‘Big Short’ Tosses Its Hat Into the Oscar Ring

Are awards voters ready for “The Big Short”?

The film has a lot of elements working in its favor: Strong performances, a complicated topic told via flashy storytelling (via Hank Corwin’s editing and Nicholas Britell’s music), and a savvy Paramount push. But its biggest asset is that it is a timely reminder of one of the era’s most urgent topics — the 2008 economic collapse, including a warning that something similar could happen again.

But there are challenges, including the fact that it demands a lot of work from an audience. Early in the film, a character warns that Wall Street uses complicated terms and strategies so the public won’t recognize what’s really going on. That insight is useful, since the characters spend a lot of time talking about credit defaults, derivatives, mid-prime lending and the all-important collateralized debt obligation.

Awards voters (and general audiences) should not try to follow each sentence, but to let the overall momentum carry them to the last 10 minutes of the film, which pull it all together.

The topic is serious, but it was submitted as a comedy for Golden Globes consideration, and that’s appropriate. And while some pundits might question Steve Carell being touted for lead in an ensemble film — again, appropriate. He’s the moral compass for the audience.

There are echoes of “Moneyball” (also based on a Michael Lewis book), “The Wolf of Wall Street,” this year’s excellent “99 Homes” and others. But the film directed by Adam McKay (and written by him and Charles Randolph) has its own unique approach.

It also has star power: Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling (great), Christian Bale (as a goofball/genius) and Carell. And there are good contributions in smaller roles from Billy Magnussen, Melissa Leo and Marisa Tomei, among others.

The film, which had the primo spot as the Nov. 12 closing night of AFI Fest, is being distributed by Paramount film. It’s a tribute to Regency and the Plan B team, including Dede Gardner, Brad Pitt and Jeremy Kleiner, who continue to push the envelope. They are making films that have something to say, in an era when those kind of movies are becoming increasingly difficult. And that’s always good news for people in the industry, including voters.

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