Once in awhile I have the honor of introducing a Battelle Film Club film.
On Friday, I am introducing Inside Job. It won the Oscar as 2010's best documentary.
Movie reviews are not the only way I make my living. It leads to the reason I picked this film. I have a close professional connection to the financial industry. Since 2004, I have been the writer and editor of an online magazine for a nine-state association of property and casualty insurance agents. One of the areas covered by the magazine is the financial sector. I watched and wrote about a troubled economy from before the "collapse" to the recession.
I continue to write about it today.
A lot has changed with the nation’s financial system and with the Great Recession since writer/director Charles Ferguson’s film was released in mid-2010. But not enough to make his movie irrelevant. If nothing else, it is an excellent history of what caused the nation’s — and the world’s — financial meltdown.
And — to tell the truth — don’t believe a lot of what you read about the economic recovery. The mess has still not been fixed. Not even close.
This is just one of a bunch of films covering the subject. Among them is Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story. Moore didn’t do a bad job — especially for Moore. But no one hit the nail on the head like Ferguson.
Defining the familiar phrase “too big to fail” and giving meaning to derivatives, bundled mortgages and other financial maneuvers, Ferguson dives into the morass of banking and financial shenanigans that led to the Great Recession.
The details of exactly what happened are complicated. No documentary — then or now — can cover it 100 percent. At the time, Ferguson got close. The cast of characters features those engaging in behavior considered by many to be criminal. He also looks at politicians who cared more about their next election than evidence that their policies in the financial sector were leading to disaster.
The blame doesn’t lay entirely with politicians. Ferguson highlights slipshod oversight from regulators who seemed to turn their heads the other way or took bribes and payoffs. Then, there are the loose rules and regulations — or no regulations at all — that left many uncertain about how to stop the train wreck once it started.
Narrated by Matt Damon, Ferguson’s version of events starts at the collapse of Iceland’s economy and ends in 2010 with the ongoing collapse of ours. He finishes with the no-teeth, questionable economic reforms pushed at the time by the Obama administration and Congress, and then tells you why that happened.
Ferguson fearlessly takes on Republicans and Democrats. That includes — of course — George W. Bush, president during most of the meltdown. However, he also includes President Barack Obama and the current administration. More than once Ferguson wonders why the people that caused the problem are deeply involved in Obama’s effort to “fix” things, still running the system and making critical economic decisions.
Academia also takes a hit as being less than honest. Greedy executives that took millions in bonuses for running their firms into the ground also are skewered. Ferguson’s flaw is that he doesn’t dig deeply enough into corruption in Congress and every administration from Ronald Reagan’s to that of Obama.
Most of you aren’t that interested in finances, banking and investing. See this anyway. Take your middle school, high school and college-age kids. Take notes. This is a brilliant — and accurate — explanation of exactly what happened and what is happening still.
While the topic is far from simple, Ferguson has done his research and explains it in as close to layman's terms as you’ll ever get. And bring some antacids. This film is going to piss you off.
Also, check out my interview with Ferguson.
Rated PG-13 for mature themes. It plays at 8 p.m. Friday, March 30 at the Battelle Auditorium in Richland.
Mr. Movie rating: 5 stars
5 stars/4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen4 stars / 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie. 3 stars / 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD. 2 stars / 1 star: Don't bother.0 stars: Speaks for itself.