Enron: The Smartest Guys in the RoomDirector: Alex Gibney
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Alex Gibney, who wrote and produced Eugene Jarecki's The Trials of Henry Kissinger, examines the rise and fall of an infamous corporate juggernaut in Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, which he wrote and directed. The film, based on the book by Fortune Magazine reporters Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, opens with a reenactment of the suicide of Enron executive Cliff Baxter, then travels back in time, describing Enron chairman Kenneth Lay's humble beginnings as the son of a preacher, his ascent in the corporate world as an "apostle of deregulation," his fortuitous friendship with the Bush family, and the development of his business strategies in natural gas futures. The film points out that the culture of financial malfeasance at Enron was evident as far back as 1987, when Lay apparently encouraged the outrageous risk taking and profit skimming of two oil traders in Enron's Valhalla office because they were bringing a lot of money into the company. But it wasn't until eventual CEO Jeff Skilling arrived at Enron that the company's "aggressive accounting" philosophy truly took hold. The Smartest Guys in the Room explores the lengths to which the company went in order to appear incredibly profitable. Their win-at-all-costs strategy included suborning financial analysts with huge contracts for their firms, hiding debts by essentially having the company loan money to itself, and using California's deregulation of the electricity market to manipulate the state's energy supply. Gibney's film reveals how Lay, Skilling, and other execs managed to keep their riches, while thousands of lower-level employees saw their loyalty repaid with the loss of their jobs and their retirement funds. The filmmaker posits the Enron scandal not as an anomaly, but as a natural outgrowth of free-market capitalism.
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Cast & Crew
|Jennie Amias||Associate Producer|
|Mark Cuban||Executive Producer|
|Martin Czembor||Sound/Sound Designer|
|Matt Hauser||Score Composer|
|Kate McMahon||Associate Producer|
|Christine O'Malley||Associate Producer|
|Joana Vicente||Executive Producer|
|Todd Wagner||Executive Producer|
1. "A Human Tragedy"
2. New Crusader
3. Suspicious Profits
4. Darwinian Prophet
5. Lou Pai
7. Perception vs. Reality
8. "Structured Finance"
9. Wide Participation
10. Rolling Blackouts
11. "Burn Baby Burn"
12. Playing the Bush Card
13. Skilling Resigns
15. "Ghost Town"
Dolby Digital 5.1
Feature Commentary With Writer/Director Alex Gibney: On
Feature Commentary With Writer/Director Alex Gibney: Off
Higher Definition: The Enron Show
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This is an eye openning documentary about how corporate culture can really make people do scandalous things. The people involved with this company are so excentric it becomes entertaining. It was adapted from the book of the same name. Review written by Curt Wiser, author of suspense novels.
I was particularly interested in seeing this documentary as my local electric company, Portland General Electric was bought by Enron in the mid 1990s. Our electric rates went up 35% and businesses got a 50% increase. As I sat in the theater watching this film I was mesmerized by what had gone on at that company. How could such intelligent people be corrupted so badly. The film at times made me laugh but mostly it made me angry. If you're like me and know very little about the world of big business don't worry. This film does a great job of explaining how things worked at Enron. One of the most fascinating aspects of the film is when it takes a look at the personalites of some of the top executives at Enron. This film is also an important look at how deregulation rarely lived up to the promise of more competition and lower prices for consumers. I was so fascinated by this film I went out and bought the book which I am currently reading. The only question I still have is where the heck did all the taxes go that we paid to PGE who passed them on the Enron who in turn never paid them to the state and the feds?
This documentary works because the blame is not placed on all the suits. We, the consumers, driving the ever-expanding economy, are thrown under the bus. Lower prices? Higher profit? The movie asks us if these are the best reasons for doing business. Should we strive for other "successes?" Great questions. Skillfully edited. A treat.
I am currently a college student taking accounting and we had to watch this movie in class a few days ago. I must say that after learning about annual reports and the financial reports that are supposed to be made and audited it was amazing to see how the people at Enron made a mockery of the simple standard financial principles. The docu made me laugh some times (Lou Pai's stripper escapades) and at the same time made me so angry at how they gambled away peoples' lives. This is defiantely something that should be showed in all business and accounting classes from now on!
The documentary Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room had a bit of a rough start. Although intriguing, it failed to deliver the rough sketch of the Enron scandal quick enough. I'll shamefully admit that I had forgotten most of the details of the Enron scandal, as I was in college when it broke and I didn't care too much about it at the time. But, once the overall story had been discussed, this documentary did a fairly good job of telling a compelling narrative and trying to explain the rather complicated financial wizardry that was ultimately the corporation's downfall. The depictions of Skilling were very clear and it was nice to see a woman was at the heart of breaking the story and writing the movie (which was based on a book she co-wrote). Amusing use of music and title-cards kept the pace quick, and unlike Michael Moore's documentaries, this one was actually full of well presented facts. I'd definitely recommend seeing this movie, especially because it reveals yet another reason to hate W and his administration. I wish more people were interested in this kind of reporting and that our day-to-day media was this intellectually engaging.