Go see Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

This is a public service announcement. If nothing else is going to get you to the indie movie theater near you to watch the recently released documentary Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, I must take it upon myself to encourage you the best way I know how: writing about it, letting random unedited thoughts pour out like the crazy person I am, if for no other reason, a documentary like Enron should make your average American a crazy person…and not just any crazy person...a pissed off, incensed crazy person. So go see it, if not right now, then as soon as you can. Tell your friends. Spread the word. The message is shocking, alarming, troubling, but you need to hear it. And I want you to hear it because I care, and because I feel I should do whatever I can to make up for lost ground in what has been a scant distribution and upsettingly inadequate marketing effort.

On that note, let me vent for a second on the upsetting inadequateness of the marketing effort. I worked in film marketing for a year, and I’ve gotta say: the campaign for this documentary sucks ass. It’s weak, watered down, and as downplayed as the Kerry-Edwards shot. Michael Moore’s first film, Roger & Me, had a bigger push than this, when clearly, Enron should have been bigger than Fahrenheit 9/11. What’s wrong with these people? It’s as though they’re trying as hard as they can to discourage people from seeing the film. I’d even go as far as to say there’s something shady about the quietness of its theatrical release, but I’ll spare you the speculation.

Simply put, this documentary should have been promoted with widespread passion and fervor, surpassing the commotion and hype awaiting F911, except without the reckless endangerment risk of aiding its villain. I know Enron didn’t have the driving force of Miramax’s Brothers Weinstein behind it, but come on, don’t just toss it into art house big city theater circulation, dooming it to an affluent, educated, liberal audience. That’s underestimating the film’s potential to bring this story to more hearts and minds than American Idol and Oprah, since it’s accessible and easy to understand. Actually, it’s is so user-friendly, I could understand the parts that dealt with the stock market, which also means that a quarter-wit could understand them too.

And what was with teaser line, “Come see where all your money went”? It limits the audience even further to people who lost money in the Enron scandal. Why should anyone else bypass seeing House of Wax to give a shit? Well, there are so many reasons to give a shit that I can’t even begin to tell you, and while Americans losing money is on the list, it is by no means the only one worth promoting.

And speaking of money, about four grand, tops, went into promoting this movie, and that’s a safe exaggeration. But seriously, Enron’s release was a peep on the radar, gone as fast as the scandal from the newswire. And don’t give me that budgetary constraint bullshit. I spied prominent businessman/reality TV star Mark Cuban on the executive producer credit list, and he’s got more money than Enron squandered. Not to mention the film was cheap, save a couple expensive soundtrack selections, which could have been bypassed in favor of billboards, TV spots, and other effective ways of public manipulation. The studios have no problem using them; why should a real “event movie” like Enron take a left turn into indieville obscurity?

If critical acclaim is what you’re after, go to Cannes and stay there. But if you have the resolve to cinematically go after one of the biggest, most fundamentally wrong corporate scandals ever, at least have the respect for your excellent source material (the book of the same title) to really get the message to as many Americans as possible. If the documentary is to educate the viewer, don’t hide from it - take the opportunity to educate, not like a tasteful fourth grade teacher, like a zealot, like you really believe in your work and its potential to inspire others to action.

There’s so much to learn - the closely Enron-tied Bush family, the deregulation of the California energy industry and its subsequent role in Gray Davis’ total recall, the deception of our foremost banking institutions are only a few of the interesting facts, and unlike F911, all the facts are unquestionably true…hard to believe, no doubt, but true. At times, the documentary digresses into morality issues, wondering how these men could do what they did and coming up with nothing but greediness. That’s beside the point. Yeah, Enron stole money from innocent Americans. But what is most troubling is not that they did it, but that they could, and they got away with it, and that as a country, those in power continue to put more faith in our corporations than our government, and we the people continue to let them.

In what was perhaps the most effectively edited clip, Ronald Reagan stood on his bully pulpit and spewed his deregulation rhetoric, the ideology that bred such bastards as Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling, remarking with impeccable delivery: “The government is not the solution. The government is the problem.” Well, guess what, Ronnie old boy? That wisdom goes down as your biggest idiotic bullshit since you tried to pawn Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” off as your flag-loving patriotic campaign ditty. Thanks for the memories, and for helping create the economic conditions that allowed a monster like Enron to rise up and wreak havoc in your home state. Now please redeem yourself by forgetting you ever were a Republican, coming back to life, getting back up on the podium, and urging people to go see Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. And while you’re at it, make those crooks give my mom and all the other Enron/PGE employees back their 401k and pensions.

I have much more to say, but I’ll just shut up for now and leave you to your own devices. There’s only so much impassioned brainwashing I can do before I start to feel obtrusive and outright annoying. With that said, and with all delusions of a resurrected Reagan now behind me, I urge you to please, please go see Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, and I sincerely thank you for the time we’ve spent together.


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