30.12.13

The history you know...

On Christmas Eve Day and Christmas Day I actually went to the movies!  What'd I see? Saving Mr. Banks (with a work friend) and The Wolf of Wall Street (with Thing One).  Only later did I realize that both were fictionalized accounts of real events, with white- or black-washing depending on the character and/or studio motivation.  What made a real difference for me was that I knew Wall Street and the backstory to the latter movie, while I'd only read and loved Mary Poppins (the book; I liked the movie, despite That Accent, and hated the Broadway show).

Is the movie profane? Of course.  But then, so was much of what went on on Wall Street at that time.  And as movies go, In Bruges is worse vis-a-vis the ratio of swearing to other language. Is it accurate? Well... not so much.  Maybe that's what kept me interested: playing spot-the-error.  Errors like, the culture at L.F. Rothschild wouldn't have allowed a character like McConaughey's to be as flamboyant as it was.  Like, the way the characters dressed wasn't in keeping with the times.  Like, the idea that selling penny stocks was new and radical (Michael Milken, anyone? plus I know "junk" traders who were doing legitimate trades in the '90s).  And let's be honest, the firm was never a Wall Street firm, it was based on the Island.  On our way out, there were some 20somethings cranky because the cast wasn't racially mixed - as a private firm, Stratton had no obligation to follow EEOC guidelines and in that regard, at least, it was very accurate.  Thing One commented later that the swearing may have been over the top, but it did downplay the drug use (believe it or not!). And the movie did bring back memories of my time working at an investment bank: the night before Black Monday I'd hung out with Thing Three and was so tired the next day that I didn't pay attention to any news when I got home - it wasn't until the next day the import of the losses from Monday became apparent.

As for "Mr. Banks", now I want to re-read the books and learn more about P.L. Travers.  What little I know (thanks to posts like these) shows a woman far more interesting than the one portrayed in the movie.  And here's a fun fact: she was at Radcliffe when my dad was teaching at Harvard and attended things my parents attended (Mom being a 'Cliffie didn't hurt, either).  The whitewashing of Disney himself bothered me somewhat. We know the man smoked, but these days you're not allowed to smoke - even to make things historically accurate - unless you're the villain (see Jonah Hill in the previous movie).  At the end, hearing Travers' voice on the audio recording from her work sessions in the Disney studios was fascinating.  Pity the script wasn't verbatim.

Who knows when I'll next make it into an actual movie theatre - my tolerance for the high prices and low ROI keeps sinking.  Neither movie I saw was a Must See On the Big Screen movie (few are).  There is something to be said for the group experience, hearing others chuckle and gasp along with you; on the other hand, there's something to be said for not hearing others' cell phones go off at a critical moment and not seeing the glow from their screens as they text someone.

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