Can ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ Devour Oscar Competition?

Cristin Milioti, Jon Favreau, Jonah Hill,
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Martin Scorsese's latest finally premieres for audiences

Following months of speculation on whether it would make it in time for the 2013 Oscar race, Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” finally started screenings for guilds over the weekend, beginning with a Saturday afternoon show for SAG nominating committee. And the response was as boisterous and wild as the ride on which stockbroker Jordan Belfort—played by Leonardo DiCaprio—takes the audience over the course of three hours. Yes, it’s official: The film runs three hours. But the crowd didn’t seem to mind, laughing enthusiastically up until the end.

I had the privilege of moderating the Q&A following the first screening, attended by DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Rob Reiner, Jon Favreau, Cristin Milioti, Edward Choi and PJ Byrne. The cast received massive applause, culminating in a standing ovation for DiCaprio.

Many of the cast members were seeing the film for the first time. Reiner, who plays Belfort’s accountant father, admitted to being a little stunned. “It was really good. I knew it had laughs, but I didn’t realize how many laughs,” he said. He also admitted he was nervous agreeing to do the Q&A before seeing the film, saying, “What if it stunk? Luckily, it was the reverse of stink.”

While formal reviews are embargoed, it’s safe to say that critics are likely to agree. The film opens with a bang, with DiCaprio narrating both in voiceover and in direct address to the camera, and the laughs come fast. The actor, a three-time Oscar nominee, has never been better as the slick, determined and utterly unrepentant Belfort, and is likely to land another nomination. I say “likely” only because best actor is a crowded field and he will have to bump some serious competition, but his odds are good.

While the Academy might balk at some of the more salacious elements, a best picture nomination seems a sure thing, as does a nom for Terence Winter’s adaptation of Belfort’s memoir. Also a surefire nominee is Jonah Hill for supporting actor, who plays Belfort’s sycophantic and adoring underling, called Donnie Azoff in the movie (real last name is Porush). Hill good-naturedly pointed out, “Every time I play someone real in a movie they ask to have their name changed.” While Hill’s is a comic sidekick role, there is something tragic in the actor’s performance, and his genuine love for Belfort comes through.

But will Scorsese muscle into the crowded director field? All signs point to yes. While the film could benefit from some trimming, Scorsese is in top form—having just turned 71, the filmmaker is still managing to find new and creative ways to tell stories. A sequence involving Belfort and Azoff on Quaaludes ranks among the director’s best work ever and is sure to become one of the most buzzed-about scenes of the year—the Saturday crowd burst into long applause mid-screening.

The laughs and cheers continued into the Q&A, where DiCaprio, also a producer on the film, described reading Belfort’s book and comparing him to a modern-day Caligula. When it came time for audience questions, DiCaprio recognized a young man in the audience and after an exchange of pleasantries, the man asked how he stayed on the top of his game, being such a great actor for so long. Hill instantly jumped in, “Thank you for asking…,” causing DiCaprio and the audience to explode into laughter.

Paramount held another screening of the film that night, this one including a reception featuring a marching band, in homage to a scene in the movie. With the film just beginning to screen, the studio will have to make up some lost ground considering critics’ awards start coming out this week and ballots for SAG nominations are due Dec. 9. But the studio should have every reason to feel confident.

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  1. primavera8 says:

    I was at this screening. In my opinion, this movie is an overly long misogynistic piece of cr*p. My boyfriend and I wanted to leave halfway through, but we chose to stay for the Q & A with artists we respected afterward. Honestly, after this film, that respect is diminished in my eyes. There is not one strong female character in the 3 hour long film. And zero character arc for the main character. Ninety – nine percent of the females in the film are there to serve as sex objects. Why Leo would want to celebrate this man’s story, who bilked people out of millions, has no respect for women, and destroyed people’s lives is beyond me. At one point, when Jordan (Leo’s character) says something like “That’s right, I f*ed her…” a guy sitting nearby us yelled “Yeah!” Classy. By the end of the movie, Jordan has shown no remorse whatsoever for what has done.

  2. jake says:

    Its long overdue for Dicaprio to finally get the award recognition that has long eluded him — he should be the front runner.

  3. salsa pants says:

    The Wolf is a farce. You’ll note that all the people guffawing and rolling in the aisles have never worked on Wall Street other than to occupy said Street while sleeping in foggy fart-bombed pup-tents and urinating on each other. The closest occurence I’ve ever encountered happened at a Smith Barney office on Long Island. They called it the “boom boom” room. Look it up.

    • MBK says:

      Definition of “farce”: a comic dramatic work using buffoonery and horseplay and typically including crude characterization and ludicrously improbable situations. Yes, the film is a farce — and a brilliant one. Your conflation of the movie’s audience with Occupy Wall Street, however, is utterly obtuse.

    • bunnyboo says:

      It’s a movie, of course most people seeing it haven’t worked on Wall Street. You don’t have to be able to relate to a movie to see it. How do you know it’s a farce? Did you work at Stratton Oakmont? Even if it is all exaggerated its a movie!

  4. E.V. says:

    This movie is awesome. I liked it more than The Departed.

  5. skep41 says:

    The overrated and overaged Scorsese hasnt done a decent movie since ‘Aviator’ or a great one since ‘Goodfellas’. It’s time for the aging Old Bulls to hang up their spurs. This guy just doesnt have anything to say these days and is living off his reputation, as are a lot of superannuated ‘stars’.

    • Gaston Mamy says:

      OVerrated Scorsese? You wish!, Maybe You havent seen his films or you dont get them! MEAN STREETS, TAXI DRIVER, RAGING BULL, THE KING OF COMEDY, AFTER HOURS, THE LAST THEMPTATION OF CHRIST, GOODFELLAS and THE AGE OF INNOCENCE are his greatest works yet, Look how many they are and in diferent genres…And besides those great pieces of filmaking, he has done in recent years very good films, maybe they are not masterpieces, but they are very very good and interesting films: THE AVIATOR, HUGO, THE DEPARTED, the very interesting SHUTTER ISLAND, and his “weeker” film of the last 13 years of him: Gangs of new york. An extraordinary film career! SCORSESE OVERRATED?? Why are you so upset? BEcause THE WOLF OF WALL STREET is going to be another great film? If you are a Scorsese hater, why making the trouble to read this article here and talk bad about him?

    • Guest says:

      You say that after reading the article?Didn’t you just read about how the movie was brilliant?

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