After a couple weeks of swirling rumors, Variety is reporting that Oliver Stone is set to return to the Wall Street sequel that may or may not still be called Money Never Sleeps. There were early attempts to pooh-pooh the certainty of Stone’s re-upping, but this is a no-brainer, of course, since Stone yearns for big-league relevance, as both World Trade Center and the play-nice, concessionary inclinations of his Dubya biopic indicate. Not doing this movie would go against the grain of what’s in his blood, especially given the current economic climate. So Stone is in, Michael Douglas is back, and Edward Pressman is again on board as producer. Naturally, perhaps because Chris Pine is somehow deemed too old (or maybe because the ridiculous wig he’s forced to sport in Bottle Shock is still secretly being held against him by Hollywood), none other than Shia LaBeouf is in talks to join Douglas, who talked on a comically large cell phone and won an Oscar as Gordon Gekko in the original 1987 film.
Entertainment Weekly‘s Missy Schwartz, jerked out of a moment by empty coffee cups on Southland, shares my previously expressed rage at Hollywood’s disturbingly frequent inability to fill beverage containers with actual liquids. Join me, Missy, and we’ll start a petition to put an end to this shameful, ridiculous scene-killer.
A minor chord social rage riff, Leslie Cardé’s America Betrayed takes a crack at exposing the dirty little secrets behind our nation’s crumbling infrastructure, in particular the complicity between the Army Corps of Engineers — designers of the levees that failed during Hurricane Katrina — and the United States Congress, which funds the group, nominally tasks it in a manner that includes plenty of inessential or less important public works projects, and then provides little to no oversight, allowing some jobs to run over schedule by decades.
As a sociopolitical documentary, the film slots in decently alongside recent similar cage-rattling product like I.O.U.S.A. and The Ascent of Money — movies that cast long, deep shadows of doubt over governmental competence and fiscal responsibility, and the ability of even honest politicians, public servants and activists to affect change both quick and substantive. And with our bridges, dams, levees and highways collectively crumbling, toppling, being washed away and putting American citizens and cities at risk, the issue of infrastructure reinforcement and reinvestment is an undeniably important one. But America Betrayed isn’t the film to galvanize public opinion, or even clearly impart a message of how things stand.
Narrated by Richard Dreyfuss, America Betrayed bills itself as “a cautionary tale for Americans everywhere,” but it’s far too messy to connect on any sort of lasting emotional level. Featuring scores of interviews with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists,
noted scientists, politicians from both sides of the aisle (including
free-use clips from Barack Obama, John McCain and Hillary Clinton), and whistleblowers who risked their lives and careers to
speak out, the movie is literally aflood with information. (Yeah: pun.) It’s just that it’s poorly organized, structured and delineated.
America Betrayed begins with an exploration of the little-known causes behind the Katrina levee
failures, ostensibly using this as a springboard to expose the
rampant collusion, corruption and cronyism within the government
agencies whose very purpose it is to protect us. Between failing to provide proper historical framing for 1965’s Hurricane Betsy and not clearly establishing the expert credentials of many of her subjects, however, Cardé repeatedly shows herself to have no objective sense of aerial docu-storytelling. (At one point, she’s even heard out-of-frame, peppering an interviewee with the penetrating query, “Yeah, what was that about?”) What we have here are loose ends and passionate rants, taped and tied together in whimsical fashion. It’s more than an hour into things before the real underlying point of the film — a call for a fundamental reforming of the manner in which the United States funds water projects — is even directly addressed.
There’s no doubt that the rebuilding of New Orleans, and an overhaul of the Corps of Engineers, remains frustratingly low on the country’s to-do list, even 100 days into the new Obama administration. But Cardé doesn’t have the chops to sustain viewer outrage over this monumental moral failing, and then tie it into the grander issues at play. As a skipped-stone, scatterbrained portrait of how the top leadership of the
Army Corps of Engineers is more concerned with self-serving transitions
into corporate America, how we’ve wasted taxpayer dollars building
other nations’ infrastructures instead of our own, how
lobbyists and politicians funnel money to pet projects, and how
those sent to investigate financial misappropriation are bribed into
silence or simply don’t do their jobs, this documentary more or less works, in air-quote fashion. But any frothy rage or eagerness to make a change dissipates on contact, as soon as the credits roll. And that’s a shame, honestly, because truth be told, we should be pissed off.
Housed in a regular plastic Amaray case, America Betrayed is presented in an enhanced 16×9 aspect ratio, and includes a nine-minute interview with Cardé, seven-and-a-half minutes of bonus
interviews, a filmmaker biography, film resource guide and trailers for three other First Run titles, including the superb Constantine’s Sword. To purchase the DVD, click here. C- (Movie) B- (Disc)
“Plus zero” is the new “plus one,” apparently. Oh, not in any original invite, of course. Just if you mention a guest in an email confirmation of attendance. Which makes you wonder what the fuck folks would do if you just showed up as a pair, and staged a good scene.