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The_Big_Short_teaser_posterLUMPENPROLETARIAT—With the complaints against the all-white 2016 Oscars gaining headlines, we might wonder which movies may have actually been snubbed by the nearly all-white, and all-male, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS).  Of course, this requires watching as many of the 2016 Oscar-nominated, and not nominated, contenders as possible.

This worthy contender, with five Oscar award nominations, is directed by Adam McKay. One of the nice things about this film is that it is remarkably accurate in terms of the actual historical facts, in terms of describing the financial components of the 2007/2008 Global Financial Crisis.  A notable example is evidenced in one scene when Christian Bale’s character describes an economic marker of a looming housing market collapse.  He argues, invoking the work of celebrated economist Dr. Hyman Minsky, which argues early on that spikes in the complexity of financial instruments as well as in fraud are key indicators of a potential market crash.  One of the downsides of The Big Short is that, although it focuses quite well into the private sector players, hedge fund managers, stock traders, and such, it has little time for developing the role of the public sector, the role of government officials, in the GFC.  It seems to let figures, such as Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson, as well as the institutions they represent, off the hook (and, in so doing, much of the audience as well).

Furthermore, the film also avoids the fact that the Clinton administration, under the Reinventing Government agenda, gutted important financial regulatory agencies and dramatically deregulated the financial sector, laying the groundwork for the disaster that would be the GFC of 2007/2008 after nearly a decade of eroding government oversight.  This helps explain why real estate appraisers and brokers were able to perpetually inflate prices and sell predatory loans.  It’s not the most radical, or honest, film it could have been.  But it’s not the worst film it could have been, either.

Nevertheless, this is a must-see film, which offers a much needed alternate perspective on the GFC, which saw millions of people defaulting on their home mortgages, losing their homes, losing their savings, their jobs, and pensions.  This is a good film, arguably a clearer portrait of the GFC than is offered in 2011’s Margin Call.  Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, and a slew of other strong actors delivered fine performances in Margin Call, giving some shape to the GFC. [1]  But director Adam McKay‘s The Big Short provides the clearest picture yet, in a non-documentary film, of the machinery at play in the profit-seeking trades, which caused the worst economic crisis to hit the American and global economies since the Great Depression.  The Big Short develops many central definitions and concepts, such as collateralised debt obligations (CDOs), debt default swaps, NINJA loans, and so on.  The Big Short maintains quite a fast-pace, despite the complexity of the subject matter.  Hopefully, the film will catch enough of the public’s attention to increase public awareness of the consequences of allowing our flawed capitalist system to blindly run its course without some degree of checks and balances.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. once communicated to Andrew Young, one of his associates [2]:

Capitalism is a failed system.  Capitalism does not permit an even flow of economic resources.  With this system, a small privileged few are rich beyond conscience.  And almost all others are doomed to be poor at some level.  That’s the way this system works.  And, since we know that the system will not change the rules, we are going to have to change the system.



The Big Short (2015, official trailer)


[1]  Also, see The Flaw (2010), Capitalism: A Love Story (2009), Inside Job (2010), and Too Big To Fail (2011).  Substandard, in my opinion, with many more glaring omissions and problematic arguments, yet still a must-see are films, such as Money For Nothing: Inside the Federal Reserve (2013).

[2]  Quoted by economist, author, and professor, Dr. Richard Wolff during his weekly radio broadcast, Economic Update.  Dr. Wolff was one of my UMKC economics professor’s professor.


[31 JAN 2016]

[Last modified 31 JAN 2016  01:38 PDT]