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Hammerle on...'The Great Gatsby,' 'Iron Man 3'

Robert Hammerle
May 22, 2013
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The Great Gatsby

To begin with, no actor dies on the silver screen with the style and grace of Leonardo DiCaprio. He memorably succumbed in the cold Atlantic while preserving the life of his beloved Kate Winslet in “Titanic” (1997). In “Blood Diamond” (2006), he passed away slowly on an African mountain cliff as he talked over the phone to the grieving Jennifer Connelly. And Quentin Tarantino should have ended last year’s “Django Unchained” when Mr. DiCaprio and Christoph Waltz left the stage in a hail of gunfire.

With “The Great Gatsby,” Mr. DiCaprio honors F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic literary creation with a performance that tugs at the human soul. Sure, he throws some outrageously splendid parties, but the fundamental reason hiding behind the curtain is far simpler.

Hammerle_gatsby.jpgMr. DiCaprio allows Jay Gatsby to shine as an extraordinarily wealthy man with a broken heart. He seeks nothing more than to somehow win back Daisy Buchanan, the one thing that he treasures more than life itself.

The problem centers on the fact that Buchanan lives with her wealthy, philandering husband in a mansion across the lake from Gatsby’s lavish estate. She reluctantly married five years earlier when Gatsby disappeared for reasons that will be revealed, and neither has been able to rest easy as a result.

While Joel Edgerton gives an engrossing performance as Tom Buchanan, a man who values his inherited wealth more than his commitment to his wife, Carey Mulligan shines as the lovely and tormented Daisy. Though she has grown to profoundly resent her husband, she clearly loved him at one time. Though her heart belongs to Gatsby, how does she leave the man who is the father of her small daughter?

What defines “The Great Gatsby” as an adult film is the performance of Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway. He narrates the story as he sits years later in a sanitarium trying to overcome the alcohol abuse that consumed him when he lived in a small cottage next to the Gatsby home during the Roaring ‘20s.

Carraway became Gatsby’s only true friend, and he grew to love him as much as he appreciated his romantic quest. While his life was filled with mystery, Carraway saw Gatsby as the only man he had ever met dedicated to both hope and a feeling that you could recreate the past.

Mr. Luhrmann has brought us an alluring film that recreates the garish splendor of the Jazz Age that in some ways reflects 21st century America. The stock market was booming, opulence was at its height and the working poor were largely ignored except when a pretty wife was available for a one-night stand.

The many critics who have rejected this film are dead wrong when they complain that it does a disservice to Mr. Fitzgerald. As a reminder, let me point out that Mr. Maguire’s Carraway was the only person to attend Gatsby’s funeral. When Mr. Fitzgerald died at the age of 44, so few people attended that pallbearers had to be hired. Sometimes dying young is not the tragedy it seems.

Iron Man 3

“Iron Man 3” is the cinematic equivalent of going to a great restaurant only to have the steak overcooked. Sure, the salad and side dishes were superb, but I was forced to chew so long on the meat that I gradually lost interest.

Robert Downey Jr. is spectacularly entertaining as Iron Man and yet brutally irritating as Tony Stark. Why Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts wants to stay with him is as befuddling as Stark’s attraction to her. Fundamentally, they are both profoundly annoying.

On the other hand, I am a great admirer of Mr. Downey, and he saves the film with his interaction with a small boy and his discovery that the terrorist known as The Mandarin is not the reincarnation of Osama bin Laden. Downey’s scenes with the kid are as funny as they are politically incorrect, and he is at his best when allowed to embrace his comic genius.

hammerle_ironman.jpgWhile Mr. Downey is always watchable, it is Ben Kingsley’s role that brings a legendary twist that can’t be missed. Mr. Kingsley steals the film playing the international terrorist named above. Cold and chilling on the outside, he harbors a secret that will literally leave you in stitches. It’s a great performance by a great actor, and he should be remembered when Oscar season rolls around.

Furthermore, Guy Pearce again shines as a handsome, demented villain with absolutely no conscience. He evolves from a Zuckerberg-like youthful geek into a tormented scientist who has mastered the ability to manipulate the human brain. He stands out as much as he did as the hateful Charlie Rakes in last year’s underrated “Lawless” and as King Edward VIII, the British monarch who gave up his throne to marry his divorced lover in the Oscar winning “The King’s Speech” (2010).

As anticipated, the special effects are masterfully done. However, they go on and on, reaching the point where you’re left mumbling, “Enough is enough!” Unfortunately, there is one too many “Iron Men” for my taste.

For all of its shortcomings, the movie’s spectacular box office performance is a reflection of the talent of Mr. Downey. When he was struggling with his drug addiction years ago that kept him on the sidelines, I laughingly urged Congress to pass legislation that would authorize him to use as many narcotics as he desired. After all, wouldn’t society be far better off seeing this brilliant actor on the screen as opposed to behind bars?

While Mr. Downey’s great performances have been recognized, you must not overlook the brilliance of his smaller films. Think of his gay brother in “Home for the Holidays” (1995), and his unforgettable performance as the young man who was trapped by his girlfriends in “Two Girls and a Guy” (1997). Then there were his extraordinary contributions to “The Wonder Boys” (2000), “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” (2005), and “Good Night, and Good Luck” (2005).

In a sense, he is the literal reincarnation of the legendary Charlie Chaplin, a man he ironically played in “Chaplin” (1992).•

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Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis. When he is not in the courtroom or working diligently in his Pennsylvania Street office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.
 

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  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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