Last night, thanks to the good people at SKY Business and Paramount Pictures Australia, I attended a preview of the movie "The Big Short" - an adaption of Michael Lewis' book about a small group who made huge sums from shorting the US housing market in the lead up to and through the GFC*.
Hosted by SKY's Carson Scott, a small group of traders, economists and commentators, as well as on-air talent and business leaders from SKY, had a chance to watch and then discuss the movie. Consensus was this is a fairly accurate depiction of the pre-crash era. One veteran of the bond markets (who's worked everywhere from ABN Amro to Gringotts') said it reminded him of the conversations he had at the time.
It's a great story - how the misfits and mavericks took on the giants, and won. You'll cheer for the heroes, and feel their frustration as events unfold. The appeal to popular prejudices adds to the story, but may irritate market participants. Naturally, the villains are the fat bankers, although the blame is also placed on ratings agencies and the instruments themselves. This of course gives all those "ordinary Americans" a free pass on their own greed-fueled behaviour - but hey, I'm yet to see a perfect film.
Most impressively, the film dealt with some fairly tricky financial concepts well, doing a good job of describing the mortgage market collapse with Jenga bricks, and even covering off on derivative CDOs. The use of celebrity cameos for some explanations was clever. I'm not sure who Margo Robbie, Anthony Bourdain and Selena Gomez are, but I was thrilled to see one of the fathers of behavioural finance, Richard Thaler, make an appearance as himself.
Frankly, most Hollywood depictions of Wall Street amuse and annoy me in equal parts, but the Big Short is a rare exception. Entertaining and informative - isn't that how movies should be?
There's an ongoing conversation: #TheBigShort
* the Yanks call the Global Financial Crisis "The Great Recession" - it's all about them. See also WWI and WWII.