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Archive for June 27th, 2018

Margin Call  (2011)  —  movie review
Today’s movie review is for a movie I originally saw parts of on YouTube and have been wanting to watch ever since.  It finally came down to $5 at Vudu, so I now have the rights to stream it anytime I want to.  This is not the same as “owning” a copy, but that’s a subject for another blog post.
This movie is an attempt to portray dramatically “something” like what “probably” happened at a number of banks, investment companies and other financial trading companies during the financial meltdown of 2008.  As such, the title (“term”) Margin Call is a bit of a misnomer.
A “margin call” can happen when something (anything) is purchased with “leverage”, ie. a loan, you only put up a portion of the perceived value of the item, AND promise that if the value of the item decreases by some amount agreed as part of the leveraged purchase, you will add more money.
For example:  You “buy” something with 10% of its value, so you have 90% leverage.  If the price goes up 10%, you make 100% of your money on the 10% of the value.  If, however, the price drops more than the agreed amount – which is always less than the amount you “invested”, you will get a call from the broker who arranged the leverage (loan of the the difference) and you will be asked for more money.  This is the “margin call”.  If you cannot bring more money to the table to answer the call, you lose your entire initial investment.
The above situation is NOT what is happening in the movie.  What is “described” in the movie appears to be temporary financial exposure caused by holding investments of undetermined value during a period of market volatility.  At least that is what I think they were describing.  Basically, they hold mortgage back securities of questionable value, and, for some reason not fully explained, must hold the securities for 30 days to establish the value.  However, due to market volatility during the hold period, the value of the securities can decrease below the call value and the amount on call would be greater than the total capital of the entire company BECAUSE the company is a leader and position setter in this market.  In fact (in the movie), this has happened multiple times in the prior two weeks, but the market recovered before the end of the day closing so (fortunately) calls were never issued.  But the potential exposure remains.
Anyway, the problem is – there is trouble in River City and it’s right now.  Eric Dale (played by Stanley Tucci) is a Risk Analyst at some big money firm.  (We never find out if it’s a bank or investment firm or what.)  He is fired and instead of “just” leaving, he passes on a file describing the problem to his junior, Peter Sullivan (played by Zachary Quinto).  Because he was educated as a “Rocket Scientist”, Peter figures out the problem and kicks the information upstairs to his new boss – Will Emerson (played by Paul Bettany).  Blah, blah, blah — same to Sam Rogers (played by Kevin Spacey) to Jared Cohen (played by Simon Baker) and Sarah Robertson (played by Demi Moore), until it finally reaches the big Kahuna: John Tuld (played by Jeremy Irons).
The decision is made to clear the market and dump everything before the rest of the world discovers the questionable value of the securities.  The three rules for making money in investment: Be First, Be Smarter, or Cheat.  While the dumping is technically not “cheating”, it is lying to their customers.  But, hey, survival of the fittest…
Does the movie work?  Is it interesting?  Is it realistic?  And, is it any good?  So-so.  Yes.  Yes.  And, so-so.  If you don’t have financial background, you will only “get” that this movie is about screwing the other guy before the collapse.  I found it interesting, particularly in contrast with “The Big Short“, another movie dealing with the 2008 bubble burst and the two “Wall Street” movies.  As I really wasn’t sure what the problem with the securities was, it was hard for me to decide if it was realistic there.  Was it an accurate portrayal of “screw the other guy and get ours first” attitude – 100% realistic.  So, is it a good movie?  Well, I enjoyed it, so I guess that means yes.  Even if I question the ethics of the results…
Final recommendation: strong.  I doubt the average person will understand background “why” any more than I did.  I think the average person watching this will think: “This is how the little guys get screwed by Wall Street”.  I think they’d be justified in thinking this.
One more note: having personally been through several lay-offs (as a “survivor” and a victim), I found this portion of the movie to be VERY accurate as a depiction of corporate America.
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On This Day In:
2017 Distant Goal
2016 More Lives
2015 Go Shopping More
2014 Say What?
2013 Accepting Beauty
2012 Transitional Choice To Ride The Wave
2011 Freedom Isn’t Always Perfect
Just That Simple

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There are plenty of good five cent cigars in the country.  The trouble is they cost a quarter.
  —  Franklin Pierce Adams
[You’ll know when you’re getting old the first time you say, “I remember when I could buy a … for …”.  —  KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2017 Distant Goal
2016 More Lives
2015 Go Shopping More
2014 Say What?
2013 Accepting Beauty
2012 Transitional Choice To Ride The Wave
2011 Freedom Isn’t Always Perfect
Just That Simple

Read Full Post »

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