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What to Stream: An Amateur Filmmaker Takes on “The Great Gatsby” and Its Scholars

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A new documentary develops in poignant detail the story of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald’s wild summer of 1920.Photograph from Minnesota Historical Society / Getty

It takes a cinematic and academic outsider to leap into the deep waters of scholarly disputes with impetuous verve, as Robert Steven Williams does in the documentary “Gatsby in Connecticut: The Untold Story” (which is streaming on Amazon). The film is rooted in the same theory that Barbara Probst Solomon (who’s the main interview subject in the film; she died in 2019) put forth in a remarkable 1996 piece in The New Yorker: that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s prime model for Jay Gatsby’s West Egg estate and the cottage on his property that Nick Carraway rents isn’t Great Neck, Long Island, but, rather, Westport, Connecticut. For Williams, as for Solomon, who was a Westport native, the matter was as much personal as historical. Williams, a music-industry executive, moved to Westport in 1992 and became interested in local history. He heard gleanings of Fitzgerald’s Westport connection and eventually, after Solomon’s article appeared, joined forces with the local historian Richard (Deej) Webb to investigate further. It’s said that the stakes in academic disputes are low, but Williams enthusiastically shows, in the course of the film, that the geographical reference is more than a footnote—it’s a key to an apt appreciation of both Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald’s literary artistry.

The case presented both by Williams and by Solomon begins with the geography of the Westport property where the newlywed Fitzgeralds lived, for five months, spanning the summer of 1920, soon after the publication and acclaim of Scott’s first novel, “This Side of Paradise.” The young couple (Scott was twenty-three; Zelda, nineteen) lived in a cottage at the edge of a rich man’s estate, similar to the one that Nick inhabited in West Egg; the shore at the edge of that waterfront property provided a view across the bay to a magnificent dock (the one that belonged to the palatial home in which Solomon was raised), akin to the one celebrated in “Gatsby.” What’s more, the secretive and wealthy baron of industry, Frederick E. Lewis, from whom the Fitzgeralds rented and whose mansion was on the seaside part of the estate, gave parties of colossal frolic and frenzy, with circus animals and Broadway stars and Harry Houdini and John Philip Sousa hired to perform. (Lewis’s pool also had a tower akin to the one from which Gatsby’s guests dove.) The Fitzgeralds attended at least one of his parties—and behaved scandalously enough to be barred from any of his future ones, though he still let them have access to his private beach.

The diligent and energetic research leading to the identification of the novel’s prime site is only one of “Gatsby in Connecticut” ’s many virtues, which all arise from Williams’s role as a cinematic newcomer. When he started work on the project, in 2013, having never made a film before, he planned to make a short for local use, but its scope expanded along the way. As an enthusiast who came to scholarship by chance, he approaches the details of the Fitzgeralds’ life and work with a fresh eye and an unjaded sense of wonder. He develops in rapt and poignant detail the story of the Fitzgeralds’ wild summer of 1920, emphasizing the rush of wealth and fame that went to their heads when “This Side of Paradise” became a widely acclaimed critical success and an instant best-seller. Interview subjects and archival citations (including one from Dorothy Parker) detail their glamour, their fame, their allure; Williams calls them “America’s first rock stars.” In particular, Solomon’s insights pinpoint the very year 1920 as a critical moment of transition from tradition to modernity—and the very celebrity of the Fitzgeralds, their youth, and their uninhibited freedom along with their artistic cachet, as both an emblem and an engine of that change.

The film quotes from Zelda’s novel “Save Me the Waltz,” from 1932, which includes details of that wild summer from a decade’s remove—and also devotes extended consideration to Scott’s second novel, “The Beautiful and Damned,” from 1922, which he wrote in the heat of the spectacular romantic flameout that is itself the story of the novel. Williams matches the action of “The Beautiful and Damned” to a map of the town and photographs of the period and quotes a letter in which Scott wishes that the novel had been more “mature” because it has the distinctive virtue of being “all true.” This, too, is among the virtues of “Gatsby in Connecticut”: its rehabilitation of “The Beautiful and Damned,” which I consider Fitzgerald’s most moving, thrilling, and emotionally flaying novel. It’s not a cut gem like “Gatsby,” it’s not an epic tragedy like “Tender Is the Night,” but it’s Fitzgerald’s most convincing and least inhibited elaboration of scenes from a marriage, an unsparing and agonized portrait of a couple, as he wrote, “wrecked on the shoals of dissipation”; as Fitzgerald himself asserts, they didn’t do it to each other: they did it to themselves. (In saying so, Scott may have been going easy on himself: Williams also unfolds Scott’s dependence on—and appropriation of—Zelda’s inspiration and artistry, and traces out the twisted strands of anguish that resulted from his use of her diaries and letters in the novel, and the brazen control that he exerted over her life and her art alike.)

Williams evokes the Fitzgeralds and their era with voice-over narration (performed by the actor Keir Dullea) joined to illustrative film clips and stills, archival publications and illustrations, maps and current-day footage, all bound together by recordings of music from roughly (sometimes very roughly) the same period. It’s a familiar, even conventional, format, but Williams goes at it as enthusiastically as if he’d discovered it himself, energetically reanimating the Fitzgeralds and their times. His sense of astonishment and joy in discovery carries over to his way with scholarly research, too, as when he does some remarkable detective work to locate the diaries of Alexander McKaig, Fitzgerald’s college friend, who was on hand to observe with detailed dismay the couple’s riotous behavior. The research is integrated into the film with a spontaneous cinematic inventiveness and a cheerful reflexivity, as Williams films himself and Webb in the company of a variety of scholars, in classrooms and also in the Fitzgeralds’ onetime house in Westport—along with Charles Scribner III (the grandson of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s publisher) and Sam Waterston, who portrayed Nick Carraway in the 1974 film of “The Great Gatsby.” They also film a moving interview with Bobbie Lanahan, the Fitzgeralds’ granddaughter and a biographer in her own right, who shares the findings of her own research, and do some revealing local research among neighbors in Westport.

The academic controversy that Williams unfolds was sparked by the publication of Solomon’s article. After it appeared, Matthew Bruccoli, the longtime leading Fitzgerald scholar (who died in 2008), rejected her findings high-handedly. In “Gatsby in Connecticut,” several participants take him to task for his proprietary approach to Fitzgerald’s life story and even to his texts. Apart from the specific ideas it details, the movie considers the very notion of literary scholarship and what it’s for. Though “Gatsby in Connecticut” illuminates mysterious corners of “The Great Gatsby,” it does far more—in wrenching scholarship into life and rendering the process of research personal and passionate, it shows that the stakes of such disputes are surprisingly and enduringly high. In the process, the film both exposes and corrects the peculiar processes by which canons and hierarchies are established and perpetuated. In its hearty and individualistic vigor, “Gatsby in Connecticut” is a valuable work of literary criticism in cinematic form.

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Disney Plus Mulan Fails to Make an Impact

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Disney Plus’s most anticipated movie of the year was Live-Action Mulan, the infamous remake of the 1998 version of the Disney classic Mulan. With a budget of almost $200 million and alot of hard work involved, the film release’s expectations and excitement were at an all-time high. Disney’s marketing team left no stone unturned in promoting the film throughout the world as Mulan was one of the most influential female protagonists in a Disney movie. 

Mulan was known for her power and courage to take a step towards change and create a name for herself instead of becoming a burden for her family. She brought them honor but not through finding a compatible suitor, but through her bravery in fighting amongst the opposite gender when it was considered a taboo. 

But did the real Mulan walk in the footsteps of the animated one? Did it create an impact as strong as the classic version, which people love and adore even after 23 years? Sadly, no. The live-Action Mulan was nothing like the 1998 Mulan because it was not supposed to be that way. 

The old Chinese folklore inspired the Live-Action Mulan. The Balad of Mulan, which was different, more serious, and portrayed a much more feminist approach by eliminating any romantic or cartoonish elements or characters from the remake. 

The elimination of the character of Mushu came as a surprise for all the die-hard Mulan fans who were anticipating the voice-over of Eddie Murphy in a better-animated dragon who is by Mulan’s side, aiding in tough times. We did see a dragon, but it was a silent companion only coming in need. The remake also got rid of all the eventful songs which were hummed as we watched the animated version all the time.

Another setback was the mediocre release of Mulan during the Pandemic, which basically ruined the official March release. Mulan eventually made the screen on September 4 on Disney+ Premier Access, a pay-to-view for $30 across the US. In contrast, countries where Covid-19 was under control, saw a theater release like China. But that hardly made 50% of the total movie budget. Disney hoped to make some dollars in China by accurately depicting the Chinese culture and actors, but that didn’t happen either. 

Viewers with access to Disney+ also did not venture enough on the Premier Access service. What further disappointed the release was Mulan’s availability on multiple torrents and platforms for free in HD quality on its release. VPN users worldwide watched the movie for free without paying a whopping amount of $30 for a single film, while the whole service along with other streaming services cost ⅓ of the price. 

Live-Action Mulan was also under scrutiny for shooting in the Xinjiang, the region of China where Uighur Muslims were detained and imprisoned in concentration camps. This sparked outrage over the entire social media, where Muslims worldwide protested against the Chinese government’s actions. Disney+ did not state an official apology on their platform, nor did they acknowledge their wrongdoings, probably to stay clear of the Chinese government’s atrocity. 

Meanwhile, even within China, Mulan failed to impact the Chinese audience as they have a much better take and approach to recreating any Chinese epic or myths. Their cinema is far more advanced in portraying their culture with local actors and a local production house. As we all know, China has a strict censorship policy on international content, and they have an alternate of their own. It applies here as well. 

Lastly, the ill-natured tweet of the lead actress Liu Yifei, openly supporting the Hong Kong Police’s atrocities when China was implementing new security policies on Hong Kong, claiming it as a part of the Chinese government. The Hong Kong police came under fire for mistreating peaceful protestors and using harsh means to disperse the crowd. This tweet leads to #boycottmulan across the regions of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Thailand. 

Liu Yifei made no outright apology. 

Despite so much anticipation, live-action Mulan came under alot of controversy and failed to make a solid impression on the audience, despite holding a strong message for its feminist audience. Wrong timing and a few wrong decisions cost Disney millions of dollars and somewhat tarnished the reputation of their remake sagas. 

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5 Underrated Shows on Netflix USA You Must Watch Right Now!

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American Netflix is home to hundreds of TV shows across multiple genres. Still, it could be hard at times to find something binge-worthy on it. Now we all have that one friend that’s perfectly content with re-watching their favorite TV series, but the rest of us normies find it a tad boring. We’re on a never-ending hunt for the next big show hoping to inject some excitement into our otherwise mundane existence. However, with so much to choose from, it’s only natural that a few gems go unnoticed when scrolling through the recommendations. 

Don’t sweat it! After spending endless hours of research, we’ve compiled a list of the top 5 underrated shows on Netflix USA that are definitely worth your time.

Can’t access US Netflix in your home country? There is an easy way around. Just download a Netflix VPN, connect to a US server, and start streaming. 

  1. 1994

Genre: Documentary

Season(s): 1 season; 5 episodes

Year of release: 2019

1994 is a modest 5-episode docu-series offering the perfect guilt-free, binge-watching experience. The show revolves around a promising presidential candidate in Mexico who stands to threaten the status quo. Seen as a threat by the powerful elite, he gets shot during one of his televised political rallies. If the events of the first episode seem unusual, then what follows is downright bizarre. 

Viewers are in store for surreal events backed by actual interviews and real-life footage that ups the ante with each passing episode. 1994 is a fascinating, informative, and rich account of one of the most turbulent times in Mexico. It not only gives viewers a glimpse of the past but also a story that follows a narrative very close to what we’re seeing in our present political climate.

  1. Rise of Empires: Ottoman

Genre: Drama

Season(s): 1 season; 6 episodes

Year of release: 2020

Following the wildly popular show Ertugrul—at least in the eastern part of the world—Rise of Empires: Ottoman features a historic mix of immaculate production value and dramatic re-enactment of the 1453 fall of Constantinople. A Turkish production, the show is entirely in English and revolves around the life of a young Ottoman Sultan named Mehmet. It shows how the 21-year old leader risks everything to conquer a city his father and so many others failed to take before him.

This point marked a crucial juncture in history: The fall of the Roman Empire and the transition of a local regional entity to that of a global superpower. While the show does have its set of drawbacks (such as the frequent History Channel-type flashbacks), the appeal of our protagonist is sure to have viewers in for a memorable ride. 

  1. Wild Wild Country

Genre: Documentary

Season(s): 1 season; 6 episodes

Year of release: 2018

The mere mention of Wild Wild Country in front of veteran Netflix viewers is sure to garner you some respect points. Based on a true story, Wild Wild Country tells the tale of an Indian cult that’s decided to relocate to Oregon. What ensues is a series of unusual events as the locals struggle to come to terms with the new inhabits and in particular, the eccentric leader of this cult: Bhagwan. This mini-series manages to capture and re-tell a significant—albeit unusual—event in American history and media and retell it in a way that’s sure to leave some viewers scratching their heads!

  1. Lenox Hill

Genre: Documentary

Season(s): 1 season; 9 episodes

Year of release: 2020

For those looking to embark on a roller-coaster ride of emotions, look no further than Lenox Hill. While we do recommend this docu-series especially if you’re a fan of Grey’s Anatomy or ER, Lenox Hill is not your average watch. It’s a far cry from what you’d call a feel-good series as it reveals the brutal reality associated with people diagnosed with really bad things.

Set in New York, the show follows the story of an ER physician, an OB-GYN, and two brain surgeons that are part of a small-time hospital competing with bigger establishments. It lifts the curtain from the otherwise romanticized emergency-ward that we’ve grown accustomed to and accurately depicts the struggles of both patients and doctors.

This highly emotional series might not sit well with everyone but if you want to watch a story about individuals that sacrifice everything to save others then this one’s for you.

  1. Borderline

Genre: Comedy

Season(s): 2 seasons; 12 episodes

Year of release: 2016

The Office is the most viewed show on Netflix according to Chicago Tribune which is a pity because its contract is set to expire on January 1, 2021. Enter Borderline, a British comedy series and ‘mockumentary’ of sorts that follows a similar pattern and humor as The Office. Set in the fictional Northend Airport instead of an office, viewers are quickly introduced to a slew of funny and ridiculous personalities.

The best part of the series is that it has its own version of Pam, Dwight, Jim, and a Michael type-boss. It also doesn’t try too hard to resemble its more popular counterpart and a few episodes are enough to make you wonder why more people aren’t watching it!

Agree with our list? Know of some underrated shows that need more love? Let us know in the comments section below!

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The Advantages of Online Casino Welcome Bonuses

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When it comes to online gambling, the industry is thriving in 2020. Although casinos are banned in many countries, people still find ways to enjoy their favorite games of chance. However, considering the level of competition on the market, it may be difficult for a beginner to find a good online platform and take advantage of all offers. In this article, you will learn the benefits of casinos’ welcome bonuses.

What Is a Sign-Up Bonus?

As we have already established, the industry is growing rapidly and companies are desperately looking for new ways to attract customers. A welcome bonus is often used by online casinos to get new leads and players in the future. However, the best casino bonuses can be easily used to the player’s advantage. Here are the main reasons you should not neglect this offer.

  1. It saves your money

Quite obvious, right? Well, this is the main reason why you should always use welcome bonuses in online gambling: it is always better to not risk your own money. It is especially true for beginners. Since they have no experience, it is fairly common for beginners to lose their initial investment and be done with gambling for good. However, if you use your welcome bonus as a way of getting the basics skills, the chances of success will rise significantly.

  1. It allows you to try several games

Another common issue beginners face is a lack of understanding of which types of games they want to try: slots, roulette, baccarat, blackjack, etc. If you use your sign-up bonus, you will be able to play several games and choose the ones you like better. Moreover, you can take advantage of a welcome bonus on several online gambling platforms. That way you will try out even more options.

  1. It will make future gambling more profitable

Besides beneficial sign-up bonuses, good online casinos usually have great loyalty programs. For instance, the company may double up to five first deposits on the platform. If you invest 100 USD, you will get 200 USD to your account. More money — more games — more chances of winning.

Although a welcome bonus is a great way of upping your gambling game, there are a few things you should pay attention to. Firstly, a good bonus does not equal a good platform. Before choosing a casino, make sure that the company is legal and trustworthy. Since there are many scams right now, it is essential if you want to save your money. Moreover, check the available deposit/withdrawal methods and their terms.

We hope that this article has shown the true power of online casinos’ welcome bonuses and how you can use them to your own advantage. Follow our tips while choosing a platform and enjoy the best gambling experience.

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