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The Wolf of Wall Street

tn_wolfofwallstreetTHE WOLF OF WALL STREET is the incredibly entertaining new movie from director Martin Scorsese (Michael Jackson’s BAD), based on the memoir of scumbag fraudulent stockbroker Jordan Belfort (executive producer of SANTA WITH MUSCLES), adapted by Terence Winter (writer of a 50 Cent video game and 2 episodes of The Cosby Mysteries). Leonardo DiCaprio (POISON IVY) plays Belfort in the saga of his meteoric rise from innocent Wall Street rookie to multi-millionaire cokehead innovator in greed and callous thievery. After THE GODFATHER and all these other classics that show how organized crime operates like a business, here Scorsese flips it around to show how business acts like gangsters.

Man, we take it for granted after so many big, showy movies with great directors – or we don’t want to admit it ’cause he’s still got kind of a baby face and we remember when he made the teenage girls faint in their pants – but jesus, DiCaprio sure has turned into a good actor. WOLF is Scorsese picture #5 for him, and it seems for a while like he’s mostly doing his usual moves. He’s got the intensity, the energy, the accent that’s old timey and not very naturalistic but he goes so all-in that I buy it, the face that teeters between boyish and Benicio Del Toro. Early in the movie he even crash-lands a small aircraft and stumbles away, as if he’s doing callbacks to THE AVIATOR. He should do that in all his movies, it could be his “I’ll be back.”

But he does all that and then every other actorly thing that there is: lots and lots of yelling. Smashing things. Crying. Hysterical laughing. Threatening. Begging. Talking nice to a baby mid-domestic dispute. A whole lot of grandiose speeches running the gamut from whispery/weepy/full-of-dramatic-pauses to Leonidas style whipping-the-troops-into-a-frenzy. He definitely had to practice his microphone techniques for this one.

He does a whole lot of fuckin. He shrieks like a girl as a dominatrix tortures him. He does an Oompa Loompa dance. He smokes crack. He snorts Scarface amounts of coke (some of it after blowing it into a gal’s butthole). He drives too fast while getting a blowjob and too slow while nearly paralyzed by quaaludes. Those are his favorite treat and he uses them to demonstrate several levels of incapacitation. During a hilariously drawn out scene of trying to get to his Lamborghini without the use of his limbs, and another one where he and Hill get tangled up in a long telephone cord, I started thinking DiCaprio was throwing himself into this physically like Bruce Campbell did in EVIL DEAD 2. This is truly a king of the world performance.

Let’s be honest, they hired him because he’s starting to look like Benicio and Benicio played the wolfman. And then, as in THE LONE RANGER, they cut out all the werewolves to keep the budget down. But I’m glad they did it. It works.

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Scorsese’s filmatism is as energetic and invigorating as ever. He’s got DiCaprio narrating in first person, sometimes talking directly to the camera and leading us around like he’s the host instead of the star. He’ll start explaining how some stock market thing works, then stop and laugh that we don’t understand what he’s talking about anyway so who cares. (And that’s why they get away with this shit.) Scorsese gives him the power to change what we’re seeing, like when he corrects a red Ferrari to white. He uses inserts of still photos like we’re looking at a catalog of Belfort’s ludicrously excessive luxury items – look at all my shit! – even has Robin Leach narrate about his yacht, and depicts a major story event in the style of a shitty ’90s infomercial. Somehow all this comes off as playful, not haphazard like some of Oliver Stone’s gimmicks. It’s like GOODFELLAS meets FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS meets AMERICAN PSYCHO.

Remember, DiCaprio almost starred in AMERICAN PSYCHO as his followup to TITANIC. He wanted the role bad but Mary Harron would’ve quit. Now we get to see kinda what that would’ve been like.

This is also more outwardly comedic than usual Scorsese, lots of jokey cutaway flashbacks like on The Simpsons or Arrested Development, and long, funny conversations that seem like Apatow style improvisation. For example there’s the one where the heads of the firm discuss the legal liability of dwarf tossing, and keep referring to the poor guy they’re hiring as an “it” or a “thing.”

No surprise that alot of the laughs come from actual Apatow vet Jonah Hill as Belfort’s partner Donnie Azoff, leveraging his status as an Academy Award nominated person from MONEYBALL into another good supporting performance (now with 100% more public masturbation). It’s also not a surprise that Matthew McConaughey is hilarious as the boss who teaches naive young (digitally youthened?) Belfort how to be a huge fucking asshole. (Note: McConaughey’s not in this a whole lot. He dives in, makes a splash and then takes off, the Alec Baldwin in GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS or Dolph Lundgren in UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION maneuver.)

Hats off also to Jon Bernthal (Shane from The Walking Dead), a great actor that I bet will get some more high profile roles soon. He has a couple really funny scenes as a weightlifting drug dealer dipshit who helps with the money laundering.

I noticed that there are a couple directors who have roles in this: Rob Reiner, Jon Favreau, Spike Jonze. No Herzog or Cronenberg, sadly. Or Argento. He could’ve been the Jean Dujardin character. I guess maybe that would be weird though.

Kyle Chandler shows up as quiet, humble FBI Agent Patrick Denham, who is intent on busting this asshole. My favorite scene in a movie full of favorite scenes is when Belfort invites Denham and his partner onto his yacht to claim innocence and attempt a bribe. Denham plays stupid for a while but when he lets his true feelings be known the two sides begin to flip each other shit with aplomb. DiCaprio has a line about what he calls hundred dollar bills that’s worthy of Danny McBride. I want to believe he improvised that one. Belfort is so fun to watch and yet you really want Denham to nail his ass to the wall.

Like any Scorsese movie there’s a great soundtrack. Robbie Robertson from The Band is the music supervisor. At first there’s alot of blues and jazz, imbuing these douches with an aura of working class soul that they don’t deserve. Later they get more yuppie appropriate music, and as the years progress there’s some mainstream hip hop (Cypress Hill, Naughty By Nature, a guy who I saw coming out of a Thai restaurant one time who won a Grammy for a song about butts).

Here’s a character modern enough to have a yacht party with a bunch of assholes doing the “hey, hooooo, hey, hoooooo” from “Hip Hop Hooray,” yet dated enough that he still has a loyal black maid who calls him “Mr. Jordan,” like he’s still in DJANGO UNCHAINED. It’s a good way to illustrate the kind of dicks we’re dealing with here. They have wacky fun at work like a frat boy version of THE SOCIAL NETWORK, and there’s almost always an underlying cruelty or degradation to what they’re doing. For example there’s a scene where they pay one of their female employees $10,000 to let them crudely shave off her long hair in front of everybody, and announce that she’ll use the money for breast implants. Real Ted DiBiase shit. These people are savages, screaming, pounding their chests, pissing and jacking off in public. Donnie has three kids with his first cousin and eats a man’s goldfish to punish him. They literally hold a middle finger up to the phone while fleecing innocent strangers, and make speeches about “fuck America.” When Belfort begins an announcement about turning himself in for the good of the company, and in the middle decides to stay and openly mock the rule of law and the basic concept of fairness, his employees turn into a frenzy of whooping and hollering testosterone goons worse than any Wrestlemania crowd. They legitimately believe that some sob story he tells about turning a hard working single mother into a mega-rich stockbroker makes it okay what they’ve done. They’re remorseless monsters.

But they wear ties and drive nice cars, so I guess they’re legit. And besides, if he knows he’s bad then it almost doesn’t count, right? He describes his yacht as “fit for a Bond villain” and has Sharon Jones singing the theme from GOLDFINGER at his wedding. Man, that wife of his really should’ve paid attention to the lyrics:

“The man with the midas touch
A spider’s touch
Such a cold finger
Beckons you to enter his web of sin
But don’t go in

Golden words he will pour in your ear
But his lies can’t disguise what you fear
For a golden girl knows when he’s kissed her
It’s the kiss of death from Mister Goldfinger”

See, he’s knowing! He’s self-aware! Pop culture! Maybe he’s an ironic swindler. So it’s okay everybody, he’s cool. Right?

You can’t help but see parallels with GOODFELLAS. It’s another real life crook who thinks he’s awesome, revels in sharing his story about how he did it all, then gets caught and turns rat. The comparison is important because of how different things end up for the white collar crooks than the street ones. Okay, these wolves never killed anybody, but they defrauded people of hundreds of millions of dollars and ruined countless lives just so they could roll like Caligula. They’re the scum of the earth. But in the end Belfort doesn’t get shot, or have to go into witness protection in Seattle where he doesn’t approve of the phad thai (Sir Mix-a-Lot didn’t seem to have a problem with it Henry Hill you fuckin whiner). He gets 22 months playing tennis and then (encouraged by his cellmate Tommy Chong, in for selling bongs!) writes the book the movie is based on, even gets to have a cameo. He’s a free man and still super rich, same with the real Donnie. Fuck those guys.

I kinda don’t even want to bring this up, but most of the reviews I’ve seen of this movie have been coming from a defensive position, because apparently some dumbasses who don’t understand movies have been saying that Scorsese means to glorify the degenerate predators whose horrible lives he’s depicting. It’s one of those things that is just so stupid and clearly incorrect that it’s too bad everybody with half a brain has to waste their time trying to spoon feed the basic self-evident facts to the people making this argument. What, did you need it to be called BAD STOCKBROKER? Calling the guy a wolf in the title was too ambiguous for you?

As much as I fear idiocracy I also believe that stupid opinions like that can fade away and be forgotten. For example remember all the knuckleheads who were convinced that STARSHIP TROOPERS was a pro-fascist movie? Or the ones who thought BATMAN FOREVER was really good? I do believe both were majority, conventional wisdom type opinions at one time. So don’t worry about it.

What I do think you can argue, though, is that it has an unintentional effect, like the way they say that you can’t make an anti-war movie because no matter what atrocities you show certain people are gonna think it’s awesome and high five each other and rewind it to watch it again. Or you can’t make SCARFACE without a bunch of famous rappers thinking it’s an inspirational Horatio Alger pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps type of tale. Without a doubt there will be some athletic-fit-suit-wearing motherfuckers who will see this as a great story about a lifestyle they should aspire to. But you know what, there are also people who jerk off to that My Little Pony show, so what are you gonna do? For normal, sane people this is an extremely well made movie that respects our intelligence enough to know that we will be against this behavior even if they don’t come out and make a speech at the end about how it’s wrong.

I refuse to cede great movies to the boneheads who need obvious shit to be explained to them. People who think that showing misogynistic characters being misogynistic means the movie is misogynistic. God forbid these people happen to see a movie about slavery or the Holocaust. Hey guys, there are plenty of simple movies we can enjoy together or that you can enjoy without me. If you can’t hang with THE WOLF OF WALL STREET or ZERO DARK THIRTY just don’t worry about it, it’s okay that there are ones that aren’t for you. Don’t try to take my movies from me. Go read an infographic.

If there’s anything to worry about it’s this shitbag Jordan Belfort gaining some kind of weird cultural legitimacy from  having a great movie made about him. I don’t mean that anybody would condone his crimes, but that he would be seen as this interesting person that people want to hear from now, like G. Gordon Liddy or Chopper Read or The Bishop Don Magic Juan. Of course I’m all for second chances, but nobody including him would tell you he got much of a punishment, and now his swindle is to teach people salesmanship. Hey suckers, you can learn how to lie and trick people just like I did! The movie knows he’s full of shit when he makes a bunch of people pay for the same dumb shit he said to his moronic low level drug dealer friends earlier in the movie, but the guy is a charmer, I’m sure he can still get people to believe it.

I do think that Jordan Belfort, celebrity is probly what’s gonna happen, a sad illustration of the point the movie makes. These people offended by WOLF would feel more comfortable if the bad guys clearly lost in the end (and if there was less butt stuff). But of course that would be bullshit – this guy did get away with it, these people do get away with it. The wolves eat the sheep and then they laugh about it and charge speaking fees. (That should be a good thing in Belfort’s case because half of it is supposed to go to restitution for his victims, but apparently the deadbeat hasn’t even paid most of that.) This self-aggrandizing asshole wrote a book about ha ha, I was such a rascal, can you believe how high I was? Ha ha. The salesman selling himself, pumping and dumping his own life. He knew he had a crazy story but he might not have fully understood what a symbol he was for a certain sickness that permeates our culture.

All we can do is remember not to fall for the Jordan Belfort pump and dump. The last thing we want is for more of these assholes to get away with it. It’s not a couple of bad apples, it’s a bad fuckin tree. So I’m glad there’s a hilarious roller coaster ride of a movie that shows them all for the depraved assholes that they really are.


VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Monday, December 30th, 2013 at 2:18 am and is filed under Comedy/Laffs, Crime, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

109 Responses to “The Wolf of Wall Street”

  1. I was going to see this, but I was kind of turned off by that letter by that daughter of one of the scumbags. Maybe she’s wrong.
    http://blogs.laweekly.com/informer/2013/12/wolf_of_wall_street_prousalis.php

    I did see AMERICAN HUSTLE though, which I thought sucked shit.

  2. I was thinking Bruce Campbell too. Pretty amazing physicality. Remember when I said how great he was in WHAT’S EATING GILBERT GRAPE and it took people years to realize it? Well, that was before you knew it but I saw it then.

    When McConoughey explains how you never let a customer cash out, I thought, “That’s what I always said. Why would they ever let you sell?” And stock people would tell me I’m being ignorant and they want to save me for throwing my money away. Turns out they knew that all along and hated that I was onto them.

    Thank you for keeping BATMAN FOREVER in perspective too. Never forget. Never forget.

  3. Wolf is the funniest and best movie I’ve seen all year. I actually enjoyed American Hustle, but Scorsese makes that film look like a graduate thesis project that has the pacing of a Bresson film. Wolf has such despicable yet hilarious characters. I can’t imagine a better time at the movies.

  4. The Original... Paul

    December 30th, 2013 at 6:06 am

    I cannot wait to see this movie. I just hope that I don’t have to go to the arts cinema to see it, because I don’t see previews of it in the multiplexes anywhere. It’s Scorcese / DiCaprio so it SHOULD come out somewhere near me. If it doesn’t, I may just have to start crying or something. I don’t want a repeat of early last year where literally every movie I saw reviews of from America that even looked halfway decent was missing our shores entirely.

  5. I can’t wait till the revolution comes and this assholes find themselves up against the wall (literally, as the case may be)

  6. Saw the letter from the investor’s daughter the other day, which made me torn between seeing the film now or later. Vern, you have convinced me: “For normal, sane people this is an extremely well made movie that respects our intelligence enough to know that we will be against this behavior even if they don’t come out and make a speech at the end about how it’s wrong.

    I refuse to cede great movies to the boneheads who need obvious shit to be explained to them. ” Indeed – hear hear!

  7. Can’t wait to see this. It sounds like classic Scorsese. I also saw American Hustle based of the trailers which looked great. That movie was completely disappointing and underwhelming. I kept thinking that I was watching a fake Scorsese movie. Time to watch the real thing

  8. You couldn’t pay me to watch this movie. (Well, actually you could, because I desperately need the money, unlike the rick fucks the movie is about. Please, somebody pay me to watch this movie. I work cheap.) I’m not stupid enough to think that Scorsese condones this behavior any more than he condones the mafia, and I’m not concerned with the callow douchebags who’ll see the movie as a how-to guide. I just don’t want to spend three hours of my life watching rich assholes have the time of their lives fucking the world over. I’m not interested in being entertained by that. It’s not a moral thing. It’s an aesthetic thing. I find this particular subject matter unpleasing to the eye.

  9. Yeah, I’m with you Majestyk.

    I’m glad to hear Jon Bernthal has a good performance. I just watched a mini series, or maybe it will be a recurring series, on cable starring him called Mob City. It’s very LA noir and he was excellent in it. His look and physical presence epitomized that kind of role – tough, gritty, beaten down, noir hero.

  10. Majestyk – “It’s an aesthetic thing”. But of course it is. No one is better at dropping you head-first into a characters world than Mr Scorsese. And it almost always is gonna provoke a response. The subject matter of Scorsese’s greatest films are usually about people who are fucked-up(TAXI DRIVER), and men who don’t understand their masculinity and destroy themselves and others(RAGING BULL).

    It’s not comforting to be confronted with these reflections of our own nature, but I think Scorsese is an HONEST story-teller. Maybe it IS a moral thing, otherwise we wouldn’t be so uncomfortable.

  11. I’m not really a Scorsese fan, to be honest. He’s clearly a great filmmaker but I don’t enjoy most of his films. They’re filled with amazing stuff but I generally start checking my watch around the hour mark. A friend of mine described them as “caloric,” and I think that’s accurate. I feel bloated when they’re over and never want to go back for seconds.

  12. The Original... Paul

    December 30th, 2013 at 11:09 am

    I can’t comment on Scorsese to any real extent. He’s one of those directors whose work I’ve seen way less than I probably should have. I’ve never watched “Raging Bull” or “Taxi Driver” – they were before my time, and I prefer to concentrate on new films unless I’ve got an overwhelming reason to look back at old ones. “The King of Comedy” and “The Departed” did nothing for me; and even though I’ve tried, I just can’t watch “Goodfellas” or “Casino” (for reasons that, again I will stress, have nothing to do with the quality of the films. Seriously, I can’t “do” mafia flicks. You might as well ask me to watch a glass box full of spiders for two hours.)

    The last Scorsese film I saw in the cinema was “Bringing out the Dead” (I never saw “Shutter Island either, sadly) and I thought it was pretty close to a masterpiece. To make a film that’s that depressing, but at the same time that gripping… and I don’t think I could even tell you why that was. I found it a fascinating, moving experience. It sure as heck isn’t for everybody and I know a few people who hated it. I didn’t.

  13. “But you know what, there are also people who jerk off to that My Little Pony show, so what are you gonna do?” Another perfect Vernism; funny, but it makes you think.

  14. I think Darren’s on point with the masculinity piece. Taxi Driver is great, though the Bernard Hermann score is very strange choice. Not sure its a bad one, just a weird one.

  15. I enjoyed this, and am glad Vern does too. To anyone offended by it, I’m of two minds about it. The first being that, even at 70 and especially after all the criticism of him going soft with some of the more left-of-center things he’s done that Martin is still capable of pulling out something like this and shocking people like he did with TAXI DRIVER. The second being that I see this film as kind of a dog whistle to those who are knowledgeable enough of Martin’s work, to know that this behavior is inherently wrong and fueling an evil that is ripping people away from their money.

    People are saying SCARFACE, but I think it’s more something like DR. STRANGELOVE. People had more of the same reaction to what we’re seeing now, that the possibility of nuclear annihilation wasn’t something to laugh at. For the Wall Street fuckers, things like WALL STREET and GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS was their SCARFACE. Michael Douglas was on Alec Baldwin’s podcast about a year ago and they talked about these drunk guys in suits yelling “greed is good” or lines from that great scene in GGR at them. This may happen again here, though. There’s certainly enough eye candy for them to jerk off too instead of thinking about what it’s really saying.

    Just because it seems to be popping up, I’ll cite COLOR OF MONEY as my favorite of Martin’s work.

  16. For the 10,000th time, I’m filmfanatistically aligned with our Bronsonian friend — not a huge Scorsese fan and won’t pay to see this in the theatre. For me, the “aesthetic thing” is Jonah Hill’s face. I can’t be in a dark room with that thing projected on a big screen, unless there’s a Tarantino movie involved and I didn’t know about Hill’s casting beforehand. His appeal and ability to get roles baffle me.

    But I’m here to praise “Go read an infographic,” a putdown that got me demoted at a job like 10 years ago.
    I was clever & mean enough to say it to someone’s face, but not clever enough to realize that our eavesdropping boss was clever enough to understand how mean it was.

  17. I dunno, guys, to sound a voice of dissent I don’t think it’s at all obvious that Scorsese is attempting to condemn his awful people in CASINO and GOODFELLAS and all that. I haven’t seen WOLF OF WALL STREET yet, but if it’s anything like his gangster movies I don’t really see a whole lot of condemnation there at all. It’s more like the criticism Lumet got (fairly, I’d say) for FIND ME GUILTY, a hugely entertaining movie about a guy charming his way out of a shoulda-been-obvious guilty verdict for… ah, murder.

    Since I am committed to excellence, I don’t think it’s fair to say that just because the film shows them to be bad guys, it’s actually being critical of them. In fact, I think Scorsese is at the very least equally impressed with them as he is repulsed by them. I suspect the same is true here; I think Scorsese, like Tarantino to some degree, is always more interested in a great story than he is in the messy aspects real life. Crime is a particularly cinematic thing to structure a story around, and often includes ballsy, clever and larger-than-life characters who we naturally like to watch on film, and hence sympathize with since it’s their perspective we’re following. Simply put: I don’t see the least bit of condemnation in Scorsese’s portrayal of his characters, and moreover I think there’s quite a bit of glorification which comes out of giving them a bunch of funny lines, cool poses, and hip presentation.

    I guess the question becomes, then, is that OK? and I guess my answer is that, yeah, it is. Just as the FRIDAY THE 13th movies clearly favor Jason, GOODFELLAS clearly makes the murderous gangsters into glamorous icons. And that’s OK, because it’s a movie, and a movie isn’t real life. I condone all kinds of behavior in a movie in the interest of being entertained and perhaps even indulging some of my own worst qualities a little. If a guy as good at making movies as Scorsese is able to put objectively despicable on screen and make me like them and identify with them, good on him, he did an awesome job. It’s our job to be able to separate the emotional truth of a movie from the actual truth in the real world. If some asshole doesn’t do that, it’s their fault for being an ignorant fucktard, not Scorsese’s fault for providing bad role models. He’s allowed to tell us a story as morally bankrupt as he desires, and if he gets us to side with it’s protagonists, well, then he must be doing a fuckin’ great job of telling that story. Every film is not a moral lesson, nor should it be. But let’s not go around pretending that his gangster movies are stinging indictments of that amoral lifestyle from which we all learned a bunch of valuable lessons about the dangers of organized crime.

  18. You lost me at “stupid opinions”, Vern. Any opinion is by its very nature subjective and biased, and cannot fairly be categorized as smart, stupid, or anything in between. Its only frame of reference is the person who has it.

    I’ve seen quite a few movies based on your recommendations (most recently, my new Man Of Tai Chi DVD arrived in today’s mail… hurray!), and while I was undecided about seeing WOWS, I think you just steered me away from it.

  19. Every new update that isn’t Ninja 2 makes me sad.

  20. I kinda loved it. It was hilarious and entertaining. Went with my 60 yr old mom and her younger sister on Christmas day, a good time had by all (my mom and aunt enjoyed it even more than I did).
    You can show something that happens. You know, like in the world. Doesn’t mean you’re glorifying it. Scorsese’s just really good. He’s reminding everybody: “I’m still here.”
    Essentially, this flick sold me a pen and it was pretty fucking awesome about it.

  21. Best comedy I’ve seen in years. Saw it twice. Already pre-ordered the DVD.

    The whole time-release quaaludes sequence deserves to go down in history as one of the all-time great pieces of physical comedy in film.

  22. Larry: Shame on Spielberg for condoning the Holocaust in SCHINDLER’S LIST. PEE-WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE is much too grim and serious. I didn’t buy there being a Robocop, that’s just too fakey. They still haven’t proven that the world is round.Those would be stupid opinions. I don’t mean to be elitist, but at some point you gotta draw a line about which opinions are worth taking the time to address, and I think it’s time we as a society stopped babying the weiners who think the sky is falling every time they accidentally see a movie that wasn’t made for them. That’s all.

  23. Vern— The world *isn’t* round… it’s spherical. Three-dimensional.

    Illinois— Ninja 2’s already out on DVD (Redbox rental, at any rate). It ain’t all that & a bag o’ chips, but it’s a slight improvement over the original. I’m still holding out hope for a possible Undisputed 4.

  24. The Original... Paul

    December 30th, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    Ok… is it just me or is a trend emerging here?

    People who haven’t seen the film: “I don’t think this film is for me.”

    People who HAVE seen the film: “Best comedy in years”.

    I mean, I have some sympathy with Mouth and Majestyk here because I also have gotten very little from several of Scorsese’s films; but on the other hand, that’s a very small fraction of the fifty-plus films that he’s directed. And look, every single one of Soderbergh’s films that I’ve seen has left me “cold” but I still went and saw “Haywire” and “Contagion” last year. What I’m saying is that I’m not assuming that just because the guy’s name is on the film, it’s gonna be crap. Hell, just about the only director I’d have to say that about would be Michael Bay, and even HE’S directed films that I’ve enjoyed to some degree.

    And when I dismissed Jet Li, you guys (justifiably) pointed out that I hadn’t seen the right Jet Li films. I’m just sayin’, you guys seem to be dismissing something that’s received pretty much universal acclaim (which is pretty damn rare, especially here) for reasons that are just as spurious as the ones I used then. I’m not talking specifically about not wanting to, as Majestyk puts it, “spend three hours of my life watching rich assholes have the time of their lives fucking the world over.” Hell, I pretty much find any mafia film, no matter how good, unwatchable, and that includes at least two of Mr Scorsese’s films; I can respect a point of view like that. I’m specifically talking about this:

    “I’m not really a Scorsese fan, to be honest. He’s clearly a great filmmaker but I don’t enjoy most of his films. They’re filled with amazing stuff but I generally start checking my watch around the hour mark. A friend of mine described them as “caloric,” and I think that’s accurate. I feel bloated when they’re over and never want to go back for seconds.”

    But aren’t Vern, Andrei and Onthewall all pretty much saying that this ISN’T how they feel about this latest film? I’m not saying you’d like it (opinions are subjective and differ from person to person, etc), just pointing out that you seem to have this idea in your head about how you’d find this particular film that nobody who’s actually seen it is agreeing with.

  25. Larry-

    A sphere is round smart guy.

    source:
    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sphere

  26. @Chopper, it’s extremely messed up what that woman (and her family) had to go through, but I don’t think she should discourage people from seeing the movie. The trailers are misleading and make it look like a huge frat party in thousand-dollar suits, which couldn’t be further from the truth. If anything, people should watch it so they could see for themselves what a slimy douchebag Jordan Belfort is.

  27. Guess who’s shopping a reality TV series?

    “The Hollywood Reporter scoops that Belfort has teamed up with Electus CEO Chris Grant to pitch “an uplifting show that sees Belfort, now 51, stepping in to help others who, like him, have hit rock bottom but still hold out some hope for redemption.” Translation: this series, if sold, will not feature any of the lude-lubricated antics featuring yachts, helicopters, prostitutes, and reckless immorality that Scorsese’s film, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Belfort, featured. It could, however, feature the reformed Wolf of Wall Street unraveling his epic yarns as cautionary tales.”

    http://www.vanityfair.com/online/oscars/2013/12/wolf-of-wall-street-jordan-belfort-reality-show

  28. I regret my previous posts. The “I’m not going to see the movie you just made a great case for because of weird reasons of my own” post adds nothing to the discussion. I apologize for distracting from people who have actually seen the movie and thus have opinions worth reading.

  29. Darwin-

    If a sphere is round…
    and a circle is also round…
    is a circle a sphere?

    No, it is not.

    Paul— Excellent point about the chasm between those who’ve seen the movie, and those who haven’t and are maybe skittish about it. That’s what’s gonna kill WOWS from having long legs and making any kind of a profit. Maybe it *is* a full-on laugh riot that’s also making a valid statement about how thoroughly these guys were scumbags, but you’d never know it from the trailer or the TV spots.

  30. According to google:

    Round (adjective)
    1. shaped like or approximately like a circle or cylinder.
    2. shaped like or approximately like a sphere.

    Hope that helps!

  31. I would be very surprised if the woman who wrote that open letter had seen WOLF OF WALL STREET when she wrote it. It doesn’t sound like she did, and if she did she obviously went in planning for it to be a certain thing and then convinced herself that’s what it was even though it wasn’t even close. It’s too bad because it sounds like she could tell an interesting story about what she went through, instead she makes an idiotic anti-movie argument and promises the interesting part in an upcoming memoir. Note also how she throws in a weird plug for BLUE JASMINE and calls screenwriter Terence Winter “Terry” like she’s some Hollywood insider douchebag.

  32. Actually, I kind of get where you’re coming from in your original post. I feel roughly the same about the show MAD MEN, but more because I’m kind of bored with the premise than I am offended by it. Plus, three hours for some is a real chore to get through. Don’t get me wrong I love the movie, but I’m not feeling up to seeing it again right away.

  33. ^ was directed at Mr. M.

  34. The real shame is how much of a shitstorm this movie will kick up about glorifying bad behavior, but, as Vern alludes to, not much of a peep from the guardians of morality about the same kind of assholes continue with the same bad behavior in this movie, right now, on Wall Street.

    Symbolism in art requires high holy indignation, but real life abuse requires no comment?

  35. Skani – I reckon Bernard Hermanns score for TAXI DRIVER is one of the best scores in cinema. Every time I think about TD the score comes right back to haunt me.

    I like Scorsese’s music choices. If he makes a contemporary film like TD or CAPE FEAR he usually has a classical score, and when he makes a period piece like GOODFELLAS or CASINO he uses contemporary decade-appropriate pop and rock music.

  36. BR Baraka: The double standard is just as much an American pastime as baseball, apple pie and grandma. There’s really no clear parallel to that other current non-controversy with the DUCK DYNASTY folks, but it’s interesting that people are making a big deal out of these things while kind of ignoring the nasty truths underneath.

  37. One thing worth considering here in the “controversy” surrounding the film. Unlike slavery, or the Holocaust, the kind of stuff depicted in the Wolf of Wall Street, is still happening. I read this piece about a screening they did in New York’s financial district where they were cheering, hooting and hollering at every fucked up thing the characters do in this movie. At the end of the day the guys who committed fraud on a massive level triggering the 2008 crash got away with everything and are more or less the winners of today. When people protested it, they were thrown in jail by the thousands. Not a single banker has gone to jail. I’m not saying that we should blame Scorsese for this, but I can understand why people would still be kind of sore about having their nose rubbed in it.

  38. Darren, obviously, I’m still on the fence re: the score. It certainly crawls into your brain, and I have to think that a recut with a different score would radically change the experience. It seems weirdly incongruous with the subject matter and early on “takes me out of the film” (that expression is becoming a cliche, I realize). It seems like it would be the score for a silent softcore girl-on-girl film if there were such a thing. I do like that it’s weird.

    Also, a sphere is a triangle. And all triangles are boats. It’s science.

  39. In the spirit of stating random personal reactions a la MM (which I think can add to the conversation sometimes), I find Leo so viscerally abrasive that it’s hard to get excited about anything with him in it, though I did really get into the Aviator and thought he was solid in Django. I accept the fact that he is a very talented actor, but something about his reputation and then his sort of early, unmerited canonization as the great actor of his generation that left me with a chip on my shoulder about him that I’ve never shaken off. There are any number of other actors from his generation that are just as or more talented, and his performances seem to be largely driven by affectation or histrionics. These kinds of things that people can point to as “acting!!” (SNL Jon Lovitz voice). I think it’s the same reason why Heath Ledger as Joker (a great performance, don’t get me wrong) is so memorable: because it’s a very broad performance full of ornamentation and affectation. That performance is always going to score more attention than a more subdued performance. My point is that I think people often mistake quirky affectation or exaggerated physicality for “acting!!” Same thing happens with Daniel Day Lewis. Memorable roles playing very eccentric, larger than life people with quirky mannerisms = “best actor of his generation.” I’m being a bit hyperbolic here, but I think there’s something in it.

  40. I know it’s not the most popular opinion here, but I really liked THE DEPARTED and that was mostly due to DiCaprio’s performance. I thought his performance in that was understated and nuanced. I felt that he truly captured the tension and slow-boil of being undercover and living that double life. I was really impressed with him, but I know a lot of people here did not like that movie. I only saw it once, way back when it was in the theater, so maybe on a 2nd viewing I would see what people are talking about.

  41. I thought Departed was good. It’s not that I think Leo is a bad actor (he is good, and most of his films are good), but in the annals of film and Hollywood, he seems to exist in this rarefied A-list within the A-list as the great dramatic actor of his time. I think he is a fine or very good actor who is good, but I don’t get the mystique or what sets him apart from the other good actors of his generation. Basically, it comes down to a Trading Places argument: if you gave the same roles and directors to a Jason Bateman, i think he’d do every bit as good or better.

  42. The Original... Paul

    December 31st, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    Darren:

    “I reckon Bernard Hermanns score for TAXI DRIVER is one of the best scores in cinema. Every time I think about TD the score comes right back to haunt me. ”

    Remember how I said I need a reason to see an old movie, even one with the kind of reputation that “Taxi Driver” has? Ok, now I’m sold. Good job!

  43. This movie is basically Caligula 2000. And I mean that in the best possible way. It’s full-on hedonism, debauchery, and raunchiness. But it’s also Scorsese firing on all cylinders again. Easily his best film since Casino. See it for the gratuitous sleaze or to see a master showman at work. Either way, you won’t be disappointed.

  44. Good points, insert name here. The thing you describe about the screening in the financial district reminds me of the scene in JARHEAD where the soldiers are rowdily enjoying a screening of APOCALYPSE NOW. I don’t think you could really avoid that telling a story like this. But I think for most people watching you’re left angry that these fuckers got away with it. You’re laughing, but bitterly so, that’s why the comparison somebody made above to DR. STRANGELOVE makes sense.

    Like I said in the review I do think there will be people from that world who think this guy is awesome and aspire to be like him. And probly won’t pull it off, at least not to the point of having the yacht with the helicopter on top. I think there will be alot more people who will have this movie in their mind as their image of what stockbrokers are like, and will be more cautious if they deal with them.

  45. A few brought it up already, but I actually quite enjoyed AMERICAN HUSTLE. But please, can we try to maybe avoid the whole shitting-on-each-movie that partisans for both AH and WOWS seem to do at every other fucking movie forum/website I frequent? It’s obnoxious and boring. I really liked both films, I might give the edge to WOWS because I thought it had a dash of art and something thoughtful to say about our fucked up world while AH was like THE DEPARTED, a terrific entertainment with great performances by the leads.

    Poor AH might be screwed because its being hyped up as a major Oscar player and well, I think its proponents are incredibly overselling it and that might come back to bite it in the ass with people going into the theater with that expectations for greatness in mind and it’ll come up short for them.

  46. Skani – “It seems like it would be a score for a silent softcore girl-on-girl film”. Do you have one of these films and can I borrow it?

    But seriously…I agree a different score would alter the feel of the film. The way 70’s New York was depicted seemed like a vision of hell. The sleaze, the grindhouse, the porn theatres, the pimps, the whores.

    The score was a nice juxtaposition, seeming to glide above the filth yet tinging it with the desperation of Travis Bickles daily existence. Perfect I think.

  47. Chopper Sullivan

    January 1st, 2014 at 1:44 am

    I think you’re right, RRA. I saw the trailers for AMERICAN HUSTLE and thought it would be an ok caper movie with some ridiculous wigs, pretty girls, and some cheesy 70’s nostalgia crap. Then I read how amazingly entertaining it was and holy shit Oscars and whatnot and ended up hating it. In retrospect, it’s not worthy of hate, it’s just not great. Although, I don’t think I’ve seen a great movie yet this year, so I might have to suck it up and give WOLF OF WALL STREET a chance.

  48. Paul – Like you, I thought BRINGING OUT THE DEAD was great. If you do see TAXI DRIVER you might notice some similarities. Both protagonists, DeNiro the taxi driver and Nic Cage the ambulance driver, travel through a hellish New York in their vehicles, dealing with the worst of humanity and their own demons.

    BOTD may be one of Scorsese’s least praised or discussed films but it’s a gem.

    I gotta say that Paul Schrader, who wrote both these films and RAGING BULL, really knows a thing or two about the dilemma of male isolation and damaged masculinity. And Schrader is a great director in his own right. Check out his AFFLICTION with James Coburn and Nick Nolte as a father and son who struggle with generational violence and alcoholism. Grim but powerful stuff.

  49. ‘Early in the movie he even crash-lands a small aircraft and stumbles away, as if he’s doing callbacks to THE AVIATOR. He should do that in all his movies, it could be his “I’ll be back.”’

    This gave me a giggle fit.

  50. Darren, it’s a good observation about the score’s contrast with the overall milieu. Will have to give it another viewing.

    Also, Afliction was dope.

  51. This is the funniest movie I saw in 2013. Also surprisingly perhaps the ugliest Scorsese film in terms of tone and content. My favorite of his since CASINO.

  52. Not sure how to go about putting forth an opinion that’s already been so harshly disparaged in the review, but I just don’t understand how anyone could act as if the film doesn’t glorify these assholes. Was there a better kinetic cinematic experience to be had at the movies this year? It’s RIDICULOUSLY fun to watch these guys’s shenanigans. The movie revels in it, luxuriates in it, and the audience is along for the ride. Of course the film doesn’t invent some fictitious legal consequence for Belfort, but neither does it show anything as minor as a fucking hangover without playing it up as another mythic opportunity for debauchery or badge of achievement (eg waking up tied to the chair by the airplane’s captain).

    I’m not saying Scorcese approves of Belfort, but this is not a “look how self-evidently shit headed these guys are” movie. I went home from the movie struggling to reconcile Scorcese’s anti-unrestrained-capitalism-and-greed position he’s espoused in interviews surrounding the film with the movie I saw; I mean why choose to make the film as a vehicle for that position? (or is he just clarifying his position tangentially, because he knows the film doesn’t?)

    The best I can do is: it’s a “deep down you are just a greedy asshole too” movie. It’s the old Funny Games trick: if you had a good time, you’re part of the problem. You go into the movie thinking you’d be willing to settle for the depressing subway ride that is the FBI agent’s reward for doing the right thing, and hopefully you still think that when the movie’s over, although maybe you’re one of the people on the edge of their seat wanting to discover how to sell a pen.

    There’s a WORLD of difference between the bleak, unglamorized portrayal of being a criminal in The Departed (a bunch of old guys sitting around dirty warehouses waiting for the next chance to maybe get killed or busted) vs being a criminal in Wolf of Wall Street or Goodfellas.

  53. Honestly, I think the best way to make a film that un-glamorizes anything is not at all. Someone is always going to find a diamond in a pile of shit, that’s human nature. Maybe that’s what Martin knows now, as opposed to when he made TAXI DRIVER and couldn’t forsee nuts like John Hinckley citing it as inspiration to shoot Reagan.

  54. Skani, Leo’s has done a lot of low-key stuff. To say that he only chooses showman roles is very inaccurate. Besides, he’s extremely versatile.

    Sure, people pay a lot more attention to him, than your comparison, Jason Bateman. Bateman is a good actor, but he lacks versatility, natural charisma and screen presence. That’s why he will never be a major star. Some people have “it”, some don’t. Because DiCaprio has “it”, even roles that don’t have great writing, suddenly became more impressive.

    But regardless, you have fallen victim to your own preconceived notions, like you pretty much admitted. The worldwide adoration that DiCaprio has, bugs you. But the problem isn’t in DiCaprio. You are just too worried about what other people think. Life will get much easier, when you stop worrying about the opinions of others.

    When you watch an actor, you should just watch an actor, and his character. Forget about everything else.

  55. “Not sure how to go about putting forth an opinion that’s already been so harshly disparaged in the review, but I just don’t understand how anyone could act as if the film doesn’t glorify these assholes.”

    The film admits that degenerate assholes can be funny and entertaining. But it also makes them look like animals and vulgar idiots. Comparing it to e.g., GOODFELLAS is instructive because then you notice all the little things he did in GOODFELLAS that explores the humanity of wiseguys, and how in WOLF OF WALL STREET he explicitly denies them that. It seemed clear to me just through watching the film that he despises these reptiles, whereas he has a more complicated fascination with wiseguys. But he also sees no need for overt moralizing when he can just give them enough rope. Look at the scene between Belfort and Agent Denham on the yacht – Belfort is a moron who thinks he’s a Machiavelli. The movie doesn’t let us see these guys as savvy badasses (ie. how they probably thought of themselves), they’re mostly deluded clowns and slack-jawed degenerates. Look at the reaction shots of the brokers whenever Jordan gives them a speech, we only get to see them making hideous faces and bellowing like overgrown children. Look at the sequence where Jordan essentially commits marital rape, then beats his wife, then snorts a mountain of coke and almost kills his kid in a car accident. Scorsese observes this guy with less fondness than he did Jake La Motta, and people often say that they can’t stand RAGING BULL because of what an unlikable cretin La Motta is. Glenn Kenny goes into it pretty well here: http://somecamerunning.typepad.com/some_came_running/2013/12/the-wolf-of-wall-street.html

  56. I don’t see the it factor with DiCaprio, but clearly i’m in the minority, so will drop it.But not without some parting shots. :-) I think his performances are solid, interesting, often hammy. I think he lacks gravitas, and the hammier performances seem more pretensions of grandeur than Nic Cage fun, balls-out mega acting. For range and charisma, he is no better than Will Ferrell or Steve Carrell, and I’m at least 90% serious. Also, don’t underestimate Bateman: i think he is charismatic as hell in dodgeball and I’m 87% serious. He’s just been typecast as uptight guy.

    I will say that I really appreciate the way DiCaprio challenges himself.

  57. Skani – A while ago I aired a few grievances over on THE DEPARTED thread and one of them was about DiCaprios acting. I hate ragging on actors who put themselves out there for the world to see, cause who am I right? My laptop is my stage and my words are my expression. You can call me out on my opinions and thoughts but I’m not gonna lose any sleep over the criticism.

    Anyway I think Dicaprio sometimes bites off more than he can chew acting wise, and when he’s out of his depth he can go over the top and shout a lot, which makes me cringe. Why? I don’t know, that’s just how I feel when I’m watching it happen.

    My first impressions of great acting were when I saw Pacino in THE GODFATHER, DeNiro in THE DEER HUNTER, Brando in ON THE WATERFRONT. All actors with talent, presence, charisma. No mega-acting, even Pacino in the Godfathers had yet to become the exuberant fellow hoo-hah-ing his way through roles in the 90’s, but by that stage he maybe had earned the right to go over the top. He had matured. DiCaprio may still be a bit wet behind the ears is all I’m saying. Time will tell.

  58. Skani – A while ago I aired a few grievances over on THE DEPARTED thread and one of them was about DiCaprios acting. I hate ragging on actors who put themselves out there for the world to see, cause who am I right? My laptop is my stage and my words are my expression. You can call me out on my opinions and thoughts but I’m not gonna lose any sleep over the criticism.

    Anyway I think Dicaprio sometimes bites off more than he can chew acting wise, and when he’s out of his depth he can go over the top and shout a lot, which makes me cringe. Why? I don’t know, that’s just how I feel when I’m watching it happen.

    My first impressions of great acting were when I saw Pacino in THE GODFATHER, DeNiro in THE DEER HUNTER, Brando in ON THE WATERFRONT. All actors with talent, presence, charisma. No mega-acting, even Pacino in the Godfathers had yet to become the exuberant fellow hoo-hah-ing his way through roles in the 90’s, but by that stage he maybe had earned the right to go over the top. He had matured. DiCaprio may still be a bit wet behind the ears is all I’m saying. Time will tell.

  59. sensitive fuckin mouse pad

  60. renfield – I meant my harsh disparagement for the people who claim that the movie sides with Belfort. If you think the movie accidentally glamourizes him that’s not too different from things I brought up in the review myself. But if I can reuse a line I wrote on Twitter, I think some of the movie’s denouncers are looking at ROBOCOP and asking for ROBOCOP 3. They assume that they, as superior beings, can watch the movie and see that the behavior on display is horrible, but most people, being idiots, won’t understand that. So they want some good guys to come on to explain to us dummies that yes, it is wrong to bilk innocent people for all their money and flip them off and then punch your wife in the stomach and get high and almost kill your daughter. Like the rebels in ROBOCOP 3 who make it clear that this inhumane corporate run dystopia is a bad place.

    To me, this type of story usually works better if it dunks you in head first. Imagine if AMERICAN PSYCHO had to go out of its way to make sure we understood that we weren’t supposed to side with Patrick Bateman. It’s like, I liked BOYZ N THE HOOD, but MENACE II SOCIETY was better, and it didn’t feel it had to write “STOP THE VIOLENCE, INCREASE THE PEACE” on the screen at the end. It knew we were on the same page without throwing slogans at us.

  61. The best I can do is: it’s a “deep down you are just a greedy asshole too” movie.

    This is definitely part of it. The movie ends with a shot of the audience that just paid money to hear Belfort teach them how he did it and how they can do it too. I think this is totally meant to turn his success and lack of punishment (and his industry’s) back on us and our culture. It also reminds me of the end Taxi Driver and especially of The King of Comedy- in all three cases (though in Bickle’s case it might be in his head), the crimes these guys commit directly lead to positive attention if not outright adulation.

  62. Darren, all solid points. Equilibrium! :-)

  63. Well regarding that woman who wrote that letter to Leo/Marty shaming them for making WOWS that some of you were perturbed by…well her father wrote his own public letter that more or less shits all over her complaining.

    http://elitedaily.com/news/world/the-father-of-the-girl-who-wrote-an-open-letter-to-the-makers-of-wolf-of-wall-street-has-his-own-response-and-its-epic/

  64. What I think (or rather, intuit… since I’ve yet to see it) is that, much like Goodfellas, Scorcese spends a good portion of the movie (the first two acts?) marginally glamorizing these stockbroker leeches and condemning their behavior, both at the same time. Then (perhaps) it all abruptly turns toward condemnation (in Goodfellas, the demarcation point is the murder of Joe Pesci’s character), and he finally makes up his mind/decides upon an artistic sensibility? I’m merely supposing here.

    That approach worked brilliantly in Goodfellas, perhaps because the machinations of the Mafia are so far removed from the normal life of the average person. Replace mobsters with stockbrokers, and then that gray area he’s striving for dissipates and quickly vanishes. Which is maybe why it’s not fully connecting with audiences; familiarity breeds contempt, not fascination.

  65. SO, I finally saw this one. Ridiculously entertaining most of the way through, but peters out at the end for what I think is it’s one fatal flaw: Jordan Belfort isn’t just a profoundly unappealing person, he’s also a pretty uninteresting one. He’s just a shallow, selfish asshole, there’s nothing really interesting about him at all when he’s not being a cartoonish parody. Seeing him [spoiler] get divorced, clean up, rat out his friends… there’s just not much interesting drama here simply because he’s such a shallow bore. He’s not really conflicted or anything, and his relationships are all so superficial, who really cares what happens to them? Suddenly we’re supposed to think he cares about his daughter? Not buying, not interested.

    It’s a wildly fun film almost all the way through, but once the hilarious excess dries up towards the end, I feel like the film really suffers from not having anything interesting to say about the phenomenon it’s presenting, and especially about the greedy prick at it’s center. Denham has an interesting line about how Belfort, unlike most of the Wall Street pricks he busts, didn’t come from a long line of assholes, he seemed to come by it all by himself. But why? What kind of person does it take to turn into this sort of monster? The movie either isn’t interested in exploring this, or –and I think this is more likely– the answer is that he’s just a shallow, vain idiot who just happened to be shameless enough to succeed in greed. And uh, what’s the point in watching someone like that after they’ve ceased to do the ridiculous things that originally endeared them to us?

  66. Vern, I definitely agree that it wasn’t in the movie’s interest to pull the sort of shit you’re suggesting it might have. I read a strange comment in another review that seems related to the discussion:

    “For much of the running time, it’s hard to say what Scorsese thinks of Belfort’s schemes … The Wolf of Wall Street is most leaden, in fact, when that morality is most obvious, as in an unconscionably long take that surveys Belfort and gonzo number two Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) as they hold a straight-faced conference on the relative humanity or inhumanity of dwarves, a scene too clearly designed to first court our ostensible fondness for the physical comedy of disabled bodies, then to slap us on the wrist for it, as though we’re as bad as Azoff.” -http://www.filmfreakcentral.net/ffc/2013/12/the-wolf-of-wall-street.html

    It’s a strange comment for a few reasons. I’m not sure if I’m accept his allegations that I have an “ostensible fondness” for ridiculing dwarfs, and it’s a weird scene to cherry pick compared to, say, the scene where he first demos his “how to scam rich guys” script and shows how much contempt he has for the people he’s swindling. But his bottom line is that the movie doesn’t need to beat us over the head with its moral stance. And I would argue that it doesn’t.

    I think that’s fine but I still feel like the movie had an interesting relationship with its subject. This year we had at least three movie-length montages of debauchery and excess: The Bling Ring is the most sympathetic, directed by fellow “rich bitch” Sofia and going out of its way to earn sympathy for its comparatively self-aware, genuinely remorseful main character. Nobody can agree on what Spring Breakers thinks about the lifestyle it portray: is it genuinely euphoric or some hellish nightmare? And this Wall Street movie is about grown men who oughtta know better I guess, but it still seems like this sticky gray area in which the audience is somewhat complicit just by virtue of the fact that they go along for the ride for three hours.

  67. The Original... Paul

    January 7th, 2014 at 5:06 pm

    January 17th. That’s when this movie comes out over here. And I probably won’t be able to actually see it until a week or two later. Fuuuuuck.

  68. I hear ya Paul…Jan 23rd in Sydney…

  69. That’s okay Paul none of us have gotten to see In A World yet…

  70. The Original... Paul

    January 8th, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    Renfield – wow, really? It’s an American film about the inner-workings of Hollywood, you’d think it’d be on limited release in America long before it got to the arts cinemas over here.

    Did you guys ever get to see Jennifer Lynch’s “Chained”, starring Vincent D’Onofrio and Eamon Farren? (That was the film I saw a premiere of at Aberfest at the end of 2011.) It shares a lot of plot similarities – although thematic differences – with “Bereavement”. I’m interested because I would’ve thought that would’ve gotten more attention than it did. Other than the absolutely lousy last ten minutes, it was an excellent and gripping film. It was due to be released last year.

  71. Jeezis, Vern. “Hilarious rollercoaster ride?” WTF, man.
    I don’t compare American Hustle to Wolf of Wall Street. WWS is not even on my radar, because the trailer really put me off of it. Of course I can overlook an inept trailer, but seriously, WWS has the dumbest trailer I’ve ever seen. I don’t mean dumb like a little kid says “that’s dumb”, I mean that the mentality that assembled that trailer is just dumb. The slapsticky, Porky’s feel to it, the “Look at Matthew McConnahey’s hair! He’s OUTRAGEOUS!” vibe, the ostentatious forced “wheelin’ and dealin”, it just looks loud and boring. And above all, it looks entirely predictable. I expect no surprises. Dumb title, dumb trailer, dumb movie. I’ll pass.HBO has already run this kind of thing into the ground with their boring movies, like “Casino Jack” that had Kevin Spacey as corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff. At this point, who cares about retroactively watching these people steal our money? I already know they blew it all and had a great time. I don’t need to see them acting wild with their bimboes and drugs.
    Every snippet, every SECOND of the WWS trailer actively pushes me away from that movie. Marty is clearly in bad company with whoever assembled that thing for him. So, FK LEO, FK Jonah, FK McConnahey, FK Marty and his GDDM Uncle Junior glasses. And I say that with love, as a guy who was once a wide-eyed high-school junior sitting in an empty theater watching Goodfellas on it’s opening weekend. FK Jordan Belfort and his friends, and again, FK Marty for wasting his time and mine. FK WWS.And that’s just my reaction from the TRAILER. Whoever pushed that pile of crap together should never work again, ever.Now you, Vern, I don’t know about you these days. Gushing over this thing and The Counselor while giving only tepid applause to the amazing American Hustle, and then you’re gonna bust out “hilarious rollercoaster ride” on me. ugh. Did anyone somehow NOT know that rich people on Wall Street are depraved a$$holes? How is this news? HOW?
    Am I talking about a movie I haven’t seen? Not really. I’m talking about why I have no interest in seeing it. The trailer was so obnoxious… I don’t hang around corrupt, obnoxious people who stole money, so why would I want to spend 2+ hours watching them having fun? They are FAR less appealing than the gangsters of Goodfellas and Casino. You watch gangsters, and it’s like watching your friends, except that they get to do the things your friends can’t. Watching Wall Street is just watching the mechanism that’s eating you alive.

  72. What the hell did I just read?

  73. The Original... Paul

    January 10th, 2014 at 6:45 am

    Thomas C – in all fairness, if everyone felt like that, there’d have been no films about Nazis made during World War 2.

    A week to go until I actually get the chance to see this thing.

  74. The Original... Paul

    January 10th, 2014 at 6:46 am

    And yes, I include the predictability AND the bad hair in that assessment. (Anybody see any of the Nazi villains in those old war flicks? You’d believe that half of the German army wore comb-overs.)

  75. Good grief— I make a couple of polite, measured objections about WOWS, and get swatted like a retarded kid who just asked the teacher what time lunch is. Thomas Caniglia rips the movie & Vern a new one, and not a peep.

    No double standard around here, huh Vern? I’m not upset, just pointing it out.

    Well done, Thomas… your candor is a breath of fresh air on the website. There’s too much “Kneel Before Zod” supplication around here as it is, so it’s heartening to read someone with the the stones to comment with such defiance.

  76. Thomas – you’re pretty worked up about a great trailer for a great movie that you don’t want to see. And I liked AMERICAN HUSTLE quite a bit. I’m just being honest that it’s not a great movie like this one that you haven’t seen that you hate. Maybe if I knew what it was that was really upsetting you we could talk about that but I really have no clue. Hope you work it out though.

  77. Amazing Larry, It’s not that people are being hard on you, it’s that people know better than to pay too much attention to me when I get riled up, which is for the best. That’s in real life, I don’t know how people here knew that, but more power to ’em.
    Anyway, I wasn’t trying to rip into Vern, he’s the only movie critic I like-am interested in hearing what he has to say-take seriously. I’m just confused that he’s been giving some pretty bad things a pass lately. I mean, The Counselor is like the new Heaven’s Gate, and also the new Leonard Part 6.

    Vern, what upsets me is that gddm trailer. I have never seen anything that cluelessly bad in my life, and I’ve seen Death Bed: The Bed that Eats People. I don’t know who the hell that thing was for. I can’t imagine a reasonable person watching the WWS trailer and thinking, “Yeah, those people deserve to live…” by which I mean the people that made the trailer, not the movie characters.

  78. “I mean, The Counselor is like the new Heaven’s Gate.”

    Thomas – In what way?

  79. I thought it was a great trailer. It gives you an idea of the style and tone of the movie without giving away much in the way of plot or dialogue (or even music) and also it’s different from the 3 or 4 templates most other trailers playing around it followed. But who cares. I’m not sure why it irritated you so much but that’s fine, it’s just a trailer. The movie came out, you don’t have to see it anymore.

    As for THE COUNSELOR, I think I did a decent job of explaining why I liked it and why alot of people wouldn’t. Why is it offensive if I disagree with the majority sometimes? When I do I think it’s more worth my time sticking up for an unpopular movie than trying to shoot down a popular one. Come to think of it that’s sort of my thing, isn’t it? I didn’t see alot of respect flying in Steven Seagal’s direction when I started writing that book. Or DTV action when I started writing about my love for it. If I enjoy something I try to share that joy with people, especially if it’s something that most people look down on.

    And it’s funny that you compare it to HEAVEN’S GATE. I still haven’t seen that one, but over the years its reputation has changed from unmitigated disaster to misunderstood masterpiece. In fact it has a Criterion Edition now.

    I don’t think that will happen with THE COUNSELOR. It’s clearly not designed to appeal to most people. I’m not at all surprised that you and others hate it, but I liked it, for reasons I wrote about at length. I know you don’t mean it as an insult but when I spend as much time as I do explaining in detail the many things that I find interesting about a movie and it gets summed up as “giving it a pass” it feels like kind of a “fuck you.” It implies that my ideas, arguments and articulation are meaningless, all you care about is if I say “yay” and “nay” to the same movies as you. Or in this case to the same movie that you theorize you would if you were to watch it, which you wouldn’t do.

    THE COUNSELOR is a weird one, I tried to explain what I liked but I don’t think I’d try to sell most normal people on it. I would put up more of a fight defending THE LONE RANGER though. Is that a HEAVEN’S GATE?

  80. As an aside – I wouldn’t say that Death Bed: The Bed That Eats People is cluelessly bad – the filmmaker seemed to have made the movie he set out to make, which is literate, offbeat, and original despite the limitations of the low budget and actors. There’s lots of intentionally hilarious moments amid the poetry. There’s a great interview with the director in Nightmare USA. I would recommend the movie to anyone looking for an original ‘horror’ film –

  81. Sorry, it just bothers me sometimes when one-of-a-kind, creative movies are called things like ‘cluelessly bad’, seemingly because of their budget or unorthodox style. I can understand someone who watches more mainstream or glossy stuff thinking that a low budget, regional movie from the 70s is ‘bad’, that’s fine, but ‘clueless’ NO

  82. To most people (not talking about anyone here), “bad” and “clueless” are the same thing. If you’re not making your movie slick and seamless like a studio product, then you’re doing it “wrong,” and the only reason you would do that is because you didn’t know how to do it “right.”

  83. The Original... Paul

    January 11th, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    Wait… there’s a film called “Death Bed: The Bed that Eats People”? And it exists?

    WHY have I not been given this information before – in fact, why haven’t I been given it years ago? Honestly, you guys, you all dropped the ball on this one.

    As an aside – I find it genuinely freakin’ hilarious when you can talk about “Death Bed” in a thread about a Martin Scorsese film, and it’s barely off-topic.

    Six days until WoWS opens in the UK. But I don’t know when I’m going to get a chance to see it after that… hopefully soon.

  84. There are actually two films called DEATH BED. Stuart Gordon produced a sorta remake in 2002.

  85. The Original... Paul

    January 16th, 2014 at 8:42 am

    Well WoWS opens tomorrow. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the person I was going to see it with has dropped out. The other good news is that now I can go see it a lot sooner.

    As, as per usual when UK release schedules are concerned, I get to join the vibrant interesting discussion on this film about three weeks after it’s ended. Woo.

  86. …And it’s really, really good. If anybody still cares.

  87. I care, Paul. It opens here in the Antipodean colonies tomorrow. We are brothers in tardy film releases.

  88. Me too Paul, opens in Sydney tomorrow. Group hug…

  89. Enjoy the movie you guys.

  90. I watched this movie about two weeks ago and I still can’t decide what I think about it. It’s a good movie, no doubt. Well made and acted, but personally I think I maybe lukewarm to it at best.

    When I first saw the trailer, I was underwhelmed and disappointed. It looked like Boiler Room but with a more expensive cast and production. After I saw it, I think that impression and comparison is fair. Personally, I think BR is a much better movie both in its entertainment value and its discussion about that type of lifestyle.

    WWS doesn’t need a procedural on how to swindle people or be an indictment of Wall Street to be a good movie but I’m still not sure why the movie was made. I heard that someone said it is supposed to immerse you in that lifestyle to make you feel how intoxicating it is. Thus the reason for not showing any of the ramifications of the brokers actions. Fine. But I think it was ineffectual at that.

    For one it was too long. Two, some of the things that were done were so outrageous it takes you out of it (like the boat sinking). And finally, I’d be curious to know how inciting that lifestyle looks to most women or even most males over the a certain age. To contrast, I think The Act of Killing was much more effective in revealing the mindset of (a) reprehensible people/person. Granted, that was a documentary but I think that would make it harder in some ways (and it’s not told in a traditional way).

    So that’s why I’m ambivalent about it. American Hustle was a much better ‘Scorcese’ movie in my book but that’s beside the point. I don’t think for a second that this movie necessarily condones the behavior and I actually said the same thing you did to friends after watching the movie that if you make a movie about the Holocaust it doesn’t mean you condone it ( I think it also means that as a society we are lazy with our analogies).

    But as a storyteller you have ultimate control on what goes in and what stays out. Yes, all that stuff happened but so did all the suffering inflicted upon untold numbers that doesn’t get mentioned in the movie. Purposefully leaving it out no matter for what purpose doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s the effect it will have (you alluded to unintended consequences). I also think putting that stuff in would make the movie less entertaining which I think gives some credence to others argument to it somehow condoning the behavior.

    I think it’s also tricky when you deal with real life situations in a movie. You hear all the time how filmmakers owed a duty or had a responsibility to X when making Y movie. So I think that’s part of the rub.

    To beat a dead horse, lets go back to the Holocaust analogy. If I wanted to make a movie about a real Nazi during WWII but all I showed was him living the high life using and spending other people’s property he took and acting with impunity to show how intoxicating it could be to wield that much power, there would be some push back. It’s technically true because all that did happen but not showing the suffering of the Jews, etc. makes it a half truth which is another way of saying it’s a part lie. And while I could make the movie with great acting and production values it doesn’t mean that people with think it’s a good movie or like it.

    I guess movies aren’t islands onto themselves. They don’t exist in a vacuum. It’s not only what you say but how you say it and when you say it and who you say it to that determines how effective/well received the movie is. I personally was looking more for an indictment of Wall Street type of movie because that would be a more ‘useful’ story to tell in my book.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is, maybe it was just too soon?

  91. I don’t get that argument. Are you saying that there should be a subplot about one of the families who get ripped off? That is just not good storytelling, and it’s assuming very little of the audience. We know that they’re ripping people off, that’s what the movie is about. It’s just in the point of view of the people doing the ripping off. I just don’t see a reason why that would be necessary or how it would be a good movie. I would definitely be complaining about that subplot ruining the movie by treating us like maroons.

  92. Vern – Like I said before, I think people whining about WOWS being too amoral or whatever, this says more about them than the movie itself.

    Liberals are upset that the Wall Street crooks weren’t punished after the ’08 crash. But the Dems and Obama, partly by GOP obstruction and their own unwillingness, didn’t go after them. So here comes WOWS, which I tohught is bluntly honest about how as a capitalist culture and species like humanity, what can be done about this? (That ending really damns everybody, don’t it?) Scorsese didn’t even bother to offer solutions because he and Leo don’t know the answer. But they wanted to give us an ugly picture of the situation, as artists its their expression of the bullshit times we live in. They just also happened to make a compelling, entertaining, and vibrant narrative while doing this.

    But WOWS opens up that scab wound that some liberals are carrying, and boy that movie gave them an opportunity to rage against the unfairness of the world…and thus poor WOWS became the target. Its like Vern, remember when ZERO DARK THIRTY came out and alot of liberals got hanged up on whether the movie was pro-torture or not? (A real misnomer.) Again Obama and Democrats haven’t done much to curb torture for political reasons, and ZD30 comes along, thus that bullshit meme gets passed aroudn that its torture propaganda or whatever nonsense, which killed its Oscar chances that year if you ask me.

    (Or ARGO, remember when some leftists thought it was propaganda for war with Iran? Yes Ben Affleck will get Iran bombed because of this movie! Err WHAT?)

    Going on the other side of the political aisle, its like when right wingers threw a fit over LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST because allegedly Jesus got laid. The real reason was that its their Culture War outlet to rage on the liberals and the atheists and gays or whoever else was ruining America according to them at the time. Or that REVENGE OF THE SITH was anti-Dubya propaganda. (Remember that sillyness?)

    Point is, what do all these complaints all in common? They’re bullshit. Time will fade, the movies will remain.

  93. One thing I that maybe a problem is that this movie was made by rich guys telling us how some other rich guys were complete dicks. This could come off as patronizing. Maybe that’s partly why people wanted to see the effects of this behavior in the movie is not to inform the audience that it happened that but to tell the audience that the filmmakers acknowledged/aware of the effects. I do see your point of treating the audience like idiots and hate it too and it’s a danger.

    I don’t think you need to go so far as to add a subplot. Just some sort of acknowledgment of the collateral damage. In Boiler Room there’s a quick scene of a guy who got ripped off pleading to get his money back over the phone. A lot of the movie did feel like an extended episode of Entourage. Belfort even has a cameo at the end of the movie.

    In the Act of Killing, the main guy in the end has a sort of come to Jesus moment where he realizes that maybe what he did was wrong. I don’t think that movie would have been nearly as effective or bearable without it. I get that he wanted to tell it from the POV of the people who ripped off others but to solely rely on his accounts (it’s from his book) without asking any hard questions doesn’t sit well with a lot of people. At one point he rats on just about everyone and he says he had no choice. No reactions from his so called friends reacting to him turning on them.

    Why is his biased account of what happened worth telling?

    I realize we are arguing over tastes. You like the movie that he made and I wanted something a little more. If I wanna see BR I should just watch that. I’m just not sure what the point was of making this particular movie. It wasn’t enlightening and it’s been told before. You said we already know as an audience people got ripped off but we also know those traders were assholes too. So then to me Scorsese wanted to tell it because of the pure entertainment value of Belfort’s lifestyle. Fine. But it comes off as a little gratuitous and for me personally I’m not sure why that is a story worth telling. What is the point of making the movie? I just didn’t find it that compelling. It’s a good movie but I think it could have been great, done a little different. How? I’m not totally sure.

    In your review of 12 Years A Slave you mention how the movie wouldn’t have been nearly as good if it was told from another white guy’s perspective saving the black guy. So how you tell a story can affect the reception of the story and in some way inform how ‘good’ the story is outside of executing the traditional mechanics of storytelling.

  94. “One thing I that maybe a problem is that this movie was made by rich guys telling us how some other rich guys were complete dicks. This could come off as patronizing.”

    Rocky Road – Being rich isn’t evil. Besides guys like Leo and Scorsese made their fortunes honestly as entertainers. Give me your $8, let me try to entertain you for 2 hours. Guys like Belfort made money from fraud. Remember that scene with the new buisness that’s really some guy’s toolshed in his backyard and he’s selling it like IBM or something actually….you know, a real business?

    There’s no hypocrisy here.

    “In Boiler Room there’s a quick scene of a guy who got ripped off pleading to get his money back over the phone.”

    Remember that throwaway line by Leo’s narration about that stockbroker who killed himself? There are real-life consequences to their actions which happen to other people, but don’t bother Leo’s character at all.

    “Why is his biased account of what happened worth telling? ”

    Two words: Unreliable narrator. By his own words, Leo’s character is rather sociopathic and what he and his company do to others. I mean that scene when they threatened to kill that gay man and degrade him for doing the exact fucking around that they do by habit? They don’t

    I mean you gotta like how the main character dictates Scorsese about what color his car is. I liked that.

    “If I wanna see BR I should just watch that. ”

    Putting BR and WOWS together on the same scale is…like I’m trying to bite my tongue here. I mean what?

    “But it comes off as a little gratuitous and for me personally I’m not sure why that is a story worth telling. What is the point of making the movie?”

    Think LINCOLN. Spielberg for years wanted to make a movie about that President, but how? His life and the times he lived in wad enough shit to make 5 movies, so what dramatic avenue could he use to explore that historical figure? Then his team figured out to explore his last 100 days in his effort to Constitutionally ban slavery. With that template, he explored Lincoln’s personality and politicking and relationship with other politicians and his family, etc.

    Leo when he got the book rights to WOWS thought he found a good story to be used to explore a big broad, meaty topic like Wall Street. I think what I liked about WOWS isn’t that it just showed Wall Street being evil and greedy (no duh) but that it showed you that culture’s warped personality you’re within the epicenter of that mentality if you will. Its what Scorsese did before on the mafia with GOODFELLAS. What would it possibly be really like to be a mobster for a living? I mean outside of the killing? Remember in that one, Henry Hill never had qualms about having a mistress or any regrets that he became a criminal despite his dad’s best efforts. In fact the ending when he survives the mob after committing the #1 mob sin (rat on his co-workers), he’s actually pissed that he’s having to life in the suburbs and bitching about the local Italian cuisine.

  95. Rocky Road, how can you damn The Wolf of Wall Street but then praise American Hustle…where the main characters commit fraud and scam a bunch of people and never pay for it? That film isn’t nearly as hard on its greedy scam artists as Wolf is on Belfort.

  96. Dave, I don’t think they’re that similar. Yeah, the both start off as hucksters but Christian Bale is much more sympathetic character in my eyes because he gets punished and hurt by losing his friendship with Jeremy Renner. Also, he does end up helping the FBI catch other crooks. Furthermore, Bale seems to have somewhat of a conscious. I thought he genuinely cared about his kid, Jlaw and Amy Adams. No question he’s a shady character but he had some redeeming qualities and actions. It’s more a question of degree than type. Belfort, for me, was so far at the asshole end of the spectrum that I couldn’t identify with him at all.

    Also, I don’t damn WOWS. I just don’t think that whatever Scorsese was trying to do he didn’t do it well. I certainly don’t think he intended to glorify the acts depicted (which I mentioned before). I just think his protagonist wasn’t that interesting or at least well developed, more cartoon than person. The plot isn’t that great either so what’s left is just the pure entertainment value of all of Belfort’s shenanigans. I think that’s why some people get the impression that it glorifies said acts. HUSTLE had much better character development in my opinion and a much more interesting plot.

    BTW, others have made comments about politics. I never mentioned anything about liberals or conservative because it’s beside the point. I’m discussing this in terms of storytelling and I think part of good storytelling is being able to identify and be somewhat sympathetic or at least empathize with the protagonist – not always but most of the time. Walter White in Breaking Bad started off sympathetic but ended up being completely repulsive to me – but that is an interesting journey for a character to take that was worth watching.

    I’m just not sold this was a story worth telling (at least in its current iteration). Not because Belfort is a dick but because it didn’t enlighten me or ask provocative questions and it wasn’t, for me at least, a good character study film if that is the point. There’s no there, there. This maybe too harsh but it almost felt like a 3 hour Entourage episode that took itself seriously. It was almost like watching the torture porn of avarice. Vern and others have said it was supposed to get you into their heads but I think it was ineffective in that objective. You wanna see an excellent movie that does that? Watch THE ACT OF KILLING. Hell, Scorsese and Leo masterfully got me into the head of Howard Hughes with The Aviator and he was no saint.

    Dave, in what way do you think Wolf was hard on Belfort?

  97. I don’t have a moral objection to Scorsese not depicting the actual victims of Belfort’s actions, but I do have to say that failing to do so makes the whole thing feel a little frivolous. What’s the dramatic crux here if the film is completely disinterested in the victims? We condemn Belfort to some degree for being such a greedy, selfish prick, but he’s such a shallow and uninteresting character I don’t know how far that takes us. Certainly not 3 hours, at least for me. It’s a fun ride while it lasts but devoting the final 45 minutes or so to Belfort’s semi-but-not-really downfall is pretty tedious since we don’t care much about him and he’s not going to really get punished anyway. Showing his victims might have gone a long way towards actually adding some genuine drama to the end of the film by juxtaposing Belfort’s wrist slap with the destitution he caused people who were relying on him. I’m not asking for a subplot, just a mention that there are actual victims here. The movie is utterly disinterested in that, and I’m not sure I buy that you’re just supposed to fill in the gaps. Scorsese doesn’t strike me as a guy who talks around his main point. For whatever reason, he doesn’t really care about Belfort’s victims, his gripes are with the guy himself. But as far as I’m concerned, Belfort isn’t interesting enough by himself for that to really quite get the job done.

  98. RRA, if memory serves before Henry decides to rat he gets wind that the mob is gonna kill him, no? Makes the act of ratting more understandable. Look, Goodfellas is his masterpiece and is much better for a number of reasons. If he tried to do that but with Wall Street I just think he didn’t do nearly as good of a job.

    If anything the movie makes us think about what makes a movie good, bad and everything in between.

  99. Mr. Subtlety, thanks for concisely articulating what I couldn’t in god knows how many words…

  100. I don’t think GOODFELLAS ever considered the plight of it’s many victims either. Apart from seeing the obvious physical effects – a bloodied nose after being pistol-whipped, stabbings etc, or the mortal effects of being shot fucking dead and all that stuff. It still stayed the point-of-view of the ones doing all the damage. We weren’t asked to really empathise with the victims, much like WOLF. Having half a brain though would tell anyone that many people suffered. But it’s not their story.

  101. Darren – I agree, GOODFELLAS isn’t much interested in the victims either. But it’s characters are more interesting and have more depth, so it works better in that case, at least to my eye. In WOWS, the movie is equally disinterested in the actual harm being done by its protagonist. But the characters are just selfish, shallow assholes, so there’s not a whole lot of dramatic conflict when we edit out the harm they cause.

  102. The outcome for some of Scorsese’s violent or abusive protagonists are that they usually end up alone (Jake LaMotta, Henry Hill).

    And after the ‘cleansing of violence’ at the end of TAXI DRIVER, Travis Bickle got to enjoy a bit of validation from Iris’s parents, and Cybil Shepherd as ‘The Unattainable Woman’ But then he drove off into the night – fucking alone.

    Rupert Pupkin – ALONE in his mothers basement and fantasy world.

    My point is , Scorsese is not neglecting to show the consequences of some of his protagonists, it’s just not always in the obvious way. Self-destruction or delusion has it’s own payday.

  103. I loved the movie, but was mildly surprised about how sympathetic it was towards the main character and his lifestyle. I actually left the cinema craving coke and hookers.

    What really puzzled me, though, was the cut to the investigator in the subway, looking at his passengers, clearly a callback to Bellfort making fun of the investigator living a boring life because of his honesty. Scorsesse could have shown a couple in love, friends, human kindness, anything that contradicts the protagonists shallow view of life, but no. A honest life leads to unhappiness, and the investigator is the looser in this game.

    I have no doubt that Scorsesse symphatizes with Belford, but that´s kinda the point of the movie, I guess. Why are we, and society, so attracted to greedy and shallow assholes? I like that Scorsesse doesn´t take a stand, but shares his conflicted feelings towards this type of human being. I totally understand his ambiguity, which makes me question my own moral stance towards the issue. Just like the ending of Goodfellas. I like Henry, despite his horrible crimes. And I´m a part of a society, which celebrates AND condones violence, crime, greediness, drug abuse etc. It´s no coinsidense that the last frames of Goodfellas is a laughing gangster pointing a gun at the audience.

  104. Saw this today, loved it although I could definitely sense a choppiness in places and some major lapses in continuity and tone / performances (some of which I know were intended) due to it being cut down by an hour from the original mammoth 4 hour edition (which I would gladly watch were it ever to become available).

    One quick thing though that I found interesting – after reading so much about certain people feeling that Scorsese either wasn’t taking a stand one way or the other on the actions of the characters in this film, or even worse taking a stand in their defense, I was pretty surprised to see several instances in which, through stylistic choices or through supporting characters coming right out and saying it, the film absolutely condemned these shit bags and their horrendous yet hilarious and wildly entertaining behaviour. Not that I felt its condemnation was over the top or anything, just that I was kind of expecting there to have been absolutely none of that sort of moralising in the movie at all based on all the shit that I had read about it.

    Anyway, great movie. I haven’t enjoyed a Scorsese joint this much in a long damn time.

  105. MARTIN SCORSESE! HE MAKES THE BEST FUCKING FILMS!

  106. Just watched this one, and I’d like to suggest a couple things.

    1) I’m with Mr. Subtlety in thinking that Scorsese *does* glorify these shitbags. He makes their lives extremely entertaining. Everything about the movie is meant to entertain us: the energy of the boiler room; the charisma of the performers; the lavishness of Belfort’s wealth; the contact high of all the sex and drugs. And it’s built in a way that helps you identify with these assholes as one of the smart insiders as opposed to the stupid suckers, which sort of triggers everyone’s inherent tendency to self-glorification in service of glorification of these assholes, and vice versa. It’s a mobius strip of adoration. It’s absolutely glorifying this stuff. However, I disagree with Mr. S in his condoning of that glorification. The social responsibility of artists goes beyond merely entertaining the audience. The circuses were means of social repression, after all.

    2) I think Vern’s delineation of the response to this movie along polar lines of stupid people thinking it condones Belfort and discerning people thinking it condemns him is, aside from being too simplistic, a tad oblivious. It’s not that smart people will understand and stupid people won’t; it’s that Scorsese’s storytelling is so amoral that people will draw their own conclusions. People will believe whatever they already believed and will blame or laud Scorsese for it, as their position dictates. Vern condemns Belfort, so he thinks Scorsese condemns Belfort. The woman who wrote that open letter thinks that movies always glorify their subjects, so she thinks that Scorsese glorifies his subject. And Wall St. assholes think Belfort is awesome, so they assume that Scorsese thinks he’s awesome. And because of this, I will argue that Scorsese’s moral “restraint” is not a sign that he respects the intelligence of the audience, but rather a sign that he believes his audience to be too stupid for a clear moral argument. He seems to think that all we want or can handle is to be entertained. There’s nothing in this movie challenging enough to make anyone rethink the presuppositions they brought with them. Bread and circuses, friends, but get your bread somewhere else.

    3) Two pretty obvious and telling examples of Scorsese’s dim view of our intelligence are the constant voiceover narration and Belfort’s dismissal of any attempts to explain to us what he’s doing. Scorsese’s use of voiceover aggravates the hell out of me. It’s like he thinks we need Cliff Notes of the movie we’re seeing. For someone who so hates lazy storytelling and having shit spoonfed to him, I can’t believe Vern gives this stuff a pass. It’s entertaining, yeah, but do we really need to be entertained like five-year-olds? Can’t we figure a few things out for ourselves? I found it particularly galling in a couple scenes in WoWS. The two that stick in my mind are the scene where Jordan first goes out with Naomi, and there’s this running voiceover throughout the scene about how he wants to have sex with her but is conflicted because of his wife. A similar scene is the one on the park bench between Jordan and Aunt Emma. In both scenes, Scorsese seems to feel that the audience is too stupid to understand obvious sexual tension and classic moral dilemmas.

    Belfort’s insistence, in two different scenes, that the audience neither understands nor cares what he’s doing, is even more galling. Here Scorsese flat-out tells us we’re dummies; more subtlely, he implies that we’re too stupid to think through the ethical implications of Belfort’s schemes. Why won’t he let Belfort explain what he’s doing? I can think of three possible reasons: 1) He knows it’s more entertaining if he skips the explanations, and he assumes that his audience cares more about being entertained than about thinking critically about what it’s watching. 2) He really doesn’t think we’ll understand. 3) He himself doesn’t care about dealing with the ethical issues involved in Belfort’s activities. All three possible reasons are pretty frustrating.

    four) It’s true that most movies don’t challenge their audiences; this isn’t something uniquely bad or insulting about Scorsese. But the subject matter makes it more of an issue. Our country is deeply divided about whether or not investment banking as practiced by asshole Wall St. goons and global capitalism in general are good things. Making an amoral movie about that topic is frustrating, insulting, and (worst of all) insidiously immoral. If you don’t make a clear argument one way or another, you are passively supporting the status quo, and the status quo is that a whole hoard of Belforts (or more legal but no less craven and predatory and dangerous versions) is running amok on Wall St. even as we speak. So how is this movie helpful? Worse yet, Scorsese and DiCaprio had to pay the real Belfort, who is in the midst of shirking his restitution duties, for the rights to make this thing, so even on a practical level they’re supporting the bad guys.

    five) I’m very interested in Vern’s claim that a subplot about one of Belfort’s victims would be bad storytelling. Why? Because it would divert momentum from the massively entertaining main story line? It certainly would, but is good storytelling really synonymous with “hilarious roller coaster ride?” Should it be?

    6) I like being entertained, just like the next guy. I was very entertained by WoWS. If the whole conversation was about whether or not people were entertained by it, I wouldn’t bring up points one through five; I’d just agree that it was hugely entertaining and funny. I don’t think it was a bad movie, and I don’t want to shit on it. But as a cultural artifact, it left a lot to be desired.

    By the way, I think the same can be said for a lot of the movies that are being lauded this award season – American Hustle, 12 Years a Slave, Inside Llewyn Davis, Her. It’s not like Scorsese is dropping the ball while other Hollywood filmmakers are doing more challenging work.

    7) All of this felt very important when I started writing, but now it seems kind of pointless.

  107. Late to the party, as I just saw this last night. It was, more or less, three hours of almost nothing. I was getting my hopes up when around the middle of the film some sort of plot seemed to emerge as the feds were starting to investigate (the scene one yacht was easily the film’s best). But then, nothing. More Quaaludes, more sex etc.

    DiCaprio was amazing, each and every scene was very well put together, but as a whole it just did not work for me. Who edited this thing? Even Judd Apatow would have shown more restraint.

    All in all, a misjudged affair, and it’s tragic that DiCaprio, one of the best actors around, put so much effort into something this hollow.

  108. It’s only taken six months, but I finally saw this last night. In light of all the hoopla surrounding the morality of the subject matter when it first came out, I’m glad I waited too cause this is one great film. It made me feel like a Movie-Virgin all over again, touched for the very first time. Like a vir-ir-ir-ir-gin. Or, as Paul Sorvino says to a young Henry Hill in GOODFELLAS “Congratulations kid, you broke your cherry!” As only Scorsese can do. And DePalma.

    Much to love in this one. From McConaughey’s hair to Jonah Hills teeth this has a lot of insanely funny characters and moments. Might seem ridiculous to some, but the movie I kept thinking about when I was watching WOWS was ANIMAL HOUSE. These guys were just a big fraternity of degenerates having a great time. McConaughey is the Tim Matheson mentor, Jonah Hill is the pig Bluto Blutarsky, DiCaprio is a cross between the yuppie prick Greg Marmalade and Otter. Also, there’s a character called Otter early on in WOLF, one of Belforts crew, though I’m 100% sure it’s not an homage or anything.

  109. If you hate to watch drugs, uhm…excessive sexual content, then this movie is not for you. But, I wouldn’t say that this isnt entertaining!

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