The Great Gatsby Watch down under, part 2

May 23, 2013

Continuing our reports on “The Great Gatsby” in Australia ….

The Australian Gatsby premiere happened last night, on a very cold and wet Sydney evening.  With a guest list of 1200, The Sydney Morning Herald‘s Andrew Hornery reports that “the Sydney premiere and after party eclipsed those in New York and Cannes”.

Film critic Sandra Hall reviewed the film in today’s Herald, giving it 3 stars out of 5, with the headline “All that jazz can’t hide a few flat notes”.  While praising Elizabeth Debicki and Carey Mulligan, she was critical of Baz Luhrmann’s constant edit cuts, as well as Tobey Maguire’s performance; as Nick he has to provide an emotional centre for the film, but – according to Hall – “he’s not nearly strong or interesting enough for the job”.

And here’s a fun Gatsby fact:  Garry Maddox also reports in today’s paper that Baz Luhrmann was “particularly proud of one achievement” – in the week that the movie opened in the USA, “The Great Gatsby sold more copies than in Fitzgerald’s entire lifetime”.

the great gatsby movie

Jackie Robinson, the film “42” and the Obama years

May 23, 2013

The Obama years continue to push American culture in unexpected ways.  The latest manifestation of this phenomenon is “42”, a film about the great African-American baseball player Jackie Robinson, who became the first black man to play in Major League Baseball.

American racists may be unhappy, but Obama’s post-racial America is a whole lot closer now than it was five years ago when he was battling Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.  Too many things have happened in American culture for the clock ever to go back to where it once was.  Using US Census data, the Pew Research Center concluded in December 2012 that in the last Presidential election, for the first time in US history, blacks appeared to vote at a higher percentage rate than whites.  And further, this shift has been operating for the last four Presidential elections – in other words, back to the year 2000.  And here’s the thing:  this new pattern of voting has been happening in spite of well-funded and vigorous attempts by the Republican Party and conservative groups to disenfranchise black voters.

Well, back to Jackie Robinson ….

Jackie Robinson began playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947.  He played for ten seasons, including six World Series and six All-Star games.  With a lifetime batting average of .311, he was the National League “Rookie of the Year” in 1947 and that league’s “Most Valuable Player” in 1949.  In 1997, his baseball number – 42 – was officially “retired”, so no-one else would use it in any team.  Thus that number still holds a strong resonance for baseball fans, past and – presumably – future.

“42” had a great promotional start, premiering in Los Angeles on April 10, 2013, before its cinema release on April 12.  Five days later – April 15, 2013 – Major League Baseball celebrated its yearly “Jackie Robinson Day”, a day when all players wear uniform number 42 – in honour of the memory of Robinson.  (Neat timing, huh?)

“42” stars the relatively unknown Chadwick Boseman as Robinson and Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey, the Dodgers’ General Manager.  It’s written and directed by Brian Helgeland, a superior screenwriter (“L.A. Confidential”, “Mystic River”, “Robin Hood”, “Green Zone”, “Taking of Pelham 1,2,3”) who may yet become an accomplished director.

Robinson played himself in the only other big-screen version of his life, the 1950 film called “The Jackie Robinson Story”.  Other screen portrayals have all been on television, including John Lafayette playing Robinson in “A Home Run for Love” (1978), Andre Braugher in “The Court-Martial of Jackie Robinson” (1990) and Blair Underwood in “Soul of the Game” (1996).  In addition, a 1981 Broadway musical called “The First” (book by critic Joel Siegel) starred David Alan Grier.  With “42”, Robinson has made it back to the big screen.  It’s no coincidence that First Lady Michelle Obama hosted Robinson’s widow Rachel and the cast of “42” at the White House on April 4, 2013.

“42” also holds a “tie” record for one of the shortest film titles on record.  I recall reading some years ago that the average length of the title of an Oscar-winning film was about 1.4 words.  Think “Castaway”, “Braveheart”, “Titanic”, “Amadeus”, “Atonement”, “Babe”, “Babel”, “Capote”, “Casablanca”, “Chicago”, “Chinatown”, “Crash” ….  Need I go on?  Two letters, however, is hard to beat.  Possible, but not by much.

“42” was originally scheduled for a May release in Australia, but now appears to be “tbc”, despite the presence of film great Harrison Ford.  American baseball movies, no matter how good they are, don’t tend to do well in this country, as we lack that sporting tradition, with the game genuinely foreign to most film-goers here.

View the film’s trailer here:

BRW Australian Rich List released and the rich are still very rich

May 23, 2013

This is definitely my week for F. Scott Fitzgerald, the American author whose book “The Great Gatsby” is the source material for Baz Luhrmann’s film opening next week here in Australia.  (It’s also my week for observing how wealth is unequally distributed.)

Fitzgerald reportedly said to fellow writer Ernest Hemingway “The rich are different from us.”  To which Hemingway reportedly replied, “Yes, they have more money.”  (Some versions have Fitzgerald saying “the very rich”.)  For a full discussion of how and when this was said, go to Lionel Trilling’s essay on Fitzgerald, which was published in his classic book The Liberal Imagination.  You can find a copy of this essay at this very odd Russian website.

Well, this saying came back to me when I received the emailed press release yesterday with an announcement of the BRW “Rich List” for 2013, which will be formally released later today – Thursday 23 May 2013.  I reproduce part of the media release below.

  • Gina Rinehart remains the richest Australian – topping the 2013 BRW Rich 200.
  • # 2 is Frank Lowy, and # 3 James Packer.
  • Total wealth of the Rich 200 is down $4.4 billion to $176.8 billion but when Rinehart is excluded, total wealth rises by $2.7 billion to $154.8 billion.
  • The average wealth per person on the Rich 200 has fallen to $884 million, down from $906 million last year.
  • Cut-off rises $25 million to $235 million.
  • Chinese-based property developer Hui Wing Mau debuts at 7th spot on the list with a $4.82 billion fortune.
  • 14 women make the cut-off for 2013 BRW Rich 200. Therese Rein drops off after debuting last year.

The biggest fall has been felt by the richest Australian of all time: Gina Rinehart.  Rinehart retains her firm grip on the top spot despite the fall in her wealth to $22.02 billion from $29.17 billion last year.  All of the five biggest falls on the 2013 BRW Rich 200 (on both dollar value and proportional bases) are from the mining sector.  Among them are Fortescue Metals Group’s Andrew Forrest, who is down $2.23 billion to $3.66 billion and political aspirant Clive Palmer, down to $2.2 billion from $3.85 last year.

A former number one, Frank Lowy, moves from third last year to second on the 2013 BRW Rich 200 after gaining about $400 million. His $6.87 billion valuation is underpinned by some modest growth at his shopping centre business Westfield Group.  One of the big movers on this year’s BRW Rich 200 is James Packer. His wealth has risen to $6 billion from $5.21 billion on the back of strong growth in his gambling interests taking him to the #3 spot.  Anthony Pratt has had another good year at #4 on the BRW Rich 200. The family-owned flagship business Visy continues to achieve strong results here and Pratt’s US-based box making business Pratt Industries is growing quickly.

Top 5

Gina Rinehart

$22.02 b

Frank Lowy

$7.40 b

James Packer

$6.00 b

Gambling, investment
Anthony Pratt & family

$5.95 b

Manufacturing, investment
Ivan Glasenberg

$5.61 b


Although we are not as unequal as the USA, wealth is still very unevenly distributed in Australia.  As Australian economics journalist Peter Martin succinctly puts it:  we Australians “think the rich have too much – but we’ve no idea of how skewed the distribution really is.”


Wealth inequality in the USA

May 22, 2013

This is not news; according to the YouTube counter, I am 6,286,429-th person to view this video clip.  But that still does not reduce its power.

Are the rich getting richer?  Well, in both the United States of America and here in Australia they sure are.  When only 1% of the population (in the USA) controls some 40% of the wealth, you know that things are starting to go far wrong.  This video infographic (released on YouTube on November 20, 2012) – yes, already seen by millions – is a great example of it, pointing out that most Americans want a relatively equal distribution of wealth, but that their predictions of the unequal system are not even close to how unequal the distribution really is.

Watch it.

The Great Gatsby box office results, continued

May 21, 2013

In my post yesterday, I predicted (and it was not hard) that the new “The Great Gatsby” film would be a hit, drawing substantially on older women – a group with relatively few theatrical film options.

Here is the latest press release (in its entirety) from Roadshow Films, the Gatsby distributor here in Australia:


Gatsby a roaring success around the world as Baz Luhrmann and Cast arrive in Sydney for Australian Premiere

Coming off the heels of an incredible event in Cannes, THE GREAT GATSBY released in 49 territories outside of the US/Canada, grossing a sensational $42.1m with 4.6m admissions from almost 8,400 screens. This is Baz Luhrmann’s biggest opening ever, 38% higher than AUSTRALIA in the same markets ($30.4m) and 3x higher than the same markets opening MOULIN ROUGE ($13.8m). Note that the 49 territories opening THE GREAT GATSBY this weekend represent approximately 70% of the international box office, with the following major markets yet to launch: Australia (May 30th), Mexico (May 31st), Brazil (June 7th), Japan (June 14th), China (TBD).

Proportionately, I do predict a higher earnings per capita for the film in Australia than in other countries.  Time will tell.

The Great Gatsby down under – part 1

May 20, 2013

If you live in Sydney (as I do), you would be forgiven for thinking that “The Great Gatsby” is an Australian film.  It was shot here in Sydney – at the Fox Studios not far from downtown, as well as a number of other nearby locations.  (It opens in Australia on Thursday 30 May.)  Gatsby is directed by an Australian (Baz Luhrmann), working with a mostly Australian crew – including his talented partner, production designer and costumer, Catherine Martin.  A number of Australian actors appear, some in reasonably significant roles (Joel Edgerton, Jason Clarke, Isla Fisher), although not, I hasten to say, as Australians.  They play Americans, because – in case you missed it – “The Great Gatsby” is a classic American story, originally a novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald first published in 1925.  And this is the fifth time that the novel has been filmed.  The screen version most people current remember was the 1974 movie that starred Robert Redford as Jay Gatsby, a mis-fire of a film (ponderous, slow and surprisingly un-memorable).

As the extremely large sign (see photo below, taken today – Monday 20 May 2013) on the wall of 150 William Street, Darlinghurst (East Sydney) shows, even Screen Australia is claiming the film.  The sign prompted me to ask if Screen Australia – Australia’s national government film production and culture funder – has invested in the film (why else promote it in this way?), but alas it does not appear that it did.  This is a Hollywood studio film, William Street notwithstanding (funding from and major distribution by Warner Brothers).

The Great Gatsby poster Sydney 20May2013

Don’t get me wrong.  I am looking forward to watching “The Great Gatsby”.  A great deal.  But remember, I read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel as a teenager and loved it then.  I remember a long argument at age 20 where I defended Fitzgerald as a much better writer than William Faulkner (you don’t notice Luhrmann doing a film adaptation of “As I Lay Dying”, do you?), was disappointed in the Redford version and like Luhrmann’s work (click here for my post about his film “Australia”).  I just don’t think the film’s very Australian.

And who will be watching this film?  A short article by Garry Maddox in The Sydney Morning Herald on 16 May 2013 (“Women Take Lead Role in Gatsby’s Great Success”, p. 36; online headline reading “Baz woos the women”) reports that the “The Great Gatsby” is about to overtake “Moulin Rouge” as Luhrmann’s most successful film in the USA (easily outstripping “Australia”).  This is substantially due to “an audience otherwise ignored by Hollywood blockbusters lately – women”.  Audiences have been mostly female (59 percent) and older (69 percent).  There’s only one downside of what is assuredly going to be a hit in North America – people don’t want to see the 3-D version, with Box Office Mojo reporting that “a third of the opening weekend sales came from <that> format – ‘ an incredibly low figure for a live-action movie’”.

Does this surprise you?  Not me.  How many men do you know proclaim they loved “Moulin Rouge!”?  Not many, but sure enough the women did.  And despite his “tough guy” roles (“J. Edgar”, “Gangs of New York”, “Django Unchained”), Leonardo DiCaprio still appears to be a pretty boy, more appealing to women than to men (“Titanic” anyone?).  And seriously, are the >25 women so keen on 3-D?  No.  DiCaprio looks just fine in normal 2-D resolution.

Here’s a safe prediction:  Gatsby will be a great success in Australia, reaching many of the same audience as it has in North America – that “over 25 female” quadrant.  Yes, and some others.  Me, for one.

Interested in watching the red carpet opening here in Sydney at Fox Studios this Wednesday (22 May)?  I reproduce below part of the media alert from the distributors, Roadshow.  That’s a hefty (and all-star) list of celebrity guests, yes?


Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 at Hoyts, The Entertainment Quarter

WHAT: Red carpet arrivals at the Australian premiere of THE GREAT GATSBY

WHO: Filmmakers Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin, together with cast members Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Elizabeth Debicki, Steve Bisley, Vince Colosimo, Ralph Cotterill, Max Cullen, Arthur Dignam, Brendan MacLean, Kate Mulvany, Hamish Michael, Heather Mitchell, Barry Otto, Jack Thompson, Matthew Whittet, Felix Williamson, co-writer Craig Pearce and choreographer John ‘Cha Cha’ O’Connell.

Other celebrity and VIP guests include Premier of NSW, The Hon Barry O’Farrell; Simon Crean MP, George Souris MP, Andrew Stoner MP, Gillian Armstrong, David Berry, Emma Birdsall, Rafael Bonacela, Alice Burdeu, Simon Burke, Ita Buttrose, David Campbell, Sarah Jane Clarke, Collette Dinnigan, Laura Dundovic and James Kerley, Marta Dusseldorp and Ben Winspear, Kym Ellery, Larry Emdur, Dan and Marni Ewing, Manu Fieldel, Emma Freedman, Rebecca Gibney, Kylie Gillies, Delta Goodrem, Josh Goot, Peter Helliar, Deborah Hutton, Akira Isogawa, Kerri-Anne Kennerley, Damien Leith, Emma Lung, Joel Madden and Nicole Richie, Ricky Martin, Reece Mastin and Rhiannon Fish, Darren McMullen, Heidi Middleton, George Miller, Peter Morrisey, Lachlan and Sarah Murdoch, Sally Obermeder, Gracie Otto, Neil Perry, Kate Ritchie, Benedict Samuel, Seal, Ryan Stokes, Maurice Terzini, Brian Walsh, Callan Ward, Kate Waterhouse and Luke Ricketson, Fleur Wood, Richard Wilkins, Dan Wyllie, Lincoln Younes and Carla Zampatti.

WHEN: Wednesday, May 22nd
Check-in 4pm Arrivals begin 5.45pm
Screening begins 6.45pm

WHERE: Hoyts, The Entertainment Quarter, Bent Street, Moore Park

From the uniquely imaginative mind of writer/producer/director Baz Luhrmann comes the new big screen adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “The Great Gatsby”. The filmmaker created his own distinctive visual interpretation of the classic story, bringing the period to life in a way that has never been seen before, in a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role.

“The Great Gatsby” follows would-be writer Nick Carraway as he leaves the Midwest and comes to New York City in the spring of 1922, an era of loosening morals, glittering jazz, bootleg kings, and sky-rocketing stocks. Chasing his own American Dream, Nick lands next door to a mysterious, party-giving millionaire, Jay Gatsby, and across the bay from his cousin, Daisy, and her philandering, blue-blooded husband, Tom Buchanan. It is thus that Nick is drawn into the captivating world of the super rich, their illusions, loves and deceits. As Nick bears witness, within and without of the world he inhabits, he pens a tale of impossible love, incorruptible dreams and high-octane tragedy, and holds a mirror to our own modern times and struggles.

Warner Bros. Pictures presents, in association with Village Roadshow Pictures, in association with A&E Television, a Bazmark/Red Wagon Entertainment Production, a Film by Baz Luhrmann, “The Great Gatsby.”

Opening in Australian cinemas on May 30, 2013, the film will be distributed in 3D and 2D by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company, and in select territories by Village Roadshow Pictures.

Trailer can be viewed on Roadshow Films youtube channel: