The Good Place
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Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street" is a recycling of the old form, he simply refurbishes it and gives us a good, up to date product, though it's significantly inferior to his masterpiece "Goodfellas". Are the gangsters of "Goodfellas" and "Casino" and the stockbrokers of Scorsese's latest just two faces of the same coin? I think the argument could be made either way; both wanted to be wealthy, but at least to me it seemed there was more to Henry Hill than just getting rich: "As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster." The gangster to me is a rebel and while the stockbrokers do commit illegal activities according to the government, there is no way could I support them; to me they are not "human". Sure, maybe they (gangsters and stockbrokers) are all the same kind at the end of the day, but it's a testimony to directors like Scorsese and Coppola who can manipulate our minds and make us care for such selfish beings.
Though I said the stockbrokers aren't human and I wholeheartedly despise them, Scorsese was able to evoke sympathy and pity from me near the end when Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio) is having a quarrel with his wife. I have no respect for a person whose sole purpose in life is to have more money for the sake of money so I had a very difficult time relating to the people in the film. This is probably Leonardo DiCaprio's career best performance; he is a good actor, in a couple scenes he goes to one or two higher levels of acting where he deeply becomes one with the character he is playing. I was very impressed, though I don't understand the Robert De Niro comparisons. Scorsese and DiCaprio bring so much energy, humor, and SEX to lifeless characters that the three hour length doesn't become tiresome, it actually feels much shorter. I was particularly fond of the scene involving Belfort and his wife's aunt.
I know it's DiCaprio's film through and through, but I was disappointed about Matthew McConaughey's character disappearing after creating a such a good scene with Leonardo. I only had a vague understanding of stocks; I am thankful for what I learned throughout the surprising viewing experience. People who think they have it all don't really have anything of true value.
I would put the Scorsese ahead of McQueen's "12 Years a Slave" and Cuaron's "Gravity".
There are atrocities you are generally aware of but they only have a significant impact on your conscience once you are put face to face with them; I have had enormous interest in slavery for a long time, though I never studied it extensively. Martin Luther King Jr. is the most famous of Black civil rights leaders, but I am more interested in people like Malcolm X and Fredrick Douglass. It is only out of laziness that I haven't been able to study the people and events that my heart desires deep inside. The great thing about cinema is you can learn a thing or two about history within two or three hours and at the same time enjoy it.
Steve McQueen's "12 Years a Slave" does not provide anything substantially new in showcasing the struggle of a man; it's a typical story, it can be melodramatic and preachy and close to (but not quite) overbearing at times, I personally was more keen in the time and place Solomon lived than the character himself. I am aware that it was based on a true story, but I feel it lacks a great, deep character; it also does not explore the relationship between the slave and the slave master Epps as extensively as I would have liked, particularly near the closure of the film. What I did not know and what McQueen shows is how slaves were bought and sold, in one scene the seller and the owner are in a room where they inspect the nude slaves of both sexes or how a white woman up top is looking at naked black men and women having to shower together outdoor like it isn't a big deal. Other good scenes are where a slave is astonished at seeing Solomon as a free man in a shop, when Solomon sees lynchings, and when he convinces Epps that he isn't trying to run away.
McQueen is a talented director, I think he brings the best out of a limited story and characters. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender perform very well; I was also impressed with Brad Pitt and Alfre Woodard, among others. What this film does for me is it helps to recharge my mind to study slavery, it helps me to know what I already knew, what was on the back of my mind. It's a fine film with more positives than negatives, and I hope a lot of young people (no matter the color) go and see it. Regarding the stupidity of religion, George Carlin once said: "You have stand in awe...", this is how I felt about slavery while watching the movie; if you really take a moment and think about it you must realize at how preposterously absurd and evil the whole institution was, that you had actual laws set by a country's government to trade your fellow human beings. What's even more disastrous is that white people were so ignorant and blind and couldn't distinguish between a baboon and a black man and made them so stupid and convinced them that whatever was happening to them was justified in scripture. Who is more stupid? The slave that is forbidden to read, write, or learn and is brainwashed from childhood in to believing he is a sinner or the slave master who has several resources to be educated but still in his mind believes that because the person across from you is darker he must be a lesser being?
The absurd thing is that these slave owners or whites in general spent their whole lives with the slaves and they still could not observe and understand that both are not any different from one another. I may not clean the house or my room every day but I do not treat what I own as bad as a lot of the slave owners did.
"Shame" is the slightly better film of the two I've seen by McQueen, but I had more to say about this film because it concerns a subject of great personal interest.
Instead of seeing the new Scorsese, McQueen, or Jonze I had to see "The LEGO Movie" with two other guys, sadly it wasn't really worth spending fifteen dollars for the 3D ticket. It had potential with some clever ideas about how television brainwashes the masses, how big business is at control, stuff that I am only starting to get a grasp of. In a lot of sequences I did appreciate the compatibility of 3D with some of the set pieces, for example the LEGO desert, among other gorgeous scenery. There are a handful of conversations that are pretty funny, but nothing outrageous. The characters are cute and adorable though nobody really singles out. Liam Neeson as Bad Cop was my favorite. Below average work because of a lackluster plot and a overused ending.
A third-tier Hitchcock is still a good one. It concerns Guy, an amateur tennis player accidentally meeting the rich and suave psychopath Bruno on a train, and the latter suggests they should exchange murders. Guy hates his wife, Bruno hates his father, so he wants Guy to kill his father and Bruno will kill Guy's wife. There are two incredible shots, one involving a murder as seen through the victim's fallen eyeglasses and another of Bruno sitting still in the middle of the tennis stands as the rest of the viewers are moving their heads left and right. Hitchcock uses objects like a lighter, a name tag, and glasses as plot devices to move the story forward. Robert Walker as Bruno easily has the best performance of the cast. The story in abstract is very intriguing and exciting, I just wasn't incredibly attached to the actors playing the characters or even the world compared to the other, better works by the director. And I kind of know what's going to happen in the end during most Hitchcock films as I am watching them or they're not particularly surprising, even if they are precisely crafted.