Archive for the ‘Punks’ Category

 

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

 

As soon as it hit theaters, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET was met with a surprising and vehement pushback. It’s surprising because a new Martin Scorsese film is generally met with critical reverence, but prominent outlets such as the New Yorker, the Village Voice, New York Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, Time, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Post all took a dump on this one. And if that sounds like a lot, you ought to see the amount of online thinkpieces scolding the movie’s supposed endorsement of greed, misogyny, and misanthropy. While I love to see people talking passionately about a Martin Scorsese movie in 2013 (and now 2014), I think the people who have been decrying THE WOLF OF WALL STREET for supposedly glorifying its subject need to sit down, take a breath, relax, and then take a second look at it. Does this film, at a breezy three hours, make the story of fraudulent stockbroker Jordan Belfort entertaining? Yeah, at three hours it had probably better. Does it condone his amoral behavior, his criminal actions, his borderline sociopathic worldview? Not for a second.

 

LEO DOLLARS

 

The real Jordan Belfort is in this movie, for the record. Leonardo DiCaprio plays a version of him throughout the film, but in the very last scene, there’s a cameo by the actual guy. He appears briefly at the top of the movie’s final scene, as the one introducing DiCaprio-as-Belfort at a speaking engagement, and I’d like to tell you something about my viewing experience here: I hated that guy on sight. His smirking face, his gratingly irritating voice; it makes my hand curl into a fist just thinking about it. I didn’t even know that role was performed by Jordan Belfort until the end credits rolled. His appearance almost took me out of the movie, and not because I knew who he was. My thoughts went something like, “Jesus Christ, that’s the most obnoxious extra ever.”

 

PIXAR'S WALLEYE

 

So Leonardo DiCaprio isn’t playing Jordan Belfort, not exactly. DiCaprio’s performance is charming and entertaining, and it needs to be, or the movie couldn’t hold its audience for a fraction of its running time. A movie can satisfy the needs of its audience while also delivering a message. DiCaprio’s performance is a vessel which delivers the moral mission of the movie. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET doesn’t glorify Jordan Belfort; it uses him. He’s displayed as a parable. People are angry to think Jordan Belfort got paid for the rights to his life story. I get that. But consider the case of Henry Hill, the man who provided the source material for GOODFELLAS. Sure, he was played by the handsome and charming Ray Liotta, and yes, he probably got paid. Does anybody watch GOODFELLAS wishing they were Henry Hill? In real life, after he came out of hiding, he had debilitating substance abuse problems and basically became a member of Howard Stern’s Wack Pack, and not even one who’s beloved, like Beetlejuice or Eric The Actor.

 

MARTY PITCHES IN

 

When contemplating the moral message of THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, we are helped greatly by considering the track record of the man who made it. This isn’t the guy’s controversial debut film. Haven’t we been through this cultural conversation before, multiple times, only to finally come to a reasonable consensus? Martin Scorsese is rightly and highly ranked among the most well-regarded of living film directors. Scorsese is a movie-mad Catholic, one of the most thoughtful artists ever to probe the matter of man’s violent nature. He uses film both as the medium of communication and as the metaphorical fuel stoking the fire. This is the man who made THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST, about the thoughts of Jesus while hanging upon the cross. Therefore, I do believe Scorsese is someone who is concerned with spirituality and ethics. This is the man who made KUNDUN, a movie which treats the Dalai Lama with reverence. I do not believe Martin Scorsese endorses dwarf-tossing.

 

KAMIKAZE!

 

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET makes people uneasy because it is so thoroughly entertaining. That’s good. That’s a testament to the movie’s effectiveness. After four decades of making and perfecting excellent movies, Scorsese knows how to work an audience like few others. This film spends the majority of its running time showing how Belfort left Wall Street (making the title a bit inaccurate, ironically) because he wanted to start a criminal enterprise even more profitable than the everyday swindling. It shows how selfish and shallow he was, how he hurt people without a second thought during his monomaniacal pursuit of women, drugs, and especially money. It shows how he won over his trophy wife and lost her (Australian actress Margot Robbie, a stunner who does a pitch-perfect New York accent and should have been in the running for all the awards). This guy hits a beautiful woman, one of the worst things a man can do in a movie. The movie doesn’t condemn him, seems impartial in point of fact. Shouldn’t it condemn him? Shouldn’t someone condemn him?

 

AMERICAN DOUCHEBAG

 

Consider how much time is spent showing Belfort’s punishment. It isn’t much. Belfort’s downfall takes up comparatively little screentime, his time in prison confined to one short scene, and even that takes place on an open-air tennis court. This movie shows us everything this bastard did, in gory detail, and then it doesn’t give us the sight of the punishment he deserves. That’s why so many people are troubled by this movie. Jordan Belfort got away with it. He did all those things, and he basically got away with it.

 

la_ca_1222_wolf_of_wall_street

 

And he’s just one guy.

 

Implicit in the film is that Jordan Belfort is not the only one who was doing what he was doing, that there are plenty who are still doing it. If that bothers us, it should. One reason we love movies is because they are tidier than real life. The good guys win and the bad guys get it in the end. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET gives us all that pleasure and then denies us the pleasure of seeing Jordan Belfort get his come-uppance. It works us up and then it gives us blue balls. That’s what we, as America, deserve. We let these guys get away with it, every day. Our national economy has been raided time and again by predators easily as bad as Jordan Belfort, and they are rewarded, not imprisoned. That’s not politics. That’s a measurable truth. But it’s an unpopular truth, and so it needs to be snuck into people’s minds inside of a yummy dessert. So very far from being an immoral film, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET is in fact the most daringly moral film of the year.

 

@jonnyabomb

 

 

This piece originally appeared in slightly different form on Daily Grindhouse.

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Merry Christmas from Iggy Pop!

Posted: December 24, 2013 in Holidays, Punks

Iggy Pop

Iggy Pop and some friends have a holiday message for you:

Iggy+Pop++New+York+

@jonnyabomb

 
 
The Blob is the Rodney Dangerfield of horror characters.  It may seem odd to you and me that a gigantic neon space-booger isn’t as sexy to kids as vampires are, but that does seem to be the case.  No respect.  No love.  No romantic TWILIGHT-style franchise for this guy.  Can you imagine?  I can, but then I’m deranged.  Still, you don’t have to be crazy to appreciate the frequently-underconsidered cinematic adventures of The Blob.
 
When I bring up THE BLOB, I’m really referring to the 1988 remake written by Frank Darabont and Chuck Russell, not the 1958 original – which, even though it stars Steve McQueen, is not exactly as memorable as the newer version.  All due respect to the original THE BLOB for lighting the way – it may just be that slime technology advanced so much in the intervening thirty years.It’s not that the idea of a killer pink mess from space is necessarily refreshing, but then again the horror landscape has been dominated by vampires and zombies for a long, long time, and a guy can’t help but get the wandering eye.   The Blob is one of the most overlooked horror creatures; even werewolves, so often neglected, get more attention.  I haven’t revisited The Blob in a while, but I’m always pleasantly surprised by how fun it is.  I guess most people just don’t remember the modest greatness of this movie, if they were ever aware of it in the first place.

As I mentioned two paragraphs back, the 1988 remake of THE BLOB was written by Frank Darabont, who is most famous for adapting and directing THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, and c0-scripter Chuck Russell, who also directed, and on his own is probably most famous for directing Jim Carrey in THE MASK.  These guys never seemed happier than when unleashing their vision of THE BLOB upon the world (a suspicion given credence by Darabont’s terrific return to horror with 2007’s THE MIST and 2010’s TV pilot for THE WALKING DEAD) – THE BLOB ’88 is funny, unpredictable, exciting, suspenseful, and occasionally genuinely spooky.

THE BLOB opens with a trio of main characters that are pretty much your basic BREAKFAST CLUB archetypes – the jock, the princess, and the criminal – minus an Anthony Michael Hall or an Ally Sheedy.  You’ve got the all-American high school football hero (Donovan Leitch), working up the nerve to ask out the cutest cheerleader (Shawnee Smith), while the rebellious motorcycle punk (Kevin Dillon) sneers in the background.  Okay, hang on —

 

Can we just have a moment of appreciation for Kevin Dillon’s macro-mullet in this movie?  No, that’s no mullet – that’s a mane.  Kevin Dillon’s hairstylist on this movie must have taken inspiration from that mightiest of jungle beasts, the lion.  Truly magnificent.

Meanwhile, back in the film:  An asteroid falls out of the sky and spits out some pink sludge that looks not unlike strawberry Jell-O.  It’s the title character!  A surprisingly stereotypical (even for 1988) old hobo is the first to stumble upon The Blob, which promptly attaches itself to his hand and starts nibbling.  The hobo frantically runs around trying to get it off, and runs right into the path of the jock and the princess on their date.  The teenagers try to get him help, but things just keep getting worse for everyone from there.

The movie descends into chaos from there, and it’s joyous.  The great thing about this movie is that, as jaded as one may be from watching tons of similar movies, you just can never tell exactly where it’s going next.  Characters who you were sure were the movie’s main character might be swallowed up early.  The authorities, normally an obstacle to heroes because they never believe the threat until it’s too late, here believe the threat fairly quickly — because they’re getting swallowed up by them.  No one has movie immunity here – the very young and the very old alike get eaten by The Blob.  The kill scenes are original and unusual; they play out as thrilling for gore hounds, and as effectively disturbing to the more well-adjusted.  The characters are almost universally likable, particularly Kevin Dillon, the super-cute Shawnee Smith, and Darabont regular Jeffrey DeMunn – and you’re always rooting for them to get out alive, although unfortunately not all of them do.

I won’t say any more than that, but I will provide a brief “Where Are They Now?” update in case you’re curious about what becae of THE BLOB‘s promising young cast: 

POST-SCRIPT:

After filming, the stars of THE BLOB went their separate ways…

Kevin Dillon was shorn of his mighty locks.  He wandered steadily through character roles until earlier last decade, where his odd charisma was rediscovered and he went on to entertain millions of douchebags as [arguably] the only remotely likable character on HBO’s Entourage.

Shawnee Smith, as cute and lovable as ever, apparently ran afoul of the Devil and was sentenced to appear in every single SAW movie to date.  It gets worse.  See her now on FX’s Anger Management.  That’s right, the Charlie Sheen show.  She deserves better, but that’s not how Satan works. 

Jeffrey DeMunn discovered incriminating photographs of Frank Darabont and parlayed that into featured character roles in every movie Darabont has made since.

Del Close, who played the deranged Reverend in The Blob, remained most famous for being a teacher at Second City and having taught just about every great sketch comedian of the past thirty years.  He is also credited with having uttered the greatest last words ever.

The Blob has had a roller-coaster of a show business career since its impressive screen debut in 1988. 

One year later, it had the highest-profile role of its career as “Pink Mood Slime,” the fearsome adversary of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and company in GHOSTBUSTERS 2.  After over-extending itself in that film by attempting to swallow an entire museum, The Blob became addicted to painkillers and was forced to take supporting roles in increasingly shoddy science-fiction films for cash before, in 1997, turning to porn. 

That was a dark, dark time. 

In 2004, The Blob found Jesus (in a nice callback to the final scene of THE BLOB ’88) and moved to Pasadena. 

Today, The Blob hopes to return to mainstream movies, and is now lobbying for roles in both Rob Zombie’s scheduled re-remake of THE BLOB, and in the forthcoming sequel to JULIE & JULIA, against the Blob’s acting idol, the great Meryl Streep.

 

More up-to-the-minute showbiz info on Twitter!:  @jonnyabomb