Movie Review: Far from the Madding Crowd

Image via The Telegraph

Rating: 4 out of 5

So in the chaos of moving and starting a new job, I haven’t done much reading, to be honest. But I did manage to make time to go the movie theater, something I only do occasionally. As much I would have preferred to read the book Far from the Madding Crowd before seeing the film adaptation, let’s face it, I never liked the author anyway.

Based on the 1874 novel by Thomas Hardy, the movie stars Carey Mulligan as Bashsheba Everdene, a fiercely independent English woman who comes into a large inheritance when her uncle leaves her a large farm to manage.

Bathsheba is courted by three suitors: Gabriel Oak, a sheep farmer who becomes poor after losing his flock (played by Matthias Schoenaerts), William Boldwood, a lonely older man of great wealth (Michael Sheen), and Francis Troy, a sergeant jilted by a former lover (Tom Sturridge).

For those unfamiliar with the story, I won’t give away the details, but I will say that I was pleasantly surprised that it had a happy ending. Having suffered through Hardy’s most famous and oh-so-depressing novel, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, I expected another romantic tragedy. For once, I’m glad that I was wrong!

I’m a total sucker for period dramas, and Far from the Madding Crowd is an excellent one. The English countryside is absolutely breathtaking, and I loved the cinematography and musical score. I’ll admit that it may be too slowly paced for some viewers, but all the actors did an excellent job in this character-driven tale.

I wasn’t familiar with director Thomas Vinterberg prior to watching this movie, but I was pleased to see David Nicholls on the crew as screenwriter, given that I enjoyed his novel One Day and its subsequent film adaptation starring Anne Hathaway. Overall, I can see why this movie is critically acclaimed, and I recommend it to anyone who’s a fan of 19th century history and literature.

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The Latest in Literary News!

It’s a bit of an understatement to say that I’ve been busy lately. Without going into too much detail, I’ll just say that I’m going through a stressful transition, so apologies for missing blog opportunities like Top Ten Tuesday!

I’m currently reading Sisterhood Everlasting, the 2011 sequel to the Sisterhood of Traveling Pants series by Ann Brashares. In the meantime before I post my review, I thought that I would pop in to share some tidbits of literary news that I’ve come across:

Image via Amazon

1.    Mindy Kaling’s second memoir Why Not Me? will be published on September 29, and is currently available for pre-order. I loved listening to the audiobook of Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? so I’m sure that I’ll scoop this book up as well. It’s unfortunate that her show, “The Mindy Project,” was recently canceled, because I believe that Kaling is an under-appreciated comedic voice. She seems like such a sweet person, and I wish her success with her upcoming book!

Image via Rotten Tomatoes

2.     Thomas Vinterberg’s adaptation of “Far From the Madding Crowd” was released in limited theaters on May 1. Although I was not a fan of Thomas Hardy’s poetry or writing of Tess of the d’Urbervilles, this looks like a beautiful film. I can’t resist period dramas, especially those that star the exquisite Carey Mulligan. It has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 83%, so perhaps I should give Hardy another shot before seeing this adaptation!

Image via Monkeys Fighting Robots

3.     Aldous Huxley’s dystopian classic Brave New World is coming to the small screen with a TV series on Syfy. The network is collaborating with Steven Spielberg’s production company Amblin Television. No word yet on its release, but the bar will be set awfully high for one of my favorite books of all time.

Are you as excited as I am about these three new and upcoming releases? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Movie Review: The Great Gatsby

Image via chud.com

Rating: 4 out of 5

Well, well, old sport! I’m glad to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the latest rendition of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s literary masterpiece which most of us know and love.

However, I can understand why critics are especially negative with this film. With Baz Luhrmann as director and screenwriter and Jay Z as executive producer, we all knew that this could have been an extravagant hot mess. Of course, most still think it is, but I’m of the opinion that it could have been so much worse.

I mean, who could deny how absolutely gorgeous the costumes, cars, and sets were! I’ll deal with Gatsby’s irritating repetition of his catchphrase “old sport,” because all the shimmer and sparkle made me want to throw on a flapper dress and learn the foxtrot!

Given all the pomp and circumstance, I wasn’t expecting such a character-driven film. I felt that the casting was excellent, and I’m not just talking about Leonardo “He STILL doesn’t have an Oscar?!” DiCaprio.

Carey Mulligan was an exquisite Daisy, torn between her love for Gatsby and her obligations as a respectable married woman. Joel Edgerton nailed it as her racist, possessive husband Tom Buchanan. Even Tobey Maguire made a decent Nick Carraway, but that’s mostly because both he and Nick have people constantly wondering, “How did this square get into the cool kids’ club?”

Seriously, how do I get an invitation? (Image via TheGlitterGuide.com)

Sure, this movie was over-the-top and melodramatic. Might I add that the 1974 version was too, just without all the fireworks and confetti. And don’t forget that Fitzgerald’s characters were written to be affected and biased! Everyone’s playing a role in this grand vision inside their own heads–which is why it’s so tragic when everything falls apart.

Cinematically, this film suffers from its emphasis on gratuitous 3D scenes. I could do without the frequent shots of the two mansions across the bay or the tacky depiction of Myrtle’s unfortunate end. But after watching “Romeo + Juliet” and “Moulin Rouge!,” it’s not like Luhrmann’s flamboyant style was at all shocking.

What I wasn’t expecting was how clever this adaptation was, tipping its hat to the one before it. I caught two references to the 1974 predecessor, one where a party guest repeats Mia Farrow’s famous line, but this time to Nick instead of Gatsby. The hissy fit in which Farrow throws clothes at Robert Redford was also altered to Dicaprio delightedly tossing the clothes to Mulligan to display his newfound wealth.

Even the soundtrack was more subtle than I thought it would be. I smirked when I heard “Crazy in Love” during Gatsby’s tea party-induced anxiety, but the songs work in a weird way. And if Kanye West, Lana del Rey, and Gotye make The Great Gatsby more relevant for the Millennial generation, so be it.

So on a scale from “The Golden Compass” to “Fight Club” in terms of how good this adaptation was translating book to film, I’d give “The Great Gatsby” an above average. Perhaps along the same lines as “The Hunger Games.”

I think that The Telegraph’s review put it best when finding the perfect piece of dialogue to sum up the sentiment of this remake:

“Do you think it’s too much?” frets Gatsby, after burying Nick’s living room in flowers in advance of his fateful afternoon tea with Daisy. “I think it’s what you want,” shrugs Nick. Then Gatsby, with a thoughtful look and no apology: “I think so, too.”

So cheers, old sport! (Image via RedCarpetCrash.com)

Book Review Reblog: The Great Gatsby

Hi everyone!

Today I’ll be watching Leonardo Dicaprio as Gatsby in Baz Luhrmann’s movie adaptation! I am pretty skeptical about the success of this attempt to translate Fitzgerald’s masterpiece on film, especially with its dubious modern soundtrack, but I’m going to go in with an open mind. No matter what, it will make for a great movie review, so be sure to revisit Book Club Babe soon!

To celebrate the occasion, here’s an updated reblog of my book review of The Great Gatsby, which I originally published on Aug. 1, 2011:

Cover of "The Great Gatsby"

Image via Amazon

Rating: 5 out of 5

The novel follows the protagonist Nick Carraway, who has come back from the first world war and moved into a house next to Jay Gatsby’s mansion. Gatsby is a mysterious millionaire obsessed with Daisy Buchanan, an attractive albeit shallow woman married to Tom.

Daisy is also Nick’s cousin, so he comes to know all of the couple’s secret affairs: Tom is having an affair with Myrtle Wilson, who is also married to a mechanic named George.

Although the premise of the novel is simply of unrequited love and adultery, what makes it a masterpiece is Fitzgerald’s beautiful prose. He packs so much emotion and insight into each sentence that you can’t help be awed by the story. Because Nick is the narrator, not Gatsby, you’re like a fly on the wall who feels so close to the characters, and yet so detached from them at the same time. True understanding for the reader is just as appealing and unattainable as the green light shining across Daisy’s dock.

Fitzgerald, of course, writes what he lives. The Great Gatsby is a wonderful opportunity to learn about the “Roaring ’20s;” all the clothes, cars, dancing, and parties really paint the picture of America during this time. Fitzgerald is also an autobiographical author, basing his characters on the people around him, and I would love to read more of his work [EDITOR’S NOTE: I have taken this statement back. Read my unsatisfied review of Tender is the Night to learn why].

Most of you have probably already read The Great Gatsby, but I try not to spoil the novels I feature, just for the few who might be interested in picking them up. And since Hollywood is working on a new adaptation (starring Tobey Maguire as Nick, Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby, and Carey Mulligan as Daisy), this would be an excellent time for fans to reread Fitzgerald’s best work–if anything, to get the bad taste out of your mouth from watching the hilariously melodramatic 1974 version with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow.

“Haven’t you heard? Rich girls don’t marry POOR BOYS!”

So feel free to share your love (or loathing!) of The Great Gatsby!

Favorite Quote: “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter–tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning–So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” (Ch. 9)

Fireworks and Flappers and Gatsby, Oh My!

So the whole entertainment industry was a twitter (literally) yesterday about “The Great Gatsby” trailer. As a big Carey Mulligan fan, I was excited to see the first shots of her as Daisy Buchanan. But now that the trailer’s out, I feel conflicted. Take a look for yourself:

Obviously, Baz Luhrmann as director is going to split opinions. I’ve seen “Romeo + Juliet” and “Moulin Rouge!” and while I appreciate their cinematic style, it’s not my favorite cup of tea. But I understood that the glitz and glamour would be the main attraction of “The Great Gatsby,” especially given that the film will be shown in 3D. (Don’t worry, keep reading, because I’ll address that nonsense, too!)

This burlesque angle will attract a bigger audience, incorporating non-readers. The trailer was flashy and sexy, and I admit that the costumes and sets looked amazing. But the purist inside me is groaning.

I think this YouTube comment by user Evanm3 summed it up: “‘New York, 1922…’ [cue music by Kanye] Fail.” I mean, seriously? I can’t stand historical films with modern soundtracks (I’m looking at you, “A Knight’s Tale”). Even if the movie is excellent, the cognitive dissonance is hard to ignore.

I just feel that the last major adaptation of this novel, the 1974 version starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow, suffered from excessive melodrama, and now this 2012 remake is making the same mistake. It seems like neither film has much acting cred, and I’m afraid the film will come off campy. Leo and Carey are capable of so much more, and I wasn’t feeling their empty, emotionless lines.

And let’s discuss this obsession with 3D, shall we? I’m a huge opponent of this Hollywood movement, because it prioritizes explosions and flinging food-stuffs over quality storylines and characters. But since 3D’s something that’s not going away, it needs to stay in crappy action movies like “Wrath of the Titans.” Step away from the book adaptations! Does “The Great Gatsby” need 3D? Absolutely not!  For once, why can’t 1922 be 1922, without all the added pomp and circumstance?

Of course, I still want to see this movie–I wouldn’t be a good book blogger if I didn’t! But I’m a bit warier now, and will be approaching the remake with more skepticism.

What do you guys think? Did the trailer turn you on or off? Share your thoughts!

Masterpiece Monday: The Great Gatsby

Cover of

Cover of The Great Gatsby

Rating: 5 out of 5

So I’m starting another SAT prep class today, and when I teach the essay section, I follow a five-paragraph structure with an intro, conclusion, and three body paragraphs–each with a personal, historical, and literary example. That way, they answer the prompt with specific arguments rather than vague, undeveloped notions.

I’ve been doing these classes for a year now, and it’s so amusing how predictable their literary examples get. One of their favorites is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, first published in 1925 and has now become required reading for most juniors in California.

The novel follows the protagonist Nick Carraway, who has come back from the first world war and moved into a house next to Jay Gatsby’s mansion. Gatsby is a mysterious millionaire obsessed with Daisy Buchanan, an attractive albeit shallow woman married to Tom. Daisy is also Nick’s cousin, so he comes to know all of the couple’s secret affairs: Tom is having an affair with Myrtle Wilson, who is also married to a mechanic named George.

Although the premise of the novel is simply of unrequited love and adultery, what makes it a masterpiece is Fitzgerald’s beautiful prose. He packs so much emotion and insight into each sentence that you can’t help be awed by the story. Because Nick is the narrator, not Gatsby, you’re like a fly on the wall who feels so close to the characters, and yet so detached from them at the same time. True understanding for the reader is just as appealing and unattainable as the green light shining across Daisy’s dock.

Fitzgerald, of course, writes what he lives. The Great Gatsby is a wonderful opportunity to learn about the “Roaring ’20s;” all the clothes, cars, dancing, and parties really paint the picture of America during this time. Fitzgerald is also an autobiographical author, basing his characters on the people around him, and I would love to read more of his work (Tender is the Night and This Side of Paradise, especially) to learn more about his fascinating life.

Most of you have probably already read The Great Gatsby, but I try not to spoil the novels I feature, just for the few who might be interested in picking them up. And since Hollywood is working on a new adaptation for fall 2012 (starring Tobey Maguire as Nick, Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby, and Carey Mulligan as Daisy), this would be an excellent time for fans to reread Fitzgerald’s best work–if anything, to get the bad taste out of your mouth from watching the hilariously melodramatic 1974 version with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow.

"Haven't you heard?! Rich girls don't marry POOR BOYS!"

Well, I better prepare for my class now, but feel free to share your love (or loathing!) of The Great Gatsby!

Favorite Quote: “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter–tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning–So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” (Ch. 9)