Reviews

Plunder: A Lot of People Acting Badly -- Rather Like This Documentary

Danny Schechter doesn’t seem to recognize that he’s pretty late to the whistle blower party here -- but that’s not the main problem.


Plunder: The Crime of Our Time

Director: Danny Schechter
Distributor: The Disinformation Company
Rated: NR
Release Date: 2010-04-06

Plunder: The Crime of Our Time, the latest film from self-appointed ‘news dissector’ Danny Schechter, has designs on being a searing investigative indictment of the financial collapse. Ultimately, it falls short of that lofty goal, burdened by a lack of original thought and a low budget execution that ranges from merely flat to downright gruesome.

Schechter has a compelling story to tell, but runs into two problems telling it. The first is that the story he’s chosen is well trod territory by now, familiar to anyone who has been paying a modicum of attention to the nightly news anytime in the past 18 months, a fact that makes Schechter’s often self-congratulatory tone all the more grating. Meanwhile, the profusion of stock footage and B-minus grade animations leave one feeling like you haven’t actually watched a movie so much as an overly long power point presentation, and the sense of satisfaction is a similar one.

One of the main problems with Plunder is the thoroughly ‘us and them’ quality it applies to the dichotomy between Wall Street bankers and everyone else. Schechter is looking for a Bond villain of some sort here, for a person or group who we can blame for the whole shebang and there’s just not really one. There are a lot of people acting badly, and doing things that are morally reprehensible. There is a culture of individuals who were incentivized for decades, for the span of entire careers, to take big risks and game a poorly regulated system.

However, that’s not the story Schechter is interested in telling. As is being demonstrated by the current, painstaking legal process, and pointed out by a number of Schechter’s interviewees, there’s fairly little evidence that much of done was actually illegal. No one, least of all your reviewer, is arguing that the events and culture that led up to the current recession were not at best the morally questionable acts of shortsighted financial sector cowboys concerned with turning a profit and little else. The fact of the matter is that these are largely very intelligent people who have devoted their lives to understanding loopholes in financial regulation, and whether or not many of the big players did anything genuinely illegal remains foggy – it’s a question we can look forward to the courts settling for years to come.

Unfortunately,Plunder not only brings fairly little new information to the table, it also fails to acknowledge the good work done by others on the matter so far. Schechter doesn’t seem to recognize that he’s pretty late to the whistle blower party here, but that’s not the main problem. The main problem is that it’s an extremely poorly made film, to the point that significant portions of it are simply hard to watch.

The interviews that form the spine of the narrative are rambling and disjointed, leaving the film as a whole overlong and making it hard to tell what point Schechter is trying to make, other than “Wall Street is Bad”. At one point, Schechter interviews a visual artist who paints images of financial industry icons and then lets audiences write their own messages on the resulting work. The interview seems out of place in the film, as other than making paintings of figures involved in the financial collapse, the interviewee doesn’t have any real insight on the situation or the people he’s painting.

When Schechter starts lobbing loaded questions like “What do you think you do that the media doesn’t?” it becomes clear that he’s simply looking for someone who will give him another quote about the ineffectiveness of the mainstream media. Naturally, he’s not disappointed here.

The flow of Plunder is also betrayed by the persistence of confusing, amateurish musical numbers that barge in on the film at unexpected but all too frequent intervals. Inserted in seemingly pell mell fashion, these YouTube style videos are invariably of earnest singer-songwriter types railing against the unfairness of the system and the black hatted bankers who brought the system crashing to it’s knees. Frequently, there are even urls above the half screen videos of these low rent troubadours, so you can check out the rest of their material after you finish the movie.

You won’t need to worry about visiting those websites. In fact, you may not even have to worry about finishing the movie.

It’s not the case that there’s nothing new under the sun in the world of financial malfeasance. Alas, Schechter isn’t covering anything here that hasn’t been already addressed, and frankly covered better. If you’re still curious about how the world ended up in this financial quagmire, and you should be, there are plenty of places to find out about it. Simon Johnson and James Kwak’s Baseline Scenario blog, for example, is a thorough and compelling rundown of how we got here and what we can do to get out of it, while NPR’s Planet Money podcast has spent the last couple of years doing yeoman’s work on the subject, explaining the financial crisis in terms you don’t need a Ph.d. to understand.

Though it’s ranting nature is sure to appeal to some who are just angry at financial industry fat cats, the work ultimately amounts to little more than a screed, and viewers looking for something that will genuinely improve their understanding of the financial meltdown can safely move along. There’s nothing to see, here.

3

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image