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Home » Culture and Criticism

“Yes, he says ‘moi‘”

Submitted by on August 1, 2009 – 8:20 PM17 Comments

Miss Alli addresses James Spader’s underthought character in Wall Street, and much much more.   It’s a great piece, and the various bigger-than-a-breadbox-sized objects she uses to describe Gekko’s cell phone crack me up, but I have one quibble.

Ninety-nine times out of a hundred I would agree that Oliver Stone has a “people don’t talk like this” problem, which varies in egregion (if that’s a word) depending on the actors involved but which, if you are to get through a Stone opus, you will have to find a way to ignore or set aside somehow, because Stone is not concerned with nuance really at all, and you have to stand back from his work to take it all in, because whether it succeeds or not, this is the scale on which it’s intended to be taken in.   If you look at it from too short a distance, you see that those immense brushstrokes have trapped myriad bugs in the paint.

But I don’t find it nearly as bothersome in Wall Street as in, say, Platoon, because in my experience, Wall Street guys of that era do talk like that, frequently.   These aren’t unsophisticated thinkers, but their strength is not finding a fresh phrasing, and my sense also is that reeling off a string of cliches allows them to feel like they can in fact bring order out of this particular industry’s chaos.   Hal Holbrook’s character feels extraneous and forced, but the dialogue given to that character works for me.




  • Jaybird says:

    I’m sorry for shouting, but SHIA LABEOUF? Really? What, Spencer Pratt wasn’t available? DAMMIT I’m sick of seeing LaBeouf’s face in everything but my toilet. Hate that guy.

  • Linda says:

    Dude, I know. Apparently, he is the heir apparent to everyone now.

    As for Holbrook, I definitely take Bunting’s word for it if she says this is how these guys talk, but it still drives me bazoo. Perhaps this is why I wouldn’t marry a 70-year-old Wall Street guy.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    Oh, I won’t tell you it isn’t annoying.

  • greer says:

    How about a week long Shia media blackout?

  • Margaret in CO says:

    “And poor James Spader! Granted, he had been in Mannequin and Less Than Zero right before this, but that’s no excuse for putting him in Old Navy Lady glasses and giving him this preppy hair.”
    I don’t even remember James Spader being in the movie, and I have been crushing on him for decades. Wow. I’m going to have to watch this again. Hope the Old Navy Lady glasses don’t ruin my crush.

    Jaybird is funny. “in everything but my toilet” – Heh. Good one. May I steal it?

  • Jaybird says:

    Be my guest, Margaret–just don’t ask me to watch any more LaBeouf, unless it’s his public announcement that he’s converting to Amish and giving up public life.

    I just can’t get past the dialogue in ANY Stone film; it’s like someone’s basted giant ruffles all over every item of clothing they own, and they’re trying to pretend like it’s normal and natural and everyone’s doing it, but no. Just no.

  • Sandman says:

    Jaybird IS funny. And just so you know, “… and they’re trying to pretend like it’s normal and natural and everyone’s doing it, but no. Just no,” sums up my feelings very succinctly about every Oliver Stone film EVER. (And also every Quentin Goddamn Tarantino film, too, but that’s a whole other screechy wail, for another time.) Thanks.

    Oh, and I’m with you on the painful and utterly unnecessary ubiquity of LaBeouf, too. Good call.

  • Fay says:

    Actually, I am a big stickler about “no one talks like that in movies,” too, and I liked the accents in “JFK.” Pretty darn authentic, and as a bonus, there were southern people portrayed who weren’t stupid.

  • Jaybird says:

    Thanks, y’all.

    @Fay: To be honest, I’ve never seen “JFK”, both b/c the Kennedys are obscenely overrated, and b/c I wouldn’t sit through a three-hour-plus movie about MYSELF. Good to know that there are some relatively realistic southerners in there. It’s heartening to think that for once, someone in Hollywood DIDN’T hire Foghorn Leghorn as a dialogue coach.

  • RJ says:

    James Spader was in “Wall Street”?????

  • Sandman says:

    It’s true that there are Southerners portrayed in JFK who don’t come off as either wackadoos or deep-fried dolts. It happens to be the one Stone film I can stand (it probably helps that I’m not a serious student of the JFK/Garrison file, and I treat the movie as fantasy). But how is it possible that Tommy Lee Jones, of all people, ended up with an accent faker than Kevin Costner’s??

  • Todd K says:

    I don’t know if I agree that “Stone is not concerned with nuance really at all.” He’s concerned to the extent that he wants to find any that exists,
    squash it under his feet, and then have the floor cleaned before he yells “Action.”

    I’m so fundamentally out of sympathy with his style that I really can only speak of the Stone films that bored me and the Stone films that did not. (I did go through that period in the 1980s and 1990s when I was not a fan, but thought I should go see the new Stone because he was an Important Voice.) There is one exception that I really admired when I saw it on TV a long time ago: the comparatively obscure Talk Radio — virtually a one-man show in which Eric Bogosian does captivating work as a reckless, self-destructive sort of left-wing Rush, hated and often threatened by most of his audience.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    I did not like Talk Radio; I thought it was dated, despite Bogosian, whom I love (in part because he’s just cool-looking). I saw the play with Liev Schreiber a couple years back and really liked it a lot, though, so I don’t know what that says.

  • RJ says:

    It says Liev Schrieber is both an amazing actor and hot (in kind of a weird way), that’s what it says. :)

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    He is a capital-F fox.

  • Grainger says:

    Two lines from that column really fit together, for me:

    “[W]hat once was shocking simply isn’t anymore, and wasn’t at the time as much as it believed itself to be.”


    “[W]hat movie is more ’80s than Wall Street?”

    I really think that this kind of sums up the 1980s (and, in a way, just about all of Boomer Culture): The attitude that the first time these people did anything was the first time that anyone ANYWHERE had EVER done that thing.

  • Grainger says:

    PS LaBouef! It’s what’s for dinner!

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