Everybody’s Chattin + Music Break: Moulin Rouge’s YOUR SONG

EverybodysChattin

Happy Wednesday all! Boy I felt like I’ve worked five days already the way my life’s been going… SO. MUCH. TO. DO. I do enjoy all the Twin Cities Film Fest festivities though, I’ve talked to so many great filmmakers/talents, whether in person or via email, so hopefully y’all will stop by next week for the start of my TCFF 2015 coverage!

Well, I’m never too busy to do some community blogging post, hey that’s what makes the blogging world go around ūüėČ

So¬†about those links…

You might’ve read my thoughts on the latest Peter Pan adaptation, but hey, some people actually loved PAN, so check out Andrew‘s and Josh‘s take on it.

Meanwhile, I have yet to read a bad review of SICARIO and Mark is another blogger who loved it.

Since October is popular for horror fans, Chris posted mini reviews of a bunch of horror flicks.

My pal Cindy is hosting a discussion on the Shakespearean classic The Lion In Winter. I’m glad I got to see it in its entirety this past weekend.

On the TV front, Margaret reviewed the first episode of provocative series American Horror Story‘s fifth season and calls it a triumphant return. The Flash also just had a season premiere, its second, and Rodney has some fine praise for it.

Last but not least, Nostra reviewed another documentary on British street artist Banksy: Banksy Does New York. Boy this reminds me I still need to see Exit Through the Gift Shop!


Music Break/Scene Spotlight

I’ve been listening to Moulin Rouge!‘s soundtrack in my car lately. I used to listen to it constantly after I saw it more than a decade ago and I still loved it now. I was going to highlight Come What May but then I realize I had done that for a music break three years ago. There are SO MANY lovely scenes in this movie, but this is the first time I heard Ewan McGregor sing in the movie and I was immediately transfixed!

I love how romantic and whimsical this scene is, and Ewan has such an intoxicating earnestness whilst he’s singing it. The production design of Satine’s elephant room is so gorgeous and fun to look at. In fact, this whole sequence is perhaps my favorite romantic fantasy sequence ever put on screen. Moulin Rouge! shall remain my favorite Baz Luhrmann’s film, it never fails to put a smile on my face.


Hope you enjoyed today’s music break!

FlixChatter Review: The Great Gatsby (2013)

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When I first heard about Baz Luhrmann‘s project to bring F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most famous novel to life, I have to admit I wasn’t too keen on the idea. Then I read that he was going to do the movie in 3D, which prompted an eye-rolling reaction and a shrug. I mean, what could we possibly gain from setting the story in friggin’ 3D?? Heh, as if his style wasn’t over the top enough. But I was willing to give Baz the benefit of the doubt, after all, I adore Moulin Rouge! and to some degree his version of Romeo + Juliet.¬† I feel that the anachronism and grandiose style worked for both films. Thus, going into this film, the question isn’t whether or not it’ll be style-over-substance, but how much of Baz’s signature style is going to get in the way of this classic story.

I have to preface this review with a confession that I have NOT read the book, so I can’t say whether this is a faithful adaptation or not. I downloaded the preview to my Kindle six months ago with the plan to read it before the movie is out, alas I haven’t got around to it. But many of you who had to read this in high school literature class know the gist:

Set during the roaring 20s, the story centers on the mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby living in the fictional town of West Egg on prosperous Long Island. Just like the book, the story is told from the point of view of a Midwestern-born Yale grad Nick Carraway who rents a small house next door to Gatsby as he commutes to his job as a bond salesman in NYC.

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The film starts off stylishly of course, right from the very second the Art Deco frame you’ve seen on all the posters come on screen to reveal the green light at the end of Daisy Buchanan’s house just across from Gatsby’s mansion. For the first 20 min or so, we never see our protagonist, but Mr. Gatsby is featured prominently through Nick’s story to his therapist at the sanitarium that he’s checked himself into. This framing device made me, the audience, feel even more eager to meet Mr. Gatsby, especially to find out just what made Nick so enamored by this character and just what the heck happened that Summer of 1922.

To say the parties at the Gatsby are wildly lavish is a giant understatement. I’ve never seen anything like it, even from Baz himself. Most of the guests aren’t even invited but the booze, confetti and fireworks are never in short supply in this loud and crazy carnival-like soiree. I feel like I was living vicariously though Nick as he tries to wiggle through the crowd to find the elusive host. I quite like the way Gatsby was introduced, as there’s been a pretty effective built-up until that moment.

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Just like Gatsby’s party, the film has the undeniably power to enthrall and mesmerize with its opulent extravagance, but at the same time it’s so overwhelming and even headache-inducing. I know I expected the ‘more-is-more’ style from Baz, but he seems to have upped the ante with this one. Perhaps Baz is trying to illustrate just how huge a contrast is between the festive and seemingly-blissful exterior of Gatsby’s life with that of his inner turmoil. The bigger the parties, the emptier Gatsby life is. They say money doesn’t buy happiness. Well, it’s never rings truer than in Gatsby’s life.

The quiet(er) moments in this film come few and far in between, but even when they arrive, I still haven’t quite recovered from the dizzying fracas. One of those moments is when Gatsby is with his lost love Daisy, whom he fell for five years ago and the one he’s been trying to win back ever since. Their reunion scene is actually one of the highlights for me just because it’s so hilarious. Perhaps the lightest segment of the whole film, as the film turns progressively darker. That scene is also one of the most revealing of Gatsby’s character, as beneath of that massive success and wealth, he is such a broken man with such a huge insecurity complex and almost paralyzing self-doubt. At the same time, Gatsby is a man of hope, which is something that Nick admires but also cautions him for.

Carraway: “You can’t repeat the past.‚ÄĚ
Gatsby: ‚ÄúCan’t repeat the past? Why of course you can!”

There is a fine line between hope and delusion, and Gatsby hasn’t the faintest clue where to draw it. But it’s obvious that his “hope” is more of an illusion. And so is the romance between him and Daisy. Is he in love with Daisy the woman or the idea of being with her? Unlike the romance in Moulin Rouge! where I really feel the heart-wrenching connection between Christian and Satine, I don’t quite feel that with Gatsby and Daisy. Whether that’s intentional or not I don’t know, but I think that becomes a detriment to the story for me as beneath all that longing look and love-struck poetry, mislaid a beating heart. Therein lies the crux of this film adaptation. Perhaps it’s an inherent problem that is least likely to be overcome by most filmmakers, least of whom Baz Luhrmann.

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It’s not entirely vapid however, I actually think the bromance (if you want to even call it that) between Gatsby and Carraway speaks to me more than the doomed romance. Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire ‚Äď who are apparently BFFs in real life ‚Äď have an effortless chemistry and their mutual fondness and respect is palpable. Which brings me to the performances. The scene of just the two of them in the opulent but desolate Gatsby estate is the most heart-wrenching.

I think DiCaprio is quite convincing as Gatsby, I think he embodies the character well and does what he could with the material given. I can’t help but being reminded of his other roles such as in Titanic, Romeo + Juliet and also as Howard Hughes in The Aviator during one particularly intense scene. I think Leo is a talented actor but not exactly a chameleon. Maguire is perfectly cast as Carraway, he definitely projects that naive, Midwestern sensibility and warmth that’s perfect for the role. Now, Carey Mulligan who has impressed me in other roles is pretty good as Daisy, but she doesn’t quite jump off the screen as I expected. I mean she’s believable as someone Gatsby would fall head over heels in love with, but she just isn’t as memorable here somehow.

Clockwise from top left: Edgerton, Debicki, Bachchan, Fisher & Clarke
Clockwise from top left: Edgerton, Debicki, Bachchan, Fisher & Clarke

On the other hand, Elizabeth Debicki as the amateur golfer Jordan Baker might prove to be the Aussie actress’ breakthrough role. Fellow Aussies Joel Edgerton and Jason Clarke (who were both in Zero Dark Thirty, but the length of screen time is reversed as Clarke has a smaller role here) also turned in memorable supporting turn, as well as yet another Aussie Isla Fisher. It’s inspired casting to have veteran Indian actor Amitabh Bachchan as the Jewish businessman (most likely a kingpin) and gambler Meyer Wolfshiem. He definitely made an impression despite his short screen time.

Visually speaking, this is definitely a feast for the eyes. Baz is no stranger to creating a fantastical escapist entertainment with spectacular set design, beautiful costumes, and cinematography. Baz’s own wife and frequent collaborator Catherine Martin won an Oscar for Best Art Direction for Moulin Rouge! and she might nab some nominations for this one as well. Now despite my initial quibble about the 3D format, this one turns out to be one of the most effective use of 3D since Martin Scorsese’s HUGO. I still don’t think it’s actually necessary but at least Baz was able to do something innovative with it.

Final Thoughts: I was entertained and even enthralled by the visual spectacle and the music (especially Lana Del Rey‘s lush ballad Young & Beautiful), but ultimately, there’s not much emotional depth to really leave its mark. Whatever poignancy and real pathos in Fitzgerald’s novel is dimmed out by all that glitter, leaving the audience wanting more. ‚ÄúOh, you want too much!‚ÄĚ Daisy cried to Gatsby during one particularly heated exchange. Well, I don’t think we are asking too much as the audience to want more than a snack for our soul to go with all that visual feast.

Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels


What are your thoughts of The Great Gatsby? Let’s hear it in the comments!

Music Break: The Great Gatsby’s Young and Beautiful by Lana Del Rey

I have the Moulin Rouge!‘s soundtrack frequently playing in my car, so I admire Baz Luhrmann‘s creative use of music in his films. He’s known for using contemporary music in his films set in retro setting, and this one is no different.

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NPR calls the Aussie filmmaker “…cinema’s boldest remixer, infusing familiar works with new rhythms that refresh their relevance…” Instead of going with what the Jazz Age that F. Scott Fitzgerald prominently featured in his novels, Luhrmann boldly mixed in hip hop, R&B, indie pop, rock, etc. in the film’s soundtrack. Music mogul Jay-Z executive produced the soundtrack, so naturally it also featured his wife Beyonce’s music.

Now, I’ve been obsessed with Lana Del Rey‘s track Young & Beautiful. I’ve been listening to it endlessly, sometimes half a dozen times in a row ūüėÄ

“Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful / Will you still love me when I got nothing but my aching soul / I know you will, I know you will / I know that you will.”

That music is used in this extended TV spot:


After seeing the film last night, I still regard this song as my absolute favorite. Del Rey wrote the track with Rick Nowels and she described Luhrmann’s take on the F Scott Fitzgerald classic as “highly glamorous and exciting”. “It was an honor to work with Baz Luhrmann on his amazing adaptation of one of the most extraordinary books ever written,” the singer said. (per Digital Spy)

LanaDelReyGreatGatsbyI LOVE the melody of the song and Lana’s evocative and seductive voice makes for a soulful yet poignant rendition… Just like Jay Gatsby’s life where he’s surrounded by so many beautiful things, the mansion, the clothes, the endless parties… he’s still aching for that something that money can’t buy. That ‘I know you will‘ line uttered over and over again perfectly captures the nature of this tragic figure… as hope and dream is the prominent theme in Fitzgerald’s literary classic.

I’m glad that this song is featured prominently in the movie, instead of only playing during the end credits. In fact, I thought the scene fits the song nicely, and it’s actually played more than once. I hope to have my review done yet this week but my initial reaction is I dug it, I think Baz’s style and his ‘more is more’ philosophy fits the theme of the story and despite my initial quibble about the 3D aspect, it’s actually one of the best use of such format I’ve seen so far.


Hope you enjoy this music break. Thoughts on this song and/or The Great Gatsby‘s soundtrack?

Music(al) Break: Moulin Rouge’s Come What May

I was dusting off my CD collection the other day and found my Moulin Rouge soundtrack I used to listen every day for like two months after seeing the movie. So I’ve been listening to the CD in my car now. I LOVE, LOVE this movie, it’s so original, artsy and passionate.

Image from Daniella’s Bureau website

In any case, the musicals genre just might be back in style, what with Rock of the Ages, Sparkle and Les Miserables coming out the same year. It’s tricky to do a good musical, but Moulin Rouge is certainly one of the most creative. Baz has a great eye for elaborate costumes and fantastical set pieces, he seems to subscribe in ‘more is more’ philosophy but it works well here. He’s also got an ear for music, even the anachronistic style of using classic songs from Elton John, Whitney Houston, etc. as a dialog between Christian and Satine is just brilliant. I adore the Elephant Medley up on the roof. The El Tango De Roxanne is absolutely thrilling, it definitely tops this list of five awesome movie tango scenes.

Ewan McGregor has never looked more bewitching and Nicole Kidman is perfect as the stunning but icy object of his affection. They both have wonderful singing voice so their duets are really great to listen to over and over Listening to Ewan singing Your Song made me wish he had recorded an album, his voice is just gorgeous, and he sings with such confidence and passion. I tell you, what is it with gorgeous Scottish actors being awesome singers? ūüėČ

My ALL TIME favorite has got to be the love theme, Come What May


The song is composed by David Baerwald for the film, and I love how the song appears in the film as Christian wrote the song for the musical Satine is starring in. It’s his way to secretly declare their love for each other. I’m not a hopeless romantic but it certainly can turn me into one. I think this shall stand to be my favorite movie from Baz Luhrmann, he seems to have a thing for tragic love stories, doesn’t he?


Hope you enjoyed the music break. Are you a fan of Moulin Rouge?

Musings on ‘The Great Gatsby’ trailer

The Great Gatsby. Even the title intrigues me. I was hoping to jump into that Scott F. Fitzgerald novel as soon as I finish Anna Karenina. But since I’ve pretty much stalled on that one, I’m tempted to abandon the Russian aristocrat doomed love story and move on to um, well another doomed love story, this time in America’s opulent society.

I’ve talked about the casting, plot, etc. in this spotlight post a while back, and generally I’m quite optimistic about this whole project. But that is before we see a trailer… behold:

With a name like Baz, he’s bound to be eccentric. And truly, this Aussie director’s work exemplifies it… kooky, anachronistic, loud, over-the-top, but always stylish. LOVE his work in Moulin Rouge!, which is one of my favorite musicals. I appreciate Romeo + Juliet but didn’t love it per se, and Australia, well, I only saw parts of it on TV and didn’t really care to see the entire thing. So will his latest wow me? I can’t really tell from the trailer, frankly, as it’s quite… um, baffling.

In case you didn’t know what the story is about:

Nick Carraway, a Midwesterner now living on Long Island, finds himself fascinated by the mysterious past and lavish lifestyle of his neighbor, Jay Gatsby. He is drawn into Gatsby’s circle, becoming a witness to obsession and tragedy.

Anyway, here’s just 10 musings about the trailer:

  1. The first thing that came to mind is… this is Moulin Rouge! in the roaring 20s. Baz likes to party… perhaps that makes him the perfect director for this? Glitz, decadence and opulence-obsession seems to be the order of the day in Gatsby’s world.

  2. Leo, oh Leo. He was Baz’s Romeo and now that he’s all grown up, he’s Jay Gatsby. He’s supposed to be this aloof, elusive multi-millionaire, but DiCaprio seems to be a picture of pent-up angst instead of cool confidence. I hardly ever see him without his furrowed brows any more, is that becoming his signature acting style?
  3. Anachronism is nothing new in Baz’s movies. He always mixes modern music with period setting which he did to great effect in Moulin Rouge!, but I’m not fond of it as much here. I mean Auto-Tune? Seriously? I don’t mind the U2’s Love is Blindness though, I mean the message fits the story, maybe a bit too obvious, but hey Baz doesn’t do subtle ūüėÄ
  4. I’ve always liked Carey Mulligan, and instantly I think she’d make a good Daisy. The 1920s dresses suit her well.

  5. I like Tobey Maguire‘s casting as Nick Caraway better than Leo as Gatsby, but still curious to see the two real-life BFFs working together on screen. Oh and Bollywood movie star Amitabh Bachchan as Gatsby business associate is inspired casting!
  6. The moment Jay meets Daisy… it reminds me of the scene when Romeo sees Juliet through the aquarium, but minus the pubescent giggles.
  7. Glad I didn’t hate Joel Edgerton‘s mustached-look as Tom Buchanan, though he looked even more like Conan O’Brien, ahah. Methinks either him or Maguire would steal a ton of thunder from Leo.

  8. Great period costumes and set pieces… Yet they don’t feel real to me, yes I know that a fantasy period drama is what Baz is going for but still. The retro vibe is there but it looks more like a bunch of contemporary folks in a huge costume ball, dressing and partying like it’s 1922.
  9. Will this be style over matter? Well that’s probably a silly question given the director’s flair but I’m still hoping there’s some substance and emotional grip amidst all the topsy-turvy.
  10. Remind me again just what could filming in 3D possibly add to this story?? Am I the only one scoffing and laughing at the same time when that 3D logo came on at the end? Seems excessive… even for Baz Luhrmann.


Ok, that’s my take. What do YOU think of the trailer and/or The Great Gatsby project?

Upcoming Flix Spotlight: The Great Gatsby

One of my new year resolutions this year is to read more. Currently I’m still trying to finish up Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, which is quite challenging, but I’m determined to get through the whole thing.

The next one I’ll be tackling on is The Great Gatsby. I don’t know why but ever since I saw Tom Hiddleston as F. Scott Fitzgerald in Midnight in Paris, I had been reading more about the author. Then a couple of days ago I saw this trailer of Fitzgerald’s¬†biographical drama¬†Beloved Infidel, based on the memoir of his mistress Sheilah Graham. Toward the end of his life, Fitzgerald was writing for Hollywood studios to be able to afford the cost of an asylum for his wife Zelda, all the while battling against alcoholism. With¬†Gregory Peck as the author and¬†Deborah Kerr as Sheilah, I’m adding this one to my GP collection ūüôā

Now, back to The Great Gatsby, which is considered Fitzgerald’s masterpiece. Here are some of the reasons I’m looking forward to this film:

The story

In case you’re not familiar with the basic premise of the novel:

Nick Carraway, a Midwesterner now living on Long Island, finds himself fascinated by the mysterious past and lavish lifestyle of his neighbor, Jay Gatsby. He is drawn into Gatsby’s circle, becoming a witness to obsession and tragedy.

I can see why this novel was so well-received and has that timeless quality about it. This Washington Post reviewer said “… no American novel comes closer than “Gatsby” to surpassing literary artistry, and none tells us more about ourselves… Fitzgerald gives us a meditation on some of this country’s most central ideas, themes, yearnings and preoccupations: the quest for a new life, the preoccupation with class, the hunger for riches…”¬† Wow, I can’t wait to finally start reading it!

The Cast

Leonardo DiCaprio: Jay Gatsby
Carey Mulligan: Daisy Buchanan
Tobey Maguire: Nick Carraway
Joel Edgerton: Tom Buchanan

Luhrmann has assembled a pretty decent cast here. Before James Cameron made into a mega movie star, Luhrmann already tapped on Leo’s heartthrob potential in his modern Shakespeare adaptation Romeo + Juliet. I think Leo has the looks and perhaps the charm to pull off the aloof and elusive Jay Gatsby. He’s ok as Howard Hughes in The Aviator, but I’d say his performance was serviceable, not great. He’s grown quite a bit as an actor since though, so I’m hopeful he can do this role justice.

Apparently every young actress in Hollywood was vying for the role of Daisy, I mean check out this list of names per IMDb trivia:¬†Amanda Seyfried,¬†Rebecca Hall,¬†Keira Knightley,¬†Blake Lively,¬†Abbie Cornish,¬†Michelle Williams,¬†Natalie Portman,¬†Eva Green,¬†Anne Hathaway,¬†Olivia Wilde,¬†Jessica Alba¬†and¬†Scarlett Johansson¬†were considered to play Daisy Buchanan. Well I’m certainly glad Mulligan got the role, the Brit certainly has the range to portray a young American debutant. As Daisy’s obsession with money and luxury doesn’t exactly make her a likable character, it’s critical to cast an an actress who’s inherently sympathetic as well as beautiful.

Now I think Tobey Maguire is perfectly cast as the quiet, reflective Midwesterner (from Minnesota to be exact, just like the novel’s author) who’s drawn to the fun, lavish lifestyle of the rich New Yorkers. Not sure if they’re going to use Nick as the narrator like in the novel, but I think Tobey’s got the right disposition to portray the inner conflict of this character. In a way he is Gatsby’s antithesis, which I find interesting as both Gatsby and Carraway seem to represent the dual personality of Fitzgerald himself.

Though Tom Buchanan is more of a supporting role, I think Edgerton has the chops to make the character memorable. I was really impressed with him in Warrior, so I’m glad he’s cast in more prominent projects.

The Director

The Great Gatsby has been filmed six times before, with the most famous one to date being the 1974 film version starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. I actually haven’t seen ANY adaptation of The Great Gatsby, though I might rent the 1974 version before this film opens.

This seventh motion picture adaptation will be at the helm of¬†Aussie director¬†Baz Luhrmann. I think Luhrmann would do well projects like this, he’s got an artistic eye for a costume drama, and he’s proven that he could craft an engaging romance (i.e. Romeo + Juliet,¬†Moulin Rouge!).¬†This is Luhrmann’s first big-budget production since the disappointment of the $130-million Australia. The Hugh Jackman/Nicole Kidman starrer was not a critical nor financial success, earning only a third of of the production cost. Luhrmann aimed for something akin to Gone With the Wind but it was more like the overblown Duel in the Sun. Let’s hope he’s learned some things from that experience to put to good use on this project.

The Setting

There is something so enchanting about the 1920s. No wonder Gil in Midnight in Paris is so obsessed with that era. The cars, the clothes, the jazz music… I guess they don’t call it the Roaring Twenties for nothing. A period of sustained economic prosperity in the wake of WWI and pre-Great Depression sure makes for intriguing tales of lavish proportion.

Moulin Rouge! won two Oscars for Best Costume Design and Best Art Direction, and rightly so. The turn-of-the-century set pieces and clothing in that movie are gorgeous to behold. I have faith that Luhrmann would bring the same kind of artistry and meticulous craftsmanship to this film. As pictures from the set have surfaced, the cast look beautiful in their 1920s costumes.

The filming is currently taking place in Australia. According to the Daily Telegraph, Luhrmann and his wife Catherine Martin will re-create famous New York and Long Island landmarks from the 1920s.

Now, as beautiful as those set pieces are, it’s the story and performances that what would make a lasting impression. Which brings me to…

One area of concern…

Luhrmann is shooting this movie in 3D!! What, what?? Goodness me, I think Fitzgerald might be squirming in his grave. I think I can speak for most people that we want the right mix of visual appeal and rich human drama. Now, it’s highly likely that the movie would look good, but would the use of 3D actually help enhance the human drama?? I doubt it.

I think this quote from Dave Calhoun, film editor of Time Out, in this Guardian article said it best, “If you’re spending time worrying about how to make Gatsby’s hat poke out of the screen or Daisy’s necklace float in front of your eyes, what else are your spending time not worrying about,” he said. “Story? Dialogue? Pace? Acting? Character?”

I truly hope that Luhrmann could add some value by using 3D here, that it’d be worth the extra cost for us to see this. It’d be a shame if it actually distracts from the story, especially one as intriguing as The Great Gatsby! I guess we’ll find out on Christmas day this year.


Any thoughts on this film? Is this one a must-see or meh in your book? I’d also like to know if you’ve seen a previous adaptation of this famed novel.