Someone recently told me they hoped Leonardo DiCaprio’s latest film vehicle— an over-the-top, “re-imagined” digital upgrade of the classic novel “The Great Gatsby”— would somehow encourage younger people to dress and act with some class in emulation of the glamorous, “roaring” 1920’s.
Right. Sure it will. Except the director of this new opus— Baz Luhrman— only has one trick up his sleeve: taking a period piece and sexing it up with modern pop music. So his Gatsby will encourage classy juvenile behavior the same way his last DiCaprio adaptation, 1996’s Romeo+Juliet, inspired young viewers to behave more responsibly by eschewing drugs, guns, and suicide. Not.
I’m sure it will have lots of slow, slinky dance scenes in it, lots of flying confetti and sweeping panoramas of huge, glossy party scenes. And extended music video numbers that are ridiculously, theatrically over the top. So I suppose viewers have THAT to look forward to. But, like so many modern film re-interpretations of classics, it will probably be fundamentally devoid of meaning—all glitz and glitter, but it will miss the point. Ten bucks says there’s an unnecessary car chase in the new version.
Or maybe Luhrman and deCaprio will do a remake of Moby Dick in which the Pequod is a floating discotheque and the whale gets into a beautiful slow motion gun battle in a cloud of floating flower petals to the mournful tones of Lady Gaga.
Meanwhile, the real world is almost as vapid. A few short weeks after one of the worst industrial accidents in history (I don’t mean the suspicious fertilizer explosion in Texas that killed 14 people— I mean the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh’s garment district that killed almost 1200 workers), the furor has started to dwindle and calls for more governmental safety regulations are growing less strident. This is just the latest in a long series of fatal accidents in the Bangladheshi clothing industry— but though a number of European companies are joining the push to protect exploited workers, the largest American companies who use Bangladeshi labor have so far refused to sign on to the group effort. Most prominent among these is Walmart, which utilizes 279 factories in Bangladesh, but which promises to improve safety conditions “on its own cognizance,” in house, because they are SO concerned about their expendable foreign work force (which I’m sure is NOTHING like their proven callous treatment of underpaid sub-poverty workers in the USA). And no, that’s not a joke.
But! THAT story is getting pushed out of the spotlight so Angelina Jolie can announce to the world that, last winter— in light of the possibility that she might one day be diagnosed with breast cancer— she elected to go under the knife and have a double mastectomy, replacing her perfectly healthy breasts with expensive plastic reconstructions. With a similar preemptive ovariectomy planned to follow (for the same reasons).
I fully understand the horrors of cancer; like most who read this, I’ve lost loved ones to its lethal touch. But there’s something odd to me about cutting off spare parts of one’s body to foil even the mere possibility of a future illness. Though I guess some celebrities wouldn’t want to risk dying early and potentially missing out on the endless luxury provided by their boundless wealth. Why would they, when they can just replace parts of themselves with artificial simulacra and become ageless plastic mannequins?
Ever play Tomb Raider? Life imitates art.