I love Christmas and New Year’s Eve, but as I’ve gotten older, I must admit I find them a tad hectic. And this year was especially hectic. First, Clif and I got nasty coughing colds that were mostly gone by Christmas but like unwanted guests stayed far longer than they should have. (It has taken me four weeks to completely recover.)
Then, on the Monday after Christmas, Shannon and Mike packed a U-Haul and headed to North Carolina, where Shannon will start a new job. We went to South Portland to help them clean and pack, and we bid them a sad farewell. (They made it safe and sound to North Carolina and have moved into their new town house. Movie buffs that they are, they even found the energy to go to a film—the excellent Big Short, a must-see movie.)
Dee stayed with us until after New Year’s Eve, and as we are, in fact, a family of movie buffs, we watched plenty of movies, at home and at the cinema. We saw the new Star Wars movie, which I liked but did not love. For me, it was far too derivative of the original—A New Hope—but it was still worth seeing, especially on the big screen.
Also of note was the movie Concussion, starring Will Smith, who plays Dr. Bennet Omalu, the real-life pathologist who made the connection between football players’ repeated concussions and the resultant brain damage. A sobering story where those in power yet again tried to deny the truth and intimidate those who uncovered the evidence. After seeing this movie, it’s hard not to argue that the game should be played very differently.
As good as Concussion was, the best movie was The Big Short, based on the book of the same name by Michael Lewis. In the New York Times, A. O. Scott gives this movie a critics’ pick and begins his review with this description, which is too good not to share: “A true crime story and a madcap comedy, a heist movie and a scalding polemic, The Big Short will affirm your deepest cynicism about Wall Street while simultaneously restoring your faith in Hollywood.”
The Big Short is a movie about the housing bubble and its subsequent collapse. Some in the industry saw what was coming and decided to try to make money on the housing collapse, and the movie follows three groups of these people. The film is snappy, fast-paced, and satirical while at the same time informative and moving. I think it’s fair to state that not many films about the financial collapse manage to combine all those qualities. In addition, there are devices such as a narrator speaking directly to the camera and celebrities, as themselves, explaining various terms, including subprime mortgages and CDOs. These devices could have fallen flat, but in The Big Short they work with hilarious effect.
As I noted above, The Big Short is a must-see movie. The Great Recession was a world-wide event, where many, many people suffered devastating losses. It could have been worse, of course, but in the U.S. the American taxpayers bailed out the greedy financial institutions that wreaked such havoc and harm. Do I resent them? You bet I do, and you should, too.
Those of us in the United States need to be mindful about how politicians feel about regulations and banks that are “too big to fail.” The Great Recession wasn’t an act of nature. It was an act of men and women, which means it was not inevitable.
But enough wagging the finger. Onward to winter and the New Year.