“The Big Short”: Mortgages Most Foul

The Big Short!

“Hi, yes, I don’t have a question. I’d just like to point out for the record that no one has ever produced a single shred of evidence linking paper companies to the 2008 recession. So SUCK IT, BANKS.”

The first time I saw the name Adam McKay, he was a writer on Saturday Night Live who occasionally appeared in short films that helped kill time during the show’s after-12:30 wasteland. Those never did much for me, but he moved on to helming Will Ferrell comedies that attracted much larger audiences, of which I’ve not been a part. Fourteen years after his SNL stint, he’s now co-written a Marvel super-hero movie (last summer’s not-bad Ant-Man) and directed a Best Picture nominee in The Big Short, which ought to be mandatory viewing as an ethics cautionary tale in all future finance classes ever.

As Hollywood careers go, that escalated nicely.

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Behold the Future of Chicago Sun-Times Photojournalism

Marvel NOW!, C2E2 2013Hardly an award-winning pic, is it?

When I attended the “Marvel: From NOW! to Infinity” panel at C2E2 last April, I arrived late from another panel and found myself in the back row. I thought covering the panel from an amateur perspective might be a fun lark for one segment of the MCC readership. Unfortunately I back-burnered that part of my C2E2 experience because (a) pro comics-news sites had the panel’s announcements posted online days before I would’ve gotten around to them; and (b) my photos were rubbish.

I’d rather not imagine a world in which I might’ve had a chance of selling this reject for real American money. I enjoy seeing the work of skillful eyes and hands that justly shame me in this area. I doubt few dream of a world in which our news sites and newspapers drop several degrees in visual competence and settle for publishing any available photos to accompany their articles regardless of quality, offering whatever they can scrounge up from overworked reporters or untrained bystanders.

The Powers That Be at the Chicago Sun-Times believe so deeply in this alternate future that they’ve decided to push our timeline forward in that direction. Last week numerous sources reported the venerable institution dismissed all 28 of its staff photographers (including one Pulitzer winner) as a cost-cutting measure and announced plans to offer smartphone photography lessons to its staff reporters, who clearly had too much time on their hands and needed extra busywork to keep them from turning into total goof-offs.

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Tips for Running a Movie Theater for Fun and Profit

MPAA spoofThe last time my family went to the theater, the ads that ran from the film’s scheduled showtime until the moment the feature presentation began spanned over twenty minutes. Many of the ads were movie trailers, but not all of them. Ads for new cars, smartphones, TV shows, and soft drinks are routine pre-show entertainment while you’re settling into your seat, mentally preparing yourself for temporary phone deprivation, swapping notes with your companions, and consuming your snack too early. Even when it’s ostensibly showtime, the commercial parade isn’t over yet, because a lot of manufacturers want a moment of your time, in exchange for keeping your theater in business.

According to a Hollywood Reporter article this week, the National Assocation of Theater Owners have decided that movie studios are taking advantage of your presence, and it’s all their fault that your time is being wasted. Obviously the owners can’t simply run fewer spots, because then here comes the poorhouse. To that end, NATO members are demanding an amended guideline limiting trailers to a maximum of two minutes, slashed from the current 2½-minute boundary.

We can infer from various statements in that THR article that owners believe this will reduce the length of the pre-show, instead of giving them latitude to run even more ads that eat up the same allotted minutes. They believe that it would be harder for shorter trailers to give away the entire movie, apparently forgetting that most romantic comedies can be boiled down to their primal essence in twelve seconds flat. They seem to think the current limit is a recent abuse of creative power, somehow unaware that trailers in the ’40s and other nostalgic decades could occasionally run well past the three-minute mark, sometimes spooling entire scenes instead of mere quick-cut snippets.

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Running an Art Museum for Fun and Profit, Part II: When It’s Time to Slash and Burn

Indianapolis Museum of Art

Most of this decorative frippery could be dismantled and sold as scrap metal. (photo credit: Valerie Everett via photopin cc)

Last weekend’s suggestion-box entry regarding possible economic improvement measures at the Indianapolis Museum of Art wasn’t intended as the launch of a new MCC series, merely a one-off, tongue-in-cheek response to other online reactions. Then again, I wasn’t expecting to see the IMA recapture the headlines this soon.

On Monday local news sources confirmed that our city’s largest art museum has eliminated twenty-nine employees (11% of the total staff) as part of their ongoing efforts to stem the losses from previous years’ shortfalls, and as part of new director/CEO Charles Venable’s plan to minimize budgetary dependence on the museum’s endowment fund, which weathered considerable battle damage during the 2008 recession. I don’t envy the position in which Venable and his survivors now find themselves, though I’m a little bitter that they didn’t even try any of my awesome ideas before swinging the axe of doom.

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Tips for Running an Art Museum for Fun and Profit

Indianapolis Museum of Art

The Indianapolis Museum of Art, which would make an awesome small-vehicle stunt-racing track. (Photo credit: Serge Melki via photopin cc)

In an era when taxpayers are overprotective of their disposable income and unappreciative of any art beyond the confines of their smartphone apps, I don’t envy the complicated role of the museum curator. Your purpose in society is to sort through millennia of art history, negotiate the opportunities to host the cream of the crop, settle for what’s available, and present the results to an audience that hopefully finds it all enlightening and engaging enough to leave behind some dollars on their way out. Best-case scenario: their donations and gift shop purchases are just enough to fund the next exhibit, cover the staff’s wages, and maybe even buy yourself a new tie.

Sadly, not all museums are enjoying the best of times today. Here in my hometown, our very own Indianapolis Museum of Art has struggled to recover after $89 million evaporated from their endowment in the 2008 recession. A recent Indianapolis Star interview with its new director, Charles Venable, revealed a few ideas the museum hopes to implement in order to recover lost ground, some of which have raised eyebrows of local patrons: a Matisse exhibit with a sizable surcharge (admission to IMA is normally free); late-night cocktail parties; and possibly an exotic car show. A few cost-cutting measures have already been taken, but financial stability can’t be achieved merely by clicking your heels three times and repeating the mantra, “Do more with less! Do more with less! Do more with less!” That way lies not wish fulfillment, but bankruptcy.

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