S2: Welcome to the Big Short episode of Slate Money goes to the movies I’m Felix Salmon of Axios. I’m here with Emily Peck of Axios.
S3: Hello, hello.
S2: And we are doing something we haven’t done on Slate. Money goes to the movies here on two, which is basically talk about it’s not a documentary, but it’s not, not a documentary. It’s it’s kind of a true story. The Big Short. Well, adapted by Adam McKay from the very, very true story written by Michael Lewis and put out in book form. And the man who brought it to us is Kurt Andersen Welcome.
S1: Happy to be here.
S2: Kurt Welcome back! We will happily have you on to talk about absolutely anything or or nothing. Do you have something you want to plug?
S1: Sure. Everything I’ve ever done. You know, the books are still selling. The podcasts are still available. So you read
S2: Kurt novels, they’re fun.
S1: Yeah. Well, you know, thank you. And one of them, the first one actually called Turn of the Century, is, you know, connected to this world a bit. So, yeah, Kurt Andersen dot com just gamble in my world.
S3: It’s not the gambler.
S2: Kurt Why did you? Why did you pick this movie?
S1: I almost never see movies more than once. So I thought, Well, that was a good movie and you hadn’t done it on this program before, and I thought it was one
S2: of the few ones left.
S1: Yeah, I’d like to see it again, and I remember being pretty remarkable, pretty remarkably good. And I, you know, who knows, you know, eight years later, a lot of water under the bridge since then, you know, in addition to all of my feelings and thoughts about it then and now again from we were watching it, it was just a pleasure to rewatch it.
S2: So so we will start right there. Coming up on Slate, the money goes to the movies. Kurt, tell me, like, what did you think of it the first time around and did it hold up
S1: like it held up? You know, I I hadn’t read Michael’s book when I saw the movie I had since read it. So there’s that and it was, you know, it was in 2014 we were still in recovery from the crash and the recession at that point, and I remember it being just this extraordinary thing. I’m not sure I’d ever seen a movie, a feature film that was simultaneously so didactic, you know,
S2: quite literally
S1: yes and sophisticated about this subject in business and finance, which has always been my hobby horse of mine about, you know, business in movies and TV that it used to be so terrible almost all of the time. And indeed, one of the things that led me to try to do it kind of sort of better in my first novel. But so that it was didactic as physical and totally entertaining. I specifically remembered. And I think everybody talked about it at the time as there’s Margot Robbie in a bathtub talking about whatever credit default swaps or whatever. But I realized rewatching and I really obviously I realized it then as well that there’s so much the balance between fun and funniness and humor and Adam McKay jolly. The jollity to me is in perfect balance with this giant subject of systemic horror that that it tells Mortgage-Backed Securities.
S4: Subprime loans tranches. It’s pretty confusing, right? Does it make you feel bored or stupid? Well, it’s supposed to. Wall Street loves to use confusing terms to make you think only they can do what they do, or even better for you just to leave them the fuck alone. So here’s Margot Robbie in a bubble bath to explain.
S5: Basically, Louis rein areas mortgage bonds were amazingly profitable for the big banks. They made billions and billions on their three percent fee they got for selling into these funds. But then they started running out of mortgages to put in them. After all, there are so many homes and so many people with good enough jobs buy them right. So the banks started filling these bonds with riskier and riskier mortgages. Think venture. That way, they can keep that profit machine churning, right? By the way, these risky mortgages are called sub-prime. So whenever you hear subprime, think shit. A friend, Michael Burry, found out that these mortgage bonds that were supposedly 65 percent Triple-A were actually just virtually full of shit. So now he’s going to show up at the banks, which means to bet against GO. Now, fuck off.
S2: Emily, you you’re nodding, nodding along that you you agree.
S3: That’s a lot to ask me to agree with, but let’s see. Let’s unpack. Movie is good. Definitely a good movie entertaining, which is as listeners to slate money goes, the movies must know that is my number one criteria. Am I being entertained here or not? Definitely an entertaining movie. Ryan Gosling is my favorite part. Every scene he’s in, I’m laughing, and so are the characters, by the way, that he’s making them laugh as well. Love it. Love when he bursts into the bathroom and is kickin guys out of the bathroom because he’s on the phone. Just perfect. Margot Robbie in the bathtub. Naked explaining stuff. I hate it so much like. And Selena Gomez also with Richard Thaler in the casino, like I know, Adam McKay is making this movie for boys and about boys. Blake, don’t shove it in my face by telling me the only way I’m going to be interested in a financial concept is that I see an attractive, naked woman in a bathtub talking about it. First of all, I’m a heterosexual woman, or is this woman whatever? That’s not appealing to me, but like if I was a man and maybe you guys can agree or disagree or someone attracted to her, why would I be listening to her explain something when I just be like staring at her naked? Like, why would it make the concept more? I just hate it all so much. It’s just this acknowledgement that this
S1: is not for me.
S2: I’m going to sort of come up with a third opinion here on this one, which is that Kurt is absolutely right that everyone talked about Margot Robbie in the bathtub. But that was what they remembered with Margot Robbie in the bathtub, and literally no one remembered what the hell, she said. Exactly. That’s what I 30 seconds after she finished saying it, let alone after, let let alone after the movie was finished. Yes, like it didn’t actually achieve work. OK, so it may or may not have achieved what he wanted it to achieve. Like, there is a case to be made. That he didn’t actually particularly want or need the audience to follow what she was saying. And he put that scene in there as a kind of sop to like we need to at least pretend to explain to people what is going on.
S3: Maybe I’m not the right audience to not understand what is going on and what a subprime mortgages, but I think the movie does a fine job without that scene explaining what that is, and it doesn’t actually need the scene. It didn’t matter. It was just a fun. It made the movie viral and like you said, like you both said, that’s what everyone wanted to talk about. So that was good for the movie, right? It’s good PR for the movie, essentially.
S1: I think it was good for the viewer experience, you know, to me. And first of all, I watched it in 2013 and again last night with my wife, who I didn’t quiz her specifically about whether that she didn’t like it or get it. But I don’t think she was in any way finding objectionable to me. What it does, it’s not about. Oh my gosh. Margot Robbie Margot Robbie No, I’m looking. No. It says early, very early on in this film that this is a weird movie that’s going to break the fourth wall and do all these kooky things and entertaining ways. I think that’s what it does more than one of our voom. Look at this girl. I don’t think it’s so much about that. Or at least it wasn’t for me because I’m a sexless old man at this point. Or I see as I think I have this sort of cinematic sensibility role, really. I do. And and they say in this very funny, didactic, you know, bright Brechtian way. Here’s Margot Robbie in a bubble bath to explain that is a line that Ryan Gosling, I guess, says, so I found that funny, you know? And then they do. Anthony Bourdain with a great explanation of how these mortgage backed securities are the equivalent of using old fish in a stew to hide the rotten fish, which is fantastic
S4: collateralized debt obligations. It’s important to understand because this would allow the housing crisis to become a nationwide economic disaster. Here’s World-Famous Chef Anthony Bourdain to explain OK, I’m a chef on a Sunday afternoon setting the menu. The big restaurant. I ordered my fish on Friday, which is the mortgage bond that Michael Burry shorted, but some of the fresh fish doesn’t sell. I don’t know why. Maybe you just came out. It has the intelligence of a dolphin. So what am I going to do for all this unsold fish, which is the Triple B level of the bond in the garbage and take the loss? No way. Being the crafty and morally onerous chef that I am, whatever crappy levels of the bond I don’t sell, I throw it with seafood stew. See, it’s not old fish. It’s a whole new thing. And the best part is they’re eating sweet old halibut. That is the cream.
S1: You know, I just found it amusing and telling me it’s an amusing movie.
S2: So my my problem with the didactic system is actually substantive, less so on the Margot Robbie scene and certainly not on the Anthony Bourdain scene, which I think was good and correct, as you say. But there are a couple of other scenes which are much more problematic. One is when Ryan Gosling brings out his Jenga tower. Now, this one’s a bit weird because Ryan Gosling is playing a real person. Greg Littman Deutsche Bank Although they changed the name for reasons we can only begin to speculate about. And you know, if you are Greg Littman walking into a hedge fund office and selling this trade, the last thing you will ever do is like pull out a Jenga tower as a prop and start pulling things out like, you’re late. You do not need to explain to a bunch of extremely well-paid hedge fund managers. You know what a what a CDO waterfall is, they they all know that perfectly well. So that scene is weird to me because precisely because it’s not presented as artificial, but precisely because it is presented as part of the action of the movie and mainly because it’s just deeply wrong. The way the Tripoli tranches are at the top of the tower and the single B tranches are at the bottom of the tower, and that if a few of the single B tranches fail, then the whole thing collapses and the Triple A’s collapse is exactly 100 percent wrong. The whole point about these structures is that the beads fail first and then the Double B’s and then the Triple B’s, and they can all fail. And then the single days and days and days will remain. If you don’t. If you make it seem like it’s upside down, it’s the other way round from that you are literally making people believe the exact opposite to the way these things were constructed in the way these things work. So I feel like the didactic system, you know, is. What’s the word forgivable if it’s at least telling, if it’s at least trying to teach people the truth, if it’s trying to teach people something that is false? I have a much bigger problem with that. And then the Selena Gomez scene is almost even worse than that because it. If you watch it carefully. It explains why the entire premise of the film is deeply flawed, and the whole movie that we’re watching is is just very light, unreliable and a deep and fundamental way, and we can we can talk about that.
S3: But yeah, what do you mean? What are you talking about?
S4: Just tell us.
S2: So, OK, so this was my problem with Michael’s book, and this is my problem with the movie, is the idea that the there was this terrible system out there with people buying and selling ninja mortgages, and it was all going to end in tears. And the few. Zig, where everyone else SEG types could see the truth, where everyone else was blinded and they put on some trades, which first of all looked foolish, but then look genius and they all made lots of money and good for them. But it’s still bad that the world collapsed. That’s the big narrative of the book and of the movie. But if you listen to what Selena Gomez is saying. Quite carefully. What she’s saying is that she’s sitting at the poker table or the roulette table or whatever she is in the casino. She’s making a relatively small bet, and then a bunch of people behind her are making much bigger bets than the bunch of people behind them and making big bets still. And we get this in the scene with Wing Chow in the casino, where Steve Eisman is having dinner with wing chow, although neither of them are named in the movie again for reasons. And Steve Eisman goes like if you have a $50, if you have $50 million of bad mortgages, how much you know in CDOs is can be built on that. And when your child goes like a billion dollars and Steve Iceman’s mind is blown. But the point here is that the edifice of derivative trades is zero-sum. Bets referencing the subprime market was orders of magnitude bigger than the subprime market itself. If the subprime market had just collapsed on its own without all of these bets being made on it. That would have been bad, but it wouldn’t have brought down the entire global economy, what brought down the entire global economy was this huge edifice of synthetic bets that were built on top of the subprime market. And this is where the entire book and movie become problematic. Is that the subprime bets? The synthetic bets that are built on top of that only exist because people like Greg Littman and Steve Eisman and Michael Burry made those bets without those people. None of that could have happened. All of these are derivatives. All of these are zero sum bets. You need someone on both sides. If you don’t have someone on the other side, on the bearish side betting against these bonds, none of those securities could have been issued. It was the fault of the supposed heroes of this movie that the financial crisis happened.
S1: Well, that’s I’m glad you explained that so clearly. First of all. Felix, I mean, you obviously know way too much about this world, and both of you probably do for it to be taken as the purely successful piece of entertainment that it is. But that aside. So what if the if Michael’s book and the and Michael’s book does a bit, but certainly the movie didn’t say, Well, these these guys are just symptomatic of the this ultra derivative exotic financial invention problem. They’re not heroes. They just. Sure. But you know, the fact that the movie did not hit that beat in the end in some big way, it’s not a failure. It just it’s a storytelling decision about like, you know, these guys are not necessarily heroes in the Ryan Gosling characters as well. I’m not a hero says that to the camera in the film. So I don’t see that as a giant problem. I thought you were going to go somewhere else with your erudite and learned explanation that would make me go, Oh my gosh, this is badly wrong in ways I didn’t even realize. Whereas to me, you’re just saying, Oh, it is I as as a super knowledgeable person about this world and the and you know, I am going to bring my entirely gimlet eyed, cynical view to this thing and tell it like it is what you’ve done. But I don’t think that invalidates the way this movie, this the story was told in this film.
S2: So the way the story is told in the film, I mean, let me let’s just be very clear about this, and we can boil it down to that one scene over dinner, right where where Greg LeMond is watching from afar table. Steve Steve, my husband is having dinner with Wing Child Right, and the unambiguous message of that scene is the Steve Eisman is the force of light, truth and righteousness, and Wing Tao is
S3: the characters names or the actors names Felix. I mean, to give people a fighting chance.
S2: Steve Carell, OK, Steve Steve Carell slash mark Baum’s slash Steve Iceman. That person, thank you is is the cynical avatar of truth and righteousness and the slimy guy who runs CDO portfolios in New Jersey, who is having dinner with who’s never named in the movie but is based on a CDO manager named Wing Chow, who actually sued Michael Lewis for libel and lost that he is the avatar of everything like greedy and evil.
S4: So let me get this straight. The bank calls you up. They give you the bonds they want to sell. They give you clients and give you money to run your business, give you fat fees for doing so, but you represent the investors. Is that right? Yeah, but we’re not in the Merrill Lynch building. OK. Are you in New Jersey? You’re 20 minutes away, huh? Five is a helicopter. It’s running. That’s hilarious. Whereas, in fact,
S2: Wing Chow represents the Norwegian banks, who are placing their money in supposedly safe securities and were not being able to tell they were just trying to keep their money safe. And Steve Carell represents the high finance Wall Street types who took a bad situation and made it 100 times worse by layering up a whole bunch of derivatives on it.
S1: Again, as somebody who is when it comes to important historical events like, say, John F. Kennedy assassination, I am scrupulous about what do you think you’re doing? Oliver Stone telling this false story this way. In this case, I entirely accept the the degree of fictionalization that goes on here, including the fact and of course, all of us are suggesting all of the characters. Except I think, you know, Dr. Murray, the Christian Bale character, are not given their real names. We’re not used because their life rights weren’t bought, as you say, for whatever reason. So that’s already saying, this is fiction. These are not these guys. And of course, in this in if you’re going to tell this story, if unless you’re going to tell a much darker way where nobody’s good, you know some of them, we’re going to be better than others, you’re going to you’re going to tip the scales to make the Steve Carell character better. But by the way, he was kind of a jerk. I didn’t like him.
S2: Adam McKay is the guy who directed the very first episode of Succession. He is executive producer of Succession. He is perfectly capable of making a movie where everyone is bad. No one is good.
S1: He chose No, no, no, no. I’ll stop you right there. A two hour movie is a very different beast in terms of how to write it, how to sell it, everything else. Then the first episode of a 50 80 episode series, you just did.
S3: I think maybe there’s a bigger picture issue at play here because I was doing my reading about this, and Greg EP had a good piece in the journal many years ago. About this peg to the movie is what happened in the financial crisis about bad actors or a bad system populated by good and bad actors all acting in their own self-interest. And probably it’s the bad system explanation that makes the most sense. But when you write a book, especially if you’re Michael Lewis, you’re not going to write a book about the bad system without finding the characters who can act as the avatars and help you explain and actually keep people interested in a narrative. Same with a movie like you can’t have a movie about a bad system that’s actually interesting unless you populate it with interesting characters. And because it was a Hollywood movie, the characters have to be kind of heroic or whatever iconoclastic or however, these these guys are being portrayed. So I mean, like, you’re not wrong Felix, but like, it’s Hollywood, dude. Should we say what the movie was about? Even a little because we haven’t yet, and I believe it.
S2: So, so OK. So this book grew out of a. Long article that Michael wrote for the late magazine Condé Nast Portfolio, where I was working at the time and it was his attempt to do a crisis story. And he found these great characters and then eventually he expanded it into a book length. And it was Michael’s attempt to basically do what Michael does, which is explain. Whatever it is, you want to explain through telling people’s stories. And so he found these these stories that he wanted to tell and was like, If I if I can, if I can bring you in and get you invested in the stories of these individuals, then that’s going to be my way of making you understand what happened in the global financial crisis. And he 100 per cent succeeded in bringing us in and making us care about these individuals. And this is, you know, this is kind of my. Now, in all of his books, the central characters are you have like a rooting interest in them. They’re not like problematic anti-heroes so much as they are like, you’re rooting for them and you want them to win and they’re struggling against the odds and then they win in the end, you know, that kind of thing. And and that’s what happens in this book. You have these heroes struggling against the odds and winning in the end and then through the eyes of those heroes who are struggling against the odds and winning in the end, you can. Begin to understand what happened in the financial crisis. I haven’t read Greg IP’s column on this, but the fact is that the financial crisis was so big and so global and so multifaceted and involved so many different moving parts that that project is always going to be partial at best, and Michael will be the first to concede that right. So he’s concentrating on one part of it, which was the subprime loans and the and the CDOs that were made up of subprime loans. And then he kind of Felix that the way that when they all failed, that caused Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns to fail. And, you know, he doesn’t quite explain that mechanism. And then he very, very quickly says, Oh yeah. And by the way, like Spain and Italy and Greece are all like looking bad as well, and we don’t even begin to understand what was going on there. But that little part of it that he’s trying to explain. You know, we can talk about whether or not he actually succeeds at the end of the book in explaining that little part of it. I think we can also agree that by the time it has been wrung through the Hollywood machine and turned into a vehicle for Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie and Brad Pitt like that point, you come out of the movie with literally zero conception of how the financial crisis had disagree. I disagree. I feel like you get a better idea. You do. You get a much better idea of how the financial crisis happened by watching margin call than you would by watching The Big Show.
S1: Oh, well, well, well, don’t don’t put one child I love against another child. I love a little more. Please come on. I try to talk about margin. Call on this show, but you already done it. So. No, that’s true. But that isn’t the way. One. If that’s what you’re about is rating movies according to their fidelity to fidelity. Haha. But they’re they’re they’re very they’re absolute various and all too well. That’s not the way I rate movies. You know, I want them to be over a certain line, and this one totally was for me. Apparently wasn’t enough for you. But the idea that you know of the I don’t know how many people watched that movie. I. Ten million, 20 million, whatever. You know, 90, most of them, the large majority of them are far more knowledgeable and aware that they can explain to say, a child about what about the financial crisis in this narrow, partial, you know, crude? All those problems you have with it way, then they would be otherwise just period end of story I, I saw. To me, it it Kurt.
S2: Tell me you watched this movie last night. You’ve watched this movie within the past 24 hours. Yes. What was it that Margot Robbie was explaining when she was in the bathtub?
S1: You know something. It doesn’t matter. It was. And by the way, you can’t tell me because
S2: no one remembers you
S1: there. Therefore, what Felix therefore what I wasn’t explaining for me. Whatever she was explaining the basics of, you know, you know, credit default swaps or derivatives, whatever it was, something I already knew. So I was just, oh yeah, here’s that famous scene. And it’s an incredibly quick scene, as opposed to Anthony Bourdain explaining, You know, just you doing this metaphorical thing. They’re not there. They’re not there to annotate and explain. Really, those things are there. There’s amusing illustrations. However, what we skipped over and didn’t talk about are the bits of expository explanation within the story. You find them unacceptable, like with the Jenga thing and OK. But for most people like, Oh, I’ve seen it done worse. That’s that’s for this incredibly the set of complicated, abstruse things, financial concepts that are needed to be explained because they’re at the heart of this film. That was an OK, way to do it. And there are several other instances where, well, you know, the kid says to Christian Bale, like, Oh, what’s going to happen? Dr.. And then Dr. Perry has the excuse to explain something because the kid has asked him, they do that a few times fairly well, because how else are you going to do it in a movie, you know? And I see so many movies in so many different realms where where that kind of exposition is so terrible and so clunky. I thought they did a decent job.
S3: Yeah, I mean, I think Kurt’s right. This is an entertaining movie, and we must judge it on that vector. We can’t judge it on total accuracy and fidelity to get to the level of Felix knowledge of the financial crisis, because that’s not a fair metric to use at all. And I think if you come to the movie not knowing very much about financial crisis or what happened with subprime loans, or especially those scenes in Florida, with the two mortgage brokers bragging about how they just get immigrants signed up to subprime loans that are terrible and take advantage of them and how they think this is like a good thing. I thought that was really good.
S1: They were, and they were great.
S2: That was a good scene. I will give you that.
S4: How many loans you write each month about six. What was it four years ago? 10, maybe 15. Yeah, I was a bartender. Now I own a boat. Your number. So how many of these are adjustable rate mortgages? Well, most yeah. Yeah, I’d say about 90 percent. And the bonuses on those skyrocketed a few years ago. Adjustable is our bread and honey. So do applicants ever get rejected? Seriously, look, if they get rejected, I suck on my job even if they have no money. Well, my my firm offers ninja loans. No income, no, no job. I just leave the income section blank. My one corporate doesn’t care. These people just want homes, you know, and they go with the flow for your companies. Don’t verify if I write a loan on Friday afternoon, a big bank is going to buy it by Monday lunch. Yeah, yeah, same here. Could you hold on a second? I don’t get it. Why are they confessing, they’re not confessing, they’re bragging?
S3: That was great, and it shows how, like, the villains are just idiots.
S2: Gratuitous nudity notwithstanding the Florida interlude was good from a sort of didactic point of view. I didn’t have a problem with that.
S3: I even support the stripper explaining how she has six mortgages on six different homes that was actually like fine. It was
S1: all just so wonderfully Floridian, and it’s, you know, three and a half minutes,
S3: you know, and the woman driving the real estate broker, driving the car, and we’re just in a little gully and then the stripper repeats, we’re just in a little gully. I thought that was wonderful. Like, that was all great. Like, maybe this isn’t the perfect, you know, explanation for the crisis and the perfect explanation of the crisis doesn’t exist because it was so complicated, multifaceted and in the end, inexplicably dumb. Really? Right? I mean, things got out of control.
S2: I mean, it’s interesting that one of the consultants on the movie was Adam Davidson, who did that famous giant pool of Money Planet Money episode, which. Really did get everything right in a way that by necessity or whatever, any any other reason like the the movie didn’t. So I mean, if you want if you want me to point to. Popularization of explaining the financial crisis, which do a better job, I feel like I can do that quite easily, yes.
S1: A non-fiction, a non-fiction podcast over many hours did it did it better than many hours than a two hour, one hour? OK, whatever. You know, I mean, it was a different judge, things on their own terms. That’s all I’m suggesting of what they are.
S3: Planet Money wants to be entertaining, but that’s not their ultimate goal. Whereas like a Hollywood movie, like the ultimate goal is in fact, to be entertaining, and you’re going to have to sneak in the other stuff. You’re going to have to put ladies in bathtubs, I guess. Although I don’t really think you have to. I did. What did you think about the man renting the house in Florida? I feel like he’s the one purely sympathetic character in the film because, yeah, that the guy’s doing the big shorts to me where I’m very sympathetic, but he’s actually sympathetic. He’s renting the house from the mortgage holder who put the mortgage in the name of a dog or whatever and isn’t paying it anymore. And then at the end of the film, the guy is pictured like packing up the car with his kids and obviously is now homeless. He is like the one sympathetic person right in the film. It’s interesting who you choose to write the books about and make the movies about.
S1: I thought I thought that was smartly done and not overdone and not overused, and just smartly done to represent all of the millions of people who got fucked in by this.
S2: Yeah, I mean, it’s like he got fucked by the economy collapsing, probably because, you know, he lost his job when the economy imploded. But, you know, as a renter, you know, he paid he paid his rent on his house for as long as the house was owned by his landlord, and then the landlord lost the house and so he had to move to a different rental. It wasn’t like he lost his entire down payment. He had negative equity or anything like that. He wasn’t at risk in the way that the stripper was. But you’re right, he was the most sympathetic character.
S3: You make a choice when you write about the financial crisis from the vantage point of like the men making bets on the who wins and who loses and not on the people that were, you know, all the millions of people who lost jobs, lost homes, lost equity, lost wealth and who, many of whom still haven’t recovered. And an innerwear like character in the movie caricatured in the film as strippers who just want to have, you know, six houses or something. When a lot of these people were immigrants or people of color who were steered into subprime loans, not realizing what they were getting and have have felt the effects, you know, for a lifetime. And while those banks got bailed out for being stupid or risky or whatever, like none of those people really did. But that’s not how you make a movie about.
S2: The movie likes to have its cake and eat it a little bit on that front as well. It gets very righteous about the bailouts without ever really grappling with the real world implications of what would have happened if the banks haven’t got no.
S1: Well, I mean, I don’t know if we want to do this, but. I could not help as I watch this film that I like very much, obviously directed by Adam McKay in light of. His most recent movie, which I found to be so awful and so terrible in its which is to say, don’t look up and it’s in its misbegotten. Portrayal of various confused liberal ideas. To me, it’s a good here’s how it can work to do what you’re trying to do, and here’s like when you really haven’t figured it out and how to do it, and it’s it’s not real, it’s an allegory. All that. It’s like a good version, bad version in terms of in terms of getting that big, complicated sociopolitical questions. Well, or not.
S3: Maybe it’s because I mean, well, one reason in this movie he had great source material like a Michael Lewis book is is very good. I mean, Felix criticisms aside, great source material, real characters and four. Don’t look up. I don’t know.
S2: He just made it up, I think.
S1: No, it just made it up. And again, it’s it’s it’s about climate, but it’s about an asteroid amedeo or whatever it was about
S2: keeping your your feet. At least one foot in the real world is good. I mean, to come back to succession, which is peripherally in Adam McKay joint, but is really not. I think we can credit him with a certain degree of tonal success there that he helped to sort of shape the tone of the series in a way that was fantastic. But ultimately, the complexities and the the fact that you don’t need to tie every, you know, character arc ups and then in a nice clean bow or anything like that, you know, make succession a much more successful project than either of these two movies.
S1: But again, Felix, you’re comparing 30 or 40 hour things to a two hour thing, and that’s just a great Big Apple orange watermelon difference.
S2: It’s fair enough. Now I’ll accept that.
S3: Did you like the movie Felix or could you knock it out of your own head to enjoy it?
S2: Maybe. I mean, maybe that’s it. Maybe I was just too close to it. And you know, there aren’t that many people who watch this movie and see Ryan Gosling and go away. Is he meant to be Greg Lippman? And there aren’t that many people not know.
S4: Not to me.
S2: There aren’t that many people who are like, Why are they calling him Louis? Really, every everyone calls him Lou.
S1: You know? Yeah. Well, you know, we all I when I read a story or see a thing, a movie or whatever TV show about some world that I really know. Yeah, it’s hard to it’s hard to not find all those flaws. It’s like the old thing that I think Stephen Colbert did on his show, maybe Letterman of having like a dentist on to talk about some the dental portions of some movie that had nothing to do with dentistry and the like? Wait, this is this is not the point. But like, for instance, the The Show NEWSROOM, lots of my friends liked it. Fine. I couldn’t stand it, you know, because it was so not on in so many ways
S2: how high degree. I basically, I can’t watch any movie about journalism. It drives me nuts.
S1: Well, exactly.
S3: The one thing I hated the most in this movie was because I was at The Wall Street Journal for a little bit of the time during the crisis and that scene where the two guys go to talk to the KC. The Wall Street Journal reporter has this like phenomenal office based in reality. And the guy’s like such a jerk to them and is like I. He says, blatantly like, Oh, these are my sources I would never like. Turn against them in this way. I can’t believe you would expect that of me. Like that would never. I really don’t think I don’t claim pure knowledge, but it was
S2: it was the way it was and what movie it was.
S1: And then on, I have two kids and found love.
S4: Let’s go to the press, man. This is a massive story. Who wouldn’t publishing like Robert Redford, shorting the ones that they buy, the ones you don’t get? I got this. I got it. I got it. I got it. What am I supposed to do? I write a piece of raw fact. Yes, that’s a perfect title, Casey. Right now, every bank in town is unloading these shit bonds on the unsuspecting customers, and they won’t devalue them until they get them off their books. This level of criminality is unprecedented, even on fucking Wall Street. Jamie, this is me being honest here, OK? It took me years to build my relationships on Wall Street. No bank or ratings agency is going to confirm a story like this just because it comes from two guys in a sorry garage band hedge fund that thinks it’s the apocalypse. Wow. I thought you were for Real Casey. You know, I have to say I really did. Really? Yeah. Jamie, you try being for real with a three year old and a wife getting her master’s degree. I’m not going to burn my reputation on your wild hunch. Wow. Wow. Thanks for coming, guys. Totally fucking awesome to see. Yeah. Casey, I’ve always hated you because you were a prick in college. You are a prick today. Thanks, Charlie Sullivan, with your mom.
S1: And by the way, presaging the terrible scene after scene after scene and don’t look now in terms of it’s.
S3: Yes, yes, it’s really it’s upsetting and it makes you think like, Oh, OK, well, this is what everyone thinks of financial journalism. So it’s so I don’t know. Maybe I reacted to person
S1: in our area. Now I just I just put that I just I looked away during that.
S2: It was it was a peculiarly terrible scene that one, like it was so badly written and badly directed and clunky. And you’re like, Where did this scene come from? And it serves no purpose in the broader narrative of the movie. Like it just gets like love in there with its never referenced before. It’s never referenced afterwards. It’s just like he needed his like 90 seconds of bashing the media for no other reason than to bash the media.
S1: Well, I think the reason was probably and it’s the kind of thing he would shoot and then at the end now cut that we’re not going to have that scene or that guy or anything. I think he probably included it to show, you know, Richie and Jamie and Charlie to be good guys. Look, they’re going to the media, they’re going to try to do it. So to your point, to your point about, yeah, you’re part of your critique of the film is it was making them into heroes, perhaps more than they were by trying to go to the media who suppresses.
S3: Yeah, and then there’s I think there’s implicit storyline like the media missed all of this. And like by the time those two guys were in the Wall Street Journal offices, the Wall Street Journal was writing about this like every day. I just it’s upsetting to me. I don’t think these are the only people that saw this coming.
S2: The media did not miss the crisis. I can say this as someone who is blogging the crisis from late 2006 onwards, the media wrote about it over and over again. I remember being on like countless terrible panels in the wake of the crisis, basically all of which were predicated on this idea. How did the media miss the crisis? I would always just say it didn’t. I can point you to hundreds of articles where we explained exactly what was going on, and the problem was that they were buried in the business section that normal people don’t read. But we did. The media did not miss the crisis. We really were on top of it.
S1: The other thing this film, it seems to me, did pretty well, given what kind of film it was, especially is suggest the anxiety and tension of people in this world making these gigantic financial bets. You know, and it reminded me like, Wow, this is a world I could never have been and could never be, and I could not live with that sort of stress. But whether it’s the brilliant, as you said, Emily the scene of Ryan Gosling in the in the in the bathroom, making people go away as he’s talking about his secret stuff. But just the various ways in which he and Christian Bale especially are, you know, at the abyss it could all go asunder. And that was pretty effectively conveyed.
S2: It is super interesting because what they’re all doing and this is actually explicit in the movie, it’s hidden away one of those like bits of exegesis at the beginning of the movie. But this definitely applies to the brownfield capital or whatever they were called the two kids. And it also applies to to the Bowie trade. Is that the. In the business of making. Many small losing bets, and they know that the bets are almost certain to lose and they will lose money and they will lose money, and they will lose money until one day, the bet will actually make money and the amount you make on the rare occasions when the bait when they make money is so much greater than it, so much is so huge that it more than covers all of your losses on the on the on the other bets and make your friend. Malcolm Gladwell wrote the definitive article about this, about Mark Spitz, Nagel and Nassim Taleb and people like that who do exactly that strategy, and it is genuinely, psychologically almost unbearable to walk into work and lose money. And then the next day you walk into work and you lose money, and the next day you walk into work and you lose money and you’re losing your investors money.
S3: No, it seemed like so much worse than the hate mail that he was getting and like his mentors turning against him so much worse than anything you experienced as a journalist because all the other money that’s involved, too. But apparently, Michael Burry was one of the investors that basically helped spur the GameStop hysteria because he had written several letters to GameStop management, encouraging them to do like stock buybacks. And this and that and saying that they were undervalued and they could do this and that. And so he was one of the names cited by Roaring Kitty. You know, when he made his first
S2: cheap fucking value as he was known on Reddit?
S3: Yeah, yes, you fucking value. When he first started drawing attention to the stock. So Barry did play a role in in creating the meme stock mania, although he he made money off GameStop stock not as much as he could have if he had stayed in longer, apparently. Also, he is currently betting against AH, he was this fall betting against Tesla.
S1: And to my point of the fact that these GameStop hordes probably made briefly Michael Burry in the, as you describe it, their avatar. Oh, look, he was that guy, huh? Its characters, it’s it’s like, yeah, he’s he’s the renegade saying this. You know, this thing? I mean, they are, I don’t know. Not that that
S3: actually will make any sense if he’s like a big short and they hate shorts, but they’re all people.
S1: They don’t hate shorts. They hate they. They hated shorts today. But, you know, I mean, that’s that’s my point, is that they don’t hate shorts and so on.
S2: But also Barry by nature and like the reason why he had a significant hedge fund as we opened the movie is because he is a value investor and he in the way that valuing the way the value investing worked and the way that he made all of his money up until this was like he would buy undervalued stocks and then they would go up and he would sell them, and then he would make money. And this is the main reason why his investors were like, What the fuck are you doing when he got into subprime was? It was a massive strategy shift. He was never involved in the bond market at all. He was always a stock guy.
S3: There you go. That makes sense. Yeah, it was. It’s interesting that wasn’t his his everyone talks about their thesis. This is our thesis, our investing thesis. Really, it’s just about making money. And then you create the thesis.
S2: But also, like you have to understand from the point and obviously the Michael Barry’s investors, you know, represented in a very unsympathetic way in this movie. But if you are a hedge fund investor, you know you you’re not just invested in one hedge fund, you are invested in the portfolio of hedge funds and you have one hedge fund that’s doing deep value investing in the US stock market. You have another hedge fund that’s doing commodities, you have another hedge fund that’s doing emerging markets, you have another hedge fund that’s doing credit opportunities, you’re
S2: and then you and you like diversify across strategies in that way and then you wake up one morning. And what you thought was a value investing US stock market fund suddenly becomes a. Highly leveraged credit opportunities to run, you’re like, wait, hang on, the fact that is not what I invested in, if I wanted to invest in that, I would have invested in, you know, magnetar. Please give me my money back. And that’s an actually reasonable thing to say. All right, we will end this with a letter grade Emily. What would you give this movie?
S3: I give this movie an A-minus. I just wish it had been made with women in mind a little bit more so that’s why I gave it the minus.
S2: Not, not a lot of great female characters in this.
S3: No, there either. Is it? I wrote down the OK, the men get to be brilliant, awkward, damaged bimbos. Corrupt, stupid me. An empathetic, tragic. That’s all the characters, the character traits men get to display in this film. And the women are wives. They are bimbos.
S1: Pretty. Oh, the Morgan Stanley corrupt. The Morgan Stanley woman wants what is.
S3: She’s just
S1: she’s just there to be
S3: to maybe like a wifey kind of character. Basically, the women are mostly wifey kind of characters or not wifey characters.
S2: Yeah, like why did we need her to be like pregnant and breast pumping? That was probably, yeah,
S3: why did we need that? I don’t understand. I think it was men at the end to communicate. The Steve Carell character had become more empathetic because in the beginning, he’s just like, Oh, are you expecting a man? Cuts off her answer. And then the end is like, Are you having fun being a mom? And then waits for her answer? We’re supposed to understand that this means Steve Carell has gone through something. You know, that’s why she’s the device. All these women are like device characters for the men. And so it’s a really good movie, and I really enjoyed it. And it’s OK that it doesn’t perfectly explain the financial crisis, but I wish. I don’t know. Yeah, I wish it had done a little bit more in that female rap realm, but that’s it’s Adam McKay.
S2: So what do you do? I’m going to I’m going to give it a B minus. I think, you know, I’m I’m sitting there with the final scene of Steve Carell sitting in his penthouse on Park Avenue overlooking Central Park in like winning and and it just and also feeling like bad as he’s on the phone to Jeremy Strong that, like the banks aren’t collapsing. That somehow would make him feel better if the banks all collapsed and weren’t bailed out. And you’re like, Oh, fuck off. And that is and that’s like the the message of the film. Yeah, fuck off. Adam McKay. So yeah, I’m giving a a B-minus Kurt you get to
S1: well, I’m happy. I’m one of the reasons this I’m glad we spent the last hour doing this is I’ve been schooled in these in these legitimate critiques. Yet if Emily, if you hadn’t said a minus, if you had said B plus, I was thinking maybe I should say my ass because it’s not perfect, but nothing’s perfect. So hey, with the with the caveat that. A-plus as possible.
S2: Well, it’s margin call A-plus.
S1: I have to watch it again to tell you that, but you know, maybe it would be an A-plus candidate.
S2: So thank you for liking this movie. We needed the foil. We needed someone to defend it. You were magnificent at that. And yeah, we’ll be back on Saturday with a regular slate money.