October 11, 2009

The Evils of Free Enterprise

Having seen Capitalism: A Love Story last week, The Informant! was an appropriate follow-up. First: Michael Moore is a polarizing figure; you hate him or you love him. I happen to like his work. And the rest of my fellow audience members did too, indicated by the applause at the end of the movie. He has tackled big business, the Bush presidency, guns and healthcare. It was only a matter of time before Mr. Moore indicted America's economic system and corporate greed. For all his theatrics like trying to get our money back from Wall Street or making a citizen's arrest of CEOs, his movies are always strongest and the most touching when he's showing stories of real people, real Americans. The documentarian remains such a provocateur that I wanted a torch and pitchfork after watching his latest work. One good thing: after the movie's release, lawmakers are now looking into the "dead peasants insurance". Did you know some companies take out insurance policies without their employees' knowledge, naming themselves as beneficiaries so they can collect the money when the workers pass away? Click here to see if your company may be one of them.

Now if you haven't had your fill of anti-capitalism, how about Matt Damon as whistleblower Mark Whitacre in Steven Soderbergh's The Informant!? As a young bioproducts division president, he became FBI's inside man in its 1990s investigation of agri-business giant ADM (Archer Daniels Midland) for price-fixing. Scott Bakula and Joel McHale play the FBI agents Brian Shepard and Bob Herndon. If like me, you don't know anything about the case, then the movie will be a pleasant surprise. It is an intriguing, exasperating look at the life of a corporate mole. The voice-overs initially are funny until we find out more about the man. Marvin Hamlisch's brilliant score feels off-kilter yet somehow appropriate to what's unfolding onscreen. Mr. Soderbergh maintains a mostly whimsical feel to the film, almost flippant, despite Mr. Whitacre's deepening crises. Matt Damon is at his best. There's too much talk about his piling on the pounds to play this character, but not enough about what a talented actor he really is. He is, by turns, frustrating, funny, tragic, campy, but ultimately pitiable. This was a great, confusing, and thought-provoking movie. You can almost palpably tell George Clooney was involved in it.

(photos from here)


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