Jan. 2nd, 2016

starlady: Uryuu & Ichigo reenact Scott Pilgrim (that doesn't even rhyme)
Thinking about it, there's a lot of ways in which these are actually the same movie, not least of which that I highly recommend both of them.

Spotlight (dir. Tom McCarthy) covers approximately six months from the summer of 2001 to 6 January 2002, when The Boston Globe's Spotlight investigative team published the first of its more than 600 stories on the Roman Catholic Church's systematic cover-up of the sexual abuse of children by priests. The Globe is Boston's paper, and Boston is full of Catholics, just as the Spotlight team is full of lapsed Catholics of various stripes (Sasha Pfeiffer, played by Rachel McAdams, seems to have gone the "silently de facto agnostic/atheist" route; Mark Ruffalo is the flamboyantly angry disillusioned one; Brian Darcy James' character goes to his wife's Presbyterian church; Michael Keaton, playing the Spotlight editor, rubs elbows with half the city's Catholic movers and shakers but is, I'd bet, a Christmas-and-Easter-only kind of guy); it takes the arrival of the paper's new editor, an unmarried Jew from Miami who doesn't like baseball and who is masterfully underplayed by Liev Schreiber, to point the paper and the team towards investigating an ongoing criminal conspiracy that turns out to have been taking place under everyone's noses. "Everyone knew something was going on but us," Keaton says to McAdams in the middle of the movie, but even that turns out not to be true; the eventual revelation of who was responsible for killing an investigation into the tip-offs the Globe was given about the story in 1993 at the end of the film completely undercuts the easy narrative about good guys and bad guys that we as viewers want to slot the film into (and which the film doesn't try to prevent us from faking ourselves into), and is what make the film totally different from All the President's Men (1976) even as this is clearly the best newspaper movie since All the President's Men. Spotlight shines its strongest light on how institutions operate, how complicity is ginned up and sustained between people and those institutions--but also how people can shed that complicity and choose not just to speak up, but to listen to people who already are speaking up. One of the subplots involves the prickly relationship between Ruffalo and Stanley Tucci, playing the Armenian lawyer (another outsider) representing 84 abuse victims and counting; Ruffalo wins no bullshit points with Tucci's character by stating flat-out what everybody knows but doesn't talk about, namely that the Globe is the only game in town when it comes to local media with any appreciable power; Tucci's character gets his own back later by tipping Ruffalo off to de facto public records fraud that demonstrates clearly the Church's power, and how it operates. An ongoing plot thread that provides a lot of the overt drama is the need to take every action possible to keep the paper's competitors from scooping the story; that's just the way it is, because it's also a business.The Spotlight team are also bound by their own confidentiality policies, and that makes the ongoing stress of the revelations they uncover even harder to deal with; they can't talk about what they're finding with anyone, not even about why D'Arcy James' character hangs up a sign on his fridge telling his kids not to go near a certain house in their neighborhood that he knows but can't say is a "treatment center" for pedophile priests, or when McAdams' character can't tell her grandmother why she can't bear to go with her to church anymore. By the end of the movie I was severely regretting my own family's decision to have the parish priest say a few words at my mother's memorial service at the funeral home in 2009; even that degree of complicity, when we knew what we knew, feels too much now. It really is an excellent film.

The Big Short (dir. Adam McKay) is an exhilarating, hilarious, depressing movie about the crew of outsiders, renegades, and paranoiacs who--through a combination of brilliance, luck, due diligence, and gumption--managed to figure out that the world economy was primed to collapse and who, by virtue of that knowledge, engineered the creation and purchase of a series of financial instruments that made them all fantastically rich when the music stopped and the bottom fell out of the U.S. housing market in 2008. On paper this movie shouldn't work, but it totally does--the script is fantastic, the performances are stellar, the story is too unbelievable to be anything but true, and McKay's willingness to break the fourth wall whenever necessary is somehow an essential element. Christian Bale, playing an M.D. turned hedge fund manager with a glass eye who listens to death metal and gets the big Wall Street banks first to invent credit default swaps and then to sell him bundles of them, once again is a master-class in physical acting; I want to see the film again just so I can work out how exactly he managed to make himself be so goddamn awkward all. the. time. Ryan Gosling is magnetic as the narrator, scumbag i-banker Jared Vannett, who plays a Virgil, or perhaps Mephistopheles, to the Morgan Stanley-owned hedge fund crew led by Mark Baum (Steve Carell), a certified cynic and crank who becomes the vessel for the audience's sympathy largely by default--"saints don't live on Park Avenue," his wife tells him at one point, and there sure as fuck aren't any saints in this movie, a point driven home by the reaction of the two callow outside small-time fund managers mentored by ex-banker and paranoiac Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt), who works his connections to make his two young neighbors players and then very rich men for reasons of his own but draws the line at their celebratory dance after they short the AA-prime CDOs, because when those instruments fail real, ordinary people are going to lose their homes, jobs, retirement funds, pensions, savings. They did. We did. The movie doesn't forget them; and the tonal shift from the first half (high comedy) to the second (high tragedy) works not so much because of what's going on inside the movie as what's going on outside it; McKay's breaking the fourth wall to explain various points of finance, or to confirm or deny the veracity of parts of the movie's narrative, as well as the visual rehashing of a lot of pop culture from the years in question, helps broker the transition. The real fraud and outrage kicks in around the 2/3 mark, when our anti-heroes all converge on an investment forum in Las Vegas and realize just how fucked the system and the global economy really are, with the active complacency or outright collaboration of the S.E.C. and the ratings agencies paving the way straight to hell. Only Vannett believed in the full extent of the damage before they went to Vegas; the movie's most telling moment is his comment to the Baum team after the ratings agencies have refused to downgrade the CDOs despite the fact that subprime mortgage failures are steadily accelerating: "And you pass yourselves off as cynical people. Yet you still have some underlying faith in the system." The system should have meant that this crew of weirdos weren't alone on the other side of these bets--but the brakes had well and truly come off whatever internal or external regulatory mechanisms that previously existed in the banking world well before this (the movie in fact starts in the 1970s with the invention of mortgage-backed securities. har har. har). So yeah, Vannett is right; I do definitely judge him, but all the big players were behaving so egregiously that it's nonetheless very satisfying to see someone make them bleed and make money off this meltdown--even if again the small players of Wall Street, the Lehman and Bear Stearns employees, were the ones who ultimately suffered the most out of it. The worst part is, the end of the movie leaves no real doubt that by now the system is primed for the exact same thing to eventually happen again--and maybe sooner rather than later.


starlady: Raven on a MacBook (Default)

October 2017

1 23 4 567
89101112 1314
1516171819 2021

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios