For Once In My Life, I'd Love To Be On The Inside
The first half of Charles Ferguson's documentary Inside Job is a clear review of the causes of the 2008 global financial crisis-- the film explains collateral debt obligations, synthetic mortgage backed securities, credit default swaps, highly leveraged banking, banking deregulation, the merging of investment and traditional banking, and sub-prime mortgages . . . if you haven't done your reading, it's a good primer on these subjects, and there is some excellent footage of Iceland as well-- but the second half of the film spirals into less focused frustration and anger (despite some inspirational and slightly cheesy narration by Matt Damon) and the big players either refuse to be interviewed (Henry Paulson, Ben Bernanke) or hem and haw under aggressive questioning, which is satisfying in one sense, but really doesn't help to explain anything, and then the film explores high salaries and bonuses for Wall Street traders and the culture of excess-- there's some rather pointless gossipy chat with a high-end escort who serviced numerous Wall Street employees . . . but, honestly, as long as the system gets fixed, I could care less how the traders spend their money; despite these flaws, the movie is certainly a must see and I'm going to teach it to my students during the business ethics unit (I'll use it instead of the Enron documentary-- The Smartest Guys in the Room-- which, though it's a bit dated, has better music and a more insular and resolved story . . . though it also gets a bit off topic when it rather gratuitously explores Enron exec Lou Pi's fascination with strippers . . . I guess when you've got a documentary with a lot of numbers, you need to throw in some T&A) and another advantage of Inside Job is that it is relatively non-partisan: the film also criticizes the Obama administration for appointing the usual suspects to fix the problem (Tim Geithner and Lawrence Summers) and the film claims that Obama's new banking regulations lack teeth, and as far as I know the facts are fairly accurate . . . or as accurate as you can be when you try to make a movie about something as complicated as this.