As Nasty As Ever, Rex Reed Reviews The Great Gatsby

Today’s snarky young writers are no match for the grumpiest RexReed-Malibu-1969of old men, 74-year old  film critic Rex Reed, who hated Baz Luhrmann’s 3-D take on the Fitzgerald classic:

A Triumph on the Page, The Great Gatsby Founders Miserably on the Silver Screen

“overwrought, asinine, exaggerated and boring. But in the end, about as romantic as a pet rock.”–Rex Reed via NY Obser

“Director Baz Luhrmann takes a meat cleaver to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s literary masterpiece

By Rex Reed 5/07 5:25pm


As the new Gatsby, Leonardo DiCaprio is hopeless, a little boy in his first After Six tuxedo.

Let’s face it. The Great Gatsby never has been—and probably won’t ever be—successfully turned into a great motion picture. Many have tried (four flop movies, not to mention various small-screen attempts, including a truncated but memorable Playhouse 90 with Robert Ryan and Jeanne Crain in the golden days when TV still knew what quality programming was). Robert Redford was a perfect Gatsby in the pretty but boring 1974 version by Jack Clayton, but the movie was dead on arrival. The best I’ve seen is still Elliott Nugent’s black-and-white 1949 version, with Alan Ladd at the top of his form as the screen’s most glamorous Gatsby to date, heading a cast that included Betty Field, Macdonald Carey, Ruth Hussey and Shelley Winters. Mired in mysterious litigation for six decades, it has never been released on home video, is never shown on any cable or network channel, and cannot be appreciated by the legions of F. Scott Fitzgerald fans who have never seen his work properly adapted to the screen. And so his literary masterwork remains nothing more—an elegant but elusive triumph of words over images, best savored on the written page.

You don’t realize just how much misguided damage can be done to a great novel until it is vaporized by a pretentious hack like boneheaded Australian director Baz Luhrmann. Some critics, through the years, have put forth the unpopular theory that Fitzgerald specialized in style over substance, but as any college English major knows, he was famous for pruning away the clutter. With the cinematic meat cleaver that Mr. Luhrmann wields in one bloated misfire after another (I still haven’t recovered from the nausea-inducing Moulin Rouge), style is all there is left, and in The Great Gatsby it looks alarmingly like clutter. Budgeted between 105 and 127 million dollars, depending on which Hollywood trade journal you read, with every inflated expense aimed at your eyeballs in awkward, totally unnecessary and stomach-churning 3-D, this is one of the most maddening examples of wasted money ever dumped on the screen. Jay Gatsby is an enigmatic figure in the excessive Roaring Twenties who came from poverty and devoted his life to becoming a self-made millionaire to win over a superficial girl named Daisy, buying an ostentatious mansion on Long Island across the lake from her rich husband Tom and infiltrating high society with lavish, loud and impossibly overproduced parties masquerading as social events. Racking up his 3-D budget to the credit-card limit, Mr. Luhrmann turns these dinner dances into drunken confetti-drenched orgies. The sumptuous, vulgar Gatsby estate, overflowing with gangsters, movie stars, flappers, wisecracking alcoholics, voluptuous tap dancers, people falling from trapezes, clowns, acrobats and an orchestra in the middle of a swimming pool full of inflatable rubber zebras, looks like a high-school costume party on prom night invaded by Cirque du Soleil.

Is it any wonder, in all the slobber and confusion, that the acting is so bad? With the phoniest set of performances this side of an Ed Wood flick, you might as well be watching Plan 9 From Outer Space. As the new Gatsby, Leonardo DiCaprio is hopeless, a little boy in his first After Six tuxedo. Worse still, he is no longer the centerpiece of the story, a task that falls into the incapable hands of the incompetent, miscast Tobey Maguire as Nick Gatsby’s friend, neighbor and all-seeing matchmaker and Daisy’s cousin, Nick Carraway. He might suffice as a callow Spider-Man, but as the film’s narrator, saying campy things like “They were careless, Tom and Daisy … they smash people and then retreat back into their vast world of money and carelessness …” he just sounds like he’s reading from a college yearbook. Mr. Maguire is supposed to be the camera through which the tragedy unfolds, but he is light years away from possessing the range, craftsmanship and experience required to play a Fitzgerald hero. Mr. DiCaprio has the experience, and we know he can act, but he’s not beyond the need for a director’s keen guidance. Without proficient direction, he comes off like he has no stamina to give the role of Gatsby the stature it demands. That kind of direction would imply the kind of wisdom and insight Baz Luhrmann lacks. He’s too busy directing the confetti.

Carey Mulligan is another artist who knows how to pop the cork on bottled emotion, but her Daisy Buchanan is so trite and myopic you wonder what Gatsby ever saw in her in the first place. Only the terrific Australian actor Joel Edgerton has the proper grip on the material as her handsome, shallow, two-timing husband Tom. It’s supposed to be a story about fate and irony, but the jealous garage mechanic Wilson and his sluttish wife Myrtle (so soundly and wrenchingly played by Shelley Winters in the 1949 version), who gets mowed down by Gatsby’s Duesenberg, have been all but relegated to bit players. This dilutes the dramatic impact that builds to the story’s feverish climax, rendering the big finale impotent. This version of The Great Gatsby has the narrative strength of tap water.

Like Orson Welles, Mr. Luhrmann chooses interesting material to shape into movies, but then his colossal ego does ridiculous things to doom it. This catastrophe has actors who roll their eyes and raise their eyebrows in perpetual uncertainty about what kind of literature they are supposed to be interpreting—a trashed-up revision of the original with the narrator now echoing the inner voice of Fitzgerald from an asylum where he is writing a book called … The Great Gatsby? The jazz and big band swing of the ’20s has been replaced by hip-hop music supervised by Jay-Z and songs by Beyoncé and Fergie with the historical significance of a tuning fork, and there are so many close-ups that it sometimes looks like a movie about ears. I love the publicity quotes by Baz Luhrmann stating that his intention was to make an epic romantic vision that is enormous. Also: overwrought, asinine, exaggerated and boring. But in the end, about as romantic as a pet rock.”–Rex Reed via New York Observer


New York Noir: Remembering The High Anxiety Art Of George Tooker


editorial_tooker-articleLargeThere’s not a trace of funny, Mel Brooksian anxiety in the works of George Tooker but few 20th century painters captured the alienation  of modern city life better than Tooker.

“These are powerful pictures that will stay in the public consciousness. Everyone can say, ‘Yes, I’ve been in that facelessimage situation,’ even if it’s just standing in line waiting to apply for a driver’s license.”–Thomas Garver

Via NY Times obit

George Tooker: 1920-2011

“George Tooker, a painter whose haunting images of trapped clerical workers and forbidding government offices expressed a peculiarly 20th-century brand of anxiety and alienation, died on Sunday (March 27, 2011)  at his home in Hartland, Vt. He was 90.

Related in Opinion

 »The cause was complications of kidney failure, Edward De Luca, director of the D C Moore Gallery in Manhattan, said.

Mr. Tooker, often called a 000090a0_medium 000090a3_medium 0000909f_medium 000090ab_medium 000090ae_mediumsymbolic, or magic, realist, worked well outside the critical mainstream for much of his career, relegated to the margins by the rise of abstraction. As doctrinaire modernism loosened its hold in the 1980s, however, he was rediscovered by a younger generation of artists, critics and curators, who embraced him as one of the most distinctive and mysterious American painters of the 20th century.”–NY Times

Is Lena Dunham The Secret Spawn of Al Goldstein?

Was the demeaning, gratuitous sex scene between 11-lenadunhamadamdriver-blog480Adam and his Shiri-Appleby-Beautynew girl friend ,Natalia , really necessary? Ditto for Hannah’s  boil popping and OCD butt scratching.

Like the former publisher of Screw magazine who also hosted a pervy cable talk show in the buff20061129goldstein called Midnight Blue, Dunham works the bad taste/exhibitionist card as hard as she can.  Creepy,  bad sex scenes almost feel like a creative compulsion on the show.  We’ve all known a wild child or two,  but I can’t remember the girls of my youth seducing the teenage siblings of their  friends or making out with the  doorman. The doorman?  There is something quite sad and not sexy at all  about the hook-up culture of these young woman. One review called the episode “dark and nasty”. I couldn’t agree more. Some recent “dish” on the show from Scott Meslow at The Week:

“But I wonder if Girls, like its characters, is on the verge of self-destructing. Ratings are down this season, and it was recently revealed that Lena Dunham quietly let go of a number of the show’s writers before beginning season 3 — including Steve Rubinshteyn and Deborah Schoeneman, who co-wrote last week’s problematic episode. The show has never felt as directionless as it feels now, and I’m not convinced that punishing loyal viewers with an episode as unpleasant as “On All Fours” — albeit a very well-executed episode — was the right move for a show that hasn’t been firing on all cylinders for a few weeks. Lena Dunham may have decided that Girls is a drama, not a dramedy — or even some kind of nightmarish series about body horror, if this week’s episode is any indication. But whatever this show wants to be, it needs to have a clear idea of what that means going forward. I’m hoping that next week’s finale points to a brighter future for the series after this strange, muddled second season.

Unfortunately, based on what we’ve been seeing lately, I’m not convinced that Girls can stick the landing. After the all-fours sex scene that gives the episode its title, Adam responds to the shaken, disgusted Natalia by asking, “Is this it? Are you done with me?” I suspect many viewers found themselves asking the same question about Girls tonight — and I wouldn’t blame any fans of the first season that look at this darker, stranger season and decide the answer is “yes.”

From The End Of Courtship, The New York Times:

“Many students today have never been on a traditional date, said Donna Freitas, who has taught religion and gender studies at Boston University and Hofstra and is the author of the forthcoming book, “The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy.”

Hookups may be fine for college students, but what about after, when they start to build an adult life? The problem is that “young people today don’t know how to get out of hookup culture,” Ms. Freitas said. In interviews with students, many graduating seniors did not know the first thing about the basic mechanics of a traditional date. “They’re wondering, ‘If you like someone, how would you walk up to them? What would you say? What words would you use?’ ” Ms. Freitas said.

That may explain why “dates” among 20-somethings resemble college hookups, only without the dorms. Lindsay, a 25-year-old online marketing manager in Manhattan, recalled a recent non-date that had all the elegance of a keg stand (her last name is not used here to avoid professional embarrassment).

After an evening when she exchanged flirtatious glances with a bouncer at a Williamsburg nightclub, the bouncer invited her and her friends back to his apartment for whiskey and boxed macaroni and cheese. When she agreed, he gamely hoisted her over his shoulders, and, she recalled, “carried me home, my girlfriends and his bros in tow, where we danced around a tiny apartment to some MGMT and Ratatat remixes.”

She spent the night at the apartment, which kicked off a cycle of weekly hookups, invariably preceded by a Thursday night text message from him saying, ‘hey babe, what are you up to this weekend?” (It petered out after four months.)

Relationship experts point to technology as another factor in the upending of dating culture.

Traditional courtship — picking up the telephone and asking someone on a date — required courage, strategic planning and a considerable investment of ego (by telephone, rejection stings). Not so with texting, e-mail, Twitter or other forms of “asynchronous communication,” as techies call it. In the context of dating, it removes much of the need for charm; it’s more like dropping a line in the water and hoping for a nibble.”

Foiled Again: Sandy Slices Facade From NY Apt Building Revealing Cheap Hotel

“Getting a room” collapse1n-2-web collapse1n-3-webin New York can be expensive for tourists but lucrative for landlords who snidely-whiplash-by-nightrpstar-ccillegally  rent furnished digs by the night instead of monthly as prescribed by NYC’s tough rent laws. After Sandy ripped the facade from the front of a small downtown apartment building, the eerie dollhouse perspective of these then- viral photos revealed strangely similar decor in all the units and very small rooms even by New York standards. Now we know why. The joint

The Meat Packing District 'Hotel' Before Sandy

The Meat Packing District ‘Hotel’ Before Sandy

was an illegal hotel for European tourists and the landlord owed over $30,000 in 2011/2012  fines for

Building After Damage

Building After Damage

doing work without permits.

After the collapse, the city cited the property owner, 92 8th Avenue Realty, LLC, for a “failure to maintain building walls”.


Vacate Order From The City

The Conrad Hilton wannabe collapse1n-7-copylandlord used to market his cut-rate accommodations. Hopefully at their other locales “they’ll leave the walls on for ya”…

“How’m I Doing?”: You Did Just Fine. RIP Mayor Ed Koch

Koch’s New York, when you didn’t need to be a billionaire to live here,  seems so long ago.

Philip Johnson, Jackie Kennedy, Bess Meyerson, Ed Koch--Saving Grand Central Station

Philip Johnson, Jackie Kennedy, Bess Meyerson, Ed Koch–Saving Grand Central Station 1976

And now, upon his death as in his life18ccb63a53aabc6f8e813de9220c8903, we speculate  about his sexuality and remember all the “Vote for Cuomo, Not the Homo” ugliness and hate of those less enlightened New York years.

Common kiddies. It’s 2013.  Is it really our business how an 88 year old man spent

Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge


Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge

c0f85aa01136bae7fe1593d02ab785c3his flaming youth or private romantic moments ?  Suffice it to say that Koch’s  official date was always Miss America, Bess Meyerson.  And think about it, when was the last time New York had a happily married mayor? Lindsay? Not so fast. Ask Mrs. Brady, Florence Henderson, what happened with her and Big John.

Famous For Not Wearing Any, Lena Dunham’s New HBO Series Is About Clothes

“My work is like lay therapy,” Halbreich said. “You listen, you prescribe—clothes are a fix—and you hold up a mirror.”

Not since Lady Gaga pranced through Bergdorf Goodman, famously shopping sans pants, has a more unlikely Girl gone uptown to team with HBObetty-buga_3x-verticala_3x-vertical-3a_3x-horizontala_3x-vertical-1a_3x-vertical-2 on a series about the store’s legendary personal shopper,  Betty Halbreich.

More famous for taking off her clothes than caring about couture, Dunham and her Girls co-producer, Jenni Konner, will adapt the upcoming memoir  , All Dressed Up And Everywhere To Go into a comedy series. It chronicles  Halbreich’s 36-year-long career as a  stylist, celebrity  clothing confidant to much older girls like Candice Bergen, Meryl Streep, Liza Minnelli, Sarah Jessica Parker, etc.

Happily,  success is taking the girl out of Brooklyn for a long and expensive cab ride to 57th and 5th, destination: Bergdorf’s.

Frank and  funny,  the 85 year old  Halbreich is “blind and deaf” to the siren call of a label according to a recent piece in  the New Yorker magazine–a refreshing and chic high/low fashion  POV that’s welcome in our status obsessed world of $12,000 Chanel jackets and $10,000 bags. Go Girl!  Can’t wait for this one…

Preservationists Vs. Mayor Mike’s Towering Ambition: 33 Midtown East Buildings Added to Landmark Wish List

Mike Bloomberg18-20-East-41st-details-150x150 22-24-East-41st-web1-150x150 50-Vanderbilt-ave-150x150 57-east-55-Friars-club-150x150 125-east-50th-top-150x150 250-Park-web-150x150 270-Park-web-150x150 Girl-Scouts-of-America-P1060722-150x150 Greaybar-building-web-150x150 has his own snidely_whiplash_working_on_laptop1version of a doomsday clock, designed to give added urgency to the waning  days, hours and minutes of his last year as mayor of New York. High on his bucket list for the city is a major rezoning plan for midtown east that would replace historically significant NYC structures with taller, flashier Dubai-style towers. Preservationists are not happy and yesterday released a list of 33 buildings worth saving from Zoning Commish Amanda Burden’s and His Honor’s  wrecking ball.

“Historic Districts Council has further refined the list to 33 buildings worthy of New York City Individual Landmark designation, and has prepared official Requests for Evaluation to be submitted to the Landmarks Preservation Commission for each of these 33 buildings.

The buildings represent the area’s rich range of architecture: remaining 19th and early 20th century buildings that recall the residential, pre-Grand Central days of the area, hotels and office buildings that rose around Grand Central soon after its completion in 1913, and post-World War II modernist office buildings that helped solidify the district’s status as one of the world’s premier business addresses. “Together they tell the story of a transformative period in New York City history,” according to Françoise Bollack, a New York City architect and President of the Historic Districts Council.

Additional Buildings of Concern: The original survey HDC conducts resulted in a list of 78 buildings, from that list it was refined down to 46, and then again to the final 33. Although they did not make the final list there are still 13 building that HDC deserves recognition as being under threat from the proposed zoning.”–Historic Districts Council