Archive for Jonah Hill

Here Comes Mr. Jordan

Posted in FILM, Politics, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 7, 2014 by dcairns

Wolf 1

All images, showing the characteristic Scorsese crucifixion-triumph pose (Pupkin on TV/LaMotta on the ropes) swiped from Apocalypse Now.

Maybe a tiny bit spoiler-y? Exercise your discretion.

The only problem I had with THE WOLF OF WALL STREET really is that it’s the same story as GOODFELLAS, and the earlier film is a more stylistically varied film (fast pace but also long takes) and benefits from Scorsese’s greater intimacy with the social scene depicted. (If, as Scorsese argues, nobody but an Italian-American should have been allowed to tackle that subject, arguably a WASP should’ve helmed WOLF). But that’s largely where my quibbling ends — the movie is rambunctious and loud and relentless, and I kept wondering how it could fill its running time this way, since it seemed to have reached a climax of excess before the first hour was up, but it keeps finding reasons to move forward in propulsive bulges, reminding me of the mutated Tetsuo in Katsushiro Otomo’s AKIRA, an obscene caterpillar of psychotic bloat.


I don’t get why this movie’s attitude to its subject should be any more controversial than GOODFELLAS’ portrayal of the gangster lifestyle, awash with blood and cocaine and tacky furnishings and delicious-looking sauces. Scorsese has clearly articulated his philosophy of showing not telling, which in the stories he chooses means not editorializing or moralizing but making a moral point apparent by being truthful about the essence of something (even while frequently fictionalizing details). So you don’t have a cop make a speech like Huston was forced to do in THE ASPHALT JUNGLE — the closest to that here is the subway scene which makes a point of contrasting the lifestyle of the honest FBI agent played by Kyle Chandler, with what we’ve already seen of Jordan Belfort/Leo DiCaprio’s world, and what we’re about to see of his soft prison time. But this, like the film’s final shot, is accomplished visually, not by making speeches. The only speeches made are to represent what the characters think or pretend they think, not to allow the filmmaker a podium. This is known as treating the audience as adults.

Wolf 4

Like GOODFELLAS, the film’s moral standing is perhaps compromised or tainted by the fact that its subject is still at large and benefiting from his crimes, but GOODFELLAS would seem in some way the more problematic case. Henry Hill was this gangster who apparently never killed anybody, but just happened to be there when people got killed, or was involved in jobs where most of the other participants subsequently wound up killed. He’s our storyteller, so we have to take his version of events, which doesn’t exactly paint him sympathetically but does differentiate him from his more murderous buddies. Whereas, if Jordan Belfort was guilty of more outrageous abuses than are presented onscreen, it’s hard to imagine what they could be. His only possible moral edge over Ray Liotta’s character is that Belfort tries to save his best friend from the consequences of Belfort’s stool-pigeonry. But even this is portrayed as another example of his treachery (to the FBI) and stupidity. “You just learned the two most important lessons in life: never rat on your friends, and always keep your mouth shut.” I always loved that line in GOODFELLAS, it’s so dumb: the two lessons are exactly the same thing. And are disregarded as soon as it’s convenient.

Others have also pointed out the stunning physical comedy perpetrated by DiCaprio during the quaalude abuse scene — I just have to echo that because it would be criminal not to. Flailing, writhing, attempting to walk on his shoulders while flat on his belly, the actor achieves a liquid spasticity undreamt-of by the nuttiest of professors (check out his comedy dancing too). This may be the first time Scorsese has appropriated from Jerry Lewis, even though he DIRECTED Jerry Lewis. And the pay-off to this bit involves an unreliable narrator gag in which the scene is rewritten before our eyes — a joke touched on at the outset of the film when Belfort’s Ferrari changes colour in one shot from Ferris Bueller red to Don Johnson white, because it’s important to Belfort that these details are correct. And that little CGI joke seemed to come from nowhere and vanish into nowhere, until it comes back to sideswipe your brain two hours later. VERY nice work from screenwriter Terence Winter (Boardwalk Empire).

Haven’t seen AMERICAN HUSTLE yet (I will!) so can’t comment on the other hot topic, “Which is the better Martin Scorsese movie?” Though I do have my own opinion about who has the better right to make Martin Scorsese movies.


Things I ate during SUPERBAD

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , on July 3, 2008 by dcairns

Plate of spaghetti bolognese with cheese.

SUPERBAD is another Judd Apatow-produced slob comedy type thing (it’s directed by Greg Mottola, script by Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg), but if you think about it, this stuff is pretty smart and progressive compared to slob-coms of earlier decades. I mean, I would rather gouge my own nipples out than watch NOT ANOTHER TEEN MOVIE. This one struck me as actually very funny, most of the time.

Then I had a sort of lemon curd yoghurt thing for desert. The movie was still on at this point.

The Apatow school strikes a weird balance, trying to be sensitive and respectful to women while doing gross-out stuff and celebrating childish behaviour in men. They tend to show ugly men winning the hearts of really hot girls, which is implausible outside showbiz, but not in itself grounds for hating the films, I would say. Not that Michael Cera is ugly, in fact he’s rather beautiful. I would totally do him, and I would still feel completely heterosexual even as I penetrated him because he’s so inherently lovely.

After dessert I felt like a nice cup of tea, so I had one. Does that count? Tea?

But homosexuality is a big thing here, partly because these films are a little confused about it. There are never any actual homosexual characters in these more enlightened modern comedies, because it wouldn’t be cool to laugh at gays (I guess there’s the cowboy newscaster in ANCHORMAN: THE RON BURGUNDY STORY, but that seems to be OK because he’s deeply closeted and self-deception IS inherently funny), but characters can humorously abuse each other for acting “gay”. THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN has extended banter about “You know how I know you’re gay?” between two straight buddies, and while I found it funny I also worried if, you know, I should. In fact, if you start to worry about this, it does mostly stop being funny.

It’s kind of like Old Hollywood and black people. While some comedies portrayed blacks as shiftless imbeciles, or at least poked fun at lack of education, filmmakers more sensitive to racial issues responded by not featuring any black characters in their films at all. “They have suffered too much ever to be funny to me,” said Chaplin. But even though these guys meant well, ethnically cleansing American cinema is actually WORSE than patronising and insulting the black populace.

(Comparing black people to gay people is now the only acceptable way to offend black people.)

So now we have slightly cautious dirty comedies that can kind of denigrate the concept of same-sex sex, without ever actually showing it in existence. And it’s SORT OF acceptable, because we all know that people don’t always talk and behave in a P.C. way, right? And it does feel like discourse is continuing to progress, even with the Republicans in power — an actor making a homophobic remark can get in trouble for it, which, when you think about it, is incredible progress.

And then I had some nice poppy seed bread, just because it was there. I mean, I wasn’t actually hungry or anything.

There’s a point when the two heroes of SUPERBAD have a sleepover and admit they love one another, and then the next morning they’re embarrassed. I kind of wanted them to actually DO IT, or kiss or something, something they could at least be properly embarrassed about. That would actually be a major step in mainstream comedy. And it’s not actually as if I want to see Jonah Hill copulating with ANYONE.

Even Michael Cera.