Orbiting Around Money


During my heyday years, I was a  consummate movie fan.  I lived a few blocks from the Lux Theater at Avenida Perú, so this venue was my second home.  Then I got married, and slowly detached myself from the silver screen.

Yesterday, I decided to return to a motion movie venue  in an effort to find out how Oliver Stone created a sequel to the 1987 original movie Wall Street based on the controversial and powerful character of Gordon Gekko.  I can still  remember his famous speech about Greed is Good.

Wall Street:  Money Never Sleeps is not as good as the original, but it convinced me of its intention to entertain.  Michael Douglas showing his age, depicted a more mellow investment trader.  The agressivness of the first movie was subdued, but there were still flashbacks of his earlier years as a corporate raider.  Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf), Bretton James (Josh Brolin), and  Winnie Gekko (Carey Mulligan) played their roles well, but not to the heights of the original picture.

I loved the terrific background music, the beautiful pictures of Manhattan’s skyline and the description of the real events which took place during the burst of the sub-prime mortgage bubble.  I could easily follow the financial mumbo-jumbo of the picture,  such as derivatives, collateralised debt obligations, leveraged corporations, hedge funds, credit default swaps, moral hazard, too big to fail, and of course, the lust for money.

If you saw the original movie and have been following the events that led to the worst financial crisis in modern times, this movie will give you glimpses of the sale of Bear Stearns to JPMorgan Chase, scenes of the financial meltdown itself on September of 2008, and the rumors and practices that brought down AIG, Bear Stearns, Merril Lynch, Washington Mutual, Wachovia, Lehman Brothers, Freddie Mac, and Fannie Mae.

Oliver Stone brings to light the gamble played by Wall Street bankers, who were responsible for creating and trading complex financial products that were based on derivatives and debt-laden loans, the value of these loans being very difficult to determine even by the stoutest of financial experts. I plan to write about the role played by the mysterious high priests of Wall Street who created complex lines of code to predict the performance of financial instruments.  They are known as Quants and their story is very intriguing, to say the least.

One of the best scenes in this movie is the lecture that he gives at Jacob’s alma mater about the foreseeable financial crises. It was reminiscent of the speech he gave in the first film about money and greed.

In a nutshell, the picture was not as brilliant as the first one, but accomplishes the goal of entertaining.  In that sense, it was “Mission Accomplished”—using George W. Bush’s unfortunate words.  This isn’t a bad movie, but I still recommend the first one over this any day. One thing is certain, Michael Douglas won’t win another Oscar for this version of Gekko.

I took my Birthday camera with me and took a couple of shots to capture my return to the movies after a long hiatus of roughly forty years.  I enjoyed the come back immensely.  Here we go.

Photograph of the entrance of Cinépolis Theater at the second floor of Metro Mall in Panama City, Panama. Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
Photograph of a general view of the venue. There is a nice cafeteria inside its premises to pull more money out of your pockets. Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
Photograph of movie-goers lining up to buy their tickets at the entrance of the venue. I shot this picture from the cafeteria. Photograph by ©Omar Upegui R.
Photograph of a well decorated wall with posters of movies currently being projected at Cinépolis. You can see the Wall Street poster on the second row from top to bottom towards your left. Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.

Photograph of a movie ticket. The date is Sunday, October 3, 2010. The price is $1.95 including VAT. It clearly indicates that the ticket is for retired persons (Tercera Edad Class). The hour of the projection was 01:55 p.m. Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.

Soon I’ll post an article about the Quants, also known as the Alchemists of Wall Street. Their story is bigger than life.  Their quantitative models will help us understand the financial transactions which took place within the walled gardens of Wall Street.  Good Day.

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