Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?
Yesterday I watched Margin Call, which is a movie from 2011 about a Goldman Sachs-like finance company that sees the writing on the wall at the beginning of the 2008 financial crisis. I love watching tense lil financial movies even though I don't ever have a dang bit of a clue what's going on or what people are talking about. One of the amazing things about Margin Call is that it seems to be made specifically for people like me because every time Zachary Quinto, who is a risk assessment analyst (or something), starts to explain what's happening one of his bosses is always like "you know I'm too important to understand this stuff. Explain it to me like I'm a child." The movie is literally like "Gurl, we both know you're sitting on your couch with your little liberal arts background and you didn't turn on this flick to do homework, you turned on this flick to see Stanley Tucci give a nice lil speech. Let's not play around." This is quality and insightful film-making.
I had never seen Margin Call but it came up on Netflix and I immediately thought "Oh! This is a Michael Clayton Movie!" and I was sold. Michael Clayton Movies are a genre of movie that exist only inside my head. Michael Clayton and Margin Call aren't really similar at all. But, they are both tense movies about Tense Business People talking about A Business I Do Not Understand. They both have desaturated color palettes. And they both featured Characters Actors Showing Up and Doing a Little Acting Twirl, which is one of my favorite things. Michael Clayton Movies is a classification that's more about vibe than content, although I will say that Michael Clayton Movies are usually about bad people breaking a bad system. There's a thematic resonance even if they're completely different kinds of movies.
Michael Clayton Movies usually have a lot of people in business suits and very few guns if any. I don't think you're really supposed to root for anybody in a Michael Clayton Movie but you usually end up hoping that one of the less bad characters comes out on top. It's nice!
Another thing about Michael Clayton Movies is that usually when they start off I think "Oh, I'm gonna be a little bored." But then it turns out I am not! Other Michael Clayton Movies I enjoy: Arbitrage, Boiler Room, The Insider, The Firm. Technically, The Firm is a John Grisham Movie, which is a different kind of movie, but if it wasn't a John Grisham Movie, it would be a Michael Clayton Movie.
Welcome to my film school.
It's important to note that many other movies about financial crimes and crisis aren't Michael Clayton Movies. For instance, I think of The Big Short, Moneyball, and maybe The Wolf of Wall Street as part of a genre I call Ocean's Eleven Movies. The big difference being they're not about bad people breaking the system, they're about people in a grey area gaming the system. Inside Man is also an Ocean's Eleven Movie, in my opinion, even though there are more guns in it than this kind of movie usually has.
I've noticed that some films that Jessica Chastain does start off as Michael Clayton Movies and become Ocean's Eleven Movies. This is remarkable to me but I do not know what it means. If anyone has Jessica Chastain's email address, please ask her.
The HBO television show Industry is a Michael Clayton Movie, while the HBO television show Succession is an Ocean's Eleven Movie.
Other categories of movies that I enjoy:
Pelican Brief Movies (legal-ish thrillers with a compelling woman in the lead role)
Erin Brockovich Movies (movies about getting justice in a court with a quirky woman in the lead role)
Arlington Road Movies (thrillers about the personal effects of politics where the lead actor is Doing an Acting Twirl and also the whole thing probably isn't going to end well)
I should run a video store, I think.
One time, in college, I applied to work at a video store that opened on Broadway at 114th, in the lobby of one of Columbia's dorms. In my interview, they asked me if I had any special area of film expertise. I said "I have an in-depth knowledge of the work of Jane Fonda." Which isn't even true. Like, why would I say that? I liked 9 to 5 and On Golden Pond and suddenly I'm a Fonda scholar? Now, I don't know that I would have had more success at the job had I launched into my fickle and niche system for classifying thrillers (we haven't even gotten to my thoughts about movies with more guns than legal documents. Sheesh!) Anyway, I got the job, spent two days organizing videotapes, then had to quit because I dropped out of college and I wasn't certain that a part-time video store job where I pretended to have seen Klute was going to be able to support me.
But times they are a-changed! I have seen Klute and I have a whole complex system for describing the vibe of a movie I want to see, which may or may not be useful in finding other movies to watch but is useful for reminding you of the movies you already saw and liked. The name of my video store will be Hey, Do You Want to Watch Michael Clayton?
Let me know if you want to invest.
Random Thing on the Internet
"You don't want la money?" The end of Michael Clayton is just beyond!
"Oh, I'm gonna be a little bored.",