Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Big Short

The Big Short stars Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling and Steve Carrel.  It was directed by Adam McKay and won the Academy Award for best screenplay adapted from a written work and a host of other awards including the Critics' Choice Award for the best actor in a comedy (Christian Bale), the Critics' Choice Award for best comedy, and the Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor (Christian Bale).

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Christian Bale plays Michael Burry, "a medical student with only one eye, an awkward social manner and 145,000 dollars in student loans", who is the first fund manager to spot a bubble in the housing market leading up to the big crash of 2008.

He goes to the banks and offers to short the mortgage bonds, in anticipation of their sudden loss in value.  To short something means to bet against their success.  This was a really strange thing for someone to do at the time, since mortgages seemed so reliable ("who doesn't pay their mortgage?").  Turns out that a lot of mortgages had been given to people that really weren't responsible enough to handle them, and they defaulted.  The erosion of the housing market from below collapsed the whole economy, and Burry was one of the first to see it coming.

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Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) overhears word about Burry's strange offer to short the bonds, and begins to look into this himself.  He discovers that Burry is actually right, and despite the disdain and mockery he endures from the bank he works for, he gets in touch with Mark Baum (Steve Carell) in order to find a fund willing to short the bonds with him.

Separately, two up and coming investors with the help of a retired banker (Brad Pitt) see one of Jared's proposals and try to get in on the action, but have a hard time because they are such a new entity and don't have the clout of larger, more renowned funds.

First of all, I would like to say that I don't know what really happened during the housing crisis, and I don't know if this movie is completely accurate or maybe politically twisted or anything.

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Nevertheless, I love this movie!

The first time I watched it, I was absolutely captivated, despite the subject matter, which is not necessarily what most audiences would consider riveting--bonds, loans, and mortgages.  But a combination of fascinating and likable characters and fast paced editing kept me glued to the screen.

I couldn't stop thinking about the movie and after a couple days had passed I found myself re-watching, and just earlier today I started watching a third time.

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Here are my favorite parts of this movie:

  • Christian Bale's performance is top notch.  Seriously, I'm really starting to like this actor.  He inhabits the character so thoroughly and I root so hard for the nerdy guy who listens to hard rock and reads the Sword of Shannara five dollar paper backs.  Definitely the highlight of this movie.
  • Jared Vennett is hilarious.  He starts narrating the film and already you know that he's going to be one of the best aspects of the movie experience.  I've never really thought of Ryan Gosling as a comedian, but he has flawless delivery in each of his scenes.
  • I must admit that I was so excited for Christian Bale's awesome character to come back on screen that I totally forgot Steve Carell was in this movie until his hilarious entrance and I just caught myself saying: "how many awesome actors can one movie take?"  Of course, Carell as always is so funny.
  • The editing is like nothing I've ever really seen before--there were lots of quick shots of things about the early 2000s and it was pretty cool to see all those callbacks to my young childhood that I recognized.  The fast cuts also kept me paying attention and I couldn't tear my eyes away.
  • The movie explains all the would-be boring banking stuff in easy to understand terms which was impressive.
To wrap up, I definitely think this is a really entertaining and well made movie.  There is a lot of swearing and two scenes definitely inappropriate for young viewers.  I advise caution, but if you can handle those two aspects of a film, then I'm pretty sure you're really going to enjoy The Big Short.

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