Thursday 26 December 2013

Movie Review: The Wolf of Wall Street

Ha, ha. This was great! I thoroughly enjoyed this film. It is nonstop entertainment. When I saw a running time of 179 minutes (nearly 3 hours!), I was thinking the movie might drag on but I didn't look at my watch once; I was that absorbed.

The story is based on the memoir of Jordan Belfort, a New York stockbroker who spent 22 months in prison convicted of fraud relating to stock market manipulation and running a penny stock boiler room. This is a fascinating portrayal of the high living of Wall Street: the quick buck, booze, drugs, and sex. Oh, did I mention drugs? Jordan is one colourful character and this is one long story of excess after excess. All the way is not far enough. Ha, ha.

Belfort's rise to fame - Or is it infamy? - and his fall occurred in the 1990s but this is very much a tale of the Wall Street of the crash of 2008. There is a telling moment in the beginning of the film when Belfort discovers how much money he can make by bending the rules and he says, "We don't make anything." That's the odd part of this story and the story of 2008. These people don't make anything. They are not making products which add to the economy; they are basically moving money around, nothing else. They take money from one pocket and put it in another pocket however the pocket they are taking from is our pocket and the pocket they are putting it in is theirs. (see below in References for some real life stories of the victims of Belfort's fraud)

If somebody produces a product, there is the product, a thing which has value. By trading stocks, inflating the prices, etc., what is produced only has value if the next person thinks it has value and wants it. If nobody believes it has value and nobody wants it, that thing is worthless. In a way, it's one giant Ponzi scheme. Like the film American Hustle, the main character is profiting from the naive greed of the common folk hoping to get rich quick. As I like to point out, for every million dollar winner of the lottery, there are nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine losers.

While the film had me laughing out loud at the craziness of a bunch of drug-addled stockbrokers defrauding suckers left, right, and center, I found it to be a cautionary tale of just how unregulated greed can damage us all. I have to chuckle when I hear the far right demand less government regulation for it is precisely regulations which keeps the bad boys in check. The economy is one complex beast. Greed can breed greed and it can quickly spiral out of control. Apple is one of the richest and most important corporations in America because they make a product. You can look at it; you can touch it. It is a tangible thing which has value. J.P. Morgan like many other firms is pushing paper around taking stuff from one pocket and putting it in another pocket. In May 2012, the firm announced $2 billion in losses. Oops. (my blog: Dear JPMorgan: The speed limit is 60 mph - May 21/2012)

A curious footnote
Jordan Belfort spent 22 months in prison. His cellmate was Tommy Chong, better known as half of the comedy team Cheech & Chong. Chong was serving time related to charges of distributing drug paraphernalia. It seems that Chong was instrumental in convincing Belfort to write his memoir upon which this film is based.

Final Word
Martin Scorsese has directed a wonderful film. Leonardo DiCaprio gives a great performance as our colorful protagonist. Together, they offer us a fabulous piece of entertainment. The film is great. Go see this. You won't be disappointed. Oh God, the scene when the ludes kick in; DiCaprio is just hilarious. Ha, ha. As I said, you won't be disappointed.


Rotten Tomatoes: The Wolf of Wall Street: 79%
Funny, self-referential, and irreverent to a fault, The Wolf of Wall Street finds Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio at their most infectiously dynamic.

Wikipedia: The Wolf of Wall Street (2013 film)
The Wolf of Wall Street is a 2013 American biographical black comedy film directed by Martin Scorsese, based on Jordan Belfort's memoir of the same name.

Wikipedia: Jordan Belfort
Jordan Belfort (born July 9, 1962) is an American author and motivational speaker, who was convicted of fraud crimes related to stock market manipulation and running a penny stock boiler room for which he spent 22 months in prison.

Wikipedia: Boiler room (business)
In business, the term boiler room refers to an outbound call centre selling questionable investments by telephone. ... The name came from all the telephone lines being pipelines going outside the room, similar to how a real boiler room has lots of pipes going outside the room.

LA Weekly - Dec 16/2013
How the "Wolf of Wall Street" Is Still Screwing His Real-Life Victims By Paul Teetor
Robert Shearin of Manhattan Beach is planning to see Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street when it comes out next week.But it's not because of the felonies-are-fun billboards or the total-testosterone trailers inviting moviegoers to join Leonardo DiCaprio on a rollicking ride of wild sex, pharmaceutical-pure drugs and stock-we-stole.

No, Shearin, 66, is going to see The Wolf of Wall Street because he lived through it - as vulnerable prey of the real-life Wolf, Jordan Belfort. Belfort still owes Shearin and more than 1,000 other victims millions of dollars -- even as he's making money as a motivational speaker and living high on the hog in pricey Hermosa Beach.

LA Weekly - Dec 17/2013
10 Reasons the Real-Life "Wolf of Wall Street" Is a Schmuck Who Shouldn't Be Glamorized By Paul Teetor
These days, Jordan Belfort is flying high again. Not only is the real-life "Wolf of Wall Street" living high on the hog in beautiful Hermosa Beach, he's making money as a motivational speaker -- a business that will surely only increase in light of the new Martin Scorsese movie based on his life, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. But as the Weekly reported yesterday, Belfort is hardly penitent -- in fact, lawyers and prosecutors say he's continued to screw his victims, only repaying pennies on the dollar of the millions he swindled from them.

LA Weekly - Dec 26/2013
An Open Letter to the Makers of The Wolf of Wall Street, and the Wolf Himself by Christina McDowell
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, dear Kings of Hollywood, but you have been conned. Let me introduce myself. My name is Christina McDowell, formerly Christina Prousalis. I am the daughter of Tom Prousalis, a man the Washington Post described as "just some guy on trial for penny-stock fraud."
And you, Jordan Belfort, Wall Street's self-described Wolf: You remember my father, right?


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