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Excess, Consumerism and Gremlins


With Black Friday almost upon us, KMUW's Jedd Beaudoin, Fletcher Powell and Hugo Phan discuss their favorite movies about greed, excess and consumerism.

Jedd's Pick - A Simple Plan (1998)

I studied fiction writing in college and graduate school and needed to work on plot in my short stories. Someone suggested I read Scott B. Smith’s A Simple Plan.

I was on the case when I saw the VHS copy of the film at my local Blockbuster and decided to rent it that night. Somehow it had escaped my attention before that moment but I could not stop watching this film—it was late at night, and when the whole thing was over I did not want to move from the couch. I couldn’t believe what had unfolded before me.

The setting calls to mind another favorite novel/film adaptation, Affliction with Nick Nolte. The nuances in the plot and character, as well as superior acting from the entire cast, made this an easy pick.

Hugo's Pick - There Will Be Blood (2007)

The first time I saw P.T. Anderson's There Will Be Blood, I couldn't help but remark at how different it looked from every film he had previously put out. However, that is not what pulled me in. Anderson has this ability to confuse, unsettle and unnerve me so much that I break out in laughter.

In the case of the There Will Be Blood, half of my giggles stem from my nervousness (over how uneasy Daniel Plainfield's greed and ambition makes me feel). The other half stems from my realization of how outrageously elaborate, yet carefully orchestrated, Anderson's characterizations are (Plainfield's plotting and his believably over-the-top nature).

The movie is also gorgeous. Greed has never looked so good.

Fletcher's Pick - Gremlins II: The New Batch (1990)

Twenty-five years later, this movie is getting a little bit of a second look from some people, but still, not many remember that it even exists, let alone how much of a scathing indictment it is of 1980s excess, greed, corporatism and consumerism. And this is even more stark looking at it now-- a clip from Rambo that shows up in the movie has never looked more ridiculous. Gremlins 2 is about a lot of things beyond that excess of the '80s-- it's so self-referential and makes about a zillion references to pieces of movie history-- but the knife it takes to the Gordon Gekko "Greed is good" decade is as sharp as can be, and it's undeniable.

What are some of your favorite movies about greed, excess and consumerism? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter.

Fletcher Powell has worked at KMUW since 2009 as a producer, reporter, and host. He's been the host of All Things Considered since 2012 and KMUW's movie critic since 2016. Fletcher is a member of the Critics Choice Association.
Jedd Beaudoin is host/producer of the nationally syndicated program Strange Currency. He has also served as an arts reporter, a producer of A Musical Life and a founding member of the KMUW Movie Club. As a music journalist, his work has appeared in Pop Matters, Vox, No Depression and Keyboard Magazine.
Hugo Phan is a Digital News Reporter at KMUW, and founding member of the KMUW Movie Club. After years of being a loyal listener, he signed up to be a KMUW volunteer and joined the station's college student group before becoming a digital assistant in 2013.