I haven’t found that many Oscar-nominated movies (other than documentaries) that overtly try to take an educational tone in their script. However, The Big Short does just that – and this movie does it exceptionally well while explaining the “watch paint dry” topic of finance and banking.
The Big Short unravels the various ends that led to the 2008 economic meltdown and the director, cast and crew try their hardest to make it understandable. The cast is phenomenal – Christian Bale, Brad Pitt, Steve Carrell, Marisa Tomei and Ryan Gosling – and the pop-up vignettes offer a variety of surprising and intriguing cameos, including Margot Robbie, Selena Gomez and Anthony Bourdain.
The movie jumps back and forth among the various contingents: a hedge fund manager that first identifies the instability of the U.S. housing market; a trader who takes this news and tries to get a piece of the action; and a random phone call that brings another hedge fund manager into the financial scrum. The director makes sure you get a feel for the timeline – and also has characters talk directly to the audience to explain when the director took “literary license” in certain areas.
What I especially love about this movie is the star-packed vignettes that do a great job of providing context. For instance, TV personality and author Anthony Bourdain shows up in one segment cooking in a professional kitchen. He explains how the bonds found in Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDOs) should be considered the same as three-day-old fish. One option, Bourdain suggests, is to throw away the unsold fish, thus leading to a financial loss. Instead, he suggests that the fish – much like these unsavory bonds – could be “repackaged” into a seafood stew. “It’s not old fish; it’s a whole new thing,” the chef explained, noting that the low-level bonds are similarly reworked into the CDOs.
While I can’t say after watching the movie that I totally understand all of the ins and outs of the 2008 meltdown, I definitely do have a better grasp of the major elements that led to the unstable economy. What the movie also makes perfectly clear is that many in today’s financial world still display the greed and willingness to game the system, which leaves us prone to more financial instability in the future. Therefore, it’s worth watching this movie just to get a better idea of what may come – and how you should be petitioning policymakers to protect the financial system.
This film is available to stream on Amazon Video, YouTube, iTunes, Vudu and Google Play Movies & TV. You also can get this movie on DVD through Netflix.
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