Way before we met ORPHAN BLACK, Tricia Helfer was wowing us in a “multi-clone” role on BATTLESTAR:GALACTICA. Now she is joining the cast of POWERS in a characters fans of the series will surely recognize. Plus you will surely recognize one of Brandon Stacey’s more famous roles (STAR TREK THE NEW VOYAGES) but wait until you see his other great acting experiences.
Tagged: The Big Short
When I started making this list I was very down on 2015 but I was wrong. I was delighted to relive all of these films; 2015 was a fantastic year.
Honorable Mention: Get Hard – Get Hard is not a movie I reviewed for this site or even one I saw theatrically but rather on an airplane. The marketing for Get Hard was so unappealing to me, but I laughed harder while watching it than I did at any other movie this year. It had all of the uncomfortable moments where this or that rape joke or borderline racist moment happens but it’s overpowered by better jokes and a better attitude. I’m not much for movie quotes anymore but I have found myself saying “You are a disappointment to your parents, who I fucked” a few too many times for polite conversation and that’s got to be worth something.
- Furious 7/The Big Short – These are the movies that are probably not good enough to be on this list that I just couldn’t bring myself to cut. In their individual ways these films were both made for me. Furious 7 is not as good as Fast Five or Fast & Furious 6 but the goodwill from those sublime pieces of action cinema is too strong in me. I can’t dislike that movie even if the action sequences might be finally tipping over the edge of my suspension of disbelief and even if the characters might be getting a little too cartoony I love it too much. The touching tribute to Paul Walker is just icing on the cake.Similarly as a economics major who now works as a film critic I’m not sure any film has ever been aimed quite so squarely at me than The Big Short. Explaining the 2008 financial collapse in an understandable way is a herculean task and they accomplish it with no lack of gusto. The acting and the directing are also fantastic, but they feel a little too much like they’re aiming for awards to rate higher on this list. I don’t go to baseball games to see the players swing for the fences with every at bat, and I would appreciate a little more subtlety in my cinema as well.
- Inside Out – The real brilliance of Inside Out is in the simplicity of the idea. Of course our emotions are different people inside our heads just like of course our toys come to life when we aren’t looking. It just makes an intrinsic amount of sense. Inside Out is a simple story told very well with dizzying highs and devastating emotional lows and that kind of journey is rare in any movie and even more so in movies intended for children. That Pixar has made this kind of filmmaking so routine is a testament to their sublime artistry and I’m so happy to have them around.
- Straight Outta Compton – It’s been a long time coming for a serious filmmaker to make a movie about the dawn of hip-hop in a way that respects its audience, acknowledges the political reality that was urban America in the mid-80s, and respects the artistry the same way the endless parade of rock biopics have done over the years. Straight Outta Compton fulfils that promise and more. I hate when people describe actors as “channeling” a real person when they portray them on film but I feel myself reaching for that word when I want to describe how uncanny the acting performances were in this film. The icing on the cake is how relevant the struggles with the police feel even 30 years later because of the myriad ways nothing has really changed.
I probably don’t need to explain bubble economies to anyone reading this website.
In the mid-90s following a boom period, fueled by the idea that all comic books were guaranteed to increase in value, the comic book industry suffered a collapse that closed two-thirds of comic book stores nationwide. If it weren’t for their bankability as movie and TV properties, it might have forever pushed comic books to the fringes of the American consciousness. I don’t need to explain the volatility of an inflated market to a comic book fan, but if you’d like to see why the financial collapse of 2008 was the same kind of thing magnified 1000x by greed and fraud, I think you’d enjoy The Big Short.
My degree is in economics and I’ve always felt I had a good handle on the 2008 collapse (in fact, despite some of the claims in the film it wasn’t the complete surprise it’s portrayed as) but I’ve struggled to explain it to people, and The Big Short does an amazing job making complicated topics accessible. Director Adam McKay doesn’t hesitate to have characters break the fourth wall to explain the more complicated financial terms, and even brings in celebrity guests to do little vignettes demonstrating more complicated concepts providing clever and offbeat opportunities to bury some clunky exposition. That along with some healthy repetition makes the whole thing easy to understand. The Big Short is a masterful breakdown of a terrible time that I sincerely hope makes filmgoers good and angry.
Everyone in The Big Short seems to be acting as if they think every scene could end up on their Oscar reel. It’s good, but it’s good in that way where you can kind of see how much effort is going in to the performances. Steve Carell is hitting his accent just as hard as he can, and his righteous indignation burns smoldering hot. Christian Bale is playing is playing a character with Asperger’s, and his commitment to nail all the associated eccentricities is admirable but sometimes the seams show. Ryan Gosling is charming and funny and gets a higher laugh per line ratio than anyone else, and honestly probably speaks more than he has in his last three movies combined. It feels a little strange to want to ding a movie for everyone acting so well, but there was such a strong feeling of effort that was just a touch off-putting in an otherwise excellent film.
I suppose I was also a little uncomfortable with the insistence of playing so many of these characters as heroes for their role in the financial collapse. While none of them created the bubble or did anything specifically unethical, there doesn’t seem to be a herculean effort undertaken to stop it. They see something wrong, some of them make a token effort to stop it and then they make staggering amounts of money off of being right. Even Brad Pitt who seems inserted in to the movie solely to provide indignation on behalf of those who will be hurt when the economy collapses, doesn’t do anything to stop anything. If this is supposed to be a real takedown of the excesses of the system that almost destroyed the world less than a decade ago I wish it were a little harsher on the people who were simply willing to claim a slight moral high ground while pocketing nine figure sums for their trouble.
I went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens on opening night. That’s not incredibly impressive because so did almost everyone else. While I was on line for my overpriced movie snacks, I did overhear a very interesting conversation. Three guys in their late twenties, talking about the Bechdel test and if certain movies would pass or fail.
In case you don’t know what the Bechdel test is, here are some details. The Bechdel test (also known as the Bechdel-Wallace test) first appeared in Alison Bechdel’s comic strip Dykes To Watch Out For. In a strip published in 1985 “The Rule”, two women discuss seeing a film and one of them lays out these rules that we have all come to use. The rules are: 1) The movie has to have at least two women in it, 2) who talk to each other, 3) about something besides a man. After the comic strip’s publication, it has also become common to require that both women have character names.
It has been applied to TV shows on a regular basis. I’m fairly certain that every episode of Buffy hasn’t passed this test. Teenage girls do spend a lot of time whining about their undead boyfriends in between saving the world from the bad guy. And my favorite comic book, The Life and Times of Savior 28, definitely doesn’t pass. (You should still read it though.) These examples don’t diminish the fact that this test, while far from perfect, is our only real judge of women in movies or any form of media.
So back to my eavesdropping. Here are three fairly young good looking albeit kinda hipster guys chatting about the Bechdel test and how movies need to change to better represent women. They were talking about the movie The Big Short in the context that women weren’t as involved with the real life events (which I don’t know is true) so that is why it probably won’t pass. They actually got really serious and intense in talking about the gender inequality in movies, especially in relation to the Bechdel test.
So, in overhearing all of this, I started to giggle. One of them caught my eye and we began to chat. I told them that the test had worked perfectly in their case because it made their discussion happen. When this comic was published, this conversation wasn’t happening on a movie concession line or probably anywhere else. When it finally started, it was women forcing the conversation upon men, as they explored the possibilities for equality in movies. Now, men are becoming equal partners in wanting to see change happen.
I’m not saying this change is going to be immediate; in fact it has been going on for longer than anyone’s lifetime who is reading this. Nevertheless, compared to 30 years ago when this was published, the conversation is happening on a public level. Yes, there are still people who deny the conversation exists, and we all know that equality is a hot button issue right now.
The world isn’t perfect and there is still a lot of room to grow. Sometimes the way things are really gets me down. But sometimes, I overhear the very best things and get re-inspired that we can change for the better.