How About Those Credit Default Swaps: THE BIG SHORT

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

No Such Thing As A Safe Bet - The Big Short

by Tinsel & Tine Editor - Le Anne Lindsay

Does anyone else feel like THE BIG SHORT just sneaked into the Awards season without warning? I never saw a trailer, it features big names like Christian Bale and Steve Carell, yet I hadn't heard any buzz, there was only one screening on the press list, added late.  Maybe I just missed knowing about it, but once it was Golden Globe nominated [category:Best Motion Picture Musical or Comedy] I had to make a point to see it, although the rehashing of the housing market collapse and subsequent economy, was not top on my list of can't wait to see subject matters.

So what's the best way to absorb, digest and find interest in dense material? Give it humor. That's exactly what both the author of the book, Michael Lewis (Moneyball) and particularly director Adam McKay (Anchorman 1&2, Step Brothers) did with The Big Short. Not broad comedy, but rather satirical, ironic type funny; almost as if you were watching a Michael Moore doc, where he presents the facts to you, which seem ridiculous, and he's like, you just can't make this stuff up!

T&T Synopsis: First thing to know is that bonds made up of many AAA rated mortgages was a safe, great investment for years, started back in the early 70's. You know how back in the day no one didn't pay their mortgage. Think about all the Howard Cunningham's or Archie Bunker types who kept steady middle or even low middle class incomes and never missed a payment. So for years no one needed to look closely at Mortgage Bonds, they just were, until... "the '00s".

The Big Short introduces us to several characters, all of which work within the trading, banking, stock market industry, but not all the character's paths cross...

Dr. Michael Burry (Bale) is one of those brilliant, socially awkward guys who can just devour information. He switched from being a Neurosurgeon to running an investment fund, because he's just that good.  He was the first one to comb through the mortgage bonds and discover that these things were no longer the safe bet they used to be; that a lot of bad risk mortgage loans make up the bonds and that it was all a matter of time before they'd be toast.  So he decides to "bet against the house" so to speak, meets with several banks and basically takes out insurance against the Mortgage Bonds, so that when they fail, he makes out - that's what's called a Credit Default Swap. The banks all thought this guy's nuts, but of course had no trouble taking his money, as he has to pay premiums on each C.D.S.  Like in any industry, there's always rumors, gossip and ridicule, so it doesn't take long for Burry's deal to reach Wall Street - most dismiss it as a bad move, but not...

Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) he's a slick fast talking trader who realizes Burry's right, that there's money to be made, but he needs backing. Enter Mark Baum (Carell) and his investment group. Baum is an abrasive softy. On the outside he's obnoxious, but on the inside he feels things deeply, has a sense of morality and somehow after years of working in the banking industry, is genuinely surprised about the level of corruption...

lf : Barry Ackroyd / rt: Adam McKay
For director of photography Barry Ackroyd, McKay's dialogue-driven drama offered a change of pace from shooting acclaimed action thrillers like The Hurt Locker, Captain Phillips and United 93. "When Adam approached me about doing The Big Short, he referenced United 93 because there's a huge amount of action in that film yet it's also very confined," says the Oscar-nominated cinematographer. "He and I talked about how to ramp up the energy for scenes of people talking in offices so that we bring the audience into the middle of the conversation. We want you to feel like you're in the room with the subject, so you listen harder to what's being said." Production Notes

There's one last group, the wet behind the ears, recent Harvard graduate types, Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock) and Charlie Geller (John Magaro), they've been trading outta Jamie's parent's garage, turning 100k into 3 Mil quickly, but they're not playing with the big boys yet; they don't have the license needed to do deals directly with the banks, but they've met a guy who does, Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt). Rickert got out of the banking/trading biz a while back and is now a super crunchy granola, end of the world doomsday kinda guy, but he's still got connects.

The Proud Profiteer

Bottom Line: The movie doesn't talk down to the audience. At times they use easily understood analogy devices involving celebrities to explain the finer points of the game - like cutting to The Wolf of Wall Street's Margo Robbie in a bathtub, drinking champagne to explain sub-prime loans. But basically you either catch up and get the gist or you don't, and I like that. I complained about In The Heart of the Sea missing the heart part, but in this movie, I don't think they should have wasted time with flashbacks of Burry as a kid playing football and having his glass eye fall out during the game. And we don't need to know Baum's wife (Marisa Tomei) or other details about his personal life. These characters are just used to tell the tale. Yes, it's great they have built in personality and the actors find their quirks, but we don't need to be personally invested in any of them.

When I think about the fact that I went back to school at the beginning of 2008, right before the bottom fell out, in order to increase my earning potential and now I make less than I did in 1998, and let's not talk about the debt!  All because an industry got greedy, didn't stick to the rules and systems in place, and then just let everyone else pay for it ... Well, one thing's for sure, it proves right all the spiritual philosophies which teach us how cosmically connected we all are.

T &T's LAMB Score: 3.5 outta 5

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is about discovering what I find pleasing in screening & eating - in case you missed it, the name is a play on Tinseltown using the Tines of a Fork.

Feel free to send me info on a film or new restaurant you'd like me to highlight.

Will there ever be a cap on movie prices?

Will we one day pay $20 a pop?

Why don't we pay on a scale?

A crap movie like everything Adam Sandler has ever done should cost about $4.50.
Big action movies like"Lord of the Rings", "Iron Man," "Transformers" are worth $10.
Woody Allen movie or something like "Silver Linings Playbook" $6-$7.
A chick flick or light comedy $5.75 and most Indie Films $5.25.

You could even do it by seasons - all summer block busters from May to August - $10
Sept - November 15th $3.50 - $4
Back to $10 for Thanksgiving and Christmas etc...

Or you can do it by A Actors ($9 - $10), B Actors ($6 - $7) TV actors on the big screen ($3.50 - $4)

Surely I'm not the first person to realize this makes sense. Has it been voted on in the Motion Picture Industry and then vetoed? If so, why?

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