Sykaljery’s Picks for Financial Crisis Movies

Hey all, I’m going to start a brief blog-mini-series for movies on the financial crisis.  Despite the media fatigue that many of us feel about the financial crisis that’s been occurring in slow motion for the last two years, I believe it is of incredible importance that we continue to learn as much as possible about the financial crisis of 2008.  It is my belief that every American, regardless of education or background, should have a solid underpinning in the roots of the crisis, the precautions our government must take in ensuring a stable economic system going forward.  To that end, my first review.

Breaking the Bank by Frontline
This is a nice video that is a good post mortem on the financial crisis.  (Available for free at the above link)  This documentary ought to be mandatory viewing for anyone who wants to learn about the crash of 2008.  It’s incomplete, and sometimes misleading–and it uses a bunch of film and documentary techniques that I think are a bit cheap, but all that given, it’s a must see.

The film starts off with a dramatic retelling of the Lehman crisis.  At first I was troubled by this, I feel that all films about the financial crisis really have to start with the failure of the two Bear Stearns hedgefunds, in June of 2007 .  But the film does deal with Bear Stearns in its own time.  Since the Lehman failure represents the most dramatic event that year, it was only natural for the film makers to use it as their lead.

Another focus in Breaking the Bank focuses instead on how Ken Lewis of Bank of America bought out Merrill Lynch.  BofA was brought in as a potential buyer for Lehman.  But it never got that far–Lewis wanted Merrill instead.  But he didn’t realize that Merrill was almost as bad as Lehman (the only real difference that I can tell is that there was no panic about Merrill.)  The film also presents a good who’s who in the financial world.  It provides compelling character narratives about several of the market’s biggest winners and losers, like Ken Lewis and Jon Thain, head of Merrill at the time of the acquisition.  It also provides an excellent background on the three main regulators, Ben Bernanke (Chairman of the Federal Reserve), Tim Geithner (President of the New York Fed), and Hank Paulsen (Bush Treasury Secretary). Whether those characterizations are precisely true?  Who can say?  Certainly my own research would indicate that many of them are roughly accurate.

Overall, I’d say that if you’re new to the financial crisis–hard to believe given the media attention it has correctly deserved over the last two years–this is the film to start with.

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