Wednesday, December 30, 2015

"Mainstream" movie of the year: Adam McKay's important and marvelously entertaining THE BIG SHORT

Having seen only a handful of the usual mainstream contenders for Best Picture "Oscar," TrustMovies is in no position to weigh in officially. Of everything he's seen so far, however, THE BIG SHORT -- Adam McKay's adaptation of Michael Lewis' seminal non-fiction account of a few smart "money" guys who saw the financial collapse coming -- is by far the most important film of the year. It is also among the most entertaining.

Yes, Spotlight is equally riveting and is also about something very important. But I would suggest that the subject of McKay's movie (the filmmaker is pictured at left) -- the 2008 worldwide financial collapse -- is even more important than the Catholic Church's long-running parade of sexual-predator priests. Why? Because what caused that financial collapse affects many more of us and is still going on, to the horrific detriment of America's (and most of the world's) poor and middle class -- to everyone, in fact, except the wealthy. It is most responsible for the widening gap between the rich and the rest of us, and the movie points this up like nothing we've so far seen, and does so in a manner to make us laugh, sure, but then grow very, very angry. All over again.

Both films sport crackerjack casts, and each director draws terrific a performance from every actor. But because The Big Short features a number of characters who are not a little bizarre, this makes for some sublimely entertaining performances, especially from Christian Bale, (below), Steve Carell (above, with his hand up, in one of the film's pivotal scenes) and Ryan Gosling (shown two photos below, center right, facing Mr. Carell).

Each actor is superb, though never "showy," at literally every moment in which he appears on screen. And McKay makes the most of them, as well as of his very fine supporting cast.  This is, by the way, a very "male" movie -- as is, of course, the Wall Street/Banking sector of our society.

Women, with very few exceptions, are peripheral to this business, and how Mc Kay uses them here cannot be unintentional. Marisa Tomei is that stand-by-your-man wife; Melissa Leo the blinkered career woman, and, in his most talked-about touch, explanatory guides Margot Robbie (in a bubble bath) and Selena Gomez (at a casino table) are right out of your typical James Bond movie.

The story that McKay and Lewis (along with co-adaptor Charles Randolph) offer up is not the easiest one to follow, unless you've already followed that financial collapse with some acuity. But these guys make it about as easy to access, as possible, considering. And they make it surprisingly fun and funny, as well -- even if the laughs are often at our own expense. The scene with one of the "enablers" (Byron Mann, above, left) toward the film's conclusion is a humdinger indeed.

At 130 minutes, this Short is not short, but there's not a boring moment in the whole shebang. In fact, things seems to grow ever more important, appalling and entertaining as the film builds to its suspenseful (even though of-course-we-know-what-happened) conclusion. (Above are, left and right, Finn Witrock and John Magaro as relative newbies on the big-time financial block.)

The movie is a call to action -- of some sort, at least. Republicans will do all they can to discredit it, but I'm afraid the cat is out of the bag. Wall Street and the Banks are not just corrupt; they are uber-corrupt. And so are our politicians for allowing this greed and stupidity to flourish. (Above: Billy Magnussen and Max Greenfield as two slimey and unrepentant sub-prime mortgage brokers.)

I have to admit that nothing in the past career of Mr. McKay would have given me an idea that he could bring us a movie this important -- and at this level of film smarts. Well, I know now. And I am duly impressed. The manner in which he occasionally breaks the "fourth wall" and how he handles those explanatory moments are sophisticated marvels of making the most of what needs to be done.

TrustMovies is also rather amazed that Paramount -- a Viacom company, hello -- released the film, but I am grateful that it has. Whatever The Big Short does or does not achieve come awards time, this wake-up call will have reached millions in the coming months and millions more when it finally arrives on video and digital.  If you can't wait till then, just know that it is worth the price of a theatrical admission -- and then some.
Click here to learn where you can view it now. 

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