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Classic Pick O’ the Day — December 8

Wall Street (1987)
A young and impatient stockbroker is willing to do anything to get to the top, including trading on illegal inside information taken through a ruthless and greedy corporate raider who takes the youth under his wing. Director: Oliver Stone. Cast: Michael Douglas, Charlie Sheen, Martin Sheen, Daryl Hannah, Hal Holbrook, John C. McGinley, Terence Stamp, James Spader. TV-MA. 10:00 PM EST. Sundance Channel.

This is the quintessential example of the movie that — to paraphrase Inigo Montoya — does not mean what the director thinks it means. The way to enjoy pop culture and get what positive messages out of it there are, is to pay no attention whatsoever to whatever the director thinks or says his movie means. He has no idea sometimes what the material really means — even as he forms it in a very compelling way.

Wall Street is just such a film. Of course Stone intends it to be an indictment of our capitalist system generally and Reaganomics from the 1980s more specifically. It can be viewed as that — however ignorant that view is of economic reality. On a macro-level — a level where Stone probably doesn’t even understand it — what we have is a moral tale — a warning against hubris and the folly of chasing after things that ultimately don’t matter. In this reading Martin Sheen is Daedulus and Charlies Sheen (Bud) is Icarus — the young fool who ignores his father’s advice and gets too close to the Sun (Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas) in a manner of speaking of course. This is an old tale told well and all the parties involved play their parts well. The falls are spectacular, the humiliation is public and painful, and the resignation is ever present as to how this will all end — in good Greek tragic form. Never forget dear reader — the artist is often the worst interpreter of his own creations. Knowing that allows me to ignore all that political claptrap and enjoy this great 1980s flick for what it is — high stakes tragedy and a cautionary tale about the dangers of ignoring your parents’ sage advice, greed, and getting mixed up with bad wimmins — among other traps.

Also on Sundance tomorrow are prior CPODs Rescue Dawn (2:30 PM) and The Verdict (4:45 PM).

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