“Whenever you hear ‘subprime’, think ‘shit.’”–Margot Robbie
So at the very end of the year I get a valid pick for Film of the Year 2015: The Big Short
Honestly this should have been part of a trilogy of films. The Big Short detailing the corruption and stupidity of the banking industry, a film details the corrupt abuses of power by the government that sued, harassed, bribed and intimidated banks to make these bad loans in the first place, and finally a film going over the gross stupidity of people who bought houses they couldn’t afford. The three pillars of the market collapse. But we only got this film. (The film does point out that a lot of the people buying are idiots, and that the government had already agreed to a bailout long before the collapse…but the focus is on the unspeakable incompetence of the banking industry).
Regrettably the film did not go over how the government made these bad loans legal, sued and intimidated banks that had the brains not to give out these loans, and bribed banks through Fannie and Freddie saying ‘don’t worry, if you lose we’ll bail you out.’
This massive abuse of government power gave the banks only 4 options.
- Leave the industry.
- Try and go to the public and convince them that the government is wrong, fall on your sword, and because finance is something that goes over the heads of most people, lost the fight for public opinion and have the government still drive you out of business.
- Do only the minimum needed to keep the government off your backs.
- Say ‘screw it’ and through lack of ethics and out and out stupidity make bad loans like there is no tomorrow only caring about making a quick buck for yourself, damn the consequences.
Option 2 would have been the right thing to do, but expecting people to act like saints all the time is just stupid. Options 1 and 3 would have been cowardly but forgivable. Sadly, as The Big Short shows, the banking industry in turn decided to go with option 4.
And this movie tells you how they did it.
Part of the frustration of the few people who saw the collapse coming and could do nothing to stop it, save make some money for themselves, and part documentary explaining how unspeakably stupid the banks actually were. I could praise the directing and how it beautifully took complex financial ideas and had them explained in simple terms by Margot Robbie and Selena Gomez, to making us feel the frustration of our protagonists at seeing the gross incompetence at all levels of the financial industry. I personally love the scene of the blithering idiots at Goldman Sachs laughing their asses off because someone was dumb enough to short options on mortgages to be truly entertaining (partly because recent events have shown that Goldman Sachs and their upper management are simpletons without compare—just look at some of their scum-sucking spouses). I was actually surprised by how good a dramatic actor Steve Carell is in this film. Bale turns in what is for him a subpar performance but which is still better than most of Hollywood. The rest of the cast does an equally outstanding job.
Part of the beauty of this film is that the writers and director decided to not focus on one person but split not just between three different stories of people who work to expose the stupidity of the housing market (and make some money off of it) but to balance all of these through some minor documentary features that help the audience understand not just the financial system but also how the market crash occurred. In other movies such a move could lead to a disastrous tone, here it does not…(although if you want to torture yourself go rent Atlas Shrugged Part III to see how mixing documentary features can destroy a movie in the hands of a lesser director.)
And again while I feel there needs to be equal blame laid on the government and the buyers this is a spectacular movie, and quite frankly the best of the year.