Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey, Jean Dujardin, Kyle Chandler, Jon Bernthal, Jon Favreau, Rob Reiner, Spike Jonze, Margot Robbie, Kenneth Choi, Joanna Lumley, and Ethan Suplee
Synopsis (From 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.
Why It Could Succeed:
Anytime the 21st century’s greatest actor-director duo team up for a motion picture, the world pays attention. At this moment in time, there is no 2013 release that’s as close to the Oscar® podium as The Wolf of Wall Street is. Leo and Marty have a proven track record that’s borderline unstoppable. Three of their four collaborative projects have all gone on to receive an Academy Award nomination for “Best Picture,” and the only film that failed to do so was Shutter Island, whose early release date damaged its awards contention status. The irony? Shutter Island became Martin Scorsese’s highest grossing film of all-time and one of the top earners to come from the dry month of February. The lesson when it comes to Scorsese and DiCaprio: you win some…and then you win bigger.
With 2013’s The Wolf of Wall Street, the hot-button topic of Wall Street corruption will certainly corral audiences interested in corporate coverups, crime dramas based on a true story, and Hollywood’s most beloved criminal organization: The Mob. The responsibility of adapting convicted stockbroker Jordan Belfort’s memoir lies on the Don himself, Terence Winter, creator of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire and writer-extraordinaire of several legendary episodes of The Sopranos (including fan favorite, “The Pine Barrens”). As someone whose favorite show of all-time is The Sopranos, you better believe me when I say this man can write crime drama like no other screenwriter in the genre. It’s scary how sympathetic Winter can make his morally-corrupt protagonists, their unspeakable crimes forgiven by audiences within mere seconds. I firmly believe the trio of Winter, Scorsese, and DiCaprio is a collaboration like something out of a dream. It’s hard to imagine the best talents in the business — actor, director and writer — all working together on one film, but low and behold, it happened. Mix in a cast that includes big names like Jean Dujardin, Matthew McConaughey and Jonah Hill, and you’ve got plenty of moviegoers from all sides of the film buff community coming by the millions to see this motion picture event. Can The Wolf of Wall Street break Scorsese’s record at both the box office and The Academy Awards™? We’ll find out in a few months, so hold onto your breath.
Why It Could Fail:
It’s never fun riding this train of thought, but there’s always a slim chance that a big awards contender like The Wolf of Wall Street can be a disaster. The last time Leonardo DiCaprio frontlined a movie, he jumped into shoes that were way too big for him. J. Edgar represents one of DiCaprio’s biggest misfires despite some last-minute awards consideration. Whether DiCaprio was right for the role or not, the performance had a hard time shining through thanks to all that cumbersome, ugly makeup. And now with his success in Django Unchained as the villainous Calvin J. Candie, are audiences becoming accustomed to DiCaprio in supporting, ergo smaller, roles at the movies? I personally doubt DiCaprio is seen as anything less than a leading man, but I’m sure there are those who wonder if DiCaprio peaked in The Aviator and The Departed. Even in Blood Diamond, DiCaprio’s Oscar-nominated performance was as much reviled as it was praised (that South African/Aussie accent was cataclysmic). With all this in mind, the biggest fear is watching the film and finding that DiCaprio is again miscast or ill-suited to the role, thereby limiting the talent we all know is meant to flourish. I hope an experience like that won’t become a reality when screening The Wolf of Wall Street, but we should at least make note of the possibility.
As for Martin Scorsese, his last film wasn’t exactly the groundbreaking masterpiece it pretended to be (sorry, Mark Johnson!). While Hugo technically placed second at the 84th Annual Academy Awards with five wins, its cinephile attractiveness and international appeal was a marketing strategy unfulfilled. Ranging between $150 to $170 million to produce, Hugo’s domestic gross was approximately $74 million, with an additional $110 million overseas. The total haul barely exceeded the cost of production, and was the start of a new wave of 3D films with diminishing returns. That Ang Lee managed to turn this around for himself with Life of Pi only adds further to the embarrassment of Hugo.
On another note, it’s bittersweet that Scorsese is returning to his gangster roots with The Wolf of Wall Street. On the one hand, this is a genre that he excels at, but since Scorsese wasn’t allowed to shoot his movie on film like he and editor Thelma Schoonmacher had wanted, there could be some aesthetic or creative choices that might’ve been compromised in the movie. Every director wants their final cut of a film to be the one they envisioned since the beginning, but the use of digital against the wishes of Scorsese means we could have a product that’s tragically un-Scorsesean in form or intent. Detractors of digital filmmaking and fanboys of Martin Scorsese could easily become enraged by the end result, and you know bad worth of mouth will spread like wildfire if the film is not up to par. Produced for a whopping $100 million, let’s hope Paramount made the right call by switching from film to digital.
I’m going out on a huge limb with my speculation here. This day, 3/4/2013, I hereby proclaim 2014 will be the year Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio each win an Oscar® working on the same film (technically two, since they share producing credit). If Grant Heslov and George Clooney didn’t just produce the most recent “Best Picture” winner, Argo, I would be very fearful of Monuments Men. The aforementioned producers’ recent victory at the Academy Awards won’t likely repeat in 2014, thereby giving Leo and Marty the edge. I can already envision the narrative; I can envision Leonardo DiCaprio having his name read by Jennifer Lawrence, the audience up on their feet for a standing ovation, happy that one of the greatest actors in Hollywood has at last received an Academy Award twenty years after his first acting nomination for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. As for Scorsese — the great Scorsese, let’s be frank — he’ll join the company of Ang Lee, Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, David Lean, Milos Forman, and Elia Kazan, to name a few, who’ve all received two “Best Director” awards. There’s not a more notable director out there who deserves to join this club than Scorsese, and I know the Academy wouldn’t disagree. It will be seven years since he won his last Best Director prize, which is enough of a time gap for The Academy to hand out one more directing award for the legend of legends.
To top it off for Leonardo DiCaprio, Kris Tapley, editor of Hitfix.com, reported earlier in the year that he spoke with the revered thespian, who admitted that the role of Jordan Belfort was the “best work” of his career. DiCaprio seems like a modest guy who doesn’t throw out these hyperbolic statements just for attention. No, I think he’s just incredibly passionate about what he offered to the role, and prides himself on what he’s accomplished in the film (he’s a drug addict, alcoholic, and lawbreaker — definitely Oscar bait!). Do I even have to mention the momentum supporting players Jean Dujardin and Matthew McConaughey have at this moment in Hollywood? Dujardin is a recent Oscar winner and McConaughey is now taken seriously. They are prime contenders in the supporting categories for next year, but I give the edge to McConaughey given the snazzy nature of his role, where apparently he mentors Belfort’s character. Also, never discount Jonah Hill, who surprised all skeptics with his nomination for Moneyball.
“Best Picture,” “Best Director,” and “Best Adapted Screenplay” are a cinch to nab unless the film totally bombs, which a Scorsese film never has when Leo comes aboard. Because of the high production cost and the huge talent attached to film, expect across-the-board nominations, above and below the line if the film is a hit. Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street will be distributed by Paramount Pictures on November 13th, 2013, wisely released neither too late nor too early for the Academy to screen. Bottom line: this is the film to beat at the 86th Annual Academy Awards, and my current frontrunner for “Best Picture.”
Best Director — Martin Scorsese
Best Actor — Leonardo DiCaprio
Best Supporting Actor — Matthew McConaughey, Jonah Hill, Jean Dujardin, Kyle Chandler
Best Supporting Actress — Margot Robbie
Best Adapted Screenplay — Terence Winter
Best Film Editing
Best Costume Design
Best Art Direction
Best Original Score
Best Production Design
Best Sound Editing