Remember that teacher you had for the subject that was more than tad past your grasp but somehow, day after day, came up with a way to punctuate the classroom with enough street oomph to not only keep your head in the game but make you go home with a stake in the overall picture?
That’s The Big Short.
Director Adam McKay co-wrote the script with Chris Randolph from the pages of the non-fiction bestseller by Michael Lewis about how Wall Street and the banks hit Main Street America across the side of the head with a two-by-four with their 2005 mortgage shenanigans.
Of course, it was way more complicated than that, with terms that I won’t even get into here. But to the glory of director McKay, when it got too deep, he brought in famous folks to look at the camera as themselves — beautiful actress Margo Robbie in a bathtub, celebrity foodie/host/traveler Anthony Bourdain in a kitchen, pop singer Selena Gomez at a blackjack table — to outlandishly explain the concept in understandable bites.
And he painted the main characters — eccentric money-manager genius Dr. Michael Burry, prickly hedge fund group leader Mark Baum, cagey bank dealer Jared Vennett and runaway rich guy Ben Rickert — as full-range folks.
Oh, what a job the cast does playing them. Christian Bale is marvelous as the strange Burry, fidgeting always with his one-glass eye, the guy who discovered the scads of individual bad mortgages and was the first to predict the collapse of the mountains despite the scorn of the industry and money people for which he worked. Steve Carell is top-rate as Baum, the fraught crew leader in the renegade offshoot of giant Wall Street firm Morgan Stanley with a big mouth and the stirring conscience about what’s really going on beyond the dollars. Ryan Gosling is terrific as the banker terrifying all pushing for the big deal on the huge fall. Brad Pitt is understated as the yoga who returns to guide two eager young bucks — very nice supporting turns by Finn Wittrock and John Magaro — on how to get their skin in the big kill.
It’s all done with a biting edge of humor, too, to not only help the medicine go down but to remind us all again that, yes, friends, this really did happen, starting one decade ago.
And before my dear wife Karen and I were allowed to return to the Friday night Syracuse chill from the Regal Cinemas Shoppingtown Mall theater along with the rest of the fairly packed theater, we had to face a screen roll declaration.
Spoiler alert here.
There flashed a new and dizzying term, something the banks and Wall Street are selling together right this very second.
That, my friends, was not funny at all.
But it was illustrative educating.
What was your favorite subject that you didn’t think you’d like at all going into it, and why? What was your favorite movie that taught you something about a subject you didn’t know much about beforehand? In 2016, would you put your money behind the continued success of Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling or Brad Pitt, and why?