Free Press: Grim financial world grist for Hollywood’s mill
Hollywood has always excelled at organized crime movies, in which morality was black and white. In such films as The Great Train Robbery (1903), On the Waterfront (1954) The Godfather(1972) Goodfellas (1990) and The Firm (1993), Hollywood producers have made a fortune dissing crime.
“But then comes this new post-2008 genre,” says Brenda Austin-Smith, professor of film studies at the University of Manitoba. “It’s very specific. It invites people to think hard about a rigged system we once believed was righteous and permanent. In some of these movies, money is a character which can do good or evil. In others, money plays the role previously played by nature in disaster movies. Money itself has become the force humanity is fighting to survive.”
Austin-Smith’s personal favourite is The Big Short, winner of the 2016 Oscar for Best Screenplay, because it dared to be both funny and complex about financial corruption. “In this one, high finance is a sharkfest, everyone’s a bad guy, but the industry’s underdogs try to outsmart the heartless elite. As in real life, the audience can hardly tell the good guys from the bad.”