Saturday, March 1, 2014

Movie Reviews: The Wolf of Wall Street and Dallas Buyers Club

I did not finish all my movie reviews, and it's now the night before Oscars, and I have made (in preparation for our Oscar dinner bash) cider syrup, candied black sesame seed "stars" and Guinness chocolate cake -- as well as cleaning a ton of the things. There are still things to clean, mind you, but with the help of a terribly good friend and a remarkably good-natured stepdaughter, great progress was made.

So. The last of the Oscar movies that I've seen:

Movie: The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese, 2013)
Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio), Best Supporting Actor (Jonah Hill), Best Director (Martin Scorsese), Best Adapted Screenplay (5 nominations total).

This is based on the biography of Jordan Belfort, who is really just an odious human being who got rich through have absolutely no sense of ethics or responsibility to himself or others. He's done his time in prison and now we have his book, which is about all the things he did to go to prison and how he got there. He now tries to tell people how to become rich and get money for that, which... well, yeah. In Scorsese's hands, it becomes something of a condemnation of not just the 1%, but the 1% we all love to hate and the 80s' and 90s' Wall Street free-for-all that came awfully close to flushing the economy down the toilet. Jordan's the central figure, but at no point doing this movie -- not his narration, not his spirals, not his marriages, not his capture, none of it -- is he ever the least bit sympathetic. He isn't redeemed; he doesn't have that much internal integrity. The movie -- even the character, albeit unknowingly -- invites you to hate him as you travel along this crazy horrible ride with him. There's a dreamlike quality to it, frankly; nothing he does ever seems to have repercussions, even though we know otherwise. We just don't see it. It's edited. He's a hugely unreliable narrator and Scorsese makes no apologies for it. The whole idea of "it's not a lie if you don't believe me" is Belfort's raison d'etre throughout the movie, and as such we're allowed to laugh at the horrible things he does and is because it's just never completely real. I went into this movie expecting to hate it, but I didn't. I actually really liked it, and Leo's pretty much the reason why. A few months ago I saw The Great Gatsby (Baz Luhrmann, 2013) and I couldn't help but contrast the two movies, in which Leo plays such superficially similar roles -- except that Gatsby actually cares about something beyond himself, and Belfort never does. Really worth watching, even as awful as nearly all of the characters in it are.

Movie: Dallas Buyers Club (Jean-Marc Vallée, 2013)
Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor (Matthew McConaughey), Best Supporting Actor (Jared Leto), Film Editing, Makeup and Hairstyling, Original Screenplay (6 nominations total)

So, this is really good. I know there should be more to this review than that, but it's frankly good. The physicality of the acting all the way through -- the things they all did, the weight they lost, the accents, everything. It was painful and sad and amazing, and I will probably not see it again, but it was absolutely worth seeing it once. Jared Leto is wonderful. People have AIDS, even people who think they shouldn't. People die of AIDS, but not everyone, and during the time period of the film, that's saying something. It's not all about the tragic death. It's not Rent.

Just go see it if you haven't. Seriously.