Martin Scorsese’s Jackass or The Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall Street - Midget Toss

With The Wolf of Wall Street Martin Scorsese has crafted a three-hour long epic comedy of bad taste about a world-class, rotten to the core douchebag.  Jordan Belfort was a money laundering asshole to the extreme who played fast and loose with people’s money on Wall Street, scammed the poor and the rich alike for his own gain and the gain of his amoral idiot friends, consumed drugs and women and every material thing, got caught, went to jail, wrote a book about it, and now his glorious suck-fest of an idolatrous life is a top drawer film from cinema’s greatest living master.

The Wolf of Wall Street is about excess, excess in crime, excess in life, excess in filmmaking, excess in acting.  Teaming up with Leonardo DiCaprio for the umpteenth time, Scorsese lets the Oscar deprived thespian of this generation loose in ways I never imagined and has him doing things I never cared to see.  The pair take their “relationship” so far over the course of the film’s monstrous runtime that I don’t know if they could ever top what they do here without it becoming illegal.

The film, scripted by Terrence Winter from Belfort’s memoir, contains some howlingly funny scenes and bouts of dialogue, including one where Belfort and his pals discuss seriously the potential legal ramifications of midget tossing at work (which ends in a great little homage to Tod Browning’s Freaks – oddly fitting) and another involving a ridiculously dramatic rescue at sea from a sinking yacht done to the tune of Umberto Tozzi’s “Gloria” complete with Italian jokes.  Rob Reiner also gets some great riotous moments as Belfort’s hot-tempered accountant father.

Scorsese, that old sentimentalist, of course, in recrementitous fashion pays homage to himself.  Continue reading

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Home is Where the Heart is in 42

42

The true significance of the number 42 has nothing to do with The Shining or The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  Everyone knows the story of Jackie Robinson, right?

Well, maybe not.  And maybe as a long-time baseball fan (not just of the game, but of the history and of its impact on American society) I took that for granted.  As the first African-American to play in the major leagues, Jackie Robinson put a dent in segregation in 1947 (and wore the number 42) long before Jim Crow laws were dismantled and the Civil Rights movement caught on years later.  Thanks to Brian Helgeland’s handsomely mounted and wholesome-as-Ma’s-meatloaf biopic, 42, younger generations will now have an entertaining and educational film to watch in history classes for decades to come.

Robinson is played with heart and panache by newcomer Chadwick Boseman while Nicole Beharie makes a nice splash as his devoted and strong-willed wife, Rachel.  Their love story forms the backstop of the story while Harrison Ford relishes in a playful scenery chewing turn as the moral trailblazing GM of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Branch Rickey. Continue reading

A Review of Oliver Stone’s “W.”

CAPTION:  Both Stone and Bush entered Yale in the same year.

Waiting for the final ball to drop…, 18 October 2008
8/10
Author: David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA

With his “in the moment” biopic W. the normally volatile Oliver Stone wisely saves his judgments for history when hindsight will be 20/20. Achingly subdued and slightly satirical, Stone plays it straight and to the bone. Here he presents us with the early years of our current lame duck president, showing Dubya rushing a frat-house at Yale, meeting Laura at a barbecue, living in the shadow of his father and brother, his troubles holding down a job, his failed bid to become baseball commissioner, and his defining moment when he gives up drinking and becomes born-again. All of which leads us to his first term and the Iraq War quagmire, where Dubya honest-to-goodness truly believes “God” wanted him to become president and that Iraq did have those rascally WMD.

In the lead role, Josh Brolin is an endearingly bumble-headed Dubya, and Stone presents him as a simple-minded man with good intentions who has been crippled by his “daddy issues” and has surrounded himself with the most cynical, self-serving, and corrupt administration in modern American history. The supporting cast is a hoot, with highlights including Thandie Newton eliciting big laughs just with her facial expressions as a wicked and moronically faithful Condi Rice, Elizabeth Banks giving a winning portrayal of Laura Bush, and Richard Dreyfuss playing Cheney as the most insipid megalomaniac American politics has ever seen.

Stone accomplishes three major coups here that should surprise those who expected a one-sided liberal smear job. First, he humanizes George W. Bush. The director does this with savvy editing showing the back-story of why Dubya does the things he does (i.e. why he uses nicknames for everyone or why running three miles every day is so important to him), and then juxtaposing that with the inane decisions he has made as president. By utilizing actual transcripts from press conferences, news coverage, and meetings, Stone and scribe Stanley Weiser allow Bush and his administration to speak for themselves, and it’s both comically cathartic and occasionally frightening to see it dramatized so well. Second, he redeems the presidency of George “Poppy” Bush (a somewhat miscast but still effective James Cromwell) by showing what a restrained and thoughtful Commander in Chief he was compared to his naive and too-eager-to-please son. Thirdly, he redeems the legacy of Colin Powell (a surprisingly good Jeffrey Wright), who is shown here as the only person in the administration with any hindsight or foresight, and the only sane voice who questioned the motives for entering Iraq, though he eventually caved in and played along. His “f-you” to Cheney towards the film’s final act is priceless.

As the actual presidency still has a few months to go at the time of the film’s release, Stone’s biopic was never written a true ending, leaving us with a symbolic image of Dubya looking up to the sky in center field waiting to catch a ball that will never drop. It may be another twenty years before we can pass any accurate judgment on Dubya’s legacy, and likewise, Stone’s film will have to wait. It’s going to be a long time before anyone catches all those balls George W. Bush’s administration threw up in the air.

Originally Published on the Internet Movie Database:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1175491/usercomments-46