I saw the new Baz Luhrmann film adaptation of The Great Gatsby yesterday, and much as that story's narrator Nick Carraway ponders the life and character of his mysterious rich neighbor Jay Gatsby, I found myself pondering some mysteries about F. Scott Fitzgerald. I wonder how he would have received this most recent retelling of his master work, with its rap soundtrack and 3D effects. After The Great Gatbsy was published in 1925, Fitzgerald wrote to his friend Edmund Wilson "that of all the reviews, even the most enthusiastic, not one had the slightest idea what the book was about." It makes me wonder if Fitzgerald would think this new movie has any idea what the book is about, or whether the critics who have reviewed the movie do. In my entirely humble opinion, I think he just might have approved of Luhrmann's visions of decadence, disillusionment and disappointment, but as the author has been dead for 73 years, my opinion must remain mostly wild speculation.
I am reasonably rather more sure that F. Scott Fitzgerald would have enjoyed the resurgence of interest in his novel that the release of the movie has brought about. The book was never a commerical success in Fitzgerald's lifetime, but today it holds the #3 bestseller spot for all of the books available at Amazon.com, and there is a waitlist to borrow it from the San Jose Public Library (but not a horribly long waitlist, so don't hesitate if you want to add yourself to it!).
Like many others, I was very saddened to learn of the death of Roger Ebert this past Thursday. I grew up watching him argue with Gene Siskel on TV, and when he was absent from television I was glad I could still read his reviews in newspapers or online, even after cancer and surgery left him unable to talk. I didn't realize until reading his obituary that in 1975 he was the first movie critic ever to be award the Pulitzer Prize.
Ebert also wrote books, and you can find some of them in the San Jose Public Library catalog. His 2011 memoir Life Itself is available both in print form and audio CD. Perhaps you might also want to check out The Great Movies and The Great Movies II or his collection of criticism of the films of Martin Scorsese (did you know that Roger Ebert wrote the first film review Scorsese ever received? I just learned that).
Two thumbs up for a life well-lived, Mr. Ebert. You will be missed.
This year, San Jose has concluded its 23rd Cinequest Film Festival. For the past 23 years, the festival has highlighted a distinguished artist from the film world through its Mavericks Spirit Award. This award has been presented to the likes of Directors, Actors, Writers and Screenwriters such as; Werner Herzog, John Waters, Kevin Spacey, Wes Craven, Ian McKellen, Edward James Olmos, J.J. Abrams, and Deepak Chopra. This year’s honored recipients were Harrison Ford and Chuck Palahniuk. Naturally - I decided this would be a good year for me to attend the film festival since I had not yet attended one, and wouldn’t miss an opportunity to hear one of my favorite authors, (Chuck Palahniuk), speak about a short film which was being premiered based on his short story, "Romance". Palahniuk would also be speaking about his influences behind his contemporary classics Fight Club, Lullaby, Choke, and various other great books he wrote - some of which have been adapted into hollywood films or are currently in production to become films.
Some avid readers scorn at the concept of movie adaptations of novels. I personally enjoy the perspective some films bring to a novel. However, not all hollywood interpretations amount to the same expectations or quality - Palahniuk made a good point in his response to the question the moderator presented on the amount of influence he himself has in the movies that are made from his novels. Palahniuk mentioned that the most direction he would have given in any film created from his novels, was only to have a few words with the screenwriter for edits he would have liked to added to his novels. He expressed a fascination in the change his fiction took within the hands of another artist. He used the analogy of his novels being his children in which he didn't want to hold hands with throughout all its endeavours, but rather let it take its own form with anyone else influenced by it. It was a humble opinion Mr. Palahniuk presented to the many fans in the theater that day. He also presented NEWS that 3 more of his novels had been signed for production deals. One of them, I am personally excited to hear coming to theaters soon - Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey.
For those who haven't seen or read Palahniuks breakthrough title, Fight Club - reading the synopsis for Rant, may make you think twice of considering delving into such a morbid book full of Palahniuk’s humor. However, if you enjoyed Fight Club, you will be equally satisfied to know more of Palahniuk’s chaotic imagination has made its way to hollywood. The other two novels he announced would be adapted into movies are; Lullaby and Haunted. These two other novels are sure to be a treat for the fans of suspense. Palahniuk also added that he is currently working on the sequel to his most recent novel Damned. The book is to be titled Doomed and will be released October, 2013. For those adjudicated readers - you should not be intimidated by merely one of Palahniuk’s novels, but instead keep an open mind to his unconventional plots. Yes, most of Palahniuk’s wit feeds from violent and/or grotesque forms. Nevertheless, his underline of human nature insights the reader into contemplating the bigger picture of such raw emotion. Accompanied by his stirring content, is Palahniuk’s unconventional writing style. Something he often changes up in each novel for the sake of aggregating the protagonist characteristics for the reader to apprehend. In his novel Pygmy, the plot of young spies sent to America as exchange students to execute a terrorist plan - Palahniuk adds a harsh accent to the protagonist throughout the entire narrative to emphasize the cultural contrast of the invaders. In Rant, Palahniuk switches to a biographical narrative from the testimonials of the friends and family of Buster Casey - a self-destructive individual who spawns a pandemic sickness that nearly wipes out half of the American population.
These books were recently made into movies. Look for them on DVD, too!
These books are being made into upcoming movies:
Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz. The movie, to be released March 22, 2013, will star Tina Fey.
After Earth - A Perfect Beast by Michael Jan Friedman, Robert Greenberger and Peter David will be made into a movie--as yet untitled--starring Will Smith. No release date has been set. After Earth - A Perfect Beast, coming out the end of April 2013, is a prequel to After Earth by Peter David which will be coming out as an eBook and a paperback in May, 2013.
Two days ago, Michelle Obama announced that Argo was getting the Oscar for Best Picture of 2012. It also won Best Adapted Screenplay for the year, which means it was one of the many award-winning films that owes its inception to a work that came before it. Of the nine Best Picture nominees this year, three were based on novels (Les Miserables, Life of Pi and Silver Linings Playbook), one was based on a stage play (Beasts of the Southern Wild) and two were based on non-fiction books (Lincoln and Argo). Unsurprisingly, many of these titles currently have waitlists at the San Jose Public Library, but you can always place your own hold!
Argo also has the unique distinction of being an Oscar winner that also used a magazine article for its source material: The Great Escape: How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans From Tehran, which appeared in Wired magazine in April 2007. The article is freely available online.
The Academy Awards are just around the corner (February 24 to be exact). As the date approaches, have you been trying to remember which film won best picture last year? Are you interested in learning about the history of the Academy Awards? When it all started? Which film won the very first Best Picture award? The library has some great books that can answer these questions and more. Here are just a few of the titles on Oscar history that you can find at the San Jose Public Library: