Jay Gatsby is an interesting character, that resides in the fictional provincial town, West Egg, one of the two eggs shaped islands, haunted by seagulls and other such flying mammals of all shapes and sizes, of beguiling variety. Born to a farming family of German American descent, during the early part of the 1900s, he is very different from the rest of the neighbourhood residents, and just for his newly acquired wealth. His “new rich” status is at once, despised and lauded, by men and women, from all walks of life, and from far and wide.
Much like most from his new class, he only got rich to mingle with the aristocrats, the royalty and the wealthy through numerous trade ventures. In the film, The Great Gatsby, you meet Gatsby, during the summer of 1922 as a dodgy fellow, with an interest in throwing the hippest parties the neighbourhood has seen. As you take a flashback, to his past, you see that he had also served in the infantry, during the First World War, as a 27-year old man, but most of the characters that attend his parties, have no clue as to whatsoever Gatsby does for a living, or in fact who he is.
There are some theories, such as he might be a German spy, a prince or even an assassin, but none of these ideas seem to bother the crowd, perhaps because the exuberance, the extravagance of the parties, is enough to meek out all kinds of interest, such languid people can have on a mysterious individual. Gatsby fluently lies with a straight face about his past, particularly his previous wealth equation, and expects to never get found out, perhaps because the affluent crowds that live nearby don’t really conform to his choice of lifestyle, or all of his clothes that smell “newly bought”.
Gatsby is very instinctively interested in acquiring wealth, so much so that he forgoes all kinds of human contact possible, to acquire it. In the film, you meet a Gatsby, who isn’t particularly ravished by the culture of flapper girls, or the status quo of men, who love to ride horses for a living, or even those who graduate from universities, hoping to make a decent living in some quiet provincial neighbourhood. He is only after the pursuit of leisure, and fast money, decent cars, with a very strange colour, and is a formerly penniless man, with a taste for intelligent conversations, or the people who are capable of at least conducting it, in a free-flowing avatar.
Leonardo DiCaprio, essayed this role to perfection, often playing the numerous frustrations that come with the tag of a “new rich” young man. He spent a very long time researching on the looks the character sports, sometimes even going through episodic narrations + photographs of the story, sometimes in literary-form, and the role was special to him because there was a lot to do in it, the one thing he looks for in his roles, firstly, when he chooses to take them up. The adaption of the novel, translated into a literary form, was what excited him about the film and the American-ness of Jay Gatsby is what helped him identify with the role. Leo comments on the role:
Gatsby is somebody who erased his past and left all of his connections to his humble beginnings so he could re-invent himself as this great oligarch of West Egg. He doesn’t want to connect with anything from his past.
To engage with someone like Jay Gatsby must be a pleasure to most people, even though the pleasure must be of one that doesn’t really come packaged with a lot of enchantment, given his temperament and his wealth. It’s not so much as the money he has, the lifestyle he has, as to how he spends all of that money, where he has invested it all in, what he is interested in, in the future for, investments-wise. And if he can actually really erase people’s perceptions of him as a “new rich” kid, who only got wealthy, because he wanted to mingle with the rich, much like he cannot erase his past as a penniless rural country boy, who served in the war, but not something that deserved a lot of medal-worthy glory.
What I found particularly amazing about Leo’s dedication to the role, was attempting to essay a character, who teeters so far away from all kinds of societies: the royals, the aristocrats, the bourgeoisie, or the working class, only because he dreamt of making something of his life by climbing the class ladder, through the acquiring of wealth. I can’t think of a lot of people who would be so interested to play a role so challenging to convince of his goodness, or how this is a man who really just wants to make a lot of money. There isn’t a lot of change of scenes in the film, but the narration flows seamlessly, as you hop from one dinner scene to another “get me rich, fast!” conversations filling fun car-ride, fast, eating midwestern Texas dust on the way.
The film won the Academy Award for both Production Design and Costume Design, the latter of which was personally carved out with the help of Prada and Tiffany’s. DiCaprio’s performance had parallels of the same undertone that defined Jay Gatsby, making him endearing to millions of people across the globe. He is the classic example of a young American man, who aspires to become something other than the throwaways life has given him. Dark and thematic of social class hardship, it is a poignant take on what it feels like to travel from idyllic blue shores to a life of abyss, acquired through chasing the beauty of wealth. The coolest part of the film was obviously the costumes, but Leonardo’s take of Gatsby is still very old-school pure European, or at least how Gatsby’s conjured up American perspectives, likes them to be, in his cold-cash bought suits and his fantabulously funky yellow car.
The Academy Awards last year was interesting. It became synonymous with surprising wins. The animated tale Frozen won as the best animated motion picture, and the tale was sourced off Nordic landscapes, culture and fashion. As mesmerizing as Elsa’s icy tale was, what was even more epic was the cast that made it up and ofcourse the inspiration behind it.
The story was lying in the Walt Disney studios archives, gathering dust for decades before the studio executives decided to give it the green signal, to be made into a feature film. When Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered in 1937, work behind the scenes had inspired filmmakers to craft a biographic tale of Hans Christian Anderson, in a partnership with Metro Goldwyn.
It would be a live-action film, and the animated tales based on his fairytale world would continue to be sketched into coloured brilliance by Walt Disney Studios. But numerous historic events such as the Second World War, grind it’s development to a halt. One of their picked out stories from Anderson, during the late 1930s was The Snow Queen which repeatedly got shelved.
After coming up with the name of Frozen, the producers decided to cast a Broadway veteran, Idina Menzel as Elsa. Elsa is the Snow Queen, and based on the title character The Snow Queen from Anderson’s tale. She is the princess of a Scandinavian kingdom in Frozen, and while we are celebrating all things Christmas, it would be improbable to not mention the numerous other wins, which surprised so many on the night:
Best Actress for Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), Best Actor for Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club) !, Best Director for Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity), Best Original Song for Kirsten Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez for “Let It Go” (Frozen), The Great Gatsby for Best Production Design and Best Costume Design.
There is nothing more festive, than the Christmas spirit and how great it feels to win, and remember it all, exactly how it happened, even during the holidays! Merry Christmas! xx