“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” –Mark Twain
Ryan Gosling intermittently narrates us through this dramatization of the housing bubble and bust in 2008. Not many movies can be entertaining while explaining a mortgage backed security; add that to Ryan Gosling’s resume. I’m guessing the movie fudges a few facts (they actually call out a few fudges in the film) but you get the gist; huge money led to huge corruption led to huge collapse.
About the upcoming collapse, the narrator tells us, ‘a few outsiders and weirdos saw what was coming’ and I think that’s what hooked me about this movie; even for something as catastrophic as the 2008 financial crash, there was a warning in our history. This message is repeated in many of the following films.
“The way things change is because lots of people are working all the time. They’re working in their communities or workplace or wherever they happen to be and they’re building up the basis for popular movements which are going to make changes. That’s the way everything has ever happened in history.” –Noam Chomsky
The brilliant Noam Chomsky walks us through ‘The 10 Principles of the Concentration of Wealth and Power’, deftly illustrating how each of these principles is translating into today’s headlines. It’s disturbing. Not just for the assessment he’s providing, which is bleak, but for the mirror he holds up to the American culture as he works through each principle. Yet even as the picture gets gloomier the closer he gets to ten, Noam reminds us of all the sweeping changes we ‘average’ citizens have organized to bring to this country – and that we still enjoy many powerful freedoms in the US. It’s a compelling film.
“How can the dollar be anything except the world’s greatest monetary brand, the Coca-Cola of money? How can it be anything else but? Well, you just watch.” –Jim Grant, economist.
The tag line says ‘the first film about the next crisis’; that might not sound like so much hyperbole after you see this film. I knew little about the Federal Reserve; now I feel like I know too much. What else can you do but laugh and shake your head – it’s all such a myriad of theories and models and speculation and myopic thinking and ….. wow.
This movie offers a detailed exploration of the nature of our currency and the role of the Federal Reserve in the recent 2008 financial collapse. The film begins by laying out a well-illustrated history of The Fed, starting with a review of the financial instabilities leading up to the crash of 1907 and the subsequent meeting on Jekyll Island. It ends by laying out a persuasive argument that the decisions made to help recover from the 2008 crisis have simply kicked the can down the road by setting the stage for the next market meltdown. And in between these two points, it’s just head-shaking amazing. (note – only Hulu still includes this film with basic subscription)
“The question is, are there gender differences between cheating in men and women – and there are huge differences. Huge differences. And the difference is that only women ask this question.” –Dr. Ariely
In the midst of all these films about financial corruption and fraud, it was refreshing to find a film that shed some light on what drives us to be so consistently dishonest (somebody make sense of this! please!). Duke University Professor Daniel Ariely and his team ran hundreds of experiments in an effort to determine why people lie and Dr. Ariely shares his findings in an amusing and fascinating lecture. Then each of the behaviors noted during the experiments is brought to life through the stories of several brave folks who stare at the camera and tell you about a big lie they told that ended up changing their life. This film is so well done; I was riveted.
The connection between today’s headlines and Dr. Ariely’s experiments is what I really appreciated about this film; the results are so relevant to what’s unfolding around us. If you’ve ever looked at the day’s news stories and truly wondered “how on earth could someone do that?”, this film has some insights for you. The movie also raises the interesting idea that, while our nature provides deception as a necessary tool, it’s cultural conditioning that motivates the truly astonishing acts of deception … We are some interesting creatures.
In response to members of the government attempting to convince the American people ‘we’re broke’, this film makes the case that corporations sheltering money offshore is the real driver of US money woes.
With both data and anecdotes, the film provides interesting explanations of the various financial instruments corporations use to lower their federal income tax bill, some to the point of paying nothing. It is stated that the practices are not illegal, per se, but we sure are left wondering if they’re moral, given the stated impact these practices are having in the US and abroad. Since corporations can now donate millions to election campaigns (Citizens United), it is not surprising to learn that congress has yet to tackle the problem.
Two things about this documentary made it worth sharing. First were the stark connections back to the ten principles Noam discusses in Requiem for the American Dream. Second was how well the film illustrates a key point: corporations continue to benefit from the social and material infrastructures but are no longer paying their share of taxes to maintain these systems – and so they crumble. And in raising this question, this film gets to the question that seems to divide the national conversation right down the middle; are we in this together or is everyone entitled to what they can get?
Being a Monty Python fan, no way was I not going to listen to Terry Jones give me an economics lesson.
Though covering a lot of the same ground, this film focuses more on the human nature behind this tendency of ours to repeat the worst lessons from our history (bingo!). We get to hear from a new cast of British financial authorities … and from some puppets.
The British perspective adds interesting shading where it covers the same ground as the other films but then it goes on to illustrate several more aspects of our insanely complex financial systems, such as buying on margin and market-traded risk price. (Feeling sleepy? Remember, there are puppets!) Dr. Dan Ariely from the film (Dis)Honesty also makes an appearance … And South Park … And Life of Brian … It’s a much more interesting way to learn economics!
The film opens with Tom Waits’ What’s He Building In There. Brilliant song selection.
Pride, arrogance, intolerance, cruelty, greed; it’s all here. I’d heard about this movie but never got around to watching it; Netflix ‘noticed’ what I was watching and provided the reminder (not always sure I appreciate this looking-over-the-shoulder advice).
What was interesting about this movie was hearing the financial disaster explained as a story of three men. The actions and personalities of Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling and Andy Fastow are each examined as they enter and exit this story about the rise and fall of Enron. After watching the movie – and this is going to sound like hyperbole so brace yourself – I was reminded of the familiar black and white picture of Hitler, in full Nazi regalia, walking down a path in the woods with a dog and small girl. Many have shared that this photo prompts them to think “oh, he looks so human”. And yet, that seems the point of these stories; these much hated people – and boy, did we hate the Enron gang back in the day – are really no more or less than a person caught in the merciless conditioning of culture gone mad. Not horrible men full of malevolence out to be evil but simply ambitious people who, like so many, one day find themselves in a pot boiling over with the consequences of one bad decision after another. As the film unfolds you can see it on their faces, this growing awareness of the approaching abyss.
Oliver Stone’s opens this 12-part series with remarks that, as product of the same whitewashed public school education, resonated with me deeply:
“When I was a young boy growing up in New York City, I thought I received a good education. I studied history extensively, especially American history. It made sense; we were the center of the world, there was a manifest destiny, we were the good guys. Well, I’ve traveled the world now. I continued my education as an infantryman in Vietnam. I made a lot of movies, some of them about history, and I’ve learned a lot more than I once knew. And when I heard from my children what they were learning in school, I was perturbed to hear that they were not really getting a more honest view of the world than I did. We live much of our lives in a fog, all of us. And I would like my children to have access to something that looks beyond what I would call ‘the tyranny of now’. We watch the media and everyone talks about ‘that’ thing, the news of the day, and all the subconscious and really important stuff that’s going on is being neglected.
Napoleon once said that history is a pack of lies agreed upon. Well, I’m not sure I agree. I believe history does have a meaning, does have a purpose, and there is a pattern to be found. And I wanted, with my colleagues, rather than make another feature film, to tell the American story in a way that it has never been told before. There are many question that you may not find answered here but you will find questions raised that I hope will help make you more conscious. We are going to propose, among other things, a forgotten set of heroes, people who suffered for their beliefs and who have been lost to history because they did not conform. And we are going to debunk some of those heroes that you believe in, not with malice but by restating the facts. Unless we remind ourselves of the good that we have lost, it’s not easy to imagine a better future. By showing you the patterns of behavior which have come to be that you perhaps have not noticed before, we will try to bring you back to the meaning of this country, and what so radically changed after World War II. There have been some profound mistakes but we still have a chance, I strongly believe, to correct them.” –Oliver Stone
Isn’t it interesting – we humans see patterns in everything so how is it we continually overlook the biggest patterns of all, those embedded in our own recorded history?.
This twelve part documentary series examines WWII, the Cold War, JFK and the Cuban missile crisis, the Vietnam war, the cold war, the ‘age of triumphalism’ (Bush and Clinton) and finally the age of ‘war on terror’. The last two episodes cover WWI and the buildup to WWII. The series is at once a good refresher on a lot of (very relevant) history and an opportunity to see this history examined with a much brighter light.