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Monday, February 10, 2014

Road to the Oscars: The Wolf of Wall Street

Throughout February, GEP will feature a series of posts exploring some of the movies nominated for Academy Awards this year, culminating in the widely beloved list of my personal Top 10 favorite films from last year.  The excitement is almost too much to take!!!

“It’s basically softcore porn.” 

This was the brief review of The Wolf of Wall Street my uncle provided to his brother, my father. My dad relayed this message to me over one of our weekly family get-togethers, and I was intrigued. I had not yet seen The Wolf of Wall Street, but I’d seen plenty of softcore pornography in my day, so I was, justifiably, I think, skeptical. Martin Scorsese is a great filmmaker--maybe the greatest--and while I found Shutter Island surprisingly pedestrian and obvious, I didn’t think it signaled the beginnings of a downward trajectory toward the lamest of porn genres. 

So, I bought a ticket for Mr. Scorsese’s three-hour biopic of Wall St. scumbag Jordan Belfort to discover for myself whether or not it was “basically softcore porn.” It’s not. And here are 6 whole reasons why. 

1. Plot: Simply put, The Wolf of Wall Street has one. I haven’t watched a softcore film all the way through since the last time I spent the night at my cousin’s house, where they had Cinemax in every room and I was forced to sleep in a beanbag chair underneath a Jenny McCarthy poster, but I don’t remember them having very intricate plots or plots at all, really. Recently, my wife got us a deal through the cable company that gave us one whole year of HBO and Cinemax for free. Taking full advantage, I DVR-ed some movies (the entire Lethal Weapon series, Aliens, something about a runaway roller coaster, etc) and a couple of, ahem, erotic pictures. One of the—cough, cough—erotic features was apparently about a squad of elite lady spies who plied their trade while clad exclusively in bikinis. That’s the description provided by Cinemax, but I didn’t see any sort of covert special ops missions or fun spy gadgetry. There was plenty of sex in hot tubs though. More than plenty. Too much, really. The point is, The Wolf of Wall Street told a story, an interesting story, and Super Secret Bikini Squad Team (not the real title) was, I guess, about the various ways couples can have sex in hot tubs. 

2. Setting: Martin Scorsese uses various settings and locations to tell the true story of untethered greed run amok. From the urban sprawl of New York City to the gated communities of Long Island; from the beauty of the Italian coastline to a deadly storm at sea that claims our hero’s personal helicopter. Softcore porn usually takes place in a big house. In fact, it might just be one house. I’m not one-hundred percent certain about this, but I think Bikini Spy Squad (still not the real title) and the other erotic romp I recorded--the name of which I cannot recall, however, I do remember it opening with a comical blow job--took place in the same non-descript McMansion. Sure, there were scenes filmed alongside pools, underneath glass-topped dining room tables and, it should go without saying, multiple bedrooms, but all of the action took place under one roof. Can you imagine a spy movie taking place in one location? It’d be the most boring spy movie ever filmed probably. Bikini Girl Spy Team (not the title) did it though. And, yup, it was boring. 

3. Acting: The Wolf of Wall Street features beloved actors, as well as some up-and-comers, doing some of the best work of their careers. Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Kyle Chandler, Margot Robbie, that dude from The Walking Dead, the guy from the Arby’s commercials, Matthew McConaughey's skeleton: top notch performances all! Softcore porn is typically populated with people who appear barely aware of the English language. 

4. Less looking off camera for direction/approval from director: A common occurrence in soft-, as well as, hardcore pornographic motion pictures—be they feature length or broken up into five easy to watch one-minute clips-- is the “look-off-screen-for-direction-slash-approval.” You don’t seen this in your standard, non-pornographic film—which The Wolf of Wall Street undeniably is—because it’s damned unprofessional. Rehearsal, people! It’s important! You’ve probably got that big house rented for the whole day. You and your co-star need to find an empty room and figure out what you’re going to do. It’s that simple. [Also, for the record, I’ve never seen even a second of hardcore pornography. A friend told me about this.] 

5. Drugs onscreen as opposed to off: Look, I’ve never been on a porn set (SAD FACE EMOTICON WITH TEAR), but I assume everybody’s coked up. They’ve got to be, right? Maybe not. There are probably standards even porn productions have to meet. Like, you’ve probably got to provide craft services and freshly laundered splooge towels. There are probably bowls of Viagra just off camera, but nothing illegal like pre-packaged heroin syringes. Even so, porn actors lead a pretty rough life. I think I heard somewhere that all of them do drugs and hate themselves. DiCaprio and the gang might spend the bulk of The Wolf of Wall Street’s three-hour running time faceplanted in a hillock of coke, but I bet there wasn’t anything stronger than a Tylenol or an occasional bong rip back in the trailers. 

6. Realistic sex: When the characters ‘get it on’ in softcore pornography, it’s gross. Men are basically making love to women’s stomachs. It’s as if nobody on the production crew has ever a) taken a sex education and/or anatomy class in high school or b) had sex themselves. And every male character in a softcore must have a dick the size of an elephant’s trunk, otherwise why do the actresses’ heads always come to about nipple-level when performing fellatio? In the The Wolf of Wall Street, the men put their penises in the women’s vaginas.  There is absolutely no weird intercourse with stomach pussies.  None!

Sorry, but The Wolf of Wall Street is not basically softcore porn.  Case closed.

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