Friday, May 24, 2013

Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby


I adored this movie. And yes, at the end, I balled great big splashy tears. Ignore the critics who don't value it. I suspect that this movie will take a few years to gain critical traction...as did the novel which sold poorly and was greeted with lukewarm reviews waaay back in 1925. It's like they can't appreciate the movie because they hold the novel in such high esteem which renders it totally unattainable in some sort of ironic fashion.

Why did I love this movie? The actors, the soundtrack (more on this in a later post), the vivid beautiful gaudy colors that start to fade after the vibrant party scenes. The movie takes on a blue'ish tint once Daisy and Gatsby reconnect. Leo's pink suit in the devastating hotel room scene. Elizabeth Debicki who brought a certain substance to Jordan Baker which I wasn't able to quite get a vivid mental view of from the book. Isla Fisher (the girl in Confessions of a Shopholic?? Shut. Up.) as Myrtle. The young actors portraying Gatsby actually look like Leo (does it drive anyone else bonkers that the actors portraying the young Don Draper during the depression flashbacks on Mad Men look absolutely nothing like Jon Hamm??). Carey Mulligan's big sad eyes lend an air of soulfullness to Daisy. You keep rooting for her to make the right decision.

Luhrmann borrows heavily from the language of the novel. And really, why not? If you're starting with such lyrical prose, why not use it? I had chills each time I recognized a line pulled directly from the novel. Luhrmann places Nick Carraway in a sanitarium recovering form "morbid alcoholism" which frames the film, and gives the movie a dream-like quality. The saturated colors, for me, exemplify this dream-like quality...because memories are brighter and bolder than reality, right?

Luhrmann brought to life two scenes that I found hard to visualize from the novel. First, his depiction of the Valley of the Ashes. Maybe I'm not a careful reader, but I didn't get that the Valley of the Ashes is the coal mine that fuels the fire of New York City. You could feel the heat.

The second scene is when Gatsby starts to shower Daisy with the finest shirts as he gives her and Nick a tour of his bedroom. I didn't grasp the magnitude of the room, and that Gatsby is essentially on the balcony above which is lined by row after row after row after row of closest space.

Leo DiCaprio is Gatsby. He managed to capture the vulnerability of someone who's trying to be something he is not. In this case, a blueblood. The scene when he first meets up with Daisy at Nick's cottage is heartbreakingly sweet and dorky. The devastatingly hotel scene will blow you away as Tom relentlessly chips away at Gatsby's confidence and facade and hope just as the hotel clerk chipped away at the giant block of ice to serve with Tom's whiskey. And the final scene. What can you say about it? The everlasting hope in Gatsby's quest to envelope Daisy is brilliantly displayed across Leo's face as he hears the phone ring.

What didn't I like? To be honest, I'm really searching, but I didn't like the portrayal of Myrtle's husband, Wilson. I thought he was played too dim witted. He reminded me of Lennie from Of Mice and Men ("can I tend the rabbits, George?").


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald



I read The Great Gatsby again in preparation for the Baz Luhrmann movie. I giggled at the reviews that called it out for being a spectacle. Uh, isn't that what you watch a Baz movie for?? One reviewer went so far as to claim that Leo is too old. I did a little google search, and discovered that Leo is approximately 39. Robert Redford was 38 in 1974 when he played Gatsby. Pish. Posh.

This isn't a regular review because really, what can you say about this masterpiece that hasn't been said already?? Here are a few of my favorite lines from the first five chapters:

Chapter 1
"Whenever you feel like criticizing any one," he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had."

Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope. I am still a little afraid of missing something if I forget that, as my father snobbishly suggested, and I snobbishly repeat, a sense of the fundamental decencies is parcelled out unequally at birth.

If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away.

Something was making him nibble at the edge of stale ideas as if his sturdy physical egotism no longer nourished his peremptory heart.

Something in his leisurely movements and the secure position of his feet upon the lawn suggested that it was Mr. Gatsby himself, come out to determine what share was his of our local heavens.

Chapter 2
I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.

Chapter 3
He smiled understandingly--much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced--or seemed to face--the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irrestible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey. Precisely at that point it vanished--and I was looking at an elegant young roughneck, a year or two over thirty, whose elaborate formality of speech just missed being absurd. Some time before he introduced himself I'd got a strong impression that he was picking his words with care.

"Anyhow, he gives large parties," said Jordan, changing the subject with an urban distaste for the concrete. "And I like large parties. They're so intimate. At small parties there isn't any privacy."

Every one suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honeset peole that I have ever known.

Chapter 4
A dead man passed us in a hearse heaped with blooms, followed by two carriages drawn blinds, and by more cheerful carriages for friends. The friends looked out at us with the tragic eyes and short upper lips of southeastern Europe, and I was glad that the sight of Gastby's splendid car was included in their somber holiday. As we crossed Blackwell's Island a limousine passed us, driven by a white chauffeur, in which sat three modish negroes, two bucks and a girl. I laughed aloud as the yolks of their eyeballs rolled toward us in haught rivalry.
"Anything can happen now that we've slid over this bridge," I thought; "anything at all...."
Even Gatsby could happen, without any particular wonder.

A phrase began to beat in my ears with a sort of heady excitement: "There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy, and the tired."

Chapter 5
They were sitting at either end of the couch, looking at each other as if some question had been asked, or was in the air, and every vestige of embarrassment was gone. Daisy's face was smeared with tears, and wehn I cane in she jumped up and began wiping at it with her handkerchief before a mirroe. But there was a change in Gatsby that was simply confounding. He literally glowed; without a word or a gesture of exultation a new well-being radiated from him and filled the little room.

He hadn't once ceased looking at Daisy, and I think he revalued everything in his house according to the measure of response it drew from her well-loved eyes. Sometimes, too, he started around at his possessions in a dazed way, as though in her actual and astounding presence none of it was any longer real. One he nearly toppled down a flight of stairs.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Mother's Day 2013


We hosted Mother's Day this year for about two dozen people!! That is a huge amount when you consider that we live in a dollhouse. Luckily, the weather was amazing so we were able to use the patio. This year we decided to go with a bee theme. My sister came over the night before to help prepare the desserts. We prepared the Pioneer Woman's French toast casserole (a perennial crowd favorite). We used challah bread instead of sourdough. You pop it into the oven for about an hour before your guests arrive. Your house will smell like a cinnamon roll factory. Absolute perfection. My siblings all contributed something: breakfast burritos, roasted potatoes with green peppers and onions, pasta salad, biscuits, fruit, and mimosas!!


But really, we only care about the desserts! We made the Amy Atlas' beehive cake (you can buy the Nordic beehive pan here), bee sugar cookie pops, honeycomb 3D sugar cookies (check out Haniela's tutorial), Amy Atlas' marzipan bees, and SprinkleBake's honey cupcakes (with a simple vanilla buttercream). We wanted to make SprinkBake's divine poured fondant, but I let the syrup cool too much before processing in the food processor. It turned out really stiff...but super tasty. I will make these cool cupcakes with the chocolate bee stamps another day!!

We finished the table with bit o' honey, tiny flower candies, and sticks of lemon honey.


Friday, May 17, 2013

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple


I didn't get excited about this book until I saw the season finale of Bunheads. Sutton Foster's character plops down and starts reading it to pass time while waiting in line for an audition. Sold!! If it's good enough for Sutton, it's good enough for me. #girlcrush

Remember the powerpoint chapter in Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad? The chapter that somehow nailed what it's like to be a tween-aged girl all while constrained by the restrictions of powerpoint? The format of Bernadette reminds me of that. It consists of emails, FBI reports, an emergency room bill, school notices to parents, magazine articles, and psychiatrist reports. You might think that's gimmicky, but Semple keeps it together and makes it work. The story is tight. The characters are smart, outlandish, and right on. The book is social satire (look out Seattle-ites) and absurd comedy, but at the center is the relationship between Bernadette and her daughter, Bee.

A fun, summer read.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler


I just started reading An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler. My head is luxuriating in the logical simplicity of Adler's approach to cooking. I'll admit to making food too complicated which leads to poorly planned meals and general grumpiness. I don't know how to cook so I'm always cooking directly from a recipe. That's tough.

Blogger App

This is my first post using the Blogger app. I'm drafting this on an iPod. That's just crazy beans!! Looking forward to exploring this to see if it will increase my blogging output.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Star and Butterfly Sugar Cookies


Halle, Stella's neighborhood friend, recently turned 10! Stella and I decided to give her a box of homemade sugar cookies. We kept it a total surprise, but I did manage to ask her about her favorite colors, and was pleasantly surprised to learn that she loves baby blue and lime green. I was totally prepared to make purple and pink cookies!


We decided to make star and butterfly cookies. Halle's name adorns her bedroom door on a super cute star sign. We thought it would be cool to mimic that design element. Stella insisted on adding butterflies. I think she's got great instincts!