Saturday, December 26, 2015

Review of The Big Short: The Crash of 2008 For Dummies

What can you say about a movie that explains why the housing market, and the American economy in general, nearly collapsed due to Wall Street fraud better than the Federal Reserve and CNBC..and what they use are Selena Gomez playing blackjack and Margot Robbie in a bathtub in what seemed to be a deleted scene from Wolf of Wall Street?

Adam MacKay, best known for Will Ferrell comedies, wrote and directed a nasty reminder of what happened in America just eight years ago, and how we didn't notice because we were distracted by other things. MacKay uses clever ways to explain complex terms by sub-prime mortgages, CDOs and bond ratings.

The main players are Michael Burry (Christian Bale), who heads a mutual fund, Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling), who works for Deutsche Bank, Mark Baum (Steve Carell), who runs a small investment firm, and Charlie and Jamie (John Magaro and Finn Whittrock), two guys who made it big by betting against stocks. They all figure out that banks try to get people to invest in mortgages that are not as rock-solid as they think. Anthony Bourdain turning old fish into a new fish stew is the best analogy, and that's really in the movie.

It's really interesting how Burry and Baum come to the conclusion the economy is in big trouble but no one wants to believe it. Baum is especially upset, mostly because he's trying to recover from a personal tragedy. They're all stunned to see empty homes with the owners long gone because they can't pay their mortgages, bond rating houses admitting they'll overvalue just to keep customers and even people who issue bank loans to get commissions without verifying if the prospective homeowner could afford it or not.

Carell is very good as Baum. Those who still identify him as Michael Scott in The Office will be surprised how angry he gets over all of the fraud that's going on.. Bale as the laid-back Burry doesn't do much aside from defending his decision to invest against the mortgages, but you can see the stress when things don't happen as he expects...and why. Gosling is also good, especially when he uses a Jenga game to show how fragile the housing bubble is. Let's not forget Brad Pitt as Ben Rickert, who used to be in banking, and is very cynical about what's happening. He'll still help Charlie and Jamie, though.

The real tragedy is how the crash of 2008 affected the characters, the investment houses and their employees, and people who were economic collateral damage. Even though some got rich betting against the economy, they aren't exactly proud of it (except for one). Besides that, no one learned a thing. It's still a great way to be reminded what happens, as this person says...

For the record, we're still wondering how banking can get into rehab after this.

No comments: