With wrapping up a better than expected box office ($140 million and counting as of late June), a lukewarm to negative critical consensus (some reviewers were nasty) and mixed word of mouth from audiences, award contender enthusiasts could wonder what kind of Oscar contention The Great Gatsby will achieve. It looked like a sure fire contender racking up awards, but now this might not be the case. This is why Oscar bloggers shouldn’t talk awards by reading the synopsis and analyzing the cast and filmmakers while watching a trailer. I’m [mostly] against talking Oscar until the movie has been seen by the critics and the public.
Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rogue won two Oscars for Costume Design and Art Direction (now known as Production Design) because of long time collaborator/partner/wife Catherine Martin’s impressive work. The returning Catherine Martin, as the production designer and costume designer is the strength of The Great Gatsby. These lavish costumes and the exquisite production perfectly captures the essence of the era. The scenes that really work are watching people party because there is just so much going on. I cannot imagine The Great Gatsby being an Oscar contender for anything beyond these two nominations.
Nothing stands out with any of these performances having a shot competing for awards. Rating the cast is similar to The Great Gatsby. It’s all over the map. Tobey Maguire just isn’t leading man material as protagonist Nick Carraway. This was miscast and an overall bad decision. Leonardo DiCaprio captures the magnetism and mystique of the Gatsby character, but I cannot imagine that being an awards contender. Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan was elegant and luminous as Daisy in a career noticing performance (a majority of casual movie audiences are surprisingly unfamiliar with her). Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton) was subpar and boring. Isla Fisher was amusing as the fateful Myrtle Wilson.
The hip hop score? Ineligible. Another issue I had with The Great Gatsby was the modern hip hop music doesn’t seem appropriate and was even distracting. Don’t get me wrong. Its a great soundtrack, a breath of fresh air for stale pop music that dominates Top 40 air waves. It just doesn’t belong in this movie. As an Executive Producer, JayZ wanted to include his music during moments that just don’t work.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s beloved classic novel is adapted for the red bull drinking, image obsessed generation with Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby. His hypnotic and slapstick style (in full display in William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge!) is appropriate for the grandiose foray into indulgence features in The Great Gatsby. An adaptation of The Great Gatsby comes at an appropriate time during America’s economic and cultural positioning. This greedy, hyper capitalism is timely in the American era of DOW 15,000 where austerity hinders the poor and Federal Reserve induced currency pumping for the rich rules the land. Like the era of excess we are living, it also reflects the times by being a soulless and empty experience. Oscar voters might like zeitgeist, but self reflection isn’t fun.
As I mentioned in a previous post, the changing release date of The Great Gatsby from Christmas to the second weekend in May was a negative sign. Forbes pointed this out before it’s release (and after I called it). Other movies Warner Brothers opened around this time of year include Battlefield Earth, Poseidon, Speed Racer, and Dark Shadows. An ominous sign of no confidence from the investors at Warners Brothers and a little seen Oscar campaign. Based on this logic, the studio will have a limited campaign and will wait and see for their autumn and Holiday releases.
The biggest problem with The Great Gatsby, which will hinder awards consideration, was the lack of imagination and energy infused into the retelling especially during the second half of the movie. Audiences were neither inspired or challenged. That connection must be established for awards. It felt mind numbing and dull. I am in fact familiar with the story and for Lurhmann to bring it to vibrant life visual was a let down. Oscar voters might not be too keen on rewarding the Baz Luhrman’s failed attempt at bring a beloved classic to life with his Flatsby version.