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The Big Short: Build Your House on a Rock, Not on Wall Street
By Alex Carrigan
*Editor's Note: This article is part of a series written by Alex Carrigan about this year's Academy Award nominated films. To see the rules for this challenge and to find other articles related to it, go to this page.
I found today to be an incredibly exhausting day. This is not just because I spent nearly three hours digging my car out of the snow, but because I watched The Big Short. As my aching body began to relax inside my warm apartment, I decided to put on The Big Short and let that be the cap to my day. Two hours later, and not only did I feel mentally taxed, but emotionally devastated. The Big Short is a very complex film, with a lot of technical terms, a lot of characters and stories to follow, and a fairly upsetting message at the end.
And honestly? I think it's one of the best movies of the group.
The Big Short is set between 2005-2008 and follows the lead up and the eventual collapse of the U.S. housing market. The film follows several stories related to this, from the eccentric hedge fund manager who realizes the market will collapse (Christian Bale), to the brutally honest trader who hopes to capitalize off Bale's findings (Ryan Gosling), to a group of hedge fund managers led by a neurotic Steve Carrell who also try to handle the impending collapse of the economy, and lastly to two young investors (Finn Witrock and John Magaro) who seek the help of a friend (Brad Pitt) to help ensure they get money out of this. The stories weave together, but never actually cross. Because of this, the film allows the viewer to see various sides of the crisis, and gives a variety of perspectives and characters to follow over the course of the film.
This is admittedly one of the hardest movies to watch in this series. The Revenant had a lot of brutality and violence, and Spotlight tackled a very dark topic (I haven't even gotten to Room yet, and I know it's probably going to be hard to watch). The Big Short knows that it's not going to be easily understood. After all, they even state that a lot of details relating to finance are spoken with big words to make the average person think the banks know what they're talking about. The film has enough awareness to try and make the complexity of finance somewhat easier to take. They make it clear that "subprime" is code for "bullshit," so the viewer knows anything with "subprime" in it is likely phony and exists to screw the investors.
Part of what makes the film so enjoyable is that it finds creative ways to explain everything. The film breaks the fourth wall a lot, and seems shameless in doing so. Gosling's character speaks to the camera the most, and his character's dry sense of humor helps explain a lot of the fine details of finance. The film also comically has several real life celebrities, such as Margot Robbie, Anthony Bourdain, and Selena Gomez, explain details through either metaphor (Bourdain and Gomez) or titillation (Robbie). It's pretty clever, and it helps keep the mood consistent through the whole film so the viewer isn't totally lost and isn't spending all their time trying desperately to understand what's happening.
The film does make all the humor disappear once it gets to the actual crisis. That's when the viewer comes to realize the actual gravity of the situation, as well as how meaningless the actions of the characters are. Yes, most of the characters come off richer, but millions are now homeless, unemployed, without retirement, and on the verge of destruction. To make matters worse, the film reminds the viewers that almost nothing was done to reform the system or to punish the individuals who collapsed the market. The film ends on a really bitter note, and it can probably be more effective depending on how affected the viewer was by the collapse.
I think The Big Short is one of the better films I've watched for the series. It's very well made for a director whose credits include Talladega Nights and Stepbrothers. It stays visually interesting, so unlike Bridge of Spies, there's plenty to keep you focused as the story goes on. It's not just white men in offices, it's white men in offices with visual aids, hilarious captions, and creative editing. The film is up for Director and Editing, and I think it would be neat to see it win either of those. I don't know it it will, but I can be satisfied if it does.
I am surprised more of the cast wasn't nominated. Only Christian Bale got a nod, and I think he'd be a really good pick to win Best Supporting Actor. I see it as a toss-up between him and Mark Ruffalo in Spotlight, and even though it will probably go to Sylvester Stallone for Creed, I'd really like it to be between those two. From what I've been told by my brother, the screenplay should win Adapted Screenplay, since it's adapting a nonfiction book on a difficult subject and managing to make it witty and enjoyable. Of the Adapted Screenplay group, I think it's probably the most likely to win, so I'm probably betting on it.
Overall, I think The Big Short isn't likely to win Best Picture since it's one of the hardest films of this lot to sell to a wide audience, but I think it's definitely one of the best of this year's group. It's one I'll probably think about more, especially whenever I look at my student loans, so I think it has more staying power than films like Bridge of Spies or Brooklyn. I'm happy I saw it, and I think it was worth waiting to see this one this week.
2nd: Mad Max: Fury Road
3rd: The Big Short
4th: The Revenant
5th: The Martian
7th: Bridge of Spies
Tomorrow: I'll watch Room and finally make this a year where I'll have seen all the Best Picture nominees. I'll also try to avoid thinking of Tommy Wiseau's The Room while doing so.
#Real #AlexCarrigan #TheBigShot #Day6 #OscarChallenge #FilmCritic #AcademyAwards
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