Tag Archives: Producer

Behind The Scenes: “The Big Short”

Here’s a peek behind the scenes of the major collaborators from “The Big Short”:

The film, directed by Adam McKay, is based on the book, “The Big Short: Inside The Doomsday Machine,” by Michael Lewis, and was adapted by McKay and Charles Randolph.

The film’s narrative is driven by four cynical, fringe Wall Street entities disgusted with the large banking institutions’ overriding greed for profits. They make the decision to capitalize on the ensuing housing market calamity and the financial meltdown of 2008 upon discovering the market frenzy is being driven by worthless “dog shit” collateral debt obligations.  viewed the film at the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood, California as the closing night film of the 2105 AFIFEST. It was also the film’s world premiere.

McKay chooses to inject a significant dose of humor in the early scenes to condition the audience receptors for what they are about to experience. Utilizing the Martin Scorsese docu-drama style in a similar setting with “Wolf of Wall Street,” a strong narrative voice dominates particular moments. Several of these deliberately break the ‘Fourth Wall” in the style of “Wolfie,” Jordan Belfort,  as the characters, including a hilarious cameo by Selena Gomez, speak directly into the camera to explain the complexities of Wall Street financials. The overall effect adds additional humor and adds another layer in creating a sense of authenticity and truth about the film’s subject matter.

After a rather lengthy dizzying, yet delightful, character introduction, the film picks up pace as the drama begins to unfold. Dr. Michael Burry, an eccentric financial analyst, with complete autonomy of an investment fund, uncovers variables in his economic forecast indicating a massive housing market collapse.  He informs his higher up, Lawrence Fields, played convincingly by Tracy Letts, of his discovery and creates a financial prospectus. In essence, he creates a commodity of selling short on bundled mortgages.

The bankers laugh as they willingly sell Burry all the “insurance” he wants. Word quickly spreads of Burry’s perceived madness in a after-work cocktail scene. With interest piqued upon overhearing the Wall Street gossip of the day, Jarred Bennett, portrayed by Ryan Gosling, scoops up the essence of Burry’s move. Soon, he sells a group led by Steve Carell’s all-too-human, Mark Baum to buy in.

As the debacle is in full free-fall, Baum struggles with disbelief as he and his group have bet against their own umbrella entity, Morgan Stanley. The final team that has uncovered the impending financial crisis, made up of two Wall Street neophytes and veteran Ben Rickert, played by one of the film’s producers, Brad Pitt, also struggles with the imploding financial system caused by corporate greed and indifference.

With a mammoth cast, McKay draws on a plethora of talent in the likes of Hollywood A-listers including Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, Selena Gomez, Christian Bale, Karen Gillan Steve Carell, Marisa Tomei, Melissa Leo and Finn Wittrock. McKay and Randolph create characters with witty dialogue coupled with complementary cinematography provided by Barry Ackroyd. The soundtrack carries a similar tone of “Wolf of Wall Street,” with a compilation of classic rock anthems. Nicholas Britell widely recognized for his work on Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave,” where Britell composed on set the on-screen violin performances, work songs, dances and spiritual songs rarely misses a beat this time out. Much like another AFI FEST 2015 film, “The Clan,” Argentina’s official entry to the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Best Foreign Language Category for Oscar, “The Big Short,” musical score is often in juxtaposition to the the narrative and mise-en-scen adding a deeper visceral quality to the viewing experience.

In its most basic essence, “The Big Short,” builds on the visceral truth of Scorsese’s “Wolf of Wall Street.” It depicts a not-so-long-ago present where a noble ideal, making home ownership a reality for Americans, is bastardized by the indifferent market forces of capitalism. Probably not what Adam Smith had in mind when he penned his treatise, “The Wealth of Nations.” Warmly Recommended.


The Danish Girl

In Director Tom Hooper’s (King’s Speech, Les Miserables’) latest work, The Danish Girl, Brit Eddie Redmayne and Swedish starlet, Alicia Vikander deliver tour-de-force performances as Einar and Gerda Wegener, a loving Danish couple, struggling with transgender issues that culminates in the world’s first sex reassignment surgery.

Redmayne’s performance is generating significant Oscar buzz with most pundits proclaiming it’s his best performance to date surpassing last year’s Oscar winning portrayal of Steven Hawking, in Director James Marsh’s Theory of Everything. 

And not to be overlooked is Vikander’s screen steadying influence as Gerda. Gerda witnesses her husband Einar’s metamorphosis with a strength steeped in loving kindness.

Vikander’s momentum gathering acting locomotion is not going unnoticed. She’s received double nominations from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for Best Actress for her work in The Danish Girl, and Best Supporting Actress for her work in  Ex Machina, in the upcoming 2016 Golden Globes.

I saw The Danish Girl last night at the Paseo Nuevo theater in Santa Barbara. Critics are praising the film for its arthouse aesthetics and its delicate handling of “an oh so often not talked about rather taboo topic” of (until the recent emancipation of Caitlyn Jenner) – transgenderism.

In my opinion, Hooper’s work adds value to the transgender movement in attracting a more traditional audience segment with its exquisite 1920’s European mise-en-scen and its well costumed, stellar acting corps.

Eve Stewart again handles Hooper’s  production design providing a familiar look and style along the lines of King’s Speech and Les Miserables’. Paco Delgado follows suits as he costumes in a fashion recognizable from his wardrobe work in Les Miserables.

In addition to Redmayne and Vikander’s immersive performances, American actress Amber Heard provides a delightful respite as Ulla from the film’s resounding seriousness while Belgian Matthias Schoenaerts provides a decidedly masculine presence as Hans Axgil during Einar metamorphosis into Lili Elbe.

Accomplished composer and Frenchman Alexandre Desplat scores The Danish Girl with a subtle nuance augmenting Hooper’s genteel helming.

The Danish Girl was adapted from American David Ebershoff’s book of the same name published in 2000. Wholeheartedly recommended.

Sundance Festival Adds Seven Films and Events to the 2016 Lineup

Sundance Institute has added seven additional films and events to the 2016 Sundance Film Festival including two new feature films, three archive films and two special events.

The two new feature films are Tickled, a stranger than fiction documentary about a mysterious tickling competition, and Becoming Mike Nichols, an intimate film into the acclaimed director/producer constructed from interviews filmed in the months leading up to his death.  Tickled, is entered in the World Cinema Documentary Competition and Becoming Mike Nichols is listed under Documentary Premieres. Both films are making world premieres at Sundance 2016.

The three archive films selected hail from the Sundance Collection housed at UCLA as part of the film preservation program specifically dedicated to independent documentaries, narratives and short films supported by Sundance Institute (established 1997) are City of Hope (1991), from director and screenwriter John Sayles, River of Grass (1994)  from director and screenwriter, Kelly Reichardt, and Walking and Talking (1996), from director and screenwriter, Nichole Holocener.

The new special events are American Epic, and  Dazed and Confused. Both events will include live conversations with the creators and producers. American Epic, is the story behind the synthesis of modern music and will include live performances by artists including the Avett Brothers as well as extended conversations from Robert Redford, Jack White and T Bone Burnett. For Dazed and Confused, Richard Linklater and Jason Reitman will share their filmmaking stories, behind-the-scenes insights and funny anecdotes about a film with a cast of unknowns who went on to become household names.

For the latest updates and to access the full line up to the 2016 Festival click here: Digital Program Guide.


The American Film Institute (AFI) has announced its recipients of The AFI Awards 2015: Honoring A Year Of Excellence.

Movies of the Year                             TV Programs of the Year

The Big Short                                                The Americans

Bridge of Spies                                              Better Call Saul

Carol                                                                Black-ish

Inside Out                                                      Empire

Mad Max: Fury Road                                    Fargo

The Martian                                                   Game of Thrones

Room                                                               Homeland

Spotlight                                                        Master of None

Star Wars: The Force Awakens                 Mr. Robot

Straight Outta Compton                            Unreal






The award is the only national honor for each creative team as a whole documenting the year’s most artistically and culturally significant films and television programming. AFI recognizes and celebrates the collaborative nature of the art form with its AFI Awards.

This year the iconic TV series, Mad Men,  receives recognition for its contributions to America’s cultural legacy with an AFI Special Award.

Maltin Modern Master Award


(Photo credit: http://www.latino-review.com)


       Johnny Depp has been named this year’s recipient of the newly renamed Maltin Modern Master Award for the 31st annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF). Previously known as The Modern Master Award, it is the highest accolade presented by the SBIFF and is presented to “an individual who has enriched our culture through accomplishments in the motion picture industry.”
       SBIFF Executive Director, Roger Durling, says, “Johnny Depp is a true embodiment of a modern master. He has had a long and storied career that has shown his commitment to taking on compelling and dynamic roles. But in the gripping film BLACK MASS under the skillful direction of Scott Cooper, Johnny Depp delivers his defining performance to date.”
       The award was renamed this year to honor the long-time, well known film critic, Leonard Maltin, who moderated the event for over 25 years and will be presented on Saturday, February 6th at Santa Barbara’s historic Arlington Theater. For more information on how to get tickets click here.