Happy anniversary to The Great Gatsby! Written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, this seminal work was published on this day (April 10th) in 1925, at the height of the Roaring Twenties. Fitzgerald’s novel takes place in the fictional towns of West and East Egg in Long Island, centering around the mysterious billionaire Jay Gatsby as told from the point of view of character Nick Carraway. The novel’s themes harshly critique the decadence of the American lifestyle, deconstructing idealism, social upheaval, hedonism, and resistance to change to reveal Gatsby’s story to be more tragic than aspirational, a cautionary tale about the American Dream itself. Masterfully written, the novel is considered a classic today for its themes, intimate portrait of the characters, and flowing prose.
Image Via Wikipedia
But the American dream was as elusive for Fitzergald as it is for Gatsby: initially, the author’s master work looked like more of a mistake. The book sold poorly upon its release and received mix to negative reviews. Fitzgerald himself died young in 1940, sadly believing that his book was a failure. Of course, the story wasn’t over, even if Fitzgerald’s was. The Great Gatsby received a resurgence in popularity during World War II and today is considered a contender for the Great American Novel. Doubtless you’ve read it in high school, and hopefully, you liked it.
Gatsby has been adapted several times, its most famous ones being two big screen movies in 1974 and 2013. The former starred Robert Redford and Mia Farrow while the latter starred Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, and Tobey Maguire. Although both received mixed reviews, the latter was a massive box office success. Cheers to that!
Happy birthday, The Great Gatsby. We’ll send you off with an appropriate GIF…
How do you give a character who’s infamous for having no definitive origin an origin? Let’s face it: Joker has stayed around long enough because he’s fascinating, but it seems that we’re afraid that fascination might leave our collective consciousness if we know anything about him. So, again, how do you give a character who’s infamous for having no definitive origin an origin?
To answer this question, let’s starts with the basics:
Although we know now that Martin Scorsese won’t be producing the new Joker movie, his touch is still prevalent in the film. Thought interviews, official statements, and just the general feel from the trailer, we can see the cinematic inspirations bubbling to the frame.
Before we dive straight into this pool, let’s start with a little background. Specifically, let’s look at who’s producing this film. There are 3 of them.
Image Via Fandom
Not them. Well, at least, I don’t think so… but let’s give a face to these three smiles.
Third, but certainly not least, is Emma Tillinger Koskoff. You may not know her name, but you’re likely to know her work. Screenplay Daily broke the news a few years back that Koskoff joined the Martin Scorsese production company Sikelia Productions in 2003 and, in only a few short years, was promoted to Production President in 2006. She was one of the producers onThe Wolf of Wall Streetand has been a driving force in Scorsese’s films for the last ten years.
Come 2017, we got news that Scorsese himself would be the producer along with Scott Silver and Todd Philips. Todd Philips and Scott Silver are now the sole screenwriters, and Scorsese himself has left. But Emma Tillinger Koskoff stayed. Now it might seem I’m hammering this point in, and I am. With good reason.
Let’s look at what we got:
Image Via IMDB
Robert DeNiro. Yeah, he’s really all we need. He’s been in a great many of Scorsese films, but his first notable one isTaxi Driver.
Image Via IMDB
Here’s the premise, courtesy of IMDB: a mentally unstable veteran works as a nighttime taxi driver in New York City, where the perceived decadence and sleaze fuels his urge for violent action by attempting to liberate a presidential campaign worker and an underage prostitute.
Dark. Gritty. Grim. Those three words are most often used to describe this film. It’s a descent into madness as one man slowly loses himself in the crowds of the city. The film is rife with looming shots of harsh city streets, crowds bustling around and blending formlessly together, endless cigarettes being smoked down to the filter.
Image Via Daily Mail
Sounds like anyone? Maybe you’re not convinced. Maybe the fact that Thomas Wayne is apparently running for Mayor in the upcoming film doesn’t mean Joaquin Phoenix will shoot him Tim Burton style with shots reminiscent of Robert DeNirio firing at Mayor Palantine. Maybe the fact Joaquin Phoenix ends up becoming the Joker doesn’t make you think of the movie where this guy…
Image Via Mental Floss
Became this guy.
Image Via Rotten Tomatos
You talking to me? Well, I’m the only one here.
But these people were certainly reminded:
JOKER looks fucking insane!!! Has a very TAXI DRIVER vibe to it, but def a lot more twisted. You’ll see the footage we just saw tomorrow. #CinemaCon
The absence of Batman in this trailer make Joker both hero and villain. Will Joker get taken down by a cop or just get away with it all? Whatever it all is🤷♂️… There’s a reasonable argument that Phoenix is the most underrated actor today and the Taxi Driver vibe here is chilling pic.twitter.com/DgMcdTAJt4
Robert De Niro, but in The King of Comedy, which also was directed by Scorsese. Here’s the premise, again from IMDB: Rupert Pupkin is a passionate yet unsuccessful comic who craves nothing more than to be in the spotlight and to achieve this, he stalks and kidnaps his idol to take the spotlight for himself.
Let’s replace Rupert Pupkin with “Arthur Fleck” or “The Pre-Joker Joker,” and we got our Joker movie. Seriously. Just look at these images:
IMage Via Collider
Joker, head thrown back, sporting a white polka-dot suit.
Here’s a still from The King of Comedy:
Image Via Indie Wire
They wearing the same suit! Heck, the red suit Phoenix is wearing in these leaked set photos…
Image Via USA Jacket
….looks like Pupkin’s.
Image Via Public Transportation Snob
Tomorrow you’ll know I wasn’t kidding, and you’ll think I was crazy. But I figured it this way: better to be king for a night than schmuck for a lifetime!
Polygon summed it up with this: “The script was reported to have ‘ties’ to The King of Comedy; the latest poster should dispel any doubts as to that being the case.”
That should be obvious. The King of Comedy is about a man who tries to be a comedian but doesn’t yet know that he just isn’t funny. And you know what?
Image Via Zoom Comics
Batman thinks the Joker isn’t funny, but Batman isn’t in this movie, and that should scare us. When he kidnaps his comedic idol, played by Jerry Lewis, Pupkin doesn’t even have a loaded gun, but he’s absolutely terrifying.
“Tomorrow you’ll know I wasn’t kidding and you’ll all think I’m crazy,” Pupkin tells his idol, “but I figure it this way: better to be king for a night than a schmuck for a lifetime.”
Image Via Youtube
Throughout this film, we are entangled in Pupkin’s brain, and in there it’s nothing but ego. Pupkin is funny. Pupkin is the greatest, loved by all, hated by only the fools. He’s a man who deserves his shot at the big leagues, and if he doesn’t get it, he’s going to loose it. Maybe he does. The ending of the film shows Pupkin getting what he wanted: a show with an eager audience who can’t get enough, but the tone leaves us unsettled. Is this real? Or has he become completely lost in the narrative of his own construction?
Fandom summed up the film as: “a cautionary tale about the kinds of rewards and adulations we shower on celebrities. Don’t be fooled by the word “comedy” in the title. This flick isn’t there to make you laugh. It’s there to scare you.”
The only shot of De Niro in it is a quick glimpse of him on stage and, long before that happened, I couldn’t stop thinking about KING OF COMEDY. Todd Phillips is clearly thinking about it, too.
Plus, Pupkin even meets up with another stalker, Masha, who aids him in his quest to kidnap Jerry and blackmail the studio into giving Pupkin his literal 15 minutes of fame. Notable, IGN notes that Marsha, played by Sandra Bernhard, delivers “a proto-Harley Quinn performance.”
Image Via IMDB
Then there’s Robert De Niro, but in Raging Bull, which was also directed by Scorsese. Here’s the premise, again from IMDB: The life of boxer Jake LaMotta as the violence and temper that leads him to the top in the ring destroys his life outside of it.
Image Via Mubi
I hear your words, “the Joker ain’t no boxer!” Well, he can fight, but that’s not the point. The film starts off in 1964 when an aging boxer named Jake LaMotta practices a comedy routine. The film is about how this man fights and keeps fighting, ultimately realizing his life is a joke. (And what a mood.)
Image Via Robert Ebert.com
“I’m the best, I can take it more than anybody.”
It’s the internal life splattered on the silver screen, just like with Taxi Driver, just like with the next film we’re going to look at (yes, that too is Scorsese).
Image Via Digital Spy
Deadline even mentioned the film back when the movie was first announced in August of 2017:
The intention is to make a gritty and grounded hard-boiled crime film set in early-’80s Gotham City that isn’t meant to feel like a DC movie as much as one of Scorsese’s films from that era, like Taxi Driver, Raging Bull or The King Of Comedy.
Image Via Collider
In each of these three films, the character’s internal life is splattered on the screen. They are directionless people who find a direction that leads them hurdling towards a terrifying path.
“I used to think my life was a tragedy, but I now realize it’s a comedy.”
These films are character studies, which is exactly what Joaquin Phoenix has been gunning for. He told Collider:
Three or four years ago, I called my agent and said ‘Why don’t they want to take one of these characters and just make a lower budget film about it, a movie but a character study, and why not take one of the villains?’ And I thought, ‘You can’t do the Joker, because, you know, it’s just you can’t do that character, it’s just been done.’
Oh, it will be done, and I’m screaming for this movie. These films seem to serve as a template to give this classic comic book character a fresh new origin, and hopefully this film will be new but familiar territory instead of a whirlwind of a chaos.
But I’m hopeful, and you know why?
The JOKER teaser is pretty great. Joaquin never disappoints. I’m in. #cinemacon
Reading books by great authors, especially dead ones, is one of the coolest ways any of us will ever get to understanding some of the world’s most original minds. Therefore, we do it; we read so that we can experience multiple lifetimes and adventures outside the realm of what is practical. It’s therapeutic- reading is a true form of meditation, storytelling in general. We define experiences by the stories we tell ourselves and others. Being able to tell a good story can potentially affect millions, for good or bad. That’s fucking powerful. It’s more powerful than money, sex or fame- even though some writers are egomaniacs who secretly hope their work will lead to those things (I probably fall into that category to be fair).
Regardless, first and foremost, it’s about the work. It’s about creating something no one else has ever thought about forming and using that unique ability to help other people. Help them to understand their world and connect with the people around them. How can anyone study to be a scribe? Honestly, you can’t. You either have it or you don’t. Scribes are rock stars.
Image Via Bucketlist127.com
Most people who study literature at the college level end up having to take a major literary figures class; people like William Shakespeare, Geoffrey Chaucer and John Milton used to fall into this category but now writers like Toni Morrison, Frederick Douglass, Louise Erdrich, Herman Melville are taking up the mantel. Deservingly so. For the sake of contemporary relevance and diversity, it makes sense to switch it up as time goes on. Sorry, Will, Fair is foul, and foul is fair (this quote only sort of makes sense here, don’t read into it).
Besides, Herman Melville was a boss. Moby Dick; or, The Whaleis crazy and hilarious, with a ridiculously grandiose style; long sentences, excessive alliteration, one chapter is written like a play. Enter Ahab. Melville had a vision; he wanted to make fun of capitalism, meditate on life, death and a boatload of other stuff (pun intended). People didn’t understand him, and he didn’t gain true fame until after his death… Who doesn’t want to be misunderstood and then rediscovered long after they are gone?
Image Via Pinterest.com
In Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Frederick Douglas recounts how he used to dare white kids he could read/write better than them (even though he couldn’t) just so he could learn how to be better. At one point the man even gets in a fight with his slave ‘master’- a straight up fist fight with Covey so that said ‘master’ would know to never beat him again. Shit is powerful. Douglas’ slave narrative brought a lot of attention to obvious issues back then; Frederick Douglas has said that “knowledge is the pathway from slavery to freedom.” He understood the power of storytelling as one of the most accessible forms of academia, so did Toni Morrison when she wrote Beloved, for which she won the Noble…
Image Via Flickr.com
It’s damn near impossible and relatively foolish to try and group the best authors ever into a category, especially because popular Literature changes. It’s still great, just different. Even though they are competitive as fuck, great authors pay homage to writers who have come before on a regular basis with a simple phrase or metaphor. They aim to say something constructive about society and inspire change. Protagonists were created to show us how to be good and antagonists to show us what it means to lose one’s way (side note: check out our article dealing with literary role models). Literature used to be society’s main source of entertainment. Huge and monumental paper bricks were created, and people ate it up… then the first movie came out and reading became less and less cool. The Wizard of Oz switched to color and people be trippin’. And now, no one reads. Except for us. And sometimes we don’t even like it.
Book Nerds are a dying breed; the media tends to steer toward the visual stimuli as many of today’s leaders seem damn near illiterate. It’s exhausting, and sometimes us readers may be tired and lack the ability to use our imagination the way we need to; that’s why people don’t read, everyone wants the television to do the work for them. This is not to say television isn’t great, it’s awesome, but when you read, you become the director. Those who have the patience and the time to use their minds to create a perfect mental image which aligns with whatever narrative they have in front of them, feel the reward of true storytelling. The type of auto-pilot reading that rocks your world and blurs the rest of the room as you sit on your bed, floor, patio, bathroom sink, wherever. People read in weird places (note to self: article idea). These people can tell their non-reader friends about a book they just read in an undeniably exciting way. Enthusiasm exuberates off them in the most obnoxious and commendable of ways. The world needs these kinds of people…
Image Via Thebookfridge.blogspot.com
Storytelling is what grounds us as human beings; while most of the contemporary population may crave sweet new tech, some of us crave the smell of fresh pages. Sometimes they’re not even fresh. Barnes and Noble will rip you off. A better smell is one of old, stained pages previously the property of a single mother, father, janitor, chef, taxi driver, bartender, space lawyer or aspiring writer. Unsung heroes. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of kindle because it robs us of the traditional page-bending style of reading; where the physical condition of a novel is a direct reflection of the love it has been shown. Reading is a tradition rooted in humanity, it comes from US.
So, embrace this year’s Goodreads reading challenge: make your goal 365 mofo’n books, talk about the best new and old novels with anyone who will listen. They need to hear it. People were binging at the library before Netflix even existed- I thought Bird Box was only okay. Think about finally becoming adequately caffeinated enough to write the world’s next great novel that shows us something about ourselves. Actually, yeah. Do that.
Image Via Giphy.com
2019 will forever be known as the year of the book nerd.