Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Why We Hate Banks, Lesson 1

So I went to a movie and my 10th grade Economics class broke out.   That's sort of like what "The Big Short" feels like.   Except there was no quiz at the end.   

Indeed, in some mysterious way, "The Big Short" managed to take a dry and often confusing subject and make it reasonably understandable for those of us who haven't thought about finance since...well...10th grade Economics.   For the director Adam McKay to do that is absolute magic.   Because when he needs to explain some intricate financial situation to the audience, he cuts away to a porn star taking a bubble bath.  Or chef Anthony Bourdain in a kitchen making a pasta sauce.  If only the porn star was available for my 10th grade Economic class.   I mean, Mrs. Auerbach was pretty hot but she didn't do skin flicks.

"The Big Short" is one of those many movies out these days that are "based on a true story."  But, of course, we all know this one because most of us lived through it very recently.   The 2007-2008 housing meltdown and ultimate financial crash from which...I am sorry to those who believe otherwise...the country has never ever rebounded.  This movie tells the story of five or six bankers and/or investment brokers who foresaw the mortgage system collapse and either did nothing about it.   Or chose to make money off it. 

The folks depicted are all allegedly real people and they have the lousy wigs to prove it.  Steve Carell and that always loopy Christian Bale, in particular, sport hair styles that would be upgraded after a visit to Fantastic Sam's.   Frankly, I'm surprised that I enjoyed this movie as much as I did, given the presence of three actors I totally despise...the aforementioned Carell and Bale plus the always annoying Brad Pitt.   Still, as an entertainment piece, "The Big Short" is quite serviceable and even gets genuine laughs in certain scenes.

Perhaps that is a problem with the film in general.   Many of the folks in the audience laughed along as the evil banks maneuvered their way out of this calamity.   But, in reality, this was no laughing matter to those who lost homes and jobs in a very short amount of time.  Maybe the laughter that ensues from "The Big Short" is a little too soon.

Another quibble I have with the movie is the fact that the federal government's hand in giving out mortgages to people who were totally unqualified to be home owners is totally glossed over.   Let's face it, the seeds of this collapse started way back in the days of Jimmy Carter and Freddie and Fanny Mac and whatever else those bogus loans were called.   That fact is hardly addressed in "The Big Short" and, given the political leanings of Hollywood, that should be no surprise at all.

Still, if you can get past that fact check, "The Big Short" is amazingly watchable and understandable.   Plus there is a wonderful "Crazy Stupid Love" reunion in the film with the likes of Carell, Ryan Gosling, and Marisa Tomei.  That alone is worth the price of admission.

And I never got any cast reunions back in 10th grade with Mrs. Auerbach.

LEN'S RATING:  Three stars.

Dinner last night:  Spaghetti and meat balls.

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