- « Adventures of a Teenage Dragonslayer. On DVD March 22nd. (***3/10)
- Peanuts Double Feature. On DVD March 15th. (******6/10) »
Country: United States
Narrator: Matt Damon
Appearances: Barney Frank, William Ackman, Daniel Alpert, Jonathan Alpert, Sigridur Benediktsdottir, Willem Buiter, John Campbell, Christine Lagarde, Dominique Strauss-Kahn
Non-participants: Henry Paulson, Timothy Geithner, dozens of others
Director: Charles Ferguson
Run time: 109 minutes
This year’s Best Documentary Oscar winner is Inside Job, finally out on DVD, and deserving of the hype. In a way, these guys were lucky that Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story was ineligible for the Oscars last year, because in my estimation Moore’s film surely would have won, and the Academy isn’t lkely to give an Oscar to two documentaries on the same subject in consecutive years. The comparisons with Moore’s film are obvious, and there are many. For me though, Inside Job is more reminiscent of another classic documentary, Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room.
Both films break down something incomprehensible and present a picture of corporate fraud and corrupt business practices in a way I can understand. I tried, when the financial meltdown came in 2008, to understand what the hell was going on. I couldn’t make head nor tail of credit default swaps and derivatives and predatory lending and all those terms that were flying around the news. Then again, the people who were supposed to be regulating that stuff couldn’t understand most of it either. The whole point of the scheme was that almost no one could understand.
After watching Inside Job, I have a much better understanding. It’s laid out in simple language, with simple graphics, exactly how the massive con job went down. It points the finger at those responsible – Alan Greenspan, Hank Paulson, Reagan, Clinton, Bush, and so on. Now, it doesn’t go FULLY into detail. I assume that’s the stuff that is incomprehenisble to most of us – how, exactly, are banks able to gamble on the failure of a loan that they themselves set up? I understand that they do, but not exactly how it’s done.
No matter though. What Inside Job does is show how the corruption in the financial industry (in the States primarily, but also all over the world – the film begins in Iceland) is pervasive from the top down. The federal agencies who are supposed to prevent this sort of thing are mostly staffed by the very people who have the most to gain from the unethical activity. The college professors (at Harvard, Columbia, etc) who make most of their money outside those institutions, who then teach deregulation as a matter of course because it serves their own interests. And everyone in between who just wants to show how rich they are by purchasing a fleet of private jets, yachts, penthouses and eight different multi-million dollar homes across the country.
A small amount of attention is paid to the corrupt culture of Wall Street – the cocaine and hookers that are written off as business expenses as a matter of course by just about everyone at just about every major bank, insurance company and corporation. And a small amount of attention is paid to the devastating consequences of the 2008 collapse – the people who lost their houses, lost their jobs, ended up homeless. But most of the film is an explanation. And an excellent one. How did this happen? WHY did it happen? And how come it seems as though nobody learned from their mistakes? Why haven’t we fixed all the things that so obviously need to BE fixed? And, as director Charles Ferguson said in his Oscar acceptance speech – why hasn’t anyone gone to jail?