Moving Pictures
Jan 06, 2014, 07:17AM

Modern American Pleasure

Two films from 2013 worth thinking about.

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Exciting: The Wolf of Wall Street

Wolf is the invasion of the mainstream everyone thought Spring Breakers would be. It’s a shame that it came from an established director, Martin Scorsese, without much time left. It’s a very unusual one-off that probably won’t be imitated or inspire half a decade’s worth of knock-offs. Watching The Wolf of Wall Street at a packed Christmas Day matinee was chemical: for three hours, almost no one moved or dare go to the bathroom. The drug intake is so superhuman It doesn’t make you think, “Eugh, these cokeheads,” you are the cokehead, just totally abused by this movie without any redeeming voice or thought, filled with cartoonish drug use, misogyny, selfishness, and destruction. No one to remind you that you should feel like a sick fuck for having fun through these monsters, but it’s Looney Tunes all the way through, punctuated early on when Leonardo DiCaprio is sucking cocaine out of a hooker’s asshole. Unlike Wall Street or any more mannered movies about violently selfish rich men, even American Psycho, there is nothing ambiguous about the evil of these pathetic cretins, and you’d really have to be dumb if you change your major to Economics this month.

Disappointing: Spring Breakers

A couple of months ago a friend of mine said Spring Breakers was the “first widely released art film.” Ridiculous: this is not an art film. Harmony Korine’s multiplex debut gets off to an amazing start but quickly becomes just as boring, predictable, and tame as the stuff it played against. Olympus Has Fallen was more disturbing than Spring Breakers by a long shot. The incredible opening: a day-glo Bosch wasteland of leather-skinned teenagers and twentysomethings writhing, dancing, cheering, and groping each other in total mania set to Skrillex’s “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites.” It’s symphonic. This scene was the best thing I saw this year at the movies. The rest of Spring Breakers doesn’t live up to it though, drifting along with a lot of shallow impressionism like The Tree of Life (Korine admitted Terrence Malick was a massive influence), and ends up as a formula crime movie. You know who’s going to die and who will be saved an hour before any of it happens. Korine’s movie felt safe and half-baked, and I was let down: he failed in making an exciting movie about the junk culture of the suburban society it played in.

—Follow Nicky Smith on Twitter: @MUGGER1992 


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