If I Were an Academy Member: David Mumpower
By David Mumpower
February 27, 2016
How pleased am I with the Best Picture nominees this year? Well, five of my top ten movies for the year including four of my top five made the list, so…
Seriously, this never happens. It’s not even close. My taste in film is the polar opposite of mainstream as a rule. I generally spend the body of the month before the Academy Awards mocking the selections. I have no idea what to do with myself this week. Everything I say sounds almost servile in its positivity. I’m the Waylon Smithers of the 2016 Oscars.
In my evaluation, every Best Picture nominee falls somewhere between good and spectacular. This will never happen again, so I’m trying to savor it. Keeping in mind my overwhelming positivity about the depth and quality of the list, here are my rankings for this year’s potential winners.
1) The Big Short
I don’t simply adore The Big Short. I’m also in awe of it. I’ve read the Michael Lewis book of the same name. I’m also someone who gets quoted in the business section of newspapers and major websites on occasion due to my knowledge of economics. I say this to note that I struggled with some of the concepts in the book, most notably the synthetic CDO aka the CDO-squared. As much as I loved the stories Lewis chose to highlight in his book, I considered the book effectively un-filmable.
When I finally saw the trailer for The Big Short, I was even more confused. It…looked like a comedy. The novel is funny but not funny ha-ha. It’s heartbreaking, infuriating, and maddening. And even the big “winners” in the book are people who are the big business equivalent of war profiteers. They succeeded as the rest of the civilized world suffered. They’re innately dislikable for this reason, even though each one deserves admiration for their instincts and deductive abilities.
My point is that there are dozens of reasons why The Big Short shouldn’t work as a movie. The fact that it’s brilliant is impressive enough. The way that it accomplishes this in the face of such a large handicap blows my mind. The Big Short recently debuted on Digital HD. I’ve already watched it on Vudu several more times. While portions of it are difficult to watch since literally every anecdote has a basis in fact, this is exactly the sort of bold filmmaking the world needs. It is edutainment disguised as a Hollywood blockbuster starring A-list talent. The Big Short makes economics fun even as it bitterly laments its own story. For that premise to work, the tone has to be pitch perfect, and I give writer/director Adam McKay tremendous credit for what he’s accomplished here.