“And I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
The reviews are in for The newest adaptation of the Great Gatsby… and I have no idea what they say. I write most of these Bad Shakespeare posts like a week in advance. I had intended to see it at a midnight show so I can write about it. We’ll see if that happens. Future Michael, to the multiplex!
I did want to write about the Great Gatsby today, mostly because… well, it’s coming out today, and it’s not just coming out in movie theaters but as one of the Big Summer Blockbusters ™ that make up Summer Movie Season. Some people are timid about a big screen, high-budget, high-profile, 3-D adventure that is directed by Baz Luhrmann, also known as that guy who let Obi-Wan Kenobi and Nicole Kidman star in a musical, and thought it a good idea for Jim Broadbent to cover Madonna.
Real quick side note, Ewan MacGregor took the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi. He’s going to have to live with me referring to him as that from now on.
Anyway, immediately it seemed that news of The Great Gatsby becoming the giant, over the top spectacle that resembled… well, one of Jay Gatsby’s parties… was either horror as people clutched their metaphorical pearls (or non metaphorical. I have no idea what you were reading when you read the news) and wonder in stunned horror… HORROR that someone would take F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Great American Novel and turn it into a wild spectacle. The other reaction was, “wow I kind of want to see that” from everyone else. (There was also a third reaction which was, “score, now I don’t have to read the book.” Kids, no matter how much I’m about to defend this, the book is always better.)
Let’s tackle the second reaction first, because I enjoy being confusing. I think it’s great. I’m looking forward to seeing this movie, and I hope that future Michael goes through with the plan to see the movie, and to send me lottery numbers back through time. (he hasn’t yet.) What Baz Lurhmann has done, and was able to do in Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge is taken stories that people wouldn’t normally read, pull out what makes them great, and then puts them on with lavish spectacle and reckless abandon. He has this knack for finding what makes a story great, and even though it’s something hundreds of years old, manages to say, “hey… you like this stuff. Why aren’t you watching more of it?”
The first reaction I talked about is probably one of the more annoying I’ve come across in my time concentrating more on books. I do think some books are sacred. But they’re sacred to me. They’re sacred in a way that I want people to read them. Put a copy of The Great Gatsby in front of someone, they may not read it. Put it on the big screen with Tobey MacGuire, give it a splashy soundtrack, shoot it in 3-D, then it becomes a completely different animal. It becomes a gateway. Kids will see this. They’ll enjoy it. They’ll wonder more and more about it. It can become the perfect gateway to talking about the book. It gives kids something to visualize while they’re reading it. And it’s a reminder that even though it’s a “boring school book” that was written by some guy about the 1920’s, it’s relatable.
I’ve always liked The Great Gatsby. I always thought the themes were way more relatable than some teachers like to point out. This is a book about a bunch of people putting on large, opulent parties, parading their wealth around, driving flashy cars, and not really caring about consequences. (until that gunshot at the end. Oh.. spoilers)
My point is, this isn’t a fight. F. Scott Fitzgerald is not currently planning a bout against Baz Lurhmann. It’s about someone working within the system to find what we should be teaching kids, which is that great literature is consumed any way you can consume it, and just because it’s a classic doesn’t mean it can’t be awesome.
I sincerely hope future Michael takes the chance to go see this as soon as possible!