Jacki Zehner On Women, Money, and Changing the World  » Sundance-Margin Call and and……

February 07, 2011

Sundance-Margin Call and and……

My last Sundance Post! Again, what an incredible week of taking in the best of independent films. ( click here from FB) I have posted on a number of them but here are a few more that were on our list: The Ledge, Miss Representation, Cedar Rapids, Take Shelter, Perfect Sense, The Convincer, Salvation Boulevard , Tyrannosaur , The Flaw, Incendies and Margin Call. I was sad to have missed Connected, Hell and Back Again, Like Crazy, How to Die in Oregon and RAW/WAR. Those are all on my to watch list.

By far my favorite feature was INCENDIES a film about twins in Montreal that must deal with their passing mother’s last wish- to locate their father and brother that were not known to them. The film up for an academy award and is a must see.
Worth commenting on is Margin Call and The Flaw, both about the financial crisis. Margin Call featured an all star cast of Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Jones, Zachary Quinto, Demi Moore, and Stanley Tucci, all of which were present for the premiere! The film was a day in the life of the financial crisis, located at one firm, when they find out that they have risk on their books that could effectively take down the place. Sound familiar? A young rocket scientist discovers the ‘truth’ and the plot follows how that piece of information travels up the decision making chain and back down again. Realistic, not really, but interesting never-the-less. I did enjoy how each character in the film was a Wall Street archetype.
– A dude in risk that was a PHd that moved to Wall Street for the money, but really felt somewhat guilty about it. Why is it we are paid so much in this job compared to “real work?”
– His sidekick, who did not have the pedigree and was completely obsessed with what everyone was paid with no moral conscience about it, nor about the fact that his firm was about to explode.
-The middle man manager/salesman that lived the life, $2.5 mm a year to be exact, of which he said about $80,000 was spent on partying and hookers. Very slick, a company man, and clearly a A-kisser.
– The trading floor boss who felt just a tad more conflicted about what was the ‘right’ thing to do for customers versus protecting his firm’s interests.
– The big boss ( Jeremy Irons ) who had no idea what kind of risk the firm was taking but when confronted with the possible losses, did not hesitate to make quick decisions to protect the firms short term interests, even if it meant damaging client relationships.
– The only female in the film, Demi Moore’s character, who was the doe in the headlight head of firm-wide risk, who clearly sacrificed family life to be a player, only to be told that the firm needed a fall guy and she would be it.
– The day to day head of risk who gets canned upfront even though he was trying to do the right thing, exposing the ‘truth’ that no one wanted to hear while the $$ was pouring in. A family guy who becomes obsessed with the fact that at one point he did something that helped people. He designed a bridge that saved people time in the commute.
So what was the point of the firm you ask? Well I asked that question actually, of the Director J.C. Chandor, and he answered that he really wanted to explore the crisis with from a personal perspective. Further that what we know of the crisis is more about the firms, or the dollars, and not about the people that drove the decisions. He added that what this experience caused him to question is why is it that some of the smartest, most talented people go to Wall Street? And what does that say about us as a society? Well I am sure we can answer that question.
Was it a good film? No, but with such a big cast and on such a timely topic, it is sure to be released. Will it become a Wall Street cult classic? Nope, but I do hope people go see it and it will likely result in some great conversations! ( a link to an article about Margin Call from The Guardian,)
The Flaw – a documentary about the crisis. Just not good. Took a very narrow perspective with Wall Street taking the solitary hit. There are many factors that caused the financial crisis with Wall Street certainly playing a key role, but not the only one. Too bias, stay away.

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