Sunday, January 03, 2016

Spotlight and The Big Short

Instead of Star Wars, we perversely went to two very good muckraking films this Christmas season, Spotlight and The Big Short, which were based on true stories about institutional corruption. Spotlight examines the 2002, deeply-researched series the Boston Globe newspaper published about pedophile priests in the Catholic Church and how they have been shielded over the decades not only by the Church itself, but by the legal establishment including judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers, and police, along with the press itself. The film is somber and beautifully written, and all the actors from Michael Keaton to Rachel McAdams to Mark Ruffalo turn in performances that are simultaneously underplayed and brilliant. When not totally infuriating, the film is also hopeful, demonstrating that information properly broadcast can effectively change things for the better.

No such hope is offered in the antic, cartoon-style The Big Short, which untangles the 2008 mortgage meltdown on Wall Street through the stories of four groups who bet against the deceptive chicanery that was the 2001-2008 housing bubble. Once again, the swindle was widespread, with federal government agencies not doing their jobs, Wall Street ratings agencies like Moody's becoming rubber stamps for worthless subprime mortgages, and an army of real estate agents and mortgage bankers dispensing with ethics altogether while riding the wave until it crashed and destroyed the savings and livelihoods of millions. Most depressing is that the financial industry's behavior continues unabated and unpunished, and we're heading for another cliff where the taxpayers will be required to bail out the banking criminals yet again.

The photos above were taken at a Muni bus stop at 18th and Castro yesterday, where a gentleman repeatedly ran into a store to buy scratch-off Lotto tickets and then used the movie ad kiosk as a backstop. The ironies are so numerous I don't know where to begin.


Hattie said...

I'm getting lazy about movies. They seem more and more remote from my interests. What I like and seldom see is movie magic. Polanski is a reprobate, but he made the kind of movies I like.

Michael Strickland said...

Dear Hattie:

You would probably find these movies quite aligned with your interests, actually, though neither one of them is particularly "artistic." in the Polanski sense, which is just fine. They are instead muckraking, educational pieces that are complex and subtle.