Talking Movies

November 11, 2020

Any Other Business: Part LXIII

As the title suggests, so forth.

The Manchurian Candidate and the GOP

I was reading Richard Condon’s 1959 novel The Manchurian Candidate in the last few days and was extremely disconcerted to find what seemed to be the language of the present moment.

I will be representing the Senate, you might say – and I will be there to remind the forgetful rulers of Europe and England that the United States was established not as a democracy but as a Federal Union and Republic that is controlled by the United States Senate, at this moment in our history, through a state-equality composition designed to maintain this establishment and that it exists, in the present moment of our history, to protect minorities from the precipitate and emotional tyranny of majorities.

There is no list…

Spotify these 60 songs for a 90s mood

John Williams – JFK theme // Smashing Pumpkins – Tonight Tonight // Garbage – I’m Only Happy When it Rains // Natalie Imbruglia – Torn // Sixpence None the Richer – Kiss Me // Nirvana – Heart-Shaped Box // Blur – To the End // Thomas Newman – Dead Already // Red Hot Chili Peppers – I Could Have Lied // Garbage – Stupid Girl // REM – Radio Song // U2 – Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me // John Williams – Jurassic Park theme // Smashing Pumpkins – Porcelina of the Vast Oceans // Massive Attack – Angel // Madonna – Bedtime Story // U2 – Numb // Radiohead – Let Down // Portishead – All Mine // Smashing Pumpkins – Today // Guns’n’Roses – You Could Be Mine // Madonna – Ray of Light // Garbage – I Think I’m Paranoid // U2 – The Fly // Massive Attack – Risingson // Red Hot Chili Peppers –Under the Bridge // Angelo Badalamenti – Twin Peaks theme // Pixies – Motorway to Roswell // Bjork – Isobel // Madonna – Vogue // Beastie Boys – Sure Shot // Metallica – Enter Sandman // White Town – Your Woman // Gala – Freed from Desire // Underworld – Born Slippy // Republica – Ready to Go // Pixies – Alec Eiffel // Alan Silvestri – Point of No Return // The Chemical Brothers – Hey Boy, Hey Girl // Massive Attack –Safe from Harm // Blur – Trimm Trab // Nirvana – Lithium // REM – Losing My Religion // Blur – The Universal // Green Day – Time of Your Life (Good Riddance) // Blur – Parklife // Portishead – Glory Box // Radiohead – Just // Pixies – Velouria // Beastie Boys – Intergalactic // Kula Shaker – Tattva // Portishead – Strangers // Happy Mondays – Step On // Red Hot Chili Peppers – Give it Away // REM – Man on the Moon // Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit // John Williams – Duel of the Fates // Beastie Boys – Sabotage // Radiohead – Creep // Pulp – Common People

November 2, 2010

Enron

Velociraptors in the basement, sex in the boardroom, trading shares to techno music, and wielding light-sabres in the dark; just another day at the office in Lucy Prebble’s demented satire Enron.

Director Rupert Goold picked up his second Olivier award this year for his energetic interpretation of her script which rambunctiously charts the rise and fall of Enron under the stewardship of CEO Jeffrey Skilling. An impressive trading exchange dominates the stage, which runs Enron’s share price across its screen, and onto which TV footage from the era, including Alan Greenspan’s ‘irrational exuberance’ speech, is projected. Much like The Silver Tassie, which it succeeded in the Gaiety, Enron is a play with music rather than a musical. Composer/lyricist Adam Cork only writes three genuine musical numbers, including a jaunty 1920s style routine complete with cane-twirling by cheerleading financial analysts (“He’s our man/If Jeff can’t do it, no one can!”), and a show-stopping hymn to the market when Skilling’s dream of an in-house trading floor becomes a reality with chanted verses of price movements to juddering techno yielding to ambient backed choruses of reverence by the traders for Gold or Aluminium or whatever commodity is going up. Elsewhere Cork’s sound design is high-octane dance music and Guns’n’Roses’ ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ for a slow-motion physical theatre depiction of Skilling’s lethal team-building automotive weekends.

Prebble’s script develops four characters in detail and surrounds them with a circus of caricatures, the most amusing of which include the easily persuaded conjoined twins the Lehman Brothers and the equivocating auditors Arthur Andersen, one man and his truth-telling puppet. Sara Stewart (Batman Begins’ Martha Wayne) is Claudia Roe, the only executive who questions Skilling’s wisdom. Her insistence on building a power plant in India is continuously derided as passé, physically making electricity instead of just trading it, but in the end the plant is the only tangible asset remaining. Clive Francis is wonderfully despicable as Ken Lay, whose avuncular folksiness is only maintained by not asking questions he knows have uncomfortable answers. Paul Chahidi is magnificent as financial wunderkind Andy Fastow whose hero-worship of Skilling extends as far as naming his son Jeffrey. Fastow sees the smartest guy in the room succeeding and to hell with the social niceties he can’t master, but Skilling turns out not to be that clever as (to the bitter end) he cannot see that other people can’t and won’t ‘catch-up’ to his schemes. Corey Johnson (Hellboy’s retiring partner) deserves high praise for making his arrogant protagonist charismatic enough to be sympathetic.

Skilling’s new accounting system logs future revenue as present revenue, but present expenses are actually present, which quickly leaves him in debt. Fastow explains to Skilling with the help of a laser-pen that if his cavernous basement office is the debt that needs to be hidden, selling it to ‘independent’ entities which only need 3% of non-Enron stock to be independent, Fastow can use a tiny amount of Enron stock to create almost infinite layers of shadow entities he calls ‘raptors’ so that “this red dot fills the whole room”. Fastow later finds two hatched eggs, nervously asking “Is there anyone down here?” a velociraptor appears, “Clever girls”, and a blackout leaves only the raptor’s red eye visible – a precursor of the madness of the second act. Lay’s politicking with Dubya destroys energy regulation and a cash-strapped Skilling sends in his traders to profiteer from creating rolling blackouts in California. A darkened stage is lit up by choreographed traders wielding light-sabres as Skilling barks orders before the light-sabres power-off on Skilling’s jibe: “You want to know the difference between California and the Titanic? When the Titanic went down it still had lights on”. But this tactic destroys Enron’s reputation and share-price precipitating the catastrophic end.

An incarcerated Skilling defiantly addresses the audience, his peroration is disturbingly thought-provoking; not just progress but also love and parenting depend on irrational exuberance -“The best things I did in my life I did in a bubble. When there was that atmosphere of total hope, and trust…and stupidity”.

4.5/5

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