American capitalism: 5 movies that get it right

  • By Christy Lemire Associated Press
  • Monday, December 10, 2012 8:18pm
  • LifeMovies

In rather heavy-handed fashion, “Killing Them Softly” suggests that the mob functions as a microcosm of American capitalism. Thankfully, Brad Pitt is there to keep it from going under.

A lot of movies have tried to get their arms around this complicated topic. Here’s a look at five that did it successfully:

“Inside Job” (2010): Winner of the Academy Award for best documentary feature, director Charles Ferguson’s film accomplishes the difficult task of taking an unwieldy subject and making it accessible to a wide audience.

Still, it’s a daunting topic, but with the help of user-friendly graphics and Matt Damon’s narration, Ferguson breaks down the meltdown into digestible terms without ever condescending.

“The Queen of Versailles” (2012): David and Jackie Siegel are forced to lay off employees, face foreclosure on their house and start shopping for their eight kids at Walmart. Except the Siegels are an elderly time-share mogul and his much-younger trophy wife who were in the midst of building a 90,000-square-foot palace.

Documentarian and photographer Lauren Greenfield never mocks them. The Siegels’ lifestyle is still outrageous, but the sensation of panic they experience and the strain it puts on their marriage are relatable.

“Up in the Air” (2009): Walter Kirn’s novel, which inspired Jason Reitman’s film, came out in 2001, long before the country’s economic collapse. But the story of a guy who jets across the country laying off employees took on a whole new relevance afterward.

It felt especially poignant with the inclusion of real-life people who agreed to go on camera. And George Clooney, Anna Kendrick and Vera Farmiga are all excellent.

“Margin Call” (2011): First-time writer-director J.C. Chandor re-creates the earliest moments of the crisis with the tight time frame and claustrophobic setting of a play. He depicts this devastating moment of volatility with a patter reminiscent of David Mamet.

The excellent cast of actors — Kevin Spacey, Jeremy irons, Zachary Quinto and Paul Bettany — do what they do best.

“Too Big to Fail” (2011): Curtis Hanson’s made-for-HBO film, based on Andrew Ross Sorkin’s book, plays sort of like a dramatized version of “Inside Job.” Big-name stars portray the central figures in the financial crisis: William Hurt, Paul Giamatti, James Woods and Bill Pullman.

The scenery-chewing puts a dramatic (and sometimes humorous) spin on the potentially dry, alienating discussions that take place in board rooms between middle-aged white men in suits. And the inescapable source of tension: This was real, and it happened, and to some extent it is still happening.

More in Life

Where the wild things are in Snohomish

Step into the studio of Imps and Monsters creator Justin Hillgrove for a Black Friday sale.

Meet Nellie, Thor, Raven, Lola, Jasper, Gunner and Bella

These six dogs are waiting for loving homes.

Did you know? Bats edition

Worthwhile Everett library reading and viewing about bats of the animal, sport and hero varieties.

Don’t forbid friendship with back-talking neighbor kid

Q: Our 8-year-old has suddenly developed a very sassy mouth. She picked… Continue reading

How birds stay alive in winter and what you can do to help

When the weather turns chilly, columnist Sharon Wootton’s thoughts turn to birds coping with cold.

Don’t get scammed: Think before you click on email links

An email that was supposedly from iTunes is a scam that targeted busy parents.

Sweden’s Glass Country sparkles like a hand-blown bauble

You can blame my Norwegian heritage, but I’m not so hot on… Continue reading

The pros’ snow: Lake Tahoe a big draw for skiers of all stripes

North Lake Tahoe is home to one of the largest concentrations of ski resorts in North America.

Teen idol David Cassidy remains in Florida hospital

The former pop star is dealing with multiple organ failure.

Most Read