The Great Gatsby, or, Fitzgerald with added bells and whistles.

Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio): shit-eating grin
Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio): shit-eating grin

I first read The Great Gatsby around this time last year, on a plane heading towards Newark via Heathrow, on the recommendation of one of my tutors at NUIG, in the spirit of If There’s One Thing You Need To Do Before You Visit Princeton, etc. I thoroughly enjoyed it (well, at the time it *was* my first pleasure read in about ten months), and ever since then, I’ve kept a close eye on the film adaptation, which will be arriving in cinemas in the next number of months.

I want to make one thing clear: I love Baz Luhrmann’s films. I honestly do (skipping Australia, I just never got around to that). My love for Shakespeare was shaped by Romeo + Juliet. Moulin Rouge! is one of my favourite films of all time, mainly because I’m a sucker for musicals and I only realised that two years ago (didn’t stop fifteen year old me play it repeatedly on DVD, however). Strictly Ballroom is sweet and romantic and has loads of wonderful dance moves and an animated sequence in the middle. And that Chanel advert, amidst the whole Why Won’t You Let Nicole Kidman Live Her Life, That Is, A Life With A Poor Hot Writer, was my first introduction to Clair de Lune and Debussy, and is generally quite gorgeous.

But after seeing the first trailer, as well as watching the recent second one, I am very concerned. The novel itself is set in a very distinct time period, just between the Great War and the Great Depression — so, in that case, you can either respect the world of the novel or go in a wholly different direction. Luhrmann seems to have taken the latter option, prompting many questions similar to the beat of ‘why can I hear Kanye West/Lana del Rey/Jack White in the background?’ (Here’s a link to an article describing his decision to go with Jay-Z as musical collaborator. I’m not sure if  ‘We knew we had to unlock for the audience a way of letting them feel what it was like to read Fitzgerald’s book in the 1920s – to be in New York City at that time’ necessarily should mean LET’S PUT HIP HOP IN THE FILM.) I’m not saying that that in general is a very bad idea: it worked very well for Moulin Rouge!, which itself did not make any claims to historical accuracy, and Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette wore its anachronisms on its sleeve to great effect. But are these 3D effects, Beyoncé Knowles, and dizzying camera angles truly representative of the heart of the novel? Feel free to disagree with me, but what stands out for me is the melancholy and the deep sadness at the novel’s core — that green light, which unfortunately is rendered very garishly in both trailers. At the moment, the film looks too much like a Harry Potter film, and whereas I wouldn’t mind a guilty pleasure flick that you hate to love but love regardless despite what everyone else may say, I don’t think Gatsby deserves that.

this is a film about mildly interested people.
this is a film about mildly interested people.

I’d be grateful for any thoughts. I know my experience of the novel doesn’t quite encompass what everyone else may think, so: what do YOU think? In the meantime, I recommend this to pass the time.


Guilty Pleasures, or, Why I Think Taylor Swift May Be A Genius

J-Swift writing another Birthday Poem to Stella.
J-Swift writing another Birthday Poem to Stella.

I’m in several minds about my music taste. I don’t know whether to call mine pretentious, ridiculous, or just really bad. Since I was about seventeen and became incredibly discerning about what I would listen to, I had considered myself a ‘music snob’ — of course, you’d run into people with the same taste in university, but I was the girl whose friends would scroll through my iTunes, not really knowing who ANY of the bands or artists were, and I could never tell whether it was to my or their shame (most likely the former). In general, most of the time my music taste was considered ‘weird’.

It’s got progressively weirder as time goes by. I still have an interest in the stuff I’ve listened to in the past few years (whilst discovering a few more along the way), but I started listening to musical soundtracks and also realised that the likes of Beyoncé Knowles, Lady Gaga, Shakira, and Justin Timberlake were bloody geniuses. Sceptical? Have you EVER listened to ‘What Goes Around… Comes Around’?

But none of this, NONE, can possibly excuse the weird/potentially embarrassing/just plain bad music that I admit that I… enjoy, or listen to more than once. Maybe it’s because I’ve realised that they’re potentially genius. Or maybe I’ve possibly lost it.

So, inspired by the lovely lady over at The Ridiculous Miss Mickum (a blog I thoroughly recommend), I’ve put together a list of guilty pleasures. Please, refrain from throwing the rotten bananas.

1. Katy Perry, ‘Wide Awake’: OK, for years I tried to avoid Ms. Perry. I admired (and still do) her dress sense, that would suffice, but I still begrudged her for ‘I Kissed A Girl’ becoming part of the Corrib Village playlist in first year, along with Kings of Leon’s ‘Sex On Fire’ and Rihanna’s ‘Disturbia’. But Christ, ‘Wide Awake’ is a tune and a half. So is ‘Firework’, despite such choice lyrics as: ‘Do you ever feel like a plastic bag?’

Actually, I’m going to listen to ‘Firework’ now. I still think ‘Sex On Fire’ is a terrible song though.

2. Taylor Swift, ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’: I’ve only come around to T-Swift recently, mainly because I had long thought, well, songs as ‘Love Story’ and ‘Teardrops on my Guitar’ were bloody awful. But thanks to Mickum’s endless playing of ‘Stay Stay Stay’ in my presence (‘I’d like to hang out with you for my whole lii–ii–ife’), my defences gradually wore down. She just works into your brain SOMEHOW. And this song especially, as I’ve been playing it repeatedly over the past 48 hours while I’m editing my essays.

I’ll be dedicating my PhD to Taylor at this rate.

3. Avril Lavigne, ‘I’m With You’: Those of you of a certain age, do you remember when Avril Lavigne used to be cool? Before the abominations that were ‘Girlfriend’ and ‘When You’re Gone’, before Chad Kroeger? (Before anyone asks, I didn’t really touch base with the second album.) Let us reminisce to a time when it was supposedly cool to wear a tie with your civvies…

4. Busted, ‘Year 3000’: I’m pretty sure I woke up one morning to find my father watching this on TV and singing along.

5. Beyoncé, ‘Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)’: It seems that a lot of people I know seem to genuinely hate Beyoncé, hence why she’s here. But I adore ‘Single Ladies’. That synth line! (For more goodness, see: ‘Halo’, ‘Crazy In Love’, ‘Deja Vu’, ‘Green Light’.)

Also, it’s impossible to hate the former frontwoman of Destiny’s frickin’ Child, right?

6. Rihanna, ‘Only Girl In The World’: The world and his mother has something to say about Rihanna. Mine are: a) I like this song, and b) ‘We found Dove in a soapless place’. There.

7. Oasis, ‘Live Forever’: ‘Maaaaaaybe I don’t really wanna knoooooooooow / How your garden grooooooooows / I just wanna flyyyyyyyyyyy’

I’m convinced that admitting that you like an Oasis song produces more ire than admitting that you like a Beyoncé song. True or false? You and I are gonna live forevaaaaaaaaa, anyway.

8. Abba, ‘Super Trouper’: Abba are supreme. Disagree with me at your peril. I’m genuinely serious. I have every single album they have ever produced in my iTunes, thanks to a good friend of mine, so that particular urge to listen to ‘Money Money Money’ or ‘The Winner Takes It All’ (possibly my favourite) is always addressed at quick speed.

It’s a shame Mamma Mia isn’t that great on a second viewing.

9. Paramore, ‘The Only Exception’: I too tried avoiding that little ginger and the other nondescript blokes in her band. It was futile in the end. And I do admit, this song is awfully cute.

10. Coldplay, ‘Viva La Vida’: Coldplay divides opinion like no other. They’re probably been called a watered down Radiohead god knows how many times (I’ve certainly lost count), but to hell with it, I like them anyway.

Honourable mentions: Lady Gaga and Shakira would be here, on a normal day. But let’s face it, I think we all know that the likes of ‘She Wolf’ and ‘Telephone’ are very much non-pareil in their sheer genius. RIGHT?

Thoughts? Rants? Deep dark confessions? I’m all ears. I won’t judge…