OP-ED: Scorsese Being Scorsese In The Face Of Old Age

December 24, 2013 § Leave a comment

Leonardo Dicaprio in The Wolf Of Wall Street Martin Scorsese’s film adaptation of real life white collar super criminal Jordan Belfort is predictably showing up on many critics’ top ten lists of the year, getting plenty of awards hype and all around wonderful buzz that should result in a typically robust box office for the film and plenty of statues for its makers.

After a recent screening of the film for AMPAS members, 71 year old Scorsese and his frequent muse/lead actor, 39-year old Leonardo DiCaprio were accosted by some Academy members for the rampant graphic sex and drug use in the film. For anybody who doesn’t yet know, Wolf of Wall Street is the true story of a stock broker wunderkind who fleeced his clients out of over a quarter billion in the mid-90’s using the notorious “pump and dump” stock trading method. In reaping these massive benefits as a man in his early twenties, Belfort and his pals partied like rock stars. Well, from the various Mötley Crüe auto-biographies detailing their sordid antics, it’s not a hard stretch of the imagination to picture sex, drugs and more sex and drugs. I won’t include rock n’ roll, as that was not Belfort’s forte. The Academy members did not appreciate the film’s graphic and accurate depiction of Belfort’s rather amazing journey from small town nobody to world class thief, including his drug induced downfall and subsequent prosecution.

The tale of heady excess is not without its morality or humanity, but just as some people take the two-thousand year old words of the Judeo-Christian bible as absolute truth, some people take the morality of a completely different society and choose to apply it to the modern era (even if Belfort’s story is itself twenty-plus years old and counting). Well, a 75 year old Academy member Hope Holiday (she was a bit player in ‘The Apartment’ and a prostitute named Lolita in ‘Irma La Douce’…ahem) along with some similarly aged cohorts verbally attacked Mister Scorsese and Mister DiCaprio for their sometimes jovial but ultimately morally sound and very accurate depiction of Belfort’s rise and fall. They felt the immortality on screen translated to irresponsibility and immortality on the part of the film’s makers, summed up in the quote “three hours of torture – same disgusting crap over and over again.” followed up by someone in her party reportedly yelling “Shame on you!” to the entire production. Hope Holiday also reportedly described ‘American Hustle’ as “confusing” in another Facebook post.

I’m not generalizing about age groups, as that would be agist and obviously there are plenty of septuagenarians who are still very much with the current times. However, it calls into question the validity of lifetime Academy membership when the largest age group in the world are the baby boomers, who are now pretty much all eligible for their AARP membership and have been for a few years now. When the majority of the folks determining the best films of the year, mostly made by young and innovative film makers, are judging the quality of our current entertainment by wholly anachronistic standards, wouldn’t the obvious conclusion be that the storied institutes like AMPAS are out of tune? Meanwhile, wouldn’t this also mean that less prestigious or established venues, such as internet-based and crowd sourced awards, might be a more accurate and thus a more respectable reflection of film industry professionals’ and scholars opinions of film?

I am not saying my opinion as a twenty-six year old is more valid than Hope Holliday’s as a seventy-five year old; nor am I guaranteeing I won’t also exhibit some kind of artistic or moral outrage at current trends due to being out of touch with modern culture if and when I get to three-quarters of a century long in the tooth, but I hope that at that age, myself and my contemporaries will respect the popular culture of that day as no less valid than what we heralded in our salad years.

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