Thoroughly entertaining. The Big Short succeeded in exposing mass audiences to the extremely complicated and nuanced market forces that led to the 2007 Housing Crisis. The inclusion of celebrity cameos like Anthony Bourdain and Margot Robbie were especially helpful in explaining the complex concepts into more relatable and easily digestible pieces. The Jenga scene is already iconic for its ability to explain the Collateralized Debt Obligation (CDO) crisis clearly and concisely (watch it here). A star-studded and hilarious cast, clever narrative style, and pseudo-documentary cinematography all lent themselves well to this timely and smart movie.
Christian Bale is one of the greatest actors that is currently active in Hollywood, and this film proves, yet again, that he can play any kind of character, from Batman to the Machinist, as he dives fully into his role as Michael Burry, an enigmatic genius with very few social skills. Steve Carrell, as Mark Baum, is also continuing to show that he is much more than a comedic actor. Carrell delivered another heartfelt and believable performance this year, earning his second Oscar nomination for Best Actor. He was never destined to win this year, since it is the year of the DiCaprio, but he will continue to get these kinds of roles and will certainly win one someday soon. Perhaps the most entertaining character of The Big Short though, is Jared Vennett, played by Ryan Gosling, whose performance blends the humor and fourth-wall-breaking documentary style that makes this film so unique. Half narrator and half supporting character, Gosling really ties a lot of the story together and shows his ability to play the serious moments and the comedic ones, all within the same film. Despite all of that, the crowning achievement goes to director and screenwriter Adam McKay, more famous for his comedic blockbuster Anchorman, who proved himself more than capable of handling a much more serious and intellectual film. McKay has proven his range and will likely produce more serious comedies in the future (here’s hoping!) He won the Oscar for best adapted screenplay, in translating the Michael Lewis book into such a clever film. It certainly makes me want to read the book, so maybe you can expect a post on that too in the near future!
My one big complaint, and probably the reason I think The Big Short should not have won Best Picture (which it did not, despite some late momentum in its favor) was that the final five minutes were overly politicized and a little light on facts. The fallout of the crisis, as described by the movie, leads audiences to believe that absolutely nothing had been done by the government or financial institutions to prevent a recurrence. There are certainly some politicians and economists who believe this, but the truth appears to be more nuanced, including the legal difficulties with prosecution of executives and the marginal (if not complete) success of Dodd-Frank legislation. A full account of the debate can be found at this Washington Post article. I recommend doing a little bit of independent research after watching the movie to help balance the facts with the opinions of the creators. Don’t get me wrong though, I really did enjoy the film and will recommend it to anyone who asks. I just think it’s important to temper the message with some research of your own. Overall, this movie is highly creative and very informative with clever writing and excellent casting, I strongly recommend it to all.
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