Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
Of the five documentaries nominated at this year’s Academy Awards, this look at the financial scandal that bankrupted the massive American corporation Enron is one of three available now on DVD, along with March of the Penguins and Murderball. All are worthy, though this one is far and away the most frightening. It details the rise and fall of Enron without getting bogged down in the numbers: it focuses on the people, most notably big cheeses Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling, and their efforts to sustain a multi-billion dollar company with some very shady business practices and book-cooking. Though a little over-reliant on talking heads, the story is told clearly and dramatically, with astonishing video- and audio-taped conversation that connect the dots between big Texas money, White House support, California power grid mismanagement and wild misappropriation of funds by those who could see the end coming and got out early. Making sense of the largest business scandal in the history of the corporate world, the documentary shows how greed and ambition undiluted by conscience can rot a society from within. Oscar nomination or not, this is required viewing.