Leonardo DiCaprio and ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ Howl for Oscars

“The Wolf of Wall Street” screened today for media members. Was it worth the wait? You betcha. When awards nominations are announced next week, the question isn’t whether the Martin Scorsese film will be included but rather how many nods it will get.

Paramount has imposed a review embargo until Dec. 17 for the film, so details will be restrained. But this may be the only time you see restraint and “Wolf” used in the same sentence.

Within the first five minutes, the film pops off the screen with energy, style, sex, profanity and drugs. It’s a film about excess and at three hours, it’s a marathon of all those elements. So conservative awards voters may be put off.

But in general, audiences and voters love the familiar mixed with the new: They like to see  a favorite star or filmmaker but be surprised when they go in new directions, and “Wolf” delivers. There are some trademark Scorsese elements like uniformly strong performances, stylish camera moves, a great soundtrack and, most important, smart observations about jungle behavior in urban settings. But this is 180 degrees from “Hugo” and different from his other films. And Leonardo DiCaprio shows new sides of himself, including his talent as a physical comic.

In terms of awards, nominations seem likely for the picture, Scorsese, DiCaprio, scripter Terence Winter, Jonah Hill and Margot Robbie and all below-the-line work.

There is always anticipation over a Scorsese film and this one has, as a bonus, DiCaprio and a script by Winter, the TV maestro making a rare bigscreen foray. Adding to the excitement was the backstory: Will it be finished in time or pushed into 2014? Wait, it’s a comedy? It’s three hours long?

In terms of awards, this has an advantage over much of its competition: Voters will see it. Most Academy members are working folks with limited time, so rely on word of mouth when deciding what to see. But even if an Acad member has seen nothing so far in 2013 because they’ve been shooting in Siberia, this will be among the handful of must-sees, due to its pedigree.

Every year, there are a handful of awards hopefuls that start screening late, because they are in post up until the last minute. This year, the final three were Sony’s “American Hustle,” the Warner Bros.-New Line-MGM “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” and this one. (In past years, the latecomers have included “Gran Torino,” “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” and “Django Unchained.”) They have had mixed results with awards. This film is likely to wind up on the positive side of that.

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