The M&M Report: “The Big Short” and Celebrity Deaths

Big Short.jpgMark and Devin review Adam McKay’s political comedy The Big Short, which features noisy performances and bad hairdos from Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell and Brad Pitt. Then they look back on a particularly painful week for celebrity deaths to analyze how people respond to the news that their favorite Hollywood stars have passed.

The Big Short discussion starts at 0:45. Celebrity deaths begins at 24:47.

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Peruse the M&M Report category page for previous episodes of the podcast. Thanks for listening.

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“The Big Short”: Big Swings, Short Fuse

Everything in The Big Short is a little off. Scenes end a beat or two before one of the characters finishes his sentence. Brief snippets of unrelated events creep into the spaces between sequences. The movie’s central foursome – Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt — don’t look their glamorous best. Celebrity cameos and profane outbursts punctuate what seems at first like a standard ripped-from-the-headlines drama. Funny bits and striking melancholy appear hand-in-hand, not clashing, but not quite fusing either.

The “directed by” credit accounts for some of the movie’s unusual energy. Adam McKay, who also co-scripted this adaptation Michael Lewis’ novel of the same name with Charles Randolph (Love & Other Drugs), is best known for his big-budget, big-hit studio comedies. Most of them star Will Ferrell and a cadre of assorted funny people improvising until their ears turn blue. McKay is not the first person you’d think of to direct a politically charged account of the year leading up to the 2008 financial meltdown. But his outsider’s approach actually fits the story, which is about the sloppy-looking but sharp-thinking Wall Street outsiders who saw the crash coming. That they did nothing to stop it is the specter that hangs over even the movie’s funniest bits like a dense fog. McKay mines this rinky-dink bunch for the comedy of their absurd behavior. If you pay close enough attention, though, you see him seeding the ground for a slow-burning gut punch. These are the men who could have saved millions of livelihoods – and didn’t.

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The M&M Report: “Steve Jobs”

Jobs

On this episode of The M&M Report, Devin Mitchell and I discuss the notorious box-office bomb Steve Jobs, a big-budget prestige drama from a major studio that’s performing almost exactly the same as the 2013 indie drama Jobs (starring Ashton Freaking Kutcher).

Peruse the M&M Report category page for previous episodes of the podcast. Thanks for listening!

“American Hustle”: The Roaring 70s

American Hustle

Perhaps the biggest pleasure of the enormously pleasurable American Hustle is watching four of the finest living movie stars sink their teeth into meaty roles and have more fun than you’re ever likely to have. Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence make up the movie’s central quartet of lovable conmen and conmen wannabes, each apparently engaging in a contest to see which one can generate the most onscreen sparks. Anchored by this magnificent quartet, director David O. Russell’s follow-up to last year’s Oscar winning romance Silver Linings Playbook is overlong, narratively confounding, tonally precarious and utterly exhilarating.

Though the story is inspired by the FBI’s utterly insane Abscam sting, which claimed four senators and one representative in the late 1970s, an amusing introductory title card makes Russell’s intentions quite clear. “Some of this actually happened,” the card reads, absolving the movie of any pesky adherence to historical fact. The movie revels in this freedom. It’s not a documentary, nor does it pretend to be. Rather, as scripted by Russell and Eric Singer, it’s an exploration of four characters searching for their own identities even as they assume others.

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