My Thoughts on ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’

My Thoughts on ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’

By Veronica Nkwocha

He is an enigma;  a drink driving, cocaine snorting, sex crazed, sleaze ball whom they all adore. Welcome to Jordan Belfort’s world. A gigantic ball of shiny, newly bedecked, noveau rich stock brokers whom Jordan himself moulds into mini Jordans, each one garish, brutish but entirely loyal and fiendishly capable of separating obtuse investors from their cash in huge mouth-watering sums.

Leonardo DiCaprio hits the road running. He is the chameleon whom we can’t differentiate from Belfort as he strikes at the heart of the role giving it his all. There is nothing caricature about this. He becomes the character so much so that his excesses are no longer something to wonder about, it is just who he is.

Jordan changes his first wife Teresa (Cristin Milioti) as he would his old car and old life; he trades her for a newer fresher and more beautiful model with nary a look as she weeps fading away from our screens. Naomi, beautiful, voluptuous and willing to be his fantasy and go the extra step but it is not enough as he pushes himself further and further. His cravings have the lead and they drive him to seek satisfaction from even more debauchery.

The Wolf of Wall Street (directed by Martin Scorsese) is shocking in its decadence; naked grinding women and men become so common place they barely need a glance from the audience. Jordan and his clones are perpetually on a high from a cocktail of prescription drugs and hard drugs, they float on clouds from where they pluck witty comments by the dozen.

Jordan’s charm lie in his ability to sell stocks not only to investors but in his ability to sell his vision first to his friends beginning with Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) and then to a teeming army of passionate near worshipping salesmen; scratch that, parishioners.

When he stands before his audience, he is like a preacher whose intense belief in the rightness of his cause begins to inspire. He is charismatic, and funny and handsome. He ‘preaches’ with a passion so intense it appears to rival the orgasms from their many orgies, the ‘congregation’ trashes about on the throes of a high so infectious from their benevolent ‘saviour’ they remain hooked as they rake in their successes.

He is himself the proud husband who gifts his new wife Naomi Lapaglia (Margot Robbie) a yacht with a landing pad, a helicopter sits daintily on top.

When an investigation into his activities by FBI Agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler) comes to light, he is nervous but yet arrogant. He belittles the agent’s poor wages and mocks his respectable normal life. His undoing is his greatest strength; his addiction to his vision. He simply cannot let go and when the steam train crashes, Jordan lies in a heap crafted with his own hands. He loses everything, every material thing. Except his gift of gab, his ability to sell and to inspire a following. He fades from the scene and sits a shadow of the former lusty Wolf astride his empire; he is a shadow that lurks as the movie ends, a fool and his money are soon parted.

The Wolf of Wall Street is audacious; it pulls no punches celebrating the lead character as an enigma, and although the victims are a part of the narrative, they are weak and hidden from view. When Jordan Belfort gets his comeuppance, they are but an afterthought, eaten and spat by the Predator and the storyteller.

Related Articles

http://www.theguardian.com/film/movie/155767/wolf-of-wall-street

http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/jan/22/jordan-belfort-wolf-of-wall-street-depiction

Saving Bitrus (Flash Fiction)

Eko

Saving Bitrus

By Veronica Nkwocha

Bitrus answered; “When all these arguments fade as time does its thing and we all pass on handing our baton to the next generation, it is posterity that will judge what strides each one of our elected leaders have made. It has a way of washing away all the dross and only the gold will remain. The yardstick that will be used will by many; how do they compare to others in their same situation, have they taken the cause for which they were elected as their primary duty or have they become distracted, aflush with the wealth of the masses and pissing in the wind? We are but a cacophony of voices eager to be heard but only the truth will remain; we turn their actions this way and that and some fiddle with the dross and hold it up in triumph, mediocrity reigns. From where she seats, posterity shakes her head, you can white wash a sepulchre but the inside will still be full of remains. May those who are working circumspect and leaving a legacy for the next generation be blessed.”

James laughed heartily, “Tori, all na story my brother, wetin all dis ya grammar come mean na?”

Okoro interjected, “Abi, no mind am, too much grammar mtcheww”, he concluded with a long drawn hiss.

James continued agreeing whole heartedly with Okoro, “Na too much book naim come be im problem, abeg give me food chop, make my pickin go school naim be my own”.

Bitrus perplexed that he could not reach them, supposing them intellectually incompetent ranted even louder.

“You must remove your gaze from your bellies and your wants and seek out the common good. Of what use is it to you if you are fed to the brim and your neighbour starves? What good is it if only your own children have an education and the rest wallow in government induced ignorance due to a lack of funding for good schools?”

They looked at him worried, both Okoro and James.

“This man don sick finish”, Okoro said and they both shook their heads with pity.

They walked away, they had only gone a few meters when they looked back and beheld a sight that had them nodding in understanding. Bitrus stood facing a wall, his book tucked tightly under his armpit, a discreet air about him. He was peeing, its trajectory directed at the base of the wall where it splattered against the dull and faded painting.

James said out loud in wonder, “This one naim be the ‘pissing in the wind’ wey im dey talk?”

Okoro shouted, “Hey, hey you dere, abi you no fit see the tin wey dem write for wall?”

Bitrus looked up at the bold and bright red lettering; DO NOT URINATE HERE.

The Storyteller

image

By Veronica Nkwocha

Storytelling:

From time immemorial, Man has always found ways to tell the story of life as it happened using rock paintings, folklore, genealogy, dance, staged plays and writing. Art imitates life and poets, writers, painters, griots, actors etc. have always found creative ways of expressing the dynamics of the world around them. They hold a mirror to the interactions and preserve for future generations, a unique insight into what life is like during their time.

As long as life carries on unabated the ‘Storyteller’ will reflect society in its raw form; the good, the bad and the ugly.

Any prescriptive boundaries to cage creativity does some harm to the integrity of the ‘picture’ of our world. Is there family, love, pain, joy, heartbreak, redemption, religion, philosophies? Are there wars, deceit, trials, triumphs etc.? Until we can edit life and make it pristine clean, Art will imitate life especially for the sake of those who will ponder about our world in the future as we do today, paintings on rocks by ancient man.

My Thoughts on ’12 Years A Slave’

My Thoughts on ’12 Years A Slave’
By Veronica Nkwocha

‘12 Years a Slave’ (Directed by Steve McQueen) feels like one is going into a hole, deeper and deeper into an abyss. The dark is cloying and the damp draining every spring within to merge with the tumultuous grey and wet of the Mississippi.

‘12 Years a Slave’ is the story of Solomon Northup played with aplomb by Chiwetel Ejiofor, a free black man from New York in 19th century America. A family man, his jaunty step as he strolls with his wife, son and daughter speak of hope, life and prosperity. He is a violinist, an excellent one. Things go ‘south’ when he is lured under false pretences to Washington for some work, kidnapped and then sold into slavery.

Solomon Northup sheds the garments of a fine gentleman and dons the toga of a slave, from then on, he must answer to the name Platt Hamilton.

Stripped of everything, there is nothing sexual about the nudity and we cover our eyes in shame, embarrassed for the slaves who have to wash in front of others. The dehumanising is thorough and the trembling obeisance that colours nearly every slave is infectious killing any semblance of rebellion.

In Louisiana, the flowers are mute and the surrounding plains of the cotton field are joyless even though there is a song for every scythe that hits the cane. Solomon is wide eyed almost throughout as though he cannot yet believe his new circumstances, even years after.

There aren’t many moments of happiness and life carries on. He leaves a near benevolent master (who even gifts him a violin) where he almost becomes a fatality, almost hanged after a falling out with overseer John Tibeats (Paul Dano). He is sold on to a ‘religious’ Edwin Epps. His new master reads the scriptures as though he believes them even though we catch him making up verses. Michael Fassbender is thoroughly believable and we watch as Epps attacks his role with glee. He is seemingly bumbling yet extremely faithful to the commonly held ideas of a vicious slave master.

Epps’ music by the slaves for his entertainment show a ‘disconnect’ on his part, he is the only one happy and excited as the slaves dance a pretend merriment. His missus (Sarah Paulson) is not pleased; what is there to be jealous of in Patsey? Played by Lupita Nyong’o, she is unwashed, enjoys no perks for being the masters bed mate, favours which he takes mercilessly.

Mrs Epps pristine appearance mirrors her halo wound so very tight, she looks like she has a perpetual headache. It is not a surprise when she declares her own bed is too holy for him. Her simmering rage does not discriminate, the rapist and the victim are fair game for her wrath. We would feel some compassion for her if she didn’t end up looking like she needed penance for her part. Patsey is the broken reed, bruised but waving in the breeze, flowing with the current unable to put an end to it all.

The master’s chat with Bass (Brad Pitt) is illuminating, sound bites and clichés take on new meaning as they are held under the harsh light of an anti-slaver’s scrutiny. Bass is eventually trusted with the buried secret as Solomon tries one last time, would he take a message home?

We hardly see Solomon’s family after the first moments in the movie and we never know how they reacted once they found out he was gone. In not knowing, we are cast into Solomon’s reality, the wall separating him from his loved ones is resolute, impenetrable.

The movie ends in an anti-climax. One is reaching for a happy ending and when the homecoming happens, it all ends suddenly. We are left hungry for more. We want to share in the redemption, in their celebration. We are robbed of the ecstasy that would otherwise have been a catharsis to the intense ordeal of Solomon Northup’s 12 years as a slave.

Related Articles

http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/jan/09/12-years-a-slave-review
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2024544/