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Freakonomics movie picked up for distribution

By / 04.06.10

Rogue Economists have also been known to trample their keepers and gore pen mates


I have this theory about research-based non-fiction books making for sh*tty movies.  You take a thought-provoking bestseller like The Blind Side and put it through the Hollywood meat grinder (also your mom’s nickname) and  you end up with a movie where Michael Oher was good at football because they taught him to pretend the quarterback was his new momma (because he scored in the 98th percentile in “protective instincts”, you see).  Problem is, they take a book that doesn’t look like a movie and go, “Hmm, how could we make this look like a movie? What does a movie look like?”  And the next thing you know, they’ve turned all the interesting insights into 50 f*cked-out clichés and it looks like every sh*tty movie ever.  This is my way of telling you that Freakonomics is going to be a movie.  Now for the pleasant surprise: it’s a documentary.

Like the book, the film examines human behavior with provocative and sometimes hilarious case studies, bringing together a dream team of filmmakers responsible for some of the most acclaimed and entertaining documentaries in recent years: Academy Award® winner Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Casino Jack and the United States of Money), Academy Award® nominees Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing (Jesus Camp), Academy Award® nominee Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me), Eugene Jarecki (Why We Fight) and Seth Gordon (The King of Kong). [/Film]

The Enron documentary kind of sucked.  I watched it to find out how those guys conned everyone out of so much money and f*cked the economy, not learn about their corporate retreats.  I don’t know why everyone talks about that and not Gonzo, which Alex Gibney also made, which was much better.  Anyway, the film closes out the Tribeca Film Festival next month.  Here’s some of what you might expect:

Alex Gibney takes a visually arresting look at the crumbling façade of Sumo wrestling and exposes searing and violent truths about this ancient and revered sport. Morgan Spurlock offers up a buoyant and revealing angle on the repercussions of baby names. Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing balance levity and candor with an eye-opening profile of underachieving kids incentivized to learn with cold hard cash. Finally, Eugene Jarecki investigates an unsettling theory to explain why crime rates dramatically dropped in the early ’90s. Seth Gordon weaves the pieces together with brisk interludes, providing context and commentary from the authors.

More on that Sumo chapter:

One example of the authors’ use of economic theory involves demonstrating the existence of cheating among sumo wrestlers. In a sumo tournament, all wrestlers in the top division compete in 15 matches and face demotion if they do not win at least eight of them. The sumo community is very close-knit, and the wrestlers at the top levels tend to know each other well. The authors looked at the final match, and considered the case of a wrestler with seven wins, seven losses, and one fight to go, fighting against an 8-6 wrestler. Statistically, the 7-7 wrestler should have a slightly below even chance, since the 8-6 wrestler is slightly better. However, the 7-7 wrestler actually wins around 80% of the time. Levitt uses this statistic and other data gleaned from sumo wrestling matches, along with the effect that allegations of corruption have on match results, to conclude that those who already have 8 wins collude with those who are 7-7 and let them win, since they have already secured their position for the following tournament. [Wiki]

And here Howard Stern thought Gabourey Sidibe would have trouble finding roles.


TAGSALEX GIBNEYEUGENE JARECKIFREAKONOMICSHEIDI EWINGMORGAN SPURLOCKRACHEL GRADYSeth Gordon

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