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Top Movie Recommendations (and a few others just for fun!)

I.O.U.S.A.: One Nation. Under Stress. In Debt.

Wake up, America! We're on the brink of a financial meltdown. I.O.U.S.A. boldly examines the rapidly growing national debt and its consequences for the United States and its citizens. Burdened with an ever-expanding government and military, increased international competition, overextended entitlement programs, and debts to foreign countries that are becoming impossible to honor, America must mend its spendthrift ways or face an economic disaster of epic proportions.

Throughout history, the American government has found it nearly impossible to spend only what has been raised through taxes. Wielding candid interviews with both average American taxpayers and government officials, Sundance veteran Patrick Creadon (Wordplay) helps demystify the nation's financial practices and policies. The film follows former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker as he crisscrosses the country explaining America's unsustainable fiscal policies to its citizens.

With surgical precision, Creadon interweaves archival footage and economic data to paint a vivid and alarming profile of America's current economic situation. The ultimate power of I.O.U.S.A. is that the film moves beyond doomsday rhetoric to proffer potential financial scenarios and propose solutions about how we can recreate a fiscally sound nation for future generations.

Creadon uses candid interviews and his featured subjects include Warren Buffett, Alan Greenspan, Paul O'Neill, Robert Rubin, and Paul Volcker, along with the Peter G. Peterson Foundation's own David Walker and Bob Bixby of the Concord Coalition, a Foundation grantee.

Pointedly topical and consummately nonpartisan, I.O.U.S.A. drives home the message that the only time for America's financial future is now.

The Crash Course

Chris Martenson’s Crash Course is a coherent, rigorously factual, and easily digestible movie presenting the information he has gathered over the past five years relating the interdependence of our economy, environment, and energy systems – the three “E”s.

The first “E” is the Economy, which is the lens through which the Crash Course looks at everything. Within the Economy, there are four primary areas of concern: Exponential money, the first-ever collapse of a global credit binge, an aging population, and a national failure to save.

The next “E” is Energy, and discussion revolves around the implications of Peak Oil for an economic system that is based on continual expansion. This is a highly important topic.

And finally, the third “E”, the Environment, will be exerting its own unknowable but certainly significant economic burdens, due to shrinking resources and other systemic pressures, at the same time that the other two “E”s will be clamoring for your money and attention.

Chris Martenson’s goal is to shed light on the limits of our present economic model of infinite growth as we increasingly face the realities of a planet with finite resources. He seeks to lay out possible paths for our future and to provide people with tools and information so that they will be better able to make informed choices.

The Ascent of Money: The Financial History of the World

ASCENT OF MONEY is based on Ferguson’s best-selling book The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World, which predicted the current economic crisis and was released within weeks of the meltdown of sub-prime loans.

Said Ferguson, “In the midst of a major economic depression, it is often hard to appreciate the historical precedents and truly understand that while a situation may look dire, our system of finance, banking and trade has allowed for unprecedented progress. I’m hopeful the film will allow viewers to better understand the on-going evolution of our financial system and how our economy remains extraordinarily viable even as we are grappling with a crisis of historic proportions.”

Said Ferguson, “In the midst of a major economic depression, it is often hard to appreciate the historical precedents and truly understand that while a situation may look dire, our system of finance, banking and trade has allowed for unprecedented progress. I’m hopeful the film will allow viewers to better understand the on-going evolution of our financial system and how our economy remains extraordinarily viable even as we are grappling with a crisis of historic proportions.”

For millions of people, the recession has generated a thirst for knowledge about how our global economic system really works, especially when so many financial experts seem to be equally baffled. In ASCENT OF MONEY, economist, author and historian Ferguson offers insight into these questions by taking viewers step-by-step through the milestones of the financial history that created this system, visiting the locations where key events took place and poring over actual ledgers and documents — such as the first publicly traded share of a company — that would change human history. Ferguson maintains that the history of money is indeed at the core of our human history, with economic strength determining political dominance, wars fought to create wealth and individual financial barons determining the fates of millions.

Among the places Ferguson visits are Bolivia, where Spain established vast gold and silver mines — still in operation — and enslaved the indigenous people to create so much currency for the Spanish crown that it eventually became worthless; Italy, where the Medici family transformed the sinful practice of usury into the banking system we know today and in the process became as powerful as monarchs; Paris, where Scotsman John Law created a Ponzi scheme tied to the Louisiana territory that brought France to its knees; London, where bonds trader Nathan Rothschild and his family nearly went bankrupt by helping to finance the British army’s war against Napoleon, then achieved enormous wealth through the buying and selling of war bonds; Scotland, where two ministers established the first life insurance fund, and New Orleans, where the shortcomings of their calculations would be demonstrated to tragic effect in the wake of Hurricane Katrina; and New York, where Ferguson interviews financial wizard George Soros about the concept he introduced of short selling derivatives based on a prediction that they will lose value.

Through this history, viewers learn economic fundamentals that inform the meanings of sub-prime mortgages and credit default swaps and an understanding how the Chinese economy has risen to dominate the world.

And just for fun...

Wall Street

Michael Douglas won an Oscar for perfectly embodying the Reagan-era credo that "greed is good." As a Donald Trump-like Wall Street raider aptly named Gordon Gecko (for his reptilian ability to attack corporate targets and swallow them whole), Douglas found a role tailor-made to his skill in portraying heartless men who've sacrificed humanity to power. He's a slick, seductive role model for the young ambitious Wall Street broker played by Charlie Sheen, who falls into Gecko's sphere of influence and instantly succumbs to the allure of risky deals and generous payoffs. With such perks as a high-rise apartment and women who love men for their money, Charlie's like a worm on Gecko's hook, blind to the corporate maneuvering that puts him at odds with his own father (played by Sheen's offscreen father, Martin). With his usual lack of subtlety, writer-director Oliver Stone drew from the brokering experience of his own father to tell this Faustian tale for the "me" decade, but the movie's sledgehammer style is undeniably effective. A cautionary warning that Stone delivers on highly entertaining terms, Wall Street grabs your attention while questioning the corrupted values of a system that worships profit at the cost of one's soul.

Trading Places

Randolph (Ralph Bellamy) and Mortimer Duke (Don Ameche) are the snobbish heads of a successful commodities brokerage firm, hold opposing positions on the issue of "nature versus nurture". Mortimer believes that a well-bred individual will be able to conquer whatever challenges are presented to him, while an ill-bred one will fail even if he is given many advantages over others. On the other hand, Randolph thinks that the former will degenerate if stripped of his position, but the latter will become a changed man if given the proper opportunities. To settle the dispute, the Dukes decide to ruin a successful man's life, allow a poor man to take his place, and observe the results. The movie concludes with a frantic scene on the trading floor in which the winners and losers are decided.

Rogue Trader

Ambitious, wide-boy Nick Leeson is determined to rise in the world and be more than a simple bank clerk. When his employers, Barings Bank, offer him the opportunity to go to Jakarta to sort out a problem that nobody else wants, he seizes the opportunity with both hands. In Jakarta he meets and marries Lisa and together they go to Singapore when the bank offers him the job of setting up their future options trading operation. To save money the bank allows Nick to operate both the floor trading and the back office facilities and force him to employ cheap, unskilled staff. His first year of trading is a big success and he makes large profits for the bank even though he has illegally broken trading rules and secretly covered up losses. Given more freedom, even more money and continuing unchecked, Nick starts to make losses and again attempts to trade out of them but this time he comes unstuck as his illegal trading generates even bigger losses. After the death of his unborn child Nick completely loses control and gambles without restraint with other people's money leading inevitably to a complete financial meltdown and the bankruptcy of the bank.