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Cannes Review: “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.”

Cannes Review: “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.” (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival.

For at least its first half, Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” — the sequel to his 1987 original — may be the cinema’s best dramatization of the 2008 financial meltdown. With its rapidly cut split-screens and downward spiraling electronic numbers reflecting on the panicked face of its protagonist Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf), the film captures the fast, frenzied terror of computer-driven economic freefall like nothing else on recent screens.

The digital trickery of such sequences — not to mention some fantastic animated end credits — shows that Stone has embraced the new technologies of filmmaking with innovative panache. Too bad that hackneyed Hollywood melodramatic clichés get in the way of the final result.

At its best, “Money Never Sleeps” takes on the mood of Stone’s “JFK.” Conspiracy lurks in the air and great actors deliver ominous bits of dialogue: “Are we going under?” asks the innocent Jake, an ambitious trader who watches the world collapse around him. Answers Frank Langella’s wizened trader Louis Zabel: “The question is: Who isn’t?”

Even octogenarian legend Eli Wallach shows up as an old-school Streeter whistling away at his enemies. For amateur economic-watchers, the film also offers a surprisingly sophisticated account of the instruments of financial collapse, with its talk of subprime mortgages, short-selling and credit default swaps.

05142010_WallStreetMoneyNeverSleeps5.jpgBut the film falters in its overtly dramatic triangles: Jake’s girlfriend-fiancé happens to be the liberal HuffPo-like blogger daughter (Carey Mulligan, cute but underwritten) of Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas, of course, reprising his mix of charismatic sliminess from any number of recent roles).

While Gekko, recently released from prison, uses Jake to get to his long-estranged daughter, Jake must also contend with a contentious relationship with another mentor figure, Bretton James (Josh Brolin), the head of a rival investment bank. Blink and you’ll miss it, but there’s one point in which Langella’s Zabel appears like an Obi-Wan Kenobi figment, a reminder that Jake Skywalker must resist the temptations of the dark side of Wall Street.

Stone has never been known for subtlety. When he has focused on past political events, such as “JFK” or “Platoon” and “Born on the Fourth of July,” impassioned political conviction helped smooth over any emotional excess. But as seen in his last film “W.,” his biopic of George W. Bush, Stone is less sure-footed on the contemporary homefront. His real world spaces veer toward the surreal; this must be intentional, as evidenced by some deliberately strange scenes in “Money Never Sleeps” surrounding Bretton’s philanthropic efforts. But such moments undermine the emotional truth that Stone clearly wants us to feel for his romantic leads.

Most problematic is the film’s final reels. If Stone’s central message is that money corrupts relationships, the movie’s conclusion indicates that he has ultimately sold his audience short.

“Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” will be released by 20th Century Fox on September 24th.

[Photos: “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” 20th Century Fox, 2010]

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

via GIPHY

Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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