'The Big Short': Director Adam McKay makes a move to serious fare

McKay is best known for collaborating with Will Ferrell on films like 'Anchorman' and 'The Other Guys,' but the director's upcoming film 'The Big Short' is getting Oscar buzz.

Jaap Buitendijk/Paramount Pictures/AP
'The Big Short' stars Steve Carell (third from r.) and Ryan Gosling (r.).

The story of “The Big Short,” a movie that tells the true story of people who predicted the 2008 financial crisis, no doubt appeals to audiences and critics, but the director’s name on the movie has caught the eye of many as well.

“Short,” which will enter limited release on Dec. 11 and get a wide release on Dec. 23, is directed by Adam McKay, previously best known for his collaborations with Will Ferrell, having co-written and directed such films as “Anchorman,” “Step Brothers,” and “The Other Guys.” It's received some attention as a possible awards season contender.

Reviewers are noting that “Short” has its humorous moments, but the story in the film is more sobering than the antics of Ferrell’s Ron Burgundy. (“Short” is based on a book by Michael Lewis.) 

“Short” has gotten mixed early reviews, but its release date positions it as a possibility for the Oscars, with other hopefuls like “Carol,” “Spotlight,” and “Room,” to name a few, all having come out within the last few months.

Can McKay go the distance for Oscar season? An intriguing narrative often attracts the interest of awards season voters. McKay switching from big-budget comedies to a star-studded film about the financial crisis has already attracted attention.

Getting a best director nomination is tough, as the Best Picture field has been widened to between five and 10 but the best director list remains capped at five. This year, possible contenders already include Steven Spielberg ("Bridge of Spies"), Tom McCarthy ("Spotlight"), and Alejandro González Iñárritu ("The Revenant"), among several others. It could be difficult for the director to break through in the category, especially if McKay’s “Short” doesn’t make the cut for Best Picture.

But directors who would be first-time nominees, as McKay would be, making the cut is far from impossible. Last year, three out of the five nominees were first-time nominees for best directing. In 2014, two out of the five were nominated for their directing for the first time.

In addition, those who have won the prize in the last several years have almost all been first-time nominees. Recent winners Alfonso Cuarón (“Gravity”), Michel Hazanavicius (“The Artist”), Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech”), Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”), and Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire”) were all first-time nominees. That’s five out of the last seven winners. 

While the field of movies is so different every year, that’s a change from a stretch of time when Hollywood heavyweights took the prize. Beginning around 2002, directors who had been nominated and/or won before like Roman Polanski, Clint Eastwood, and Martin Scorsese dominated the winners’ circle as opposed to newcomers.

As for the chances of “Short” in general, the Academy recently showed it can be won over by a movie about financial misdeeds (though that one came with the added prestige of having been directed by Martin Scorsese). 2013’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” was nominated for Best Picture and Scorsese was nominated for best director, among other nominations. 

Perhaps the subject matter and the fact that it’s an unusual film for McKay will attract voters to “Short” as Oscars season continues.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.