Toronto 2010: “Inside Job,” Reviewed

Toronto 2010: “Inside Job,” Reviewed (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 Toronto Film Festival.

Roughly halfway through “Inside Job,” Andrew Lo, a professor of finance at MIT, describes an academic study of brain activity that showed that the same part of the brain stimulated by money is the same as cocaine. That this observation is made in the midst of a montage of Wall Street’s infatuation with hookers, blow and the black corporate credit cards used to charge the latter two doesn’t just imply that the pursuit of cash is a drug, but that as a filmmaker, Charles Ferguson has taken the gloves off.

Since his Oscar-winning 2007 doc “No End in Sight,” Ferguson has gone from attacking a war to declaring one on Wall Street with a film that just as easily could’ve been called “No End in Sight II: Financial Edition.” Broken down into four chapters and countless graphs, “Inside Job” is another brilliant, scrupulous breakdown of how giant egos and greed led to a disaster that would imperil the American public.

Yet where “No End in Sight” was solemn, his latest has considerably more sex appeal, casting Matt Damon as its narrator and breaking out Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s “Taking Care of Business” to underscore the freewheelin’ ways of financial institutions willing to funnel drug money out of Mexico (Citibank) or help conceal fraud of companies like Enron (Citibank, JP Morgan and Merrill Lynch) to boost their bottom line during the ’80s.

By the time Ferguson is done, those seem like minor infractions compared to the systemic rot that led to the global meltdown of 2008, where decades of deregulation paved a prickly path of derivatives, credit swap defaults and subprime mortgages that the director helpfully decodes into plain speak. Ferguson also makes clear the villains, tarring former Treasury Secretaries Lawrence Summers, Robert Rubin and Henry Paulson in equal measure — only Paul Volcker, who shows up with a glass of a suspiciously amber-colored drink in hand as if to say I told you so, accepted an invitation to be interviewed — and hanging out once-lauded Alan Greenspan as a buffoon for encouraging Wall Street to act recklessly as the financial sector took in billions from a general public unable to afford it.

Ferguson himself has seen money that most Americans never will, having sold the company he founded (Vermeer Technologies) to Microsoft for $133 million, which when paired with his work for the Brookings Institute and as a visiting scholar at M.I.T. likely opened the door to the impressive array of experts he’s assembled for “Inside Job.” But he has clearly not lost touch with the concerns of average Americans, refusing to engage in bullshit of any kind.

On one hand, this involves skewering former U.S. Treasury Under Secretary for International Affairs David McCormick when he says with a straight face that Paulson caught all of the warning signs of a recession and taking academics Frederic Mishkin and Glenn Hubbard to task for their high-paying extra-curricular gigs in a particularly rewarding segment on the infiltration of industry into the study of economics. What it also means is that Ferguson is unwilling to cheapen the film with amusing stock footage or other like-minded distractions to make the diagnosis any more palatable.

Instead, Ferguson relies on the idea of respecting the intelligence of the audience, something that is obviously in stark contrast to activity of the financial institutions that he’s depicting. While “Inside Job” is never what you’d call warm, whether it’s the crisp, sterile cinematography of Svetlana Cvetko and Kalyanee Mam or Ferguson’s calm interrogation of his interviewees from off-camera, it’s a film that meets the demand of imparting a critical lecture without ever sounding like one. Ferguson isn’t the first to make the case that financial institutions, the government and academia have formed an unholy trinity out to screw the American public, yet he may be the rare one to make it stick, not with mouth-foaming rage, but reasoned analysis that takes a turn towards indignation.

“Inside Job” opens in New York on October 8th and Los Angeles on October 15th before opening in limited release.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.