GameStop Rise of the Players review: a feel-good doc filled with unexpected heroes

New GameStop Documentary Rise of the Player is a coda movie. You know – the kind of story that’s largely oral history, with a feel-good climax appearing in a few lines of text, over a montage and good laughs, right at the end. It became clear that Rise of the Player is moving in that direction about halfway through, after introducing nine ordinary people who are not only the masters of this story, they are the best subjects a documentarian could want.

These nine are “OG Diamond Hands,” who first invested in the game retailer assassinated a year ago, then transferred those shares through abnormal white knuckle market causing stock prices to skyrocket to nearly Neptune. The obvious question from viewers is “How did these people succeed when the GameStop story is no longer national news?”

The final coda that answers that question is well worth the 90 minutes of director Jonah Tulis’ introduction and explanation. Rise of the Player’round heart stars. Among them was Justin Dopierala, a money manager at a dairy company who became a millionaire from nurses and welders. Rigoberto Alcaraz, whose parents immigrated from Mexico to Batavia, Illinois, begins with a story about Horatio Alger for the ages. And Jenn Kruza’s undying smile is attested after she held onto her GameStop stock long enough to make huge profits, even while she was undergoing chemotherapy treatment with no health insurance.

Four men in front of a computer bank in a highly detailed 16-bit style animation sequence from GameStop: Rise of the Players

The “heroes” of GameStop: Rise of the Player imagined in the video game cutscenes, clockwise from top left: Rod Alzmann, Justin Dopierala, Dmitry Kozin and Farris Husseini.
Photo: Super LTD

The final line of the documentary calls these nine investors “heroes,” a bold label for a group whose struggles include making big money. But the title matches. A year after the GameStop takeover, featuring Reddit brethren, dank memes, hedge fund billionaires and congressional hearings, Tulis and producer Blake J. Harris (who made Console War for Paramount Plus in 2020) has finally reshaped the story in a way that gives us people to cheer for.

GameStop: Rise of the Player like one of those great sports movies because it’s not about sports. In this case, Tulis and Harris don’t want to tell the ultimate story of how GameStop’s stock price jumped from $3.25 in August 2020 to $325 in January of next year. They are smart enough not to bog down their audience with short selling concepts, and they don’t build their narrative about horseracing coverage about the stock itself. The film also doesn’t focus on criticisms of capitalism, manipulated markets, or any of the anti-conspiracy theories that surface when Online brokerage limited transactions.

The construction is very simple: Professional investors have a bad opinion about GameStop, beating its stock price with more confirmation bias than analysis. The discussion about how GameStop is seen by the investment community is like a scene from Moneyball where a room full of baseball scouts can’t articulate why a certain player is good, other than “He looks like a good player”. GameStop was treated like a dinosaur waiting for a meteor strike, because someone slapped the traditional business with the label “Blockbuster 2.0”, and it repeated until it was deemed real. economic.

Instead, the film reveals that the smart money in all of this doesn’t come from the likes of Gabe Plotkin, a hedge fund short seller. lose billions of dollars betting with GameStop and other stocks. Rod Alzmann made a smarter bet. Strategist of the leading trucking company community-sourced due diligence efforts That keeps the movie’s heroes at the casino table when the big scores start to arrive. As GameStop began to climb, attracting skepticism from analysts and pundits, Alzmann and a twentieth hunter Joe Fonicello drafted a report that pegged GameStop’s actual stock price at $169. They found authenticity not in the money they made, but a year after the fever subsided, when a longtime analyst rated GameStop at $175.

Alzmann notes that he was one of the first to post about GameStop on the infamous WallStreetBets subsite, where the “diamond hand” mentality first took hold. Except Alzmann eventually deleted those posts, and was even banned from the subreddit for advocacy reasons. It’s an important distinction that shows that Alzmann and his team – including software engineer Dmitriy Kozin and data visualization expert Farris Husseini – had courage in their beliefs before Reddit’s brothers started sticking to hedge funds by refusing to sell their GameStop stock.

Back view of a man as he watches two computer monitors with stock prices in GameStop: Rise of the Players

Photo: Super LTD

A smaller emotional climax came during the infamous Zoom hearing held by the House Financial Services committee on February 17, 2021. Yes, it was hilarious to see Keith Gill, the Thai streaming personality. too called Roaring Kitty (or DeepFuckingValue) sitting in his Game of Thrones gaming chairor say to the August panel, “I’m not a cat.” But it was also an outstanding moral moment. While Plotkin, hedge fund giant Kenneth Griffin, and worst of all, Vladimir Tenev, CEO of trading app Robinhood, disseminated in prepared statements and declined to answer yes-to questions. or not, Gill responds directly to Representative Maxine Waters. He apparently issued a buy recommendation on GameStop, sending the stock price back up that day.

It will be easy for GameStop: Rise of the Player to end up glorifying crypto anarchists or tech libertarians, or mouthy alpha types who scream on CNBC for a living. It avoids that trap. Tulis and Harris have done a great job figuring out who actually bought a GameStop before buying a GameStop, and more importantly, investigating why they did. Griffin, Tenev and Plotkin did not participate (and Gill, sued by a GameStop investor in Februarywent dark for other reasons), but their absence means that Tulis can focus attention on those who are more valuable than the zillionaires who make their low-money companies bust. produce.

It’s a bit epic to call GameStop: Rise of the Player a good feeling shot. There aren’t many conflicts, except for personal challenges due to a cancer diagnosis, unemployment, or student loan debt. It’s mostly a story about luck, but at least it happens to those who deserve it. Any insta material can find people who profit from short selling, and show the material wealth or comfortable lifestyle they bought for profit. Rise of the Player instead, put the viewer in the shoes of the investors on the poker table, causing them the real stress, insecurity and anxiety of holding a stock that experienced players say is worthless. .

Sure, the happy ending has a dollar figure attached to it, and it’s a good ending. But the real victory was the authenticity these nine found, not because they were proven right, but because they were willing to be wrong with all their money. You can’t say the same about big guys who have lost billions of dollars to other people.

GameStop: Rise of the Player premieres in North American theaters on January 28.

https://www.polygon.com/reviews/22907139/gamestop-rise-of-the-players-review-documentary GameStop Rise of the Players review: a feel-good doc filled with unexpected heroes

Aila Slisco

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