Boom Bust Boom and Gods of Egypt


Directed by Terry Jones, Bill Jones, Ben Timlett, and the Monty Python graphics loons

Here is a suitable companion piece to the exceptional film The Big Short, which should have won Best Picture from many points of view.  Not only did Big Short illuminate the precursor rumblings of the housing crash of 2008, using quirky characters and mounting excitement as the viewer realized he was sympathizing with these boiler-room guys who were riding the crescendo of disaster to clean up, but it was a fast-moving, appropriately clever script that kept you glued, and it was all a story most people did not know – unlike the well-bruited tale told in the otherwise excellent Spotlight.

After all, everyone knew of the Boston priest sexual abuses of children.  As opposed to the fact that few people – even now – understand what went down with the burst bubble of unsecured mortgages-a-go-go instigated by the Clintonian forced order to make mortgages “more democratic.”  So the underemployed, the irresponsible, the assetless, the no-down-payment people all had their shot at owning homes they could not, in the end, afford.

I rarely recommend adult films to those underage, but this film, to my mind, and other reviewers expressed a similar thought, is imperative viewing for college, even high school and the older elementary school child.  It should be mandatory even in assisted living communities, too, because the elderly are often gulled by the unscrupulous customer service associates of the investment houses, chop shops, and brokerages.

It makes lucid argument for a familiarity with what has been called "irrational exuberance" in markets, and the filmmakers make exorbitantly fabulous use of the Monty Python iconic graphics and sound tools to bring home the carefully edited and compiled remarks of top financiers, economists, bankers, actors, and journalists.

This is a fitting companion piece to the noteworthy but sophisticated offering of The Big Short.  Together, these two form an irresistible case for investment sanity, consumer awareness of risk, banking responsibility, and fiduciary gravitas.

BBB goes back to the 17th-century Dutch tulip craze to the present, in typically kicky Python graphics that rise and fall, drop off and explode.  They outline the South Seas ticket fad.  They go through the periodic boom bubbles, what one well-known pooh-bah called “irrational exuberance,” that precede devastating busts.  The Great Crash of ’29 comes in, with illustrations and clips of homeless soup lines and tattered families, followed by the 2008 collapse of uncollateralized debt obligations and mortgages sold by banks across Europe as well as the U.S.  

Comedy bits, vox pops, lively commentary, and B/W illustration that come to life, and a stew of financial experts like journalists John Cassidy and Paul Masson; Bank of England’s Chief Economist Andy Haldane; and Nobelists Daniel Kahneman, Robert Shiller, and even a female or two.

One wonderful, whimsical, but fascinating segment takes place on Monkey Island, where a sociologist studies the monkey inhabitants of the island for what light their irrational behavior sheds on the irrationalities of human beings.

A spectacular offering.  The audience of hard-bitten New York reviewers sat rapt and riveted to the screen – and afterward, they actually applauded the film, so amazingly clever yet absolutely unmistakably factual...and sane. 

It bypasses the wages of lecture and is fun, evoking laughter often.  It presents nibblets from beloved cartoons like South Park, the animatronic and muppet figures are extrapolative enough not to implicate the personae they represent, and the likes of Alan Greenspan and his 40-year run of wrongness get a sharp drubbing from the Krugmans, Terry Joneses, and John Cusacks.  Bernanke puts in a B/W appearance here and there.

Knowing what this film communicates, one wonders whether the film ought instead to have been titled BUST BOOM BUST…the writers don’t see crashes and collapses as anything but predictably normal, whenever people get too cozy with ever escalating prices, financial placidity while forgetting the attendant risks in all investments, and overreach.

Whatever happens next Oscar time, they should create a new category for BBB to sweep the golden statuettes off that shelf.


Directed by Alex Proyas

Don’t worry, next February or March, if you haven’t seen GoE.  You won’t miss anything at all.  Correction: You’ll miss a wall-to-wall skein of CGI special effects from wings appearing and disappearing on the gods, to fire encircling Geoffrey Rush's entire head and body on his faraway bereft space kingdom where there seems to be nothing at all to do save cast thunderbolts and wait for godson immortals to drop in unexpectedly to ask favors.

Ridiculous script, dopey story, peculiar cinematography...  The one thing the film offers – okay, two things – is the animation of hieroglyphics for kids who have a visual recognition of inscribed and inked tablets in hieroglyphs, and the creation of the half-man, half-dog figures adorning so many friezes of ancient Egypt. 

For what it’s worth, the Egyptian canine god was named Anubis, also Ienpw.  In their mythology, Anubis is a dog of unknown origin, though he was most likely a jackal.  But seeing the pantheon of ancient mythological gods, and the animation of Anubis in battle, is of some educational value, one hopes, to non-adults seeing this cinematic excess.  There is far too much heroic posturing and sword- or leap-fighting, too much depiction of slavery under Set, played by Gerard Butler – whose career trajectory seems to be playing the person behind a metal breastplate and exhorting others to do his ferocious bidding.

Mortal hero Bek, or Beck, teams up with the reluctant and grouchy eyeless (and then one-eyed) god Horus in an alliance against Set, the pitiless god of darkness who has slain his king father and usurped the kingdom in place of his nephew Horus, plunging the once allegedly ancient prosperous empire into slavery and severe unhappiness.

The shtick here is that mortals like Bek are regular size, but the gods are 9 feet tall, can sprout and unsprout wings and talons and mad fighting prowess at the drop of a suggestion, and instead of blood, bleed gold.  So every scene featuring Set or Horus, Sun-god Ra, or any of the goddesses/heteirahs (royal concubines/meritorious court whores), gods of stature, manifest a peculiar visual ratio, so humans look absurdly small, and the gods unnaturally tall.  This produces an effect like an astigmatism, or the paintings of El Greco.  The women in Gods of Egypt are all rail thin as a consequence of the camera elongations of the “gods.”  It’s wearying to figure out where each protagonist stood to be filmed in the 2:1 ratio aspect.

Apart from the incremental benefit of seeing a prettified Egypt of 2,500 years ago, the language is tepid, the story unremarkable – boy saves beloved girlfriend after she dies – but for the most part, unless you enjoy flying phoenixes and battles in space, it’s pretty much an exercise in faux-historical Haggadic vengeance.  Without any helpful Jewish slaves as ballast.