THE BIG SHORT [2015]

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Directed by Adam McKay

Written by Charles Randolph (screenplay), Adam McKay (screenplay), Michael Lewis (book)

Starring: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, Finn Wittrock, John Magaro,


I’m not a fan of Adam McKay’s writing, in a comedic sense. His comedies such as Step Brothers seemed to go right over my head, and when I read that he was tackling an important subject such as the financial crisis of 2008, I was skeptical. I don’t like his brand of humour, for the most part, and I had trouble imagining a movie that is funny while covering the worst economic collapse since The Great Depression.

There is a lot of jargon associated with the world of economics, and it is there for a reason. As one of the character states in one of numerous breaks of the fourth wall, the jargon is intentional, it is there to confuse, to trick, to leave us, the people, stupid. Hell, we have people handle our taxes or manage our stocks, such is the power of the jargon of a different world.

I didn’t enjoy the constant breaking of the fourth wall; I think it is hard to do it well, and here it isn’t terrible, but it isn’t great either. Having the film randomly cut to Margot Robbie in a bubble-bath explaining the meaning of some jargon couldn’t have felt more out of place if it tried. Constantly, this movie is trying to educate. I’ll be honest, I left the cinema with no more knowledge than I went in with. I don’t even know what a ‘short’ is, and the word is in the bloody title!

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I guess the writers were faced with two options: the path they chose, which was to explain as much as possible, while breaking the fourth wall as often as needed, or a more risky avenue of not explaining the terms, or further still, constructing a movie about these events that don’t need the jargon in the first place. 99 Homes covered similar issues and didn’t need to explain itself constantly.

If this film had a little less jargon and ditched the constant explanations for financial jargon, I’d have enjoyed the movie more than I did. Margot Robbie in a bubble-bath isn’t exactly the best way to teach someone anything, let alone finance, and consequently I found myself tuning out. I have no idea what any of the jargon means, but the movie flows well enough that it is quite easy to figure out what is bad, what is good, and the consequences for their actions.

This flow is why I think they could have ditched the explanations: they seemed to add nothing but extra run-time, and more than once cut away from the movie entirely, one time to have a celebrity chef explain something. Huh? Am I missing something here? Captions explaining terms I can understand, but a total cut to characters not in the movie at all is extremely jarring and for the most part ineffective.

The film itself does a good job of following the different people who were involved in predicting the financial crisis, putting themselves in a position to profit if they are correct. But if they are correct, millions will lose jobs. It is an interesting moral decision, but once each character gets started, they cannot stop.

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Christian Bale as Michael Burry was easily the best performance of the movie, and one of Bale’s better efforts too. He plays the eccentric Burry well, who has obvious high-functioning autism tendencies as well as a taste for heavy metal. Steve Carrell also stands out as Mark Baum, and as the movie moves forward it becomes clearer to him what will happen to the rest of the country. Near the end he launches into a speech about the corrupt and criminal tendencies of the Federal Reserve Bank, but for all the passion in his speech, and he may well be speaking from the heart, he will profit, and almost everyone other person will be worse off. That is the story for all the characters involved in their own separate operations.

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So, how does one bet against the housing market? I don’t know, and I don’t really care. What I do know is that this movie is easy to absorb without all the annoying cameos, and each character followed was interesting. Especially Bale as Michael Burry, but all the men involved had their own demenour, their own personality. This is what drives the movie forward: the characters, and the acting that brings them to life. If this film had a cast of bland characters, the best cast imaginable couldn’t have saved it. Thankfully the characters are written with purpose, giving us an entertaining look into those who predicted that the economy would collapse. I would personally recommend 99 Homes  for a much, much more interesting story that revolves around the same economic crisis. The Big Short isn’t so much a story as it is a fictional documentary.

32 Comments on “THE BIG SHORT [2015]

  1. I’m still dissecting the purpose of the cameos (besides explaining things) but I enjoyed the self-awareness that they showed. At the end of the day the housing crash affected pretty much the entire US population and therefore had a knock on effect globally. So in a way I guess you could say that the cameos represent ‘everyone’, or maybe a better way of putting it would be that nobody could truly escape the housing crash and therefore everyone became involved in the consequences. That could be a bit of stretch but overall I really enjoyed this innovative take on such a serious subject. I’m with you though, I’m still not quite sure what ‘shorting’ is exactly other than it’s “bad”, thanks Margot.

    Liked by 1 person

    • interesting response, thanks James. Your theories do have merit… not sure if I agree with them given the directors previous work, but that’s just me. I liked this ok, it was entertaining, it just tried too hard to educate (and failed at that too)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice review Jordan. I mostly enjoyed The Big Short and felt it did a solid job at translating Lewis’ book to the screen (plus McKay gets extra points from me for his use of Darkest Hour and Mastodon songs in the mix). But like you, I found the self-referential bits, in particular the gratuitous celebrity cameos, to be grating and it hurt the picture overall. A very good movie nevertheless but I’m still surprised on how much attention this has received over the awards season.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, there have been much better movies. Check out my Top 20 coming soon 😛

      I also enjoyed the mix, massive metalhead here so i loved bale’s character. It would have been even better if it was a band like Suffocation or Cannibal Corpse, haha!

      I can’t say I have read the book.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s always good to see metal get its due in film. I saw an interview with Christian Bale talking about learning to play the drums for The Big Short and his appreciation for the bands, though he mistakenly refers to Pantera as a death metal band.

        Like

      • Indeed, it isn’t often but I love it when metal is in a film.

        BTW have you seen Deathgasm? If not, go watch it now. New Zealand comedy about a young band who play a song that turn the entire neighbourhood into demons. Great gore-comedy if you’re into that sorta thing. HEAPS of inside jokes for metalheads too.

        if you’re interested: http://wp.me/p4P9IW-OK

        Hehe, Pantera, death metal. I can see how a noobie could see it that way though, especially comparing them to the classics like Priest and Maiden.

        While Bale didn’t play a drum kit, it did look like he knew how to play. That is cool that learning an instrument made him appreciate the bands more. It is so true, when we started to write songs proper it gets really hard! After 6 months we still only have four songs!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I did see Deathgasm and thought it was an awesome movie. Metal and film go together like metal and everything…

        It is cool that Bale got into music through playing the drums through the production. I really didn’t get into metal until high school and started learning how to play the guitar in college. I always regret not picking up the instrument earlier in life.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I heard Nirvana at eight and was air-drumming from then on… my drumming ability is all from that, I never practice, I don’t deserve the skills I do have haha. I didn’t start playing proper till I was 17 but I could play them straight away cos I’d been air drumming and drumming with rulers all the time haha.

        I’d love to learn guitar. I am trying to teach myself bass atm, but I’m thinking of getting lessons…

        Like

    • Haha! She isn’t in it for very long. And she sounds a little out of place – IMO, as much as I love my country, for her to properly fit into these US pictures she really needs to try and shed that aussie accent, as much as I love it! 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I had a totally different response to this. I found it highly educational, I loved the explanations and I now really feel like I get what caused the global financial crisis. Ha ha ha!

    Like

    • Haha! That is really awesome. So cool to see how different movies can affect different people. Perhaps now you should look for a career in economics 😛

      Like

      • Oh lord no! I’m happy being a Product Owner. I do like working with numbers and statistical analysis though.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Nice review dude. Too bad you didnt like it as much as I did.
    I agree it concentrated a lot on educating the viewers but I think that’s because the subject matter was so dense and complex that the film had to do that. I also think it did a pretty good job of keeping the film entertaining and engaging throughout and the self-awareness was really smart.

    Like

  5. So this one won Best Adapted Screenplay and I think it’s well deserved. I found it to be funny and engaging, w/ fine performances from the ensemble, esp Bale. I agree he’s the best of the bunch, followed by Carrell. I’m not really a fan of Adam McKay’s comedic style either, I’ve only seen a couple of ’em and they’re not really my cup of tea.

    Like

  6. Breaking the fourth wall is way too often lately (okay, twice that I can remember in the recent movies). Anyway, it is a risky thing and stupid to use too often.

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  7. ohh..hate hearing you didn’t like this one..I loved it. Thought it was true dark comedy at one of it’s best.. you did love the performances and were spot on Bale especially..whom I thought was also wonderful. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I shall re-watch it it, as I do with most flicks. I’ll definitely keep that dark comedy aspect in mind, I often completely miss humour like that the first time around. In fact now you have me really intrigued, I might go see it again!

      As for Bale, yeah this was one of his best performances for a long while. I’ve always liked him

      Liked by 1 person

      • Indeed. He portrayed someone with Aspergers/high functioning autism well. And I loved his heavy metal soundtrack! And his air-drumming, apparently he actually learnt the drums somewhat for the movie.

        In retrospect I think I was a bit harsh, as the flick was entertaining. It was just those cameos that gave me the shits!

        Liked by 1 person

      • See I loved the cameos.. when Anthony Bourdain came on.. I almost screamed I loved it so much! And who thought I would ever learn something from Selena Gomez!! ha!

        Like

  8. Pingback: Money Monster | digitalshortbread

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