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Banking Porn / movies / November 3, 2011

You may have heard positive things about Margin Call, a new bankster suspense drama loosely based on the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers. I just saw the film, and my advice: Don’t waste your time and cash, not unless you want to spend a Jackson and 107 valuable minutes of your life hate-watching poorly scripted/directed banker-propaganda that tries to make you believe that, despite their obvious flaws and all, deep down those Wall Street bankers are complex human beings, just like you and me. Margin Call gives the same bullshit “once in a lifetime event!/never coulda seen it coming!” snowjob that Wall Street’s been laying on us since 2008, swearing that the crash was one of those “Black Swan” events that no one could have possibly predicted.

Its main premise: Sure these Wall Street guys can be a bunch of greedy gamblers, but they didn’t blow up the economy on purpose.

Is JC’s indie hair too big to fail?

Then there’s this: Margin Call was written/directed by a guy named J.C. Chandor, who doesn’t seem to have a movie credit to his name. Not that it matters, because what J.C. Chandor does have is a tight Wall Street connection: His father, Jeffrey F. Chandor, was a Merrill Lynch exec who spent 40 years on Wall Street until he retired in 2007, right before the shit hit the fan.

J.C. readily admits his movie has a pro-Wall Street bias, saying in one interview that he made the Margin Call “with a sympathetic eye … also knowing, you know, a lot of these people and knowing that ah, you know, that it is not pure evil, either.” Yeah, like, there’s two sides to the story, you know?

He elaborated further on that subject while talking to the Wall Street Journal:

The son of a longtime Wall Street executive, Mr. Chandor says he wanted to draw a more balanced portrait of the financiers who were being demonized in the media for causing the global economic collapse.

The caricatures of executives being denounced by politicians at the time bore little resemblance to Mr. Chandor’s dad, he says. Jeff Chandor worked on Wall Street for 40 years, mostly at Merrill Lynch—a firm that at one time engendered such loyalty that employees called it “Mother Merrill.” Starting as a trader in the 1970s, the elder Mr. Chandor worked his way up the corporate ladder and retired at the age of 65 in 2007.

“Everything I’ve got, with the exception of my family, was due to Merrill Lynch, so I’ve got no complaints,” says Jeff Chandor, who now lives in Rhode Island and day-trades to keep himself busy.

The funniest bit: The film ends with the investment bank’s head of trading (played by Kevin Spacey) blubbering on the front lawn of his ex-wife’s house as he digs a grave for his beloved dog, which croaked from cancer while Spacey’s character was too busy overseeing the sale of massive amounts of worthless mortgage-backed securities to duped clients. He had spent $1,000 a day trying to keep his dog alive, but I guess he learned that money couldn’t buy everything. What Fido needed wasn’t money, but love. But O, he tried to save that dog, O how he hurt for Fido! See, that proves that deep down Wall Street bankers are just like the 99% of us. After all, a monster wouldn’t love his dog like that, would he? I mean, okay, sure, Hitler loved his dogs, but that’s a bad analogy, forget I even wrote that. The point is, you’ve seen Scrooged right? Yeah, same point here: Rich evil banker fucks have hearts, too. It hurt them to rip off poor homeowners and pension funds more than it hurt you. Don’t forget that the next time they pour champagne on your head from their New York Stock Exchange balcony.

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40 Comments

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  • 1. CB  |  November 3rd, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    Never thought I’d see Zachary Quinto play such an evil and unsympathetic character!

  • 2. Trevor  |  November 3rd, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    What the hell is with priveleged Americans killing their own dogs to try and squeeze sympathy tears out of the plebs?

  • 3. hulk hogan irl  |  November 3rd, 2011 at 7:17 pm

    This movie doesn’t even come with the satisfaction of seeing condescending corporate types lose all their money, as it’s implied that the ‘lower-level’ traders (who we are supposed to empathize with) got a $3 million bonus each for succesfully dumping all the company’s assets before the market completely crashed. Shameful.

  • 4. wengler  |  November 3rd, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    Sounds like a piece of shit movie.

    It will likely do as well as that Ayn Rand garbage.

  • 5. Fissile  |  November 3rd, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    “That’s the one thing you have to remember about WASPs: they love animals and hate people.”

    — Gordon Gekko

  • 6. vortexgods  |  November 3rd, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    Honestly, this is probably better. When Oliver Stone portrayed Gordon Gekko as a devil, Gekko became a hero to a generation of Wall Street gangsters and Wall Street gangster wannabes.

    The Devil was always the best character in the Bible, after all. Although God has his moments here and there (usually when he’s being scarier than the Devil).

    And Stone, in his own, somewhat muddled, way was trying to tell us about leveraged buyouts and the destruction they were wreaking.

    This movie, on the other hand will likely tank, and be forgotten shortly.

    After all, what macho Wall Street hood wants to see himself portrayed a a wimp who blubbers over a poor dog? “Rocky Dies Yellow, Killer Coward at End.” No, sneering arrogance, that’s what they like to show.

    If Kevin Spacey is going to be a Wall Street hero, it’ll be for his portrayal as Roger “Verbal” Kint.

  • 7. Mr. Bad  |  November 3rd, 2011 at 8:25 pm

    Holy shit, this may be the first intelligent movie review I’ve read on this site – I have to admit I was shocked to say the least, this film has the same imprimatur as “5 Days Of War”, i.e. Hollywood’s top flight talent(well, such as it is) up for sale to the highest bidder for propaganda purposes… even more terrifying is that the 2nd one in such a short time clearly signifies a developing trend … Demi Moore clearly just there for the check, she delivers a grand total of four insouciant line readings (languidly, resignedly, a bitch with her womb lent out) in the entire film, Stanley Tucci (a poor, non-ashkeNAZI left out in the cold & also along for the ride) along with the awesome Jeremy Irons groping for something to throw himself into voices the most pathetic, the most idiotic, the most utterly despicable line written about the financial crisis for the mass audience, I paraphrase but this is the sense: “It’s the same ratio of winners to losers since the dawn of time, there are more of us but the same ratio” – this is the the central theme of the film, i.e. Americans are all greedy hypocrites (a thought voiced by that red headed religious nut who stars in all the new rapture films, forget his name now) but because their elected leaders/corporate masters feed, nurture and manipulate them for their benefit (like cattle) they can deserve to get off and bear no responsibility … I guess Dante is out of date, because I thought complex fraud was the second to worst… FUCK this movie in all its despicable orifices but you must ILLEGALLY download this POS (as I did) to see where 2012 talking points are going to deliver us, this is the road map, trust me, a return to state religiosity, dare I say fascism, where the sins of the Weimar years fan the fires of war, put Ames on that fire – I bet he’ll go up like a torch with all that booze and speed coursing through his veins -add the Rayon/lycra boca-wear he tends to favor on Dylan Ratigan and they’ll spot him from the moon – thanks for being the clown all our enemies can point fingers at, you’re some kind of terrific “journalist”!

  • 8. Ozinator  |  November 3rd, 2011 at 9:50 pm

    thanks for making it short with pics….the people who need to read this still won’t, even though I send it out. Consider a video next time, please.

  • 9. Lavrentij Lemko and Gustavo Millebrand  |  November 3rd, 2011 at 10:03 pm

    Dear exholes,

    The worst movie of this new “aww banksters aren’t so bad” genre that I have seen is Too Big to Fail, based on the eponymous door stop by NYCrimes sycophant Andrew Ross Sorkin (ARS, for short).

    Thank you,

    Lavrentij Lemko and Gustavo Millebrand, Occupy Oakland

  • 10. Cernunnos  |  November 4th, 2011 at 1:21 am

    How about that cringe-inducing sequel to Wall Street with none other than Shia Lebeouf as a goodie two-shoes renewable energy investor?

  • 11. G.A.  |  November 4th, 2011 at 2:51 am

    Bankers are Hitler and not human.

    This 99% movement is heading in an interesting direction, you guys buying any fencing lately?

  • 12. mookid  |  November 4th, 2011 at 5:07 am

    yes, nobody will think Kevin Spacey is cool. But they definitely will think that Jeremy Irons’ character is cool. He is the one who comes down to earth on a private helicopter, isnt impressed by a moral dilemma and “twirls his moustache” in the end.

    It’s one of those films that claim to be political but end up apolitical by offering a caricature of the people who are responsible. By making it impossible to take them seriously there can be no serious political discussion afterwards. on the other hand they are still cool and become idols to the next generation of banksters.

    also the “black swan” book isnt about whitewashing wallstreet, even though many reviewers have misinterpreted it like that. it describes how quants and mainstream economists can pretend mathematically that high systemic risks do not exist. a mix of autism and greed, which is not only limited to finance but also brought us stuff like fukushima.

  • 13. Jedi Mind Trick  |  November 4th, 2011 at 8:34 am

    I loved the bit about Hitler and his dogs. Great review!

  • 14. ThePensum  |  November 4th, 2011 at 8:48 am

    The movie was a mess from start to finish. Terrible script, and I couldn’t believe the characters at all, and one certainly couldn’t feel sorry for any of them at all.

    The problem for my mind was that it attempted to be a somewhat realistic portrayal of an event that happened before our very eyes, and that had serious ramifications not only for those working in finance, but people on main street. The director can try and paint a rosy picture of people who had a hand in blowing up the world, or a sympathetic portrayal of those types, but viewers informed about the chaos since 2007 – let’s face it, anyone interested in this film – will be fully aware of the devil beneath the surface.

    The truth is far more concerning, far more interesting, and far more realistic; I prefer reading and watching films about the real story of a system gone off the edge, and the workers who inhabit and feed off that system. For that, try Inside Job, Searching for Madoff, etc.

  • 15. Moe  |  November 4th, 2011 at 9:21 am

    Awesome. No way it’s worse than Too Big To Fail but if I’d wasted $6.95 ondemanding this crap I’d be pissed

  • 16. Justin Liu  |  November 4th, 2011 at 9:22 am

    I saw the movie before this review, and the thing running through my mind throughout the movie was “there is no way in hell, these bankers would have agonized the way they did, over moral choices”

    But serious kudos to the guy who wrote it, it is a propaganda but it is subtle propaganda that might actually work.

  • 17. Moe  |  November 4th, 2011 at 9:22 am

    Awesome. No way it’s worse than Too Big To Fail http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2011/05/31/the-big-fail/ but if I’d wasted $6.95 ondemanding this crap I’d be pissed

  • 18. c  |  November 4th, 2011 at 11:19 am

    you should steal all your movies (and music), not just this one. steal everything as long as you can get away with it.

  • 19. John Eastman  |  November 4th, 2011 at 11:32 am

    I thought all Hollywood movies were propaganda.
    Especially when produced an/or directed by Clint.

  • 20. Casper  |  November 4th, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    The dog part was about showing a broken man trying and failing to hold on to the last part of his humanity. When the dog dies his human side has been completely taken over by wall street.

    I dont think the movie makes the bankers look good. It shows investment banking as being entirely motivated by self-interest. Sure, there’s a small bit of moral waffling, but it never comes close to deciding the overall actions of the firm and in the end everyone sells out. It just shows them as not being stupid. Oh yeah, and I forgot to add that the movie totally lets them off the hook for knowing what they were doing would blow up and then betting up ahead of it. Meaning: they knew the market would blow up before it actually did. That let em off the hook big time, but what do I know. I’m not even supposed to be writing this…

  • 21. I'm Stalin  |  November 4th, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    @5
    Funny I don’t consider WASPs people.

  • 22. Casper  |  November 4th, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    Thank you Mighty eXiled Censor for improving my retarded banker apologist comment! But I my inner-groveler won’t leave me alone so I have to reiterate that movie clearly shows that they had been aware of the risks. The Stanley Tucci-character had warned about it but been ignored by the higher ups. It also clearly shows them being aware that dumping all their assets would hurt other people. In the end they just didnt care about anything that wasnt in their own self-interest.

  • 23. Lev  |  November 5th, 2011 at 2:26 am

    The law breaking Hitler-bankers aren’t quite as bad as the banally evil Eichmann-bankers who operate within the boundaries of law and the Nazi party nobodies (the 98,9%) who support the system with the sweat of their brows. Was it Dolan who made an excellent point about the success of the conservative ideology in the US? That it can’t be explained away by referring to the machivellian think-tank-propaganda-machines. The machine wouldn’t work without the multitudes of spiteful, hateful masses. I think the same goes for this finacial third reich. Paradoxically the masses can only be moved by the tribal instinct, by externalizing evil. That’s why we NEED over the top rhetoric that doesn’t care about the shades of gray. Let all the members of the nazi party BELIEVE that Hitler did all those bad things just on his own, let them kill Hitler and Eichmann and THEN do some soul searching.

  • 24. Anthony  |  November 5th, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    I saw the movie. I love it. do not agree with this article at all.

  • 25. tt  |  November 5th, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    I enjoyed the movie. What is NOT said and done paints a great picture.It shows a plausible turn of events precrash. If you drop your guard abit ,maybe you could enjoy it too.

    Im must be a libertard-evilrandian-kochstooge

  • 26. Mr. Bad  |  November 5th, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    I have to admit, I always kinda thought the whole “koch troll” and “sock-puppet” stuff was 1/2 made up – sure there was some truth in it but really it couldn’t be that pervasive – but check this out. Read what comment 25. by “tt” says…

    “What is NOT said and done paints a great picture.”

    Now read this on Rotten Tomatoes:

    http://www.rottentomatoes.com/user/id/796266962/

    For this who won’t click, it is a link to a “Super Reviewer” who writes:

    “The film is a treatise on ethics. And what is said, is not that important. What is most important, is what is NOT said. What is implied. What falls in between the deafening silence.”

    These sort of comments are ALL OVER the net, repeating the same dead hand praise, inviting the reader to shut off his brain and see what isn’t there. There is some sort of concerted campaign to shove this down America’s collective gullet – even “intelligent” movie critics seem to have jumped at the chance to pump this turd, et tu, Ebert?

  • 27. I'm Stalin  |  November 5th, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    @26
    careful man he might be using a proxy.

    @25
    How much are you paid to be a sock puppet, how are the benefits, or is this an unpaid internship?

  • 28. Mr. Bad  |  November 5th, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    One more thing, although Levine is smart (for a journalist) he doesn’t really get into why this movie is such utter horseshite – so I will provide the necessary counterarguments. First off, this movie is intended to be a sort of condensed, dramatized retelling of the collapse of the MBS (Mortgage backed securities) market – which in turn screwed the world and precipitated the worldwide depression we are now in. But how, you ask? Well, if we are to take the word of this whoreson JC Chandor, it is because some quant fagela got a few figures scrambled (a plot point in the movie) and the company ignored its internal risk officer in order to make a bigger profit – greedy, but not diabolical, right?

    Well, what actually happened was the MBS market was red hot during the housing bubble, so hot in fact that word came down from the street that supply was not keeping up with demand and more MBS had better start showing up, you see the wall streeters portrayed in this idiotic film engineered the whole scam – THEY created the no-doc loan, they created the ALT A mortgage, and especially the ARM – the big finance equivalent of rent-to-own. And they paid off and corrupted everyone in order to bring about the requisite legal environment to carry out their fraud – including the coercion of the rating agencies and government regulators who should have been looking at the systemic risk to the whole financial system – WHICH IS WHAT THEY ARE PAID TO DO. But they were paid more by wall street so… back to the movie – the central conceit is that these Wall streeters were essentially playing by the rules and made a “margin call” (idiotic, does not even approach the meaning of the term) that resulted in their company surviving and other, lessor companies going bankrupt like Bears Stearns, for instance, or Freddie/Fannie.

    This, again, is utter horseshite because the MBS/CDO bondholders were naturally insured at AAA rating level premiums by CDS from the likes of AIG, Lehman who in turn are insured by the US taxpayer, as we all know now. The wall street quant guys KNEW THIS ALL from the start – they intentionally over leveraged themselves, forced ever larger bets because that made the continuation and perceived health of the ponzi scheme more important to more and more parties. In the movie wall street is represented as making a mistake, what they did was create a financial doomsday machine and then blamed everyone else for Armageddon – they are scum, pure and simple, make no mistake, everything went as planned, and is continuing as planned to this day. The massive financial industry consolidation, the continuing fed interventions, the blatant market manipulation and “euro zone” crisis are just pregame highlights for the big showdown to come. Enjoy WW3.

  • 29. tt  |  November 5th, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    Maybe great minds think alike :)

    Funny finding Mr Bad, but it was random chance, I did not read any reviews. But might be the Illuminati controlled my mind with Chemtrails and microwaves from space!

    I included the kochstoogelibertard part myself, just to save the mod the work. Seems to magically appear anytime I make a comment.

  • 30. Bradford C.  |  November 6th, 2011 at 5:48 am

    @ Mr. Bad,

    I think the problem with people “reading between the lines” here is their unfamiliarity with the author and the assumption that every Hollywood flick must meet their stupid liberal notions of lifestyle. I’d rather see this as a positive outcome, since at least people are thinking about the MESSAGE critically if not so much the film itself.

  • 31. David F.  |  November 6th, 2011 at 11:53 am

    My take on the film was very different and it’s based on personal experience, having worked at a number of global financial institutions. To create a story and dramatic tension, they came up with plot devices at odds with the real world. But as for some details and an overall tone–one of heartlessness, sociopathy and ruthlessness, the movie was sort of on target. The movie is also pretty accurate in capturing the level of denial as to what was going on.

    But in terms of illuminating the financial crisis, there are key points that were just dead wrong. Lehman didn’t wake up one day and learn that it was under water. If you tracked the cash flows of RMBS inside of CDOs, you knew that a lot CDOs were worthless, but if you valued CDOs according to the “market prices,”–the market was in fact a pump and dump scheme-or based on credit ratings, you thought you were OK.

    And if Lehman were in worse shape than Merrill or Citigroup or Morgan Stanley, it wasn’t by much.

    Actually, Too Big To Fail is a much bigger perversion of history; it’s like a portrayal of watergate with Richard Nixon as the hero. The HBO film left out all the lies told by Hank Paulson, the Dick Cheney of the credit crisis, and the illegal leaks that his chief of staff, Jim Wilkinson, conveyed to JPMorgan at a critical point of the negotiations.

  • 32. par4  |  November 7th, 2011 at 8:40 am

    How about Casino Jack? Spacey tried to portray Abramoff as some kind of do-gooder lobbyist.

  • 33. jim  |  November 7th, 2011 at 9:50 am

    Oh, you grumpy left-wingers!

    Come ON. How paranoid or cynical would someone have to be to think that just because these people bet huge sums on a future swan-dive of prices for the same properties & instruments they referred to as “a pile of shit” or worse, they weren’t also just as much innocent victims as all their small-fry clientele (who were then subjected to the economic equivalent of prison rape)?

    Or to find anything noteworthy in witnessing current “recessionary” corporate net profits rocketing even HIGHER than they ever did during the preceding “boom” economy?

    Scam, schmam! Mistakes were made.

    Now, be a good citizen – just put that TeeVee back on & goooooo baaaaaack to sleeeeeeeep …

  • 34. Mr. Bad  |  November 7th, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    @ 32. par4

    Yes, but nobody saw that POS. This has the backing of every mainstream critic on the Hollywood payroll, odd given the objectively verifiable LOW quality. He also did “Father Of Invention” recently, another straight to video POS where he plays a Billie Mays style loser who gets imprisoned and gets out onlt to make nice with his estranged daughter and her dyke BFF – I think he’s either saving up for a rainy day because he’s smart or they have HQ video of him sucking some cock in England where all his favorite rentboys sleep all day in the park, waiting for him to take a midnight stroll. Either way, he’s all about self-preservation, does anyone him remember doing that Chris Walken as Han Solo impression? Fucking A+

  • 35. Mr. Bad  |  November 7th, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    Sorry for the spelling errors, I’m typing on the douchepad, in any case here is a link:

    http://www.ebaumsworld.com/video/watch/27743/

    So sad.

  • 36. gary  |  November 7th, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    speaking of hitler…don’t forget to remind those holier than thou vegans that adolph was a strict vegeterian and a teetotler to boot…and eastwood is the most overrated director in hollywood

  • 37. F  |  November 9th, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    Lev,

    You made a retarded mess out of a simple concept, and your fascination with WWII metaphors is both inaccurate on a number of levels as well as weird.

    Start using soviet union metaphors and you’ll be a lot closer, although still pretty inaccurate.

    Say no to fake intellectualism.

  • 38. Alan  |  November 11th, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    I think it’ll be an interesting movie. A previous commenter made an observation similar to the one in this review at City Journal:

    http://www.city-journal.org/2011/bc1028ng.html

    “That’s a departure from previous financial-movie scripts. The New York Times’s Michael Grynbaum notes correctly that “Peter [Sullivan] is no Bud Fox,” the protagonist of Oliver Stone’s classic Wall Street. In the 1987 film, Fox breaks insider-trading laws to climb the ladder to riches in Gordon Gekko’s “greed is good” world, eventually ratting out Gekko’s role in the crime to avoid a long prison sentence. Stone envisioned Wall Street as a cautionary tale of what happens when you sell your morals for money. Instead, young viewers saw the movie’s stylish props—fast cars and faster girls, early-model cellphones, and park-view apartments—as well worth the risk. They flocked to the Street, having determined that Fox’s only mistake was getting caught.

    “Stone tried to correct this failure in Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps, which came out in 2010. The long-deferred sequel followed Gekko’s post-prison resurgence to the highest levels of finance to show, in the end, that he hadn’t learned much. “Greed” had irrevocably corrupted him. But the story left audiences with a more perverse lesson: that being anything but super-wealthy was so abjectly miserable that Gekko had no choice but to claw his way back up, while using money to paper over the personal problems his ambition had created.”

  • 39. CensusLouie  |  November 13th, 2011 at 11:06 pm

    Holy shit!

    The absolute cheapest devices for an emotional response in drama are cancer and killing a kid (Hi, Pay it Forward!).

    The absolute worst Michael Bay level movies have a dog die because they know dumb movie goers will be sadder over that.

    How fucking shitty is your piece of shit movie for having to resort to a dog dying of cancer? Jesus christ. They might as well have given it AIDS and thrown it in a concentration camp for orphan puppies while they were at it.

    (Here’s a fun little thought. Before you feel bad for the 1% having to put their old pets to sleep, think about how the crash forced thousands of families to abandon their pets simply for not having enough money to FEED them. Then think about all the public shelters that had to shut down and put their animals to sleep thanks to the 1% backed Tea Party saying no to “big government” services.)

    The idea that they’re empathetic humans is the biggest fucking lie. If you’ve ever met 6-8 figure executive types in person, you know how overwhelmingly sociopathic and entitled they are. They are NOT human. Most people probably think Chinatown’s Noah Cross was an over the top allegory character, but he is seriously close to how their demented, empathy-free minds work.

  • 40. Sam  |  April 21st, 2012 at 1:27 am

    I am a worthless loser.


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