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This month American Hustle, based on the Abscam scandal of the 1970s, garnered comparisons to Boogie Nights, P.T. Anderson's 1997 movie about the pre-AIDS heyday and subsequent fall of the pornography industry in the 1970s. They're alike mostly ...

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Robin Teo

February 18, 2014  2:29am

I regretted watching this film even though it generated interesting discussions. The film neither condone or promote the lifestyle Belfort had led but voyeuristic. By watching this film financial incentive is given to a character who has yet to show clear repentance of lives damaged by him. There are news of him evading payment for his victims at the present moment. Production value and great acting aside, spending 3 hours for laughs, indulging in repeated sex, drugs debauchery, greed and folly scenes, with no sense of redemption for Belfort is emptiness. I am not advocating a great film has to be a sterile film with redemptive ending. There are other more satisfying films telling stories of folly. While WOWS does show the problem is not only with an elite group but also indicts society as a whole, the film seems too long and unnecessarily excessive in its emphasis. Belfort certainly doesn't need further financial incentive or entertainment attention.

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Greg Smith

February 14, 2014  10:01pm

Liz T asks: "Esther-It seems like a lot of Christians are more bothered by sexual content and swearing than violence. I wonder why that is?" I offer again Liz to explain why this is to the biblically sensitive heart and mind. Just look for Tiribulus on Facebook. Or go here http://tiribulus.net/wordpress/?p=256 Its' very tough to actually converse here.I'm harmless and I WILL help you understand the one and only actually Christian view on this. For the record, the Lord's name being taken in vain and all the variants of this horrific crime against heaven is by FAR the most offensive of all the reprehensible content in these movies. The Lord will not hold them guiltless who do so. He promised. I will NEVER pay a fellow child of Father Adam to sin against his creator. I'm out here in the public Liz. Perfectly proper and constructive offer. I promise you WILL understand. If you're REALLY wondering. Look me up.

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Liz T

January 05, 2014  1:40am

Esther-It seems like a lot of Christians are more bothered by sexual content and swearing than violence. I wonder why that is?

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William Smith

January 04, 2014  8:09am

And Pamela, you are quite welcome. Thanks for presenting your thoughts without sharp reproach or condemnation. I wish that more people could see that conversation between individuals who may have opposing views can actually be quite wonderful.

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William Smith

January 04, 2014  8:03am

Pamela, you make some great points. I definitely see what you are saying and agree that the film could have been well served by further exploring what actually makes these characters tick. Your point about the film's depiction of the lewd behavior becoming gratuitous has made me pause and reflect about my reaction to the material. Over the course of the film I became rather desensitized to the lurid activities. It became so over the top that I viewed much of it as pure parody and dark comedy. Was this what Scorsese intended? I'm leaning that way, but I cannot be sure. However, your point also forces me to examine myself and ask myself some rather uncomfortable questions like, "What am I willing to subject myself to for the sake of art?" I really did think this was a good film (despite the flaws), but I'm not sure it is one that would be healthy to revisit often, just as I have no real desire to watch something like Schindler's List multiple times. I continue to pray for wisdom.

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Pamela Mathews

January 03, 2014  7:43pm

Also, William, thanks for being open-minded and respectful in your questions and thoughts. It is refreshing. I agree we all come from different places and preferences. My disappointment in the review was that on a site like CT, I expect the level of violence and/or sexuality to be fully addressed if it's unusual. Was it necessary? if so why? As I mentioned, a number of secular reviews questioned the Wolf's level of focus on sordid sex/drug detail. And I never saw the Passion -- I was too scared!

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Pamela Mathews

January 03, 2014  7:24pm

Hi, William. I am rather tolerant of violence and sexuality in films; I realize that they can help convey reality, as unfortunate as that reality may be. However, I really felt the lewdness of this particular film became gratuitous. How many scenes of hookers and drug abuse did we need to see to understand this happened on a regular basis? How close up did we need to view the broker snorting cocaine out of a hooker's butt? Etc. The (true) story line was mind-blowing and a lot of the acting was great, and that's why I got something out of film. However, as a Christian and a thoughtful person, I wish the movie had spent less time showing us the sordid nuances of the various sex/drug experiences and more time exploring the motivations and relationships of this group of brokers and their groupies (for lack of a better word.) There are plenty of rich people who are generally honest and/or don't embrace this kind of lifestyle. Why?

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William Smith

January 03, 2014  12:13pm

Just to clarify: I am not comparing the Passion and Wolf of Wall Street as similar pictures. I just brought the Passion up because it is easily the most violent film I have ever seen and Wolf is one of the "hardest" R films I have seen lately. Even Roger Ebert (who gave the film 4 stars, by the way) said Passion was the most violent film he had ever seen. The violence in the Passion is almost like documentary violence in that it is presented in a very real, raw way. Other violent films I have seen, like Kill Bill, for instance, are very violent but in a totally detached, and stylized comic book type of way. Even films with realistic violence, like Saving Private Ryan, don't hold a candle to the sustained violence in Passion. Saving Private Ryan uses quick shots and cuts away from the violence rather than holding it in frame for minutes at a time.

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William Smith

January 03, 2014  11:44am

I appreciate hearing your view. I see what you are saying, but I respectfully disagree. I'm not really sure how pornography can be deemed worse than violence. That seems pretty objective. I would actually argue just the opposite, but again, it just seems to me that it is just a personal opinion. Perhaps pornography is more offensive to you than violence, and that is okay. Everyone is different and some people are more sensitive to some things than others. For me, the violence in the Passion was over the top and pulled me away from the picture. I really don't feel any closer to God after seeing a depiction of Christ being brutally beaten for an hour. I understand what Gibson was doing and it's great that some people responded to it positively, but I wasn't among those people. Also, I think I'm having a difficult time understanding what you deem pornography. I actually didn't see any in Wolf of Wall Street. Sex and nudity was not depicted for sheer gratification, as is the case with porn

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Esther Starr

January 03, 2014  10:14am

First of all, pornography is worse than violence, and in any case there have been more violent movies than The Passion, as brutal as it is. There is no good time or place to use pornography to make a point. There simply isn't. Moreover, when the point you are making essentially boils down to "Look how obscene and decadent these people are!" that's not a point worth making, and certainly not something any Christian should sit through. I can smell the stench of the dung pile six feet away without burying my face in it to gauge just HOW foul it is. By contrast, the violence of the Passion had a profoundly meaningful and redemptive purpose, the most redemptive purpose possible. And it has the potential to bring the viewer into a closer and more deeply thankful relationship with God. So, really, no comparison at all.

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William Smith

January 03, 2014  7:31am

Pamela and Esther: I respect your points. You have your reasons for feeling the way you do, and who am I to argue that you are wrong for feeling that way? Please consider, though, that yes, "hyper-obscenity" alone does not make great art, but the obscenity was only a part of the whole. The film has to be taken as a complete work, and I think it is unfair to let the obscenity skew your entire view of the film. What do you think the filmmaker is trying to say? Why do you think there is so much obscenity? If you are familiar with Scorsese, you will most certainly know that it is not solely for shock value or a film from which any intelligent viewer should derive pleasure. A discerning eye will see that these characters are portrayed as pretty foolish, and not role models in any way. I will digress a bit, but think of a movie like Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ". This is perhaps the most violent film ever made. Does this extreme violence make it just a snuff b-movie? Certainly not.

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Pamela Mathews

January 02, 2014  9:11pm

I saw this movie. It was good, not great, and exceptionally lewd for a R film. I came here to read a Christian perspective. This is a very basic secular review on all counts. Putting in a mention that few Christians will want to see it does not make the review helpful or interesting. I've read far more insightful reviews on secular/liberal sites that dare to question 3 hours of soft porn as being necessary and challenge the exaltation of greed in this movie. Take it up a notch, CT.

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Esther Starr

January 02, 2014  5:23pm

You know you have a point William. Unfortunately Alyssa isn't taking your advice. She's been snarking all over Twitter about how anyone who criticized her review obviously didn't read the whole thing, etc., etc. As a matter of fact I did read the whole thing. I got the message clearly: "SENSITIVE readers be advised, but those of us who are deep and nuanced and cultured can see clearly that this is an objectively great artistic achievement." Actually, hyper-obscenity does not great art make. Sorry to break it to Alyssa.

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William Smith

January 02, 2014  3:56pm

I am a follower of Christ who greatly enjoys film. I completely agree with the CT reviewer's opinion and believe that this film is very good and also important. I am surprised by some of the vitriolic comments lobbed by some Christians who almost seem to believe it is their job to take down another fellow believer for thinking this is a good film. I saw the decadence and hedonism portrayed and this film and was definitely repulsed. I felt pity for the characters who were deriving no true, lasting pleasure from their activities. They were completely immoral. I would argue that this film actually lit more of a fire in me to spread Christ's word with even greater fervor. These types of people exist and definitely need Christ in their lives. We as Christians need to approach art with wisdom. Is this film for everyone? No. Should another believer face ridicule and judgment from his brother for enjoying this art? In my opinion, no. Can art be both great AND offensive? I would say yes.

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Esther Starr

December 31, 2013  3:32pm

I don't know why the reviewer can't seem to understand that the obscenity of this movie drags down the ARTISTIC level of the whole thing as well as the moral level. To award this 3.5 stars out of 4 is frankly bizarre. To the reviewer I would say splash a little cold water on your face and re-compute. You blew it on this one CT.

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BJ Nelson

December 30, 2013  8:12pm

I appreciate that CT reviews all types of movies. It helps me to know what is out there and the positive and negative qualities of a movies. Whether CT gives a higher rating or not is, of course, up to the reviewer. For this movie, the warnings at the end are extensive - the longest I've ever seen for a CT review, actually. Does the fact that there is so much raunchy behavior mean that the review cannot be high? I don't think so. I think as discerning adults, we can tell that a movie might be good in some regards and not in others. I would love to see the Wolf of Wall Street as I am sure it is a quality film in terms of acting ability, technical aspects, and even theme. I probably will not see it, however, because it is so vulgar, and I know it's best for me not to watch things like that. But, I am glad that CT gives a full review so that I can make that decision.

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Liz T

December 29, 2013  5:57pm

Greg Smith #1 and so we DO meet again! I know you like to play devil's advocate. Thank you for challenging me! :) My biblical assessment? Well, many people say that watching TV and movies means we are conforming to the pattern of this world. I do not agree with that. While I am not a biblical scholar, I do not believe that we have to abstain from the things of this world in order to avoid conforming to its pattern. If that were the case, then we shouldn't be reading any non-Christian books or associating with nonbelievers. I think that we should judge each movie, which is why I find value in CT doing their reviews. I can see what this reviewer got out of the movie before exposing myself to it. Then, I can see if it's something I should actually watch. While I have not seen (and most likely will not see) Wolf of Wall Street, I did enjoy some movies this year, including 12 Years a Slave and Mud. Neither movie glorified evil at all. I don't know if Wolf of Wall Street does.

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Greg Smith

December 29, 2013  5:35pm

Wait...there are 2 Greg Smiths? Anyway, I'm a pastor who majored in filmmaking. On the one hand, there is a need for movie reviews that let us know what we're in for. And I can appreciate the technical aspects of a well-made film. On the other, infinitely more important hand, there are some things in this world that we neither need to read about nor participate in. Walking in holiness is far more important than being able to discuss this movie in an intelligent way. Sometimes we don't dissect evil, we just flee from it. Too many times I've exposed myself to ungodliness onscreen because, you know, "I know all about making movies and I know it's fake, etc." The Wolf of Wall street in no way falls into some grey area where there's freedom to see it or not. It's a black and white issue: it's wall-to-wall evil.

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Greg Smith

December 29, 2013  4:40pm

Liz T People who keep commenting on CT's movie reviews about how they should not review or recommend X or Y movie. However you don't realize that CT will continue to review these movies because people WANT to read their reviews. ===================================== We meet again Liz. I agree. CT WILL continue to do them and people DO want to read them. What is your biblical assessment of this state of affairs? If I might be so bold as to inquire.

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Paula Peel

December 28, 2013  8:19pm

The idea that any media that proclaims "Christianity" in any way would give this movie a good review is shameful! This movie is embarrassing and wrong. I've lost all respect for Leonardo and I'm ashamed that I actually purchased a ticket to this film! It may be true that this happens - I don't doubt it but it is not appropriate to show so graphically to the general public, nor is it necessary. We've really lost our way people and God does not approve of this!!! I will not be a supporter of Christianity Today nor will I of anyone involved in this movie.

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