Saturday, January 21, 2012

Wall Street 1... Ballistic: Fox vs. Gekko

Welp, you gotta hand it to Oliver Stone... okay, maybe not, but a film nut like me has got to. Think of him as the Tyler Perry of the late 80s: one film a year for eight years in a row! Okay, not as impressive or as lucrative as Tyler, but you get the idea. Ollie turned away from Vietnam for a second to address the financial crisis of his time. Kinda sad how very, very current it is in the wake of all that's transpired.
Now, if you had a good economics professor like I did, you know that it all started with Reagan. I prefer to think of it as a cookie jar. Let's say that in 1980 we had a relatively full cookie jar. Now it's empty. The rich people needed all the money more, so they slowly trickled it back to themselves. And a show like Breaking Bad is now all the rage: America is now the proverbial frat boy sitting on the couch as the rest of the world surpasses us, so we go for the low hanging ingenuity fruit like making the Cadillac of crystal meth. What I want to know is: when's Mike coming back to get his revenge? Far as I know, near as I can tell, he's not quite dead. Anyway, there's gotta be a way to blame Obama for all of this...
As for the film itself, well, I'll try not to spoil it too much if you haven't seen it. Young Bud Fox... good name! Bud works at your local mom 'n pop brokerage firm named Steinem-Paglia... I mean, ... damn. Gotta work to remember what it was. But that's me all over: I mean, Steinem's not exactly a name synonymous with high finance, right? In this hyperlink age we live in? Charlie works alongside future Scrubs star John McGinley, and I couldn't help but think that Oliver 'n Weiser modeled this a bit on some old 40s screwball comedy, just slightly. Or maybe Stone sees himself as fully contemporary, with nary an homage to the Hollywood of old his parents weren't a part of. Oscar winner Michael Douglas plays the sleazy Bain Capital-esque vulture capitalist named Gordon Gekko... what is that, Dutch? Think a combination of Trump and Leona Helmsley, but who knows a thing or two about business.
For some reason, Bud Fox has a hard time getting to meet Gekko, but that was the era. Back then, if a guy like Gekko saw a kid who merely looked like his future heir apparent, he had to jump through hoops to prove it. Bud finds he's ill prepared to leap into the deep end of the pool, and he quickly exhausts the few good ideas he has: in this case, winning stock tips. He finally squanders his last bargaining chip: his dad, the union steward at Bluestar Airlines, gave him the inside scoop on a favorable court ruling about to be handed down. Gekko, however, plays both sides: he throws Bud some business his way, then later on scolds Bud for not having enough insider info.: "Unless your dad works at another company,..." Drat. The IMDb doesn't have that line, but it does have a similar line, so post me about SOMETHING ELSE PLEASE!! David Mamet couldn't have written Gekko's dialogue better... and he probably would've made Gekko say "Things change," for starters.
I won't ruin the plot any further, but I will protest on Daryl Hannah's behalf. Wrong for the part? For shame. Why, I can't think of a part she was wrong for! Well, maybe Legal Eagles... There's one other Gekko speech that's quite telling, indeed: it's the one about how "The richest one percent of this country owns half our country's wealth..." How things have changed. Guess I better see the sequel at some point, based on that line alone. There's also a similar speech that the Steve Martin character gives in Grand Canyon... hey! Stop throwing stuff at me.
There's some experimental lighting in Wall Street, courtesy of multiple Oscar winner Robert Richardson. This was just a couple years before he went through his phase of very bright lights dangling over tables, washing everything out. Forget Daryl Hannah; John Cusack would've been perfect for Bud Fox... but he wasn't in Platoon, was he? Plus, it wouldn't have had the same resonance with Martin Sheen as the father, so you gotta like that. People had a problem with Daryl Hannah, but not Charlie Sheen's eyebrows. When he's happy, furrowed brows. When he's mad, furrowed brows. My viewing companion thought... SPOILER ALERT... when he was being escorted from the office, the guy in real life probably wouldn't cry. But I came to Charlie's defense on that one: just a little something for the Oscar voting block, because THEY don't know how hard it is to cry on cue... right?

Great triple bill with: Inside Job, Other People's Money

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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