Film Review: The Big Short

The Big Short is a film based upon the economic housing market crash in 2007. The film follows three groups of people who all become involved in concurrent situations.

A man named Michael Burry is the manager of a hedge fund and discovers, after reading through an extensive list mortgages, that the United States’ housing market is extremely unstable. Quite certain of his findings, he predicts that the housing market would crash in the second quarter of 2007. This, having piqued his interest, led him to visit multiple banks, asking each whether he’d be able to invest in a credit default swap market. This would allow him to bet against market-based house mortgages. The banks, perceiving a far different future for the housing market, readily accepted Burry’s offers. In all, Burry spent 1.3 billion dollars betting against the mortgages. This also meant that he had to pay hefty premiums to the banks he’d made deals with. Many of his clients were upset by this, considering it a ‘rash action’ on his part, and asked for him to sell them all back immediately. Fortunately, Burry ignored these commands, and continued following his instinct.

Jared Vennett, a salesman at Deutsche Bank, becomes interested in Burry’s tactic after hearing from another bank who had sold Burry a credit swap. Vennett is drawn to this idea, and decides to invest some of his own money in these swaps. While contacting banks, Vennett mistakenly calls Mark Baum, the FrontPoint hedge fund manager. Baum, who already has a bad taste for big banks, decides to invest in swaps as well.

Charlie Geller and Jamie Shipley had started a small firm out of their garage, and become interested in the idea of buying credit swaps (the idea is introduced to them by Vennett). They started out with about 100,000 dollars, but are now handling millions through their strategy of buying cheap insurances with big potential payouts. The strategy had done them well thus far, and the buying of credit swaps seemed a very favourable idea to them. Unfortunately, their earnings fell short of the minimum required for an ISDA (International Swaps and Derivatives Organisation) certificate. This would’ve allowed them to make swaps like Baum’s and Burry’s, however, since they couldn’t attain this certification, they were forced to resort to another method. They had met an older man named Ben Rickert, who is a retired securities trader. Although he is a bit reluctant, Charlie and Jamie are able to convince him to help them. When they attend the American Securitisation Forum, they end up making better deals by betting on mortgage securities with higher ratings. The banks they encounter eagerly accept their offers, as they see the mortgage securities to be extremely stable. However, they begin suspecting that banks are committing fraud, as the Securities and Exchange Commission has no method of regulating mortgage-backed security activity.

Despite their seemingly victorious night, Rickert is disappointed and disgusted in the two young men. He points out that while they become filthy rich, they’ll be ruining the lives of countless other people. Unemployment rates would skyrocket, and an economic crash would also lead to deaths. They then realise that the banks intended on maintaining the value of their swaps and then short them before the now inevitable economic crash. In desperation, the two once again call upon Ben, who is on vacation in England. While sitting in a pub, Ben is able to sell most of their swaps, and in the end, they make a total profit of 80 million dollars.

In the end, Burry earns a total of 2.69 billion dollars. His fund’s value had increased by 489% after the house market had crashed. Baum and his team profited by 1 billion dollars, with a complete loss of faith in the banking system.

It was interesting to see how Burry was able to see through everyone’s certainty in the housing market. It was also interesting to hear the story behind these people’s reasoning and why they did the things they did. This movie was very informative and captivating and told the story of the housing market crash in 2007 in a very succinct and understandable manner.

-Elina T.

The Big Short is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz

Prisoner B-3087 is a true story of Jack Gruener. Alan Gratz was the person who made Gruener’s story into a novel. The novel tells a tale of Yanek, a boy who was put in a concentration camp.

I choose this book because I needed something to read. When I found it I saw that it was about the Holocaust. I thought that it would be very interesting and it was.

I haven’t read every Holocaust story but this one was very deep. The way Gratz wrote this was very in depth. That is what I think that more of these stories need. They need a more detailed story.

It really made you feel like you where there. Right next to Yanek in the concentration camp. I also learned many news things about the Nazis. Like how they hired convicted criminals to be Kapos in the camps. At the start of the book Yanek was a boy about 10. He was just a innocent boy. Then when the Nazis came he was coming on 11 or 12 maybe. Then when they took him he was going on 14.

The important thing about 13 is that it means its time for your barmitzfah. Before they took him and his uncle had his barmitzfah. Now they couldn’t have had it in there house or else they would’ve been shot. What they did was they had it in the basement.

This was one of my favorite parts of the book because usually Jewish people have a huge celebration for there barmitzfah. I mean my friend rented out half of the Los Angeles stadium for his barmitzfah. Yanke’s family could’ve had a big celebration for his barmitzfah. The only down side is that they would’ve been shot dead on spot.

Another thing that shocked me was the cruelty of the Nazis. There was one point of the book where they would make prisoners move huge rocks for no real reason. They just wanted to see the Jews suffer. In the novel you could see how Yanek changed over time. In the beginning of the novel he was a innocent little boy. At the end of the novel he was a grown man who didn’t fear death.

I thought this book was great and I wouldn’t mind reading it again.

-Max U.

Dirty Rowdy Thing by Christina Lauren

Yet again another perfect book by the duo Christina Lauren (Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings). I will admit that when I first started this series I was sad. I was worried that this would not be like the series before it. But that is not the case in the slightest.

This book follows Harlow and Finn. Harlow is one of Mia’s friends that we meet in the first book in this series (Sweet Filthy Boy). Harlow and Finn ended up getting married just like Mia and Ansel, except they annulled it the next day.

Harlow connects with Finn again, this time in her home town. They both are going through a difficult time, and they use each other as a distraction. After each encounter they have with each other, they tell themselves that it means nothing to them and that they are just friends. But as time goes on, they both realize that it means more to both of them than just a distraction.

As always with Christina Lauren’s books, we get such a nice sweet ending! Do not skip this one!

-Skylar N.

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

Image result for city of emberLina Mayfleet and Doon Harrow live in the city of Ember.  A city underground, but they can still live normally as a human. Lina lives with her grandmother and her little sister Poppy, and Doon lives with his father, who is an inventor.

But political corruption seems to enshroud the city of ember by inserting a rapacious mayor in them. He was a fat guy who stored all the delicious food such as canned peaches, meat, and sweets. While his citizens only eat squash and vegetable soup. Corns could be a very luxury type of food and can be eaten only during festivals.

I thought that this book has such an amazing setting and the adventure that Lina and Doon planned to save their city of very exhilarating to me. I cried so much when Lina’s grandma passed away, that means all the burdens are on Lina’s shoulder. And that also makes me glad for living above the ground in a cozy house with my family.

-April L

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

TV Review: Stranger Things Season 2

My father and I have always wanted to watch Stranger Things but we never had the time for it. When we finally had the time we watched the first season. Lucky for us at the time, the second season was at least one week away.

The second season was really cool. You could really see the character development in everyone. The thing I liked about this season was that it answered my questions that I had.

I like how Stranger Things uses a lot of Dungeon and Dragons references in the episodes. I just hope that the next villain for season 3 is another Dungeon and Dragons villain.

This season also continues with the adults in the show being completely oblivious. If you thought it was funny that Mikes dad had no idea what was happening last season, then you are in for a treat. Season two also introduced a character named Maxine who is actually a main character in the season. I feel like she is going to have a bigger role in season three.

My favorite character in the whole season was probably Dustin. He was very funny when they were in danger and always made a big commotion about everything. I hope that Dustin remains this way and never changes. I also liked how sometimes Hopper would just dive into the situation and not think of it first. It made it look like he was very committed to what he was doing. He didn’t care what the odds where he just wanted to discover what was going on.

Another thing I liked about season two was that the 1980s in Hawkins, Indiana were so real. I can say that for myself because my father lived in Indiana in the 80s. Another fun element they did again was hire actors from the 1980s. I hope they keep doing that in more seasons.

Another thing was that since Will was back he had a lot more screen time. The season also showed how Mike and Will are really good friend. They would go to the end of the earth for each other.

I would recommend Stranger Things season two for anyone who saw the first season and liked it.

-Max U.

Bar Mitzvah!

Recently, one of my friends, Zac, turned 13 and explained to me that he was holding something called a Bar Mitzvah. I wondered what that was, because I’d never attended one; I was expecting just a normal birthday party.

After doing some research, I realized that traditionally a Jewish child would participate in a coming-of-age ceremony at 13, called a Bar Mitzvah. I finally understood what the event was now.

My friends and I attended the Bar Mitzvah to celebrate with Zac, and it was such a great experience. There were two parts: The Torah, and then the reception later in the evening. The way the Bar Mitzvah is held is actually really similar to that of a wedding, with the long tables, DJ, dance floor, flower assortments, lights, etc.

I was very impressed in the dedication that Zac put forth in the ceremony. He memorized long Hebrew passages and sang songs to praise Jesus. The ceremony lasted about an hour, where he underwent many different spiritual rituals, like one particular flag-bearing. He did really well, especially while playing his guitar and reading his well-prepared speech. It was also very touching when his parents gave a speech and recognized him as a truly worthy son. Zac told us that he’d spent almost two years, and all that hard work and dedication really paid off!

Finally, the reception was very well put together. There was a lot of dancing (Zac got lifted and twirled up in the air on a chair), and it was all fun. There was ice cream, and three courses that were extremely tasty. The family put a lot of effort in the arrangements and the whole event turned out really well. I really enjoyed this event, and had the time of my life!

-Katherine L.

The Distance Between Us by Kasie West

Image result for the distance between usThe Distance Between Us is about 17 year old Camyen who thinks that the poor and the rich shouldn’t be together. Camyen helps her mom in their doll store. Her mother sees rich people as customers, as profit, as people who wouldn’t care at all about her well being. She grew up listening to her mom explain that rich people associating with the poor is just a game to them. Since Camyen’s father’s family didn’t help her mom when she found out she was pregnant, they both hate rich people in general.

But Camyen’s whole mindset is changed when she meets Xander. She first sees him as just another rich boy that she’ll never care about. She acts rude and sarcastic, like she normally is. But Xander doesn’t sneer, or act like she’s below him. Instead, we find out that he actually thinks she’s funny and later, deeply cares about her.

I didn’t actually read this book, and I instead listened to it as an online audiobook. I don’t think I’ve listened to an audiobook in years. It was a completely different experience. When you’re reading, everyone tries to get a good image of what’s happening in their head. For me, I feel that the audiobook gave me a much better imagery. I was imagining what the doll store looked like, with all those creepy dolls staring back me. It felt like some horror movie where all the dolls come to life.

I felt that it wasn’t a bad book overall, but the ending was rushed and not that great. When you’re reading an unrealistic love story, it can only be so unrealistic before you start to dislike it. The realistic part of me, just thought that the whole ending would not end up that way. And the two characters that were introduced in the end were just shoved into the book. They didn’t really flow with the whole daughter rebellion thing. I agree with the Goodreads rating of 4 stars. But if you’re a fan of Kasie West, it’s what you would expect from her, and I would say to read it. And of course, I’m on Team Mason and not Team Xander.

-Rebecca V. 9th grade

The Distance Between Us by Kasie West is available for download from Overdrive