Posts Tagged ‘Martin Scorsese’



My problem with Leonardo DiCaprio is that every time I watch his latest movie, I immediately think it’s his best performance to date. And the Wolf of Wall Street is no exception. 

The Wolf of Wall Street is the true story about Jordan Belfort (based on his book), with a script written by Terence Winter (Boardwalk Empire, the Sopranos), and directed by Martin Scorsese (think of a gangster movie besides Godfather, it was probably made by him.)

The movie begins with Leonardo DiCaprio telling us that he made 49 million in a year, and he was really pissed off because it was three million shy of a million a week. He has a white ferrari, a huge yacht, an amazing house, and an equally amazing wife. 

He’s living the dream, really, and then he recounts how he got there. Earlier this year, I reviewed American Hustle, written and directed by David O. Russell. I mentioned how much he channelled (truth is, he copied) Martin Scorsese, and this movie proves why directors like David O. Russell can’t replace Martin Scorsese yet. I feel like Martin Scorsese saw American Hustle, and decided to make a movie to show David O. Russell how it’s done.


I’m not even the biggest Scorsese fan. I liked Goodfellas and the Departed, but I’m definitely not a huge fan by any means. Wolf of Wall Street has made me want to watch more of his movies.

All right. Let me explain a little bit about the plot. Jordan Belfort is an ambitious young guy looking to make money quick, and he sees Wall Street as the way to do that. On his first day at work, he’s already hooked on the adrenaline in the room. I have to interject with a warning. If you find cursing uncomfortable, it’s safe to stay away from any Martin Scorsese movie. The first fifteen minutes of the movie feels like it’s warning you about what’s to come, so I just thought I should mention that to anyone that’s squeamish about that sort of thing. Moving on… He’s taken as a protege by Mark Hanna (portrayed by Matthew McConaughey), and he quickly learns the ropes. Matthew McConaughey’s performance really is more of a cameo, but man, it’s a great cameo.


He teaches Jordan an anthem that comes up throughout the movie, and I have to say, it is really catchy. You can hear it in the trailer, I think. 

Right after Jordan’s promotion, he’s loses his job (because of Black Monday), and he’s forced to look for a new job. His wife suggests that they sell her engagement ring, but his pride does not allow such a thing. From this scene alone, you could probably guess that his pride will come back later to bite him in the ass. He finds a job at a small business dealing in penny stocks. Penny stocks belong to the companies that aren’t big enough to qualify trading at Wall Street, and because of this, the traders get a 50% commission. Belfort picks up the phone, calls a random client, and the room quiets. Another stockbroker takes out a notepad and begins writing down what he’s saying, and by the time the phone call is over, he’d made over a thousand dollars. 

He gets a new car, and while eating at a diner, meets Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill). With phosphorescent teeth, a voice that sounds like gravel being poured through a garbage disposal, he provides much of the movie’s comic relief.


He becomes Jordan’s selfish, crack addicted sidekick after he quits his job when Jordan shows him proof that he makes over 70k a month. 

Jordan starts a new company called Straton Oakmont, and pretty soon, he has a huge office and too much money to spend. (It’s a different kind of money problem…)

DiCaprio addresses the audience directly, saying: “The question is… was any of this legal?”

He smiles, and says: “Absolutely not!”

It isn’t long before his private investigator learns that he’s being investigated by a straight arrow FBI Agent, and Jordan stupidly invites him to his yacht to bribe him. Thankfully, he was at least smart enough not to mention an exact figure, but not smart enough to listen to his PI. 

It reminded me of another Leonardo DiCaprio movie, Catch Me If You Can. He played a gifted young con artist being hunted by a dedicated law enforcement agent (played by Tom Hanks). It isn’t much of a spoiler to tell you not to expect the same amount of… playfulness between Belfort and the FBI Agent. 


Sure, they fake politeness in their initial meeting, but there’s no interesting banter here. There’s just plain animosity between the two of them, and it was refreshing to see this done after watching so many movies doing the Catch Me If You Can formula. (I loved that movie, by the way.)

DiCaprio is my favorite actor. I think he’s the best actor of my generation (well… technically it’s my sister’s generation), and I love all of his movies. However, I’ve come to expect a little something from his roles. His movies are generally serious, and while his acting for each character varies greatly, they all have the same feel about them. They all had the sense that the entire world was on their shoulders.

In this movie, he shows that it was all intentional. When Jordan Belfort parties, he parties. He’s superficial monster that doesn’t care about the people he steals from. It’s also DiCaprio’s funniest performance to date, and one of his most dramatic.


After flying a helicopter drunk on alcohol and pills, he wakes up to his wife (played by Margot Robbie) tossing a glass of water in his face. His reaction here is just brilliant. I have two other favorite scenes, but I won’t even hint about them. You should just watch the movie and see it for yourself. They’re too good to spoil. (Even for a huge spoiler like me.)

In these types of movies with a criminal protagonist, it’s always the same. It shows the rise, the peak of all their achievements, and inevitably, the fall. It’s unavoidable. *coughs Like A Certain Scorsese movie coughs*

People need to see the bad get their comeuppance, and I always thought that this was the most enduring formula of movies. So, it isn’t a big spoiler to tell you that things do start to go awry for Jordan Belfort. He has to make a deal with the SCC, and still face criminal charges from the FBI. His relationship with his wife starts to go downhill. 

I don’t believe in karma, but even I have to admit that karma finally caught up to him. He left his loving wife for Naomi, and you can see that he really loves her. He cheats on her… but he really does love her. And maybe it’s karma that his wife doesn’t love him as much, if at all. 


The ending, though, is really good. I won’t describe it to you, but it’s one of my favorite endings of all time. (Coincidentally, my other favorite ending is the ending of the Departed.) Now, I hope Leonardo DiCaprio gets an oscar for this, but considering the hype of the other performances, it’s not likely. I think this is the best Martin Scorsese movie I’ve seen, and having watched a few of the other nominees for Best Actor and Best Picture, I really do think this movie deserves to win. (Don’t let me get started on Gravity…)

I just hope that Christian Bale doesn’t beat DiCaprio for Best Actor. Yes, he gained a lot of weight, but come on. I guess I’m biased when I say that DiCaprio’s acting in this movie beats almost everything Bale did in American Hustle. Just saying. That’s what I think.

In conclusion (do you like how I suddenly became very professional?), this is an amazing movie. My favorite of 2013, and probably going to be one of my favorites for 2014. It’s already earned a place in my Top 15 Favorite Movies, and it might even rise in my list after viewing it a few more times. If you like great black comedy, great performances, great writing and directing, you’ll like Wolf of Wall Street.

If you hate watching an evil man get a lot of money, a huge amount of cursing, drug abuse… You probably won’t like this movie. It is not for everyone, but if you don’t mind any of that, then this is worth a watch. 


6 out of 6





Let me clarify what I mean by old stuff. I mean stuff that’s about forty to fifty years in the past. That doesn’t make it bad. Not at all. It doesn’t make ‘old stuff’ ugly, or slow, or even old. Yeah, lost you there, didn’t I?

The thing is, there’s a way to get past being classified as an old thing. By the way, I don’t classify humans the same way I classify stuff like literature, movies, etc.

Ahem. Back to the main point, old stuff are quaint because of the simple fact that they are cooler in comparison to a lot of things. What do I mean? Take Strangers on a train, for example. Do you remember that scene

Scene from Strangers on a Train


There was actual tension in this scene. Will she die, or will she? Movies and literature nowadays are too blatant. There’s no subtlety, and people undermine the intelligence of most readers/viewers. Take the ending of the Dark Knight, for example. We could actually see what was happening. We could see that Batman was taking the fall to ‘protect’ Gotham.

And what do the writers (Nolan & Nolan) do? They have Gary Oldman condescend us by clarifying, “He’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs. So, we have to chase him, and uh… Put an ax to the bat signal… and we have to send some German shepherds… So, yup. That’s the ending, and we’ll see you in four years. Cool? All right, bye!”

You can’t tell me that you didn’t already know whatever Gary Oldman was saying. I recognize the “poetry” and “coolness” of his speech, but some things… are better left unsaid. It could have been introduced some other way, or they could have done nothing at all! We would have figured it out.

A fine example of not condescending your viewers would be the scene from Pulp Fiction where Butch escapes after his fight. You see, he secretly bet on himself, and won big. Now, he goes into a motel, and he talks with his partner. They don’t go, “Oh, Butch. I’m so glad you didn’t throw that fight, and that we’re super rich.”

“I know, wife, and now we are in a motel to avoid any hitmans that may seek to kill us.”

“Oh, Butch, hug me!”

Yeah. You see? That’s how it would’ve been ( not really ) if QT undermined us, and decided to clarify things. Real people don’t do that. Real people also ‘talk’ about random stuff. Like the opening scene of Reservoir Dogs where they’re talking about the meaning of Like A Virgin. Movies so rarely have good conversations… It’s sad, really.

Old movies did not undermine us like that. Did they? I mean the really GOOD ones. And movies nowadays don’t rely on shadows or shoes or anything anymore. They simply point the camera straight at the heroes, and have them read from the basic script of plot driven catch phrases.


Do you see that image? That was no doubt a way so none of the viewers would feel uncomfortable. Problem with a lot of old movies, America (and the world in general) was uptight about showing any graphic violence and are even hesitant of giving HINTS of sex. But still, that shot and angle… Awesome. It’s downright awesome.

The beginning of Strangers on a train is a close shot of the shoes of the two protagonists. I notice that the shoes in the beginning of the Sting are frighteningly familiar to the shoes in Strangers On a Train, and this may have been a slight nod to the good movie. You see? That’s what they’re missing nowadays. No hints, no suggestions… Not even good music!

Martin Scorsese, with his movie Mean Streets, was the first ever to simply play a rock song. It was BRILLIANT. Yet, at the same time, it was a sort of dawn of a less… musically interesting age of movies. For example, there was a scene in Sunset Boulevard where an angry Joe Gillis (William Holden) is climbing the stairs, but you can only see his shadow. With each step, music accompanies it, enhancing the effect of suspense and apprehension. Don’t know about you, but hearing Sympathy for the Devil by the Rolling Stones as someone climbs the stairs menacingly just doesn’t have the same effect.


I’m not saying you need an orchestra for every movie, but if you have a huge budget… Why not? Movies like the Dark Knight and Inception have their own orchestras. Movies like the Hobbit, as well. But, at the same time, it’s not the same. Is it?

Ahem. Remember in Inception where those loud booming sounds start playing? Yeah, that’s pretty much every twenty minutes of the entire movie, isn’t it? It was used awesomely, but there was no subtlety. A movie like Inception had a lot of moments for subtlety, and it was missed! We all know Hans Zimmer could have easily managed some subtle pieces, but.. It just wasn’t the norm, was it?

My point is, new movies should look back to old movies, and see what they did for lack of good special effects, with restrictions on how they film forced upon them. I mean. Of course, there are some movies that manage this. Take Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, for example. Do you remember the scene where Sam hears a couple of orcs climbing the stairs? He’s out of sight, and he starts growling. The orcs can only see his shadow, and he looks HUGE. They’re all quaking in their boots now. That was quite clever, if you ask me.

What do you think? Honestly, I like old movies, and I like new movies. Each has faults that aren’t really anyone’s faults, but that does not make them bad. But, new movies shouldn’t have as much difficulty as old movies. They have loads of material to look back on. Old movies barely had any movies to take cues from, and had to do a lot of risky moves to make them great. Some of which flat out failed. New movies no longer have to do that.

They would be able to pay homage to some great movies of the past, as well as give younger viewers something to write home about. Me… I didn’t like old movies much. I mean, come on. Special effects, please? But I’ve grown to like them a lot. Yet, the problem is that some old movies really do show their age, and while a lot of ’em are brilliant, the younger generation just doesn’t want a movie where you’re aware of its age the entire time.

Yes, we ‘preserve’ movies, but can anyone say for sure that people will actually watch them in fifty years unless they’re a HUGE fan of movies? No idea.

Hopefully, my nephews and nieces (since I probably won’t be having children. I’ll just be the cool Uncle) will still watch The Godfather, the Untouchables, Goodfellas, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind DESPITE their age. That’d be really cool.