Lina Lamont

"What do you think I am, dumb or something?"

The Big Short

There is enormous awards buzz around this star-studded indictment of the banking world and its life-destroying force, and literally as I write this the Golden Globes are being handed out. With any luck, by the time I finish we’ll know whether The Big Short won the Big One in the Best Comedy or Musical category or whether Christian Bale pipped Steve Carell (both nominated for Best Actor) to the post.

Truth be told, while The Big Short has elements of a terrific movie (snappy direction by the guy behind Anchorman and The Other Guys; strong performances by Carell, Bale and Pitt all showing their breadth of skill; a dynamic script), it’s not quite Best Picture material. One wonders whether it’s simply that Banking is the Slavery/Holocaust/Child Abuse of our day, and the various voting academies want to reward those incisive enough to point the finger at the zeitgeist.

Don’t ask me to define a “big short”  – the film works valiantly to illuminate the vagaries of the financial world, including using cameos by The Wolf of Wall Street’s Margo Robbie and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain to put complex ideas into comprehensible analogies – and even then, there was plenty I didn’t understand.

However, the script wisely uses its characters (real-life investors, bankers and hedge-fund managers rendered by actors) to spell out the tragedy that many of them foresee. The shark-infested swimming pool of largesse of the mid- to late-2000s is portrayed with more restraint than Wolf but the characters’ growing anxiety as the wave of the U.S mortgage housing crisis crests is aptly conveyed by the frenetic camerawork and panicked editing (either irritatingly distracting or cleverly meta, depending on your view).

It’s interesting, occasionally fascinating (when you can follow what’s going on) but the film’s aforementioned strong suits ultimately feel like distractions from the main issue – which is that banks lost/stole/spirited away billions of dollars of ordinary people’s money and millions of Americans lost their jobs and homes as a result. Last year’s 99 Homes is a far superior telling of the same tragedy, and lo, as I check, the Globes obviously thought so too, sending The Big Short home empty-handed. Well, there’s still the Baftas.

 

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