Saturday, January 2, 2016

Review of Movie, The Big Short

Last night I convinced my wife, Jessica, to see the movie, The Big Short.  She's a fan of Christian Bale, Steve Carell, and Brad Pitt, so I didn't have to twist her arm or anything.  I was curious, having skipped the reviews already online, as to how the movie would make the financial collapse of 2007 interesting to the public.  Specifically, how it would make the foresight of a few individuals and the steps they took to make loads of money, entertaining to "middle-class" people like you and me.

The Big Short movie is based on Michael Lewis's best-seller of 2010, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine.  After seeing the movie, I can see why the book spent 28 weeks on The New York Times best-seller list.  Lewis was gifted with a set of unbelievable, real people to write about.  Mike Burry, the hedge fund manager first to call bullshit on all the banks has a glass eye, Aspergers, and was a former neurologist.  Bale did a phenomenal job playing him.  If that's how the real Mike Burry is, smart, unwavering, and family oriented, I'd love to meet him.

I didn't buy how Steve Eisman (a former lawyer) was portrayed by Steve Carell (as Mark Baum).  I think Carell went a bit too far down the righteous path.  Case in point: toward the end of the flick, Carell sits down with a long-time acquaintance and supporter of FrontPoint Partners, LLC, at Morgan Stanley.  She reluctantly explains that MS is up shit creek without a paddle.  Carell's line is something like...So all this time, I was betting against Morgan Stanley.  It seemed disingenuous.  I would be willing to bet that Eisman knew he was screwing Morgan Stanley, the bank that allowed him and his hedge fund outfit, FrontPoint, to operate as an independent unit.  Several scenes have Carell seemingly in pain, morally conflicted about his decision to finally pull the trigger and sell his short positions.  A little too much "holier-than-though" for me.  It almost makes Eisman seem un-driven by money.  No doubt he enjoyed sticking it to the banks.

Brad Pitt's character, Ben Rickert, is based on Ben Hockett, a partner at Cornwall Capital.  Ben Rickert is this weird, NSA fearing character that admits to peeing in his backyard to make the soil perfect for cultivating his vegetables.  His main role in the movie was enabling two small time, yet brilliant traders, to get in on the credit default swap action as they did not have enough funds to play with the big boys.  Pitt was like the father figure to these two, young, clever, and ambitious characters, scolding them at the end for celebrating their incredible gains at the expense of the demise of the U.S. economy.  One of Pitt's lines was a "Did You Know?" statistic on the mortality rate for every X % decline in unemployment.  I can't remember it verbatim, but apparently many more people die when things are bad.  Makes sense to me!

Lastly, I really appreciated how the movie stopped within scenes and cut to cameo appearances in order to explain the awfully complex securities instruments mentioned throughout.  Having, for example, Anthony Bourdain, use a fish stew metaphor to teach the audience what a Collateralized Debt Obligation (CDO) is, was pure genius.

The moral of the story, so to speak, for me, was how truly complicit we all really are, allowing Wall Street and the government, to get away with such tyranny.  We all know about the fraud, it was uncovered shortly after the crisis began.  We all know how Bush and Obama conceded to the Fed (Greenspan and Bernanke) and their solution: bailing out banks and failing companies with billions of our tax money, attaching a crafty name like, The Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), to make it sound kosher.  Only one person was jailed out of the hundreds of Mortgage Backed Securities bankers working the scheme.  The SEC, supposed to have been policing heists like this, remains intact today when it should've been overhauled.  The moral of the story for me wins again, and little sheep like us will continue to be fleeced until we morph into wolves.  By the wife liked the movie.  As did I.

Thanks for reading!  Until next time.

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