The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Wednesday, January 8, 2014 - 5
The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Wednesday, January 8, 2014 - 5
We're pretty good at this.
'Banks' divulges rocky
origin of Mary Poppins
S cors ses 'Wolf
howls with life
Better than Hanna's recruit is Jordan
Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio,
quaaludes, larger "The Great Gatsby"), a corrupt
stockbroker who knows neither
than life bounds nor moderation. Each
scene brings on new heights of
By SEAN CZARNECKI vice. Belfort parties all night,
DailyArts Writer and come morning, he must
snort cocaine to wake and start
It's lunchtime on Wall his day. Prostitutes are paid
Street and Mark Hanna (Mat- by the dozen, and men line up
thew McConaughey, "Mud") is one after the other. Party like a
thumping his pornstar, indeed.
chest with In a single luncheon, Wall
his fist. He Street subsumes Belfort into its
hums and lets The Wolf of lifestyle. Hanna mentors him
out a crow- into dumping his middle class
like caw. His Wall Street morals. He gives Belfort impu-
eyes widen Rave 20 and nity to do as he wishes. And
drunkenly Quality16 Belfort, being the gangster of
and gleam this picture, has an insatiable
white against Paramount appetite. You will find no star-
his leather ry-eyed Gatsby here.
skin pulled In one telling scene, Belfort
over his skull like a mask. The wants to teach his buddies the
drinks will arrive now. They subtle art of selling stock. He
will be brought one after the calls some unknowing trades-
other, without end, until he man, works him, makes promis-
passes out in vomit. After all, es and mimes having sex of the
it's lunchtime. Brazzers variety. The message is
His guest, a recruit, sits at the clear: They screw you the same
table. He listens to Hanna, who way they sell you stock. And
snorts some cocaine. And soon Belfort lets us in on a secret: I
he, too, begins to chant and know how to spend your money
beat his chest as though newly better than you do. You see, we
joined in some yammering cult. just wouldn't understand.
Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf Inside the deluded world
of Wall Street" never loses "Wolf" portrays, what these
rhythm, and Hanna's chest- brokers do bears no conse-
thumping is its pulse. This early quence on themselves. Their
scene in the famed director's victims are faceless - an entire
indictment of Wall Street sets world away - except for their
the stage for all the debauch- families, whom they punish
ery and iniquity yet to come. It cruelly. You will again hear
sets the film pounding forward. Hanna's crazed chant at the
Here, corruption is not perni- film's end when the credits
cious. The seduction of money roll and the screen blackens. It
happens like a smoking drug - booms in a deep, sinister reg-
quickly - as when your breath ister - steady and unchanging.
comes out silver and you sud- Only sociopaths' and Olympi-
denly go limp and you know ans' heartbeats are that steady.
you're in it. "Wolf" is a sordid obsession drives all great
fever dream packed full of black Scorsese characters and struc-
comedy. tures his films. These charac-
Scorsese and his longtime ters never relent. They would
editor, Thelma Schoonmaker rather destroy themselves. Bel-
("Raging Bull"), display tight fort's obsession, and favorite
control over the rhythm of this drug, is money. To live in medi-
film. Each scene pulls into the ocrity is shameful. If you've got
next. Years can pass quicker the means and the will, oppor-
than a Friday night. The main tunity is endless. The rest is for
character of the film itself the bums, because the prover-
evolves from a feeling of ela- bial Party must go on.
tion to desperation, a feeling of An actor's director, Scors-
speed and losing control. The ese elongates certain scenes,
ending is all but inevitable. thereby changing the rhythm of
the film, with no other purpose
than to let his actors flex their
improv muscles. Jonah Hill
("This is the End") succeeds
as the maniacal, phosphores-
cent-toothed Donnie Azoff.
But DiCaprio also brings some
of his flashiest thespianism to
date in outrageous monologues
and brilliant physical comedy.
One drug experiment leaves
him without motor function,
and the results are hysterical.
Much credit must be given to
Terrence Winter's ("Boardwalk
Empire") punched-up script.
Here, profanity flows in volu-,
ble testosterone. Listen to the
wolfish characters bat Winter's
lines back and forth. It bolsters
your confidence in Scorsese's
ear for bickering wiseguys and
Ultimately, though, we
walk a couple miles too long
in Belfort's shoes. Scorsese
and Schoonmaker's latest col-
laboration lacks nothing for
rhythm, but its incredible
length becomes its downfall
three quarters through. You'll
find yourself thinking: Marty.
C'mon. Quit breakin' my balls.
Make no mistake, Belfort
does have a talent: He knows
how to motivate people. The
movie ends with Belfort per-
forming a motivation seminar.
He steps down from the stage
and turns to an audience mem-
ber and hands him a pen. Sell
me this pen, he says. It hear-
kens back to an earlier scene in
which he compares the act of
selling pennystock to selling a
pen. The irony, of course, is the
pen is worth more.
The last shot of this film looks
out over the seminar crowd,
the spectators, the victims of
Belfort's crimes who admire
and envy him, and thus, enable
him. Scorsese's camera moves
throughout this entire tale as an
observer, but it's not infallible to
Belfort's charm. It understands
his drive for exceptionalism. It
envies him as we envy him. And
that should repulse you. Scors-
ese arms us with knowledge. In
a time where income inequal-
ity has reached record dispari-
ties, "The Wolf of Wall Street,"
while not Scorsese's best film,
is certainly one of his most rel-
By CARLY KEYES Inside the Mind of Charles Swan
DailyArtsEditor III") and Roger (B.J. Novak, "The
It's hard to believe that "Mary Mr. Banks's mustache, the copi-
Poppins," the Disney classic based ous imaginary words contrived to
on a series of popular children's rhyme song lyrics, the universally
books, almost beloved Dick Van Dyke's involve-
never hap- ment, the use of animation what-
pened. The A soever... Travers angrily objects
vocally-gifted with a solid and strong veto after
nanny who Saifng Mr. veto. Even Travers's endearing,
bursts into Banlks eager and optimistic chauffeur
sporadic song, (Paul Giamatti, "12 Years a Slave")
travels regally Michigan cannot soften her antagonistic
by umbrella, Theater, Rave 20 demeanor or loosen her rigid grip
dives into side- and Quality 16 on her life's work as he suffers the
walk chalk Disney bulk of her endless frustration.
portraits and But Travers's obstinacy and ret-
totes a bag icence to give Disney the outright
with enough items to effectively green light grows increasingly
fengshui abedroom -though alive justified as the plot delves into
and well in print and the imagi- her past, unveiling an incredibly
nation - almost never graced the intimate and profoundly personal
silver screen via an Oscar-win- connection with her precious Pop-
ning portrayal by the iconic Julie pins. For Travers, she is more than
Andrews. just a lovable fictional character:
"Saving Mr. Banks" divulges "MaryPoppins is family."
the rocky, yet ultimately success- Despite the fact that Disney's
ful, adaptation process behind one "Mary Poppins" is widely consid-
of the most celebrated pieces of ered a children's movie with its
cinema - and musicals - of all- fair share of whimsy, "Saving Mr.
time, thankfu' y tiwarting what Banks" is not for kids. As Trav-
would'vebeenatragif,gapinghole ers and Team Disney butt heads
in millions of childhood memories in the present, director John Lee
for yearstocome. Hancock ("The Blind Side") con-
"Audiences will rejoice," Walt structs the narrative with sequen-
Disney (the incomprehensibly ver- tial flashbacks to simultaneously
satile Tom Hanks, "Captain Phil- illuminate the devastating circum-
lips") assures author P.L. Travers stances of Travers's youth, which
(Emma Thompson, "Beautiful spawned the original story in the
Creatures") as he pleads with first place, and there is nothing
her to sell him the rights to her amusingor magical aboutit.
beloved book. But Travers instant- At the center of Travers's chal-
ly nixes nearly every creative idea lenging upbringing is her father
posed by Disney's team of writ- (Colin Farrell, "Dead Man Down")
ers, which includes Don DaGradi whose love for her and his family
(Bradley Whitford, "CBGB") and - and his occupation as a banker -
the Sherman brothers, Richard is mired by an apparent and crip-
(Jason Schwartzman, "A Glimpse plingstruggle with alcoholism.
Unlike "Mary Poppins," this
isn't a film for small children (the
PG-13 rating is dead-on). "Banks"
is largely a raw, fact-based depic-
tion ofthe traumaTravers suffered
in her family of origin - which just
happens to serve as inspiration for
her eventual fictional phenom-
enon - and it is not a spoonful of
sugar but a strong dose of reality.
"Banks" reveals nothing sac-
charine or delightful about the
roots of the Disney-driven, heart-
warming musical sensation, and
it is this shockingly stark contrast
that gives this story its unassum-
ing psychological depth and the
audience its ability to extract an
ungodly amount of pathos in Trav-
shines as Walt
Among first-rate performances
from a duo of true greats and an
equally invested supporting cast,
it is this dynamic method of story-
telling and the jumping between
Travers's past and present - the
cruelty of the cause and the com-
plicated nature of the effect - that
makes "Banks" practically poi-
gnant in every way.
An indelible emotional journey
with an unforgettable one-two
thick the line between fact and
fiction can be, and it teaches that
within a world of darkness, some-
times it takesjust one unique voice
to let in the light that we need to
A glowing, innovative 'Saga
ByMAXRADWIN On the barest level, "Saga" is
DailyArts Writer the familiar "Romeo and Juliet"
construction: Against all odds,
Anyone can pick up a copy of unlikely lovers (Alana and Marko)
any issue of Batman, Superman, from fighting families attempt to
Spiderman or The Hulk and know, run away together in search of
more or less, - happiness. But instead of families,
what is going A it's species from different planets.
on. You know - And it's not just fighting - it's all-
that Batman ool & 2 out, intergalactic warfare in what
is avenging V 1 becomes a strange mix of fantasy
the death of Brian K. and sci-fi.
his parents Vaughan and But the product of that mixture
and that Spi- Fiona Staples is weirdly grounded in realism.
derman, the Vaughan takes huge chances in
death of his Image Comics this new world he has created, one
Uncle. You Available at Vault which seems to have no bound-
know Super- of Midnight aries (people with TV heads,
man doesn't giants with big dicks and rocket
do kryptonite ship trees) but he always keeps it
and that you won't like Bruce grounded in the characters and
Banner when he's angry. In these their realistic struggles with car-
cases, everyone already knows ing for a new child, or the death of
the situation, and as a result, that aparent.Thereaderisthrowninto
familiarity does a lot of work to tell the reality of this world immedi-
the intricacies of the story. ately - witnessing birth, sex and a
Maybe that's why DC and Mar- prince taking a shit all in the first
vel are the big kids on the block - volume - but those things hap-
they simply have the added bonus pen, and they need to be acknowl-
of longevity that new titles starting edged. Vaughan doesn't shy away.
from scratch lack when trying to The story surprises in these
sell copies and, more importantly, unexpectedly crude ways (despite
tell an effective story. the maturity of craft, Vaughan
Perhaps that's what makes has his characters swearing like
Image's "Saga" - the most recent 15-year-olds) but never really
project of Eisner Award-winning leaves a bad taste in your mouth for
writer Brian K. Vaughan and illus- long. Every panel feels important
trator Fiona Staples - so impres- and, more or less, purposeful. It's
sive. The plot captivates for its exciting to watch this unacquaint-
uniqueness and freshness. It side- ed, strange universe expand, and it
steps old comic book tropes for the does so believably.
most part, and when it doesn't, it Vaughan, who wrote on "Lost"
does a good job of putting those for two seasons and is now the
tropes in a new light. showrunner of "Under the Dome,"
handles the complexities of his
own plot masterfully. Twisting
and turning in its own temporal-
ity, "Saga" jumps back and forth
through time gracefully and with-
out confusing the reader. Later
chapters inform the earlier ones,
which makes for avaluable second
and third read-through.
The art isn't, admittedly, that
magnificent. It's simple and plain,
albeit intentionally. These charac-
ters are discovering a world along
with us, so there's a lack ofconnec-
tivity between principle locations
and even panels. We enter the
story mid-war, so most of what we
see is barren lands, closed, hidden
A new take on
Juliet for comic
corridors and open, black space.
The art doesn't distract, it does its
job exactly and ultimately satisfies.
This is not a story only for comic
book fans. These first two vol-
umes are forany reader looking for
strong, brilliant writing. Issue No.
17 was released this Christmas,
but bound volumes became avail-
able this summer. They certainly
help to legitimize the genre of the
graphic novel beyond the caped
crusader looking to avenge the
death of a family member.
ARE YOU INTERESTED IN LONG
FORM JOURNALISM ABOUT
READ THE B-SIDE, A WEEKLY DAILY ARTS INSERT,