Year Released: 2010
Directed by: Oliver Stone
Starring: Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Carey Mulligan Frank Langella, Josh Brolin
(PG-13, 136 min.)
"Make money your god and it will plague you like the devil." H. L. Mencken
Oliver Stone’s sequel to his 1987 triumph is basically a jazzed up melodrama mitigated by Michael Douglas reprising his Oscar winning role as the villainous rogue we all love to hate. It’s worth the price of admission alone just to see that reptilian charm draw us in all over again.
Our first view of Gordon Gekko is his release from prison as the guard returns his worldly possessions, that laughably bulky mobile phone, an iconic symbol of the “decade of greed,” that myopic moniker for the Reagan years, as if greed were ever limited to a mere 10 years.
Gordon Gekko, whose initials aptly remind us of his money quote from the original, “Greed is good,” seems to have seen the light now. He has written a book from behind bars and now lectures to newly rapt youngsters about the mother of all evils – speculation. “Money is not the prime asset in life,” he intones. “Time is.”
And Gordon has lost a considerable amount of it. It takes him nearly a decade to claw himself up to a swanky Manhattan apartment – it’s only rented – and he rides the subway home from his crowed lectures instead of a limousine.
His only child, Winnie (Carrie Mulligan), has never forgiven his lapses as a father, blaming him for the drug overdose death of her brother (and Gekko’s only son) during his imprisonment. Yet, as much as she loathes her father and everything he stands for, ironically the “leftist blogger” is totally in love with another Wall Street man.
But Jacob Moore (Shia LaBeouf) is not cut from the same cloth as Gekko. He is somewhat of an idealist, dedicated to new sources for green energy, and wholly devoted to Louis Zabel (Frank Langella), the man who mentored his brilliant but impoverished gold caddy to become junior member of his firm.
Lou, the first name of director Oliver Stone’s real life stock-broker father, is an old timer, someone who does things the right way, and he is befuddled by the latest aberrations on the street, where the institutions seem to be making a profit on worthless assets. Lou is obviously the good father archetype to his surrogate son Jacob, contrasting with Gordon Gekko with his corrupt ways and past as a failed father.
The events of September 2008 and the financial shock that still rebounds today, set in motion the plot of familial loyalty, betrayal, and reconciliation that reverberates throughout the rest of the film. But somewhere along the way, the inimitable Stone seems to lose his direction.
The camera focuses on the New York, the shining city on a hill, certainly a contrast to the dirty mean streets of that same city more realistically presented in 1971’s The French Connection. Each glass tower outshines the one before; the angular architecture winds itself around us like some modern serpent creeping up our legs. Then the camera spans a lavish charity ball, lingering on the vast array of jeweled earrings that compete for the Marie Antoinette conspicuous consumption award, and we somehow feel that as much as he might deny it, Stone is falling for all this, too, pretending to be repelled by the whore that seduces him.
Then, as if to slap himself on his face to get over it, we are presented with another sort of villain, one who is also part of the dysfunctional family dynamic that underlies everything. Susan Sarandon plays Sylvia Moore, Jacob’s mother who is a kind of real estate junkie, buying up more and more houses on the margin and coming to her son for bailouts, a kind of small end preview of the what the too big to fail institutions would do later.
And then there’s the real villain, Bretton James (Josh Brolin), such an unctuous and slimy Wall Street player, that Gekko feels almost righteous in his presence. Much of the film’s energy is taken up by Gekko and Moore teaming up to uncover the details of his dirty trail.
So the greedy realtors and the banks that dumped their toxic derivatives are nailed, but what about those that set up the bubble in the first place, the ones who initiated the subprime crisis in the first place? No, Oliver Stone makes no mention of our self-righteous politicians who used their powers of persuasion to more or less force these banking institutions to give mortgages to so many high-risk individuals. Even today, the next subprime crisis is building again and the government has not moved to stop subprime lending; it has merely taken it over. They are again lending 100 percent of the home price to borrowers who can’t afford it.
But this is a screenplay that even Hollywood would find hard to dream up. Maybe they are safer to ignore this new financial bubble and make more picture shows drooling over New York’s skyline and skewering Wall Street’s fat cats.
The first attempt at reconciliation between Winnie Gekko and her infamous dad does not go well. Gordon hopes to recapture a measure of family memories and chooses the same Chinese restaurant – Shun Lee’s of New York is where it was filmed –that the family used to frequent every Sunday night.
He even remembers Winnie’s favorite, the Ginger Lobster, and orders it for her. But Gordon stumbles into his old ways when he sees the editor of Vainity Fairwalk by and he rises to glad hand him. Ironically, the editor doesn’t even recognize the man who once was king of the glitterati who graced its covers. But what would one expect from a publication named after that allegorical city meant to represent “man’s sinful attachment to worldly things?”
Seeing that the new Gordon still acts a lot like the old Gordon, Winnie storms off before she even has a bite of her old time favorite.
Well, you don’t have to rush off in such a hurry, so why not enjoy this delicious, and only slightly decadent luxury. I’ve rejected the rather tedious Wolfgang Puck version of the dish and opted for this homey and simplified version from Vicki, courtesy of the equally homey Chowhound.com. Let’s forget the pretensions and just enjoy the food, right down to the “Oops, I forgot one part “ addendum to the recipe.
Cantonese Ginger Lobster
Chop up one or two fresh 1-1/2 lb lobsters (including legs and heads split down the middle) into big pieces. Julienne a whole bunch of scallions (just the green part) into 1 - 1/2" lengths. Do the same with a 1-1/2" knuckle of peeled fresh ginger.
Heat a generous puddle of corn oil or peanut oil (not olive oil) in a wok or large pot. When it gets hot, add a few thick slices of ginger to flavor the oil. When the oil is almost smoking, pick out the ginger before it burns & goes bitter, and then throw in the lobster.
Let the lobsters kind of roast a minute on really high heat. Shake the pot a few times to turn them. The juices will start to run out, so turn the heat down to medium-high before the juices all burn off. After the shell goes red and the lobster starts to go opaque, toss in the scallion & ginger threads, mix well, and then add a dash of sherry (white) or Chinese rice wine. Cover the pot and let it finish cooking.
I forgot the cornstarch. This gives the lobster juices enough body to stick to the lobster. Dissolve it a few tablespoons of water and throw it with the scallion, ginger, and sherry.
Courtesy of Vicki Vale
Recipe Source: Chowhound.com