VOLUME 34, ISSUE 1

INSIGHTS

 

Distributed quarterly by mail and email, the Conservative Caucus of Delaware's newsletter contains relevant information and insights from noted leaders, authoritative stakeholders and like-minded members who demonstrate their passion for the truths we hold dear by putting pen to paper!

The Big Short Falls Short

By Suzie Dickson

 

      There is so much wrong with the movie, The Big Short, that it is difficult to know where to begin.   First, let’s start with the characters.  We are first introduced to Dr. Michael Burry, played by Christian Bale, who founded Scion Capital LLC hedge fund.  Burry discovers delinquency rates among the subprime mortgages and realizes that this is an incredible investment opportunity.  He is a quirky and difficult person, but one of the more likable characters in a cast of unlikable people.

     We are next introduced to Mark Baum, whose real name is Steve Eisman, played by Steve Carell.  Carell’s Baum is difficult to watch: he’s obnoxious, pretentious and condescending.  And yet, he’s the one guy who is constantly concerned about the impact the mortgage crisis will have on the average homeowner.  You are supposed to realize that Baum cares about the homeowner because he is troubled by the death of his brother from suicide. Really?  Ryan Gosling, plays Jared Vennett, whose real name is Greg Lippmann, and appears totally out-of-place in this movie.  Not sure if the casting director was trying to tap into the female millennia fan base, but this role will do nothing to increase it. 

     Lastly, there are Finn Wittrock, who plays James Shipley, real name is Jamie Mai, and John Magaro, who plays Charlie Geller, real name is Charlie Ledley. According to the film, these two young guys formed Brownstone Hedge Fund working out of a garage in Colorado.  Actually, the company was Cornwall Capital and Vincent Mai, Jamie’s father, who worked for the private equity firm, AEA Investors, helped found his son's firm.  Their neigbor, Ben Rickett, real name is Ben Hockett, played by Brad Pitt

is a burned-out hedge fund manager, who eats organic vegetables and worries about global warming.  He is a partner at Cornwall.

     There is one important character missing from this movie, his name is John Paulson and he was the first guy to see this opportunity. But, Paulson was not in Michael Lewis' book, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, on which this movie was based; Paulson was the central person in Gregory Zuckerman's book, The Greatest Trade Ever: How John Paulson Bet Against the Markets and Made $30 Billion.

     That was not the only significant omission from this movie; the role of the Federal government in bringing about the subprime mortgage crisis was also missing. It was liberal Democrats liked Sen. Edward Kennedy and Sen. William Proxmire who aggressively promoted The Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 (CRA), which was signed into law by Pres. Jimmy Carter. Simply put, it was forcing banks to make bad mortgage loans. The Federal Housing Enterprise Financial Safety and Soundness Act of 1992 required Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to devote a percentage of their lending to support affordable housing which was enforced by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. During the Clinton Administration, banks were encouraged to make loans regardless of the individual's credit. In signing The Graham-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999, Pres. Clinton said, “as we expand the power of banks, we expand the power of the Act.” Rep. Barney Frank and Sen. Chris Dodd hastened the crisis by pushing to reduce mortgage buying standards at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and have escaped responsibility for the economic disaster they caused. Frank is on the Board of Signature Bank and Dodd is CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America.  

     In addition, to the legislative pressaure put on banks, there was also social pressure from "community organizations," such as ACORN and the Greenlining Institute.  These groups

threatened to sue banks for “discriminatory practices” and/or to launch negative campaigns against them.  As a result of these tactics, banks increased their CRA commitment. From 1977 to 1991, cumulative CRA commitments totaled about $9 billion. In 1992 alone, that number increased to $34 billion; by 2008, those committments would total $6 trillion.

     Those, who suffered the most from the housing collapse were the groups that the CRA was supposed to help African-Americans and Hispanics. According to the article, “Community Reinvestment Act and The Housing Market Crisis of 2008,” “the Center for Responsible Lending reported in June 2010, among borrowers, who had taken out mortgages between 2005 and 2008, nearly 8 [percent] of both African-Americans and Hispanics had lost their homes to foreclosure; the corresponding rate for whites was 4.5 [percent]. As of November 2011, approximately one-fourth of all black and Hispanic borrowers had either already lost their homes to foreclosure or were seriously delinquent, compared to just under 12 [percent] of white borrowers." 

     But in The Big Short, there is NO mention of government’s involvement in the crisis at all, only the same old tired liberal diatribe about how Wall Street is greedy and how banks and stockbrokers are bad. Hollywood already made these movies, Wall Street and The Wolf of Wall Street. Apparently, new storylines are hard to come by in tinsel town.

     Even apart from the fraudulent storyline, the film itself is difficult to watch.  They break the fourth wall intermittingly with both the characters talking into the camera and then inexplicitly, real people like, Australian model/actress Margot Robbie in a tub with bubbles, Chef Anthony Bourdain in a kitchen, and Selena Gomez at a black jack table, attempting to explain financial terms like, “tranches,” “MBSs,” and  “CDOs.”  And the point is?

     It is clear that the director and writer think they are smarter than the audience, why else would they employ such a condescending ploy in the movie?   They also must believe that the number of characters in the movie are too numerous for the audience to follow, so there are literally no wardrobe changes for many of the characters. 

     This movie has been highly acclaimed and nominated for numerous awards.  The acting is nothing special, the storyline is faulty, and the cinematography is boring.  So, it can only be nominated because of its message.  And, we have already heard this hackneyed message before.    

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