“No, of course Scorsese doesn’t approve of Belfort’s actions; who would? We may wish that such behavior didn’t exist, but its existence is a central part of human nature, and there’s a reason that we can’t stop watching, just as we can’t stop watching the terrifying storm or the shark attack. Within the movie’s roiling, riotous turbulence is an Olympian detachment, a grand and cold consideration of life from a contemplative distance, as revealed in the movie’s last shot, which puts The Wolf of Wall Street squarely in the realm of the late film, with its lofty vision of ultimate things. It’s as pure and harrowing a last shot as those of John Ford’s 7 Women and Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Gertrud — an image that, if by some terrible misfortune were to be Scorsese’s last, would rank among the most harshly awe-inspiring farewells of the cinema.” — from Richard Brody‘s 12.24 New Yorker review of The Wolf of Wall Street. Note: The term is self-evident but for the uninitiated Brody should have used “late film” in quotes. It means a film made by an acknowledged auteur in his/her final stage of output (70-plus).
This Macca tune is half-catchy. I wouldn’t post something cheery and lightweight like this (be honest) if it wasn’t Christmas morning with a nice soothing snow blanket covering everything in Croton-on-Hudson, where I happen to be this morning. A nice day to go a little alpha on the HE community. Sorry. I can’t do the scowly-neurotic-judgmental “performance art” thing 365-24-7.
This looks good, sounds smart, might work. Kevin Costner blends well with films about the spirit, culture and business of sport (Bull Durham, Tin Cup, For Love of the Game). Frank Langella, Jennifer Garner, Denis Leary, Ellen Burstyn, Sam Elliott, Tom Welling, Chadwick Boseman…a good cast. There’s only one thing that could screw it up and that’s director Ivan Reitman, who tends to dumb or downmarket his films down.
Creating a mock Monuments Men newsreel was a clever idea, but the Sony marketing guys screwed it up by adopting the film’s slightly desaturated color scheme with a 2.4:1 aspect ratio. It’s a WW II-era story, guys…hello? The newsreel should be in scratchy black-and-white with a 1.33 aspect ratio, and the narrator should have one of those barky, “I am the voice of authority!” Drew Pearson-type voices. The Sony ad guys were almost certainly afraid that the under-40 idiots would whisper in alarm, “Hey, is Monuments Men in black and white…?” This is the world we live in — a world rank with technological sophistication re tablets, smartphones and the latest games, and yet few are hip enough to process a boxy black-and-white trailer without assuming the movie itself must be monochrome also. Brilliant! Here’s the new Monuments Men website.
“Does The Wolf of Wall Street condemn or celebrate? Is it meant to provoke disgust or envy? These may be, in the present phase of American civilization, distinctions without a meaningful difference behind them. If you walk away feeling empty and demoralized, worn down by the tackiness and aggression of the spectacle you have just witnessed, perhaps you truly appreciate the film’s critical ambitions. If, on the other hand, you ride out of the theater on a surge of adrenaline, intoxicated by its visual delights and visceral thrills, it’s possible you missed the point. The reverse could also be true. To quote another one of Mr. Scorsese’s magnetic, monstrous heroes, Jake LaMotta, that’s entertainment.” — final paragraph from A.O. Scott‘s conflicted rave in the 12.25 N.Y. Times.
“One thing is clear in Anchorman 2, and that is the importance of ratings,” writes Star Tribune contributor Don Shelby, a TV news guy. “In an attempt to get ratings, the buffoon Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) suggests that news is not really important, but that he could drive the ratings up by reporting interesting stories that will help take people’s minds off of the important stuff in their lives.
Thanks to Idiot Savant Online‘s John Lichman for a moderately funny, reasonably accurate tribute piece. I was terrified as I began reading it, dreading this or that form of libel or character assassination, but I began to relax when I finished the third paragraph. Whew.
No one is a more devout fan of Jules Dassin‘s Rififi than myself, but I’m always a tiny bit concerned when Criterion delivers a Bluray of a black-and-white classic. How grain-monky will it be? It’s standard policy, of course, for Criterion’s Bluray team to never “bump” anything up — they always deliver the film precisely as it looked when projected at a first-rate house on opening day. That worked out fine with their Sweet Smell of Success Bluray, but the Criterion dweebs are notoriously queer for grainstorms. And statements like “brightness and contrast levels appear to have been slightly toned down,” “there are absolutely no traces of problematic degraining corrections” and “compromising sharpening adjustments also have not been applied” (all of which appear in Dr. Svet Atanasov‘s Bluray.com review) scare the living shit out of me. I’m also concerned by his observation that “debris, cuts, scratches, flecks, and stains have been removed as best as possible.” A similar qualifier was used by the Criterion folks to describe their notoriously awful Bluray of Stagecoach. It sounds as if the Rififi Bluray might be sullied with a few scratches, flecks and stains.
Disney’s upcoming baseball flick, allegedly “a cross between Jerry Maguire and Moneyball“, is about a struggling sports agent (Mad Men‘s John Hamm) looking for a great pitcher among India’s cricket players. There are too many highly talented contributors — director Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl), screenwriter Thomas McCarthy (director of Win Win and The Visitor), producer Bill Simmons and costars Lake Bell, Alan Arkin, Bill Paxton and Aasif Mandvi — to wave this one off as another sports-flick ho-hummer. This has to be at least half-decent.
I attended the Oratorio Society of New York‘s annual performance of George Frideric Handel‘s Messiah last night at Carnegie Hall. The piece was first performed in Dublin in 1742. The OSNY has been performing it every Christmas since 1874. Who am I to offer the slightest criticism in the face of all that history and tradition? Several portions of Messiah are of course rousing and moving. I’m gratified to have finally seen it performed live, particularly with such first-rate passion and expertise (hats off to conductor Kent Tritle, sopranos Kathryn Lewek and Rebecca Ringle, bass-baritone Dashon Burton, the orchestra and chorus…everyone) but I must say that the piece itself, which ran about 2 hours and 45 minutes with intermission, felt a bit trying at times. Messiah is an astonishingly complex work that soars and swirls and reaches for the heavens, but it is rather taken with itself. Handel was basically saying (a) “get down on your knees and stay there until this is over” and (b) “if you’re a devout Christian, this shouldn’t be a problem.” Handel wasn’t Beethoven or Tchaikovsky. Excepting Messiah‘s famous “King of Kings, Lord of Lords” finale, he wasn’t given to themes or melodies that you could hum or hold onto. And the lyrics, boiled down, are a pious repetition of Christian platitudes about the absolutely glorious, mind-blowing divinity and wondrousness of Jesus Christ and the Holy Father and the archangels and so on. All right already. But it’s a “great” work and I let it all in. Happy for that.
I was going to run this story as an HE stand-alone but Franklinavenue and Slashfilm‘s Germain Lussier beat me to it. In new TV spots Weinstein Co. marketers are claiming that August: Osage County and Philomena are the “winner[s]” of some significant Golden Globe nominations. There are all kinds of flattering ways you can legitimately describe the honor of having been nominated by the HFPA. But you really can’t say that a film has won a nomination. That’s not stretching the truth — that’s a three-card-monte flim-flam. By Weinstein Co. standards if you’re chatting up a really hot lady in a nice bar in the Flatiron district, it’s the same as…well, not the same as going home with her and having mad acrobatic sex for four or five hours, but pretty much the same as making out with her in the back seat of a cab. Or something like that. Being nominated means you’re just talking to her at the bar, period. Okay, maybe she likes you and maybe she’s on her third drink, but it’s just talk.