Sunday, January 10, 2016

3 Thoughts on The Big Short

1. The cast - The main (i.e. ONLY) reason I wanted to see this movie is because of the cast. I will see anything with Christian Bale. ANYTHING. He's always fascinating. In this, he plays Michael Burry, a socially awkward genius with a glass eye and a penchant for heavy metal music. And like always, he's the best part of the movie. He's one of the few actors who gets completely lost in a role; I never see Christian Bale in any of his characters, and as much as I love the other actors in this movie, I can't say that about any of them. Brad Pitt is always Brad Pitt in some way. Ryan Gosling is always Ryan Gosling. Ryan has the most charismatic role, which is why several reviews cite his performance as the highlight, but the reality is, he just has the best lines. To me, the highlight, aside from Bale, is the supporting cast. Specifically, the trio of Rafe Spall, Hamish Linklater and Jeremy Strong. All are incredible.

2. The story - The part that I wasn't that excited about was the actual story. I'm really not into financial/Wall Street type stories because I don't feel like I ever truly understand what is happening; instead I usually just know when something is "good" or "bad" based on character reactions. I did enjoy the recent movie Margin Call, which had a similar theme, but I will fully admit that I didn't understand every detail. The brilliance of this story is that the filmmakers understand that the general audience probably doesn't "get it", considering that people who do this for a living don't fully "get it". So, they dumb down the financial aspects, use terminology that anyone can understand, and pause the story to explain the plot (more on this in the next section). While I fully understand how this tactic isn't for everyone, it completely worked for me. COMPLETELY. Not only did I enjoy the movie, I learned a lot about what happened during the financial crisis of 07-08. Before this movie, I could tell you that people defaulted on their loans and the big banks went into debt and the government bailed them out; which is essentially what happened, but this movie explained why it happened and how the banks should have been held responsible for their own corruption. It's always amazing to me to see so many people living above their means, not able to afford their mortgage and car payments, and I always blamed them for their own greed, but really it's the banks that are allowing this to happen. If you're giving a loan to someone who has no income and/or proven bad credit history, what do you expect to happen? It's completely fascinating. It's also fascinating that there are people who predicted this housing collapse, and no-one did anything about it. It's interesting that the author of the book (that the movie is based on) also wrote Moneyball, because that movie did a great job of explaining the politics and history behind baseball. The combination of this intelligent story and director Adam McKay (known for comedic movies), is absolutely perfect.

3. The editing - As I said above, the movie uses a lot of different tactics to help the audience follow the story. First, it uses celebrity guests to explain certain situations (my favorite *spoiler* - Margot Robbie in a bubble bath). Yes, this is a little disruptive to the plot. Yes, it's a little too condescending. Yes, it still works, brilliantly. Second, it defines financial terms in the bottom left corner of the screen. Third, it uses different editing and sound techniques for the four main plots/characters. Again, yes, it's disruptive. But I would argue that this is what kept my attention for the entirety of the movie. Each part felt like a different movie, therefore avoiding any dragging plot-lines. I'm actually finding it hard to find a flaw, and trust me I've spent the last 3 days trying. It's by far my favorite movie of 2015 (and yes, I still have a lot to see).

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