I’ve had it. In an even slightly more sane world, folks from all over would take one look at the very premise of Martin Scorsese’s latest movie, give it the middle finger, and make other plans for their post-Christmas cinema excursion. But no: I’m sure this film about a 1990’s Wall Street scumbag named Jordan Belfort will be a big hit among moviegoers (it already has an 8.9 rating on IMDB). It doesn’t even matter that the global economy has been screwed over by the Belforts of the world. Let’s just sit in the multiplex vicariously reveling in his financial scams and the pathetic drug abuse, dwarf-tossing, whore-mongering and who knows what else that goes with it. It’s just entertainment. In my view, “The Wolf of Wall Street” being released on Christmas Day is an outrageous insult to whatever is left of the middle- and working class, even more so because few will even notice the irony. April Fool’s Day would have been far more appropriate, if it ever needed to be made at all. That Scorsese couldn’t stop himself from making this film considering all the others he could have made is mind-numbing.
No, I’m not going to see it. This is a societal review, not a film review. In most cases, I do like to experience that which I’m about to criticize. But to spend $11.00 on a product that benefits an unrepentant felon (who has paid back only 10% of the agreed victim-restitution) is strictly a no-can-do with me. Anyway, after reading several reviews I quickly and predictably found out that I was missing the point. That we were supposed to watch nearly three hours (!!!) of Belfort and his greed-blinded gluttonous Moonies getting their cinematic tires inflated by Scorsese as they bilk hundreds of millions out of the everyday citizens is OK because his “downfall” comes at the end. But Belfort’s downfall was nearly non-existent. He spent only 22 months at a downscale country club thanks to ratting on people even worse than himself and then quickly re-invented himself as a “motivational” speaker. Furthermore, we’re supposed to enjoy “Wolf of Wall Street” because, deep down, “we all want in, one way or another” (according to one critic). Well, speak for yourself. That our popular culture has become so devalued that we can just forget about our common humanity and fantasize ourselves as someone who would do everything to debase it is uniquely depressing.
Oddly enough, in my time of isolated rage at the demise of populist ideals, I found comfort in the arms of the arch-conservative New York Post. In their December 19th issue Lou Lumenick lambasted the film as interminably vulgar and called it “an advertorial that crime pays.” Too bad he had to sit through 180 minutes before coming to a conclusion I got from watching the nauseating trailer. In the same day’s editorial page, Fox Business Network correspondent Charles Gasparino chided Scorsese for letting Belfort and his “low-life penny thieves” con him into thinking they were some sort of big deal and not bit players in a bigger scandal that eventually drained countless billions of dollars out of the economy.
I don’t expect much from the 1% people who run the criminal syndicates otherwise known as Wall Street financial firms. They are laughing at us and if you don’t mind being laughed at go see the film. I do, however, expect more from those who were once upholders of counter-culture standards. Yes, I’m looking at you Rolling Stone. Last spring, many people (esp. in the Boston area where I live) objected to the magazine’s decision to run a cover photo that was a glamour-puss selfie of the surviving Boston Marathon terrorist bomber. We were told we were misguided to have a “knee-jerk” reaction to an image which accompanied their (rather pedestrian) news coverage of the attacks. So it’s OK to have a terrorist looking like a pop star on your cover but for folks who manage to go through life without killing or maiming people it’s not OK to have one knee-jerk reaction??
Now we have RS film reviewer Peter Travers, genuflecting at the altar of Scorsese in a praiseful write-up of “Wolf of Wall Street” that seemed to emanate from a deep well of defensiveness. He just can’t seem to get enough of the “frisky bad boy” at the center of the story and suggests that for those of us who “can’t take it” the only other alternative is seeing something like “Saving Mr. Banks.” WTF?! In conclusion, he says, “Does Scorsese say you should love these people? Is that what it’s about? Of course not. He’s looking at the American character; he’s looking at us all.” Well, if this director is looking at Jordan Belfort and seeing a reflection of me or anyone else I know, then both of them should have their eyes (and heads) examined. I guess in the twisted view of the Cultural 1%, we everyday citizens making an honest living are only too happy to have the wool pulled over our eyes in an oversaturated media landscape where Kurt Cobain’s refrain “Here we are now, entertain us” has lost its righteous irony.
Spoiler Alert for Losers: This clip contains admirable human emotions
And speaking of Marty, just what the hell is up with him anyway? I think I’m particularly galled at “Wolf” because it came out shortly after I re-watched “Hugo” with my family the other night. Of course, I would normally be wary of saying that “Hugo” is my favorite Scorsese film, because that would reveal myself as an uncool loser who has grown uneasy over the years with the stylized depiction of debased criminals in films like “GoodFellas” and “The Departed” which eases into semi-glorification when viewed by a violence-desensitized culture. The value of “Hugo” lies more in personal redemption, finding your true place in the world and, of course, the transformative power of cinema as seen in the early example of George Melies. And while Scorsese may have set the cause back a few years with “The Wolf of Wall Street” I’m sure we’ll all get by in the end, although a little less so thanks to the likes of a certain “motivational” speaker. Now excuse me while I spend my eleven dollars on “Inside Llewyn Davis.”