Almost with an uproar and a dance to match, director Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street has hit the scene. This past week saw the launch of the trailer set to Kanye West's "Black Skinhead" and packing so much life and humor into a story that looks to be The Great Gatsby by way of Wall Street. Most of all, it set anticipation high. Is it possible that we just saw the first film to be taken seriously for an Oscar nomination this year?
This trailer doesn't make light of the pedigree attached. In the trailer, they list both stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill as Academy Award nominees. This film is attempting to look high class, and for the most part, it left me with this sense of redundancy. Maybe the blame could be placed on director Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby, which lead me to believe that it should have gotten DiCaprio an Oscar nomination and potential win. It isn't historically similar and in fact the trailer suggests that this is more of the lively DiCaprio from director Steven Spielberg's Catch Me if You Can, but the idea of him playing once again a rich, carefree man seems a little unnerving.
The trailer itself was fantastic once you get beyond the similarities. Here it is:
For whatever reason, I am left wondering if I was captivated by the footage, the hype, or the Kanye West song. The song may be the most addictive aggressive pop song out this year and gets me moving every time. Then there's DiCaprio and his main group, which based on the trailer, appears to be Hill and Matthew McConaughey. They have a chemistry that just clicks and there is even a memorable beat at the end involving chest punching. At very least, this feels like it is full of life and energy. No offense to the people who loved Hugo or Shutter Island, but Scorsese tends to feel sometimes established and forgets to create fully formed characters. It is thankful that his stories and direction pull up whatever slack there is.
While this The Great Gatsby by way of Wall Street-looking trailer makes plenty of sense, what exactly is this about? According to IMDb:
"A New York stockbroker refuses to cooperate in a large securities fraud case involving corruption on Wall Street, corporate banking world and mob infiltration."
When I initially heard of this adaptation of the Jordan Belfort book, I was zoning out. There was the cast, but little else. However, if there is any film that could land an Academy Award nomination simply from the cast this year, this is it. After a quick search, here's a rundown of a few names with their most recent win or nomination:
1. Martin Scorsese (Winner - Best Director, The Departed)
2. Leonardo DiCaprio (Nominee - Best Actor, Blood Diamond)
3. Jonah Hill (Nominee - Best Actor, Moneyball)
4. Spike Jonze (Nominee - Best Director, Being John Malkovich)
5. Rob Reiner (Nominee - Best Picture, A Few Good Men)
6. Jean Dujardin (Winner - Best Actor, The Artist)
The cast also includes: Matthew McConaughey, Jon Favreau Ethan Suplee, Kyle Chandler (who co-starred in Best Picture nominee Zero Dark Thirty). With a pretty stellar group of nominees and supporting actors, this is a front runner at very least for one of the more impressive ensembles. The question now is where will the film go once it is released?
I will admit that going deep into speculation at this point is kind of pointless. To run through the negative real quick, here's how the film can go down. Scorsese's films don't always land a Best Picture nomination. While he has become respected enough to at least earn consideration, films like Shutter Island didn't make the cut. From the look of The Wolf of Wall Street, this could just be another ridiculous tale of wealth with nothing to say about modern America. It could fall on the simple basis that it is too much like The Great Gatsby. Also, it seems that the Academy dislikes DiCaprio. Many people were outraged by him being axed from the Best Supporting Actor field for Django Unchained. This could be the same case.
However, the rest of this is going to be positive. First off, look at that cast. Wow. How can Scorsese go wrong? I also have this theory that DiCaprio tends to get more respect when in the Scorsese vehicles. Despite this theory being immediately debunked by him receiving only a nomination for Best Actor for The Aviator, I dare anyone to look at the rest of his Scorsese collaborations, save for Shutter Island. The Aviator was an amazing movie that if Jamie Foxx for Ray hadn't stolen the thunder, I felt would have gone to him. The dynamic was beyond impressive.
DiCaprio is great at playing these confused figured. Much like Howard Hughes, this seems like the direct successor. With ease, he could easily slip into the category and win over audiences. That is if the Academy doesn't disapprove of him because he tends to be over the top. As the trailer alone suggests, he has a wacky dance and is mad about not making more money. He doesn't win the sympathy vote, but charisma plays a strong part in how things can go down. Also, there just haven't been any other enticing competitors yet. Some are calling director Ron Howard's Rush a strong contender, but I'm not convinced.
I know that I am beginning to sound like a broken record, but this could be Matthew McConaughey's entrance. I underestimated the success of Mud, which is currently a modest success story. While there is little to chew on here, he does have a pretty prominent role and he exudes a certain confidence suggestive of something going down in the story. I hate to keep comparing this film to Wall Street, but it is the most notable Oscar winning stock broker movie with a Best Actor win for Michael Douglas. He preached that greed is good. His passion is what gave him the edge. Maybe if McConaughey or any of the supporting cast does anything half as convincing, it could work.
I will speculate more as the time gets closer, but as far as a trailer goes, this looks like it is going to strike with a vengeance. If it's not considered one of Scorsese's best, it will at least stand a chance of being his most lively film since The Departed. I love Scorsese as I recently stated, but his films of recent tend to be about admiration for film and decades' past. As a cinephile, they work, but Hugo felt like a cheat as a narrative to the point I fear rewatching it for discovering that the titular boy's story wasn't all that exciting. I would love to see him tackle a story and not have it feel more like it was tied into references. That's what made The Departed a joy, despite being another gangster flick. There were characters and action. That's what I sense with The Wolf of Wall Street.
Maybe it is his decision to try and do something fresh. Still, whoever cut this trailer is a genius, at least in song choice. As we get ready to go with the summer, we are getting closer to when The Oscar Buzz moves from speculation back into pitting movies against each other. Technically it has already happened and maybe one of these smaller films (Look for The Spectacular Now piece I promised and reviews on Monsters University, The East and The Bling Ring next week) has hailed the season. Of course, I could be wrong entirely, though the year has been humdrum enough to suggest otherwise.
What do you think of the trailer? Is this going to be DiCaprio and McConaughey's year? Is the song the only thing the trailer has going for it?