I went to see “The Big Short” last week not just because it’s based on a book I wrote (OK, OK, it was the “other” Michael Lewis who wrote it, must we be sticklers for details?), but because it got superb reviews and I was curious how the director, Adam McKay, could possibly make sub-prime mortgages and collateralized debt obligations into an exciting movie.
But damned if “The Big Short” isn’t pretty exciting. The cast is stellar, with Christian Bale and Steve Carell shining, but the script and the inventive way McKay uses to explain a lot of the boring technical jargon (a naked Margot Robbie in a bubble bath talking about finance certainly got me to sit up straight in my seat) was really what made the movie stand out.
The film doesn’t talk down to its audience, and actually makes the half-dozen or so main characters, who saw the housing bubble collapsing, and taking the world economy down with it, long before others did, seem like characters in a thriller.
To be clear, there are no “good guys” here, just some money men who figured out what was going to happen and made millions doing it.
Even as I was enjoying the movie, though, I got enraged, which is what I suppose is the point. This entire financial collapse we experience in 2008 could’ve been prevented, and it was caused by reckless greed and illegal behavior, combined with so many regulators looking the other way.
By the end of the movie, you feel angry that so few have gone to jail over causing so much pain and suffering. But you also feel this was an important story to tell that most Americans really should watch (kind of the same way I feel about “Concussion,” another flick I just saw, but more on that next week in this space.)
Go see “The Big Short.” It’s much better than you think it’ll be. And you’ll even learn something while having a good time.
**Next up, two of my favorite year-end annual events. First, the New York Times’ collection of the Pictures of the Year, from news events around the world. So many haunting and beautiful images here, I’ve put two on the page here (above and below) but really, look at all of them.
Just amazing photography.
**Finally today, one of my favorite annual things to read this time of year is Dave Barry’s hilarious take on the momentous events of the last 12 months. Barry is, without a doubt, the funniest newspaper writer who ever lived, and though he doesn’t write as much anymore, these year-end recaps still slay me. Some excerpts below; read the whole column here:
— January, On DeflateGate: “The most fascinating theory is put forth by Patriot Head Coach Bill Belichick, a man who, at his happiest, looks like irate ferrets are gnawing their way out of his colon.”
— March, on Putin: Abroad, Russian President Vladimir Putin mysteriously vanishes from public view for 10 days. It is later revealed that he was training customer-service representatives for Comcast.
— August, on climate change: The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that July was the hottest month globally ever recorded. With a renewed sense of urgency, the world’s industrialized nations vow to continue sending large delegations via jumbo jets to distant conferences on climate change until this darned thing has been licked.