My top 10 of 2013: The Wolf of Wall Street (#1)

 

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More from my Film Stage top 10 list. 

The debate over Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece already feels tired. No, The Wolf of Wall Street does not glamorize the antics of Jordan Belfort. But it does revel in them, just like the bloodsuckers who loved him. Leonardo DiCaprio gives his best performance as one of cinema’s great irredeemable assholes, a Quaalude-popping destroyer who, in some ways, feels like the ultimate American businessman. When Wolf finally comes to a close, at nearly the three-hour-marker, this feeling crystallizes. We watch a post-prison Belfort work his magic to a new group of wannabes, and as Scorsese’s camera lingers on their wide-eyed expressions, realize why this film, the director’s later-period classic, is so important: because it captures the allure of money and power in a manner that feels fresh, vital, and now. Everyone involved — Scorsese, DiCaprio,Jonah HillThelma Schoonmaker — are at the top of their game. And the result is a film that will feel as relevant in 20 years as Goodfellas does today. What filmgoer could have hoped for more?

Coming Attraction: Aaa-hooooo! Werewolves of Wall Street, Scorsese-Style

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Seemingly during the middle of last night, the trailer for Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” dropped, and it’s a good one.

This re-teaming of the filmmaker and his late-period De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio, is the story of the rise and fall of a brash Wall Street stockbroker during the 1990s. Some thoughts on the “Wolf” trailer, which might features more cutting than any other released this year:

  • This thing MOVES, and feels a bit like the coke-fever segment of “Goodfellas” stretched to feature length. I’ve enjoyed every Scorsese movie post-“Goodfellas” to some degree, but “Wolf” feels more adrenalized than anything he’s done in ages.
  • It seems to revisit the dark comic tone of Scorsese’s “King of Comedy” and “After Hours.” As Jeffrey Wells puts it, “The cutting on this ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ trailer is brilliant. Accurately or otherwise, it persuades you that this … apparently is not a dramatic scolding exercise as much as a kind of dark existential comedy about living the life of madness when you can…go for it now, take the bust later.”
  • I attempted to read Jordan Belfort’s book, but found did not find it particularly gripping; I gave up, but vowed to try again before the movie is released. It seems to me that the film captures the book’s tone well, but also softens the snide a bit via the casting of the perennially likable DiCaprio. (It would not work with, say, Jeremy Piven in the lead. He can be a jerk, but he has to be a jerk with a dash of caddish likability.)
  • This looks like a return to “light Leo,” and not a moment too soon. (Yes, you could argue that “Django” featured an occasionally comic Leo, but it was comic Leo playing a slave owner …) Consider the films DiCaprio has starred in since his last real comedic role, in 2002’s “Catch Me If You Can”: “Gangs of New York,” “The Aviator,” “The Departed,” “Blood Diamond,” “Body of Lies,” “Revolutionary Road,” Shutter Island,” “Inception,” “J. Edgar,” “Django Unchained,” and “The Great Gatsby.” Pretty grim lot. (It is hard not to first think of Jay Gatsby when watching the trailer race along; Badass Digest Tweeted “How Gatsby got his dough.”)
  • Some interesting physical notes here: This is a slightly heavier Jonah Hill than we saw I “21 Jump Street,” and Matthew McConaughey appears to have begun his dramatic weight loss for “Dallas Buyer’s Club.” (According to the web, the sprawling cast includes Jean Dujardin, Kyle Chandler, Jon Favreau, Cristin Milioti, Rob Reiner, and, of course, Joanna Lumley and Spike Jonze.)
  • The soundtrack, Kanye Wests’s new song “Black Skinhead,” could NOT be more perfect.
  • Finally, I know Scorsese used Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London” to memorable effect in “The Color of Money,” but I’m pulling for its usage here. Lyrically (“I’d like to meet his tailor,” “His hair was perfect”), the song is just right. I’m sure Zevon would approve.

“The Wolf of Wall Street” draws blood on November 15.

 

Photo from New York Daily News/Paramount Pictures