Getting Rich While the World Burns

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Title: The Big Short

Rating: 4 Stars

I really enjoyed this movie. I have to admit that for a time I was kind of obsessed with what happened in 2008. How is it that the people on Wall Street, whose sole job is managing the financial institutions, could have been so clueless about such an obvious problem?

This is especially true with CDO’s, which are so obviously a horrible idea. The idea that you could take the losers of a bond fund, conglomerate them with all of the losers of a bunch of other funds, and sell that as an investment and magically a good chunk of these become AAA investments is pretty much transparently insane, if not overtly crooked.

Similarly, the concept of a synthetic CDS, which is basically a derivative based upon nothing, just an outright naked bet, and again no one blinks an eye?

How is this not obvious? In my readings, it seems as if the bulk of the people on Wall Street thought that they had eliminated risk, when instead they had obfuscated it so much that it was no longer recognizable.

So, I’d already read The Big Short. I was very interested in how they could produce a film out of what are essentially a series of essays.

The good news is that they somehow managed to do it. They gave a creditable explanation of mortgage bonds, CDO’s, CDS’, and synthetic CDS’. They basically broke the fourth wall to make it happen, but it was done in a clever manner.

They also managed to tell the three main stories in a gripping manner. Christian Bale was outstanding as the autism spectrum doctor turned fund investor. I just read that, in real life, Dr Michael Burry has a glass eye. In preparation, somehow Christian was able to keep one eye lazy to mimic it. That’s commitment if not insanity in of itself. Steve Carrell also does a good job as the always angry / suspicious fund manager that also recognizes / profits by shorting the mortgages. For whatever reason, Brad Pitt played his role so low key it was almost catatonic. This could easily have been by design so that his star power doesn’t overwhelm the film, but he’s almost invisible.

This is the kind of movie that needs to be made. I just wished that it’d been made years ago so that there would have been a more immediate call for financial reform.

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