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Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005)

Not Rated | | Documentary | 20 May 2005 (USA)
A documentary about the Enron corporation, its faulty and corrupt business practices, and how they led to its fall.

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 3 wins & 10 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Credited cast:
John Beard ... Himself - Former Enron Accountant
Tim Belden ... Himself (archive footage)
... Herself (archive footage)
... Himself (archive footage)
... Himself - President, Kynikos Associates (as Jim Chanos)
... Himself
... Himself (archive footage)
Carol Coale ... Herself - Ex-Stock Analyst, Prudential Securities
... Narrator
... Himself - Former Governor of California
Reggie Dees II ... Himself - Young man the stripper dances in front of (as Reggie Deets II)
Joseph Dunn ... Himself - California State Senator
Max Eberts ... Himself - Former Spokesman, Enron Energy Services
Peter Elkind ... Himself - Co-Author, 'The Smartest Guys in the Room'
Andrew Fastow ... Himself (archive footage)
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Storyline

Enron dives from the seventh largest US company to bankruptcy in less than a year in this tale told chronologically. The emphasis is on human drama, from suicide to 20,000 people sacked: the personalities of Ken Lay (with Falwellesque rectitude), Jeff Skilling (he of big ideas), Lou Pai (gone with $250 M), and Andy Fastow (the dark prince) dominate. Along the way, we watch Enron game California's deregulated electricity market, get a free pass from Arthur Andersen (which okays the dubious mark-to-market accounting), use greed to manipulate banks and brokerages (Merrill Lynch fires the analyst who questions Enron's rise), and hear from both Presidents Bush what great guys these are. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Come see where all your money went. See more »

Genres:

Documentary

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

Official Sites:

PBS

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Language:

Release Date:

20 May 2005 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Black Magic  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Among the protesters who disrupt the meeting with Jeff Skilling at San Francisco's Commonwealth Club is Marla Ruzicka. The former Global Exchange activist founded CIVIC (Campaign for Innocent Victims of Conflict), which worked to help the victims of the war in Iraq. She died in Iraq on April 16, 2005, the victim of a suicide bombing. See more »

Quotes

Analyst: You are the only financial institution that can't produce a balance sheet or cash flow statement with their earnings...
Jeffrey Skilling: You, you, you... Well, uh... thank you very much. We appreciate it... asshole.
See more »

Connections

Featured in 2006 Independent Spirit Awards (2006) See more »

Soundtracks

Knee Play 1
Written by Philip Glass
Dunvagen Music Publishers, Inc.
Performed by Philip Glass
Courtesy of Nonesuch Records
By Arrangement with Warner Strategic Marketing
See more »

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User Reviews

A fascinating story in a clear and well-delivered film whose only weakness is the bias inherent in the telling
19 February 2008 | by See all my reviews

When Enron was granted permission to use mark-to-market accounting it saw the start of the dramatic increase in its profits and its share price. The method allows a company to claim projected earnings from projects once the deal is signed. With this in place Enron was able to earn money without actually earning money. However this could not go on forever and the company was under pressure to continually come up with new ideas to keep the deals and money flowing. And it did so, to the point where it was widely praised within the business community and by stockholders. However things would eventually catch up with the company and a few years ago the company collapsed in bankruptcy before the arrests began.

Working for an American multinational myself I am always interested and critical of the business model of making more and more money and keeping the stock increasing in value being the only way to survive. So I have watched films like this and like The Corporation with interest and appreciate the way that they sell a complex issue in easy to understand ways. With the Enron film it is all the more interesting because it is a prime example of how it all fell down and how easy it is to con the market – which, regardless of the legality of the accounting method used, is basically what they did! The film tells the story well and it is a tale that never struggles to fascinate. Lesser hands could have fudged the telling but the team here structure it well and use footage from Enron and C-Span to really good effect. In fact I did wonder how much this film cost to make because the vast majority of it is stock footage and a handful of interviews.

Although they lay things out well, the film doesn't manage to avoid nailing its colours to the mast; which is a shame because the story is compelling enough and damning enough to work without resorting to cheap digs, funny footage and so on. Sadly it does use this – not to the point of distraction but just to the point where I wondered if the makers didn't think that the facts would be strong enough to make the audience get the point without the extra bit of hammering. The film also stretches to bring in Bush and his cronies as if they were also to blame; it doesn't labour this point but what little it does is stretched – again it could have done less and allowed the audience to draw its own conclusions.

Overall this is not a perfect documentary because it is a bit biased and based on commentary from subjects all on one side of the fence. However it is well structured and easy to follow, stripping away the feared complexity of the tale and telling it in a fascinating and engaging way. A cautionary tale that I doubt that those that needed to learn from have learnt from. Well worth a look and yet another good documentary making it into cinemas.


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