Zero Dark Thirty

January 28th, 2013

After her Oscar-winning PTSD saga The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow went extremely low-key with her follow-up effort Zero Dark Thirty (Army parlance for half past midnight). The movie is a blow-by-blow account of the events that led to the eventual death of the dreaded terrorist Osama Bin Laden. Anyway, what you are about to read is not a review. It’s an intervention.

Ever since the movie released it has been subjected to a lot of censure for its near-accurate depiction of waterboarding. The US Senate condemned it unanimously by saying that torture techniques was not what led to the eventual capture of Osama.

In a stunningly original critique of the movie, Ramzi Kassem wrote in the Al Jazeera that “Zero Dark Thirty lionizes those who ordered and implemented torture. In this respect, the filmmakers are complicit in reinforcing the impunity shielding the culprits”. But Kassem’s arguments have their flaws.

Bigelow never ventured out to put a spin on the original happenings. She could have been accused of that for Hurt Locker but not for this. The movie is largely faithful to Mark Boal’s astringent and factual script. Earlier last year, New Yorker’s Dexter Filkins wrote an enormous piece on how American pullout from Afghanistan is going to be eventually a messy affair.

About how the Afghan National Army can never really protect the Afghans from the terrorists. The recent spate of attacks in Pakistan on polio vaccination workers too is inextricably linked to CIA’s operation of employing a fake vaccination campaign to ferret out the details of the Abbottabad house where Osama lived his last days.

In the times that we are living in, the printed word has lost its currency. It’s the cinema that is burning the images into our cortex currently. Zero Dark Thirty has many such images. The last 45 minutes where CIA makes its plans on how to attack Osama and how finally the Navy SEALS carried it out to the T is a lesson that will forever resonate in the annals of history. 2012 had another CIA movie Argo, which made a mockery of the organization and somehow the world unwittingly loved that.

Ben Affleck’s caricaturish attempt to recreate an original event that took place in Iran is a total washout of a film that has unbelievably captured the audience. Probably the world doesn’t deserve Zero Dark Thirty yet.

del.icio.us:Zero Dark Thirty digg:Zero Dark Thirty newsvine:Zero Dark Thirty reddit:Zero Dark Thirty Y!:Zero Dark Thirty

The Queen of Versailles

November 27th, 2012

Ever since the global financial industry went kaput in the fall of 2008, the 99% have been an enraged lot. The Occupy Wall Street movement showed this chasm in its starkest hue. But are the 1% really to be reviled this much? This borderline-blasphemous thought struck me after watching the harrowing-but-oh-so-beautiful documentary called The Queen of Versailles.

In 2007, Lauren Greenfield chose to document the riches of David Siegel, a time-sharing mogul, the founder and CEO of Westgate Resorts. The time-sharing model works like this: Imagine a wonderful apartment in a place of your choice that you can  use for the same week of every year for a token amount. Siegel tapped this middle-class American ambition to create what eventually proved to be a Frankenstein’s monster.

In the man’s own words, he was given “cheap money”, which is the junk bonds dressed up attractively. Like a junkie, he also says he was “pushed” into building more resorts, of which the neo-plus ultra would be in Las Vegas.

Greenfield was initially supposed to document this decadence in a hagiographic manner but then she struck gold in 2008. What helped her wonderful documentary is Siegel’s trophy wife, Jacqueline Siegel, a former Miss Florida, and her love for extreme luxuries. Jackie, as she would be referred to in the docu, is really the lynchpin.

The title derives from the massive mansion that the Siegels were building on 90,000 sq ft land in Orlando, which is inspired from the palace in Versailles, France. The initial half-an-hour is a romp and charts out the lavish lifestyle of the Siegels. David talks how he got George Bush re-elected and how Donald Trump and he are chummies. But things get really interesting when the family is pushed into an austerity drive. The kids go to public school and the support staff gets reduced. There’s unattended dog poop all over. Greenfield’s camera just creeps under the viewer’s skin.

There’s a very evocative scene where one of the seven kids asks his mother after their first public airline trip, “Who are these people on the plane travelling with us?”. The triumph of The Queen of Versailles is how humane the people come across as.

At the near end of the docu, David says that he is not happy with his marriage and that having a wife is a bit “like raising a child”. Watch The Queen of Versailles to know how the grass on the other side is no more greener, while Greenfield is busy fighting a defamation suit from David.

del.icio.us:The Queen of Versailles digg:The Queen of Versailles newsvine:The Queen of Versailles reddit:The Queen of Versailles Y!:The Queen of Versailles

Kindled spirit

October 10th, 2012

Let’s get on with our lives by presuming that every time Amazon launches an iteration of its blockbusting product Kindle there will be people who’ll lament at it and beat their chests like King Kong. These people are self-proclaimed page huggers who think that an electronic device can’t replace the gooey feeling evoked by words on page. I am one of those people but I’m an agnostic one. Here’s why.

A couple of years ago writer Vikram Chandra said at the Jaipur Lit Fest that a book is a form of technology too. You don’t pluck a book from a tree. Then you have charming charlatans like Nicholas Carr saying that we only skim while reading online while our mind is more focused when reading a book. I wish he only spoke for himself. With the forthcoming generations being Internet children their neural wiring will be well-acquainted with squinting their eyes while reading on a computer if they have to.

The Kindle publishing is a tiny bit of a revolution in itself. Everyone who has a book within them can bring it out without going through all the soul-sapping rigmarole of finding a literary agent, pitching to publishing houses etc etc. It’s a different thing that most books within most of us need to be asphyxiated. But for those who really deserve to be read now have a genuine outlet.

So this deep-seated romanticism of printed words is a futile exercise. That said, I wouldn’t want anyone to completely shift towards the Kindle. A book is as much an accessory as a belt or a watch is. That opening scene in Before Sunrise is turbocharged with the books that the lead characters are reading. If you’re reading a Kindle I wouldn’t know if it’s a Dostoevsky or a bodice ripper that you’re enmeshed in. You can’t get a book signed by an author. The joke in Brooklyn literary circles was of how someone arm twisted Jonathan Franzen, a Kindle hater, to sign the Kindle version of Freedom. A Kindle can resemble an iPod with you cramming it up with truckloads of books and never getting around to reading them without getting any guilt pangs.

My personal record is that I read a solitary one out of every ten books that I buy. I still read that one book because of the plaintive looks it gives me from the corner of the room. We still need bookstores. They are the arbiters of taste not some brain-dead Amazon if-you-like-this-you’ll-like-this-as-well algorithm. But of course the bookstore people need to behave that they cannot sell shoes with similar ease. Treat Kindle as a convenience device and that should keep you in good stead. I mean, the air hostess can’t ask you shut down the book because the flight is taking off while the electronic devices need to be asleep at that moment.

del.icio.us:Kindled spirit digg:Kindled spirit newsvine:Kindled spirit reddit:Kindled spirit Y!:Kindled spirit

Needed: Olympian attitude

August 14th, 2012

Sports Minister Ajay Maken feels India cannot expect to win more medals in Olympics as it has a poor Human Development Index (HDI) and low per capita Income. At six medals, it wasn’t a bad haul at all for us this time around. But before you join the deafening chorus of “Mary Kom, the Super Mom”, take a look at the medals table and you can’t not notice that North Korea is way above us with four gold medals.

Now, this is the same North Korea where half the population subsists on one-square meal, which might as well be nibbling the scrawny legs of rats. The thing is that even the hideous DPRK has a semblance of a sporting encouragement system in place. While our politicians, both at Centre and state, who are falling over one another to shower money on the medal winners, weren’t to be seen during the athletes’ trying times.

Maken’s remark is quite reminiscent of the point made in the the book Poor Economics, where MIT economists Abhijit V Banerjee and Esther Duflo attribute India’s dismal Olympic performance at least partly to very poor child nutrition. They document that rates of severe child malnutrition are much higher in India than in sub-Saharan Africa, despite the fact that most of sub-Saharan Africa is significantly poorer than India.

Let’s face it, even the healthier part of the country places far more emphasis on academic performances than sporting ones. We can crack the toughest of mathematical Olympiads, see through any IIT paper, solve the most unyielding physics problems but a hundred metre sprint is not within our DNA. Part of the blame lies with our obsession with cricket and another part is the fact that we treat athletes as freaks of the nature. Maybe this is why we still come up with occasional medals in individual events but come up a cropper in team events. If this attitude persists, we are doomed to be deemed by the world as one-trick ponies that can only provide back office support but have nothing else to show for themselves.

It’s not enough to goad the athletes from the comfy confines of our home through social networking sites. And I guess we’ll continue to be like this as long as we are served by governments that only care about destination but not the journey. For example, Maken needs to be shown this particular paragraph in a recent Grantland article written by Tyler Cowen and Kevin Grier, both academic economists: “Even the significant segment of the Indian population that grows up healthy is at a disadvantage relative to China. The Chinese economic development model has focused on investment in infrastructure; things like massive airports, high-speed rail, hundreds of dams, and, yes, stadiums, world-class swimming pools, and high-tech athletic equipment. And while India is a boisterous democracy, China continues to be ruled by a Communist party, which still remembers the old Cold War days when athletic performance was a strong symbol of a country’s geopolitical clout.”

My arguments might sound a tad lazy but then, lazy sporting attitudes and lazy sports managements probably deserve lazy commentary.

del.icio.us:Needed: Olympian attitude  digg:Needed: Olympian attitude  newsvine:Needed: Olympian attitude  reddit:Needed: Olympian attitude  Y!:Needed: Olympian attitude

All the Presidential men

July 3rd, 2012

The recently concluded, bitterly-fought Republican race for US Presidential nomination had a conscience that wasn’t to be seen at the one that just happened in our backyard. Yes, there were recriminations and some insanely dirty linen was washed in the public but there were some serious debates that took place too. I know that I’m comparing apples and oranges.

But my point is that why make brouhaha and feel slighted (cue Mamata Banerjee) over a post that is merely a five-year paid holiday for people in the twilight years? How does it matter who takes it up? Unless the post has more teeth it will continue to be the political equivalent of a trophy wife. Apart from giving the pre-Republic Day and Independence Day speeches, awarding the prizes prefixed with a Padma, the President is usually seen taking a stroll in the Mughal Gardens or on a junket to an exotic country.

Let the President’s rule in a state continue for at least six months. Let not the political parties browbeat the President into accepting their diktats (recall the Kalam-Bihar controversy). It was amusing to see that every bits and pieces politician found his/her 15 seconds of fame by waxing eloquent/stern about the Presidential candidates. Somnath Chatterjee was bemused when his name was floated around. The closed room discussions and intense secrecy over such a simple issue drove me to the wall. The finger-wagging news anchor was shrill in his blanket assumption that “India needs to know”.

What India really needs to know is that when will the reforms happen or when will the rupee scale back a little bit. India should hardly care about a post that is the last relic of its British past. It’s not that this election is anything as monumental as the 2008 US election: black man versus first woman. Can we even dream of a President aged in 50-55 range?

At least Pranab Mukherjee (unless Sangma pulls off a Houdini, which looks highly unlikely) might lend some authority to the seemingly figurehead position after his predecessor’s insipid five years. I might be missing the woods for the trees but so are the politicians and, in the latter situation, which was to be seen in the Ambedkar cartoon issue as well, bodes tremendous ill for the country.

del.icio.us:All the Presidential men digg:All the Presidential men newsvine:All the Presidential men reddit:All the Presidential men Y!:All the Presidential men

Super disappointment

May 8th, 2012

Six superheroes under one roof was enough for me to make an exception for a Hollywood Studio movie. How bad can The Avengers be I thought. I can see Robert Downey Jr read a phonebook. Captain America was one of the best superhero movies of recent times. Scarlet Johansson can pout her way through toughest of acting doors. Due to whatever reasons I missed out on the movie during the weekend and by then entire social media was done with oohing and aahing about the movie.

Anyway, I watched The Avengers on its sixth day of release along with copious demographics of 11-17. Then comes the opening scene where Tom Hiddlestone does a mild Joker act and I knew exactly what sort of a snoozefest this is going to be. First half trudges along but I knew that Disney (still smarting from its John Carter debacle) must have something up its sleeve in the second half. The climactic half-an-hour looks like a straight lift from— now all you The Avengers fans don’t issue a fatwa against me— Rajnikanth’s Robo.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t intend to write a review here. As a sporadic reader of Marvel comics I have no right to write a thoughtful review. My problem with the movie is that we are told throughout that the world is coming to an end. Call it the 9/11 paranoia or the white man’s lament or Marvel scam but the truth is that someone is cashing in on man’s primal fears. If that isn’t manipulative, then neither is Aamir Khan’s television show and Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption crusade.

In his persuasive new book The Better Angels of our Nature psychologist Steven Pinker argues that we are living in the most peaceful times right from the days of ancient history. “People living now are less likely to meet a violent death, or to suffer from violence or cruelty at the hands of others, than people living in any previous century,” Pinker says. But the popular culture would have none of it. The moviegoer is forever besaddled with doomsday movies like 2012 and the ilk.

What’s more, the slick packaging ensures that even kids are made to watch this SFX carnage and made to believe that you need a cape to fight the external forces, which don’t exist in the ‘normal’ world. I might sound like a geriatric with both his legs in the grave, who is anyway not the target audience. You, the diehard Avengers fan, might argue that it’s just a movie and no one really expects a superhero in real life. But then, we might not deem anyone who deals with his inner demons as a superhero, which he most definitely is. Why is it that we have an ever-burgeoning mass of kids playing video games (most of them deal with vanquishing unknown unknowns) holed up in their rooms? We dismiss them as nerds and that perpetuates within them to render them incapable of handling human situations.

It’s not so easy to dismiss this Avengers sort of pap as escapist entertainment. Psychologists tell us that the human brain lights up when these scenes of violence are portrayed on screen.

If anything, what this world needs is movies like Shame rather than drivel like Avengers. That raises a question that why did I even go to watch it if I knew exactly what I’ll be dished out. Answer: to write this blog.

PS: Here are two tweets making rounds on Twittersphere and should give you a decent idea on what sort of a scam Avengers is:

“Congrats to The Avengers for shattering box office records. Condolences to everyone trying to make movies about human beings.” @Ti_West

The Avengers took in over $200 million so they shouldn’t have a problem with giving me my $10 bucks back right?” @JBFlint

del.icio.us:Super disappointment digg:Super disappointment newsvine:Super disappointment reddit:Super disappointment Y!:Super disappointment

The Artist? Really?

March 25th, 2012

I pursed my lips quite tightly when Micheal Douglas presented the Best Director Oscar 2012 to Michael Hazanavicius, the man who made The Artist, a supposed paean to the era of silent cinema. Now, trust me, I have no problems over who wins Oscars. And I’m not being a contrarian for the sake of being contrarian. I watched it much earlier at a film festival and ever since I’ve been whistling in the wind about its non-existent brilliance. What really gets my goat is the way The Artist is being celebrated as a work of auteur.

Look at two of the other nominations for best director, Terence Malick and Martin Scorsese, and if celebration of cinema was really on top of the Academy’s agenda they should have gone for either of these two. Malick’s Tree Of Life combines Darwinism and coming-of-the-age American movie ethic to produce something that’s absolutely splendid. Scorsese, who directed Hugo, paid a bigger tribute to cinema through his cinematic homage to Georges Méliès, a forgotten filmmaker of the silent era.

I can see why The Artist won such wide recognition. At a time when death of irony is a foregone conclusion and cynicism reigns supreme, The Artist is the most uncynical movie of the recent times. It poses questions that are not uncomfortable. Yes, technology killed the romance of cinema and we are all guilty. But, hey, no one’s neck is on the guillotine. After all, as that cliche goes, change is the only constant in life. Pardon the digression and let’s look at the paint-by-numbers premise of the film. A successful silent-film hyphenate (Jean Dujardin) finds himself at sea once the industry transitions into the talkies and he is stuck in a rut. An ingenue (Berenice Bejo) who solicits his affection is suddenly sought after but not unlike a hooker in the movies, she too has a golden heart and still pines for Dujardin, who lost everything except a poodle and a chauffeur.

It still beats me how such a prosciutto-thin plot wasn’t strangled at the time of conception itself. Keeping in line with this slush is the pouting and one-dimensional acting of Dujardin, who apart from tilting his head, does nothing. Buster Keaton, the George Clooney of silent cinema with more talent, will roll in his grave looking at the way Hazanavicius distilled silent cinema into juiceless technicolor condescending garbage. Here’s what The Economist had to say about Dujardin’s pouting, “He mugs on screen, he mugs at the breakfast table. He operates in only one highly stylised mode of performance, making it impossible to tell the artist from his art.”

It still beats me how the Academy never gave two hoots about India’s Harischandrachi Factory, a far more nuanced look at silent cinema through the prism of that genius called Dadasaheb Phalke. This year, the Academy safely ignored the best movies, which I know is a relative term, like Drive, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Take Shelter etc., In this entire fracas, here’s what takes the cake: Cesar Awards are the French equivalent of Oscars and they gave the best actor award to Omar Sy for his relentlessly charming role in Intouchables.

del.icio.us:The Artist? Really? digg:The Artist? Really? newsvine:The Artist? Really? reddit:The Artist? Really? Y!:The Artist? Really?

Mind games

February 10th, 2012

Picture this: you’re on your way to a movie and you lost some money. There are high chances that you’ll still buy the ticket thinking of it as a minor dent in your decent-by-any-standards back account. However, if you lose the ticket you might think of it as double the charge and you might very well skip the movie. Both the situations look similar but they are not. According to his dazzling book Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman, a 2002 Noble laureate in Economics, your brain’s ‘System 2’ was at work in the former situation while ‘System 1’ was activated in the latter one.

System 1 is what stimulates our intuitions and our basic thinking automatically. While System 2 prods us to go beneath the surface and demands concentration. Aided by stupendous examples, Kahneman sets out to explain his hypothesis in an engaging manner. Sample this: “tired and hungry judges tend to fall back on the easier default position of denying requests for parole”. That begs the obvious question: If we know very well that System 2 is what drives the all-important decisions, why do we rely on the unreliable System 1? The answer is that System 2 is lazy. We don’t usually prefer to burn our grey cells when System 1 has something to offer to us readily.

Divided into five parts with the two Systems as the recurring theme Thinking, Fast and Slow can easily be titled as Psychoanalysis For Dummies. There’s absolutely no human tic that Kahneman leaves out in this 500-page monument for human brain. Here are a few names that he invented to describe the cognitive illusions a human is usually prone to: “illusion of validity,” “availability bias,” “endowment effect,” “anchoring” among many others. Illusion of validity means that what we perceive as a skill that we excel in is actually not very useful. Kahneman posits that at the heart of it a stock broker and a dart-throwing chimp have nothing much to distinguish. Availability bias alludes to the basic human tendency to evaluate a situation on the basis of past knowledge, which will be exaggerated. Traveling by train because there have been a couple of air crashes in the recent past is an example.

Endowment effect can be used to define situations where we attach higher significance/cost to things that we own than when they are owned by someone else. A common example is of selling stocks that are trading higher than the ones in the red. After all, losses loom larger than gains. Anchoring can be best explained through the following example, “If you consider how much you should pay for a house, you will be influenced by the asking price. The same house will appear more valuable if its listing price is high than if it is low.” Kahneman coins an abbreviation WYSIATI (What You See Is All There Is) for our Pavlovian reflex of focusing on existing evidence and ignoring absent evidence.

Will these terms help us curb our natural instincts is debatable but at least Kahneman, a Princeton University professor, makes sure that we have something to address retrospectively and probably avoid in the future. Thinking, Fast and Slow might resemble Malcolm Galdwell’s Blink, a book on intuition, but Kahneman combines his superb knowledge of behavioural economics and psychoanalysis to produce something monstrously original. It’s almost like watching David Lynch’s Mullholand Drive where your intellectual toolkit is reduced to nothing in no time. The reader is bound to have lot of gotcha moments. Here’s one, “The odds that “the odds of survival one month after surgery are 90%” is more reassuring than the equivalent statement that “mortality within one month of surgery is 10%.””

The chapter on “base rate concept” according to which we presume a lot of things without ever delving deeper into the missing pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, is the book’s major triumph. The book is a strong recommendation just for the way it exposes all the latent flaws within a human. When we witness an accident but someone else is already helping the victim we feel relieved of responsibility and get on with our usual work.

If there’s a problem with the book it has to be the glaring omission of the name of Sigmund Freud. In the 32 pages of endnotes, there’s not a single reference to the man deemed to be a one-man industry in the field of psychology in the first half of twentieth century. Freud may be regarded as a quack for his Oedipus Complex findings, which an experimental scientist like Kahneman will readily dispel as hallucinations. Still, Kahneman should have given Freud’s fancy theories a patina of respect. Apart from that, Thinking, Fast and Slow is an astonishingly brilliant book.

del.icio.us:Mind games digg:Mind games newsvine:Mind games reddit:Mind games Y!:Mind games

The Grim Reaper

January 9th, 2012

For anyone who cared about what’s going on in the world, the death of Christopher Hitchens was a Steve Jobs moment. When he died last month at the age of 62 due to esophageal cancer, it was the end of what may very rightfully be termed as a Hitchens era. There’s probably no major publication where Hitchens wasn’t published or translated. He was a regular writer for Slate and Vanity Fair. So vast was his erudition that he can be equally dexterous while talking about oral sex and waterboarding.

Hitchens’ journalistic oeuvre is a case study in the retention power of human brain. His friends, among whom are Iam McEwan, Salman Rushdie, Martin Amis, would recall that he used to recall verses and passages of the great masters of literature from the back of his hand. Nothing used to escape Hitchens hawk eye and his snark. He never endeared himself to the masses or maybe that’s how he wanted it. He was critical of Mother Teresa, Pope, Dalai Lama and even God. His book “God Is Not Great” is a, pardon the irony here, Bible for atheists. So caustic are his comments that the one at the receiving end is better off remaining silent.

Hitchens once branded Mother Teresa “a lying, thieving Albanian dwarf” and said: “She was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction.”

He also branded religion as “junk science” and claimed Christianity is “leaving us as the mockery of the world by pretending that we did not evolve.”

About Sarah Palin he said “She’s got no charisma of any kind [but] I can imagine her being mildly useful to a low-rank porn director.”

So brilliant are his turns of phrases, a result of his Oxbridge education, that he would elevate even the most mundane topic to the realms of fascination. He is known to have churned out perfectly readable essays in twenty minutes. Hitchens did have his own limitations though. One look at his copious amounts of work and you would notice that this man is a sexist par excellence. He once even wrote an essay for Vanity Fair on “why women aren’t funny”. There’s no woman in his exalted friends circle. None of the hagiographical essays that he wrote included a woman.

His championing of Iraq War too was a baffling decision and till date it’s a mystery why he defended George W Bush in his deluded decision to dig out the non-existent weapons of mass destruction. Having said that, Hitchens is one of the most original journalists you’ll ever read. None of his arguments, however misplaced, are bland or unoriginal. He is very prolific and is known to write his perfectly readable thousand-word column for Slate in flat twenty minutes.

It’s appropriate to have a coda in the form of a Salman Rushdie quote (about Hitchens) “the most indefatigable of allies and the most eloquent of defenders”.

del.icio.us:The Grim Reaper digg:The Grim Reaper newsvine:The Grim Reaper reddit:The Grim Reaper Y!:The Grim Reaper

Margin Call

December 1st, 2011

There has been massive literature on the financial recession that shook the world three years ago. However, not many movies have been made depicting the exact turn of events. Wall Street 2 was at most middling with the usual Oliver Stone empty bluster. First-time director PC Chandor’s Margin Call makes more than a decent attempt at plugging this ever-widening gap. In his fictional account of how Lehman Brothers bit the dust, Chandor shows how harrowing those 72 hours leading to the bankruptcy were.

In brokerage parlance, “margin call is a demand by a broker that an investor should deposit further cash to cover possible losses”. The large investment bank in the movie realises that it has too many junk bonds well past their sell-by date, which it can’t sell to the investors anymore unless it doesn’t mind cheating. Thus, this dictum: “There are three ways to make a living in this business: be first, be smarter, or cheat.”

Chandor’s camera is a fly on the wall and is uncomfortably close to the faces of the dramatis personae. The viewer is bound to feel the tension. There are no two ways about it. The bank’s chairman Jeremy Irons, who is modeled on, YES, Dick Fuld, delivers a masterly performance as the man who knows end is nigh but would still delude himself that a miracle is on the anvil.

Not just Irons, each actor, the bits-and-pieces ones included, perform their part with a gusto that these themes need. Chandor manages to give everyone sparkling dialogues. In the heat of the moment, Paul Bettany stands atop the skyscraper and gets philosophical with his subordinate Zachary Quinto, “When you’re this high, you’re not afraid that you might fall, you’re afraid that you’ll fall.”

In another delicate moment, Quinto’s colleague has an epiphany that he is just “pushing buttons” and making loads of money. “I might as well play roulette,” he says.

The movie’s denouement is equally heartrending when Kevin Spacey asks the brokers to go for the broke (pun not intended) and deceive their clients. When the game’s up and only one team of players knows that, it’s an absolute rampage. This is why the Occupy Wall Street protests fall flat on one level. This quote from Reuters journalist Felix Salmon should illustrate why, “Wall Street isn’t picking the pockets of the 99% and giving the proceeds to the 1%. It’s picking the pockets of the 1% and giving the proceeds to itself.”

del.icio.us:Margin Call digg:Margin Call newsvine:Margin Call reddit:Margin Call Y!:Margin Call