Friday, January 22, 2016

365 True Things: 299/Faces

Finally, the third try was the charm: we managed to see The Big Short (we tried also on 12/27 and 1/8). The theater was very full, even on a Friday at 1:40 after the movie's been playing for weeks. What gives with that? (A lot of grayhairs. Oh. That's what gives. I wonder if any of them were seeing it for a second time. I would consider it, myself. Because it was a . . .)

Great movie, though the story it tells is revolting. Rampant greed, recklessness, and then no punishment whatsoever. On the contrary, reward! Sure, we'll bail you banks out, says the U.S. government—because you're too big to fail! 

The director, Adam McKay, nailed it when it comes to explaining something as arcanely abstract as the subprime mortgage collapse—factors such as mortgage bonds, collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), and synthetic CDOs—in ways that make sense (respectively: champagne and bubble bath, fish stew, blackjack). And you even care about these whiz traders who are betting against the entire U.S. economy.

My enjoyment of the movie aside, the true thing I'm going to mention concerns my general illiteracy, if that is the word, when it comes to faces. I did at least recognize Christian Bale and Steve Carell, though I couldn't begin to put names to their faces. Brad Pitt I just kept puzzling over—and I know what Brad Pitt looks like. Ryan Gosling was the only one I could name, but I kept second-guessing myself there too (wrong-color eyes). I stayed planted in my seat at the end until the cast list rolled around, little "ahas!" going off in my head as the actors' names (Melissa Leo! Marisa Tomei!) were revealed.

Many years ago, David and I were eating breakfast in Pacific Grove at a popular cafe. He nodded at a table by the windows and said, "Look. It's Laurence Fishburne." I looked. I saw a large black man engaged in animated conversation, probably with Gina Torres (I just looked him up: they were married in 2002, which might fit the time frame). I would never in a million years have recognized him if David hadn't done it for me.

Oliver Sacks wrote about the phenomenon of face-blindness a few years ago in the New Yorker. He also spoke about it on Radiolab, referring to both his own and the artist Chuck Close's inability to recognize faces. Both are worth a read/listen.

And I will close with the quote that opens The Big Short, ostensibly by Mark Twain, though as with so many quotations ostensibly by Mark Twain, he didn't say it. Still, it's good:
“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” 

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