Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Wait a minute ... you mean a 401K isn't some kind of road race?: "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room"

This week on socially-responsible theater: "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room." When the missus said we should see a movie on Memorial Day, this was the best we could agree on -- her because she likes financial and stock market mumbo jumbo, me because I think "Ken Lay" is a funny name.

Because it's a documentary, "Enron" probably isn't going to make as much -- or 1/100th -- the money of an "Episode III." Hell, "House of Wax" will beat its ass. But smart people need to see this -- not because you should, but because it's a fantastic tale of corporate greed followed by a brutal downfall. Put another way, this is a Michael Moore movie with all the facts and none of the preening fat slob. That's a good thing. Strike that ... a very good thing.

As we all know, Enron was a hot company (and stock) that turned out to be a big sham, and when it went bankrupt, a buttload of people lost their jobs and retirement plans. The trial of top execs Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling is scheduled for January, and it's safe to say this won't be an exhibit for the defense, with director Alex Gibney essentially reaming these two guys and CFO Andy Fastow for ripping off people while driving Enron into the ground.

Flagging the best part of this movie is tough since there are several moments when you can't help shaking your head and muttering, "These f*cking guys ... " But what really hit home for me were the recorded phone conversations of Enron traders during the California energy crisis. It's bad enough that Enron may have been manipulating power to keep prices high. But when traders are happy that California wildfires have curbed power generation at one plant -- "Burn, baby, burn!" one guy said -- you want to call up Gibney and say, "Just give me a name. That's all I need. Just a name. I'll take care of the rest."

As others have noted, Enron has since been eclipsed as the nation's biggest bankruptcy. (Hello, WorldCom!) Still, because these guys were so cocky and the Enron slogan of "Ask Why" is so deliciously ironic -- Enronic? -- this movie hits a home run. It just sucks that all those employees got the big screw while the top dogs cashed out. But hey, there's still time to bring back drawing-and-quartering as an acceptable sentence before Kenny Boy and Jeff go on trial, right?


Post a Comment

<< Home