A. O. Scott discusses Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 masterpiece and the end of privacy.
The free enterprise system is not inherently corrupt.
Oliver Stone’s Wall Street leads the movie-goer to believe that the securities industry is a rigged game, and that capitalism is inherently corrupt. Hard work as a means to success in the financial community is debunked, only to be supplanted by corruption and law breaking, as securities trading is seen as a game with little or no productive value. Stone presents a harsh judgment on an economic system he fundamentally misunderstands.
Wall Street has come to be the historical revisionists’ cinematic representation of the 1980s—the so-called “decade of greed.” It, unfortunately, offers a view prevailing not only in the film industry, but in academia and the media as well. In many ways, Wall Street perpetuates a class warfare myth, with contrasts being drawn between so-called haves and have nots, or the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.
The movie’s antagonist is Gordon Gekko, a corporate raider. Gekko’s speech at the stockholders meeting of Telder Paper, his takeover target, is meant by Stone to reflect the corrupt nature of capitalism. In fact, Stone managed—knowingly or not—to provide a glimpse of why corporate raiders provide a positive service in a free market economy. Gekko states:
Telder Paper has 33 different vice presidents, each making over $200,000 a year . . . . Our paper company lost $110,000,000 last year, and I’ll bet half of that was spent in all the paperwork going back and forth between all these vice presidents. The new law of evolution in corporate America seems to be survival of the unfittest. . . . I am not a destroyer of companies; I am a liberator of them. The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed for a lack of a better word—is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms, greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge, has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed—you mark my words—will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the United States of America.
Greed or Self-Interest?
The word “greed” in such a speech is Stone’s carrier of corruption. It is his word of choice designed to elicit a specific response from the movie-going audience. After all, how could one view greed favorably? In fact, “self-interest” would have been a more apt term, which was understood over two centuries ago by Adam Smith, the father of capitalism. Smith wrote in An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations: “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.” Self-interest removes the judgmental nature of Stone’s presentation, while encompassing not only greed, but also industry, charity, self-improvement, and altruism, i.e., any human motivation.
Gekko’s later statements lend greater clarity to Stone’s view of the world. In reference to a Gekko plan to liquidate the holdings of an airline company, Budd Fox (the movie’s symbol of redemption as he in the end rejects the greed Gekko represents) asks, “Why do you need to wreck this company?” Gekko’s answer: “Because it’s wreckable!” Stone views the breakup of a firm as pure destruction. He is unable to understand what Joseph Schumpeter termed “creative destruction.” That is the notion that resources might be more efficiently used if freed from less profitable ventures and reinvested elsewhere. This is the dynamic aspect of capitalism that allows for renewal and growth.
But the essence of Stone’s limited vision is captured in Gekko’s definition of capitalism: “It’s a zero sum game. Somebody wins, somebody loses. Money itself isn’t lost or made, it’s simply transferred from one person to another—like magic. This painting here, I bought it ten years ago for $60,000. I could sell it today for $600,000. The illusion has become real, and the more real it becomes, the more desperate they want it. Capitalism at its finest . . . . I create nothing. I own . . . . You’re not naive enough to think that we live in a democracy, are you, Buddy? It’s the free market.” Stone does not understand that wealth can be created, not merely shifted around, and that the free market provides the incentives for individuals to create, innovate, and take risks. He sees a rise in the price of a painting as the pinnacle of capitalism. In fact, it is in those nations that have rejected free enterprise where the only source of value is to be found in a painting, for little else is created.
Wall Street presents a view of capitalism as being controlled by the few at the expense of the many—democracy versus the free market in Gekko’s words. Stone does not understand the nature of an exchange economy, missing a fundamental point that in a free enterprise system, one must first supply a service or good in order to demand; i.e., even the most greedy individuals must supply something that fulfills the needs or wants of another individual in order to participate in an exchange economy. Individuals vote with their dollars, if you will. The phrase “democratic capitalism” seems quite natural, for example, while “democratic socialism” seems oxymoronic. Read the rest of this entry »
As part of the tribute to Welles, three of his cult movies will be screened: “Citizen Kane,” “The Lady from Shanghai” and “Touch of Evil.” The documentary feature “This Is Orson Welles” by Clara and Julia Kuperberg, which is produced by TCM Cinema and Wichita Films, will also play.
Deauville described Welles as an “enduring legend of world cinema, who at an early age reinvented the grammar of his art with his masterpiece Citizen Kane. Read the rest of this entry »
Still no Blu-ray release of ‘The Age of Innocence‘
Cain Rodriguez writes: This year marks the 25th anniversary of Martin Scorsese’s transcendent gangster classic “Goodfellas,” and while the director’s grand stature in cinematic history is in no doubt, that doesn’t mean there are no under-appreciated gems hiding in his filmography.
Point of fact, this year also marks the 22nd anniversary of the little discussed adaptation of Edith Wharton’s novel, “The Age of Innocence.” To convince you of the sensual beauty and magnificence of the period piece, Milad Tangshir has crafted a nearly 20-minute-long video essay on the virtues of the 1993 film.
“I don’t particularly say ‘Oh this is a wonderful story for today’s audience.’ I have no idea what a good story for today’s audience is. I really don’t know. I just hope that if it’s honest enough and emotionally compelling, there might be some people out there that it will address.”
— Martin Scorsese
Titled “Hidden Behind Lace,” Tangshir’s video essay not only breaks down Scorsese’s visual style and offers analysis, but also includes clips from interviews given by editor Thelma Schoonmaker, cinematographer Michael Ballhaus, co-screenwriter Jay Cocks, production designer Dante Ferretti, and Scorsese himself.
[Check out Edith Wharton’s classic book “The Age of Innocence” at Amazon.com]
It’s a loving tribute to a film that’s been unfairly overlooked since it was released in between the much more commercial “Cape Fear” remake and “Casino.” Read the rest of this entry »
— Financial Times (@FT) February 14, 2015
Marlon Brando on the set of Apocalypse Now, 1976 pic.twitter.com/Ywou7gdLOY
— History In Pictures (@HistoryInPics) September 5, 2014
A photograph from the set of The Godfather (1972) Actors Al Lettieri (left) and Al Pacino (right). With an unidentified stage hand, or property master, seen here preparing for the scene where Michael Coreleone avenges his father’s assassination attempt. Leaving behind any chance of a legitimate life, free from the family’s criminal empire, Michael embraces his true destiny: heir to his father’s throne.
How did the good son become the ambitious, cold-blooded fratricidal killer and criminal mastermind we all know and love? First, by volunteering to shoot these two guys.
Besides great cinematography, the sound design in this scene is fantastic, the way it amplifies the tension. The audible train sounds, contributing to the suspense, right before Michael exits the bathroom, after retrieving the hidden weapon, never fails to impress me.
Killing Sollozzo and McCluskey
From this one audacious murderous act, Michael Corleone‘s dark ascendance begins. Brilliantly staged by Francis Ford Coppola, not only one of America’s most celebrated film directors, but also one of the great dramatists of the 20th century.
“I’m not the sort of fellow you’d want to go camping with.”
“Conversation is the enemy of good food and wine.”
I’ve always been fond of quotes, and epigrams, and have an odd habit of memorizing them. (though my memory is not always accurate, quotes are often misremembered, I hope I have these two preserved correctly) The first one I probably read in Reader’s Digest when I was a kid. The second one is a personal favorite.
The quote is revealing, too, because Hitchcock—not a small man—obviously loved good food. But also, hated unnecessary dialogue. The director viewed actors as chess pieces. Or spoiled children. Dialogue was almost a necessary evil, secondary to the visual story. As a director, Hitchcock was more of a technician than a dramatist.
Fantastic narration by Burroughs about Danny, a poor unfortunate junkie who reveals his last remains of selflessness and humanity despite his urgent physical predicament.
The Junky’s Christmas is a story by William S. Burroughs. It appears in the 1989 collection Interzone and on the 1993 album Spare Ass Annie and Other Tales. It was also made into a 1993 short claymation film directed by Nick Donkin and Melodie McDaniel. The film was produced by Francis Ford Coppola and was released by Koch Vision on DVD in North America on Nov. 21, 2006. Burroughs narrates the film and appears in live-action footage at the beginning and end of the film.