The State of Things

New York Times’ reporter Brooks Barnes and Anne Thompson tweet just moments ago:



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  1. Bryce Forestieri
    May 11, 2013

    Anne Thompson has a really shitty taste in movies, and I have no idea what the fuck she means with the first sentence because

    1) Everyone has read Gatsby
    2) The marketing was great/plenty/effective don’t underestimate that music in the trailers. Every time I was in a movie and the trailers came up people ate them up and the music was a big part.
    3) In the normal world people really like Leonardo DiCaprio in fact one of our biggest movie stars in this country.

    But the 2nd one is right on the nail. As the great Ebert put it best:

  2. May 11, 2013

    Word-of-mouth will kick in once it has been in release for more than a few hours. Thursday evening and Friday figures look very healthy, but the film could easily drop off quickly through the week. It could easily hold on well too though.

    Of course raves would make more people go. But she’s right – most people trust their own intuition and their friends more than film critics whom they regard as snooty and out-of-touch. I certainly don’t mind associating myself with such sorts if being in-touch means racing out to see a Tyler Perry movie every other weekend*

    This is not a movie where critics should matter any more than any other major Summer movie. Cos that’s what it has been marketed as. It’s a blockbuster, literary source be damned. Were it a prestige pic, it wouldn’t have been shifted from last December to this May.

    * Tyler Perry movies don’t even get released here. That’s how well they travel. They don’t even open them in the UK.

  3. Bryce Forestieri
    May 11, 2013

    It’s a blockbuster, literary source be damned

    Exactly! Where they succeeded was at making this look like a blockbuster that is cool, hip, and modern, and fun which aren’t necessarily bad things of course. But don’t underestimate the fact that people feel good/proud about actually wanting to see a movie about a “great book” that they happened to have read or almost finished reading!

    To be honest, for some weird reason when the end credits came I felt bad for not liking this movie. It’s a hell of a thing!

  4. Bryce Forestieri
    May 11, 2013

    lmao fuck HTML

  5. May 11, 2013

    Lol I know! How cultured of them!

  6. May 11, 2013

    Nothing scares a bully more than finding out nobody is scared of him.

    Glad you guys see right though Brooks Barnes.

    Gatsby cruising to a huge open … a rare movie where critics should still matter but yikes: irrelevant, ignored

    Translation: “What’s the world coming to? We critics had our knives out. But we couldn’t kill the fun.”

    While you were holding the fort here in comments I was hitting back on Twitter.

  7. May 11, 2013

    I like Gatsby just fine. Glad I paid the 3D premium. The long running time seemed to fly by.

    No, it’s not a great movie. But neither should it have been thrashed so savagely by critics.

    In the same way that The Artist is a fine film but should not have won every single award on the horizon as if no other movie mattered.

  8. May 11, 2013

    I might be able to see through Brooks Barnes if I knew who we was.

  9. May 11, 2013

    Brooks Barnes is the media crtic for The New York Times. He sees that Times theater critics still have power to crush a play with their reviews because hotel concierges all across Manhattan base their tourist recommendations on Times reviews (because what else do they have to go on? Are they going to spend $100 per play for 50 current plays to find out for themselves?)

    I’m still pissed at The New York Times and Vincent Canby for singlehandedly destroying Heaven’s Gate and helping to precipitate the downfall of United Artists — Vincent Canby wrecked one the greatest studios in Hollywood history just because his ass got itchy sitting still for 3.5 hours.

  10. Bryce Forestieri
    May 11, 2013

    Tx for the fix!

  11. May 11, 2013

    Brooks Barnes seems to feel a movie critic should carry the same sledge hammer clout as his Times coworker, theater critic Ben Brantley.

    I have other issues with Alec Baldwin but I agree with what he wrote last week:

    The New York Times is still a key player in the life of a Broadway production. The imprimatur of the Times serves as a necessary guide for people who do not have limitless resources to buy tickets, or are traveling to New York to enjoy the theatre and need a reliable opinion as to where to invest their time and money. In 1992, Frank Rich, of course, was the chief theatre critic for the Times. Rich was feared by many and even loathed by some. However, Rich was viewed as a critic who was both a good writer and someone who actually understood something about what was happening on stage. After Frank was gone, many talked about how intelligent and fair he was.

    Ben Brantley, who I must state up front is no fan of mine (every John Simon must have his Amanda Plummer, I suppose), is not a good writer. Whereas Rich’s keen sense of what worked or did not work on stage helped to elevate the position of his desk, Brantley is viewed as some odd, shriveled, bitter Dickensian clerk who has sought to assemble a compendium of essays on theatre, the gist of which often have no relationship to the events onstage themselves. Brantley carries the Times into the performance and little else. Beyond the obvious impact that a weak or scathing review in the Times has on sales, particularly with booking agents for tourists, no one I know of in the theatre reads Brantley except in the way that a doctor reads an x-ray to determine if you have cancer. Brantley doesn’t offer criticism, per se, as much as he seeks to signal to some that they are actually unwelcome on Broadway. If you aren’t Brantley’s type, why bother? And it is this very “Why Bother” approach of Brantley’s that I think is the most troubling.

  12. May 11, 2013


  13. May 11, 2013

    I don’t expect to make new friends by saying I enjoyed Luhrmann’s Gatsby. I hope I don’t lose old friends by saying I liked The Artist ok but wasn’t blown away.

    Gatsby doesn’t look like a Best Picture nominee and Warners knew that. (how can Luhrmann hope to impress the same Academy that flipped for Hooper and Les Mis?)

    I hope to hell there will surely be 10 or 15 more viable Best Picture contenders than The Great Gatsby. But if for some reason a lot of hopefuls falter and sink there’s no reason this Gatsby couldn’t stand alongside 100 other glorious follies the Academy has seen fit to nominate in the past several decades.

  14. Bryce Forestieri
    May 11, 2013

    So many mixed feelings about HEAVEN’S GATE! For starters Huppert’s presence/performance has the most somniferous effect on me, and her voice. I sill have to see the restoration.

  15. May 11, 2013

    By restoration do you mean the longer version or do you just mean the spiffy new clarity of the blu-ray?

    The 219-minute version will always have its unusual pacing to overcome but it makes the 149-minute cut look like sheer vandalism.

  16. May 11, 2013

    There’s a great documentary on youtube that seeks to explain how Heaven’s Gate unravelled

    It’s broken up into eight 10-minute segments so it takes some patience to click around to put it all together.

  17. May 11, 2013

    This. It’s not a great film, but it holds it own and provides a great aesthetic.

  18. Bryce Forestieri
    May 11, 2013

    I mean the 216 min cut they screened last year at Venice. It’s supposed to be slightly different from the 219 min cut that’s been out for a long time. Cimino personally supervised the cut and restoration. It’s out already by Criterion. Pricey though, and I’m never going back to a Netflix plan. The 149 min version is a tragic as the initial north American release of ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA

  19. May 11, 2013

    ah, ok. the Criterion is the way to go. I’ve seen the 219 and 216 versions — but years apart — so offhand can’t think what significant difference there are.

    Barnes and Noble 50% Criterion sale is when? July, right?

    but hey, how can 30 minutes of full frontal Isabelle Huppert make you sleepy?

  20. May 11, 2013


    There is this thing that people like to look at. It’s called Leonardo DiCaprio’s face.

  21. Aaron B
    May 11, 2013

    I really enjoyed the film and in fact it’s only grown in my mind the more I think about it. I suppose I was prepared for it to miss the mark but I thought it’s actually a very faithful adaptation of the novel.

  22. Aaron B
    May 11, 2013

    And yes, Barnes comes off as a huge ass here.

  23. May 11, 2013

    Glad to get your take, Ryan! I can get behind the idea of Gatsby as mirror image Artist. It makes sense in a sort of way. I gotta disagree about the 3D. It felt completely unnecessary to me. But then, much of this film felt either excessive or unnecessary to me.

  24. g
    May 11, 2013

    I’ve had a few days to digest Gatsby now and I feel like I can rate it a B-, I really liked the look of the movie and Leo but there was a disconnect for me between the plot and the style.

  25. CMG
    May 11, 2013

    Brooks Barnes is a reminder of how little heed I pay to the Times arts section when stuff is not written by Dargis, Scott, and Carr.

  26. CMG
    May 11, 2013

    He appears to be very shillish, and let’s face the Times for the last decade have had its share of shills and phonies all across that paper.

    I remember in January he wrote a piece stating this year’s Golden Globes are ‘the new’ Golden Globes that suddenly has stature in the industry community. How ironic the shill writes fondly about an award that for decades continues to be defined as shilling to the big guns of the industry.

  27. CMG
    May 11, 2013

    Brantley is not a good theater critic. Like there are reviews where he just vomits out words but also disdain when stars not known for stage work encroach on the Broadway community. Read up his stuff on specific plays/musicals that got huge notice for movie stars in those roles. He seems to consistently be territorial in that area. Isherwood is not that much better. I turned to NY Magazine first for the new plays.

    Frank Rich has enjoyed his new-found voice as an op-ed writer and has never gone back to theater (yet he seems to always do a summary of Oscar movies that are often off like Up in the Air > the field and for that matter John Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath and Django Unchained > Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty). That said he was a good writer of theater (which he seems to be a distance from as he is just getting too comfortable in writing partisan pieces that feel a little too limousine liberal) that the Times misses dearly.

  28. CMG
    May 11, 2013

    Seriously for such a mysterious figure in the book, the advertising was nothing but Leo. And that was a wise decision.

    When was the last time he was in a movie that big that flopped? Body of Lies? The Beach? I have my issues with DiCaprio but he is about as bankable as they come. Even when Warners was moving Shutter Island around like crazy with re-scheduling its release date about 3 times, it still did very good business.

  29. May 11, 2013

    I’ll have to try to write some for the main page to express more clearly about why the style of Gatsby worked for me — once I stopped resisting it and accepted the hallucinatory 3D. I have some thoughts but still trying to formulate my feelings into coherent observations.

  30. Scott
    May 11, 2013

    Ryan, I am more intrigued than ever by Gatsby now that you say you liked it. Anyone who holds Nashville and Shampoo in high esteem is an opinion I appreciate.

  31. May 11, 2013

    Scott, just be advised that I sometimes play tricks on myself in order to make the best of an iffy situation. I want to have fun at a movie and I’m not beyond reshaping the experience in my head to inject interpretations that might not be there.

    But I really began to think Luhrmann was trying for a innovation sort of expressionism. I was ready to ride with the effort even when it seemed on the verge of careening out of control.

    Another thing I noticed about this version of Gatsby that I’ve never thought about before is how much its character interactions are set up with a structure that strike me as Neo Noir. The crime element is there. Two parallel femmes fatales leading two delusional men astray. And Nick would almost serve the purpose of a private eye who’s trying to solve the mystery.

    (As far as I know nobody has ever written about that interpretation, so that shakes my confidence and makes me doubt there’s much too it. But it was fun to think about while being immersed in the Luhrmann’s vision).

  32. Alan B
    May 11, 2013

    I don’t normally agree with you Ryan, but you are so GOD DAMN RIGHT it’s frightening. This guy’s arrogance is stunning: ‘WHAT DO YOU MEAN AUDIENCES WON’T JUST SWALLOW WHATEVER CRITICS WRITE?’

  33. K. Bowen
    May 12, 2013

    I hate it when critics bellyache about being irrelevant. Critics are more read and relevant than they’ve been in my lifetime. Of course, I also hate it when critics act like the 1970s were some Golden Age of their relevance. Of course, that’s a necessary part of the myth that allows them to bellyache about their irrelevance.

    Plus, I like Gatsby. It’s not a perfect film, it has dry stretches, but you feel Baz’s affection for the book, And what’s wrong with excess and imagination? We could have economy, like the 1974 version. And every film could look like Horrible Bosses.

  34. Alan B
    May 12, 2013

    And, Jesus, the way he talks about others, specifically those poor people that were pooled with him for jury duty, is staggering. Such contempt and condescension towards those who read the WRONG parts of the paper or wears the WRONG leggings. It’s like reading the diary entries of an Egyptian slave-master or something, wondering why those pesky slaves won’t wear the RIGHT leather shoes. This guy’s thought process – entitled, arrogant, fact-devoid, utterly contemptuous of lesser beings – actually reads as sociopathic to me.

    He’s also incorrect about some facts, too. He wrote “ow is it possible that ‘gatsby’ is getting worse reviews for baz luhrmann than ‘australia.’ eeek” Firstly, I don’t know why “eeek” is meant to be funny, either. Secondly, TGG has a better critic and user score on Metacritic and a better overall score on RT. Only the top critics on RT gave it poorer reviews. So, he’s both arrogant and incorrect, a lethal combination.

  35. John
    May 12, 2013

    Yeah, I really enjoyed it as well. It wasmostly faithful to the novel and had its own – for better or worse – Baz flair.

    Leo was the Leo of old. Charming, handsome, amiable, movie star. Best, most naturalistic performance of his in a while.

  36. richard crawford
    May 12, 2013

    did not like Gatsby. Happy when it ended. Had to pee.
    Leo wasn’t bad. Carrey Mulligan… a lovely presence.
    disliked the look of the movie. Liked Moulin Rouge.

  37. Joao Mattos
    May 12, 2013

    As a foreigner, I probably have a peculiar impression on this, but I never, never doubt for a second that “Gatsby” would open with huge numbers and (maybe) could sustain them after its initial release, turning on a real sucess.

    So, people surprise with the excellent b.o. is… surprising me.

    It’s USA national treasure, a book that even peoplo who don’t read, read (probably in school), and nothing could destroyed it power. Also well know and well read an over the world (hell, everyone I know read it, I when was 14).

    Nothing if critics had named “Gatsby is so bad as a movie directed by Uwe Boll, starring Pauly Shore” people would care. And my expectations are high. Well, I liked (a lot) “Australia”.

  38. richard crawford
    May 12, 2013

    The Artist was small…and out of the blue…I was in Africa when it came out…I guess movies come out too…I saw it on Air France drinking very good champagne…was a bit swacked & had got bumped up..I loved it as I headed back to California after a long stay in Burkina Faso. Great is the power of the small…

  39. Jerry Grant
    May 12, 2013

    Agreed with Ryan here. I liked Gatsby considerably, and it upsets me that it’s gotten such rotten reviews. No, it shouldn’t be a BP contender, but it’s still solid. Lots of fun to watch. Very good performances by DiCaprio and Mulligan. Baz Luhrmann does things with visual storytelling that no other filmmakers do. The critics underappreciate his originality and influence. The movie doesn’t fall apart or get stupid like I expected it would (though I really wish they would have re-thought the frame narrative, and superimposing the text of the final words). I am hoping good WOM transforms the perception of this movie–it deserves a little following.

  40. austin111
    May 12, 2013

    Love all the responses here. A couple of critical responses that I truly enjoyed reading came from Matthew Stoller Zeitz, no easy lay as a critic, and Michael Wilmington, an entirely respectable critic with whom I often agree. Zeitz especially loved DiCaprio in this and felt it was an iconic performance while Wilmington was considerably blown away by the entire film. He even seemed to think that its stature could improve over time. Don’t know about that but it wouldn’t be the first time that critics have overreacted so harshly to something that tripped on their sensibilities. Brooks Barnes can go “f” himself, by the way. Critics do serve a useful purpose, of course, but they should never consider themselves the last word on anything. There have been plenty of critics whose initial responses have been proven asinine with the passage of time and reassessment in every artistic field, including film. As for The Artist, I enjoyed it but am still a bit shocked that it was so well received. Nicely done and nice performances that stayed with me all of 5 minutes after I left the theater. To be honest I was a little happy when it ended. The dog was fantastic, however.

  41. Scott
    May 13, 2013

    Neo noir. I like it. I’m pretty much sold on any film with a noir bent. A couple of years ago LACMA did an entire series on noir films and it was pretty much heaven. Old noir that is. I realize it helps what frame of mind one is in when seeing the flick…if one has high expectations or is hoping to be pleasantly surprised. I am hoping to be pleasantly surprised by Gatsby.

  42. May 14, 2013

    This may not be totally related, but Gatsby’s ignited some serious awards talk for so long, so might as well share this here: How the 2012 season went for the Philippines’ only dedicated Oscars watcher (pardon the self-indulgent description).

    Part 1:
    Part 2:

  43. Scott
    May 14, 2013

    My mistake. It wasn’t LACMA but the Academy who did the noir series.

  44. May 14, 2013

    I should say that I realize I’m on shaky ground with the noir interpretation. Roman Noir was barely a thing yet in 1925 and it would take film another 15 years to kickstart the genre. But all I know is that in the 3 times I’ve read the novel and seen two film versions, the noir aspects never emerged for me until last Friday watching Luhrmann’s version. This year’s movie for me has shades of James M Cain.

    Maybe because for years the romantic idealists have put Daisy on the same sort of pedestal Gatsby did and I think that’s a mistake. Daisy is quite a nasty piece of work and this new version dispels the notion that she’s a worthy object of Gatsby’s affection better than ever before. Although both victimized in their own way, Daisy and Myrtle are more femmes fatale than damsels in distress. I’ve always felt that but never made the noir connection before — especially in regard to Nick’s cynical descriptions to the reader of what he’s witnessing. Very hardboiled.

    There’s more to it but I need to stop letting vague feelings trickle out in the comments and put something more formal together for the main page. All the same, I don’t expect any skeptics to buy into my impression. It’s just an angle that I feel personally and I don’t know how much of the effect it had on me was ever Luhrmann’s intent.

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