Friday, July 13, 2018

Movie Night-- Eat The Rich... Or Feed Them To Pigs


My friend Mike is a film critic and every week he sends me a list of coming releases and invites me to see them. Since I had my stem cell replacement operation, I've had to avoid movie theaters. I hadn't been to one in about 2 years. But one of the films looked interesting this week, Lauren Greenfield's Generation Wealth. I liked another movie she made a few years ago, The Queen of Versailles, which had given me plenty of ammo to use in posts. I imagined Generation Wealth would be as political. Instead, it was like a long, long, long advertisement for new her photo book. And did it ever suck! I hated every single character in it, especially Greenfield, although watching how she framed her very bright young son, Noah-- who she should have made the unscripted narrator if she wanted to save this nightmare-- was interesting.

At least Generation Wealth reminded me about two movies by Jamie Johnson that successfully accomplished what Greenfield didn't. Johnson's Born Rich (2003) is at the bottom of the page. Here's The One Percent (2006):

Johnson received some Emmy nominations for his work. That's not going to happen with Generation Wealth, which, if it wasn't already sickening enough, had some gratuitous Trump scenes. Rupert Neate reviewed Generation Wealth for The Guardian and I think he liked it more than I did. "Greenfield," he wrote, "introduces us to characters all motivated by the accumulation of wealth. 'No matter how much people had, they still wanted more,' Greenfield says of her subjects. We meet Florian Homm, a hedge fund manager living in self-imposed exile in Germany to avoid extradition to the US where he has been sentenced to 225 years in jail. Smoking cigars and dripping in gold, Homm, who became known as 'the antichrist of finance' for ripping off his investors for hundreds of millions of dollars, tells Greenfield that morality changed in the 80s. 'The value system changed completely. It wasn’t about who you are, but about what you are worth… Morals are completely non-productive in that value system.' As his hedge fund was imploding during the financial crisis of 2008, Homm, now 58, fled the €5m Majorcan villa he shared with a 27-year-old Russian lingerie model. With $500,000 stashed in his underwear and a humidor in hand, Homm boarded a plane to Colombia and disappeared for five years. We learn that he used his fortune to buy his son, then 15, the services of a Dutch prostitute. Homm was later arrested at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence."

Then there’s Eden Wood, six, a beauty pageant princess and star of reality TV show Toddlers & Tiaras, who tells Greenfield “My favourite princess is me” and says beauty means “that I get money, and I’ll be a superstar.”

...A growing number of academics warn that the widening gulf between the richest 1% and everyone else could lead to a backlash. The richest 0.1% of the world’s population has increased their combined wealth by as much as the poorest 50%-- or 3.8 billion people-- since 1980, according to the World Inequality Report. The report, by the French economist Thomas Piketty and 100 other researchers, also found that the richest 1% of the global population “captured” 27% of the world’s wealth growth between 1980 and 2016. Piketty warns that inequality has ballooned to “extreme levels” in many countries, and will only get worse unless governments take co-ordinated action to increase taxes and prevent tax avoidance.

...Greenfield interviewed several experts for the film, but just one survived the cut. Former New York Times journalist and leftwing activist Chris Hedges is quoted as saying “Wealth is whatever gives us value” and warns that “Societies accrue their greatest wealth at the moment they face death.” This last remark might trouble Americans in particular: last year Professor Philip Alston, United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty, made a statement accusing Donald Trump and the Republican party of consciously distorting the shape of American society in a “bid to become the most unequal society in the world.”

Poor Brett, doesn't he have enough problems already without appearing in this completely gauche movie?

Alston, who acts as a watchdog on extreme poverty, said Trump’s administration had passed tax laws that “overwhelmingly benefitted the wealthy and worsened inequality.” He said Trump’s policies “seem deliberately designed to remove basic protections from the poorest, punish those who are not in employment and make even basic health care into a privilege.”

But Greenfield says the chasm between rich and poor was widening well before the reality TV star’s 2016 election. “The American dream-- that everyone has equal opportunity-- became a fiction long before Trump,” she says. “Americans don’t hate the rich, as they imagine they could become the rich. They don’t want high taxes as they think they could become rich and won’t want to pay them. But what they dream of is an increasingly unbelievable fantasy.”

She says that while examining her photos it became clear to her that “We have left behind the American dream of my dad’s generation where there was the possibility of social mobility and the belief that anyone could make it. The things that were valued then-- discipline, hard work and frugality-- are not so important now. We have a culture that prizes celebrity, bling and narcissism.” Trump, she says, “is the apotheosis of generation wealth. With Trump you have wealth and celebrity achieving the ultimate goal. Trump is the natural evolution of the values of our culture.”

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At 4:36 AM, Anonymous Hone said...

Um, Karl Marx was right on the money.

At 2:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hone, let me channel 99.98% of americans: Who is Karl Marx?


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