May 9, 2006

How to beef up that "Big Love" website.

Yesterday, I complained about "Big Love" being too much about financial problems. I don't like watching someone suffering over financial problems. But Gordon Smith Christine Hurt -- he's she's a corporate lawprof -- loves that there's a show about financial problems. He She even wants to see the documents. Hey, HBO has a great website for "Big Love." Margene even has a goofy blog. Surely, they could put up the copies of the financial documents to feed the corporate lawprof blog niche.

CORRECTION: Sorry. The post is by Gordon's co-blogger Christine Hurt, also a corporate lawprof.

MORE: I'm trying to think of movies or TV shows that have concentrated on the financial problems of fictional characters. Are there any that I've enjoyed? I'm not including the general problems of being poor (or too rich), but the actual details of business transactions between characters. It's one thing for a lawprof to spot a legal issue and find that interesting to expound upon, but does one's interest in those underlying legal issues make the show enjoyable? I follow issues of jurisdiction in law, but I don't think I'd enjoy a drama about characters encountering jurisidiction problems. I'd love to blog about them, of course.

ADDED: Let me cite "Fargo" as an example of a great movie with a story built on financial transactions.

YET MORE: Larry Ribstein makes the excellent point that financial problems and polygamy are inherently intertwined and that the show displays that quite well. Ribstein brings in the comparison between polygamy and gay marriage, a point I discussed back here. I think the two arrangements are distinguishable precisely on the economic level.

23 comments:

Wasteland Fan said...

Gordon may or may not love Big Love; I haven't read him weigh in on the subject. But, it's Christine who wants to see the documents.

Word Verification: pjbiz, as in "underoos revolutionized the pjbiz."

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks. These group blogs! I wonder how often I read things and assume it's someone other than the author.

(Insert your own wisecrack about group marriage.)

Dave said...

Well I'm neither a lawyer nor a corporate law professor but I do profess interest in the same business issues as Christine Hurt.

But then I'm one of those avaricious capitalists everyone loves to hate.

Ann Althouse said...

Dave: I'm not anti-business, I just don't like watching a drama about someone suffering with financial problems.

Henry said...

Ann, What do you think of the David Mamet oeuvre? Particularly I'm thinking of Glengarry Glen Ross and The Spanish Prisoner.

One specific role that comes to mind, in an otherwise forgettable movie, is William H. Macy's turn in A Civil Action. John Travolta is a bore as the impassioned tort lawyer, but then Macy shows up to tell him that he's bankrupting the firm and your heart breaks for the bookkeeper, he looks so sad.

Balfegor said...

but the actual details of business transactions between characters.

Several Korean dramas include this kind of thing quite prominently. I don't think they're an accurate reflection of Korean business law, but they do include it, usually to provide some means for the antagonist to effect his revenge for something the protagonist's parents did to his in the last generation. E.g. get the protagonist / his parents to secure a large corporate loan with their personal assets ("Bright Girl"), covertly purchase stock in the holding company and engineer a takeover at the annual shareholders' meeting ("Save the Last Dance for Me"), and others I do not recall. But there's a lot of that stuff. I think Chinese TV shows feature some of the same tropes.

Ann Althouse said...

Henry: I've never seen "Glengarry Glen Ross," and I hated "The Spanish Prisoner."

I'm willing to believe that a great narrative could involve financial transactions, but they would need to be depicted clearly and comprehensibly. What I really hate is just watching a person suffering because of financial problems.

I'd say "Fargo" has some good stuff with financial transactions.

CB said...

One thing that I've always found irritating about television shows, even if they're just sitcoms, is when the financial situations of the characters are unrealistic. Friends is the perfect example. It was hard to just enjoy the show when I kept thinking that there was no way someone could work in a coffeehouse and live in a $3000/month apartment & wear designer clothing.

There was a real effort the first few seasons of The Simpsons to make the show revolve around the realistic financial problems of the family, but it didn't last very long.

gj said...

House of Games, The Money Pit.

Troy said...

The Merchant of Venice perhaps?

Heist movies also, but those seem more about burglary and fraud than plain financial transactions.

TidalPoet said...

If I recall, didn't Catch Me If You Can revolve around financial dealings?

Jennifer said...

What about Cinderella Man? His financial woes motivated him, though.

Jennifer said...

The Man from Elysian Fields? That might be a better example than Cinderella Man.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeff said...

The "Friends" apartment had a market value a lot higher thean $3,000!

That said, the excuse was that the apartment was inherited from one of the characters grandmothers. For non-New Yorkers, that means that the Grandmother had been renting the apartment for 30 or 40 years while paying artificially low rent thanks to the city's socialistic rent control laws. The lease was then passed along to one of the obnoxious grandchildren, like some kind of medieval fiefdom.

There are currently around one MILLION rent-controlled apartments. The rest of us are forced to pay artificially high rents thanks to the resultant distortions in the real estate market. Someone should do a show about the New York real estate world and the backstabbing and manuevering that animates it all.

Henry said...

I'm not talking great movies here, but what about Wall Street and its comic doppelganger Trading Places.

Aha! Guy Ritchie's Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Lola Reent (Germany - released as Lola Runs in the U.S.), and my favorite of the three I Went Down (Ireland). All of these involve characters who needs a lot of money in a hurry.

Even better: Jim Sheridan's In America. The family's financial woes are a constant motif throughout the movie.

Henry said...

Whoops. Screwed up the IMDB link for In America. This is it.

Dave said...

Ann: I wasn't trying to imply you are anti-business. Sorry if you took it that way.

CB: The Friends apartment would rent for much more than $3000. Try $15000 per month or so.

But same principle applies.

CB said...

Jeff & Dave,
$3000/month was a wild guess, assuming that it was rent-controlled, & not knowing where in NYC it was supposed to be.

I'm fascinated by rent control--it seems so ridiculous that there's no way it could be sustained; I suppose certain big-city realities (zoning, etc.) conspire to perpetuate it. So how good of a deal do people get? Do they pay half the market value? One-tenth?

Dave said...

CB: Google "rent control guidelines board nyc" and I think you'll find some of the info you are looking for.

There's also two types of control: rent stabilization and rent control, one of which was implemented after World War II, and the other of which was implemented, I think, in the 1960s. I don't really remember which is which.

The kind of "deal" you can get depends on the market rate. A 5 bedroom apartment on central park west would rent at a market rate well above $20,000 per month so if someone were renting for $1000 that would be a good deal for the tenant.

None of these "deals" are good for the landlord, and that is who we ought to properly care about in the transaction.

Jeff said...

The Upper West Side used to be fairly ghetto (see: West Side Story) and is famous for having elderly tenants who pay a few hundred dollars, at most, for apartments that would list at least ten times as much on the open market.

An acquaintance of mine summed it up best: he was a middle-aged (late 40's-early 50's) single gay man who had an apt. in the east village that had lived in for over 25 years. It was a two bedroom apt which I'm guessing would now rent for $3,500 a month, minimum. That price range will soon rise as NYU's encroachment in the neighborhood proceeds.

He paid $400 a month, a legacy of his grandmother's decades-old rent-controlled lease. His sister, a homeowner, had chided him for still renting. He told her that the rental lease was his "inheritance" from their grandmother, and that he would keep the lease in the family and pass it to his nephew one day.

Needless to say, he was an active member of rent-control activism groups, the kind that frequently protest any threat to their "right" to force the property owners to charge only what the city allows them to.

rmc said...

The Man from Elysian Fields is a great example. I wasn't too taken with Malcom M's angle, but the financial desperation and dilemmas of Garcia's character are palpably uncomfortable, making you feel how he's been knocked loose from his moral moorings. Plus, the direction is visually great, bringing the architecture(s) into the scenes like music.

Paul Dubuc said...

"It's a Wonderful Life"