Star – Steve Carrell, Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt
Genre – Comedy
Run Time – 1 minutes
Certificate – 18R
Country – USA
Oscars – Won 1
Awards – 80 Nominations & 35 Wins
Amazon – £5.00 DVD £8.00 Blue Ray
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So the Big Short, based on the book ‘The Big Short: Inside Doomsday Machine’, by Michael Lewis, a book that details the main players in the 2008 housing bubble collapse. The story just had to be turned into a movie as it was so bloody mind-blowing and recklessly unbelievable. Hollywood decided to give it to comedy director Adam McKay (he of most of Will Ferrell’s’ films) and his wring partner Charles Randolph, a masterstroke as a comedy movie is probably the only vehicle to describe and deliver the unpalatable and complex world of investment bankers and the best way to keep us engaged. The Academy certainly thought so and the pair won the Oscar for ‘Best Adapted Screenplay’. We had previously the serious and intelligent Margin Call movie about the same crisis and it’s been serious ever since so why not a bit of brevity and levity around a near comical collapse of the world banking system? Trust me; this method and film will keep you hooked.
99% of us are still none the wiser what happened and why it happened but this film is the first to really lay it out in an articulate and entertaining way that one can follow. You will certainly be a whole lot clearer about sub prime mortgages and CDOs (Credit default Obligations) by the end of this cracking film. We also know financial services are 20% of the U.K.’s GDP and 12% of the taxes raised. We know that the banks knew along that they were too big to fail and we would bail them out.
What seems to have happened is that up until the 1970s people that should be allowed to have a mortgage that wanted a mortgage had a mortgage. They were the house owners who would pay on time and had good jobs and so owned most housing stock and so a rock solid banking asset. Then in the 1980s when the City and Wall Street was deregulated the bankers decided they needed to sell more mortgages as they had run out of new reliable house owners and mortgage payers that would never default, the so-called triple AAA’S, and so wanted more buyers. This was achieved by selling mortgages to people who were slightly less reliable but still good credit payers, the new middle-class, the AAB’s. The first bill to be paid is always the mortgage payment and who doesn’t pay the mortgage, right? Because the banks were making millions through interest mortgage rates and commissions on those mortgages they continued to drop the ‘requirements’ to get a mortgage. In the 1990s they realized that they could bundle in the AAA’s with lesser mortgages, say ABBs’, in financial packages. As long as the value of the AAA’s covered the defaults on the ABB’s, etc then the products would remain sound. But, by the beginning of the new millennium everyone had got too greedy and even unemployed black Americans were getting loans and mortgages just so the the realtor got a commission, the so-called Sub Prime, known as the NINJA loan --No income, No job, No Assets. As long as the banks could keep hiding this bad debt in those Collateral Debt Obligations and the Rating Agencies could be paid off to keep those Triple AAA ratings coming to say the packages are perfectly safe then this could go on for a while yet. But it couldn’t and they knew it so they started selling/offloading these CDOs to other investors to decrease their exposure. And they were selling them everywhere! At one point they were demanding South American banks buy them or trade deals would suffer. Most South American banks told them to get stuffed and so those painful tarrifs came in. It was later discovered that the banks colluded with the major bond-rating companies to maintain ratings on worthless CDOs, allowing them to sell off their losing positions before the true values became known. But smart traders knew ‘enough’ of the bad debts would eventually be defaulted on and the whole lot would come crashing down one day, the people just as irresponsible as the banks for taking those loans. We hoped the corrupt bankers and co would go to jail for their madness but only one ever did - a black guy for Credit Suisse. Nothing has much changed in America under Obama.
• Christian Bale as Michael Burry, M.D.
• Aiden Flowers as young Michael Burry
• Steve Carell as Mark Baum (based on Steve Eisman)
• Ryan Gosling as Jared Vennett (based on Greg Lippmann)
• Brad Pitt as Ben Rickert (based on Ben Hockett)
• Melissa Leo as Georgia Hale
• Hamish Linklater as Porter Collins
• John Magaro as Charlie Geller
• Rafe Spall as Danny Moses
• Jeremy Strong as Vincent "Vinny" Daniel
• Finn Wittrock as Jamie Shipley (based on Jamie Mai)
• Marisa Tomei as Cynthia Baum (based on Valerie Feigen)
• Tracy Letts as Lawrence Fields
• Byron Mann as Wing Chau
• Adepero Oduye as Kathy Tao
• Karen Gillan as Evie
• Max Greenfield as Mortgage Broker #1
• Billy Magnussen as Mortgage Broker #2
• Rudy Eisenzopf as Lewis Ranieri
• Margot Robbie as herself (uncredited)
• Anthony Bourdain as himself
• Richard Thaler as himself
• Selena Gomez as herself (uncredited)
Michael NBurry (Christian Bale), an eccentric hedge fund manager, nose is twitching when he notices an anomaly in the mortgage market. Mortgage fraud is rising fast in 2007 and so are defaults and so maybe trouble brewing? He has gone over the numbers in almost autistic detail and believes there is a housing bubble about to burst when defaults hit 8.1%. But no one on Wall Street is seeing anywhere near 8% and so he goes to his boss to explain it. Chief Executive Lawrence Fields (Tracy Letts) trusts him to a point as he often delivers big deals and so profits for the firm with those instincts but cant believe the housing market is about to collapse. But Nburry is sure and begins to spend the company’s money on shorting the housing market. He does that by going to a bank on Wall Street to ask if he can buy a product that will do exactly that and when they hear how much he wants to spend with their bank on something that they think will never happen they willingly invent that product and take his money, the so-called CDO. They think the housing Market is fine and every month it is then Nburry $50 million investment will have to pay them at last $50,000 dollars. But if the market goes then he will get back twenty times that. Nburry is so sure he agrees the deal with other banks as word get out some nut is betting against the mortgages of America, considered a rock sold market and Triple A safe.
Our second and third players are a maverick investment firm headed by Mark Baum (Steve Carell), an obnoxious and righteous trader who believes in ethical investing, and bonds salesman Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling). A misplaced phone call alerts Vennett to Nburry’s actions and calls a meeting with Baum to get him to buy into it. Baum hates the bankers and blames them for his brother’s suicide and joins in the short to bring them down.
Our final players are a growing investment firm from Denver, young investors Charlie Geller (John Magaro) and Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock), in Manhattan to try and get a seat at the big table. When they are rejected for that license they accidentally discover a prospectus by Vennett in the lobby, convincing them to become involved in the swaps. They decide to call retired hedge fund guru and neighbor Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt) for advice. He looks the numbers over with his sageful eye and agrees the boys could have something and get seriously rich with that information.
As 2007 ticks into 2008 the pressure is on Nburry as nothing seems to be happening to the housing market and his firm is hemorrhaging money. He is in for 1.3 billion and something is wrong. All the indicators are the market should have collapsed. Defaults are at 9% and lending as high as ever. Baum decides to check out market for himself and sends a team down to Florida to talk to house owners on the ground while he attends a conference in Vegas with all the players in the housing market. He finds a striper able to get that cheap credit and she owns 5 house on just $22,000 a year! What he hears in Vegas not only confirms his fears but terrifies him. Not only is the market going to collapse but the whole baking system.
Watching The Big Short makes you as happy as a dog with his head stuck out of the car window with the ears flapping and the wind in their gums. This is a belting movie and the best of 2016 for me. It has all the ingredients you want from an Oscar winner and should have been Best Picture for me. I felt Spotlight didn’t quite have the all around appeal this one did but both biopic’s on two of the biggest scandals of the decade. You are quickly drawn in from the opening scene where Bales somewhat mumbling character starts to notice the catastrophic flaw in the mortgage market and then further characters being introduced just edging up the interest, enjoyment and outright anger some more. Through quirky little touches like well timed occasional celebrity cameos breaking the fourth wall (addressing you the viewer watching the film) to explain the most important and pivotal facts on the banking crisis, and the writer and directors ability to make us laugh over something so horrendous, this film has you buy the cajones throughout. Its all there, from the opening Michael Moore style archive footage commentary of bankers being fired to the detailed breakdown of the backing collapse through a zinging script and great performances I guarantee you will love this film. Steve Carrell is excellent and steals the move as his righteous angry trader character and there is no real point where this film lags or slows down. There is no baggy love interest or side stories either as we just crack on through the banking demise with humor and astonishment.
Admittedly it ends up a polemic against the greedy banking system and Wall Street rather than the corrupt bankers. Like I said only one guy went to jail and he was black, the bankers causing the most damage being Jewish of origin. That accusation would have been too much for Hollywood to handle. It remains a fact though. The film also admonishes the people that took out the crazy loans and mortgages of any blame and clearly a bias to keep the audience on side and rooting for a mixed bag of likable Wall Street rogues. The banks were simply creating money out of thin air to give to people who could never pay it back and the people who could and did pay their mortgages having to pay the penalty around the world. It’s notable that in the United Kingdom very few people took out mortgages over 100% and the bulk of the sub prime debt was in America. But the banking system is global and the American banks had off loaded a lot of the risk though those corrupt rating agencies that allowed them to flog useless CDOs as anything but. The Tory Government simply took the opportunity to destroy public service and blame black immigrants.
For it $28m budget it did a decent $133 million for an excellent issues movie, a mockery when you think the dreadful Batman V Superman did $850million! Hype sells movie more than quality. This is one of those films that people may have been put off because its requires brain power but its done in a way when its not as complicated it looks and should have pulled a bigger crowd if that was communicated.
Imdb.com –7.8 /10.0 (227,435votes)
Rottentomatos.com – 88% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – % critic’s approval
-In the Trenches-
A short film about the real characters involved and plenty of behind the scenes stuff from cast & crew from the excellent movie.
The South China Morning Post –‘It's a fine feat of screenwriting; particularly given its 'heroes' are bankers about to get rich on public misery. ... This is one Hollywood film that doesn't come up short’.
London Evening Standard –‘Confronting these facts while snorting at how funny this film often can be is quite confounding’.
Total Film –‘Slick and funny, this is the years most entertaining economics lesson, making the facts of the financial crisis easier to digest without making them any more palatable’.
Film Enquirer –‘The Big Short's faults aren't hidden, but neither is its remarkable ability to entertain while giving a rather complex lesson’
The Star –‘It's to McKay's credit that he makes The Big Short so fun; there are a lot of talented comedic actors here, the banter is strong, and there are pop culture montages strewn throughout, meant to mark the passage of time, that help maintain visual interest’.
New Statesman –‘The knowing, boisterous humor comes off as irredeemably smug and the A-list cast can't disguise the fact that they are portraying points of view, rather than characters’.
Financial Times –‘A big, clever chortle, full of sardonic insights into a time of woe’.
In 2006 The Telegraph asked "Is this Britains's most beautiful cinema?", and my answer is most definitely yes! The Rex Cinema in Berkhamsted is a 1930s art deco cinema that by some incredible good fortune was left with its 1930s features intact, to be restored by James Hannaway to create the most incredible cinema I have ever visited.
Present Day Rex
Devotees of the Rex will travel across London and join a two hour queue to get tickets - and I can tell you that it is well worth it!
Sadly the original entrance to the Rex was divided off by the council and sold as a restuarant (the Gatsby). The new entrance is round the side of the building, but as soon as you walk up the steps you enter a plush 1930s foyer, with authentic lighting, stylish 1930s seating, a glitzy bar, complete with black and white film posters and a collection of books on film on the shelves. Inside the auditorium itself, your attention is immediately drawn to the stage, which is surrounded by a golden and richly ornate proscenium arch. I have never ever seen anything like this in a cinema, and if you look on the website you can see that it is exactly the same as it was in 1930. Around you is rich marine themed decoration. Everything seems plush black and red. On the black walls are many scalloped art deco shell lights, the ceiling has an intricate plaster and is also golden, there are waves of light on the black walls. The level of ornate detail on all of this will just astound you!
I always try to get the £10 downstairs table seats - for an extra £2 you are whisked back in time to a 1930s Fred Astaire film set. Huge plush red swivel chairs are set around small cocktail tables with little tea light lamps on them. You sit in the most fantastic surroundings, with a glass of wine in your hand and the table lamps twinkling away all through the film. A full length licensed bar runs along the back of the seating area, and you can get drinks and snacks throughout the performance without missing a thing. If you order the cheese platter, this is served to your table just after the film begins. Most people arrive very early to enjoy a drink in the fabulous surroundings, and then swivel round to the screen as the film begins.
The slightly cheaper circle seats are the big bucket seats that many of us remember from our childhoods. The experience of sitting upstairs is also good, but not a patch on the luxury of downstairs!
As you may imagine, coke and popcorn are not to be seen! Wine, beer and soft drinks are served with pots of olives, little pots of nuts, and other non-rustly snacks.
Before each film, the cinema's owner-restorer James Hannaway, comes into the stage to introduce the film. He gives a little speach about the film and talks about films that he has booked for future weeks. His love and dedication for the cinema are what makes it special.
He chooses a varied range of film, from art house, foreign language film to the big blockbusters and some old but special films. For example, this month he is showing 'North by Northwest', 'Drag Me to Hell', 'Pierrot Le Fou', and 'Last Chance Harvey', amongst others.
The cinema was built in the 1930s, designed by David Nye in 1936 and opened in 1938 but by 1973 it had become a bingo hall, and by 1988 it had closed down for good. Only English Heritage and its Grade 2 listed status prevented it from being demolished. All of its original features remained in place, boxed in or hidden behind boarding, but surviving vandalism and general decay.
A long, long campaign by James Hannaway and Friends of the Rex eventually led to the re-opening of the cinema in 2004, with all of the art deco features lovingly restored, 294 large cinema seats from Amsterdam, and the decaying structure of the building rebuilt to a high standard.
I have to add a word about the restaurant which is situated in the original foyer of the Rex. The Gatsby restaurant has also kept all of the art deco features present in the original cinema, and they have a set pre film menu for £12 for two courses plus a glass of wine or other drink.
I recently had the perfect night out - a really lovely meal in the Gatsby (Basil Infused Chicken With Red Onion Marmalade, seared Salmon and a glass of wine for £12), followed by a drink in the fantastic auditorium of the cinema, followed by a showing of 'Young Victoria', followed by a Q and A session with the writer, Julian Fellowes.
It may be difficult to get tickets for the Rex, but DO NOT GIVE UP ! It is very, very worthwhile.
The Box Office is open Monday to Saturday 10.30-6.00 and Sunday 4.30-5.30. Tickets for the coming month are released on the last Saturday of each month, from 10.30, and people start queueing well before that time. Film listings are published on the website a couple of days before the tickets are released.
If you want to sit at a table, I would say you almost definitely have to queue. I tried to phone once, and the line was permanently engaged until about 4pm, by which time all the films I was interested in had sold out.
Prices are: Tables £10, circle £8, Royal Box (seats 6) £12 or £66 for the box.
Box Office 01442 877759