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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.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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