Six Films on the Financial Crisis

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Given a theme as dramatic and consequential as America’s financial collapse, many filmmakers have risen to the challenge of going behind the headlines to tell important stories and make critical points that need to be shared if we’re to learn anything from the crisis. Below are some of those important movies and documentaries. Please share your own favorite financial-themed films in the comments below.


Margin Call
(2011)

Margin Call, directed by J.C. Chandor, focuses on crises of conscience — and lack thereof — behind investment banking and the financial meltdown. Chandor’s original screenplay is up for an Academy Award.


Too Big To Fail
(2011)

Based on the Andrew Ross Sorkin book of the same name, Too Big To Fail provides a dramatized account of the closed-door wheelings and dealings of government officials and banking executives in the fall of 2008 that left Lehman Brothers bankrupt, AIG a ward of the state, and the American taxpayer footing the bill for a $700 billion bailout. At one point the head of PR for the Treasury (played by Cynthia Nixon) asks “What should I tell the press?” providing a perfect opportunity for a primer on how the mortgage meltdown dominoed into the crisis at hand.


Inside Job
(2010)

Charles Ferguson’s Inside Job, winner of the 2011 Academy Award for Best Documentary feature, takes a hard look at the 2008 financial crisis, featuring challenging interviews with the bankers, politicians, global leaders, academics and journalists who witnessed the crisis — and its origins — up close. Matt Damon narrates the film.


Frontline: The Warning
(2009)

The Warning tells the story of Brooksley Born, who headed the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in the late 1990′s. Born foresaw the economic disaster and tried to encourage greater oversight and regulation to keep it at bay, but encountered opposition from financial titans with enormous power and influence who lobbied hard to keep the market free from government intervention. Though nobody listened to Born, we all now know how that worked out.


The Flaw
(2010)

David Singleton’s visually-arresting documentary kicks off with a clip of former Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Alan Greenspan testifying before Congress in October 2008. He tells Congressman Harry Waxman (D-CA) that he “found a flaw” in the model that defines how the world works. And with that, a stream of engaging economists, journalists, Wall Street bankers and traders go on to “Monday morning quarterback” the financial crisis, pointing out warning signs that were missed and analyzing the demise of 1990s stock market and 2000s real estate bubbles.


Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
(2005)

Based on expert reporting by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room is Alex Gibney’s eye-opening case study of Enron’s 1985 rise and 2001 demise, one of the biggest criminal financial scandals in U.S. history. It’s a remarkable story, well revealed by the filmmakers through in-depth interviews, personality profiles, and key TV footage, of how American business gets done, gets compromised, gets corrupted, gets covered up, and — sometimes — gets prosecuted.

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  • Anonymous

    I’ve seen three of these, and indeed have watched *Inside Job* and *The Warning* three times.  I still get angry when I watch *The Warning*.  It really highlights just what a testosterone fueled catastrophe this has been, and it convinces me that we have not seen the end of financial catastrophe, as the testosterone continues to flow as liberally as ever.

    And speaking of movies, I teach an undergrad course in media studies, and one of the films I used to teach as science fiction — *Blade Runner* — I now teach very differently because it offers us a very interesting representation of life under Corporate Imperialism.  In fact, director Ridley Scott made a second Director’s Cut just after the economic crash for just that reason — i.e., because he believed the film was just too topical to let it slide quietly into film history. 

    *Blade Runner* should be required viewing for every banker, every corporate CEO, every politician, every Occupy activist — indeed, everybody — for you will see what life if like without a government, without any investment in the public sphere, a world where the police force is there to protect corporate interests.

    I have found these three weeks of *Moyers and Company* extremely interesting.  Thank you, Bill Moyers, for coming back.

  • http://billmoyers.com BillMoyers.com

    And thank you, for taking the time to write. I hadn’t thought of “Blade Runner” in years but am ordering it from Netflix today! Maybe I should have Ridley Scott on the show.

    – Bill Moyers

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-A-Randolph/1072710600 John A Randolph

    These need to be viewed by every person who votes!

  • http://twitter.com/CALandscapeArt Larry Darnell
  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Yvonne-Hall/1473212522 Yvonne Hall

    I am too ordering it from Netflix.  I haven’t seen it in years either.  It would be quite nice to see from fresh political eyes.  I’m quite disheartened about what I seem coming down the political landscape in 2012. Republican vs. Democrat = tweedledumb & tweedledweeb…

  • Anonymous

    The parallels are obvious, especially if you have taken a drive or a walk through downtown/central/county of Los Angeles lately. The accuracy of  the writers vision in this movie when it comes to social cultures and class divisions is startling.

    ___________________________
    Raul X. Garcia
    Director/Producer
    IFC Short Film of the Month Winner
    http://raulxgarcia.com

  • Anonymous

    Can you give us some specifics as to what we should watch for in Blade Runner in the context you discuss?

  • Sweeneymcqueen

    How about old movies? Capra’s “It’s A Wonderful Life” is not just a sentimental Christmas film. It’s an indictment of the growing influence of financial institutions and a celebration of a disappearing American value: conscience.   

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mick-Colton/1670634316 Mick Colton

    Saw  Thrive last night…. best comprehensive overview  of our situation so far and i have seen all the above entries.  They coined the phrase  “Tapeworm economics” to describe the financial strategy of the big bank conspiracy and influence. Bought 5 copies to givr to interested people. 

  • Anonymous

    Scott would be an excellent guest, not just for the sake of
    *Blade Runner* but also for *Kingdom of Heaven* — which must be seen in the
    Director’s Cut.  Not only does that film
    locate the rapaciousness of Western culture in the Crusades, but it also radically
    corrects the white Western view of Islam which is dangerously perverted (which
    we see almost every evening on the six o’clock news).  The North American response to the film was “Meh.”  Europeans and Western Asians appreciated it
    enormously.  And like *Blade Runner*, *Kingdom
    of Heaven* is visually stunning.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Frank-Plucinski/100001873239787 Frank Plucinski

    How about including somw of the very old but still relevant films like Metropolis, Shape of Things to Come, Soylent Green, Fahrenheit 451.

  • Cactus5225

    I’d like to suggest a film done a couple of years ago called “Network”.  It asks the question of  “who really owns America?”

  • http://www.facebook.com/cross1242 Steve Cross

    All are good films and Moyers’ current program is another venture into “television worth watching.”  However, those who need to see the films or Moyers’ program don’t see it because they regard it as “anti-capitalist propaganda if not downright Communism.  These are people in the street and not the Wall Street elites either.  The question must be asked, “How do we get through to to ordinary people the message that our business and government are fundamentally wrong and have got to be fixed if this country is going to survive.

  • Anonymous

    I posted this earlier, but it didn’t seem to make it onto the site:

    Well, in addition to the broad characteristics, which I’ve
    already mentioned above, there’s the fact that it’s a postmodernist film, where
    “postmodern” is defined as “the cultural logic of late capitalism” (see Frederic
    Jameson).  Look for corporate outsourcing
    – even the cop has to get his forensic evidence anaysed by a street vendor.
    Hyper-surveillance. Dehumanization — even to the point where the bioengineer
    and CEO of Tyrell Corp can advertise his product as “more human than human”
    because actual humans no longer qualify. 
      Then there’s the environment — densely
    textualized, technologically saturated, CO2 choked.  There’s plenty more but I don’t want to spoil
    it completely for you.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the reply and info. I always struggle with the term “post-modern.” When I watch the film, I tend to follow more the story than the subtext. Thanks for giving me an incentive to look past the plot.

    Any thoughts on “Children of Men” and it’s speculation on the type of near future world we may become (minus the plot line on loss of reproductive ability)? That seems like a more plausible “what if” than Blade Runner necessarily does.

  • JMcB

    I would suggest adding Dr Seuss’ The Lorax to the list.  The Corporation, Capitalism- A Love Story, and Sicko are also good ones.  I am reminded of Network an awful lot these days.

  • D Solomon

    The Corporation! Yes! Especially after Citizens United! It asks, if a corporation is really a person, what kind of person is it? The answer: a sociopath. It’s brilliant, insightful, and topical.

  • Anonymous

    All of these movies have the same weakness.  They ignore or severely downplay the fact that this financial collapse was a result of government interference in the free market.  There were criminals who took advantage of bad government policies.  But at the center of this fiasco is a government that has no faith in liberty.

  • leftofcenter

    While I love a great movie as much as the next person, frankly I’m a little disappointed that there’s an endless stream of movies, books and more about this. Why are many still saying “the greatest economic meltdown since the Great Depression”? Why are many also saying the incorrect govt. unemployment rate and not the real rate that they know is accurate?

    Sit down and make a list of all of the books, films, documentaries, etc. that deal with this. Then, what precentage are essentially recycling the same key points? From a producer’s perspective, yes it’s cool if you can get William Hurt or Kevin Spacey as one of your leads. Then again, like Robert Klein once said about upcoming comics who all seem the same, where’s the beef?

  • Anonymous

    There is a NEW film, which has just been released, an excellent documentary by Frances Causey and Donald Goldmacher entitled “HEIST – Who Stole the American Dream?”.  You can see a trailer of it at: http://www.heist-themovie.com/   It’s already been shown at the Mill Valley Film Festival to sold-out audiences, where I first saw it.  And it is now showing at the Santa Barbara Film Festival.  It will be opening on March 2nd in NYC for a week-long run at the Quad Cinema.  I hope you all get a chance to see this because it is really excellent.  Please go to the website for a lot more information.  Thanks.

  • Anonymous

    We must gain mastery of pertinent language and disprove maladaptive socioeconomic myths. To accomplish this we must gather face to face  in egalitarian assemblies and speak frankly from our perceptions and experiences. Occupy does this, and that is why police action is called for to break it up. If our words become more accepted and trusted than the powerful amplified rhetoric of the Oligarchy (marketing) they will lose their ability to colonize minds and our schools will resume teaching practical knowledge. (No longer will any victim of jackpot thinking post on here that the free market is his Deity.)

  • Anonymous

    Turn off your TV! Go to the window and….

  • Anonymous

    But Spike Lee’s “Bamboozled” also does well in conveying the same message, Dela.

  • Anonymous

    “Century of the Self”- Adam Curtis, plus many more Curtis-BBC documentaries.
    Also see “Programming the Nation”- Jeff Warrick (2011)

  • Anonymous

    You gave people tapeworms? Talk about hanging  out! Just kidding.
    A tentative Wikipaedia entry posits a Libertarian agenda and a right wing slant to this documentary. Some of the media personalities are said to be disappointed.
    If this were the only critique you viewed it might have a propaganda effect. Still, I found value in watching Zeitgeist and I’m curious to see Thrive and critique it when my schedule allows.

  • Anonymous

    “Please, Mr. Potter, I need a loan fast!” Yea, that’ll work.

  • Anonymous

    So there’ll be plenty to go around considering lost  confidence.

  • Anonymous

    Vangelis  score is the star of the film. “Memories of Green” is my favorite, heard as Deckard sorts out his own role. It shows how you can be deceived by golden age myths.

  • Anonymous

    Tyrell (Corporate CEO) is terrorized/terrified by his own creations, reminiscent of Frankenstein, as Deckard is sent to protect him and his property rights. With intense security Tyrell exists above and beyond the law and accountability. (gated existence)

    The USA (post-national) is populated by superfluous and flawed (“lesser”) people who live by salvaging and by their wits. It very much resembles our undocumented and gray/black economy in the present day. Body parts are on the market.

    Sexism (Pris & Zhora, Rachel) means women are disproportionately employed as sex workers. Classism means that synthetic warriors are also prostituted as mercenaries. (Leon, Roy Batty, Deckard)

    Deckard lacks any opportunity besides police enforcement work.
    Police are expendable.

    Global warming enjoys a big supporting role.

    Technology seems to be arrested at a level to maximize profits, just like our oil and war economy. Their perpetual war is in space mostly, and probably between business interests (Newt’s Moon State)

    I could go on:
    But I think Frank Herbert’s “Dune” (1964/ Lynch film 1984) is a more direct critique of our dilemma. The middle eastern references are very topical. “The spice (drugs-crude oil) must flow.” We seem in the grip of House Harkonnen.

  • Anonymous

    Take a copter ride with Harry Ford instead. Considering these new intellectual property demands on the web by Hollywood I’d steer clear of those buzzards.

  • Anonymous

    Wouldn’t it be more authentic to pirate the film by bit torrent, or buy a redub from an ethnic street vendor? Then you could stop by the noodle stand and slurp awhile.  When I watch bootlegs I love the sounds from the audience and even the shadows when viewers go to the bathroom. In some LA theaters you can “watch as she takes her pleasure from the snake (replicant boa).” I stay outta them places. Last time I watched the director’s cut I borrowed it from the public library.

  • Anonymous

    post-modern just means the rules we’re accustomed to no longer make sense, or apply. post-modern suggests a time when people have accepted environmental degradation as fact, and have also abandoned many other niceties and frames of reference. But in practice science fiction also recycles familiar historical features in a displaced setting.

  • Barb

    You miss the obvious…the government is corporate America.

  • misfyt

    Frontline:  Inside the Meltdown
    This American Life (NPR):  The Giant Pool of Money – et al.

  • Anonymous

    I see some promise in the Occupy movement for eventually driving home the pertinent issues.  When doubt about long-held assumptions begins to surface, people will become more open to these kinds of film. 

    But more important, films such as these help us and the activists to better articulate our analyses of the current dilemma.  For example, *Frontline: The Warning* (available on the PBS Frontline website) can help us better understand why Sheila Bair (recent Chair of the FDIC) had so much trouble getting support, and why Elizabeth Warren was shafted by Obama.

  • mike_canada

    One
    film that should be required viewing for CEO’s and MBA’s is Executive
    Suite (1954). The president of a large furniture manufacturing
    company dies suddenly, and there is a power struggle among the VP’s
    to see who will replace him. The contest boils down to two finalists
    – One is Loren Shaw (played by Fredrich March), a bean counter who
    wants to maximimze profits by making cheap, shoddy furniture. And the
    other is Don Walling (played by William Holden), a young engineer who
    wants to use innovation and research to create new lines of furniture
    that will provide both quality and affordablility. Interestingly,
    Don Walling is also concerned about workforce morale — He knows that
    the workforce is not proud of the flimsy furniture that Shaw wants to
    create. In the end, Don Walling wins the presidency, but that was
    the spirit of the 50′s. Sadly, the bean counter characters like Shaw
    now dominate corporate America.

  • Kauni22

    It’s logic…give people money..and they like it..and want more. ..especially if it buys anything they want (the two-year old mentality)…  High morality occurs at around age 25…usually..which is
    concern for others, the world around you..the future.  So, profit and loan sharks are about, maybe 7 (age of reason)…maybe.  Emotionally about 12??  So, take away the profit…do not buy, do not comply…take away the money…these criminals move to new and different ways to ‘get what they want’….so,unless you have consequences, or prosecute..you’ll get the monetary collapse..over and over again, and again…

  • Ru42112

    Frontline: Breaking the Bank
    You should also try to get Dylan Ratigan on your show

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Barry-Laycock/525000150 Barry Laycock

    By now it should be abundantly clear that this was a criminal enterprise from the beginning, and that the criminals are still in control of the political and financial system.  Everyone should go straight to jail, from Greenspan to Paulson to Bernanke to Geitner and all of the CEOs for the major firms on Wall Street. Of course, nothing like that will ever happen. Instead, they will find a few scapegoats to hang this on, and the rest of them will dance off into retirement with hundreds of billions of our dollars. Time for a real revolution.

  • Anonymous

    The brainwashing nature of feature film production and distribution under approval of elite crony capitalists also amounts to a criminal enterprise from the get-go. Some of the new digital action films have the destructive power to cripple young minds. I expect that they and similar violent video games are addictive and produce psychosis. I find myself unable to endure their earsplitting volume and sensory overload. My flight reflex automatically engages and I run from the movie house. What are the Overlords programming our kids for? Counterrevolution?

  • Anonymous

    ‘Network’ is another great film that sums up the creepy corporate mass media. “We’re mad as hell and we are not going to take it anymore” mantra needs to come back!

  • Anonymous

    When I was a student at Columbia B. school many moons ago, I asked an aggressive, wealthy, investment banking professor (he would claim superiority to other professors by offering to compare his 1040 to theirs) a question – “is it easy for a good man to work on Wall Street?” His answer was no. He knew what I was asking. I knew what he was saying. The films cited here are evidence of his advice and conclusion.

  • http://www.facebook.com/wbmaclean William Brian MacLean

     Great observation about Blade Runner. I have another.

    The Highlander -
    the mid-80s sword & sorcery tale starring Sean Connery & Clancy
    Brown, where the immortals are destined to behead each other to inherit
    the prize of ultimate knowledge/power.

    It’s set up as the
    power fantasy of every adolescent male, yet, to my mind, is a metaphorical
    philosophical film for all aspiring politicians & corporate CEOs.

    “There can be only one.”

  • Julogue1

    Problem is so manyvoters get all their news on Faux News,  have not seen a movies in years, don’t own a DVD player unless they have kids, and the only book they’ve read in years is Sarah Palin’s.  

    Would love to air drop copies of “Inside Job.”

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_AS4TU4QDWQGF7DLWYFH5NGC6GA tobedana

    I love your show; glad to have to back.  Can you follow up on why no one was prosecuted for the housing bubble?  Could you interview someone from the SEC, the Justice Department, and anybody who can get some justice for the American people?  Elliot Spitzer?  Why is the public made to be the criminals serving time for Wall Street, slaving for our few dollars to pay for their millions bonuses and luxuries, and be locked into this endless cycle of inescapable debtitude while they go about hoarding millions more—how did we become the prisoners serving for their crimes?  The American people’s anger will not rest until justice serves these swindlers their meals in jail–and in a regular jail, not a country club jail.  

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_AS4TU4QDWQGF7DLWYFH5NGC6GA tobedana

    @deliaruhe:  Blade Runner is a fantasy, our current mess is REAL.  “What life i[s] like without a government” to protect the public and “where the police force is there to protect corporate interests” is an oxymoron statement:  It is now, and has been for awhile, that gov’t, dictated by the laws written by Congress, allowed the corporations to proceed unchecked.  The police, a government enforcement entity whether it be the FBI, CIA, NSA, military, local police, politicians, etc., already represents corporate interests—this is the reality now.  So when you say without the ”government” as the protector, which gov’t body are you referring to?  How did any of these gov’t sectors protect us from the housing bubble?  Which gov’t agency served the people by prosecuting the housing bubble swindlers?  I think your class could and would have benefitted much more had you used a real life movie like the “Inside Job” as a motivator to walk on the ethical side—no one could sit through that documentary unaffected.  This movie touched all fronts of reality: corruption of law makers, federal government agencies protecting corporations, the local government serving corporations, the education system working for corporations, the crony capitalists working for self-serving money interests, the gullible public, the silencing of whistle blowers and public defenders, the quick professional demise of right-doers; watching the movie one would be taken on a journey across his/her emotional spectrum. Discussing the facts and the difficulty in making and marketing such a movie would do credit to your profession and you would have better fulfill your obligation to your students.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_AS4TU4QDWQGF7DLWYFH5NGC6GA tobedana

    Could you pimp your movies somewhere else and leave serious business for this webiste!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_AS4TU4QDWQGF7DLWYFH5NGC6GA tobedana

    Which also meant, as proclaimed by the professor himself, that he wasn’t and probably isn’t a “good man”.  Well at least we know bad men could be honest too when it serves them. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_AS4TU4QDWQGF7DLWYFH5NGC6GA tobedana

    Is that enough, screaming out angers–they’ll just not air it like the Occupy protests.  So what if we scream.  The answer is to hit them where it hurts in their wallet.  We need to write to all fauxNews/networks’ commercial sponsors telling them we intend to boycott their commercial-network-advertised products if they keep supporting such subversive network stations. 

  • Anonymous

    What’s got up your nose?  To quote a man with a nice turn of phrase, “drop the pious baloney.”  This comment thread is about the business of movies — the theme of this page of the site — and that’s what we’re discussing.

  • Robert G. Ortega

    I am surprised that “The Corporation” (2003, Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott, Directors) did not make the list.  It preceded all the others and is still strongly relevant.  I’d go so far as to suggest that one might watch the “The Corporation” first, followed by any one of the others included on the list to get a real good background from two excellent perspectives of this incredible phenomenon that will be around for quite some time.

  • Robert G. Ortega

    Have you thought about using “Soylent Green” in your undergrad course?

  • Anonymous

    I have taught it in my science fiction course, which (as I’m now semi-retired) I don’t get to teach any more.  The one in which I teach *Blade Runner* is a technotheory and cyberpunk course, so it’s just cyborgs.

  • Anonymous

    Been thinking about this for a coupla days now, and while the issue in *Children of Men* seems much more immediate than replicants and offworld colonies, the film speaks more to environmental issues than economic ones.  However, visually, *Children of Men* does make a nice connection between economics and environment.  I like the movie very much but haven’t read the P.D. James novel upon which it’s based.

  • Anonymous

    It’s a must-see, for sure.  And as a lot of the above suggests, there are many others.  But I think Moyers & Co were focusing on those titles more directly tied to the present crisis — although I do read *The Corporation* as a kind of prefiguration of today’s dilemma.

    All of the FRONTLINE episodes that deal with it are worth watching, and fortunately they’re all available online.

  • Suzanne

    Would you consider discussing on your program the pensions and other benefits that senators and congressional representatives collect?  It seems to me that if they are voted out of office for failing to act on their campaign promises and other misdeeds, they should not continue to collect benefits, especially since were are looking for ways to reduce the deficit.

  • Erin

    Bill, I literally cried when The Journal went off the air.  So wonderful to see you back.  In addition to these films (The Warning being the best) Matt Taibbi’s book “Griftopia” is top notch.  And I WISH you would call Barney Frank’s bluff and invite him on your show.  Make sure to have a copy of Taibbi’s “Wall Street Wins Big” from Rollingstone in hand.   Watching Chuck Schumer’s face at the State of the Union address made me want to kick in my TV. 

    You are truly the best of the best right now – and you are getting a big conservative following because I am emailing and facebooking your shows so far.  Keep up the great work, sir!

  • Erin

    Holy cow!  I completely forgot about “The Corporation” Robert.  Great film!

  • mschultz

    There is a book, POLITICAL PONEROLOGY: A SCIENCE ON THE NATURE OF EVIL ADJUSTED FOR POLITICAL PURPOSE. 

    Apparently 6% of the population are psychopaths.These people are often very charming and inner directed to seek their own interests above all others regardless of the consequences. In other words they have no morals and no conscience. Their ruthless nature makes them successful in their goals. Not all psychopaths are the serial killers we see in the movies. Many are running our corporations. Many are in the government. We are now governed by a few hundred psychopaths. How did this happen? Simple, we live in a culture of greed. We admire those who have money, no matter how they got their money and we look down on those with principals and integrity as fools. The media held out the false hope that we can all be millionaires if we really want to. We just have to work smart. We shouldn’t tax the rich because we too might become rich. We wanted something for nothing. Roads, police protection, wars, but we don’t want to pay for it. The only entity powerful enough to reign in the corporations is the government (the unions have already been made irrelevant).Now we hear a call, not for honest government, but for less government. The corporations couldn’t be happier. Get rid of government so the corporations will have complete unfettered reign over our lives. Those free market advocates have learned nothing from the last 4 years. It is not about fixing the system, its about replacing the system, but that is not on the table. What is left to work for when you already have more money than you could ever spend in a hundred lifetimes, Power. The Elite see themselves as Gods who have the divine right to decide what is best for the rest of us. We are much easier to rule when we are poor and uneducated and sick. Hence cut spending on public education, cut Social Security, eliminate Medicare. Only the strongest, smartest will survive. Social Darwinism is where we are headed and the Psychopaths couldn’t be happier.

  • Reg Chitsey

    I have seen two of the above films: “Enron:the smartest guys in the room” and “Frontline : The Warning” and find “The Warning” most disturbing because of what it says about “a government of the people, for the people, and by the people” and how inconvenient dissent is crushed.

    There are some documentary films I would like to suggest: “Bloody Thursday (2009)”, American Experience: “Triangle Fire” (2011), “Inventing LA: the Chandlers and thier Times (2009)”, “The Spartans (2004)”,  “Athens: the dawn of democracy(2007)”, “Egypt’s Golden Empire (2001)”, and “Secrets of the Manor House (2012)”

    BLOODY THURSDAY
    “Bloody Thursday” is a 2009 Emmy award winning documentary produced by KOCE a PBS affiliate in San Pedro, CA. It is the story of the struggle of the west coast longshoreman’s union for recognition of their right to unionize,  demands for better pay, benefits, and working conditions. It is also the story of how white longshoremen overcame their racism and united with black longshoremen to advance their common cause. The west coast longshoremen provided the first test case of the right of workers to unionize which FDR signed into law in 1933. The west coast longshoremen faced formidable opposition. The shipping companies, port authorities, local and state politicians & government, newspapers, police, national guard, and east coast longshoreman’s union were all against the west coast longshoremen. The struggle on the west coast came to a head on 3 July 1934 when the mayor of San Francisco tried to force the longshoremen into arbitration saying “accept arbitration or else.” The longshoremen refused. On 05 July 1934 the police attacked the waterfront, the longshoremen fought back with clubs and rocks against police clubs, guns and tear gas, and two longshoremen were killed. The mayor blamed the death of the two longshoremen on the rioting longshoremen. The Governor of California sided with the mayor and called out the national guard which brought machine guns, rifles, bayonets, and tanks to setup for battle on the docks. The longshoremen withdrew and called for a general strike of all workers in San Francisco. It was during the funeral procession down Market Street, in the business district of San Francisco, that the longshoremen won their battle. This film should be widely seen, especially by the powers that be, because it is a history lesson that needs to be remembered and repeated often.

    For more information see
    http://www.BloodyThursdayFilm.com  ; http://www.KOCE.org/BloodyProd.htm ; and TheVirtual Museum of the City of San Francisco  http://www.SFMuseum.org/hist/thursday.html .

    AMERICAN EXPERIENCE:  TRIANGLE FIRE (2011)
    On 25 March 1911 the deadliest workplace accident in New York City history occurred at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in Greenwich Village. New York City was in its Gilded Age . The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory was not far from the mansions of multimillionaires and the elegant shops of the famed Ladies Mile. Most of the employees were young immigrant women who worked 13 hours/day for 13 cent/hour. The workers had unionized, gone on strike, but had not won much from the owners to improve working conditions. A dropped cigarette started a fire. The owners were alerted by phone and escaped. The workers got no warning and when the fire ripped thru the factory the workers could not escape. When the fire was over 146 people were dead. The public was so outraged it forced the government to enact legislation. Within three years 36 new state laws concerning fire and workplace safety were passed.

    INVENTING LA: THE CHANDLERS AND THEIR TIMES (2009)
    This is the story of how the Chandler family dominated southern California, especially Los Angeles, and used the Los Angeles Times newspaper as a propaganda organ to convert Los Angeles from a small sleep town to the metropolis it is today, promote business the Chandlers and their cronies favored, legislation they favored, politicians they favored such as Richard Nixon, and crush unions and anyone else who opposed their plans or views.

    THE SPARTANS (2004)
    British historian Bettany Hughes tells the story of Sparta’s rise and fall. The Spartans were frugal, disciplined and a totalitarian society that was xenophobic and wanted to maintain the status quo. They only believed in minimal education. Enough reading, writing, and arithmetic to efficiently run a household was enough. A age eight boys were put into a Darwinian training system of survival of the fittest: go forth and conquer any way you can or perish. The Spartan health care system involved throwing sickly or deformed infants off a cliff. If you were old, injured, or sick you were taken to the cliff and left to perish. Eventually change became an enemy and Sparta faded from power because it would not adapt to change.

    ATHENS: THE DAWN OF DEMOCRACY (2007)
    British historian Bettany Hughes tells the story of how Athens gave birth to democracy in the 6th century BC despite being a repressive, war-like city/state when a young aristocrat used “the power of the people” to defeat a rival. But Athenian democracy had its problems: slavery, voting restrictions, the discovery of silver, building and paying for the Parthenon, conflicts with Sparta, and the trial of Socrates. The film examines how Athens came to dominate Greece and export its ideas of democracy.

    EGYPT’s GOLDEN EMPIRE (2001)
    This story is 3500 years old but sounds like something you might read in today’s news. Part one (“The Warrior Pharaohs”) begins in 1560 BC when Egypt was weak, divided and in danger of disappearing. A series of warrior pharaohs used military might to unite upper and lower Egypt, drive out invaders, and lay the foundation to produce the first empire in history. The Egyptian empire saw an explosion of creativity and wealth the world had never seen before and made the rest of the world envious. When the warrior pharaohs were done the Egyptian empire extended north to the southern border of present day Turkey and south to the Nubian gold fields.

    Part two (“Pharaohs of the Sun”) tells the story of how Amenhotep III used gold, from the Nubian gold fields, and diplomacy vice military power to further extend Egyptian power and influence and defeat rivals. The large amount of gold Egypt controlled made Egypt a valuable ally. Smaller countries paid Egypt some tribute to get some of Egypt’s gold but were not completely satisfied. The Nubian gold financed Egypt’s golden age of art and architecture. Amenhotep III was growing tired of the power and influence of the priests and tried to abandon the old gods and religion. But the priests were too powerful and seeds for future problems were sown. The priests’ job was to sing  the glory of the Pharaoh after he died but to ensure that happened the Pharaoh had to prepay the priests by transferring wealth to them. Over time the priests accumulated much wealth and influence and decided they wanted to be like the most high. When Amenhotep III died the priests undid all he had done.

    In part three (“The Last Great Pharaoh”) traces the life of Ramesses II whose reign was the high point of the New Kingdom and the high point of Egyptian culture. He managed to fight off countries that challenged Egypt but eventually, after he died, the successive Pharaohs lost touch with the people, broke promises or conveniently forgot promises. The people took their revenge on the Pharaohs and within 150 years the Egyptian empire was over.

    Substitute Government/Politicians for Pharaoh, Wall Street/Big Business for priests, and the people for the people and the story of Egypt’s Golden Empire of 3500 years ago sounds a lot like today’s news. Politicians want to be remembered as great leaders who enriched the country and are willing to give Wall Street/Big Business what it wants so history favorably remembers the politicians who were responsible.

    SECRETS OF THE MANOR HOUSE (2012)
    This is an examination of what life was really like for the titled class and the servant class in the Edwardian Age of England which ran from the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 to the beginning or end of World War I, depending on how you measure the age. The Edwardian Age is the period covered by the Masterpiece series “Downton Abbey”. The reality of the differences between the titled and servant classes is much greater and harsher than hinted at in “Downton Abbey”. The life of the servant class in Edwardian England was hardly better than during Dickens time. It is a comment on our time that is not pretty.

  • larry elford

    a canadian stockbroker speaks out with specifics of how regulators and politicians sell out the public interest to the highest financial bidder    at  http://www.youtube.com/user/investoradvocate?feature=mhum

    sorry it is not professionally produced like the great movies discussed here, but I was an investment broker, never a film maker

  • Spiritwalker63

    I’ve seen some of these, most recently margin call.  I’d like to add Fuel for information on what oil drilling is doing to this country and our environment.

  • Spiritwalker63

    I added The Warning and the Enron smartest guy in the room to my Netflix que, but would also like to suggest:  Casino Jack:  re Jack Abramoff, Client 9 about Elliot Spitzer and Capitalism: A Love Story to the above list.    There’s another that shows the devestation of hydraulic fracking.  I’ll look for the title on that one too.

  • Spiritwalker63

    Just discovered one called Blue Gold which is about how water is becoming a scarce commodity on Earth and possible future wars over it?  Hmmmm  Interesting in light of the fact that right now big oil and gas corporations are pushing hydraulic fracking and the tar sands oil in Canada and both of those require huge amounts of water, in addition to chemicals to extract.  This water is then highly toxic and cannot be recycle for human consumption.  So……is it wise to use water to get at more oil and gas vs pursuing more sustainable energy sources?

  • GradyLeeHoward

    “Gasland” (by Josh Fox) is the fracking film you suggested. (It has held up to criticism.) Electrical generation plants use up more fresh water than all other industries combined. They use more fresh water than all households combined. They have taken as much as 40% of the flow of some river systems. The water is evaporated to run turbines and for cooling. Nuclear plant demand for fresh water rivals the toxicity threats. If generation plants are not water hogs then why are they always constructed on lakes and rivers? The generation monopoly is a subject of the documentary “Thrive” but the film itself is corrupted by Libertarian propaganda. It is still worth watching with a critical eye. Now as for domestic gas fracking, I think the industry itself is a bubble and that most wells will not produce as projected. It is a shame all that infrastructure is being wasted on an empty boom. Privatization of water is the important subtext of “Blue Gold” and of the water crisis itself. To make something appreciate rapidly in value you make it scarce, damaged or suddenly unavailable. I make my living speculating in commodities and if this were not the prevailing truth I’d be on SNAP. I was sad to hear that DRShow is now underwritten by the industry publicists Frackfocus. That’s a tragedy of corruption for NPR.

  • 19obert63

    I couldn’t believe Margin Call was not nominated for best picture by the Academy.

  • 19obert63

    As usual, your advice on what we should be watching and listening to seems to be right on.
    The other night I watched The Warning: Alan Greenspan-a disciple of Ayn Rand;
                                                                            Tmothy Geithner and Alan Summers financial consultants
                                                                             to President Obama;
                                                                            Derivatives still not regulated;
                                                                            Good Lord, next I’ll find out that Nixon has resurrected,
                                                                            and is  running our FBI.

  • Anonymous

    Inside Job was excellent. I saw Plunder last night by Danny Schecter and I recommend that as well!

  • Golding

    What about “Wall Street:The Money Never Sleeps”? Isnt it also a movie based on the 2008 financial crisis?

  • Anonymous

    Great movies – there is only one I have not seen.

  • Anonymous

    I suspect the real reason investment bankers, lawyers, accountants, etc., must go through a ~10 year process of internship to become equity holders is to ensure that those recruited are truly sociopaths or at least reliably soulless and tested to ensure they will do nothing but perpetuate the system through manipulation, exaltation of greed, and collusion. And they breed, and breed their children to embrace privilege and power, and purposely reinvent human morality into sociopath morality. How we wake up from this nightmare of endless war, expanding security state, endemic fraud, nepotism, etc., is hard to see. The strangest thing about psychopaths is that many actually enjoy the suffering of others, and feel empty unless they can dominate others. This is their path to happiness and meaning. Is this the secret history of the world? That a small minority of sociopaths identify (perhaps unconsciously) with each other and collude to create a system that enriches them and their values? How does humanity transcend this trap? How do the “meek” (i.e., the kind and the decent) inherit the Earth?

  • Wanda Jean Lord
  • Wanda Jean Lord
  • Anonymous

    It is a very dark film in many ways. I can’t believe that America is letting itself become Pottersville instead of Bedford Falls! How is it possible? I guess we all thought Obama was going to be like FDR. Boy, did we get duped.

  • Anonymous

    Deckard – retired detective but dragged back in to his gruesome business – is fascinating. He’s forced back to the system as otherwise he’s “little people”, with no power or status, no rights. This reflects the dilemma faced by each of us in this toxic corporatist age. If you don’t join the system and compete within it to enhance a particular pool of money, then you have no value, you are “little people”. (I doubt all NYPD cops are that enthused about bashing in Occupy, but what choice do they have?) Where are you supposed to go if you don’t relish ruining other people’s lives to enrich yourself? How do you make a decent living for yourself and family? The banksters control all the money! Phillip K. Dick foresaw all of this, and the struggle to remain human and Blade Runner is ultimately all about that struggle.

  • Anonymous

    PBS Frontline also had an epic two part documentary called “Money, Power and Wall Street”. Watch it and realize just what an abstract, complex fraud derivatives are, for behind the mumbo jumbo is just systemic risk for the entire economy and huge fees for banksters until it all blows up. Mouth agape, listen to Obama, after taking office, greet all the banksters and promise them that the whole of government is there to help THEM, to save them from the pitchforks of a robbed citizenry. In that moment, our ersatz MLK revealed himself, revealed his true loyalty and struck a blow to ideals like hope and change. I really believed America was going to be reborn again, a New Deal 2.0. I really did. Until that moment.

  • jmundstuk

    Boiler Room, on a smaller scale.

  • Ann Fenner

    I have seen some of these movies and I am disgusted and properly enraged as I am sure most people are but for me and most of the public, What I want to know is What do you want me to do about – Specifically. I already know about the problem, its the government and wall street kissing each other’s butts, Now tell me what to do about it. Do you want me to get a gun & start shooting? Do you want me to try to start my own political party? I am just one person with very limited resources and Yes, I want to do something about it, but What? I’m sure that most people feel this sense of helplessness too. We’ve watched the movies, we’ve read the books, we’re mad as hell, now what? WHAT DO YOU WANT US TO DO?????

  • Rosemary Blanton

    This is one of the best letters I have seen posted on this subject.

  • Leslie Stein

    Vote. Make sure you vote for someone who represents your interests the best.

  • Ann Kroeber

    Appreciate this selection. But suggest you also include: “HEIST- Who Stole the American Dream?

  • Rosemary

    i agree WHAT CAN WE DO!!! I seen several of the movies and I agree with Ms Fennner. She is on point!!

  • Anonymous

    Where’s “Wall Street I and II” and “Boiler Room” ?

  • http://rallbritton.com Richard Allbritton

    I have seen 4 out of 6 of these films. I’m going to see the others. The damage done to our Country by Ronald Reagan’s voodoo economics and the ongoing GOP and Obama enabled cover-up is incalculable. When asked why wasn’t there a thorough investigation by the Obama Administration of the 2008 debacle and the causes, Nouriel Roubini said because they would have caught the culprits.

    Nouriel Roubini is an American economist. He anticipated the collapse of the United States housing market and the worldwide recession which started in 2008. “In 2005 Roubini said home prices were riding a speculative wave that would soon sink the economy … “

  • JB

    Worthy Attributes and Pursuits:

    Strength – capacity, exertion or endurance – the power to resist

    Courage – mental or moral strength to withstand danger, fear, and difficulty

    Wisdom – accumulated philosophic & scientific knowledge, insight & good judgment

    Patience – the ability to wait without becoming upset with people and circumstances

  • pathros

    Enronomics or what President George H.W.Bush called voodoo economics; elitism should be abolished!

  • WilliamWallace

    Great question Ann Fenner. Clearly, Repubs AND Dems are now too corrupt to be of any help to the citizenry (with just a handful of exceptions, like Warren, Sanders,etc ). We’ve been caught in an endless, hopeless cycle of corruption voting for either of the two Serious Parties. I’d like to see Bill Moyers (and other Thought Leaders) start endorsing real, progressives from third parties to help throw some weight behind them.

  • Anonymous

    “Margin Call” and “Inside Job” ought to be sold as a set. One is the “fiction” and the other is the fact behind it.

    Henry Paulson is making the rounds fort his new book. He, of course, isn’t too hard on the banksters. He blames the average American for the most part for buying excessively on credit prior to the 2008 crisis. What a surprise.

  • Marie Martin

    Vote. Don’t put your money in a big bank. Citibank, Wells Fargo, BofA. Put it in a credit union. Or look online for good banks. Tell your friends too. When there is a subject to deal with let your reps know via email or phone. They are easy to contact. And don’t just vote in national elections. Vote in all elections.

  • Barbara Sittaro

    I believe the middle class made too much $ on the 401Ks. It was originally created for the Ultra Billionaires, eh? Please watch the docu “We’re not Broke” Thanks for reading. Smiles…………for all bartender.

  • Anonymous

    If you watch the end of Inside Job you will see that many of the architects of the financial crisis are or were in the Obama administration. None are in jail.

  • Anonymous

    If you watch the end of Inside Job you will see that many of the architects of the financial crisis are or were in the Obama administration. None are in jail. You can watch it here. Please wait until the end. So, when will people demand the Obama administration get these people out of power and prosecute them? http://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/inside_job_2010/

  • Anonymous

    One last thing; Elizabeth Warren for President.

  • http://rallbritton.com Richard Allbritton

    I have seen Inside Job multiple times and I am disheartened afresh with each viewing. As Roubini said in “Inside Job,” they [the Obama Administration) did not want to find the culprits.

  • Anonymous

    We all know we live in a Plutocracy not a democracy. We all want to reclaim the government for the people. But how? Violence is always counter productive. The Supreme Court is in the Plutonic camp, Hell, former Justice Powell wrote the play book for them; Two months before then President Nixon nominated him. The current Tea party hijacked the third party movement, Occupy has no organization and neither do we the people. When we vote it is for the choice of candidates given to us by the political party elite. For independents to get on a ballot they have to get more signatures and jump through more hoops than the two main parties. We need to bond together and stop falling for the decisive tactics and hate used by those in power. To make a democracy and reinstate the Constitution. People have to come before profit and profit needs to be shared with workers. But how? I think we need to find time to work for the election of everyday people to State and Federal elected positions. But how? Ideas?

  • cgmcle

    We don’t all know we live in a plutocracy, obvious as that is to some of us. And that’s a big part of the problem. There is a large number of people in this country who are amazingly ignorant and stunningly stupid. They are easily manipulated by blatant propaganda and blindly follow and support the aristocrats and plutocrats who deceive them.

    I believe you mention two of the key efforts necessary to achieve a more equitable balance of power. First is organization. The plutocrats are highly organized, to the point of including the political elite among their numbers. Organization around specific causes can be most influential in effecting political and legislative change – the NRA is a great (though malignant) example of how it can be done.

    The second is to focus at the state level, where most of the political absurdities are now being perpetrated. The realists among the conservative factions seem to realize they have little realistic chance to win the presidency as long as their exclusionist policies and hate-inspired message colors their national image. But they’ve been highly successful at the state level, in large part due to the efforts of ALEC. A liberal counterpart to ALEC would help balance the influence on state legislatures, although it would face considerable competition – the membership of ALEC is a “who’s who” of U.S. and global corporations.

    The final thing I would suggest is very important – educating people about the presence of sociopaths (sometimes called psychopaths) in our society. Sociopaths care nothing about other people, they are psychologically incapable of doing so. Everything they do is for their own benefit and they will use and manipulate anyone they need to, in any way they have to, to achieve their own goals. (Sound like anyone you know in the corporate or political sphere? Plenty of examples, especially in the perverse financial industry we call “banking” in this country.) Sociopaths wield great power in this country, in part because many of them are able to effect a kind of charm that deceives large numbers of naive and gullible people. It seems few of us are aware even of the existence of such people, let alone their huge impact on the quality of life of all Americans. We need many more people to recognize sociopathic behavior, to call it out, and to resist it and fight it. Sociopathic behavior, especially among the most powerful people in the country, destroys countless lives and, in the end, becomes self-destructive. I believe sociopaths constitute the primary destructive force behind the demise of what little is left of our democracy.

    I would certainly like to see Mr. Moyers dedicate an entire show to the issue of sociopathy, informing people about its significant presence in powerful institutions, educating them about the nature of sociopathy and how to recognize sociopathic behavior, and finally urging U.S. media to join in a concerted effort to point out sociopathic behavior and warn against its corrosive power in American society.

  • Ann Fenner

    I truly believe you are right. Water will be the new “oil crisis.” Not only are they fracking with it, large corporations like Nestle are robbing water rights in Canada and other countries to bottle it and sell it. With the oil & gas companies polluting it to toxic levels and other corporations stealing it, coupled with climate change, there will be a water shortage in the near future and not just for agriculture – for drinking water. Many countries have no regulations regarding water rights and the EPA has been gutted by years of our corrupt government, so it is ripe for the stealing by greedy corporations.

  • MatrixOut

    We’ve seen the separation between state and religion in a few places around the world. A separation of politics from money is also possible but not with the current structure & system which does not serve us anymore (the many).

    If you’re truly looking for a solution, I’d suggest you to check out videos from Andreas Antonopoulos on Youtube to understand just one possible paradigm to come when there will be honest money (of the people), pros & cons of it, its implications. The old system & old ways of doing things are clearly not working.

    There are other systems & solutions that can be implemented as well. Other documentaries you should check are “The Money Fix”, “Zeitgeist Moving Forward”,”The Take”.