I’ve pretty much gotten out of the habit of seeing movies in a theater – or as an old country friend of mine calls them, walk-in picture shows. Part of it is I have enough physical discomfort to make theater seating an ordeal and, I suppose, the threat that someone who carries what remains of his manhood on his hip might unload a few clips of warfare ammo into people he doesn’t even know accounts for a tiny bit of it.
That said, I’ve taken to watching movies at home, streamed by my cable provider, and this past weekend, while nursing a case of pneumonia, I settled in to watch The Big Short. In case you haven’t seen it, it’s almost a documentary about the banks’ buying increasingly underwater mortgages, packaging them in bonds, pressuring the rating services to rate these bonds above their worth, and promoting and selling the bonds to unwitting investors. The ultimate pyramid scheme.
Then one of the characters come up with the idea of buying the bonds as, if I understand it, something called credit default swaps. Kind of like derivatives in stocks and commodities. The idea being that if the bonds go bust, the person buying the swaps would get filthy rich. We’re a nation now of fantasy and other forms of unreality, and even the banks selling the swaps didn’t see – or care – what was happening.
Then, of course, the 2008 crash.
This is all very arcane, I realize; I don’t think I understand it well. But the movie handles this cleverly. The action stops occasionally to allow some peripheral character to explain key terms and processes, or the screen is overwritten with such defining things.
We all know that it order to salvage the economy, the taxpayers had to bailout the mega-banks, and the Dodd-Frank Bill was enacted to help prevent this from happening again. And so the banks have learned their lessons, right. No! They’re setting out to repeal Dodd-Frank and are already offering devices that could cause this to happen again.
It’s a chancy subject, and was taken on bravely. It’s a public service that informs far more than it entertains.
My rating: 20 of 20 stars.