I was very nervous about that bag of money on this week’s episode of Vinyl. When Richie was playing blackjack, I had a bad feeling. And then it played out the way I thought it might once they went back to the room. Only, in a twist that O. Henry would have loved, the reality was different than Richie allowed his long-time friend to believe. It was a great twist.
We watched a bunch of movies this weekend. Started with Gosford Park, a murder mystery written by the guy who wrote Downton Abbey and directed by Robert Altman. You can see where the idea for the dowager countess came from, although Maggie Smith was cattier and nastier in this film. It was also fairly obvious who the murder victim would be: the guy everyone had a motive to kill. Altman’s directing style is interesting, especially for big group scenes. Seems chaotic, with multiple people talking at the same time, and yet it also seems real.
Then we watched The Big Short, and I couldn’t help thinking that Steve Earle (pictured), who was so incensed in 2004 that he wrote the energetic album that gives this post its title, along with the memorable song “F the CC,” could have written an equally vitriolic album about the 2008 crisis.
The Big Short takes a complicated financial disaster and makes it entertaining. One thing I like about movies of this type (also: Spotlight) is that they take a scenario where everyone knows the outcome and still manage to make it suspenseful. I liked the movie’s conceit of using unlikely people in cameo roles to explain complicated economic concepts. Selena Gomez, for example, explaining synthetic CDOs or Margot Robbie in a bubble bath drinking champagne while she explains mortgage-backed securities. I still have a hard time taking Steve Carell seriously, but he’s winning me over. A great ensemble cast and a script that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but at the same time dives deep into a serious subject. Highly recommended.
Finally, we saw Like Summer, Like Rain, a light drama about a young woman played by Leighton Meester who falls on her feet when she gets fired and ends up as a nanny for a 12-year-old musical and mathematical prodigy with a neglectful, mostly absentee mother (Debra Messing). I found some of Meester’s characters’s decisions toward the end somewhat improbable (where the heck did Idaho come from?), but it’s one of those feel-good movies. Bonus points for a small part played by Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day. We also watched the short “One Hundred Eyes,” which is the origin story of a character from the Netflix Marco Polo series, which returns this summer.