Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Couch Potato: The Big Short, The Boy

Batman doll on Amazon

The Big Short

We watched The Big Short a few days ago. The trailer had intrigued me. It's about the 2008 Wall Street crisis from the point of view of a handful of traders who saw it coming. It's based on the non-fiction book by Michael Lewis. It's an ensemble film featuring Christian Bale (aka the Dark Knight) as Dr. Michael Burry, a savant type hedge fund manager who realizes, based on the math, in 2005 that the real estate bond market is a bubble that will collapse in a few years. So he devises a way to bet against it (credit default swaps).

Ryan Gosling plays Jared Vennett, a trader who catches wind Burry's deals and realizes his analysis is correct. A wrong number connects Vennett to very cynical and disillusioned hedge fund manager Mark Baum (Steve Carrell) who decides that Vennett is correct about the housing market being a bubble. Brad Pitt plays a minor role as a grumpy retired trader who help a couple of young investors who have also gotten wind of Vennett's analysis.

This was a surprisingly good movie. Steve Carrell, specially, had a fantastic performance. They manage to make the dull topic of bonds, CDOs, credit default swaps, etc. both understandable and interesting. But the best part is when, minor spoiler alert, the characters realize what an incredibly fraudulent market it is, from top to bottom. It was a moment much like the one most of us got yesterday, after a certain FBI press conference. As one of the characters says, we think we're cynical - we're not cynical enough.

I was bit disappointed that the film basically lets the government off the hook, but aside from that, it was definitely worth watching.

The Boy

We also watched The Boy. I rented it because it seemed like a really creepy ghost story. Unfortunately it was very annoying. The first two thirds are ok - slow spooky build-up, gothic feel. Then it basically does a bait and switch for the sake of a twist. If it were a book it would have gotten flung across the wall. Not recommended.

Check back here tomorrow for our first author interview!

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