Sunday, June 05, 2005

God's Away on Business

Review: Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

I think this documentary may have made me a lot angrier than Fahrenheit 911, perhaps because, as outrageous as Michael Moore's effort was, I did feel I was being manipulated much of the time. Now it may just be because "Enron" largely avoids making political points (though it inevitably does, considering the coziness of the Bush family with Ken Lay and company) that it's easier not to notice that the documentary actually does utilize many of the same tricks Moore does: the smartly-inserted damning quote, the ironic music--brilliantly selected I might add. The flick opens with Tom Waits sounding positively Satanic as he coughs out the lyrics to "What Is He Building in There?" as the camera pans up and down the glassy phallic Enron towers. You couldn't ask for a more terrifying composition. Later the camera glides over vast smoking oil fields to the tune of "Old Black Magic."

Amost universally acclaimed, "Enron" is a barrage of facts and figures, not to mention almost unbelievable quotes, video and audi tape. Visit the site where you can hear some of this insanity caught on audio tape and download transcripts. Prepare to be repulsed and revolted, though, and I don't use those terms loosely. It's so much worse than I ever imagined.

Some of the most daming quotes come not just from Lay and Skilling and Fastow, but from 20-something stockbrokers, wielding their power like malicious greedy gods over the state of California, as they literally decide whether people will get power their homes, based upon their whims and their desire to make a killing for themselves and the company.

The documentary makes the point that these employees were like Milgram's subjects, zapping away at innocents because an authority told them to. Problem is, at least Migrams subjects protested a little along the way. These young Turks can only laugh and joke about retiring before they 30.

A sample:
Trader 1: So are we going to steal some more electricity from Grandma Millie [in California] today? ….. I heard that a wildfire was threatening one of the main power lines in the _____ Valley.

Trader 2: Burn, motherfucker, burn.
And there's loads more where that came from. Likely the most gripping and horrific documentary I've ever seen.

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