Oliver's Stone's latest movie continues the thread of denial of the rot at the heart of Wall Street

October 7, 2010 — 3:52 AM UTC by Brooke Southall


If there’s a theme to the stories of the 2008 financial crisis it might be summed up in a word – denial.

Rich people walked past the red flags thrown up by Bernie Madoff.

Big investment banks happily denied that the value of CDOs were perched precariously on a limitless stretch of overpriced McMansions in Stockton, Calif.

Joe Schlobotnik embraced denial when he went to his wirehouse broker in 2007 and bought proprietary equity funds, just five years after the bursting of the tech bubble.

The denial, it seems, extends to the treatment of the financial crisis by Oliver Stone. His latest Gordon Gekko movie: “Wall Street: Money never sleeps” takes place in 2008.

“Fans of the original movie will come to this new movie expecting Mr. Stone to tap into the nation’s anger by dramatizing Wall Street’s sins,” wrote New York Times’s business columnist Joe Nocera, in a section-front piece. “They are going to be disappointed. Mr. Stone looked at the crisis straight in the eye – and blinked.”

Nocera criticizes Stone for merely using the financial crisis as the backdrop for a movie about characters, including the reformed Gekko (the character who uttered the famous line in the first movie: Greed is good).

Stone defends this second movie by saying that a credit default swap is hard to show onscreen. But Stone has taken on plenty of difficult topics before, including Kennedy’s assassination. He gained praise for his look at Richard Nixon [Nixon], which dramatized layers of legal and political bureaucracy by focusing on Nixon’s character. The original Gordon Gekko movie, Wall Street, released in 1987, did a good job of illustrating the idea of asset-stripping. So what was so hard this time around?

I can only suppose that a nation – and even its liberal Hollywood elite — that exalts its free enterprise system above almost all else, has a hard time confronting the extent of the rot exposed by this crisis. No matter how unethically and illegally things go, we want to believe these well-dressed people and their institutions live by some kind of law – even if it is not exactly the one we live by.

Stone’s statement that the crisis was too complicated to make a movie of was just another way of saying that the crisis was pervasive. Corruption that extensive will not be defeated by some manicured bourgeois bureaucrat or movie director – it’ll be defeated by the free market.

That’s where RIAs and other alternatives to Wall Street come in. People fight Wall Street with their dollars and they are a lethal force. In this instance, consumer behavior is moving faster than public perception.

Still, an advisor of Stone’s for his latest movie, Olaf Rogge, principal of Rogge Global Partners, that manages $45 billion in assets, told the Times’ Nocera what any RIA might be thinking about his latest Gekko movie.

“He missed a beautiful opportunity. He could have pointed out how we were five minutes from the brink of anarchy.”

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