The Wolf Of Wall Street (2013) & American Hustle (2013)


Boyhood (2014)
I went to see Boyhood last week and loved it. It was life, happiness, reality and beauty all together. I guess I just love Richard Linklater as a director. He has made so many movies that have really framed my expectations and experiences in life. Ethan Hawke is eternally linked in this too. Maybe they'll win something tonight at the Oscars. I'm ridiculously excited about the Oscars –  we've been watching these Hollywood Roundtable interviews for the past couple of weeks (Nick found them by happy accident)and they have made me fall in love with thinking about films as big quilts. Movies are made by so many different pieces – so many perspectives, people, directions, cuts, hopes...what ever...
I have gained a more empathic view and have even thought that I hope no one has ever been offended by what we have said here about their work. It's easy to forget, that famous actors and actresses, directors and producers are real people. They may even google themselves from time to time.

But I need to get to our double-billing here: The Wolf Of Wall Street and American Hustle in one short paragraph each. Lets begin with The Wolf of Wall Street. Three hours?! Are you kidding me Scorsese? Who cut this movie? I feel that they could have probably edited at least an hour away from the film. (I'm still nice, but I have to be honest) Even though the movie looks good is funny and entertaining, it is a disappointment to me. Leonardo DiCaprio is very good – he is very believable as a disgusting, shallow, self-loving young man who is willing to go to any excess and length for money and for pleasure. But I was really bugged by the narration the film chose (the lead actor narrating his story over the images) and felt that the whole affair was full of stuff we have already seen by Scorsese and elsewhere. I understand that there is a need to discuss the values or non-values of people and societies run by economics, but I think this movie made its point with too much sophistication and therefore never really made a point at all. Still, just give these dudes some Oscars already...

American Hustle took a while to begin. I was worried it would not get anywhere and would end up being something that works best on posters and galas. But thinking about it now, it was a good movie. Amy Adams and Christian Bale were great. Very good in being emotional, high-strung, devious and somehow cool but smelly as in sweat and grease. But who stole the affair? Jennifer Lawrence. I have not seen her in much yet, but she seems always to be just great. In American Hustle she played the young jealous and off-the-wall wife to Christian Bale's master con. She reminded me of Diane Ladd from her early days. That lovely, unpredictable quality. Her beauty is refreshing because it is as if she isn't self-conscious as many actresses appear on screen. But hey, again Amy Adams. I cannot wait to see Big Eyes. I hope she wins tonight.

The end of January came with a festival that I was involved with and which Astrid played at. It was a lot of fun and one of the extra bonuses was my dear friend Dave came over from the UK. Dave is in film (he designs sets), and it's always great to talk about the latest movies with him (his latest project is Matthew Vaughn's new film, Kingsman: The Secret Service). Anyway, as I often do, I took Dave to Anttila to see if we could pick up a movie for our next-day-post-festival-comedown. We had been discussing Martin Scorsese's The Wolf Of Wall Street earlier that day, and the DVD just happened to be in the sale, so we were set for the night. Those of you who follow this blog will certainly know we've covered Scorsese and his movies a lot and are big fans. Unfortunately, The Wolf Of Wall Street has to be filed under Gangs Of New York/After Hours Scorsese: i.e. a disappointing Scorsese picture. I know we're going against the grain here, but the standards are high.

DiCaprio gives one of many straight to camera dialogues  in The Wolf Of Wall Street
The good things: A great Leonardo DiCaprio performance. A great Matthew Mcconaughey cameo. Some very funny, sick jokes. This goes inside a side of Wall Street that many probably don't realise exists and the expose is welcome. The usual high standard of cinematography and general craftsmanship behind The Wolf Of Wall Street gives us the feeling we are watching the work of a master (and boy are we going to miss Scorsese when he stops making these movies). But sadly, The Wolf Of Wall Street was way too long (by about 45 minutes I'd say). And yes, these Wall Street types can be even dodgier than the gangsters that Scorsese often portrays on screen. But one can only take so many coke, scam, tit, ass, depraved, sexist, immoral, 'cunt', 'fuck' 'shit' joke/references in three (!!!) hours before it all becomes a much of a blandful muchness. And Marty, your new picture ain't no fuckin' Goodfellas, got it? Just so you understand where I'm coming from.

Bale, Adams and Cooper strutt in American Hustle
If there is a Godfather of the modern period piece (think the 1970's/1980's hybrid) then Scorsese is certainly that Don (how many times have we seen that meld of familiar music sounds and drama? - hello Boogie Nights). American Hustle is certainly in this tradition, and I'd dare say that David O'Russell is in thrall of Scorsese as so many of us are. This shares an impeccable sense of period and style with The Wolf Of Wall Street, but yet the pace is different. The first 45 minutes of American Hustle are a slightly confusing and turgid mess. But something clicks with the picture (does it gain focus?) and American Hustle has a strong 2nd act which makes it a good film – not spectacular – but good. The very underrated Amy Adams and a very funny Bradley Cooper do well, whilst Jennifer Lawrence effortlessly lights up every scene. Even a Robert De Niro cameo reveals some of the old Scorsese energy and danger which has sadly been missing from his work for an age. Christian Bale is superb here and pretty much manages to ensure that American Hustle approaches something special. He's hideous and brave and foolish and lost and smart and sad in equal measure, defying our own expectations of Bale post Caped Crusader. It's not said enough, but Bale is one the great screen actors of this time. Despite faults and disappointments with both pictures, The Wolf Of Wall Street and American Hustle have much to recommend and then some.


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