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Extremely powerful message. Particularly the fact that credit card
companies make most of their money from the people who really shouldn't
have credit cards. The young and the poor who when they can't meet
minimum repayments are socked with extra fees and penalty interest.
Should be shown in all high schools and colleges as a warning to the vulnerable. However given the power of the credit card company political lobby groups, this film will probably get minimal distribution and disappear.
This would be unfortunate as the message here is communicated in a clear and entertaining style.
Maxed Out is an eye opening documentary that is long, long overdue.
Over the last few decades the credit industry has only become bolder
and more aggressive. Maxed Out begs the question: Have they gone too
far? Seeing this movie will make you think twice about filling out
another credit card application.
As one of the characters early on in the film, I was aware of a lot of the dirty tricks and tactics used by creditors, bill collectors, 'professional debt collectors' and the like. I truly thought I knew about the level of greed this film would expose in the credit industry. I was a debt collector for nearly a decade but left the industry because of the many 'slime balls' indigenous to the profession. It takes a certain kind of person to remain in this industry for the long haul.
What I did not know, was the depths at which some creditors would be willing to sink. Even I was appalled at the actions of some of the biggest names in the lending business, and I thought I had seen every dirty trick in the book. Without going into detail as to how Maxed Out reveals the atrocities committed by the credit industry as a whole, I can only say that you will likely leave the theater totally amazed yet possibly disgusted in the aftermath of Maxed Out's revelations. You'll likely be very surprised to see who has their hands deeply submerged in the proverbial cookie jar.
Although the inevitable comparisons between Maxed Out and Super Size Me will be drawn, one must realize that not everybody eats at McDonald's but everyone has debt. Even if it's just your share of the national debt. Everyone is affected by debt.
A lot has changed since my bankruptcy ten years ago. Thanks to a new change in the bankruptcy laws it's virtually impossible to obtain the level of bankruptcy protection today that I relied on in 1996. The public needs to know what's happening before these modern day loan sharks end up trying to take over the world and turning us all into eternal debt slaves. James Scurlock should be applauded for doing this film. This story would have been very easy 'not to do.'
The most unexpected thing about Maxed Out is its breathtaking resolution on the big screen. A lot of the footage shot for Maxed Out looks spectacular thanks to the genius of Jon Aaron Aaseng. It's almost inconceivable that a documentary about America's credit card debt can be this entertaining, this provocative and this easy to watch all at the same time. See it.
I saw this movie at the SXSW film festival and can't recommend it enough. It is AWESOME - right up there with a lot of the great documentaries that have come out the past few years. Basically it's about the predatory practices of the credit card companies, and how the government just seems to look the other way. Doesn't sound all that entertaining, right? I guarantee it will tick you off...and then make you a little nervous (see it and then tell me you won't think twice before applying for another credit card). Some of the things it covers are the ways that credit card companies have refined their practices to prey on college students (without jobs), the mentally disabled, people in bankruptcy, etc. and are never held accountable by the government for their actions (if fact, the CEO of a bank that was fined $400 million dollars for SHREDDING customers checks to charge false late fees was actually made a member of the current administration's cabinet). It also spotlights the fact that the largest campaign contributer in the 2004 election was the banking institution that coincidentally co-authored a bill that made it harder for middle-class Americans to file for bankruptcy. I hope this movie is put into wide release. I think it's something everybody in this country should see.
This documentary gives an excellent explanation as to why so many
people are in debt. It starts out with us riding along with a real
estate agent in Las Vegas. People are obsessed with material things,
and we all want to have more than we have.
But what the film does is explain how the banks and financial institutions have preyed upon the masses, especially the lower income families and young people who don't have a good understanding of how to manage money.
You'll see how families have been ruined by credit card debt and how insidious this game has gotten. If anything, this movie will make you question why we don't teach every child in America how to manage their money before they graduate high school so that they don't get caught in the credit card trap.
I think this movie is a must see for everyone, so they can understand why 10 percent of our society holds 2/3 of all the wealth in America and why the rest of us in the 90 percent can't seem to get ahead!
It's a well known fact that Americans are among the most
consumer-oriented and debt-ridden people on the planet. It's perhaps
less well known that banks and credit card companies actually make
their largest profits by extending mass amounts of credit to the very
people who can least afford to be in debt. By finally exposing this
ironic truth to the light of day, the documentary "Maxed Out" aims to
hold the powers-that-be accountable for their actions.
James D. Scurlock, the writer and director of the film, brings us one heartbreaking story after another about ordinary average citizens who have fallen victim to this consumer-credit nightmare. Some are struggling working-class folk who were scammed by debt-consolidation lenders into believing that they would be paying lower interest rates and payments on their loans, only to discover that their new rates and payments were, in reality, astronomically higher. Others are 18 year-old college students, who, it turns out, are prime targets for credit card companies who see these "bad risks" as gold stars in their corporate profit ledgers. Lending institutions also go after people who have previously filed for bankruptcy, knowing that such individuals are not only spending-prone by nature but legally unable to file for bankruptcy a second time. Scurlock also interviews debt-collectors who seem all but indifferent to the plight of those they are going after, as well as more humanistic economists who understand completely the depth of the problem.
Perhaps the most damning criticism is leveled at politicians like George W. Bush and the members of Congress who passed the ironically named Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, making it much harder for the average American to escape his consumer debt burden and much easier for irresponsible creditors to hound their debtors sometimes literally to death, a point Scurlock brings home when he interviews people whose loved ones have committed suicide as a result of their financial and debt-related woes. Yet, ironically, the film also shows the flippant attitude government officials seem to adopt regarding the nation's own debt situation as trillions of dollars of red ink spill unimpeded across the nation's treasury.
In terms of style, "Maxed Out" lacks the pizazz and showmanship of a Michael Moore expose, but Scurlock's single-minded passion still shines through loud and clear. This is a fairly straightforward talking-heads documentary that cuts to the heart of the problem with compassion and precision. The director does provide some much needed levity, though, by showing us snippets of a very funny standup comedy routine on the subject by Louis C. K., as well as excerpts from a typically cheesy 1960 instructional short entitled "The Wise Use of Credit" (the DVD contains the full ten-minute version of the film in the "Extra Features" section).
"Maxed Out" is another in a long line of documentaries seemingly designed to make one feel insignificant and powerless in the face of hugely impersonal corporate forces. Yet, if knowledge itself is power, then movies like "Sicko," "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room," "Maxed Out" etc. may, in their own small way, help lead to much-needed reform and change in the way the government and Big Business deal with the least of us in society. Let us hope that is the case.
Excellent flick. I often felt that people were at fault for their own
credit mess and to some extent, I still do.
This movie opened my eyes to how many of these credit giants prey on the uninformed and manage to make money through bankruptcies.
Someone charges $1000, makes a payment then goes delinquent. The late penalties cause that to become $3000, then after 180 days the bank writes that debt off and sells it at 50% to a debt collector for $1500. The bank still collects their principal, plus whatever payments the original person made, plus $500, plus takes a write off. It seems like a no brainer to hand money out like paper.
When a predator offers candy to a child, do we blame the child for taking the sweet bait? No, because the child didn't know better. So are these people at fault?
I can think of no better day than today to review this excellent
documentary. You see, today is the day after Thanksgiving 2008; what
many call "Black Friday." It is the day many of us sink further into
debt buying crap our friends and family probably don't need nor want.
Couple that with a destabilizing economy and you've got serious issues
to think about. The question we need to ask ourselves is "why?" Why do
we feel the need to spend more than we make (or may ever make)? The
tough answer is here in MAXED OUT, writer/director James D. Scurlock's
first feature length documentary.
I think many of us know the answer but simply refuse to acknowledge it: we want to keep up with the Jones'. They have a new car, we need a new car. They have a new washer/dryer, we need a new one. It is a cycle being perpetuated by the credit industry and we, the consumers, have been drawn to it like moths to a flamethrower.
Maxed Out gives us insights that should make one angry and fearful. Predatory lenders like MBNA, Capitol One, and other credit card companies target those that are least likely to be able to afford credit. Why? Because these are the people who max out their cards then pay the minimum monthly amounts until ...either bankrupt or death do them part. It's a marriage made in Hell and it continues to this day. College students who enter a new campus are likely to find tables set up near their dorms offering sign ups for new credit cards. Why? Again, because they can't afford it (sadly these are the people who end up in the worst situations, often dangling from their necks in dorm room closets).
Add to this fact that we are now in the worst financial/debt crisis in U.S. history (end of 2008) and is there any wonder why? George Bush and his buddies at MBNA passed a new law that puts tighter restrictions on filing for bankruptcy, making those who really need assistance the least likely to get it (but it's okay to spend 700 billion taxpayer dollars to bail out banks that caused this debacle). Heinous. And do the credit card companies have to answer to anyone? Morally or ethically? Not that I've seen.
This is a documentary well worth your while. And at a quick 89 minutes, it won't eat up a lot of your precious time ...like those credit card bills will.
I think this movie was wonderful and shows not only as individuals are
we not responsible with your credit (in some cases because were are
unable to get the basics due to our salaries) but it shows how we as a
society feed on the poor in a variety of ways. It shows how our
materialism as gone out of control.. HOUSES WITH ELEVATORS? This need
to have "things" no matter what the cost is quite sad. I cried with the moms in the film talking about their kids, and what credit card debit as done to new college students.
It was scary and informative... Now excuse me while I go check my credit rating!
Watched the news recently? Did you find out more about Tiger Woods'
extramarital affairs and the concern about Obama's religion than about
genuine subjects that concern you as an American, as a citizen of the
planet, as a human being? Authentic journalism has just about vanished
from TV in the past decade. Humorists Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert
more frequently carry out the task of speaking truth to power and
holding leaders responsible than any supposed journalist currently.
Accountability and outrage at power and status quo are still appearing
on film: in theaters, from time to time, but more often direct-to-DVD
sold mostly to, well, the outraged, the informed, those who want to
Writer-director James Scurlock, himself a financial adviser, records and recounts vicious procedures in the credit industry. He uses interviews with creditors, debtors, academics and everyday Americans who've been victimized by the process. His wants to increase recognition and knowledge of how credit and lending issues are shaping society. His key assertions are that banks and other creditors calculatingly target people more liable to have trouble paying and that the creditors profit from links to government, the debt collection industry, and from lawmaker lack of concern.
This film released a few years ago now, when evidently low-interest government-subsidized mortgages were replaced by companies like Citifinancial with loans many people couldn't afford. The "ethics czar" Bush appointed to "clean up" corporate America was a director of Providian, which had not long before defrauded its customers of roughly $400 million. The corrupt politicians and campaign contributors rely on the lack of full understanding of people, like me, when it comes to finances and business terminology. But you can be rusty or inexperienced in those matters and still fully understand how they've raped us for at least thirty years.
Scurlock's answer to all the optimistic economic news the mainstream media inundated us with at the time of its release---stock market and corporate earnings are booming!---and looking where we are now, is a gloomy rendering of loan scams that misinform even intelligent, well-informed people and a credit card industry calculated, with government support, to run counter to everyday consumers. Within ten years, over ten million declared bankruptcy. In 2004, thirty states sued the banks for predatory and unfair practices. The Bush administration's top regulator rushed to whose defense? The banks'.
In regards to Bush's failure to be a trustworthy, honorable, even respectable leader, the information never ceases. For his second term, his top campaign contributor was the country's second-largest credit card issuer. Within a few months, Bush endorsed a bill making it much harder for middle-class Americans to get a second chance when paying off their debts. Guess who wrote the bill? His top campaign contributor. That year, more of us went bankrupt than those of us who graduated college.
But Maxed Out isn't just another railing against Bush. It dates back for all necessary context. It summarily chronicles that Reagan used billions from Social Security to pay interest on the national debt. Then Bush 41 took even more billions from the Social Security trust fund and replaced it with IOU's. Then the government ran out of money anyhow and shut down, so Clinton used billions from pensions and Social Security to prevent defaulting on interest. Fast-forward to the middle of George W. Bush's 8-year reign, when the government ran out again, and Bush raised the debt limit by $800 billion. Within a year, the federal government had spent every cent of the Social Security "trust fund," just to cover smaller expenses.
I often gripe about people who fume about Obama's protracted handling of the 2008 economic downturn after they supported Bush's spending of $10 billion a month on average for his now famously dishonest and wasteful war, but here I learn his administration actually spent more on interest than on homeland security, education and healthcare all put together. In a time when the government's actually trying to monitor corporate power, the majority wants to restore all corporate power. Never mind that they're unequivocally the ones who drove us into depression. Or that one of the fastest-growing industries on Wall Street is buying debt. They've successfully consumerized us to the point where we feel we just have to blow our wads on luxury we know we can't afford. We keep pathologically trusting the wrong people because they know what words make us feel self-satisfied. When Bush talked about issuing a "fiscal straitjacket," he made it sound like it was a way of restricting Congress from reckless spending. But really---big shock---it was a handy excuse to remove government programs that didn't profit higher-ranking taxpayers and corporations.
There's a case to be made that films like this preach to the converted, but no one finds fault that tax-exempt mega-churches preach to the converted, and these kinds of films are at least making steps to satisfy an informative role the corporate media snubs. Besides, there were certain fine points stated directly in this film that I didn't know, that maybe I should've. For instance, I didn't know that the number-one qualification required to work at a bank is selling experience. If these films are "biased" toward a liberal or progressive stance, they still cannot expect to offset the virtually inescapable right-slanted corporate monotony. The trouble's this: When there were just three channels and Murrow discredited a Senator's hate campaign, everyone knew about it. When you have to be alerted to independently produced DVDs giving you another side of the story so as to realize that there's another side to the story, you wonder what the drawbacks are of mass media targeting subgroups for their specific interests. People only really want to pay attention to the media paying attention to them, and agree with the worldview they're too complacent to think too hard about. I'm waiting for Maxed Out 2: The Obama Years.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
...because a large percentage of them are likely the target demographic of this country's predatory financial system. Writer/producer/director James Scurlock surveys the state of our credit-driven consumer society with a sharp if somewhat prejudicial eye, and what he sees isn't pretty. Scurlock's main thesis has even gained power in light of the post-release financial snafus the country is dealing with now. The presentation isn't as clever as longtime classics like "The Atomic Cafe" or "Koyaanisqatsi," or even less political ones like "Crumb" or "Hoop Dreams," but it's still effective. If you've never been exposed to the information presented before, you'll never look at your credit cards (or the phony baloney so many issuers deluge you with) quite the same way again. And that'll be a good thing, Anthony, a very, very good thing.
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