Inside Job
November 13, 2010 3:41 PM   Subscribe

Charles Ferguson's cogent & enraging presentation of the financial meltdown may be best viewed in a theatre that serves beer. (YMMV) So if the financial system crisis in the last 3 years or so has you scratching your head, there are helpful diagrams on the website, & surprisingly equal party blameworthy interviews in the film. There are also helpful pdf's and good guy/bad guy lists for teaching about it. And once you leave the theatre, there's a place to read & talk about the film, and there's even a place with a list of what you can do. (Which is also open to suggestions for more things you can do.) An interview with film director Charles Ferguson from Oct 1, 2010 on NPR. Previously-ish.
posted by yoga (11 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
"what do you think about selling securities which your own people think are...crap..."

-Carl Levin
posted by clavdivs at 3:58 PM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

felix salmon's review
One of my dreams in life has long been to have the opportunity to sit down opposite Larry Summers or Bob Rubin, with video cameras rolling, and ask one of the key players in the financial crisis some tough on-the-record questions about the degree to which he’s responsible for it. This is the kind of interview which can only be done on video, which captures evasions and non-answers and general oily shiftiness in a way that no print journalist ever could.

That's no longer a dream of mine. Instead, I have a new dream: that Charles Ferguson conduct exactly that interview.

Ferguson is the director of Inside Job, the new documentary about the financial crisis which is a must-see for pretty much everybody. I didn't have very high hopes for the film: I generally consider that video journalism has acquitted itself very badly over the course of the crisis and I blamed the medium rather than the messengers, many of whom are very smart and well-informed.

It turns out, however, that in expert hands, the medium, at least when it's under the control of Ferguson, can do a spectacularly good job of presenting what happened and why — better than any newspaper series or magazine article or book or radio show.

What Ferguson has achieved here is an extremely impressive balancing act: while his explanations are clear-eyed and accurate, he's never content to simply tell us what happened. He also takes pains to constantly remind us that people did this and that nearly all of them are still relaxing in plutocratic comfort even as millions of workers in America and around the world have seen their lives destroyed by the effects of the crisis.
also btw...
-Rubin's unhelpful fiscal exhortations
-Tyson and Hubbard, blithe technocrats
-It Does Not Seem to Me That Charles Ferguson Has Gotten It Right
-A Response to Justin Fox
-Neoliberal Economists Agonistes
-Mishkin: I Have No Future on the Silver Screen
posted by kliuless at 5:08 PM on November 13, 2010 [7 favorites]

Thanks for the additional links, kliuless. It's the insider jargon I can't get past in the Delong posts to find his message. Maybe that is the most appealing thing to me about the film. It's in layman's language.

Part of me wonders if the insiders are equally baffled with their own wrapped-around-their-axles jargon/strategy. I also wonder how calculated the whole thing actually was, or if it was a series of reactive moves.
posted by yoga at 5:25 PM on November 13, 2010

Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism called it "a movie Wall Street is sure to hate" in her September preview:

I’m generally struck by how TV coverage of finance and economics dumbs down their subject matter, which results in annoyingly sanitized, incomplete accounts. This picture demonstrates that the common excuse, that film isn’t well suited to complex material, is merely cover for laziness and low standards.

I really hope that the film is successful.
posted by Despondent_Monkey at 5:45 PM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

An economist and an engineer are stranded on a desert island when a pallate of canned food washes upon the shore. Alas they have no tools to open the cans. Undaunted each decides to use their training to solve the problem. The engineer develops an integrated project plan to locate various materials on the island that could be crafted into some kind of makeshift can opening system. He comes back hours later nearing exhaustion and famished but ready to make one last push to create his tool. Meanwhile the economist hasn't moved and suggests that the entire effort of the engineer was unnecessary, explaining to the confused engineer he begins, "Assume a can opener...."
posted by humanfont at 7:04 PM on November 13, 2010

posted by kcds at 7:18 PM on November 13, 2010

Assume a can opener is The Aristocrats joke of undergrad Econ classes. The nsfw versions involve assuming an erection, condom or an orgasm.
posted by humanfont at 8:39 PM on November 13, 2010

The impressive thing is not so much the questions, the insight, or the clarity of purpose in these interviews but that he didn't reach across and beat them to death with their own shoes.
posted by fullerine at 4:56 AM on November 14, 2010 [5 favorites]

I like that the penultimate clip in the preview is Rep. Michael Capuano, who ran for the Senate seat previously held byTed Kennedy. I truly believe that if Capuano had not lost the primary to the machine candidate (Coakley), he would have macerated Scott Brown. In the clip, he says:
You come to us today, telling us "We're sorry. We won't do it again. Trust us." Well, I have some people within my constituency that actually robbed some of your banks, and they say the same thing.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:03 AM on November 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

Mr. Salmon's dream is unlikely to transpire. Both Rubin and Summers declined the opportunity to be interviewed for the film.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:13 AM on November 14, 2010

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