Thursday, October 31, 2013

Movie Reviews: The Great Gatsby (2013)

There are some classics that should never be touched. But Robert Redford’s 1974 adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is not so perfect that it should be sacrosanct.

According to Rotten Tomato’s aggregation of critical reviews, only 37% of film critics gave the 1974 version a positive review. And I would have to agree. Redford, whom I feel is usually a brilliant actor, seemed to be phoning it in. Mia Farrow said in an interview that he spent his time on set in his trailer glued to the Watergate hearings and was distracted on set. And in my opinion, it showed in the complete lack of chemistry between the stars.

Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 adaptation fared better with critics, but only marginally so; only 49% liked it. And this time, I would have to disagree. Luhrmann can sometimes be a little too frenetic for my taste. It took me a long time to warm up to Moulin Rouge. But with The Great Gatsby, he puts that energy to fantastic use with the party scenes in particular.

But party scenes aside, the film does lag a bit. Perhaps this is simply an unadaptable book. But overall, I would have to say I enjoyed it. It will probably make my list for Best Cinematography. As for other categories, it still seems too early to tell.

Rating: 3 ½ stars

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Movie Reviews: Bridegroom (2013)

Director: Linda Bloodworth-Thomason

Writer: Linda Bloodworth-Thomason

Starring: Thomas Bridegroom, Shane Bitney Crone, Michaela Myers

Documentary produced by Linda Bloodworth Thomason (Designing Women, Evening Shade) uses video diaries, Youtube videos, and old photos along with new on-camera interviews to tell the story of Shane Bitney Crone and his boyfriend, Tom Bridegroom, and the aftermath when Tom’s family refused to allow Shane to attend Tom’s funeral after his tragic accidental death.

It’s amazing how much original footage so many young people have of their lives today. Not just photos, but actually videos showing their inner thoughts at the moment they were occurring. That footage gives Bridegroom an immediacy the documentary desperately needs. Had the documentary been forced to rely on interviews and old photos, it’s hard to imagine it being so impactful.

I do wish Tom’s family had agreed to appear on camera, but that’s no fault of the film’s producers: they were invited, and perhaps their silence is damning enough.

Bridegroom made the film festival circuit in 2013 and was released in L.A. theaters just long enough to qualify for the Oscars (and the Cosmos!). It just had its network premiere on the Oprah Winfrey Network and is now available through Amazon and Netflix.