Baz Luhrmann’s new Netflix series The Get Down is a fantastical bildungsroman set against the backdrop of the Bronx in the late 1970s.[/two_fifth][three_fifth_last padding=”0 0px 0 10px”]The show offers a fictionalized chronicle of the origins of hip-hop. Narrated and executive produced by Nas (visually portrayed by Daveed Diggs), himself a son of Queens and one of the genre’s greats, the series follows a group of teens as they navigate survival amid gang violence, arson, and fraud by landlords, as well as the pangs of first love. Hip hop, as an art form and a cultural movement, becomes both a remedy and an escape for the boys and their community at large. Grandmaster Flash, one of the early pioneers depicted in the series, served as an associate producer.
Throughout The Get Down, Luhrmann uses music to evoke nostalgia and in his words, “to advance the story.” In an interview he gave at the Tribeca Film Festival, he explains that music acts as text in his work. With the money spent on licensing—the series cost a whopping $120 million—he clearly throws his weight behind his artistic choices. The soundtrack, which blends old school and new school, seamlessly integrates the likes of pop greats Donna Summer and Janelle Monáe.
Luhrmann, who is known for grand cinematic spectacle (think Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge), has ambitiously set out to capture the timbre and spirit of the time that gave birth to the genre of hip-hop. This is a huge ask, and as a consequence, the series initially feels incredibly unfocused. The two-hour-long pilot episode is top heavy with unnecessary exposition. By the third episode, however, Luhrmann, who fired two showrunners before taking up the mantle himself, manages to pull the plot together. Still, there remain questionable aesthetic choices—excessive rhyming dialogue à la Spike Lee’s Chiraq, for one—which tend to distract from the wonderful performances of Shameik Moore, Justice Smith, and Jaden Smith. Moore, who first came to prominence as the lead in Dope, commands the screen as a vintage Puma-wearing, kung fu-obsessed graffiti master known as Shaolin Fantastic.[/three_fifth_last]
Australian Film Director, Screenwriter and Producer[/two_fifth][three_fifth_last padding=”0 0px 0 10px”]Mark Anthony “Baz” Luhrmann (Born 17 September 1962) is best known for The Red Curtain Trilogy, comprising his romantic comedy film Strictly Ballroom (1992), the romantic drama Romeo + Juliet (1996), and the pastiche-jukebox musical Moulin Rouge! (2001). His 2008 film Australia is an epic historical romantic drama film starring Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman. His 2013 drama The Great Gatsby, based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel of the same name, stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire.
After theatrical successes, including the original stage version of Strictly Ballroom, Luhrmann moved into film and has directed five so far: Strictly Ballroom (1992), Romeo + Juliet (1996), Moulin Rouge! (2001), Australia (2008), The Great Gatsby (2013)
Luhrmann is currently collaborating with award-winning playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis on a Netflix series The Get Down about the birth of hip-hop in the 1970s. The series is scheduled to air in 2016 and will star Jimmy Smits, Herizen Guardiola, Justice Smith, Shameik Moore, Yahya Abdul-Mateen and Mamoudou Athie.
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