Posts Tagged ‘Rafe Spall’

Adam McKay explains how the end of the world got monetized in ‘The Big Short,’ his surprisingly entertaining tale of real-life financial shenanigans

January 2, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Jan. 2, 2015

The Big Short is a strangely entertaining and extremely timely movie about a wholly unlikely subject: A handful of investors who anticipated, and got rich because of, the collapse of the American housing market.

Director Adam McKay’s feature is based on Michael Lewis’s 2010 nonfiction book, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine. Lewis also wrote Liar’s PokerMoneyball and The Blind Side, among other books; the first of these drew on Lewis’s experiences on Wall Street, while the latter two became enormously successful sports movies. The latest Lewis-inspired outing was translated to screen by thriller screenwriter Charles Randolph and McKay, the director of such excellent comedies as Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.

The Big Short tracks three sets of characters in their quest to make a bundle of money while betting against conventional wisdom. One of the men at the heart of the story is Michael Burry, a one-eyed possibly autistic medical doctor who runs a Silicon Valley investment firm. As played by Christian Bale, Burry is an oddball who loves to play heavy metal rock music at eardrum-piercing volumes and who regularly shows up at the office dressed as if he were about to spend a day cleaning his garage. Burry wears the shirt throughout the film, which takes place over the course of about three years.

Burry, who’s capable of prolonged bouts of concentration, finds that an alarming percentage of housing mortgage bonds are based on poorly secured subprime loans. A single bond consists of thousands of individual mortgages, each of which represents the debt owed by a home buyer to a lender; investors buy the bonds in order to receive a share of the monthly mortgage payments.

For decades, such bonds were a rock-solid investment. What Burry discovers — contrary to the assertions of virtually every economist in the known universe — is that many of home loans being made were incredibly risky. As a result, the mortgage bond market is highly overvalued and therefore due for a correction, otherwise be known as a crash.

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The unlikeliest of buddy movies: ‘Life of Pi’ puts a teenager and a tiger together at sea

December 22, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 22, 2014

Ang Lee’s 2012 feature film, Life of Pi, is a brilliantly realized adaptation of Yann Martel’s 2002 book, which features a bizarre premise. For the bulk of the picture, the eponymous Pi — rhymes with pie the dessert; is actually pi the mathematical constant — is stranded on a life raft in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger.

It’s to the credit of Lee, screenwriter David Magee and the entire crew that this fantastic scenario plays out convincingly. Plaudits are especially due Suraj Sharma, the first-time screen actor who portrays Pi throughout most of the movie and who, for perhaps two-thirds of the running time, is the only person on screen.

Pi’s companion bears the name Richard Parker thanks to a clerical error at the time of purchase in which the animal’s name was transposed with that of the hunter who captured him. He used to be on display at a zoo run by Pi Patel’s family in Pondicherry, India. When local authorities announce their desire to repossess the zoo’s land, the Patels decide to move to Canada; they arrange passage aboard a freighter so they can accompany their animals, most of which will be sold in North America.

Tiger and teenager come to be trapped together in a lifeboat after an immense storm sinks the freighter. This is shown in a spectacular and frightening sequence that, in terms of cinematic impact, may outdo even the meteorological monster shown in The Perfect Storm.

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