Daily Speculations

The Web Site of Victor Niederhoffer & Laurel Kenner

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The Movie Page

Heeding a suggestion that we compile a list of movies that pertain to the markets in some fashion, whether it's ingrained in the theme or just a few pithy lines, we have begun taking recommendations from our contributors and readers alike. Below the recommendations we have an array of full reviews that may or, may not be, market related.



Scott Brooks suggests Finding Neverland

I was flipping channels tonight and saw that Finding Neverland was about to come on. I usually don't like Johnny Depp movies, but for some reason, I decided to watch.

Before I knew it, I was sucked into the movie and was completely hooked.

If you want to watch a very good show, one that leaves you with a warm feeling inside, then you owe it to yourself to see Finding Neverland.

Finding Neverland is the story of how James Barrie found his muse that lead him to write Peter Pan.

What I liked best about the movie is that for a little while I was actually transformed back into a child. I literally bought into the "imagination" that was being sold, completely and totally sold, on screen.

It also filled the analytical side of me with a smile. I live on the left side of my brain and only take occasional journey's the right side. I don't understand the right side very well. I don't understand "the muse" that fills those that create the world of arts and entertainment....but I love that world. I am in awe at what the mind of man can create....I love great art, I love great acting, great writing, and musical talent.....but I don't understand it....why? I guess because I have no real talent in that arena.

I have never really understood what it is inside of me that loves great art....I've tried to understand and tap into it to see if it can enhance my personal "analytical muse".....I'm not sure I've ever been successful at accomplishing that ... but tonight I think I may have caught a glimpse of ... way in the corner of my eye.....the scene near the end where the home of the "muses" is transformed into Neverland and they really get to see it.

As I watched that scene, with my daughter Lydia curled up on my lap holding me tight, my analytical brain said that could never happen, they are really only in their house and are only imagining Neverland....but at that moment I realized that, even though I knew I was sitting in my living room, and could see the living room in my peripheral vision, I was actually in Neverland...I felt that child like feeling of joy, that sense of awe that children feel at the wonder of the world around them....at that exact moment I became completely aware of my 4 year old Lydia sitting in my lap, with her arms wrapped tight around me ...

As I held her tight, I felt a complete and total sense of contentment come over my body, a rush of warmth caused by whatever the hormone is the body releases in this situation surged thru my blood stream ...

Finding Neverland is definitely worth a watch. I've already told me wife that I want the older kids to watch it.

Even though it was a very good movie, I don't think the younger kids could sit thru it very long (Lydia was on my lap for only about 10 minutes by the time of the kiss).

Here's the Prudish Dad review portion:

I don't remember anything that was inappropriate for the kids. There is some adult themes involving death, marital strife, business stress, and even implications of rumors as to why James is hanging around 4 boys so much......but it is all handled in a very appropriate manner. I recommend it as a family show. The only reservation I have is that it probably will not hold the attention of the younger kids.

Alston Mabry:

I had just been thinking about an old favorite, and how it contains interesting commentary for speculators: on deception, the role of luck, and taking risks, and how one's interpretation of random events can affect one's perception of self and world. We have List members from many places, including south Asia, and I hope they do not find this selection offensive (though if they do, I would very much appreciate an elucidation so that I might broaden my own understanding). The film is "The Man Who Would Be King", directed by John Huston and starring Sean Connery, Michael Caine and another favorite, Saeed Jaffrey.

Nigel Davies:

One very good one that I don't think has been mentioned before: 'Enemy at the Gates'.

Also, Dersu Uzala, directed by Akira Kurosawa

President of Old Speculator's Club:

The Godfather - mergers, hostile takeovers, diversification, the art of negotiation, the rewards of patience, lobbying, poison pills....etc.

Tom Ryan:

Lawrence of Arabia with Peter O'Toole: One man "challenging the laws of chance" Plenty of examples of smart risk taking counterbalanced with examples of stupid risk taking.

"Ouch that bloody well hurts! What is the trick then?"

"The trick is.... in not minding the hurt"

Also, I challenge anyone to deny the seeming prophetical part about how the Arab army handles the occupation of Damascus and not see the relationship to what we have going on today.

David Hillman:

House of Games. Far too many layers of deception to count.

Great Lines:

"Oh, you're a bad pony. And I'm not gonna' bet on you."

"What I'm talking about comes down to a more basic philosophical principle: Don't trust nobody."

"You say I acted atrociously. Yes. I did. I do it for a living."

And my personal favorite:

"You can't bluff someone who's not paying attention."

Writer/Director: David Mamet, Cast: Joe Mantegna, Lindsay Crouse, Ricky Jay, J.T. Walsh, et.al.

Scott Brooks:

One of my favorite all time movies is "The Usual Suspects".

One can see the risks associated with playing a high stakes game (just being involved with Keyser Sose). The consequences of playing a high stakes game and then running away (don't play with the big boys if you can't take the downside risk, ala Benicio Del Toro's character running away from the high stakes game).

Know the players in the game, verify facts, and make sure things are what they seem to be. Was Verbal really who he said he was? The lesson, was Enron, WorldCom, Global Crossing et. al. really who (or what) they said they were?

And last but not least...sometime the answer is right in front of you, maybe in your office and all the clues are hanging on your wall or staring back at you from the bottom of your coffee cup. Sometimes in trading the most obvious "tells" of the market are over looked because they are too simple and don't fit neatly into some PhD level quantifiable equation that only someone with an IQ north of 150 could understand. We over complicate things that don't need to be.

Another great movie is "Spies Like Us".

In this movie I learned to make sure that I'm not being used for someone else's purposes (the market is full of people willing to use you for their own ends, almost always to your detriment).

And you need to make sure to verify what someone really means:

Commie agent: "Every thirty seconds you do not tell me what I want to know, I cut off a finger!"

Chevy Chases Character: "Uh, one of yours or one of mine?"

For instance most analyst are great on the buy side, but disappear on the sell side. If you don't do the sell side right, you could lose a finger (ok, this whole analogy is a big stretch, but that is one of my favorite movie sequences and I just had to include it).

Gordon Haave:

I can't believe nobody has mentioned Glengarry Glen Ross, which could pretty much serve as the bio for your average Wall Street broker.

Favorite lines from Rounders:

"You can't lose what you don't put in the middle, but you
 can't win much either."

 "If you had it to do all over again, knowing what would
 happen, would you make the same choice?"

 "Why do you think the same five guys make it to the final
 table of the World Series of Poker every year? What, are they
 the luckiest guys in Las Vegas?"

 "It's immoral to let a sucker keep his money."

 "Always leave yourself outs."

 "walking in here I can hardly remember how I built my
 bankroll, but I can't stop thinking how I lost it"

 "Amarillo Slim, the greatest proposition gambler of all time,
 held to his father's maxim: You can shear a sheep many times,
 but skin him only once"

 "you spot a man's tell, you don't say a word."

 "They're simply overmatched. We're not playing together, but
 we're not playing against each other, either. You don't see
 piranhas eating each other, do you? "

In the recent discussions of movies on the list, I feel compelled to mention that for most people, and perhaps even many spec-listers, the only winning move is not to play. Such is the lesson of the movie "War Games". Now it may or may not be that the only winning move in a nuclear showdown between the US and the Soviet Union was not to play. Certainly, however, those who pressed for the development of the B2, the railroad MX missiles, and the midgetman missiles were trying to at least tilt the balance.

However, in the stock market, for the vast majority of players the only winning move is not to play. Of course, I don't mean that one shouldn't have market exposure in order to pick up the 9% positive drift in the stock market. However, once that exposure is achieved through a broad based index fund, to further attempt to trade stocks is a negative-sum game for all participants. (It is a zero sum game in a frictionless world, but Wall Street is about as frictionless as coarse sandpaper in the lavatory).

James Morin:

Rounders is another good example, as there have been many comparisons between poker at a high level and trading. There are a number of scenes that deal with odds/percentages, bankroll, psychology and other important aspects of trading.

There is one scene in particular, that was set up with the viewer having a n understanding of what professionals can do to amateurs, in which there is a table full of "pros" at the Taj in Atlantic City, and one says something to the effect of:

"if we were just going to take each other's money we could have stayed in NYC"

I think the analogy is best described as follows:

Many amateurs try their hand at poker, only to have all of their money taken away by a pro (very similar to the markets) but there will be times where the pros are simply shifting their chips (profits) around the table to each other.

Kevin Depew:

I divide Speculative movies into categories, depending on what area of Wall Street one wants to discuss.

Research Analyst
"The Conversation"
Harry Caul does his homework... too well. Inside information leads to home

The Unwitting Guru
"Cool Hand Luke"
Luke. Poor, Luke. He just wants to get by. Instead, his prison mates turn him
into a Christ-like guru simply because he refuses to stay in prison or take a
punch and lose a fight gracefully.

Fiat Currency Regime
"The Manchurian Candidate"
The Fed has a dream.  So does Ben Marco.  A conspiratorial bubble bursts.

Black Swan Event
"The Killing"
Johnny Clay has a plan. The plan's execution is perfect. Everything falls into
place. Fat tail event at the airport ruins everything.

Momentum Trading
"The Maltese Falcon"
What is it?  A black statue?  Who knows?  Everybody else wants it so it must be

Value Investing
"My Left Foot"
Born with cerebral palsy, Christy Brown's father is unimpressed.  Mom knows
better, doesn't sell.

"Blue Velvet"
Innocent Jeffrey likes innocent Sandy... a lot, but scary Dorothy needs
Jefferey's help and before you know it Dean Stockwell is singing into a car
mechanic's lamp, Dennis Hopper is huffing nitrous and Detective Tom Gordon is
wearing his intestines for a necktie.

Commodities/Emerging Markets
"The Treasure of the Sierra Madre"
Dobbs is a gold bug. Winds up with a bag of sand in Mexico. Dang.

The Market Doesn't Care About you
Little Bill Daggett pleads, "I don't deserve this," to Bill Munny who is holding
a shotgun to his face.  Munny says, "Deserve's got nothin' to do with it," and
pulls the trigger.

Tom Larsen:

I recommend the movie "Pi" to traders who have investigated some of the more "cosmic" aspects of technical analysis, such as Elliott wave theory, Fibonnaci numbers, or Gann angles and such. This is an indie movie by Darren Aronofsky made in black and white about a mathematician who is slowing sinking into madness as he obsesses with his work. He believes his calculations are leading him to the secrets of the universe, and by the way, he uses them to profitably trade.

As he starts losing it (possibly from pounding clanging techno music), he becomes known to two groups of people who are very interested in obtaining his calculations. One group is a bunch of old school rabbis, who have studied the ancient texts for years and see his work as leading straight to a mystical contact with the Creator. The other group is (obviously) A Wall Street Firm Out To Make A Buck. Then stuff happens.

Having met more than a few people over the last 30 years who were "searching for the holy grail", I liked this movie because it tries to imagine what would happen to a person who discovered such a thing.

M. Cekin:

I have found a number of useful lessons depicting irony and unexpected outcomes embedded in many of the short stories of O. Henry. Much like Treasure of the Sierra Madre, many of the Klondike-related stories of Jack London have gripping illustrations of what lengths to which men will go, and the risks they will take, in order to extract wealth from the harsh wilderness.

But my all time favorite, and my inspiration for a career in financial services has got to be "The Bank Dick" starring W. C. Fields, screenplay by Mahatma. The following excerpt sums up most of the key tenets of successful investing:

Egbert Sous• (Fields):  I met a poor fellow who's in trouble. Something the
matter with his grandmother's paisley shawl. He has 5,000 shares in the
Beefsteak Mine and you can buy them for a handful of hay.

Og Oggilby:    Hay? And they're worth?

Egbert Sous•:   Ten cents a share. Telephone sold for five cents a share.
How would you like something better for ten cents a share? If five gets ya
ten, ten'll get ya twenty. A beautiful home in the country, upstairs and
down. Beer flowing through the estate over your grandmother's paisley shawl.

Og Oggilby:   Beer?

Egbert Sous•:   Beer! Fishing in the stream that runs under the arboreal
dell. A man comes up from the bar, dumps $3,500 in your lap for every nickel
invested. Says to you, 'Sign here on the dotted line.' And then he
disappears in the waving fields of alfalfa.

Og Oggilby:  Gosh! Do you think he was telling the truth?

Egbert Sous•:   You don't think a man would resort to terra-diddle, do you?
Why, he sounded like a child at the very thought of disposing of these
shares. How does the bank make its money?

Og Oggilby:   By investing.

Egbert Sous•:    That's the point. You don't want to work all your life.
Take a chance. Take it while you're young....My uncle, a balloon
ascensionist, Effingham Hoofnagle, took a chance. He was three miles and a
half up in the air. He jumped out of the basket of the balloon and took a
chance of landing on a load of hay.

Og Oggilby:   Golly! Did he make it?

Egbert Sous•:   Uh, no...He didn't. Had he been a younger man, he probably
would have made it. That's the point. Don't wait too long in life.

A Separate List: Movies About Men

A distinguished member of the Old Speculators Association assembled a list of films that seem to fall into the heroic/realistic category in their portrayals of men.

Some are so obviously candidates that you slap your forehead thinking "how could I have forgot that one": like Lonely Are the Brave, The Quiet Man and Patton. Others I have yet to see but look forward to seeing them. Some have already been mentioned above.


Director Starring
Breaker Morant Bruce Beresford Edward Woodward
Barry Lyndon Stanley Kubrick Ryan O'Neal
Defiant Ones, The (1958) Stanley Kramer Sidney Poitier
Tony Curtis
Gandhi Richard Attenborough Ben Kingsley
Good the Bad and the Ugly, The Sergio Leone Clint Eastwood
Inherit the Wind Stanley Kramer Spencer Tracy
Fredric March
Last Angry Man Daniel Mann Paul Muni
Lion in Winter, The Anthony Harvey Katharine Hepburn
Peter O'Toole
Lonely Are the Brave David Miller Kirk Douglas
Monty Walsh William A. Fraker Lee Marvin
Mission, The Roland Joffe Robert De Niro
Once Upon a Time in the West Sergio Leone Henry Fonda
Once Upon a Time in America Sergio Leone Robert De Niro
Pale Rider Clint Eastwood Clint Eastwood
Patton Franklin J. Schaffner George C. Scott
Paths of Glory Stanley Kubrick Kirk Douglas
Quiet Man, The John Ford John Wayne
Ran Akira Kurosawa Mifune
Shane George Stevens Alan Ladd
Saving Private Ryan Steven Spielberg Tom Hanks
Tender Mercies Bruce Beresford Robert Duvall
Unforgiven Clint Eastwood Clint Eastwood
Untouchables Brian De Palma Kevin Costner
We Were Soldiers Randall Wallace Mel Gibson

Movie Reviews