Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Big Short


What a fantastic movie! You would think (or I would, anyway) that the least interesting and most impenetrable subject you could ever make a movie about would be the Republican real estate collapse of 2008. I mean, finance at the level they are talking about is much like quantum physics to me. That is, I can sort of understand it when I’m reading about it, but ask me about it the next day and it’s all gone out of my head.

So how do you go about making an entertaining, engrossing, and most of all fun movie about the insane sort of wheeling and dealing that went on before it all went bust? You pull out all the stops, and let the devil take the hindmost, that’s how. Characters frequently break the fourth wall, turning and talking directly to the audience, and it’s very droll. Even crazier, several times someone will introduce someone else, to explain it all to you. For instance: “Now here’s Margot Robbie in a bubble bath to explain derivatives.” And sure enough, there’s the super-hot babe in a huge bathtub in a glass room overlooking the ocean, drinking champagne poured by her butler, and taking you through it. And when she’s done, she says “Now buzz off,” or something like that.

We follow the trials and tribulations of several different groups who took the time to actually look at these exotic financial instruments (and, incredibly, no one else ever did!!!) and discovered they were like dead trees. Nothing but rotten shit and termites inside. And they bet big, and all the smart money traders and banks were happy to take their money, because everyone knew, the housing market has never gone down. Only it did.

These guys stood to make literally billions, and would have, except the big boys kept lying and propping up their bad paper, until it all fell apart. I’m sure you remember that. They still cleaned up, many, many millions of dollars.

The sad part is that these guys hadn’t really thought a lot about what they were doing. When you sell short, you are betting that things will go bad. So they were betting against America, basically. Yet they had absolutely nothing to do with the bubble popping. They just saw where it was heading, what was coming, and put their money on the table, like everybody else in the big Wall Street crap game. There’s a great quote from the film:

“If we’re right, people lose homes. People lose jobs. People lose retirement savings, people lose pensions. You know what I hate about fucking banking? It reduces people to numbers. Here’s a number – every 1% unemployment goes up, 40,000 people die, did you know that?”

And then at the very end someone is saying “Of course after this all went down a lot of lying executives from all the biggest banks and brokerages went to jail, Congress passed new laws to be sure it never happened again … just kidding!” One man went to jail. No new regulations or oversight was enacted. In the end, it’s all still business as usual.

God, I hate fucking banking, and bankers.