Steve Pond reports that a few Academy members were shocked and horrified by Wolf of Wall Street’s official Academy screening, leading one to even say, “Shame on you.” It occurs to me that this is really why the Academy will never evolve past where they were twenty years ago. The last great era of daring was in the 1970s. All of those members have either aged into complacency or out of the Academy. The remainders are such milquetoast softies they are destined to keep rewarding the same kinds of films — safe, easy to understand, comforting, entertaining, somewhat forgettable — over and over again.
Sure, there was an all too brief moment where The Hurt Locker, No Country for Old Men and The Departed were rewarded. But it was short lived. Since then, it has been the usual — the film that wins is one that bathes us in the safety of nostalgia and shines a light on the goodness in humanity. It is as though the Oscars have become one long Stanley Kramer award.
Since that is the end goal, those who do the vetting for Oscar — the critics and the bloggers (with a few rebellious examples here or there) tend to dumb everything down to the Academy’s taste in anticipation that they will have this kind of reaction:
But according to a Facebook post from actress Hope Holiday, that’s what happened. Referring to the graphic three-hour film about the sex-and-drug-filled lifestyle of stockbroker Jordan Belfort, and then to the arrival of Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater, she wrote:
“[L]ast night was torture at the Academy — ‘The Wolf Of Wall Street’ – three hours of torture – same disgusting crap over and over again – after the film they had a discussion which a lot of us did not stay for – the elevator doors opened and Leonardo D. Martin S. and a few others got out then a screen writer ran over to them and started screaming – shame on you – disgusting – ”
A Paramount rep who was with Scorsese said that no one screamed at the director, but admitted that one person offered “a negative comment.” The film’s talent didn’t stop to respond, because they were hurrying into the theater for a post-screening Q&A with Scorsese, DiCaprio, Jonah Hill and writer Terrence Winter.
Is Wolf of Wall Street disgusting? You’re damned right it is. Was what the billionaires on Wall Street did to unsuspecting middle class victims as disgusting? You’re damned right it was. Wolf is the movie Wall Street and America deserve, especially while we’re piggybacking our American economy on the back of Father Christmas.
We can’t have nice things in the Oscar race because Academy members need to believe, and have their films reflect, only the good in human beings — the idealized version of who we are. Meanwhile, television producers are free to explore the other side, the darker sides. That is why television is evolving and why film is stagnating. In his 70s Scorsese is still the rebel. He’s won his Oscar. He could have won another with Hugo but alas, even that film was a bit more than Academy members could handle, 3D and all of that.
It would be a huge mistake to think, in any way, that Academy members make choices that matter. Their picks matter for the careers of the winners. They can change the power dynamic in Hollywood and they can jumpstart the careers of the unknowns in the short categories. To the people who win them they are the ultimate reward, in other words. But to the rest of us, to the ever unpredictable animal that is cinematic greatness, they can’t matter. God help us if they ever do.
So when Steve Pond closes his piece with how offended Academy members were about Casino (Wolf is ten times the movie Casino is) and how that resulted in one Oscar nomination for Sharon Stone it makes me want to laugh. If that is to be the ultimate fate of Wolf of Wall Street with Academy members the joke is on them.