If you like repetitive stories about wealthy people -- and who doesn't? -- you have two options this weekend: The Wolf of Wall Street and Downton Abbey. Pick 'em: Martin Scorsese's latest celebration of frenzied New Yorkers shouting threats at each other on drugs, or the season premiere of Julian Fellowes' beloved TV series about a British family getting dressed. It's an embarrassment of riches, featuring characters who are both rich and embarrassing.
If you really want to see The Wolf of Wall Street, there's probably no talking you out of it, even though it got a C from Cinemascore - which is even worse than it sounds - and David Edelstein called it "thumpingly insipid" while Joe Morgenstern raved that he "couldn't wait for the hollow spectacle to end."
(To give you some idea how bad a "C" is from Cinemascore, Grudge Match, where the remains of Sylvester Stallone fight the ghost of Robert De Niro got a B+. I'm not making that up. B+. What's that line from Bride of Frankenstein? "We belong dead"? That's the one.)
Downton Abbey, on the other hand, is universally acclaimed by critics and regular people alike because 1) It's really pretty good 2) We're conditioned to believe people with English accents are more amusing than they actually are and 3) It contains only a very limited amount of Shirley MacLaine and at least she's not boxing anyone.
So which should you watch? Use this check list to decide:
Which is more interminable?
The Wolf of Wall Street 3 hours (feels longer)
Downton Abbey 1 hour (repeated, with minor variations, eight times a year)
Which has the most salty language?
The Wolf of Wall Street According to Variety uses the word "fuck" 506 times. A record for a non-documentary.
Downton Abbey "I bid you all good day."
Car accidents? The Wolf of Wall Street 1
Downton Abbey 1
The Wolf of Wall Street 1
Downton Abbey 1
Downton Abbey 1
The Wolf of Wall Street ∞
Does Johanna Lumley OBE appear as "Aunt Emma" who dies suddenly, precipitating a complicated financial crisis?
Downton Abbey Amazingly, no.
The Wolf of Wall Street Astonishingly, yes. Which makes the critic for BusinessWeek more envious?
"Sure, a society that values bloodlines over hard work is anathema to our country's ideals. But who wouldn't want to inherit a sprawling country estate and wear fabulous flapper dresses to dinner?"
Claire Suddath, BusinessWeek 1/2/14
The Wolf of Wall Street
"Fans can't help but fantasize about how a guy like Belfort could have gotten away with it if he'd just taken fewer pills. The Wolf of Wall Street rubs viewers' noses in a pile of cocaine; nobody should be surprised if some leave the theater wide-eyed and thrilled by that high."
Logan Hill, BusinessWeek 12/19/13
Stock swinders' victims depicted, or just stock swindlers?
Downton Abbey Yes
The Wolf of Wall Street No
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