Nell Minow, co-founder of The Corporate Library, has been called the "CEO killer" and the "queen of good corporate governance." She is a former president of Institutional Shareholder Services and has literally written the textbook on corporate governance -- it's titled Corporate Governance and is now in its fourth edition. Nell is currently a board member at GovernanceMetrics International.
When she's not analyzing corporate boards of directors, Nell is "The Movie Mom" film critic on Beliefnet. Since 1995, she has reviewed nearly 1,500 movies. At our recent Motley Fool 2011 Investing Conference, Nell talked about all matter of corporate governance topics ... but left a little time for her thoughts on Moneyball and business movies she'd recommend. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of her interview with Motley Fool Money host Chris Hill. Note: The conference took place on Sept. 22, 2011.
Chris Hill: Michael Lewis has come to The Motley Fool a couple of times. He is coming in next month with his newest book, but Moneyball, the movie, comes out tomorrow. What can we expect?
Nell Minow: I love that movie. I thought it was absolutely terrific. It is easy to forget what a good actor Brad Pitt is, not to mention that there really aren't many people who can rock a visor, but he makes it work. He is just superb in the movie. No better screenwriters in the world than Aaron Sorkin and Steve Zaillian, who worked on it. Michael Lewis, of course, is great, too. And it is such a compelling story. It is sort of like the Bad News Bears crossed with The Social Network, because the athletes and the nerds come out very, very well in it. It is really a terrific movie.
And I really like the way that what Billy Beane did, what Brad Pitt portrays, is very much like what you guys do. They look for essentials, they look for fundamentals, they look for what is undervalued. He put together the team that you would to assemble a stock portfolio, and I thought that that was just great.
Hill: For the investors watching, a couple of business movies and if you can include maybe one documentary and one feature film, that would help us understand business better and become better investors.
Minow: The feature film that I always recommend is a 1956 film called The Solid Gold Cadillac. When I teach MBA students, I always show the first 10 minutes, which is an annual shareholder's meeting, to the students. If you add two zeros onto every number, it is pretty much accurate as of today, and it is a great story about a shareholder with 10 shares who ends up turning a company upside down, a big conglomerate upside down. And even if you just watch the first 10 minutes on Netflix streaming -- I don't think it is actually on Netflix streaming; you have to get it in the red envelope -- it is definitely worthwhile. So that is a great, great movie about business.
I am going to recommend several. I wrote an article, which I really recommend you read -- of everything I have ever written, I really, really recommend this -- and that is about why corporations are the bad guys so often in movies. [Editor's note: Here is Nell's "Why Business Is Hollywood's Go-To Villain, Especially Now."] I went on Roger Ebert's movie show talking about this so you can see that segment online as well. It is really not because the corporations who make movies are anti-corporate. They are pro-corporate, but they are really pro-selling tickets, and corporations are the ideal movie villain because they are big, they are faceless. You don't have the anti-defamation league of corporations coming and protesting, and movies are always generally about the individual versus the machine, and corporations are great for that.
So whether you are talking about a horror film or whether you are talking about a thriller. Killer Elite, which opens up tomorrow, too; I am not recommending it, I am just saying, that is about how the oil business is really the bad guys behind everything. Corporations are very prevalent as villains. It is very hard to find a portrayal, a favorable portrayal. So I am going to mention a rare one, and that is Sabrina, the original Sabrina. Forget the remake, but the original Sabrina with Audrey Hepburn. Humphrey Bogart makes a very brief speech about halfway through that is probably the nicest valentine to corporations that you will ever see in a film, so I really, really recommend that.
Then just total self-interest here, I really recommend a British documentary called The Flaw, after Alan Greenspan's famous statement, because I am in it and you can actually see 90% of my performance if you watch the trailer online, but that is really good. And of course, Inside Job, in terms of documentaries. As far as Smartest Guys in the Room, the Enron movie, I highly, highly recommend that, too.
So there you have it, business and movie buffs: The Solid Gold Cadillac, Sabrina, The Flaw, Inside Job, Smartest Guys in the Room. You can see more coverage from the Fool's 2011 Investing Conference here: