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Showing 1-10 of 77 reviews(4 star). Show all reviews
on January 17, 2011
Occasionally a movie comes along, based on a book, that inspires people to run out and pick up a copy and actually read. It doesn't happen often and in today's world where more people are in tune with a visual experience as opposed to a reading one, when it does happen it's wonderful. Such is the case with FREAKONOMICS.

Based on the best seller of the same name, the book was written by economist Steven Levitt and journalist Stephen Dubner. It focused on Levitt's research into the causality of numerous topics as explained via economics and tabulated information. The interesting thing, as he states, is that in seeking reasons for various topics people think things are connected to something else but it turns out not being the case. Trust me, its less complicated than you think and easier to understand than you would expect but more so after watching this film.

To make a movie out of the book, they chose 4 different notable documentary directors and went to work. Each one has their own look and feel, but all incorporate into the general picture at hand. The first is one of the most well known, Morgan Spurlock who did SUPER SIZE ME. Here he takes on the question of what is in a name.

The question here is is a person judged and their life set up early on by what their parents name them? Beginning with the example of a young girl named after Tempest Bledsoe of COSBY fame whose mother couldn't spell resulting in the name Temptress, we find that it wasn't her name so much as her environment that formed her life. But there's more to it than that. The choice of names and how they affect everything from your job acceptance to your place in society is discussed with results different than one might expect.

But back to the original premise of the film, where one would think that a person's name might be the reason for the life that the end up with, the truth is that it is more their surroundings. Thus the expectations of people are proved wrong when the facts are sought out.

A section on cheating focuses on sumo wrestlers in Japan. Sure, you might not be interested in two big men in diapers fighting one another, but that's not the point. The discussion forms around sumo being a traditional sport surrounded in religion and honor that was corrupted. So much so that the results of matches could be predicted. What brought about this change from honor to corruptibility?

One segment deals with incentives and what we expect once more versus the outcome. Here, a group of students are given the incentive to do well in school by being promised $50 each time their grade cards come out if they show improvement and a few other items like attendance. Those that do well qualify for a $500 check at year's end as well as a stretch limo ride. Does this incentive help increase school activity? Watch and see.

The fourth section discusses the reported drop in crime rates during the 80s. Politicians spoke endlessly about how they had achieved this, citing the increase in policemen on the streets as the biggest reason. In researching the date, Levitt and crew discovered that police were only a small portion of the reason crime decreased. The main reason, nearly 49% worth, was...well again, watch and see.

The movie is well made and follows an interesting path. It starts out simple, discussing selling your home and real estate agents (trust me it's interesting) just to set up the film's/book's idea and then presenting the different theories focused on in an intelligent and still entertaining way.

Perhaps the best thing about this book is that it will make you look at the world from a different standpoint. You won't tend to accept things at face value and will look deeper into why things happen. You might even choose to pick up a copy of the book and see how they applied themselves to discover the real answers to some different questions.

All in all, the film is a treat, making it enjoyable as well as informative. That's a rare combination to find in films these days. Rare still is the fact that you have a documentary that doesn't preach one political side or another, it just informs. And to me that makes it a great documentary.
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on August 12, 2015
If you listen to the podcast and enjoy them, you will enjoy this video. I listen to the podcast and this was a nice treat to be able to see rather than just listen. They use fun graphics to explain the stories. Would love another video.
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on November 9, 2013
I showed this documentary in one of my college economics courses. Like most documentaries they have an agenda in the topics they cover but the facts they present are very interesting. One of my students at first thought the topic on African American names was racist but after watching the whole piece she changed her mind. Great video to show students interested in learning more about economics
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on September 25, 2015
some nice insights, but not as in depth as I would have liked, and few topics close enough to home to make you go 'wow' and change your view of the universe. Pleasantly presented, enjoyable to watch.
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on May 9, 2011
Having read and thoroughly enjoyed the book I fully expected this would be a glossy overview and, for the most part, that's what it is. It's not superficial by any means but the discussions are not as deep. Given the format, there's no real way around that. The movie is fun and serves its purpose well.

I think the best use of the movie is to motivate someone to read the book. In my data analysis class, the text books are more about the algorithms and short example problems. Showing and discussing clips during class time as examples of interesting, perhaps unexpected, applications might inspire a few to read the book to learn more.
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on March 18, 2014
I read most of this book while visiting a friend, but had to leave before I finished it--and my friend wasn't letting go of her only copy. And I don't blame her. I'm not usually interested in economics, but the intelligence and creativity with which these economists use their facts to support their hypotheses is at least charming. And for me, is thought-provoking.

I didn't encounter another copy of the text before Amazon started nagging me about not using the Free Streaming Video privileges that come with my Prime, so I surfed the site and found the Freakonomics video. Wow, two birds with one stone!

Translating textual interest into visual interest isn't easy, but the video succeeds well enough for me to think it probably deserves five stars (or four and a half) just for translation between media.

Evidence, of course, can support conflicting hypotheses--at least until more evidence shows up; that's why it's Evidence, not Proof. (Ancient Alien guys, are you listening?) However, interpreting the same facts Freakonomics cites in a way that supports other, conflicting hypotheses is so Old Hat that I almost wonder if novelty and creativity aren't what make Freakonomics persuasive; but I suspect the real reason is that these economists offer more realistic and lifelike explanations than occur to most economists. Whatever--these economists don't sound dogmatic in their book, and look even less dogmatic in this video. Maybe I just don't think I should give five stars to a hypothesis presented as a hypothesis? How narrow-minded of me! Most likely, a thought-provoking book translated into a thought-provoking video actually deserves MORE stars than one that tries to bludgeon or stupefy me into assent. Guess I'll have to keep considerin'!

Definitely watch it for free, or check out the book at your local libes.
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on October 31, 2012
Bam! Bam! Bam! One video chapter after another challenges conventional concepts.
Does, for example, abortion reduce crime? Are teachers forced to cheat for their students to keep on working?
Watch it yourself and draw you own conclusions.
The video teaches what public education does not- skepticism.
It also figured in the termination of one social studies teacher, not that his record was squeaky clean. Apparently a stripper's near naked butt is grounds for termination. (Personally, I found the sumo wrestlers more disturbing.)The teacher is not protected under the First Amendment. So, do not show this in your classroom, even though you will not find anything here more disgusting than you would see on a daytime girls' talk show or a modern mainstream comedy.
The video is paced well, except for the dud skateboarder who thought the army would let him join.
Enjoy...and then think about it.
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on August 1, 2014
I listened to the movie while driving back from a vacation while my son watched it in the back seat. I've read the first book and have an economics degree so familiar with their work. In general I love their work. If you have any interest in public policy, financial markets, politics, etc their work is a must read, or watch. There is just so much sloppy "science" out there that doesn't differentiate between correlation and causality. The authors make their points with easy to understand stories. I'd prefer a little quicker and a few more "stories". Read their first book first. Or if you have a son/daughter in high school this is a great intro to what economics can be.
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on August 15, 2012
This is a documentary by a couple of economists, making some surprising connections between such things as statistics on number of abortions and the crime rate, paying kids to get good grades in school, ethnic first names versus traditional names of kids and whether or not they succeed in life, and the propensity for cheating in different areas and how frequent it is.

This is a series of vignettes, each with a different director. Each one I found to be interesting. The comparison that was done on crime rates and availability of legal abortion was the most controversial. It seems, when studying the statistical data, that when abortion is readily available in a state, twenty years later after it becomes available, the crime rates drop. The implication is that, with fewer unwanted children, fewer children have the socioeconomic problems that lead them to commit crimes. Twenty years after the landmark Supreme Court case that marked the legalization of abortion, Roe v. Wade, crime rates in all catagories went significantly down. I feel that this is something that needs further looking into. We know that wanted children usually have much better lives than unwanted ones. Do wanted children commit less crime as a result of having better lives?
Of course. This isn't a popular conclusion to draw but looking squarely at this data, there seems to be some truth to it.

I thought this was an excellent documentary but I took off a star because the main documentarian, Steven Levitt, had an unfortunate speach impediment that made it hard to
understand some of what he was saying. Many sentence endings were a fast jumble of mumbled unintelligable sounds rather than words. There was also a long segment on Sumo wrestling which, while interesting, wasn't quite up to the rest of the individual segments as far as making any point, except to point out that Sumo wrestling had been exposed to be corrupt in some cases.

If you enjoy well done documentaries as I do then you will enjoy this.
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on November 9, 2014
Much better off reading the book but the "movie" was done rather well. Regardless of what you think of the case studies presented it does give pause for some serious reflection on what is really going on in the world around us from an economic point of view.
This is the second time I watched and it made more sense. Especially since I just finished my graduate economics course which is why I watched this again.

Interesting but difficult to announce as definitive.
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