I saw the movie Wolf of Wall Street yesterday. At three hours, it is too long. Scorsese could have made a better, shorter movie. But to the issue at hand, some relatives of ours, very nice and conservative in outlook, were troubled by both the sex scenes and the manner in which Wall Street is portrayed as a drug-infested psychopathic amusement park.
This is not a movie review. There are hundreds of them out there for you, and man do I miss Roger Ebert at times like this. I either sought his opinion out before deciding what to see, or after a movie just to see what I missed.
Scorsese bases the movie on the book of the same name. Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill are over-the-top throughout. Wall Street brokers are portrayed as boiler-room hucksters, and are all getting high not only on Quaaludes and cocaine, but also conquest. Every now and then someone in the movie has a legitimate moral qualm. But there is really only one rule: they do not rat on each other.
There is full frontal female nudity throughout, and Skinemax-like simulated copulation. That is a nice relief from the intense psychological violence of the boiler room scenes. For that reason alone I would put the movie on our TV screen as I play Angry Birds on the iPad. I have excellent side vision, and instantly know when those scenes are on.
And here is my backdrop, which I did not share with our relatives: The psychopathic personality is not satisfied with the ordinary joys of life – making things, working daily toward long-term goals, love and relationships or even caring about others in general. Consequently, life for them is pursuit of thrills, adrenalin rushes. They do not know fear, and so are found climbing mountains, sky diving, preaching from a high pulpit – anything that gives them a rush. They are drawn to the world of finance for the quick score, laughing when their victims realize they’ve been had. That’s conquest, the ultimate thrill.
I think Scorsese went for the jugular here, as he has probably seen it himself throughout his career. But there is very little physical violence, unlike his mobster films. Instead, he’s going after the real criminals in silk suits and Italian loafers.
No major Wall Street investment firms were harmed in the making of his movie. After the most recent bubble, no one went to jail. They are now busy re-inflating our next nightmare.
More fun below fold, right out of Scorsese’s world.
It is not just Wall Street, but any trading forum that draws these actors from the ranks of the ordinary. This is a transcript of a famous recording of Enron traders during the run-up of prices during California electrical deregulation last decade:
Four years after California’s disastrous experiment with energy deregulation, Enron energy traders can be heard gloating and praising each other as they helped bring on, and cash-in on, the Western power crisis.
“He [Ken Lay*] just fucks California,” says one Enron employee. “He steals money from California to the tune of about a million.”
“Will you rephrase that?” asks a second employee.
“OK, he, um, he arbitrages the California market to the tune of a million bucks or two a day,” replies the first.
The tapes, from Enron’s West Coast trading desk, also confirm what CBS reported years ago: that in secret deals with power producers, traders deliberately drove up prices by ordering power plants shut down.
“If you took down the steamer, how long would it take to get it back up?” an Enron worker is heard saying.
“Oh, it’s not something you want to just be turning on and off every hour. Let’s put it that way,” another says.
“Well, why don’t you just go ahead and shut her down.”
Snohomish County, near Seattle, is trying to get money back from Enron at the time of the recording.
“They’re fucking taking all the money back from you guys?” complains an Enron employee on the tapes. “All the money you guys stole from those poor grandmothers in California?”
“Yeah, grandma Millie, man”
“Yeah, now she wants her fucking money back for all the power you’ve charged right up, jammed right up her asshole for fucking $250 a megawatt hour.”
Before the 2000 election, Enron employees pondered the possibilities of a Bush win.
“It’d be great. I’d love to see Ken Lay Secretary of Energy,” says one Enron worker.
“When this election comes Bush will fucking whack this shit, man. He won’t play this price-cap bullshit.”
- “We will not take any action that makes California’s problems worse and that’s why I oppose price caps,” said Mr. Bush on May 29, 2001.
Both the Justice Department and Enron tried to prevent the release of these tapes. Enron’s lawyers argued they merely prove “that people at Enron sometimes talked like Barnacle Bill the Sailor.”
*Someone really ought to investigate Lay’s conveniently timed death followed by cremation. That will never happen, of course, but alternatives to the official story are that he is still alive or that he was murdered. He did, after all, have close ties to the Bush family, opening all possibilities.