Thursday, April 07, 2016

Review of 'The Wolf of Wall Street'

Hard to know how to review this. It's much too long, for a start. Jordan Belfort is too disgusting a person with whom to spend three hours - doesn't Scorsese know how to indicate that time passes actually having to pass? The film does show how nasty the crowd around him and his brokerage company was, but it's mostly in terms of their moral depravity - drugs and hookers. There isn't much sense that what they in business terms was wrong, and had victims - just that it was against the rules. And Belfort is portrayed as someone with his own moral code, that he stuck too - he never ratted on his real friends, the guys from his neighbourhood that he recruited to run the company with him. (In this he is rather like the Mafia types in Scorsese's Goodfellas; maybe that's the best way to think about Wall Street, as just another organised crime gang.) Even when he's wearing a wire because he has become a cooperative witness, he takes risks to indicate to them that he is doing so - though inexplicably that doesn't seem to have any consequences. He still only serves three years, in a nice prison with tennis courts.

That's the message of the whole film, really, that this stuff doesn't have consequences. His marriage is wrecked, mainly by his drug and hookers habits - but he didn't seem to care much about any of that anyway. After his imprisonment he's still giving motivational lectures on selling. Of course, it would be wrong for this to have a happy ending, with justice being served and the evil-doers getting their just desserts. That isn't what happens in real life, and it would be implausible to tell a financial story that ended that way. There is a touch of consolation in the familiar Hollywood theme that the rich and powerful aren't any more happy than the rest of us, but even that is not really carried through. A certain kind of young man seeing this film would think of it as a recruiting commercial for the financial services industry.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Review of 'Frozen'

My kids were grown up by the time this came out, and they are possibly of the wrong gender too, so I never got to see this. This weekend we decided that since so many little girls have grown up with it, it must be a cultural reference point, and we ought to see it anyway. So we watched it from a DVD in the Middle Floor at Springhill Cohousing.

It was much, much better than I was expecting. The merchandise from the film is of course aimed at providing stuff to buy for the little-girl fans. But the film itself is quite dark, and touches on some quite heavy issues - the things that are never talked about in families, what it feels like to have an older sibling grow away from you, having powers (feelings) that you can't control. The love between sisters is a major theme and well handled. Even the silly snowman character, who is unaware that his enjoyment of warmth will bring about his own demise, brings up some stuff about mortality.

It's also worth noting that it comprehensively trashes the idea that you will know true love when you find it - and I was pleased to see that the worst baddie doesn't look or sound like a villain at all, at least for most of the film. We are as taken in as the characters in the film.

It's great the way it engages with Norse and Sami mythology, and the look of it is really great - though there are goofy comic characters, and the marshmallow monster was lame and not frightening, some of the others are well drawn and wouldn't look out of place in Studio Ghibli steampunk. I particularly liked the way that the ships looked, and the vision of frozen Oslo. The ice storm effects, and the way that the ships crash about towards the end, are very effective.

Interesting that some of those who watched it with us, and who had seen it several times before, felt the need to disparage it as soppy, even though they clearly wanted to watch it again.

The poster above is the soppiest version - there were others which looked darker, and which emphasise the relationship between the film and the Hans Christian Andersen story, 'The Snow Queen', on which it is based.