Nick writes “The Great” before Gatsby on the front of his manuscript.  Did it kind of remind me of the introduction to My Antonia? Yes.  But does that matter?  I don’t really think so.  And I liked that he owned the story, showing that it is all colored by his own bias.
  5. And even though we already knew who Leo was playing, I loved the reveal of Gatsby. How we knew it was him because of the ring, but we don’t see him until Nick actually sees him for the first time.  Because, as you saw before, it’s Nick’s story of Gatsby.  So the moment he sees him is a big deal.
  6. On the other hand, I loved the misdirection that Gatsby was driving the car.  That’s how we see it in the book, but I think, in another movie, we actually saw the moment right before it hit Myrtle, so we could see who was driving.  But since it was really Nick’s view of Gatsby we saw the whole time, I like that it showed it as though Gatsby as driving.
  7. The first scene in the Buchanan home, how Daisy acknowledged Tom’s indiscretion. “I don’t care what you do outside this house…”  Correct me if I’m wrong, but we didn’t hear her say this in the book.  It sets up the “family dynamic” of the time, or at least, of the Buchanan home.
  8. I’m no cinematic expert, but I did really love the visuals. I thought they were beautiful for one thing, but I also thought they focused on the right things for the story.  I’d have to see it again to give a better analysis…if I even could give a better analysis.  But there you go.
  9. The actors! I love Leonardo in general, and the way I saw it, he perfectly embodied Gatsby.  Carey Mulligan was beautiful and seemed felt, to me, like a perfect Daisy to show the ways in which she is sympathetic as a victim and the ways she makes her own poor choices.  I hate Tom’s character, and I knew that going in, but his actor made me believe it all over again, and the guy who played Wilson made me really believe he could perform the actions at the end of the story.
  10. And, finally, the first and last spoken lines.  After he said the line about beating back against the current, I just  mumbled, over and over, “please be over,” because I really wanted that to be the last spoken line, and it was, and just…sigh.  SO lovely.  What better way to credit the book?

There you go.  My top ten things I loved from this movie.  After only one viewing mind you, but I am hoping to see it again, maybe in 3D this time.

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First Kiss

I wrote this for a contest.  Mostly putting this here for storage and to answer a question on Tumblr.

I was five.

Is that too young?  My dad would probably say yes, but I can’t think of a better time.  I think it was perfect.

When I was five, my best friend lived up the street from me.  Two doors down from her lived the grandmother of one Clarence Thomas.  Clarence went to my school, but was in the other kindergarten class.  He was a cute little blonde boy who made me smile, and that day he was playing with Chelsea and me outside.

“Kiss him,” she said.  “I dare you.”

I grinned and started towards him.  He took off in a run.

And, being five, I went after him.

It didn’t take too long for him to stop and let me catch him.  That’s when I kissed him.

I don’t remember much about the actual kiss.  It was my first lip to lip contact, and it was short.  Very short.  But it still made my lips tingle.

I do remember my dad’s reaction vividly.  Once I had been home for a few minutes, I complained that my lips were dry.

“Well maybe if you weren’t goin’ around kissin’ boys, your lips wouldn’t be dry.”

I remember being mortified that my dad had seen.

I remember a few other things too, like walking up the hill to give him a Valentine’s Day present and the cute little stuffed bear he gave me.  I remember going to his church for Vacation Bible School that summer and tie-dying t-shirts.  And I remember being heartbroken when his dad told me they were moving.

I love that story.  So far, he’s the only boy I’ve kissed where the memories haven’t been tainted by deception or disappointment in who he really was.  Because at five, there are no pretenses, no expectations, and, compared to adulthood, no consequences.

I’m also glad it happened so early because I got to hear my dad’s reaction, something I didn’t get to experience when the other boys broke my heart.

Five years old: when Dad was Superman, people were honest, and the world was small.  I can’t think of a better time to have a kiss.  The innocence of it was what made it beautiful

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Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

I’m trying to stop buying books I haven’t read.  Trying being the operative word.  I own almost 400 of them, and I keep making lists of new ones I want.  So I’m making an effort to stop buying and read what I already have.

I bought Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close because I thought I needed it for class.  It didn’t make it to the final syllabus, but I started reading it while I was taking a break during finals week.  Actually, it was the dedication that inspired me to choose it out of the fourteen or so books I had at school.

“For Nicole, my idea of beautiful”

The book was written by Jonathan Safran Foer.  Most book reviewers might tell you a little about his publication or education history.  All I will say is that I was intrigued because, while I worked at The Daily Tar Heel, I wrote an article about UNC and Duke collaborating for the summer reading program by reading his Eating Animals simultaneously.

If you know anything about the book (or the movie based on it), you know that its story has its roots in the tragedy of September 11th.  It is about that, but it’s also about a kid who has lost his father.  It’s about a family who has had to move on in that aftermath.  And it is about understanding other sides of the story.  The primary focus is Oskar, the 9 year-old, but we also have sections that are written in the perspective of his grandparents.  We see what their lives were like before the attacks, what other tragedies they have lived through, and what happens next.  But the most interesting perspective may be the one we don’t get directly: Oskar’s mother.  It isn’t until he opens himself up to her that they have a real conversation about how it has affected her as well.  Oskar is on a concrete, tangible journey to find a lock that matches a key his father left behind, but he is also on a less distinct journey to find a way to fill the gap that has been left in his family.

The format of the book contributes to its narrative.  It includes pictures and photographs that allows the reader to see what the narrators are seeing.  Even the way the words are formatted, some as a single sentence on a page, some as completely justified to the margins, some running together, show exactly how the characters see them, and how the events are affecting their ability to tell the story.

I really enjoyed this book.  It was heavy, but also heart-warming.  Perhaps most importantly, it was extremely well-written with sensitivity to the difficult topic that propelled the story.  The characters grew over the course of the story, and there were no unnecessary words or events.

The ending (slight spoiler alert) was satisfying in part because it didn’t wrap everything up in a bow.  Someone is still dead, and that is still a difficult thing to live with.  The journey is not complete.  Oskar has just taken a huge step forward in living with his grief.

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