Posts Tagged ‘martin scorsese’

“Ozark” thoughts, Season One, Episode Four: “Tonight We Improvise”

August 8, 2017

At this point, this willingness to let songs do the heavy lifting is an endemic problem for television. Westworld, Legion, Stranger Things, you name it: They can all take advantage of labels and artists who no longer have record sales to fall back on and must capitalize on any and all other available revenue streams by licensing pretty much any song they choose. I just want them to choose wisely.

I closed my review of Ozark’s fourth episode for Decider by ranting and raving about its lamely unimaginative use of the Rolling Stones’ “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” from Casino, but the rest of the episode was surprisingly good.

“Vinyl” thoughts, Season One, Episode One: “Pilot”

February 15, 2016

Even a record that’s a start-to-finish stone classic has one or two standout tracks that sum up the whole blessed thing: your “Stairway to Heaven” or, say, your “Drunk in Love.” And in the pilot episode of Vinyl, — the Martin Scorsese–directed, Mick Jagger–produced Seventies NYC rock drama fromBoardwalk Empire creator Terence Winter — a pair of scenes distinguish themselves from the pack. In the first, a coked-up, bottomed-out record exec named Richie Finestra (Bobby Cannavale) rapturously watches the New York Dolls deliver a performance of “Personality Crisis” so blistering it literally brings down the house. In the second, Finestra and industry sleazebag Joe Corso (portrayed by real-life ex-cop and frequent Scorsese collaborator Bo Dietl) take a radio mogul played by Andrew “Dice” Clay and bash his skull in on-screen.

Based on this initial episode, in other words, this show is not going to make converts out of skeptics. Vinyl is for Horror City nostalgia buffs and people predisposed to belief in the healing power of rock & roll. It’s for music nerds who’ll flip out equally for cameos by golden god Robert Plant, his maniac manager Peter Grant, and hip-hop progenitor DJ Kool Herc … all on the same night! It’s for those pop scholars who’ll catch references to both perpetual also-rans the Good Rats and soft-rock punchlines England Dan and John Ford Coley. And it’s also for the kind of Scorsese fans who’ll recognize a scene’s doo-wop-soundtracked mafia meeting as a GoodFellasdescendant and who crave first-person voiceover narration like Jordan Bellfort jonesed for quaaludes.

So is it for you? You may think you know the answer already. But don’t be so sure.

I reviewed the series premiere of Vinyl, which I thought was a hoot, for Rolling Stone, where I’ll be covering the show this season.

Movie Time: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and The Wolf of Wall Street

December 27, 2013

There’s an invented scene in Peter Jackson’s second Hobbit movie (SPOILER ALERT, I GUESS) where Thorin & Company fire up the forges of the Lonely Mountain while dodging an awoken and enraged Smaug the Golden. River-like torrents of molten gold pour into a mold of (presumably) Durin, the ur-Dwarf, that’s about the size of a medium-sized office building. Smaug stares at it enraptured until the heat causes it to break form and gush golden death all over the dragon. Wealth, weaponized. Find all the metaphors for a three-film Hobbit adaptation you like in that scene, go ahead, knock yourself out. Certainly this film’s herky-jerky rhythm, and its need to surround every emotional turning point with an invented ten-minute action sequence, will give you plenty of fuel for the fire. But ultimately Smaug rises again from that lake of fire, bellows a mockery of the Dwarves’ attempt at revenge, flies up into the night sky gilded with real actual gold, shakes it off into a million droplets like a sheepdog drying off after a bath, and flies off toward Laketown to burn it to ashes while shrieking “I AM DEATH.” If I get to see something like that at the movies, Peter Jackson can melt down all the rivers of gold he wants.

Wolf was more fun than Good, and I say that as someone whose favorite Martin Scorsese movie is Casino. One of the reasons it feels a bit light in the end is that we never meet any victims of the penny-stock scams at the heart of the thing, just the scammers and their trials and tribulations. In a sense, that’s Scorsese’s approach with GoodFellas and Casino as well, but in those films the characters frequently turn on and kill each other, so you’re made to understand that the criminality has real-life consequences even if only on other criminals. You see victims; they just happen to be the victimizers as well. This, on the other hand, is just DiCaprio and Jonah Hill being really funny for three hours, with tons of naked women and quaaludes. Which I liked, don’t get me wrong, but it’s almost like Scorsese and Terence Winter (Boardwalk Empire impresario, hence a couple of notable BE castmember cameos) went out of their way to reduce the working-class schlubs DiCaprio and his merry men and women stiff to disembodied voices on phones. (EDITED TO ADD: The major exceptions are Belfort’s toddler daughter, whom his inebriated behavior terrorizes, and his second wife, whom at his nadir he physically and sexually assaults; but the rhythm of the sequence in which that occurs is such that its impact is diluted first by her turning her own rape into a way to best and humiliate her husband, then by a transference of Belfort’s threat from her to the kid. Moreover she’s portrayed as so slight a person — no Karen Hill, no Ginger Rothstein — that it’s weirdly unclear how much she’s ultimately fazed by it.) Still, as I said, really funny. A lot of it is a love letter to the grossness of Long Island, which I enjoyed, and of course the idea of just doing a one-to-one transfer of his mafia-movie style and story structure over to Wall Street is scathing and hilarious. Rob Reiner’s introductory scene had me convulsing with laughter, which I’d forgotten is a thing. Jon Bernthal erases the stink of The Walking Dead every second he’s on screen, so wholly does he commit to his ridiculous Jewish-goombah drug-dealer character. There are close-ups of Hill’s face, and an entire ‘lude-dosed fight scene, that could have come straight out of Tim & Eric’s Billion-Dollar Movie. It’s a pleasure to see Scorsese work with DiCaprio in full charismatic movie-star mode versus the aging-babyface anger he forefronted in, say, Gangs of New York and The Departed. And he’s making an argument that the best sociopaths extend their little reality bubble outward to a few trusted associates — do that and you can get away with almost literally anything. Wolves hunt best in packs.