Films on Wealth

The USA contains five percent of the world’s population, but controls much of the world’s wealth.

Park Avenue:
Money, Power and the American Dream

Documentary 2012 NR 1hr 10m. Documentarian Alex Gibney focuses on the gap between rich and poor by examining New York’s Park Avenue, home to America’s highest concentration of billionaires. Meanwhile, down the street, South Bronx is the poorest congressional district in the U.S.

The One Percent

Documentary 2006 NR 1hr 16m. In this eye-opening documentary, filmmaker Jamie Johnson examines the gap that exists between America’s poor and the 1 percent of the population that controls half the country’s wealth. Johnson, himself an heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune, interviews Milton Friedman, Bill Gates Sr., Steve Forbes and other wealthy men, revealing the enormous social and political effect financial disparity has on America’s current state.

Born Rich

Documentary 2003 NR 75 minutes. The heir to the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical empire, Jamie Johnson, points his documentary lens in the direction of some privileged children who stand to inherit millions in the not-so-distant future. Johnson manages to pry revelations from heirs with some famous last names — Trump, Bloomberg and Vanderbilt, to name a few. They speak frankly about money, family pressure and their often extravagant lifestyles. Most of these rich kids seem to see life as an attempt to find a diversion. Career? Not if I can’t go out at night. Marriage? Only if I can find someone to sign a prenup. All of the people featured in this film have one thing in common and it’s not about money. They all are young and therefore naive. The same can be said of most young persons, rich or poor, throughout the world. They don’t yet (and may never) realize that their riches (or their poverty) have nothing to do with who they actually are. That one of them would break from the pack and turn a documentary lens inward says much of Director Jamie Johnson. A wonderfully revealing film showing super-rich people revealing themselves in often fascinating ways.

Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s

Documentary 2013 PG-13 1hr33m.  This documentary peels back the curtain at Bergdorf Goodman, the iconic New York store that’s been launching design careers for more than a century.  The whole point of the movie is to celebrate the history behind two New York tailors turning their shop into a multi-million dollar company, and the story of how their store has evolved.  It tells you the history of the store and about the recruitment of designers for the store.  It also discusses things such as their personal shoppers and the designs for their Christmas window decorations.  It’s an amazing history told from the perspective of people who have worked with BG for years.  Before watching the documentary, I did not fully grasp the importance of Bergdorf’s to the city and the international Fashion world.  One of the women interviewed in the film said, “This is the American dream.” Really? For whom? Clearly not for us 99%. But I think it is a great film.

Were Not Broke

Documentary 2012 NR 1hr 20m. In this searing exposé, filmmakers explore the discontent of activists fed up with a government that allows U.S. corporations to skip out on paying their fair share of taxes. Many make billions in profits but pay $0 in taxes, leaving consumers to shoulder the brunt of a great recession. See Full Review

Metropolitan

Drama 1990 PG-13 98 minutes. Writer-director Whit Stillman’s witty comedy of manners (which won an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature) pokes gentle fun at a group of upper-class Manhattan preppies who gather regularly to play bridge and engage in intellectual discussion. Led by acerbic cynic Nick (Christopher Eigeman), the coterie adopts “proletariat” Tom Townsend (Edward Clements), who has reservations about his new socialite friends and what they represent.

The American Ruling Class

Documentary 2005 NR 89 minutes. This inventive, mildly fictionalized documentary follows noted editor Lewis Lapham as he introduces two Ivy League graduates to America’s elite in an effort to examine the role of class and moneyed privilege in American democracy. With stops at the Pentagon, posh Manhattan parties and more, Lapham encounters luminaries — including James Baker III and Walter Cronkite — who each share their perspectives on America’s ruling class.

Commanding Heights:
The Battle for the World Economy

Documentary 2002 NR 360 minutes. Based on the best-selling book by Pulitzer Prize-winner Daniel Yergin and Joseph Stanislaw, this three-part PBS documentary series is the story of how the new global economy was born. It traces the rise of free markets during the last century, as well as the process of globalization. There are three segments – 1. “The Battle of Ideas” (primarily between Capitalism and Communism);  2. “The Agony of Reform” (after the end of Communism)  3. “The New Rules of the Game” (of Globalization). See Full Review

Inequality for All

Documentary 2013 PG 1hr 30m. Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich makes a compelling case about the serious crisis the U.S. faces due to the widening economic gap. This film is entertaining, but it also educates. This is one of the best documentaries I have seen in years.

The Wolf of Wall Street

Docudrama 2013 R. Martin Scorcese’s high-rolling Wall Street drama is based on the memoirs of stockbroker Jordan Belfort, whose giddy career — involving audacious scams and confrontations with the FBI and other agencies — ended in federal prison. See Full Review

Warren Buffett

Documentary Bloomberg Game Changers 2013 NR 47m. Warren Buffett held an unparalleled position in finance as a legendary investor, a multibillionaire and America’s most respected businessman.

Blue Jasmine

Dramedy 2013 PG-13 98 minutes.The high life leads to high anxiety for a fashionable New York City homemaker in crisis who finds herself forced to live a more modest lifestyle in San Francisco. Woody Allen directs an ensemble cast that includes Cate Blanchett and Alec Baldwin.

Koch Brothers Exposed

Documentary 2012 NR 1hr. Koch Brothers Exposed reveals that the Koch Brothers have launched a large network attacking American values — from their environmental pollution, to their efforts to dismantle social security for working Americans. This revealing film investigates the richest 1% in America at its very worst — the Koch brothers’ racist, and anti-environmental, and anti-middle class politics. The Koch brothers’ net worth tops $50 billion, and they pledged to spend $60 million to defeat President Barack Obama in 2012. See Full Review

School Ties

Drama 1992 PG-13 107 minutes. David Greene, a working-class Jewish teen, receives a football scholarship to a prestigious prep school in the 1950s. But in favor of fitting in, he chooses to hide his religious heritage from his wealthy, prejudiced classmates. Everything is going well for David until one of the young men overhears an alumnus state his disdain for St. Matthews allowing a Jew into the school and David is ostracized. See Full Review

The Queen of Versailles

Documentary 2012 PG 100 minutes. Meet the Siegels, glitterati who made a fortune in the time-share business only to see it crumble in the 2008 financial collapse. The site of their rise and almost-fall is their home (America’s largest), a gaudy replica of the Palace of Versailles.

The Object of Beauty

Drama 1991 R 1hr 42m. In a desperate bid for cash to maintain their swanky London lifestyle, Jake and Tina hatch a plan to “steal” a valuable statue they own and collect the insurance — but someone else steals the statue first. They are fascinating people, and even if despised by those who serve them, they are also secretly envied for their privileges in a society that complacently accepts them and tolerates their demeanor as if it were some sort of stylistic asset. The labor of representing such characters must have been easy enough for two major film stars, used to lives with some degree of privilege. But there is much more than those awful traits to the characters, and John Malkovich and Andie MacDowell presented us with magnificent, complex, layered performances that kept us mesmerized. This is quite a fine work, and it is a pleasure to despise them, to feel the almost instinctive revulsion for those two delicately and subtly vicious creatures of class privileges. This movie has especially good writing and direction (both by Michael Lindsay-Hogg).

Capitalism
A Love Story

Documentary 2009 R 127 minutes. Filmmaker Michael Moore (Sicko, Fahrenheit 9/11) takes on capitalism’s roots, the floundering U.S. economy, and 2008’s global financial meltdown and subsequent bank bailout in this rousing documentary. Combining stories about those who suffer most from Corporate America’s greed and insatiable thirst for profits and the people most responsible for myriad crises, Moore embarks on another shocking fact-finding rampage.

Let’s Make Money

Documentary 2008 NR 1hr 47m Let’s Make Money is not about how to make money. This film traces money as it goes through the global finance system — exposing policies and practices affecting the worldwide economy. This film is about the billions, trillions of dollars that go to selfish human greed and not to basic human need. This shows the planetary marketplace from all perspectives: wealthy investors, business owners, bankers, laborers, activists, government officials, impoverished people — from all around the globe. See Full Review

The Billionaires’ Tea Party

Documentary 2010 NR 54 m. Filmmaker Taki Oldham imbeds himself in the Tea Party groups Americans for Prosperity and Freedomworks, revealing how corporations and the Koch Brothers engineered these fake grassroots called “Astroturf” organizations designed to look like organic grassroots movements.

The Flaw

Documentary 2010 NR 1hr 21m. The Flaw is a look at the recession and financial collapse of 2008. This documentary investigates the causes of ruin and includes interviews with noted economists, financial reporters, Wall Street bankers and homeowners on the brink of foreclosure. The film has some pretty good insights, with lucid analytical perspectives of top academics in economics. The economists and hedge fund manager are top rate. The film also interviews an appropriate selection of affected individuals to capture the human dimensions of the crisis. There are some interesting interviews with borrowers who have problems paying their mortgages after the crash, and most don’t portray themselves as victims, but guilty of poor judgment or excessive optimism. See Full Review

Plunder: The Crime of Our Time

Documentary 2009 NR 100 minutes. Filmmaker and media critic Danny Schechter explores how the current financial crisis was built on a foundation of criminal activity, uncovering the connection between the collapse of the housing market and the economic catastrophe that followed. To get the real story, Schechter — aka “the News Dissector” — interviews bankers, economists, journalists and even a convicted white-collar criminal who blew the whistle on dishonest business practices. This film is very descriptive and accurately portrays the economic events that lead us to the dire situation we are in now. As a business student myself, I can attest to the facts presented in this film – as they are being taught to me currently in study. I did not find it to be biased, but can understand why others thought it to be. The film takes no prisoners, nor should it. People should be outraged by what has taken place. Corporate America was given the keys to the car via deregulation, and their greed ran it off the road. I dont know where America is headed, and I wouldnt dare guess. But if enough people watch this film and do their homework, then maybe we can avoid the mistakes of yesterday.

Unraveled

Documentary 2011 NR 1hr 24m. Awaiting sentencing and under house arrest, white-collar criminal Marc Dreier reveals how he hatched a Ponzi scheme which lost $750 million.

The Madoff Affair

Documentary Frontline 2009 NR 60 minutes. Sentenced to 150 years in federal prison, Bernie Madoff perpetrated the largest financial fraud in history. Following a timeline dating back to the 1960s, Frontline takes you inside the web of deception that snagged investors for $65 billion. In the mid-1960s, Bernard Madoff tapped money from Jewish businessmen at exclusive country clubs with the promise of steady guaranteed returns on their investments. He then set his sights on Europe and Latin America, brokering deals with powerful hedge fund managers and feeder funds from Buenos Aires to Geneva. Billions of dollars were channeled to Madoff’s investment firm, and his feeders became fabulously wealthy. The competition wondered how the man could produce such steady returns in good times and bad. There were allegations that Madoff was “front-running” or operating a Ponzi scheme, which the SEC investigated several times over the last two decades. But Madoff remained untouched until Dec. 11, 2008, when he admitted it was all “one big lie.” Frontline producers Martin Smith and Marcela Gaviria unravel the story behind the world’s first truly global Ponzi scheme — a deception that lasted longer, reached wider and cut deeper than any other business scandal in history.

Scam of the Century!

Documentary CNBC 2008 PG 43 minutes. As the far-reaching, devastating scandal unfolds, CNBC delves into the mind of Bernie Madoff and explores how the alleged scheme worked. Who were the victims in the multibillion-dollar scam?

The Company Men

Drama 2010 R 1hr 44m.  This indie drama stars Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Costner, and Ben Affleck as a successful businessman who comes face-to-face with America’s downsizing epidemic when he loses his job and is forced to take a construction gig. What happens when the American dream turns into a nightmare? What do you tell your wife, kids, friends, former colleagues when you are collecting unemployment? Written, directed and produced by John Wells. See Full Review

Broke

Documentary 30 for 30 2012 NR 1hr 17m. Director Billy Corben examines the harsh realities behind the flashy careers of professional athletes, most of whom will go bankrupt after retiring.

Boiler Room

Docudrama 2000 R 120 minutes. Underground casino operator and college dropout Seth Davis (Giovanni Ribisi) becomes too involved in a sham New York brokerage firm and decides to go straight after his stern father (Ron Rifkin) rescinds all contact with him. Eager to make an honest living, win his father’s approval and the love of kindly Abbie (Nia Long), Seth risks everything when he turns his back on his greedy, hard-partying colleagues. Ben Affleck and Vin Diesel co-star.The film is based on interviews the writer conducted with numerous brokers over a two-year period, and is inspired by the firmStratrton Oakmont and the life of Jordan Belfort, whose autobiography was later adapted into Martin Scorsese’s 2013 film The Wolf of Wall Street, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Belfort.

Tax Me if You Can

Documentary Frontline 2004. The tax shelter was one of corporate America’s biggest hidden profit centers in recent years. Shelters have become so lucrative that some experts estimate as much as $50 billion is lost to the U.S. Treasury each year. And ordinary taxpayers wind up footing the bill. Frontline correspondent Hedrick Smith provides an inside look at how big corporations and wealthy individuals cut their taxes with intricate, hidden, and abusive tax shelters and investigates the role of blue chip accounting firms in these secret deals.

Affluenza

Documentary 1997 NR 56 minutes. Tongue-in-cheek in style but still representing sharp-edged social commentary, this documentary produced for PBS takes an in-depth look at the social effects of America’s love affair with materialism and boundless consumption of resources. Hosted by Scott Simon, Affluenza examines the high price of the high life — both financially and emotionally — and shines a light on some Americans who are following a different path.

Arbitrage

Thriller 2012 R 107 minutes. As billionaire Robert Miller struggles to divest his empire before his fraud is brought to light, fate takes a nasty turn. Now desperate and running out of options, Miller turns to an unlikely source for help. A story of power, privilege, and greed along with deception and scandal makes for entertainment. A very believable story that’s probably taking place again and again among the circles of America’s wealthiest scoundrels. Richard Gere is wonderful as a morally enigmatic hedge-fund schemer.

Barbarians at the Gate

Docucomedy 1993 R 107 minutes. This seriocomedy based on the RJR-Nabisco leveraged buyout neatly encapsulates the greed that became synonymous with the 1980s. James Garner has never been better as charming, covetous CEO F. Ross Johnson. Johnson grabs for the brass ring when he tries to buy out the conglomerate, only to run up against investment banker Henry Kravis (Jonathan Pryce), who gave him the idea.

The Talented Mr. Ripley

Thriller Fiction 1999 R 2hr18m. A charming sociopath maneuvers into the lush life of a young heir. But as he embraces the posh lifestyle, he’ll stop at nothing to hold onto it. The character of Tom Ripley is the most fascinating homicidal pathological-liar in the history of cinema. He’s human; he doesn’t strive to lie, it’s just when pressed with a question…well, often the story in his head is more tempting and effective than the truth. You see, he hates his existence, and he hates himself. His lies soon become a vicious circle. It’s almost painful to watch. The false reality he created seems on the verge of unraveling. His world is crumbling. He is never quite in control, the lies continue, and he kills. The character of Tom Ripley is the reason this film is infinitely more disturbing than any before, including “Psycho”. Watch Matt Damon’s performance — it is brilliant, chilling, absolutely perfect! This film gets my highest recommendation. It’s a masterpiece.

The Bonfire of the Vanities

Drama 1990 R 125 minute. Brian De Palma directs the film version of Tom Wolfe’s satire about race, politics and greed in 1980s New York. In it, Tom Hanks stars as Sherman McCoy, a wealthy Wall Street investor whose life takes a dark turn when his mistress (Melanie Griffith) hits a black youth with his car. When tabloid journalist Peter Fallow (Bruce Willis) gets wind of the situation, he turns it into front-page news, inciting a racial incident in this game of dog-eat-dog.

Wall Street

Drama 1987 R 125 minutes. Enterprising stockbroker Bud Fox falls under the enticing spell of Gordon Gekko, an unscrupulous Wall Street arbitrageur. But when Gekko embroils his protégé in an insider-trading scheme, Fox develops a conscience and decides to turn the tables. See Full Review

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

Drama 2010 PG-13 138 minutes. Trader Jake (Shia LaBeouf) tries to mend the broken relationship between his fiancée, Winnie (Carey Mulligan), and her father, Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), while avenging the fate of his mentor, Lou (Frank Langella), by getting close to Wall Street’s new megalomaniac, Bretton James (Josh Brolin). Centered on the 2008 financial crisis, director Oliver Stone’s follow-up is a modern-day ode to unfettered capitalism and, of course, greed.

JFK: Reckless Youth

Docudrama 1993 NR 180 minutes. Originally produced as a television miniseries based on the best-selling book by Nigel Hamilton, this nostalgic biopic records the first 30 years of a young John F. Kennedy (Patrick Dempsey) — before the presidency came knocking. From Kennedy’s affair with a beautiful journalist (Yolanda Jilot) who was believed to be a Nazi spy to his ongoing feud with his father (Terry Kinney), this drama captures the makings of a complex and controversial man.

Trading Places

Comedy 1983 R 116 minutes. Eddie Murphy established himself as a comedy superstar playing streetwise hustler Billy Ray Valentine, who trades places with wealthy investment executive Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd) to see whether circumstances truly do make the man. It’s all part of a bet cooked up by the rich, greedy Duke brothers (Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy). But when Valentine and Winthorpe find out about the wager, the payback begins. Jamie Lee Curtis co-stars.

The Great Gatsby  (1974)

Drama 1974 PG 143 minutes. Nominated for two Academy Awards in 1974, this movie brings to life F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wrenching novel. Mia Farrow stars as Daisy Buchanan, the object of mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby’s (Robert Redford) affections. Beyond Gatsby’s grasp, Daisy is married to unfaithful Tom (Bruce Dern), making for a love triangle that ends, as they always seem to do, with broken hearts. The drama unfolds before narrator Nick Carraway’s (Sam Waterston) eyes. This 1974 version is the third film in the long line of film adaptations of the classic novel, The Great Gatsby, and in my opinion the best movie. If you aren’t familiar with the storyline, this is a movie about a rich man who surrounds himself with people who like his wealth. The main theme of the book and the movie is that in the 1920s American idealism and spirituality have been corrupted by possessions and wealth. This is American literature, folks, not just a romantic drama, and you have to do a bit of thinking. This story has haunted me for years, when contemplating the casual cruelty of the privileged in America and way one can become sullied or destroyed when trying to fit in with them. Mia Farrow and Robert Redford were wonderful and Sam Waterston is always good. I would recommend this movie for F. Scott Fitzgerald fans and those who enjoy stories about the filthy rich who lived in days gone by. By the way, the costumes were elegant and beautiful!

La Dolce Vita

Drama 1960 NR 167 minutes. Title means: “The Sweet Life.” Marcello, a gossip writer, finds himself among the fleeting excesses and decadence of life and sex. He sleeps with Maddalena, his fiancée is suicidal, and his intellectual friend may not be who he thinks he is. It has sex, the women, the circles of beckoning friends, the nightclubs, the music, the circus-like atmosphere, and always the depiction of Rome as a winding, ancient world of dim streetlights and silent fountains. The incredible Nino Rota score is like a circus march leading us on and on through the highs and lows of the human experience as our hero, the wavy-haired, wistful-eyed Marcello Mastroianni, is sent through an adventure of seven days and seven nights in vibrant, despairing Rome. Each of his nights presents a new quest, a new world of wealth and sex, that all vanishes with the rising dawn. La Dolce Vita is one of the most transcendant experiences a movie-lover can have. Its weary black humor, startling beauty, and grand epic presentation are mixed with loneliness, sadness, and alienation. One of the greatest films of all time, the great masterpiece of Italian cinema, and the best movie in the amazing filmography of Federico Fellini. No one who sees La Dolce Vita will ever feel the same way about cinema, life and love ever again.

A Place in the Sun

Drama 1951 NR 122 minutes. Dirt-poor George Eastman (Montgomery Clift) lands himself a factory job thanks to a well-to-do uncle’s largesse and has a tryst with co-worker Alice (Shelley Winters) to combat his loneliness. But he forgets the uncultured Alice when he becomes smitten with a stunning socialite (Elizabeth Taylor). Alice can’t forget George, however, because she’s expecting his baby. Their dilemma sets off a course of events that can only end in tragedy.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Drama 1948 NR 126 minutes. Wrapped in a classic tale of adventure, this Academy Award winner helmed by John Huston follows a trio of gold prospectors who set out to strike it rich and agree to split the take until paranoia and greed consumes one of them. Delivering superb performances as the three miners are Humphrey Bogart, Tim Holt and Walter Huston, who copped a Best Supporting Actor Oscar while son John scored statuettes for his direction and screenplay.

Citizen Kane

Docudrama 1941 PG 119 minutes. Orson Welles reinvented movies at the age of 26 with this audacious biography of newspaper baron Charles Foster Kane, which, in essence, was a thinly veiled portrait of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst. Welles’s complex and technically stunning film chronicles Kane’s rise from poverty to become one of America’s most influential men — and it’s considered one of the best movies ever made.

J. Pierpont Morgan
Emperor of Wall Street

Documentary 1996 TV-PG 44m. An art collector and incomparable financier, J. Pierpont Morgan twice rescued the American economy from the brink of bankruptcy yet was regularly denounced as a robber baron. With his stunning Wall Street success, Morgan amassed one of the country’s biggest fortunes and ultimately exercised as much clout as the president. This absorbing installment of “Biography” profiles the legendary banker and wheeler-dealer via interviews and archival film.

Upstairs, Downstairs (1971-1975)

Drama Series 1971-1975 NR5. Set in the early 1900s, this drama series follows the Bellamy family, who reside upstairs in their posh London townhouse, as they and their downstairs-dwelling servants are buffeted by intrigue, ill-fated romances, tragedies at sea and a world war.

Upstairs, Downstairs (2010-2012)

Drama Series 2010-2012 NR. Sir Hallam Holland and his wife have bought the iconic London townhouse at 165 Eaton Place. Set in historical Britain with sexual, social and political tensions, this new series provides a glimpse on the master-servant relationship.

Downton Abbey

Drama Series 2010-2012 TV-PG. Exposing the snobbery, backbiting and machinations of a disappearing class system, this series chronicles the comings and goings of the upper-crust Crawley family and their assorted servants.

Levitated Mass:
The Story of Michael Heizer’s Monolithic Sculpture

Documentary 2013 NR 1hr 29m.  This film traces the journey of a 340-ton boulder sculpture, from its conception to the monolith’s 11-day transport 105 miles from a quarry to an L.A. museum.  Wow! Unbelievable…..And the cost to move it 105 miles make it a    $10 million dollar giant Pet Rock! Michael Heizer’s a artist alright! He’s got to be in the Guinness Book of Worlds Records for being the biggest “CON ARTIST”! This is like the guy that drew smiley faces on rocks and sold them as “PET ROCKS”! Cannot believe the people and an actual Director of an art museum could be so gullible!  Don’t think I’d call his ‘work’ “Art”. It seems to be mostly engineering, and hoodwinking some wealthy investors to back him, although I’m fairly certain he didn’t ‘sculpt’ it himself. Someone followed his drawings built it and he took the credit. I don’t know about “Artist”, Maybe Conceptual Designer would be a more accurate term.  As a self-proclaimed artist, one who works his craft and has spent years doing so. I found this to be pretentious, self-gratifying and outright insulting. The only real heroes in a story like this are the engineers and laborers that actually did the real work here. Because that’s the important element to this story. Like the rocks for Stonehenge were moved almost as far, but there are many of them arranged in an artistic pattern!  I know Michael Heizer’s work; I’m not impressed, in the least. I think the reason he turned to these ridiculous ‘earth art’ projects is because he lacked traditional talent and didn’t spend years developing that into skills that we can all recognize. Look at his paintings in the documentary. Lacking, is the only way I can describe them. This is no true artist, in my opinion, this is a man who has managed to fool rich people into thinking they know what art really is. The whole world of art is subjective, as is art itself, but I can say that this type of thing is damaging to real artists honing their skills and craft into something worthwhile. Pardon me while I get back to work, making art that isn’t a lie.  Wow.  Depressing collection of artsy-fartsy babble not only from our over-educated overlords but from plenty of ordinary people too. Its a ROCK, not art. From Michelangelo to this… Just hope no one is under it when an earthquake like 1989 comes!

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