The Wolf of Wall Street

Jordan Belfort is the 21st century Charles Foster Kane. He is one of the most over-the-top, outsize movie characters in years. Kane made his fame as a newspaper publisher; Belfort, as a rules-bending stockbroker. Both relish influence, control, riches and a lavish lifestyle. Both are fitting archetypes of their eras.

The Wolf of Wall Street is one of 2013’s best movies. In director Martin Scorcese’s vast film canon, this is one of his most memorable and most entertaining efforts.

Leonardo DiCaprio takes this juicy role handed him by Scorcese and milks it for all it’s worth. Sex and drugs inspire Belfort to earn ridiculous amounts of money. But he is a man who can’t be satisfied: the more sex, drugs and money he gets, the more he wants.

Belfort (DiCaprio) is the dominating centerpiece of this excellent movie, but his partners in crime complement his greed and debauchery. Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) is Belfort’s top sideman in scamming and in living the high life. The cast includes Rob Reiner as Belfort’s dad, Jean Dujardin (of The Artist fame) as a Swiss banker and Mathew McConaughey as one of Belfort’s early mentors.

The film is based on the books of real life stockbroker Jordan Belfort, who has written about his reckless, risky behavior. Considering that Belfort was under the influences of cocaine, Quaaludes and booze much of the time, his memories of what happened may be a bit spotty.

Whether the tall tales he writes regarding his exploits are completely true does not really matter. The story we see on the screen is big, loud, outrageous and entertaining. TWOWS is not a movie to be taken totally seriously, though it should be seen by anyone who buys stocks through a stockbroker. The movie’s narrative is obviously filled with exaggeration and hyperbole, but that only makes it more entertaining.

Special note: The Wolf of Wall Street contains a large amount of graphic nudity and sexual content, much of which may be shocking to see in a mainstream Hollywood film at your multiplex. But most of the sexual content is not of an erotic nature, and some of it provides many of TWOWS’s funny and OMG moments.

As Belfort lived his life at full speed ahead, so does Scorcese in his telling of the story. The Wolf of Wall Street is a 3-hour movie and, except for a few respites, it unspools with compelling episode after compelling episode.

The Wolf of Wall Street should be in the running for multiple Oscar nominations. Best actor, best director and best movie are good possibilities. Brace yourself and enjoy this amazing, outrageous—and maybe even partly true—story.

Dallas Buyers Club

Dallas Buyers Club lives up to the buzz it has generated. Along with the one standout performance that’s been hailed in blurbs galore, there are a couple more that are impressive. The fact that this movie is inspired by true events in the life of a real person adds to its impact.

Ron Woodroof (Mathew McConaughey) is a typical mid-1980’s Texas redneck. He’s a blue- collar worker who lives a hedonistic lifestyle off the job. That includes drugs, booze, strip clubs and casual sex. Although he is straight, he contracts AIDS which, in this time period, is still new and baffling to the medical/pharma community and frightening to everyone.

Upon being told his condition is terminal, he does research and reads about AZT, which is not yet legally available pending tests and FDA approval. Upon procuring AZT and other drugs for himself, he finds there’s a market for these drugs among other AIDS victims.

He forms a “buyers club,” where those who pay a $400/fee can help themselves to whatever meds he has available. To work around existing regulations, such clubs prospered in several cities in the 80’s.

Dallas Buyers Club presents Woodroof as a bit of a hero, one who goes to extreme lengths to obtain medications for AIDS victims, most of whom are gay. But Woodroof’s basic motivation is keeping himself alive.

When an actor gains or loses a significant amount of weight for a role, it generally garners attention. (Think DeNiro, Hanks, Zellwegger, Bale and others.) When this change is accompanied by a great performance, the effect is amplified. McConaughey’s work in DBC is outstanding.

During one hospital stay, Woodroof meets Rayon (an unrecognizable Jared Leto), a cross-dressing gay drug addict. His performance is eye-opening.

Dr. Eve Saks (Jennifer Garner) is sympathetic to Woodroof’s cause, despite his upset at doctors and the FDA. Garner shows that she, too, like McConaughey, can handle the serious stuff.

Those of us who were around in the 80’s recall the developing AIDS epidemic, aka the “gay disease.” That’s when dentists started using rubber gloves, lest they be exposed to tainted blood.

I lived in Dallas in 1984-85. I worked with a gay newsman at my radio station. He moved to Miami a few years later where he died of AIDS. I wonder if he ever knew Ron Woodroof or someone like him.

McConaughey has to be considered for an Oscar nomination. Added to his work in Mud earlier this year, 2013 has been a year of redemption for him.

Dallas Buyers Club is rated R for many reasons, including sex, language, drug use, etc.