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Gatsby Casting: Still A Sticking Point?

6 Jul

I know it’s been a long (long long long) time since the casting and shooting started on Baz Luhrmann’s version of The Great Gatsby and I’m still highly skeptical. Very skeptical. First I was put off by the fact that Baz found the need to shoot the film in 3D – I still don’t understand this logic. 3D works best when there’s a lot of action, not when it’s a tender talkie (unless he’s trying to reinvent the image of 3D, which is admirable in a way but still a bit… pointless). Still, that’s just a small quibble when compared to the casting of the film. Well, the casting of one character in particularly.

I have no qualms with the following: Carey Mulligan is wistful and pixie-like enough to be airy-fairy irritator Daisy, while Leonardo DiCaprio is the obvious choice to play our eponymous hero as he’s one of the only modern actors I think is suave but also quietly ponderous enough to play Jay. No, I have a huge issue with Carraway, our narrator and eyes through the story, because Baz has cast Tobey Maguire.

Don’t get me wrong: I have no problem with Tobey Maguire or his acting. He’s great in the likes of Pleasantville and was the perfect Spiderman (his adolescent, almost nervy performances were what you wanted in a Peter Parker, not Andrew Garfield’s too-cool-for-school approach). But… he’s just not Carraway. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic book, Carraway is a man who intimates the strain of his own life, how he has had to struggle through, and he presents a world-weariness, an almost depressed view of the world. For every time he mentions the brilliance of the metropolis, there’s some downer to go with it. The Jazz Age isn’t so great for Carraway, and his conclusions at the end of the novel sum up his attitude to life and the world around him.

Tobey Maguire just doesn’t scream ‘world weary narrator’ to me. Despite some stills and his attempts to look more manly, I can’t shake the fact that Maguire looks a bit too young and fresh (still!) to be Carraway. You’re probably thinking: ‘well, smartypants, who should play Carraway?’ Yes, admittedly the options seem a little bit limited nowadays. I am, though, tempted to suggest Michael Fassbender as an alternative Carraway – more rugged, more beaten by life and just a bit less adolescent.

Of course, Maguire could prove me completely wrong and be the biggest revelation I’ve seen, producing a pitch-perfect Carraway that defies all expectation and if he does, all power to him. Until that happens though, I’ll remain skeptical.


Frank Ocean Comes Out And Breaks Barriers

5 Jul

Frank Ocean, solo rapper and member of Odd Future, has announced that he is either bisexual or gay. I’m saying that this is definitely what he is saying, unlike the NME who are almost sitting on the fence with the line ‘suggesting that he is gay or bisexual’ as if it’s so shocking. But actually, even though it wouldn’t be shocking normally, Ocean’s opening up is a huge step for urban music.

Ocean opened up on his Tumblr blog instead of posting the news on the sleevenotes to his upcoming album Channel Orange, saying that he his first love was a man when he was 19. His post, which is pretty tender and heartfelt, shows that Ocean is hopefully paving the way for other hip-hop stars to embrace homosexuality and bisexuality in a genre of music that has otherwise been dominated by homophobia, gangster attitudes and macho misogyny. Being highly ‘masculine’ and having control over women (usually in a sexual way) is the dominant image of gangster rap, and homosexuality has been frowned upon by that community for years (and that’s putting it nicely).

Of course, this announcement doesn’t necessarily mean that a whole host of rappers will be announcing their sexuality in the same way (although that would be amazing if Ocean has set a precedent and then the last taboo of urban music would finally be broken forever). But music and sexuality has always had something of an odd relationship and Ocean is not your regular rap star anyway: after all, he has his own way of making music and has told Def Jam where to stick it (despite collaborating with Jay-Z and Kanye West on their Watch the Throne album).

If Usher, or Kanye had come out as well then it would help to break down that wall even more – rap music cannot be the bastion of purely heterosexual people, after all. But absolutely nothing should be taken away from what Frank Ocean has done in this act, and the courage it must have taken for him to announce it knowing the prejudice that surrounds this issue. He may not change the attitudes of the ‘old guard’ of rap music, perhaps stuck in their old ways, but for a generation of rising rap stars listening to Ocean and being inspired, he might just be giving hope to those who think they have to hide their sexuality and who they are. For that he deserves a huge amount of respect.

Marty ‘Quits’ Film… But Not Like That

29 Jun

I’ve got to admit that when I saw that Martin Scorsese was apparently ‘quitting film’ I nearly had a minor heart attack – Marty has shaped a lot of my film experience and his enthusiasm for the medium and auteur status was part of the reason I developed a strong interest in the whole area. Luckily, it was all a little bit misleading. What was actually the case was that Marty was abandoning film reel in favour of digital, not the practise of making film. Well, there’s a sigh of relief!

It’s sad though that a form of capturing film that has been used for over a hundred years is losing its biggest champion. Scorsese has been restoring old fim stock and classics such as The Red Shoes for posterity, but it seems that even he thinks that it’s a lost cause in the age of digital technology. His long-time editor Thelma Schoonmaker said: “The number of prints that are now being made for release has just gone down, and it would appear that the theatres have converted so quickly to digital.” Scorsese’s last picture, Hugo, was, perhaps ironically, a film about the birth of cinema that was shot in digital and it seems as though he has no intentions of giving up digital now (although he is abandoning 3D after his foray with Hugo, thank God) – he’s using the format to shoot his latest movie The Wolf of Wall Street, which starts production in August.

It’s all a bit sad but it seems like a strangely familiar story…

Oh yes, that’s right. There was a mass abandoning of CDs and vinyl when the internet and newer technologies took over the music industry, and everyone thought that the old formats would die. But events such as Record Store Day, led by stores, bands and labels such as Rough Trade, have increased the nostalgia and demand for the vinyl format and the market is growing. Albeit, it’s never likely to take over the internet and digital media as a way of consuming and buying music but it shows that people never really forget what came in the past.

Now, obviously people aren’t going to have piles of film reels lying around their houses and a musty old film projector to watch them in their own homes, but I daresay within a while there’ll be events dedicated to showing old film reels, shunning the old ways. A new generation of directors might even want to create their work on this format to give a more ‘authentic’ or ‘classic’ feel.

Perhaps then, despite this rather sad news that potentially marks the end of an era, there’s a lot of hope that film reels won’t be forgotten about in the digital age. It might have lost one of its last remaining champions but it could well be back in the future.

Muse’s ‘Survival’ To Be Olympics Theme

28 Jun

Well, I suppose it was meant to happen. Muse’s latest single ‘Survival’ – from their upcoming new album The 2nd Law, to be released in September – has been chosen to be the official song of the Olympic Games in London. Here they are looking very happy carrying the ol’ Olympic Torch together:

It’s a bombastic affair, really, and despite bassist Chris Wolstenholme saying that it’ll be a big departure from their previous work, I’m not really convinced that it will be. It all sounds a bit like Queen to me, which perhaps suggests that because the Olympic Committee couldn’t get Queen to do the song that they picked the band who they thought could perhaps do the best impression of Queen. See what you think:

In any case, the song will be played as the athletes enter the arena, in the lead up to the medal ceremonies and on all international TV coverage of the games (here in the UK we get a new song by Elbow on the ol’ Beeb coverage). So, it’ll literally be everywhere – if you don’t have this song stuck in your head after watching the extensive coverage of the games then you must have turned the TV volume down. Still, at least Muse are in a long tradition of British rock bands, are one of the most well-respected and loved bands on the planet and will get the atmosphere going at the various events.

… And it’s definitely not embarrassing like having that famous Brit Michael Jackson on your playlist for the opening ceremony….

Brace Yourselves: It’s Katy Perry, the Movie

28 Jun

It was a while ago now – or at least it thankfully feels like it – since I was standing in the queue at my local multiplex surrounded by people of my own age actually excited about getting their hands on tickets for the Justin Bieber movie, ‘Never Say Never’. Well, I said never and will continue to do so as long as the helmet-haired popstrel continues to blind girls and young women with bland factory-pop. But now a bigger threat lurks around the corner, one that could cause as much destruction to the credibility of a whole generation of music listeners as a Decepticon throwing a wobbly in downtown LA. I’m talking about… this!

Yep, Katy Perry is releasing a movie. Gawd help us all. As if her video to the song ‘Part of Me’ wasn’t enough, with its very loosely veiled pro-army propaganda, now Ms. Perry is intent on continuing her world domination plan by invading our cinema screens and coming out of them via the use of 3D.

Oh, Katy… She’s a star that you almost want to like, thanks to her slightly quirky take on pop that feels much more believable than the contrivance of Lady Gaga, but she’s been on a downward spiral for a while. As if Teenage Dream didn’t pump out enough hits, Perry added more to it and re-released it, calling it The Complete Confection (which is almost as sickening to say as it is to think about). Now there’s the movie, focusing on all aspects of the production of Teenage Dream, her background and her divorce from Russell Brand; because that’s what draws the OK and Heat readers in, a bit of scandal. Maybe seeing Katy cry on screen will melt more hearts and add more people to her army of fans (cue malevolent laugh).

You know you’ve got a money-making scheme on your hands, though, when your campaign sponsor is… wait for it… Pepsi. Well, okay, not quite Coca-Cola or MacDonald’s but still a massive corporation whose latest tagline – ‘Live For Now’ – seems to fit Perry’s persona and the film’s own tagline perfectly. It seems that there’s nothing and no-one that can stop Perry from having a mega-hit on her hands with this movie, but it’s a sorry state of affairs when our screens have to be filled up with this kind of profit-making venture, once again shoving indie productions (and productions that have just had a lot of work and thought put into them) into the realms of obscurity. Hopefully this really will be the last we’ll see of Perry’s Teenage Dream cycle as she claims… but because we can’t be left alone by stars for more than two minutes (I’m looking at you Rihanna and your album-ever-nine-months turnover) we can unfortunately expect her to be back very very soon.

‘Bad Taste’ Collaborations? More Like Sour Grapes…

27 Jun

Perhaps it’s all fatigue and frustration after their second album got a wee bit of a critical bashing, but indie-lite band The Drums have hit out at fellow musicians making collaborations ‘in bad taste.’ Hmmm…. Something’s not quite right here.

Johnathan Pierce, the band’s frontman, told the NME that “there’s too many collaborations these days that have big dollar signs all over it – even inside of the indie culture. You know, like, bands teaming up and making sort of an indie power duo or something like that? It’s just bad taste.” Oh, and he kind of just left it there, leaving us to do the donkey work and figure out who’s doing these terrible collaborations that are the scourge of the indie scene and destroying non-chart music. They should be wiped from the face of the earth!

… Whoever they are. I’m struggling to think of any definitive ‘indie power duo’ – I can only think of collaborations in the mainstream market (Coldplay and Rihanna, anyone?). Perhaps if you count people like Major Lazer collaborating with Dirty Projectors’ Amber Coffman to great effect? Or does Pierce mean bands formed from other bands such as The Dead Weather? If that’s the case then he’s apparently working with Alison Mosshart on a soundtrack to a new ballet… Perhaps Pierce needs to step back and think before he makes such wild statements and actually think of some agreeable examples to back up his claims. Otherwise it just looks like attention-seeking nonsense.

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