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The Film “Wall Street” by Oliver Stone

The entire infrastructure of a people’s culture (political, economic, artistic, educational institutions, etc.) is interwoven with personal impressions, ideas, attitudes, and emotions. In terms of cinema/film – the visual/fine arts realm – there is no exception. Perfectly epitomizing this premise is the quote “Does art reflect life? In movies, yes. Because more than any other art form, films have been a mirror held up to society’s porous face (Movie Quotes).” Successful capitalist / free-market driven societies and individuals apparently operate off the paradigm of acquiring political, military, economic, and technological prowess at any cost and to anyone’s expense. This kind of economic prowess is best illustrated from a cinematic point of view in the blockbuster 1987 hit, Wall Street. Directed by eclectic American film director/screenwriter, Oliver Stone and starring Michael Douglass, Charlie Sheen, and Darryl Hannah, Wall Street chronicles the expeditious rise and subsequent fall of ambitious stockbroker Bud Fox (Sheen). Fox’s ambition is fuelled by his desperate quest to be like his hero – the wealthy, deceitful corporate raider/tycoon – Gordon Gekko played by Michael Douglas. A role in which Warren Beatty and Richard Gere turned down, Douglass garnered his first and only Best Actor Academy Award for chilling portraying the unscrupulous, archetypal corporate executive of the 1980’s which even to this day exists. Wall Street exemplifies the extremism of economic prowess – corporate greed at any cost and to anyone’s expense.

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A dialogue based film, Wall Street is composed of formal and informal scenes that are different yet converge to substantiate the theme – corporate greed at any cost and to anyone’s expense. The first formal scene in the movie is Bud’s first encounter with Gekko – paying a visit to Gekko’s office on his birthday. During this meeting Bud gives Gekko a tip about Blue Star Airlines – a company in which Bud’s father (Carl), played by Sheen’s real father Martin, casually discussed with him in a previous informal scene. Formal scenes include the clashes between Bud and Carl, representing the opposing ideals of honesty vs. dishonesty, truth vs. deceit. Bud’s crushing realization of Gekko’s true character surfaces toward the end when he discovers Gekko’s true intent for Blue Star as well as the plan he orchestrates to make Gekko sell Blue Star can be considered formal scenes. The most pivotal of course is Gekko’s presentation at Teldar Paper in which he makes the infamous declaration “The point is ladies and gentlemen that greed, for lack of a better word, is good.“ The final formal scenes prove this prophesy wrong– greed is not good and only leads to trouble. Bud is arrested and although he entraps Gekko (the park scene in which he is wired) he will most likely face jail time.

Within the context of the informal scenes, Bud’s journey into the abyss of greed’s evil nature surfaces. The scenes depicting the rise and fall of his relationship with his materialistic companion Darien (Darryl Hannah) as well his scenes with his co-workers (Lou Mannheim-Hal Holbrook’s character) and friends, and Roger Barnes (James Spader) are examples. Bud’s ambition leads him not only to endanger himself and his father’s company, but his friends as in the case of Spader’s character who he convinces to help him launder Gekko’s money. Aside from his father, Mannheim is the ever-present voice of reason trying to prevent Bud from hitting rock bottom. The scenes with him and Bud are sparse but crucial. His most thought provoking lines are “The main thing about money, Bud, is that it makes you do things you don’t want to do” and “Man looks in the abyss, there’s nothing staring back at him. At that moment, man finds his character. And that is what keeps him out of the abyss (Wall Street).” The nature of Wall Street has not changed as evidenced by the 1987 Savings and Loans debacle and the 2008 economic meltdown. The Bud Fox’s and Gordon Gekkos still exist. Wall Street, suffice to say, exemplifies corporate greed and the adage that one man’s heaven surely becomes another man’s hell.


Wall Street 1987. Movie Quotes. Web.

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