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The American Ruling Class
The American Ruling Class
Actors: Bill Bradley, Hodding Carter, Walter Cronkite, Jr. Kurt Vonnegut, Robert Altman
Genres: Drama, Musicals & Performing Arts
NR     2009     1hr 29min

THE AMERICAN RULING CLASS is one of the most unusual films to be made in America in recent years, both in terms of form and subject. The form is a first, a ?dramatic-documentary-musical? that re-invents all three genres. A...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Bill Bradley, Hodding Carter, Walter Cronkite, Jr. Kurt Vonnegut, Robert Altman
Genres: Drama, Musicals & Performing Arts
Sub-Genres: Drama, Musicals & Performing Arts
Studio: Alive Mind
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 01/13/2009
Original Release Date: 01/01/2007
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2007
Release Year: 2009
Run Time: 1hr 29min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 4
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

A Political Musical? - Yep, but with a real purpose behind t
Steven I. Ramm | Phila, PA USA | 12/21/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)

I watched the DVD with no preconceptions as to what I was going to see except that there were a lot of well-known folks listed on the box as appearing in the film. Walter Cronkite, Senator (and NBA star) Bill Bradley, Director Robert Altman, author Kurt Vonnegut, activist/singer Pete Seeger and Disney Chair Mike Medavoy were there. Yet this was a small independent film. Were they being roped into being on camera as part of a publicity stunt? Well, yes.. and no. Director John Kirby's film is sort of like a Michael Moore documentary in that it certainly has a specific agenda but, though the premise is truly fictional - two graduating Yale seniors head off in different directions, one working for a big investment firm and the other working in social service. With the help of columnist Lewis Lapham, they also get to visit and interview the above named celebrities and politicians asking the question: Who is the current American ruling class? The musical part of the "mockumentary" is composed of some clever songs to bind the actual interviews. The students were real students but their quest for the answers was a "set up".

This film apparently played many Film Festivals and I can see why it was an audience favorite. No it won't win any Academy Award nominations, like Moore's films, but it's certainly worth watching.

There are no special features on it, which would have added to the value of the DVD.

Steve Ramm
"Anything Phonographic""
A must see, if you love democracy.
Doomed01 | WA, USA | 02/26/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is my favorite movie now. I watched it at least 5 times, learning something new each time. With such a sensitive subject, it's subtle, with clues everywhere, from its product placement of books, flashing of portfolios to even song lyrics. I think if you watch this movie very carefully & read the book below (see link), you could be awakened.

The Secrets of the Federal Reserve (Hardcover)The Secrets of the Federal Reserve"
Truly Remarkable--Provokes & Entertains
Robert D. Steele | Oakton, VA United States | 12/10/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This DVD is superb and also subversive. I doubt that the "stars" in this movie, particularly James Baker, Bill Bradley, Howard Brown, and Larry Summers, really knew what they were getting into, since their words--and their bland denials--ring so false in this context.

I put the film in while trying to deal with Microsoft's latest "update" that cost me half the morning, and I recommend it very strongly as a Christmas present or for classrooms and book clubs.

My notes:

+ A Peabody, whose ancestors came on "the boat" and also founded Groton, laments that whereas all the leaders used to pass through Groton, now there is no real "source." I am reminded of Lee Iacocca's Where Have All the Leaders Gone?.

+ Hedge fund visits basically boils all ownership in America down to four banks, and later in the film we learn that six multinational control almost all "content."

+ We are specifically told by a financial journalist that the concentration of wealth in America is now back to 1929 levels (this was in 2006 or so, talk about a signal for the future depression!

+ Although I think of myself as a Reagan Republican (and Libertarian) I never liked his use of the military to break the unions, and now I am very troubled by the discussion of the 1970's as the era in which big money broke the backs of the unions. See also State of the Unions: How Labor Can Strengthen the Middle Class, Improve Our Economy, and Regain Political Influence.

+ Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America makes an appearance here and talks about how the underclass is living in a "constant state of emergency." This is heart-breaking and precisely the kind of thing that the White House and Congress refuse to address.

+ The discussion of the Council on Foreign Relations )CFR) established $500,000 as the minimal annual income for entry into the outer circle, and I suspect it is really closer to $2-3 million these days, the dollar being worth half what it was in the 1970's.

+ The cameo appearances by both the elites and the counter-elites (e.g. Howard Zinn) have been brilliantly orchestrated. As Joe Nye and others speak I think "best of the servant class."

+ The movie specifically addresses the question of war as profit, and I am bemused by the straight faces of the ostensible elite (actually just the top rung of the major domo line) as they deny thing. See as a minimum War is a Racket: The Antiwar Classic by America's Most Decorated Soldier and The Fifty-Year Wound: How America's Cold War Victory Has Shaped Our World.

+ Hodding Carter is interesting to me as he talks about how Lucifer always takes one on a tour of the mountain top, and then concludes that if you go into the elite you must on the one hand forget most of what you learned about doing good for others; and on the other hand, will die, not wishing for more money, but for having done your time differently.

+ The East Coast portion of the movie ends on the note of "doing well is not the same as doing good."

+ In Texas we hear about how the national interest will always remove all moral obstacles to self-interest, and with James Baker and others, explore the bomb-profit index. See also Confessions of an Economic Hit Man and The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.

+ Great line: "You can't fight City Hall, but you can buy it." In fairness to those doing the buying, my sense is that those being bought are the ones asking for the money.

The movie ends with a very inspiring walk down a country lane and the discussion of how the banks are like rocks in a big basket, and the other basket is being filled by teaspoons of sand, much of it leaking, as the many race against the few to achieve a balance of power. Powerful. See also The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, Revised and Updated 5th Anniversary Edition: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits and A Power Governments Cannot Suppress.

Both Zinn and Perkins are in this movie, the one wish I would have of any future issuance is that it include text showing the name of the person, half of them were NOT easily recognized in the single use of their name verbally.

The alternate ending includes a childrens' chorus from Camp Thoreau, and a Demopublican such as discussed in Grand Illusion: The Myth of Voter Choice in a Two-Party Tyranny and my own Election 2008: Lipstick on the Pig (Substance of Governance; Legitimate Grievances; Candidates on the Issues; Balanced Budget 101; Call to Arms: Fund We Not Them; Annotated Bibliography).

You can find all of my reviews more easily accessed within 98 categories (e.g. Democracy, Pathology of Power, Secrecy and the Politics of Secrecy) at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog, all with links leading back to Amazon, but vastly easier to exploit than here."
Thom Browning | New York, NY | 01/21/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This new film by director John Kirby is a truly one of a kind social commentary. As a documentary its style is completely unique, mixing documentary, mockumentary, socio-political essay, and musical!

The story follows two young men through a series of encounters that illuminates the true nature of America's social class structure. While one is ready to buy in and join the wealthy "ruling" class of America, the other strives to hold on to his ideals and live a life that is meaningful in the way HE wishes it to be.

These personal narratives are intercut with interviews with prominent American cultural figures such as ROBERT ALTMAN, BILL BRADELY, KURT VONNEGUT, former Secretary of State JAMES BAKER III, HOWARD ZINN, WALTER CRONKITE, and many others, each of whom offers their own unique perspective on how our country is organized into a class that holds most of the money and most of the power and another class consisting of EVERYBODY ELSE. And just to make things interesting, musical interludes occasionally break up the action, adding new dimensions to the meaning of the film, as well as adding to the overall entertainment it offers.

I bought this DVD on a whim, as I am a very big documentary fan, and I have to say that I couldn't be happier with the purchase. You should definitely CHECK IT OUT."