Five Fiscally Minded Flicks About Our Road to Economic Ruin

Five Fiscally Minded Flicks About Our Road to Economic Ruin (photo)

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With the election season upon us, and economic tussles in Washington reaching fever pitch, an onslaught of movies addressing America’s #1 political issue are about to hit theaters. Between now and voting day, at least five movies, both documentary and fiction, take up the subject of the global economic collapse, examining its roots, causes and effects. Even Woody Allen’s latest trifle “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” shows his usual white-bread bourgie characters struggling with financial difficulties. Can anyone be safe from the evils of Bernie Madoff? Judging from the following collection of movies, the answer is no. What else do we have to learn from these cinematic renditions of fiscal apocalypse? Below, find a rundown of each film’s economic perspectives and their own equivalent S&P-style credit rating.

09222010_ShiaLaBeoufMoneyNeverSleeps.jpg“Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps” (Sept 24)

It seemed like a good idea. With the 2008 financial meltdown the ultimate answer to the go-go ’80s that produced Oliver Stone’s original “Wall Street,” why not return to the scene of the crime with a contemporary spin on the story of ambition and greed within the belly of the beast? Shia LaBeouf plays the young hotshot motorcycle-riding trader with dreams of immense fortune; Carey Mulligan is his soon-to-be-fiancé who happens to be a liberal HuffPo-like blogger, the film’s moral compass, and oh-so-coincidentally, the daughter of Gordon Gekko; Michael Douglas reprises his role as the iconic sleazebag. If Stone had stuck to what he knows best — masculine rivalries, subprime mortgages and credit default swaps (Stone’s dad was an old-time broker) — “Money Never Sleeps” could have been the definitive narrative telling of the hubris and irresponsibility that led to our current monetary morass. But whether pressured by his board of investors or given into this own melodramatic impulses, Stone anchors the film with a trite dramatic triangle between the three central characters that’s about as convincing as Enron’s books.

Credit rating: BBB-

09222010_Freakonomics.jpg“Freakonomics” (October 1)

Based on Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt’s bestselling book, this omnibus nonfiction movie doesn’t exactly address our economic woes, but one segment, “Pure Corruption,” directed by Alex Gibney (“Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room”) stands out for its shoutouts to Wall Street bogeymen, including A.I.G.’s Hank Greenberg, Lehman Bros’ Richard Fuld and Madoff. Gibney’s segment also happens to the best of the bunch, as it draws fascinating links between the entrenched corruption that takes place in sumo wrestling, the Japanese police force, and yes, Wall Street. Ostensibly about the hidden world of “yaocho,” or match fixing in the sumo sport, Gibney paints a broader picture of the way in which the gloss of purity — whether in the Shinto religion of sumo or the aristocracy of white-collar culture — allows fraud to flourish. It’s a bit of a leap, but in Gibney’s paranoid, connective universe, it becomes clear that anyone at the top of their game is ironically prone to cheat in some way to stay there.

Credit rating: AA-

09222010_insidejob3.jpg“Inside Job” (October 8)

From Charles Ferguson, the think-tank veteran and director of the essential Iraq war investigation “No End in Sight,” comes this equally comprehensive and illuminating examination of the economic crash. Featuring interviews with insiders like Bush economic advisor Glenn Hubbard and Paul Volcker, the Federal Reserve Chairman under Presidents Carter and Reagan, Ferguson argues that economic deregulation has given rise to a criminal and immoral industry. Not only does “Inside Job” adequately explain the conspiratorial linkages between the mortgage meltdown, collateralized debt obligations (CDOS), investment banks and credit rating agencies that led to the collapse, but he also follows the money to see the culpability of government watchdogs and academicians, who failed to call out their colleagues for wrongdoing. In the age of bloggage, infotainment, sound bytes and spin, “Inside Job” is that rare penetrating journalistic account that lays bare the vast tragedy of our economic ruin.

Credit rating: AAA

09222010_IWantYourMoney.jpg“I Want Your Money” (October 15)

Ray Griggs’s brazenly anti-Obama doc “I Want Your Money” borrows from the Michael Moore book of filmmaking, offering a right-wing Tea Party version of reality to address the country’s fiscal troubles and unwieldy deficit. With ample archived clips of “trickle-down” hero Ronald Reagan (“government is not the solution to our problems”) and a list of interviewees culled from guest appearances on Glenn Beck (Newt Gingrich, Ken Blackwell, Michael Reagan, Andrew Breitbart), the film plays right into conservative ideological thinking about the evils of government, taxes and, that dirtiest of dirty words, “socialism.” This kind of film has a name, and it’s called Fox News propaganda.

Credit rating: Junk

09222010_ChrisCooperCompanyMen.jpg“The Company Men” (October 22)

“The Company Men” makes last year’s downsizing drama “Up in the Air” look like the shallow feel-good film that it is. Director John Wells (of TV’s “ER” and “The West Wing” fame) brings his earnest approach to the daily struggles of the corporate elite during recessionary times as viewed through three men’s lives: Cocky, newly-fired Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck) gets his comeuppance and learns the importance of family over career (with the help of Rosemary DeWitt as his caring wife and Kevin Costner as his hardened brother-in-law in solid supporting performances); veteran employee Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper) finds his wizened experience a liability rather than an asset; and corporate mucky-muck Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones) tries to save his fellow comrades from the cruelties of the bottom line. With plenty of furrowed brows and seen isolated in frigid, empty corporate spaces, the cast of stalwart actors vividly express what it’s like to be cogs within the unforgiving world of capitalism. And if there’s nowhere for them to go, there’s always the TV pilot.

Credit rating: BBB+

[Additional Photos: “Freakonomics,” Magnolia Pictures, 2010; “Inside Job,” Sony Pictures Classics, 2010; “I Want Your Money,” Freestyle Releasing, 2010; “The Company Men,” Weinstein Company, 2010]


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.