The Big Short

[1.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

This movie claims to explore the underpinnings of the 2007-2008 financial crisis, based on Michael Lewis's book of the same name. After viewing it, Megan McArdle claimed: "Feel like it's [sic] enjoyability is probably inversely proportional to your knowledge about the crisis." Good news: by that measure, I know quite a bit about the crisis!

I also found this quote telling, from A. O. Scott's NYT review of the movie: "The Big Short will affirm your deepest cynicism about Wall Street while simultaneously restoring your faith in Hollywood." I'm sure Scott captured, albeit unintentionally, the worldview of the (multimillionaire) filmmakers in constructing this hit piece on capitalism: Us Good/Smart, Them Bad/Stupid. And, obviously, A. O. considers himself and his likely readers to be included in the subset of Us.

Anyway: the movie, like Lewis's book, is told mainly around the activities of a few smarties who saw that the bubble developing around housing mortgages was unsustainable, predicated on ever-rising housing values. Quite understandably, for such is the nature of a bubble, they are out of step with the market mainstream. The movie gets quite a bit of comic mileage out of the Pollyannish attitude of their opponents.

I read Michael Lewis's book back in 2010 and liked it well enough, but noted that it was "wedded to the good-guy/bad-guy scenario of wheeler-dealers duping innocent civilians into taking out huge mortgage loans they had zero chance of ever paying back." The movie turns the volume on this simplistic thread up to 11.

The movie was nominated for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Christian Bale), Directing, and Editing, and won for Best Adapted Screenplay. Not bad for a movie that's mainly people talking to each other! (With some gratuitous female nudity, meant to illustrate the corrupt debauchery of the Wall Street crowd. Let's hear it for the moral superiority of the Hollywood crowd!)