Sunday, May 6, 2007

Money Never Sleeps

"Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit." -Gordon Gekko, Wall Street, 1987

The irony that this statement should be written into a film which is now being optioned for a sequel is so overwelming that I must roll giddily upon the floor with maniacal laughter. No, truly...I must. The idea that a film made twenty years ago, which won 7 of the 8 awards for which it was nominated and was written and co-directed by Hollywood's most reputed cynic should now be picked up to be made a sequel is, quite truly, the living breath of that very quote. Oliver Stone completed his story. There was nothing of any importance left to say of Gordon Gekko at the end of the film Wall Street...indeed, by the end, who should care? The figure of Gordon Gekko was, and to this day remains, a disgusting reflection of the financial gluttons that pervade our society breeding like maggots in the carcasses of the poorly invested and trusting--or as Gordon would claim, gullible.

Savor, for a moment, the ironic title of the sequel as well: Money Never Sleeps. Indeed, twenty years certainly seems to speak to the unweariness of the All-Mighty Buck.

Only a power five company like 20th Century Fox would agree to a film that not only will see a man sentenced to over 25 yrs in prison, freed (perhaps on good behavior?) but would then make a sequel which poses him as the story's protagonist. Yes. Hurray, Capitalism. What greater hero can a company like theirs have? Gordon Gekko certainly declares what should be their motto, as they've proven it to be already: “I create nothing. I own.”

How true.

This realization of Oliver Stone's own commentary is neither written or directed by Stone, nor will it be. In fact,other than producer Ed Pressman, the only person with ties to the original who seems to be returning is Michael Douglass to portray the money-monger Gordon Gekko once more. The script this time is slotted to be hashed out by Stephen Schiff, writer of True Crime (1999), The Deep End of the Ocean (1999), and 1997's Lolita with Jeremy Irons. All three films are, in my opinion, on the low end of good, just above mediocre. Even their headlining stars only elevated them so far. Argue if you like. Point out their award nominations and wins. You won't change my opinion. Kim Basinger won an Oscar for wearing a fancy dress and staring vapidly. I'm sure that took considerable acting skill. A History of Violence took home 26 wins out of 27 nominations (2 of which were Oscars) and in my opinion it is the worst film that Viggo Mortenson AND Ed Harris ever did. A pitfall in their careers. Taking "Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III " and "Milk Money" into account, respectively, that says a lot. They were what they were and made no pretenses otherwise. Yet it must then also be stated that I am not working in the film industry, so I feel no need to kiss anyone's ass to sing the glories of a redundant and trite script, therefore "What do I know?" I know that William Hurt has quite an absurd view of Philadelphians, granted he had the only amusing line of the film as well.

Why make the effort to gripe over an inevitable sequel? The pure audacity of it, that's why. That the DISTRIBUTER of the film would think they have any right to claim that the CREATORS of the film didn't finish the story, that we as an audience would even CARE to see more. It is, in essense, an absolute demonstration of greed. At least when an audience sees Jerry Bruckheimer's name on something they a) expect nothing less than a testosterone driven, explosion laden, two hour chase scene littered with absurd sexual references and b) at least one sequel. He doesn't sell his films as anything but what they are, the saturday matinee schlock entertainment that sells toys and offers up a date film for high schoolers.

I must...must point out that while Wall Street has become a film classic in the past twenty years, it was released to only mild approval and in comparison to the mega-million dollar blockbusters that 20th Century Fox is now accustomed, it was fairly meager in earnings. However, wouldn't a 20th anniversary DVD release be a better way to earn more dough off the film, rather than tarnishing its integrity by adding a sequel? The chances of having the "success" of "2010" is limited, and honestly...who watches "2010"? The pioneer film "2001:Space Odessey" is still everyone's favorite. Didn't "Aliens" 3 and 4 prove that enough is enough? Even the second was hemmed and hawed at before its release. Need I say more than "Matrix" 2 and 3?? Do not most people roll their eyes at the very mention that "a sequel is in the works"? And yet the studios keep making them...and like lemmings we keep going to see tired gimmicks recycled from the first film and to inevitabley exit the theatre saying "it was good, but the first one was better." To serialize an action series is one thing, but a drama?

Put this in perspective: Would films like "Citizen Kane", "Sunset Blvd.", "Taxi Driver", or "The Shawshank Redemption" benefit in any way from a sequel? The studio's excuse is to claim that Gordon Gekko isn't dead, just in jail. Well each one of these films has a main or supporting character who isn't dead yet and could also be the subject of some stretch of the imagination. How lively it would be to see a thirty years aged Travis Bickle, American Hero reunited with his trick-lovely girl-child obsession, Jodi Foster. The very idea makes one's skin crawl with the lack of originality and creativity which studios like 20th Century Fox are slowly sucking out of the mainstream Film Industry faster than a starved anemic vampire.

In true Hollywood fashion, the sequel will not even offer up any semblence of moral growth and story development. In fact, not only will they continue to glorify Greed as an acceptable attribute, they will do little to altar their anti-hero beyond age. Even Douglass, who seems to be in on the ground floor of this cinematic abhoration was quoted by the NY Times as saying, “I don’t think he’s much different. He’s just had more time to think about what to do.”

Even to set aside the obviously Capitalism driven motives for the production, as an artist and writer I must protest the very nature of this "continuation." Any story must have purpose behind it and if there is no development of the characters- especially the focal figure- then it results in a story flatter than an unrolled crepe. Even Spiderman has developed as a character over the course of his epic three film series - and this is a comic book hero translated to celluloid! If Stephen Schiff, 20th Century Fox, and Michael Douglass can offer us no better than a repeat of Gordon's predatory greed, then as Gordon said: "It's all about bucks, kid. The rest is conversation."

And once again the words of Carl Fox (played by Martin Sheen) will ring as truly wise advise: "Stop going for the easy buck and start producing something with your life. Create, instead of living off the buying and selling of others."

Business is the purchase and sale of goods or services with intent to make a profit. With an annual revenue upwards of $24Billion USD, I think it is a safe assumption to make that 20th Century Fox (and its Mother company News Corp) is hardly floundering as a corporation. Money Never Sleeps shows no sign of being made for its artistic merit or value, making it the sister-whore to a conversely high quality film. Money never sleeps, but Fox...I think its better to let this one rest.

1 comment:

ElphieWitch said...

I agree, kill it.

I'd pay more to see two hours of nothing but Johnny Depp standing around in his skivvies...

...course, that's true of almost every movie, but this case, I'd almost pay more to see Peter Jackson standing around in nothing but his *AH! BRAIN COME BACK! I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I know, I promised! I'll give you a nice bleach bath and everything will be all right, I swear! UGH!*

Nevermind. *shudder*