Week in Review – Keener and DiCaprio

This week I watched all of Nicole Holofcener’s films so that when I watched Enough Said I would have seen her other films for comparison. The really interesting thing about her films (and reminded me of David O. Russell) is that all of the characters played by Catherine Keener (and in Enough Said by Julia Louis Dreyfuss) are fairly socially and personally oblivious. What most people would recognize as un-diagnosed Aspergers is what these women are all characterized with. Its not necessarily a bad thing but it makes me wonder about the quality of the actor in this case considering they all feel the same. In David O. Russell’s filmography Ben Stiller’s character in Flirting With Disaster is identically characterized to Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings and American Hustle. In both cases I wonder who the artist is. 

Either way, Holofcener’s films did impress me a lot. She deals with similar themes in her films around womanhood in society but she takes different stabs at it in each film: friendship in Walking and Talking, sisterhood, motherhood, body image and a little bit of race in Lovely and Amazing, class, sexuality and control in Friends With Money, integrity and death in Please Give, and aging and relationships in Enough Said. The five films together are an interesting treatise on womanhood if incomplete in terms of the diversity of womanhood (particularly with race and GSM communities). 

I also saw Wolf of Wall Street and from there began watching Scorsese’s filmography which led to another series of DiCaprio’s performances. I started with the Scorsese films from the 2000s and then went to finish the rest of DiCaprio’s from those years (since I’d already done five of his).  Scorsese seemed to be on a one bad film for every two great films basis since 2000 although I wonder if that goes back further (because that would include Casino, Goodfellas, After Hours, New York New York, and Mean Streets so he must have skipped a year somewhere). 

The interesting thing about Leo is that, with only one technical exception (Don’s Plum was released in 2001 but filmed in 1995), he has only worked with great/very established directors for the past 13 years. Danny Boyle, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Edward Zwick, Ridley Scott, Sam Mendes, Christopher Nolan, Clint Eastwood, Quentin Tarantino, and Baz Lurhman. He has been incredibly selective with his parts and he hasn’t really given a “bad” performance in the past 13 years which is something  most actors can’t claim to. 

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On Celebrating the Excesses of Wolf of Wall Street

As an aside to my review for The Wolf of Wall Street and as any cinemaphiles will have noticed since Christmas Day, there has been a lot of hoopla about whether or not the film celebrates the title character’s debauchery or condemns it. While I’m pretty clear that it does revel in the debauchery before condemning it, I want to present a counter argument with another DiCaprio film from another prestigious film maker: Catch Me If You Can.

The two films are remarkably similar in their plotting. We get scene after scene after scene of the main character breaking the law and doing horrible things until an FBI agent finally chases him down and puts him in prison. Eventually he gets out to higher legitimate successes than he could arrive at through his illegitimate early fame.

The difference between the two films is in how The Wolf of Wall Street criticizes not only the actions of its characters, but of the systems that allowed for those characters to function. Catch Me If You Can never criticizes Frank’s actions and gets us to sympathize with his character as though he wasn’t ruining lives with his actions. The film tells us repeatedly that Frank Sr. is being screwed by the government and that even though Frank Jr. ends up working for the FBI, it is because he was always a good person. The sympathy for Frank Jr. is an incredibly deceiving quality of Catch Me If You Can and is the main reason why it is by far a more morally ambiguous tale than The Wolf Of Wall Street.

Links Ahoy – End of the Year

I’m actually going to give some links that are just links to other links [LINKCEPTION(I’m so, so sorry for that] but Nathaniel R over at thefilmexperience has a great list of things to look at for this week especially if you are interested in The Wolf of Wall Street.

http://thefilmexperience.net/blog/2013/12/27/link-is-the-warmest-blog-post.html

My favourite individual post from within that is this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LRf_RN7Dkww which will give you a whole new look at Its A Wonderful Life.

Here is a close reading of The Wolf of Wall Street that I found particularly poignant.

Also, Sound on Sight released the staff’s top 30 list and as far as I’m concerned its one of the best on the internet just in terms of sheer diversity. 40 people contributed to this and over 160 films got placement in individual’s top 15s. While I disagree with a few oversights, I still standby the list as a contributor to it. Part 1 Part 2 Part 3.

On the feminist side of things here is a post about cultural appropriation that describes the conflict between cultural exchange and cultural appropriation.

Here are two articles from The Atlantic about Paternity Leave – This one from Liza Mundy describes the case for it and this one from Ta-Nehisi Coates describes the problematic discourse around the issue. (Ta-Nahisi Coates is probably my favourite author on The Atlantic and has written a tonne of great stuff). 

And here is an article about challenging racism while acknowledging privilege. http://youngist.org/post/71231465066/challenging-racism-and-the-problem-with-white-allies

One that a friend of mine posted from Slate about gender in children’s stories is interesting and to be frank something that is very topical when talking about not only women in film, but people of colour as well. 

And finally here is an explanation of Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who that explains my problems with the last two series.