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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Where Were You When The Poop Hit The Rotary?

Considering my otherwise unimpeachable movie geek credentials, it's surprising how far behind I sometimes get with Oscar-nominated films. Of the eight nominees for best picture in 2015, I still haven't seen "The Martian" and have started, but not yet returned to finish "Mad Max: Fury Road". How many of the eight have you seen? Got a favorite?

With "The Big Short" - the final remaining nominee I managed to miss until last night - my tardiness was probably more well earned. Although I ultimately learned a fair amount from the 2010 book, it was not an easy read for me. Author Michael Lewis does an excellent job breaking down the arcane financial instruments that were central to the near collapse of the economy in 2008. But on my first pass I was a bit overwhelmed. I returned months after that initial attempt when Ira Glass of NPR mentioned "The Big Short" as one of his favorites in "By The Book". That regular NY Times feature is a primary source for worthwhile recommendations. If not familiar to you, be sure to check it out. But I digress, albeit charmingly.

The movie - if you haven't seen it - although not backing off on the technical details at all, is funny and educational and very scary, especially the voice over during the final minutes. Director Adam McKay expertly handles the ensemble acting. McKay and co-screenwriter Charles Randolph's device of using sidebars  - like Margot Robbe in a bubble bath explaining that "subprime"=shit and Anthony Bourdain comparing the mortgage-related garbage the big banks were hiding in their bonds to three day old halibut being tossed into a fish stew - was brilliant. I'm guessing most people watching the film will grasp the essentials much better than I did on my first try reading the book.

I hesitate saying I enjoyed this film, astounding as it was. Because in the eight years that have passed since the shit hit the fan - i.e. the housing bubble and subsequent near collapse of our economy thanks to the role the big banks played in that debacle - not much seems to have changed. And that really scares me.

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