The Big Short was a film I was hoping would be understandable and entertaining, despite its subject: the housing crisis and fraud that transpired over the last years of the decade ending in 2010. It has been nominated for several Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Christian Bale), Best Director for Adam McKay, as well as Best Adapted Screenplay from the book by Michael Lewis (who also wrote the screenplay for Moneyball), and for Film Editing. It is rated R for pervasive language and some sexuality/nudity. All the nominations are well deserved.
I admit that even as early as high school, when one of my classes touched on the subject of the stock market, it confused me. I have since come to understand it a little better, but wouldn’t feel comfortable explaining it to anyone else. I saw the films Margin Call and Moneyball, and enjoyed both. The way these stories were developed made difficult mathematical subjects easier to understand. So it is for The Big Short.
The truth is, you don’t have to understand the financial crisis completely to get that the average American was screwed over in a big way in those years. This film has a stellar cast including Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, Steve Carrell and Brad Pitt, who was also a producer. Lesser roles went to Marisa Tomei, and Melissa Leo. The film cleverly tried to make clear the situations that transpired and what the big short was. Basically, a few investors realized the housing bubble would burst and placed bets with the big banks that it would. If they were right, they stood to make a great deal of money. Essentially they were betting that the American economy would fail due to the practices of the big banks on the housing markets.
The film is based on the true stories of these investors. The market is explained in the film in ways even I could follow, via what looks like a Jenga game (pull one block at the base and it all comes tumbling down), and a cameo by Selena Gomez in Las Vegas. She places a bet, then someone behind her places a bet on her winning, then someone behind them places a bet on him winning when she wins, etc. It all falls apart when Selena doesn’t win, as it did for the housing market. The going to Las Vegas and explaining it at the gaming tables is an apt way to show that it’s all a game to the big banks and investors, a game where the public always loses.
We know that despite the fraud perpetrated by the big banks, it was the American people, who stay poor while the wealth of the few skyrockets, bailed them all out, while losing their homes, their jobs, and their hope.
This is a film everyone should see. It’s entertaining, illuminating, and will inform you of an issue that should influence the way you vote in upcoming elections. Enough is enough.