OSCAR WATCH • The Big Short: A Big Racist Lie

Big Short

The “true” story of the housing bubble financial crisis of 2008, and how some financial investors saw it coming and sought to make money on it by doing something unheard of at the time: betting on the complete failure of mortgages instead of their success. This is called short selling.

The Big Short is a star studded cast of stellar performances, led by Christian Bale as the autistic type nerd investment broker who computed the numbers and was apparently the first to figure out that the housing mortgage market was going to crash. So he did his job, he figured out a way to make money if you knew something was going to crash, is to sell short, or bet against its success. Everyone thought he was crazy and thus a fascinating dramatic story with Oscar performances.

Look, the whole shebang is one big confusing mess for us normal people to follow and understand. There are a multitude of technical details of investing and finance that make the average person’s eyes glaze over trying to understand. One would think that such a movie about the petty details of finance would make for a boring movie.

And one would be wrong.

In the hands of the storytellers, The Big Short is a fascinating multidimensional tale that does a great job of simplifying the issues and even explaining them to the audience in creative ways to follow the emotional trail of what was going on. It’s kind of like Shakespeare. You watch it and you can barely understand what is going on as they explain it, but you’re mostly picking up the emotional storyline, without knowing fully what is being said. But that’s okay, cause you follow the drama with what little you can hold onto.

The writer director, Adam McKay, paints a masterful big picture that incarnates the notion of selling short even within the editing itself, where many scenes are cut away in the middle of sentences, giving the viewer the uncomfortable feeling of being cut short from what you were watching (loved that). He breaks the fourth wall every once in a while to explain the complex financial issues, with celebrities talking to the camera using metaphors. Like Anthony Bourdain in a kitchen describing the financial mess like hiding bad fish in a stew. It’s all quite brilliant and entertaining. Sometimes, we see what is happening on the screen and a character breaks aside to explain to us what is really happening that we don’t see, or how the real events were somewhat different from what we are seeing because they had to make it more entertaining for the movie. The conceit is brilliant and it works.

McKay made an otherwise complex tedious boring financial situation a fascinating clever simplified explanation for just long enough to follow the money.

The heart of the story is to show how banks and Wall Street are greedy and corrupt and how they exploited the regulatory system and the disadvantages of others in such a way that it crashed the system and brought on the massive financial crisis of 2008, ruining many Americans’ lives.

And it’s a big fat lie.

Oh, I don’t mean a factual Clinton type lie, as in “I did not violate the Espionage Act by sending classified emails through my private server.” But a contextual lie, a tricky half-truth lie. You know, the kind where everything you say is technically true, but ultimately a lie, because by leaving out the most important other half of the truth, you end up creating a false impression of what really happened. It’s manipulating true facts to create a falsehood.

Yes, Big Banks, and Big Business, and Wall Street were greedy and exploited the system, but the fact that was left out that changes everything was where it all originated. And that was in the Big Government regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac led by Democrat Barney Frank, that forced those banks to give mortgage loans to poor minorities they knew could not pay them back. That’s where it all started, and that was completely left out of the movie. The banks were forced by the government to create the bubble that would ultimately burst. And all of it was done in the name of left wing so-called racial equality. It was supported by Clinton, Bush and Barak Obama.  (UPDATED. It was not Dodd-Frank, but Barney Frank led legislation before 2007.)

Here is the part they left out: Government hacks look at the fact that some minorities are not able to pay for homes with the same representation as others. Rather than looking at the moral value system that created and reinforces that poverty within those communities, they immediately blame the poverty on racism. They then marshal laws to force those banks to give more loans to unqualified poor and minorities in the name of “social justice” (a code word for fascism). But since they don’t address the moral values, the unqualified, mostly minority, debtors fail in their responsibility and are hurt or ruined by the policy. It’s racism, plain and simple. Racism is favorable or unfavorable prejudice based on race. It is perpetuating the problem instead of fixing it.

Ironically, one of the characters says in the film, “They will blame the crisis on immigrants and poor people, like they always do.” WTF?

Yet in the film, when it is describing the discovery of the problems, there is no reference to the fact that it was government enforcing racist policy that created the bubble to begin with. The Barney Frank led regulations are never mentioned in this film. They may have been alluded to, but I didn’t catch it, and I didn’t hear any explicit mention. It’s like the government only appeared at the end of the movie instead of the beginning.

One character speaks of the irresponsible tell tale signs of the crash, as if they are arbitrary occurrences without reference to why: Rock bottom FICO scores, no income verification, adjustable rates and collateralized debt obligation. But those were all allowed because the government forced the banks to ignore those very qualifiers in order to get more unqualified poor minorities to get loans they knew they could not pay back.

That wasn’t private greed that started that, it was big government left wing racist policy. The government sold poor minorities short and sent them to their financial doom in the name of helping them.

In the beginning of the film, there is a scene that paints the picture as if this whole bundling of bad mortgages with good mortgages was created out of thin air as a scheme to make money by banks or lenders. Yet, it completely ignores the fact that the banks and lenders were all forced by government regulation to take on those bad mortgages. I am certainly not excusing the greed of those who did so, but the other side of the coin is that unjust government regulation forced them to come up with ways to make money within the parameters of unjust law that created the bubble.

Here is a short article by smart financial dude, Michael Barone, that explains some of this left out truth, and the tragic reality that they are doing it all over again: Government Created the Housing Bubble Financial Crisis and Could Be Doing So Again.

Here is another great short article close to the actual crisis by Walter Williams reviewing Thomas Sowell’s book on the Housing Boom and Bust. If you don’t like reading and want to see a video watch Sowell explain it here. Now, I want you to be aware that both Williams and Sowell are black economists. And since public debate is now dominated by the Obama rules of political discourse, if you disagree with Williams and Sowell, you are a racist. 🙂

Just kidding. But the point is made that the real origin of the financial crisis was the racists who used the race card to short truth and justice, then shifted the blame to the greedy Big Business monsters who exploited that original crime. Affirmative action is racist and hurts minorities and the poor.

And that’s the Big Truth about Big Government left out of The Big Short.


OSCAR WATCH • Whiplash: The Ugly Truth of “Great” Art.


Serious drama of a New York music school student drummer seeking greatness and his verbally abusive politically incorrect mentor who pushes him beyond his limits.

Hollywood is narcissistic and self-infatuated with the importance of artists and their art. From Sunset Boulevard to A Star is Born to Birdman, we are constantly exposed to the inner and outer turmoil of the artist obsessed with success, excellence, meaning and purpose. Hollywood portrays artistic “genius” as often “misunderstood” or “destroyed” by a morally traditional society (The Invisible Woman, Girl with a Pearl Earring, Surviving Picasso), or artists as “ahead of their time” and missed by a conventional world (Basquiat), or as suffering saviors (Bright Star, Vincent and Theo). There are now so many movies and TV series of the insane but beloved creative world of Hollywood, you could name a new genre “Hollyweird” (The Player, Barton Fink, The Big Picture, Tropic Thunder, Adaptation, Mulholland Drive, Entourage, Ed Wood etc.)

Look, I’m biased, because I’m one of those obsessive artists, so I find a lot in those stories that I resonate with. But there is much that I am also repulsed by, such as the self-destruction of many artists, or their rationalization of narcissism, decadence, and deviance.

Ad300x250-ArtMoviesWorldBut let’s be honest, the heart and soul of the artist in many of these stories can be a powerful microcosm of the macrocosm of all our lives. The pursuit of beauty and excellence in art is a metaphor for the significance we are all seeking in different ways. Whether, nurse, lawyer, plumber, cop, writer, janitor, athlete, or housewife, many seek excellence in what they do because they know that doing it well results in something good. Everyone wants to be connected to something of significance.

Beauty has a certain sense of meaning to it. It frees us from our self-delusions of rationalism and empiricism. Beauty points toward meaning that exists above or beyond our mundane scientific existence that only ends in death. (atheist naturalism and scientific materialism are philosophical cults of death). Beauty implies transcendence. Which is why so many artists, including Hollywood artists, worship beauty as a false idol substitute for the living God.

Whiplash is a thoughtful portrayal of an artist seeking beauty and excellence that reminds me of the double edged sword of the pursuit of great art.

Andrew is a freshman drumming student at a New York conservatory of music. He gets “discovered” by a mentor instructor, Fletcher (played with real heart and soul by J.K. Simmons), who leads the coveted jazz ensemble that wins all the competitions and leads to a hopeful future. The problem is, Fletcher is a verbally abusive, trash-talking, politically incorrect hammer on his students. He treats them sometimes so irrationally harsh, they have no idea how to change or be better because he seems arbitrary or impossible in his demands to match “his tempo.”

Fletcher is nice to Andrew for exactly one moment and then launches into an unending tirade of belittling because he sincerely believes that the only way to achieve greatness in music is to push people beyond their limits. His quintessential example repeated throughout the movie, is that jazz musician Charlie Parker only became great because Joe Jones threw a cymbal at his head when he first played poorly for him. Fletcher says, it was that which caused Charlie to go back and practice so hard that he became “the Bird” because of it.

The idea here is quite universal: greatness only comes out of those who never give up and endure beyond where everybody else gives up. This is not to say that everyone is capable of such greatness, but rather that the great ones will rise out of such adversity that discourages the “normal” or mediocre ones. So innate talent is not denied here. Rather, excellence is elevated over mediocrity, which is quite politically incorrect in our current egalitarian world that seeks to destroy quality and excellence in the name of equality, fairness, and “leveling the playing field.” If you do your job too well in many companies or life situations, you are actually hated and ostracized by the “normal,” the unions, the government and other worshippers of mediocrity and equality.

A particularly poignant scene occurs at the dinner table in Andrew’s home, where Andrew’s family and friends laud and praise his brother and friend for their minor league football achievements while barely noticing Andrew’s musical accomplishments of greater import. Why? Because their shallow lack of appreciation for what is really important.

I can tell you, that is one very real experience that many of us artists have indeed experienced in our families. Though, in truth, the snooty high-art bifurcation from popular arts is itself another kind of ignorant bigotry of the elite. After all, some of the greatest art really has been created by pop artists: musicians, filmmakers, and others. Charlie Parker was a Mozart of jazz, and jazz is not inferior to classical, any more than an indie or art-house film is necessarily more artistic or important than a studio blockbuster (unless its Michael Bay)

But here’s the thing: my buddy Joe Potter and I have had an ongoing conversation over decades about whether or not great artists (or great anything) can ever be truly good persons. It seems like so many great artists are complete A-holes, who abuse drugs, women, family, those who love them, and heck, humans in general. You cannot help but wonder if the pursuit of creative excellence is at odds with the pursuit of humanity and love. Though I believe there is a good theoretical argument for goodness and greatness rooted in a proper understanding of a good and great Creator, I have to admit that in the practical world, such lived-out theory is quite hard to find.

Are only alienated and selfish people of extremes capable of creating such artistic excellence or can a well-adjusted and happy stable person of balance create significant beauty? It seems that suffering is the crucible of character, depth and wisdom. But must abuse and meanness be the only catalyst to create that suffering? Perhaps so in our pampered world of ease and entitlement, where the only suffering many people experience is when their smart phones go dead.

Fletcher creates artificial suffering in order to call out the hidden Charlie Parkers that may exist somewhere in his mass of mediocrity. Because the truly great ones like Charlie would never give up against such setbacks. In fact, it spurs them on to work harder and be better. A lesson we should all learn in life.

The positive intent of Fletcher’s approach is expressed when he tells Andrew that “there are no two words in the English language that are more harmful than ‘good job.’” “Good enough” is the enemy of greatness. It stops you from reaching for your higher potential. Again, as an artist, I teared up at this scene because I have struggled with this very temptation to accept good enough over best.

Ad300x250-StoryWorldPersuasionBut here’s a push back: Is greatness the only thing of value when it comes to art? Is there not beauty in normality or harmony? Will the only movie that matters be the one that wins the Oscar? (of course not) Hasn’t greatness been overlooked by the elite just as often as the masses? At one point in the movie, the football frat boy asks Andrew if the music competitions he wins are kind of subjective, and Andrew answers no. But the movie does not indicate the fact that Andrew is in fact wrong. Though there is some element of objective skill that is certainly a part of the craft of any art, subjectivity in taste is just as certainly a part of it as well. After all, the Oscars themselves are determined by Hollywood politics and money, certainly not some objective standard of greatness. Sometimes “greatness” can become its own enemy.

At what price great art?

The genetic connection of selfishness and greatness is another theme explored in the film, at the midpoint, where the protagonist fully commits to his course and there is no turning back. Andrew breaks off his new relationship with his love interest, Nicole. He explains to her that he wants to be one of the great drummers, which means he will spend more and more time at his drumming, which will take time from her, which will cause her to resent him, which will cause him to resent her for forcing him to take time away from his drumming. So they should just avoid the whole mess by breaking up now because he wants to be great. It’s quite simple and direct. And profoundly sad in the revelation of its narcissistic self-obsession. Later in the film, he experiences failure and seeks her comfort, but it is too late for this lover of greatness, because she is already in love with someone else.

But Andrew does have his moment of being pushed to greatness and that loss of love is quickly forgotten as insignificant, even necessary, as Andrew finally makes a psychic connection with his mentor, Fletcher, who appears to finally have found his Charlie Parker. But this “glory” of greatness leaves the viewer to wonder if the storytellers have failed to consider the ramifications of their own story. Rather than depicting the true damaging cost of sacrificing everything to the god of “greatness,” this film seems to be saying that in the end it’s worth it.

And that turns the beauty of excellence into ugliness.

OSCAR WATCH • Boyhood: Plotless Boring Rambling Nihilism.


Slice-of-life drama of a young boy’s experiences from age 5 to age 18.

Ever since his first indie films, Slacker and Dazed and Confused in the early 90s, writer/director Richard Linklater has been known for his slice-of-life genre films of people rambling on about thoughts on life in plotless narratives that seek to capture the feel of a generation, time period or location.

And now, he’s received an Oscar nomination, after all those years, for his new slice-of-life plotless narrative of rambling. I have six words for this nomination: What the hell were they thinking?

The gimmick of the movie, and it is a gimmick, is that Linklater filmed the actors of the story over a period of 12 years in order to use the same young boy and his character’s sister as the actors playing the roles over those 12 years (along with the leads of their parents played by Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette. But hey, adults usually don’t change as much).

The gimmick doesn’t work. The boy is an okay actor, but his sister is terrible. Quite frankly, the boy looks so different as he ages that Linklater could have used a different actor. The result would have been much better had he just cast GOOD actors to play each age. Ah, but you see, such bias as that comes from those of us narrow-minded unsophisticated moviegoers with our unreasonable demands of actually wanting a good story.

And story this movie does not have. Yes, it is a “character study” of the interfamily dynamics of divorced parents and the attachment theory of its effects on children. But good storytellers can accomplish character study within a good story. Every scene plays like a moment that will lead to something, but never does, leaving the viewer unsatisfied.

The boy in the movie, Mason, watches his mom struggle to make her way as a single mother through a string of alcoholic husbands, while his father, a free-spirited artist pops in and out of their lives with a happy sort of nihilism. The boy and his sister grow up with blended families, graduate high school and start going to college. And then it ends with Mason’s first day at college meeting new friends.

And. That’s. About. It. Nothing ever really happens.

But the real problem with this film is not merely that it is an endless parade of purposeless moments, or as his mother complains, “A series of milestones: having a family, getting divorced, getting married,” blah blah blah. “And do you know what’s next? My f***ing funeral. I just thought there would be something more.”

The real problem is: that is the point that Linklater is trying to make with his non-story story. Mason asks his father, “So what’s the point of any of this?” His father responds that “You are responsible for you. We’re all just winging it.” Another character, I can’t remember which one because they are all the same passive lifeless characters just winging it, says, “Everyone’s stuck in between states, not really experiencing anything.” I think it was Mason.

The very last scene of the movie spells out this sermon of nice guy nihilism when a college girl says, “Everyone says ‘seize the moment.’ But I think it’s the other way around. I think it’s the moment that seizes us.” Mason concludes, “Yeah, it’s like it’s always right now.” Constant moments. College-aged existentialist angst and self-creation.

I won’t begrudge Linklater’s philosophizing. I actually think its one of the few good things about this movie. I actually appreciate a film that wrestles with the universal search for significance, even if I don’t agree with his conclusion. And for that attempt I thank him.

The other good thing is a great scene where the father makes a mix CD for Mason called The Beatles Black Album. It consists of songs from each of the Beatles after they broke up arranged to an “after the Beatles” Beatles album. The father says just about the only true truth in this entire film: The Beatles were the greatest rock band ever.” What can I say? Even nihilists get some things right.

Godawa.com_Products_WebBut back to the philosophizing. Linklater really does have a talent for capturing those universal type moments of life and building interesting scenes and thoughtful dialogue. The problem is that Linklater uses his talent in the service of a bad philosophy which results in ugly art. Scenes set up well that end nowhere and pay nothing off. Characters with lives that have no meaning or purpose. Meandering plotless meaningless narrative. His philosophy of existentialism leads to the moral, metaphysical and ontological despair that results in a boring story without meaning. And why shouldn’t it? He posits that  life is but a series of random experienced moments without transcendent meaning. So it makes sense that he would tell a story of random experienced moments without transcendent meaning.

Wait a minute! Now, I know the answer to my first question. I now know the reason why the Academy nominated this movie. Because many Hollywood elites actually relate to that absurdity and share meaningless lives of despair. They embrace ugliness because it seems more real to them.

But look again and you will see that Linklater unwittingly proves that his own philosophy does not work because the story he creates is unsatisfying, boring and meaningless, like the philosophy. Ironically, he DOES claim there is meaning, but only in us controlling our own lives and enjoying our meaningless moments of experience. But alas, he is only fooling himself, because anyone with a shred of honest self reflection will admit that if there is no transcendent meaning or purpose to the metanarrative of life, then any “meaning” we create for ourselves is mere delusion. We worship a Lie. A morally culpable intellectual insanity. And I would suggest we must lie to ourselves because we were not created to live consistently with such meaninglessness.

In that way, I thank Linklater for a thoughtful, though misguided, monologue that unwittingly affirms the first truth that people must face before they can find abundant life and transcendent meaning, not to mention atonement for the mess we’ve made of our lives: Without the Christian God, there is no hope, meaning or purpose to life. To me, that creates inside the viewer a hunger, a desire for stories that do capture transcendence and meaning.

And that can lead away from the ugliness of Boyhood to good stories and beautiful art.

P.S. Linklater places some religion in the film, but dismisses it as another random cultural phenomenon without true meaning.

P.P.S. If you don’t know what nihilism is, just watch The Big Lebowski and say in a German accent, “Vee Believe in Nutting.”