New Films Take on Wall Street

Photo: Hollywood Takes On Wall Street: A wave of new films, including Oliver Stones "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,"  are taking what they portray as the failings and greed of a finance industry behind the financial collapse of 2008.
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Oliver Stone was talking up his new film, "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps," at the SoHo Apple store in Manhattan when a questioner informed him that his wallet had fallen to the floor.

"You have a Wall Street eye," said Stone, drawing laughs from the packed auditorium.

The controversial filmmaker and the sequel to his Oscar-winning 1987 movie "Wall Street" appear to give a voice to the popular rage against Wall Street and the finance industry for the failings that led to the two-year-old economic collapse. "Money Never Sleeps" is one of a spate of films coming out that chronicle the excess and folly of those who pull the financial levers -- and who led the country into the deepest recession since the 1930s.

"It was a real heist," Stone told the crowd. "It's still outrageous." In fact, the movie world is banking on that outrage with a wave of documentaries and films examining the role of high finance in the global implosion. "Money Never Sleeps" opened Friday.

Another film, "Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer," a documentary directed by Alex Gibney, explores the sex scandal that drove a New York governor out of office in 2008. Set for release Nov. 5, It is populated by the likes of fallen securities analyst Henry Blodget and the former chairman of American International Group, Maurice Greenberg.

In a nation of 14.9 million unemployed souls, as well as countless millions who have seen their retirement accounts decimated and their homes devalued, the films could tap into a captive audience.

"At a time when most Americans are barely holding on by their fingernails in terms of their homes, their jobs and their savings, the audacity of Wall Street in terms of its wealth, its prerequisites and political power is a source of extraordinary anger," said former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, a professor of public policy at UC Berkeley. In Stone, at least, Spitzer has found a defender. The former attorney general and governor was one of many insiders that Stone consulted for his latest movie.

"Eliot Spitzer was very helpful because he know the most about Goldman" Sachs, Stone said. "He knows their tricks... He investigated them. He also outed AIG. He's responsible for the fall of Maurice Greenberg as well as [former Citigroup Chairman Sanford] Weill. Spitzer was one of the last honest men who really did Wall Street in. If there were more Spitzers on the job, it wouldn't have happened like this."

Spitzer also plays a role in "Inside Job," a Charles Ferguson documentary narrated by Matt Damon. The films includes hard-hitting interviews with political leaders, academics and finance heavyweights such as former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker and Columbia Business School professor and ex-Fed governor Frederic Mishkin. . "Inside Job" will be released October 8th.

In another film, "Casino Jack," directed by George Hickenlooper, Kevin Spacey plays Jack Abramoff, the former businessman and lobbyist who was sentenced to federal prison for defrauding Indian tribes and contributing to official corruption. "Next to God, faith and country, nothing is more important than influence," said Spacey's character, as if summing up the mindset of the moneyed elite. "Casino Jack" opens in December.

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