My take: Wolf: Scorsese’s Best Film?
My take: Wolf: Scorsese’s Best Film?
Joe Giambrone | Political Film Blog
With Wolf of Wall Street Martin Scorsese stomps on Consumerist Christmas like Godzilla on crack. This is the boldest, most audacious piece in recent memory, a film whose release date holds even deeper meaning than most American audiences could possibly process. They were assaulted, intentionally, on levels far deeper than their supposed virgin eyes. The naughty sex and drugs and runtime are the shallow criticisms currently making the mainstream rounds. Yawn.
Wolf is not about sex and drugs. The film is about money, power, greed, the legitimacy of this market-based wealth accumulation system. The sex and drugs are simply window dressing to a far deeper sickness, one that claws right out from the screen like a 3D Craptacular and strangles the audience where they live: their own greedy little insatiable egos. Because Jordan Belfort did it, he already topped them all. They could never compete. It’s been done.
Wolf has meaning across the society, the way we organize ourselves here as buyers and sellers, each competing to one up the next. Scorsese has finally matured to the point where he can tell it like it is, the American experience, the actual American Way, the American Dream, the myths, the reality, the psychology we’ve all been sold. This is a far bigger story than the tale of one super con man with a drug problem: we’re all complicit.
I’m of the opinion today that Wolf of Wall Street is indeed Scorsese’s best film, the full 2 hour and 59 minute cut.
People will likely respond with Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas. Of the three, Taxi Driver is the only film to reconsider.
Goodfellas is one of the most overrated of all Scorsese’s efforts. From the first trailer I saw it was plainly obvious: this is no Godfather. Scorsese’s artifice, his penchant for voiceovers and intrusive directorial voice left me distanced and unconvinced on any level. Better gangster films are not difficult to locate. Sorry, film geek boys; you can stop pitching this as some greatest film. It ain’t.
Conversely, with Wolf of Wall Street Scorsese’s style meshes gloriously with this over the top exploration of excess and debauchery. DiCaprio’s voiceovers provide a witness, a sounding board, a then-and-now take on the events that heightens the black comedy and makes for a hilarious counterpoint to the events unfolding on screen. With Wolf, the intrusive and jarring cuts, freeze frames and confessions all serve to bring the story to life.
Raging Bull was another effort that left me cold. Jake LaMotta was a sad sack, uncharismatic, a chore to watch. The film felt like penance rather than magic. Interesting photography couldn’t save this drudgery, in my opinion.
That leaves Taxi Driver (or perhaps you’re rooting for Casino? Hugo? Mean Streets?) Up against Taxi Driver we have an interesting dilemma. The two productions couldn’t be more different, the budgets, the visual aesthetics, the tone.
But that was 40 years ago. The world has moved on, and cinema has moved on. I don’t know if one could reasonably compare the two films. Is that even a rational thing to do?
That leaves Wolf, this week’s surprise affront to decency and American blinders. Scorsese just came off a 3D kids’ movie, Hugo, to turn in probably the single most thought provoking film of the year. We can’t help but see our place in Jordan Belfort’s world, because we’re not even at the servant’s quarters level. Everything he does, he does to profit himself in the manner proscribed from on high: greed is good. Greed is everything. Our entire civilization is predicated on greed now. The lurch to self-interested depravity as our religion, the cornerstone of our world, hoarding wealth for ourselves and our own, well, it needs to be acknowledged. It needs an offensive matinee showing. It needs shocked, flabbergasted little old ladies squirming in their seats out in Bumblefuck.
Amazing, nothing short of amazing. Dicaprio’s tour de force performance helps lay bare the moral depravity of Wall Street better than Michael Moore could dream of doing.
Wolf of Wall Street is a black comedy about an anti-hero who represents the ultimate ugly American. He’s the cornerstone of an ugly empire, in this case a Wall Street trading firm that does what Wall Street trading firms do: take money from suckers and put it into their own pockets.
As an up and comer, a nobody, not born to the manor, Dicaprio’s guy might just be fair game, a sacrificial lamb to draw attention away from the rest. In its totality, Wolf is a smart, meaningful, sexy, groundbreaking piece of American cinema that lays bare the obscenity of Wall Street rape and pillage. Scorsese tops Wall Street films that have come before and goes balls out, full bore.
I’m really glad we made it to the opening day of Wolf. Some scenes had me laughing my ass off — and not everyone at the packed house got it. Some stunned faces, some grumbling. Great movie.
Vision vs. reality?
Amazing that Obama gets a spot of uplifting blather in the trailer, when he was ultimately responsible for beating them down and dragging them off to jail across this nation.
My take on the Occupy Movement and its meaning (or lack thereof):
Where to start? How about with an observation concerning World War Z and how Hollywood muddles nearly any political point it ever tries to make in the service of maximizing viewership? “That’s how they sell the most tickets imaginable, by appealing across a broad spectrum, and combining so many ideas that everyone can walk away feeling like they got what they wanted (Anthony Kaufman).” Pretty good observation, and it also lets the perpetrators of propaganda off the hook for the more malignant ideas they push on the masses. Nolan’s Dark Knight Rises was a case in point. So what has that got to do with Tom Cruise dancing around in his underwear?
Risky Business spoke to me when I first snuck in to the multiplex through the exit door and caught it. I guess I was 16, a junior in high school. Joel (Cruise) has a debauched best friend Miles who is always prodding him to cross that next line. I had a similar real world compatriot, and so this relationship at the opening of the movie immediately grabbed my attention. And if that wasn’t enough, there are also a bevy of stunning prostitutes in the film, including Rebecca DeMornay as Lana. That’s enough to attact 90% of 16 y.o. American boys, and so where does this thing go?
It goes off into the world of business, capitalism, Yale. It’s an odd and sometimes confusing journey into supply and demand. In this case the supply is Lana and friends, the demand are the little rich boys of a Chicago suburb who are ready to put their money down.
Ah, but the competition is not going to sit still while upstarts like Joel try and pilfer a stable of high class call girls. Enter Guido the killer pimp. And then it seems Joel himself has ascended into the pimp racket. There are some strange complications however, as prostitution, pimping and competition also entail the little matter of stealing whatever’s not nailed down. In this case, the stealing is from Joel’s own house – scratch that – Joel’s parents’ house while they are away on business. The stakes for Joel keep raising, especially after his Dad’s turbo Porsche ends up in the lake.
One might try and claim a clear pro-capitalist, even libertarian slant to Joel and his pimp business. Supply, demand, profit, everyone’s happy (not Guido). But is that the ultimate point of Risky Business, or is there a larger ironic point to be gleaned? The ending, and its Yale business school tie-in leave room for contemplation.
Oh I hate giving away plot, and yet I need to stuff a sufficient amount of words into these things. See the movie, if you haven’t already. You tell me what you think.
Killer Joe is a stage play adapted for the screen this year and starring Matthew McConoughey. This twisted tale of Texas trash licks the envelope. The cast really carries this pretty simple story of greed and murder. The story is reminiscent of noir stories of the 1950’s, but with a bit of a harder edge.
The ending is intended to disturb, so it’s not for the squeamish. Still, a pretty engaging low-budget adaptation now out on DVD.