The critics are chattering about Baz Luhrmann’s highly anticipated The Great Gatsby. They fall into two camps: those who watched the movie for itself, and those who closely compared it to the book. Even though I appreciate F. Scott Fitzgerald’s seminal work, I’ll be going to the theater as a member of the first camp. Adaptations are rarely successful when the goal is a strict translation of the book to the screen. Even if a movie’s based on a book, I try to judge it as a movie in its own right, as if the book had never existed. Just to prove how unimportant The Great Gatsby’s faithfulness to the book is, here are four examples of absolutely amazing, beautiful, gripping, classic movies (and a TV show) that took an existing story and threw expectations out the window to make something completely original.
5. The Adaptation Most People Don’t Know Is an Adaptation: O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Did you know that O Brother Where Art Thou?, the Coen brothers’ rollicking adventure comedy through the Depression-era South, is a loose retelling of Homer’s Odyssey? If you didn’t, pick up the DVD and rewatch it (well, you should rewatch it anyway even if you did already know because it’s that good) and see if you can recognize the sirens, the cyclops, and the hydra.
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I’m pretty sure I’m down for this movie. I’ve been hesitant, but I really dig the new trailer. While I don’t actually love the aesthetic, it’s vivid and dazzling and will look wonderful in 3D, not that muddled garbage we saw in Alice in Wonderland. I’m a big fan of Sam Raimi’s goofy sense of humor, and all of the actors seem to be having a great time here.
I never know what to think about James Franco – that guy is such a weird mystery to me – but he has a naturally self-pleased, humbug air about him that will serve him well as Oscar Diggs, the young Wizard of Oz. And he’s in turns manipulated and assisted by three of the loveliest and most talented witches possible, with Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz and Mila Kunis turning in performances as Glinda, Evanora and Theodora, respectively.
Also, Zach Braff plays a flying monkey.
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Bridget Jones will write a third diary for a movie. This diary will start 13 years after Bridget Jones, The Edge of Reason. The Telegraph speculates about what this fortysomething diary might involve:
In the first diary, Bridget was in her thirties, so the new material should make her in at least her late forties. We can only speculate then how Bridget’s new diary – or more likely blog – would start: Inappropriate tweets 10, followers 95 (down five following yesterday’s said inappropriateness), hours wasted on match.com 7. 2012′s Bridget would surely be an avid Internet dater, going after the younger men. She’d be sniping about ex-boyfriends – perhaps ex-husbands – not over cocktails, but on Facebook, and debating the trials of parenthood on a Mumsnet forum. Yep, Fielding can have a lot of fun with 4G-enabled Bridget, but you can bet the bits that will stay the same.
Sally Newell has good instincts. While the naive antics and mishaps of this ditzy single woman in her thirties entertained in part because she was only a little bit pathetic, if fortysomething Bridget still hasn’t gotten her act together, then there will be no entertainment, just pity. But Newell’s conclusion caught my eye. Bridget Jones first appeared in a running column in The Independent in 1995. From one of those first columns:
Bridget’s friend Jude said: “We women are only vulnerable because we are a pioneer generation. In 20 years’ time, men won’t even dare start with F***wittage because we will just laugh in their faces.”
Well, here we are, almost 20 years on, and according to the dispatches from the hook up culture, men regularly dare to start not with just sex wittage but straight up propositions. Women don’t laugh at them but sleep with them. Women are still vulnerable, but you are a patronizing jerk if you say so. And according to the feminist orthodoxy, this is progress.
Just a few short years ago, James McAvoy was best known to audiences for his role as the half-human, half-goat Mr. Tumnus in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. However, in the years since, the Scottish actor has seen his career expand from Oscar bait like The Last King of Scotland and Atonement to big-budget Hollywood fare like Wanted and X-men: First Class.
That eclectic mix of films indicates that McAvoy has little worry about becoming typecast and is willing to take on a risky, even controversial project without a second thought. In his career, he’s already tackled political drama, period romance, high-octane action and superhero spectacle. However, despite risking fanboy ire by taking on the role of young Professor Charles Xavier, McAvoy is now set to take on his most divisive project to date.
According to Variety, McAvoy is in talks to star alongside Benedict Cumberbatch in Dreamworks’ untitled Wikileaks film. The actor would play Daniel Domscheit-Berg, the author whose book Inside Wikileaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World’s Most Dangerous Website serves as the basis for the film. The studio acquired the rights to both that book and Wikileaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy, and both will serve as inspirations for the film’s screenplay.
I’ve liked McAvoy since seeing him stand his own against Forest Whitaker’s mesmerizing Idi Amin performance in 2006′s The Last King of Scotland. It looks like again he’s going to play another real life character drawn into a dangerous criminal cult. (Though I hardly expect the evil acts of Julian Assange to receive the same honest depiction as Amin.)
Note to self: pick up Inside Wikileaks from the library. The ideologies fueling Wikileaks’ founders in their efforts to sabotage the United States national security efforts need additional study…
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Terrible news: Ghostbusters 3 shoots next summer. This information was buried deep inside a Deadline article about Ivan Reitman’s next film, Draft Day, which may have to be delayed if it bumps up against the scheduled shooting dates for the dreaded sequel.
Or is it a remake? Rumors recently held that Ghostbusters 3 would just redo the whole thing, an option certain to piss people off – but one that would make me happy, as it doesn’t dilute the original brand. I’m weird like that; a remake is ignorable, but a sequel demands consideration. As much as I’d like to pretend there are only two (three, if I’m feeling charitable) Indiana Jones movies, I cannot ignore the basic existence of Crystal Skull.
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hat tip: Buzzfeed
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Twelve years ago as a high school junior I sat breathless in my seat at Indianapolis’s art house movie theater as Requiem for a Dream finished kicking me in the gut with its punishing climax. The dark, unrated indie drama starring Jennifer Connelly, Jared Leto, an Oscar-nominated Ellen Burstyn, and Marlon Wayans would become my favorite film of the year — and, eventually of all time. And in my movie review column in the high school paper, come award time I would grumble as Burstyn was passed over for Julia Roberts and Requiem was of course too dark for best picture consideration at all. Instead all the attention went to Russell Crowe and Gladiator. I was of course very annoyed that the most unique film of the year revealing the most promising filmmaking career of his generation failed to get the attention it warranted. And I’ve always carried a bit of an irrational grudge against both Crowe and the film that fully launched his career as a result.
And now everything is at it should be and I can perhaps bury my anti-Crowe vendetta: Aronofsky’s artistic vision united with Crowe’s starpower to enable the bankrolling of Noah, the kind of epic that could have been made with 2006′s The Fountain had Brad Pitt not abandoned the project.
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