Tuesday, January 21, 2014

How To Destroy A Film Legacy In One Easy Lesson

I have an interesting concept for the Motion Picture Academy to consider.  

Not only can you win Oscars, but you can also be forced to give them back if your subsequent work is bad.  If that is the rule, then the Academy should forward a mailing label to director Martin Scorsese.  His most current work, "The Wolf of Wall Street" is so disgusting and reprehensible that he should be penalized somehow.   Okay, we'll take back the Best Director Oscar you won for "The Departed."

I don't understand how something this lousy and misguided can come from such a revered filmmaker as Scorsese.  Okay, okay, I understand that, as directors get older, their work can deteriorate.  I mean, look at some of the legendary Billy Wilder's last films.   They are horrible.  But, with this swill, Marty's fall from grace is swift and jarringly sudden.  Perhaps the eyebrows have gotten so long that his vision is obscured.

Of course, his work here has been nominated for both a DGA award and an Oscar.  Clearly, he's living and thriving off his own more illustrious pass.   I can see voters thinking, "well, it's Marty, the movie must be good."  But, indeed, that logic here is as misappropriated as everything in this film.  Or maybe the young turks of Hollywood actually like this pile of horse crap.  Perhaps they identify themselves in the studs of Wall Street and the debauchery depicted.  I mean, just remember how the best of Tinseltown looked at last week's Golden Gloves.   Totally stoned and liquored up.  See what I mean?

So, with that kind of behavior, it's easy to validate Martin Scorsese for his incredibly inferior work here.  What came out of Scorsese with this film could be the same thing that exits his body after eating bad clam sauce.

One logline to describe the movie would be "Goodfellas on Wall Street."  Okay, that simply demeans that earlier work which was yet another fascinating glimpse into the NY world of the Mafia.  "The Wolf of Wall Street" also has a bunch of thugs at its core, but you never can believe any of their actions for one minute.   As a result, each and every person you meet is a person you absolutely hate.  That's even more remarkable when you consider that Scorsese plays this mess out as a comedy.  I thought the characters in the recent "Inside Llewyn Davis" were unlikeable.   In comparison, the folks in "Wolf of Wall Street" make that bunch look like "Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree."

"The Wolf of Wall Street" is inexplicably a true story and that, in itself, scares the crap out of me.  Jordan Balfort starts his stock market career in 1987 as an innocent, yet enterprising young man and, in short, he turns into a liquor-guzzling, cocaine-snorting, Quaalude-popping, wife-abusing, midget-tossing scumbag.  Got all that?  Meanwhile, Balfort is surrounded by all of the same.  To excess.  It's one wild orgy after another with so much sex, drugs, and full front nudity that even Howard Stern would be exhausted.  The same nonsense plays over and over and over again until you're almost comatose.  

And, at every turn, Scorsese tries to play all this decadence for laughs!  This isn't helped by a ridiculous screenplay authorized by Terence Winter, who worked on "The Sopranos" and also created "Boardwalk Empire."  With this kind of output, Winter should go back to television.  Or even better...be relegated to radio.

The acting throughout is atrocious and, given that note, please be aware that the idiots in Hollywood have also bestowed Oscar nominations on both Leonardo DiCaprio as Balfort and Jonah Hill as his best buddy.  Neither actor has been worse.  DiCaprio continues to ride on his own coattails as one of the most overrated actors on the scene today.  Indeed, I really wish his career had sunk to the bottom like he did in "Titanic."  Meanwhile, Hill, so good and nuanced in "Moneyball," is a blithering mess here and should have his SAG card confiscated immediately.

There is one fifteen minute set piece in this movie that epitomizes how bad "The Wolf of Wall Street" is.  Both DiCaprio and Hill overdose on some past-their-expiration-date uppers.  As the voiceover narration by DiCaprio tells us, this renders them incapable of any action.   It turns them into "somebody with cerebral palsy."


What follows is an endless stream of gyrations and incoherence that made the spastic antics of Jerry Lewis look like Shakespeare in the Park.  The audience I saw this with was laughing uncontrollably.  Me?  I was wondering where the advocacy groups are to complain about this gross mis-treatment of real cerebral palsy victims.   Hey, the do-gooding assholes in Hollywood are ready to scream whenever there is the slightest injustice depicted in films for gays, Blacks, Muslims, and Asians.  I haven't heard a word from them on this offensive scene.  Again, I watch this display and can't fathom how a filmmaker like Martin Scorsese allowed this to happen.

I needed a divining rod to find anything remotely positive about this heap of garbage.  Luckily, there are supporting performances by my Dodger Stadium buddy Rob Reiner as Balfort's dad and the always reliable Kyle Chandler as the FBI guy determined to throw Balfort into jail and end our misery.  The tempered portrayals by Reiner and Chandler stick out like sore thumbs and they appear to be from a completely different movie.   A good one.  You can actually root for Chandler here.  You want him to catch Balfort because then you know the movie will be over.

Much has been made publicly about the three-hour length of "The Wolf of Wall Street."  Frankly, the movie was already too long when it got past the first ten minutes, but that's just me.  Personally, I don't mind a good three-hour-plus film.  "Ben-Hur."  "A Star is Born."  "Lawrence of Arabia."   But, of course, Marty's latest work is nowhere near the classic status of those movies.  And, the wonderful epics also generally feature an intermission that allows the audience to catch its breath and empty its bladder.  They wouldn't dare put such a break in the middle of "The Wolf of Wall Street."  Nobody would come back.

To throw even more salt into my head wound, I made the almost-fatal mistake of seeing "Wolf of Wall Street" at my local AMC theater.  Unlike my beloved Arclight Cinema, AMC loves to run trailers and lots of them.  The start time of the Scorsese film was supposed to be 7PM.  But, they chose to run six different trailers.   Then, in a completely unimaginable move, they then offered us a ten minute "exclusive preview"  of "Jack Ryan - Shadow Recruit."   We literally sat through an entire set piece of that film which also happened to be playing right next door.  One couple behind me was so confused that they thought they were in the wrong theater and left.

As it turns out, they were the big winners of the evening.

Towards the end of "The Wolf of Wall Street," a cover version of "Mrs. Robinson" plays on the soundtrack.  

"Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?  A nation casts its lonely eyes to you."

We probably could ask the same question of one Martin Scorsese.  

Marty, you can send back that "Departed" Oscar postage due.

LEN'S RATING:  Zero stars.....and I'm being generous.

Dinner last night:  Leftover pork tenderloin and vegetables.


1 comment:

Djinna Gochis said...

the glee with which this movie has been received and honored is just another piece of evidence of the death of society.
I know, it sounds as if I am saying "the end is near." Or is it the "end is here"? When there are no objective truths there is nothing but this garbage forced upon the public square.