Blair Rumley December 2, 2011
While all the political dissenters were (and still are) occupying Wall Street, the financial thriller Margin Call has been occupying the silver screen. Yes, we all noticed the 99 percent crusading about American cities for social and economic equality, yet Margin Call’s run in theaters has gone relatively unnoticed, until now. Though there are undoubtedly a few front-runners predicted to steal the Oscar for Best Picture (The Descendants, War Horse, The Artist, and Midnight in Paris), but with this bank drama now on the radar, those Oscar front-runners can’t bank on anything.
Margin Call gives audiences an exhilarating, white-knuckled glimpse inside a U.S. investment bank during first 24 hours of the 2008 financial crisis. Entry-level analyst Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto) discovers miscalculations that would cost the bank hundreds of millions of dollars. With an effortless air of confidence portrayed by Quinto, Peter is forced to warn those above him (Paul Bettany and Kevin Spacey), who are then required to warn the CEO (Jeremy Irons). The film also includes small but pivotal roles from Stanley Tucci, Demi Moore, and Simon Baker — certainly a star ensemble.
As the son of a Merrill Lynch investment banker, writer and director J.C. Chandor knows a thing or two about the internal happenings on Wall Street, which the masterfully crafted film conveys with its fast-paced action and drama. And that knowledge about banking likely gave him the ability to budget, as the film was made for a meager $3.5 million, though you would never guess it. And as Chandor’s first feature film, Margin Call premiered in theaters October 21 (its initial showing was at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2011), approximately one month after the Occupy Wall Street movement began. Talk about perfect timing.
Yet Chandor tells the Guardian that he fears the Occupy movement may have come too late. However, his tone remains undeniably optimistic: “But better late than never,” Chandor says. “When people are sleeping in the streets over an issue, it’s a canary in the coalmine that all is not well.” In other words, he doesn’t want to get his hopes up, but the Occupy movement is certainly welcome (and free) publicity, and possibly a catalyst for that coveted Oscar. Late or not, folks are taking notice of Margin Call’s relevancy to the struggle for social and economic justice.
Honestly, these protestors against corporate America are in no need of encouragement to spur their actions onward. It’s relatively evident that most have already boycotted proper hygiene products, but I digress. Put simply, an Oscar nomination for Margin Call would be a crowd-pleaser; after all, this crowd of occupiers is the 99 percent, no? Shouldn’t majority get priority?
The fact of the matter is that the Academy is the 1 percent; they therefore have one of two options: They can either A) pity the 99 percent and play the role of the nice guy or B) snub the 99 percent and play the role of the wealthy American — in other words, the hated 1 percent. Which will they choose? We all know what the more logical choice would be.
There is simply no better time than the present to have a banking film steal the Oscar limelight. David Denby of the New Yorker declared, “Margin Call is one of the strongest American films of the year and easily the best Wall Street movie ever made.” Now is the time for Wall Street to shine and bring home that shiny statue.
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