Jan 21, 2011

[Movies] Wall Street (1987)

Wall Street (1987)Your "average Joe" has a pretty warped view of the stock market. Most people base their understanding of the market on what little once can glean from the movies and snippets from news segments about stocks rising and falling. To be fair, it's not exactly high school arithmetic when you get down to it. The stock market is a pretty complex arena where risk takers can win big and conservatives can hopefully bide their time and hope that their patience pays off in the end.

Ironically enough, I recently got into the stock market as a long-term investor. So my writing about this particular movie seems timely enough with my growing understanding of the market and the potential it holds for a lot of hopeful investors such as myself. I have a long ways to go, but you can surely expect me to apply all my geeky abilities in my efforts to come out a winner in the end.

Let's face it - the stock market feels like the ultimate form of legalized gambling in the world today. Traders buy and sell stocks from different companies and all compete to somehow outwit the others. It's a pretty cutthroat world with a lot of potential for the bold trader / investor. And so it's no surprise the industry was celebrated by a movie as unique as this one.

Wallstreet is a 1987 drama (that I also found rather thrilling, but numbers tend to excite me) directed by Oliver Stone. The movie is pretty well set in its time period and does a good job of capturing the feel of the corporate world at the time and just how exciting the stock market can be - as long as you understand what's going on, that is.

XStreamHD Press Conference on Tuesday, January...Image via WikipediaOur protagonist is Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen), a young, up-and-coming stockbroker hoping to bag that one big client. His target - the somewhat infamous corporate raider Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), whom Bud somewhat idolizes given his success on Wallstreet. But thus far he can't even get past his secretary despite his almost daily efforts. On the flip side, his father (Martin Sheen - who really is his father IRL) is a simple airline mechanic who doesn't quite understand Bud's obsessions given a much more moderate concept of success.

On a gamble, Bud manages to visit Gekko on his birthday. With the gift of some Cuban cigars in hand, Gekko decides to let Bud make a short pitch, but Bud's initial stock ideas are not of interest to him. Going out on a limb, Bud finally discusses the value of Bluestar Airlines as an investment opportunity using knowledge he had gained from his father, who works with the airline. This finally piques Gekko's interest and eventually the two start to do business. But Gekko's path to success is a hard one to follow given the many risks he take. However Bud is determined to follow this path to the top as best as he can, no matter the cost.

The movie plays out like a modern parable of sorts or some sort of stage play set to film. We have Bud as the young man wanting to be successful without fully understand what that really means for him. His father presents the slow-moving path of hard work and determination. Gekko represents an alternate father figure who offers the get-rich-quick world of the stock market. And thus Bud ends up choosing one or the other in the course of the movie as he tries to make a name for himself.

Charlie Sheen did a pretty good job in this film, I have to admit. Sure, he still has those moments when he puts on that faraway blank look that is the trademark of a lot of his movies. But the rest of the time you can believe that he's a pretty keen and intelligent individual whose determination and drive could move mountains. His character is all emotions, passion and drive and Sheen is able to carry this throughout the movie.

Michael Douglas obviously performed amazingly in the movie, and I'm not just basing this statement on the fact that he won an Academy award and a Golden Globe for his portrayal of the ruthless Gekko. And his character isn't one that you totally hate - he's a lot more complex than that. But his willingness to acquire insider information in order to gain the edge in his trades is what tips him over the line into that dark realm we associate with "wrong".

The movie is loaded with so many quotable Gekko quotes - the kind that I'm sure a lot of modern business men mention all the time as their mantras. The best of them is most probably the line, "The point is ladies and gentlemen that greed, for lack of a better word, is good." That one statement captured the corporate culture of the time period better than any use of genre-specific costumes or music. And thus this helps further paint the picture of what Gekko represents as a path in life for the young Bud.

Oh, and Daryl Hannah is in this movie too, for which she won a Razzie. Gekko's huge-ass phone put on a better performance than she did, hehe.

On the whole, Wallstreet is a compelling and pretty much amazing movie in its own right. It's definitely a must-see for drama fans or those interested in the stock market. It gets 4.5 highlights of 1980's technology out of a possible 5. It's widely available on DVD, given it even won awards for the quality of its features.

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