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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.


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.