MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Directed by Adam McKay. Starring Christian Bale, Brad Pitt.
Although The United Methodist Church has been officially opposed to gambling since 1980 (Resolution 4041), when it comes to investments, we are all in a bit of a pickle, since the financial world of stocks and bonds is nothing less than a highly sophisticated system of legalized gambling. Whenever you invest in stocks or portfolios, you are wagering that your companies will have a successful track record. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.
When the housing market went belly up and the world economy collapsed in 2008, it seemed like everyone lost. Most of our churches (along with all of us) are still trying to recover from the tremendous loss in savings from that recession. Perhaps we should have put that money under our mattress, after all.
The Big Short (based on Michael Lewis’ bestselling nonfiction book) tells the true story of a group of financial wonks that saw the collapse coming months ahead of time. They realized that the number of subprime mortgages that were handed out to folks who really couldn’t afford them, combined with a number of other shady practices, created a bubble that was about to burst. They decided to make financial arrangements with lending institutions that would pay rich dividends if the economy came crashing down. Since the banks did not want to acknowledge the possibility of failure, contracts were signed and the risk takers were required to pay hefty monthly sums in the interim. This bet against success is called a “short”. And – yes – it’s another sneaky way to make money off of the misfortune of others, perpetuated by other affluent folks with money to play around with.
You will learn a lot about finances as well as economic inequality and sin by watching The Big Short, and you will have a good time doing so. Director Adam McKay is primarily known for his silly partnerships with Will Ferrell (2004’s Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and 2006’s Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby), but he acquits himself well with his handling of this compelling story, with a smart script (co-written with Charles Randolph), lively direction, and an energetic cast of oddball personalities. Christian Bale plays Dr. Michael Burry, surgeon turned reclusive financial genius, who deals with his anxiety by playing drums and listening to heavy metal music. Steve Carell is hilarious as Mark Baum, a man who is so angry about the financial double-dealing, he threatens to blow the system by saying too much in public meetings. Ryan Gosling is Jared Vennett, cool as ice and highest in the food chain. Brad Pitt is Ben Rickert, a quiet consultant who is enlisted by two younger cohorts.
The action travels from West Coast to East Coast, with a side trip to Las Vegas thrown in for good measure. McKay also includes a handful of economic lessons presented in engaging ways by celebrity instructors.
The movie never loses sight of its moral indignation and reminds us that (with only a few exceptions) those responsible for the deceptions and lies that stole the hopes of millions of people have never faced a civil trial.
The Big Short is one of the best films of 2015.
Three halos: A thoroughly entertaining depiction of the greed and duplicity that led to the international financial crisis of 2008.
Three pitchforks: The aforementioned sins; pervasive casual swearing; brief scenes of strippers; scenes of drinking and gambling.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
COMMENTS! Do you have comments about this movie or movie review?
E-mail comments. (Comments will be posted to our web site.)
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