Thursday, January 30, 2014

Dear Jodie - The Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) PosterDear Jodie,

My day job is in the financial industry, so The Wolf of Wall Street looked like a good choice to see.

It was, but it sure did make me uncomfortable, striking me as Caligula meets Lord of the Flies.

Goodnight-up-above, what is it about us humans that we love wretched excess, particularly when we claim to hate it?

And I claim to hate it.

Sometimes . . .

In the entire movie, I only found two sympathetic characters.  The first was Jordan Belfort’s long-suffering first wife Teresa Petrillo (not the real Jordan Belfort’s first wife’s name), and the yacht that sank on its way to Monaco. Come on!  What did that poor 175-foot yacht do to anyone?

Yet I watched.  I grimaced a lot.  I laughed in spite of myself, some of it at the male guffaws coming from various points in the theatre and the places in the movie that tickled them.

Don’t get me wrong, these are roles that actors would kill to play.  In 2007, Leonardo DiCaprio beat out Brad Pitt for the rights to the book, and had the devil’s own time getting it made. 

Heaven knows I would LOVE to have played any role in the movie . . . except Jordan Belfort’s long suffering first wife.

And the yacht.

Jonah Hill, despite having been Oscar nominated for his performance in Moneyball (2011), took minimum wage ($60,000) to do this film and work with Martin Scorsese.  By contrast, Leonardo DiCaprio got $10,000,000.00.

What can I say about the tale?

Jordan Belfort wanted his story to be a cautionary tale.  I haven’t read his book but sure didn’t see it in the movie.  I saw a cursory rags-to-riches-to-rags story surrounded by Roman orgies, excessive drug addiction with people snorting cocaine out of various body orifices and unfettered greed.

A cautionary tale would have shown the difficulty of shedding such a deep drug addiction.  We see nothing of rehab or recovery.  In fact, the movie version of Jordan Belfort said clearly that sobriety “sucks.”

Cautionary tales usually show some kind of change in the character, repentance or regret, even in the last seconds of life.  Here, we never see the victims, those poor souls who Belfort and his cronies bilked, sometimes out of their life savings, because he could “spend the money better.”  And I felt that the only thing Jordan Belfort was ever sorry for was getting caught.


And I cringed and laughed at it all.  Black comedy is still comedy.  I would give the movie eight out of ten, because it is excellent, and fascinating, well-acted and marvelously directed and, like Caligula and the boys in Lord of the Flies, shows a select few of the darker elements of human nature that many of us don’t ever experience, some of us might not ever see.

I would have given it 9 out of 10, but 569 F-bombs – yes, that is correct -- is a bit excessive, even for me.

I will say this.  I walked out of that theatre remembering the worst things I’ve ever done in my life, and took satisfaction that I’ve never done anything quite like that.

But I sure as hell would love to on the big screen or, hell, the small screen . . . or stage . . . or . . . ?

What do you think?  How did the movie strike you?  Check out her response here!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Osage County Hilarity

To my friend Jodie!

Dear Jodie!

Please let me offer a definition for the word "hilarious."  This comes from Merriam-Webster online.

"Hilarious:  marked by or causing hilarity:  extremely funny. "

Here's one from The Free Dictionary:  "Hilarious:  Characterized by or causing great merriment."

One of the movies I've been wanting to see this award season is AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY.  It opened across the U. S. his past Friday, but, being a longtime member of the Screen Actor's Guild, I received a screener DVD copy in the mail.  After my writing was done for the day, I put the movie on; wanting it to put a smile on my face, because the very first word I saw on the cover of the DVD screener copy was "Hilarious."  I read a couple of reviews that said the same thing.

The description you will read on the Rotten Tomatoes website begins . . . "AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY tells the dark, hilarious and deeply touching story of the strong-willed women of the Weston family. . ."

The one thing I agree with these critics was that it was an excellent movie.  The performances were amazing.  The movie went right to my heart, because, with variations, it was about my own family.  

A number of critics saw the movie as a "hilarious" comedy.

I did not.

Oh, I laughed in a number of places. Dramas should always have elements of comedy and comedies should always have elements of drama.

It bothered me that New York and LA critics saw the movie as "hilarious" and that the producers chose to put that description on the cover of the screener.

This is a movie about drug addiction, alcoholism, suicide, infidelity, incest, and potential child molestation, and critics and producers alike thought it "hilarious."  That bothers the shit out of me.  These topics to me are not "extremely funny."  These topics do not cause "great merriment" in my soul.

The movie was amazing.  I'll be thinking about it for a long time.  Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, and others give brilliant performances.  "Hilarious?"   Really?

I'd be willing to bet that had these dysfunctional families been from California or New York, the "hilarious" would have been changed to "poignant" or "profound" or "important."  Maybe "tragic?"  Do critics and producers think these issues are hilarious because they take place in the plains of Oklahoma … the state just north of my home state of Texas?  Or because it takes place in the South?  Or anywhere in "Hicksville" outside of New York or LA?  


I reckon so.  

Sometimes I believe that the New York and LA crowd of critics and movie producers laugh at the rest of the country, particularly those of us south of the Mason/Dixon line.

I have many friends in both areas of the country who in no way subscribe to what I just laid out, or in no way would support such an attitude.  I am only referring to movie critics, producers, and publicity departments.

There are a number of words I would use to describe AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY, many of them in support of a wonderfully creative effort.  "Hilarious" would never be on that list.

Thank you, as always Jodie, for listening to my rant!  You are amazing!


The Rock

Thursday, January 2, 2014

56 Bum Glue Lane

Bum glue.

The most important element in a writer's determination to write, or so said author Bryce Courtenay.

I just learned today that he died way back on November 22, 2012 at his home in Canberra, Australia.  Though born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Australia was his adopted country and he set his novels in one place or the other.  His first novel The Power of One is still one of Australia's best-selling books by any author.

I first met him at the Maui Writers Conference in 1999, ten years after publication of The Power of One, a wonderful novel.  Check it out if you get the chance.  I intend to read it again soon.

Bryce was the keynote speaker at the conference, and won over a throng of nearly a thousand writers and writer wannabes with his passion, his enthusiasm, and the glow of love he radiated for every single writer he met.

To this day, I've never met any writer as vibrant, as charismatic, as enthusiastic.  I wonder to this day whether those qualities came about because he was fifty-six years old when The Power of One came out, and, because of that, appreciated his success all the more and needed to give what he had learned.

I am fifty-six years old.  This second day of 2014 finds me sad that he is not with us, but happy that I saw him speak several times and have two books that he signed to me.  He always emphasized that being a writer required ". . . bum glue.  You have to glue your bum to the chair and write."

When he signed my copy of The Power of One I mentioned how inspiring his talk was.  He looked up, flashed a huge smile, his eyes twinkling, and said, "Bum glue, Rocky.  Bum glue."

The address for my writing house during 2014 will be 56 Bum Glue Lane.

I will live there with my lovely ghost Emmie, and the sage wisdom of Bryce Courtenay.