Wide: The Great Gatsby
Comparing The Great Gatsby to Avatar might seem completely insane, like something only a moron would every attempt, but they are directly comparable in one respect – both stories had to wait for technology to catch up with them. Avatar famously boiled in the back of James Cameron’s mind for years before he felt able to convey his idea cinematically, and had F. Scott Fitzgerald been alive at the advent of digital cinema, he would no doubt have wished to see his story rendered in such a spectacular way. Of course, you’re probably thinking, “There’s already been two adaptations of The Great Gatsby,” and yes, you’re right, but neither of them are half as good as Baz Luhrmann’s version.
His Gatsby is a powerful, intense, melodramatic story of opulence and decadence gone awry, which begs to be shown in as crisp and awe-inspiring a way as possible – high definition, crystal clear digital cinema. It’s expensive, shiny, and ultimately hollow, which also just so happens to be the message of the movie. Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation is like reading the book through a chandelier coated with hair oil and bow ties – everything expanded, elaborated, Luhrmann-ised. The Luhrmannator did it again, and this is probably his best film.
Why? Well, it’s a perfect storm of contributing factors – longtime Luhrmannite Leonardo DiCaprio is quickly becoming one of the finest actors of his generation; today’s financial crisis means that the novel’s message of the hubris of wealth is especially potent; and, as stated, digital special effects are better than they have ever been, meaning all of the film’s party explosions look absolutely fantastic. Somebody had to make a Gatsby adaptation, and Baz Luhrmann took on the challenge. He’d have been remiss not to – it’s the perfect Luhrmann project. Now, a Baz Luhrmann-directed Avatar sequel would be interesting… do they have hair grease on Pandora?
Limited: A Field in England
Why choose A Field in England? Well, aside from petty nationalism, A Field in England is a great example of an incredibly promising director’s career thus far. Ben Wheatley, the director of such films as Kill List, Sightseers, and a segment in The ABCs of Death, has been on an upward trajectory that doesn’t look like it’ll stop anytime soon. A Field in England is a psychological thriller, set in the midst of the English civil war, weaving psychedelia and historicity into a thrilling and unique experience.
What made the film especially notable this summer was its original unorthodox release, on every format possible, meaning that the film’s distribution constituted a heady mix of a psychedelic vision of both the past and future of multi-platform cinematic releases. To give you an idea of how unique the film’s buzz was, to celebrate its release in theaters, Welton’s Brewery in the UK created an ale called “Open Up and Let the Devil In,” tying in with the psychedelic, occult theme of the movie. A summer release was perfect for the movie, because the British summertime is an odd mix of rainstorms and hot days spent outside, with lots of people taking loads of drugs in fields, many of them dressed oddly (Glastonbury, Leeds/Reading).
In many ways, A Field in England may have been an evocation of the chaotic festival experience. Whether this is true or not, the film gained fantastic reviews on all sides, and the internet premiere of the movie was something of a Twitter event, meaning that all those saddo internet movie bloggers (pathetic, every single one of them) got to talk to each other like they’re actually friends or something. All of this boring stuff aside, it helps that the film is also absolutely brilliant – if you’re interested in a time in English history, drugs, or the current state of low-budget British cinema, then you could do much worse than check out A Field in England. Then watch everything else Ben Wheatley has ever been involved in, and make a little shrine to him, because at this rate he’ll be a deity within three years. When he makes a blockbuster on a par with Inception, everyone will know his name, and you’ll already know it from the indie films he made a few years before. You’ll be lording it over your peers in no time, starting you on the path to becoming a movie blogger yourself.
— Rob Batchelor