Credit: Paramount Pictures

The Academy Awards are just days away — which means it’s time to buckle down and really get to know this year’s Best Picture contenders. Today’s deep-dive is Adam McKay’s adaptation of Michael Lewis’ book about the Wall Street mavericks who made millions betting against the American economy because they predicted the 2007-8 mortgage crisis.

Name: The Big Short

Tweetable description: The guy who made Anchorman explains the economic meltdown, with the help of Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell, Christian Bale, and Brad Pitt.

Movie math: The Big Short = (The Wolf of Wall Street + Margin Call + Network) ÷ Funny or Die

Release date: Dec. 11, 2015

DVD release date: March 15, 2016

Running time: 2 hrs., 10 mins.

Box office: $67.2 million ($10.5 million first wide weekend)

Metacritic rating / Rotten Tomatoes score: 81 / 88 percent.

What Chris Nashawaty said:The Big Short has such a wicked, rat-a-tat energy that by the time it was over, I felt like I’d just seen the movie that The Wolf of Wall Street wanted to be. McKay deserves a lot of credit for making it, and he also deserves to be taken seriously now as a filmmaker. Because with The Big Short, he’s graduated from wiseass to wise man.” A

Best line: “We live in an era of fraud in America. Not just in banking, but in government, education, religion, food, even baseball. What bothers me isn’t that fraud is not nice, or that fraud is mean. It’s that for 15,000 years, fraud and short-sighted thinking have never, ever worked. Not once. Eventually people get caught, things go south. When the hell did we forget all that? I thought we were better than this, I really did.” — Mark Baum (Carell)

Number of Oscar nods: Five, tying with Spotlight and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The nominations are for Best Picture, Supporting Actor (Bale), Director (McKay), Adapted screenplay (McKay and Charles Randolph, based on Lewis’ The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine), and Editing (Hank Corwin).

The Big Short‘s Oscar history: This year represents the first rodeo for McKay, Randolph, and Corwin, but the cast’s big four all have previous nominations: Gosling for Half Nelson, Bale for The Fighter (a win) and American Hustle, Carell for Foxcatcher, and Pitt for several films as an actor or producer (he’s won once, as a producer on 12 Years a Slave). Lewis’ two previous books adapted to the screen, The Blind Side and Moneyball, also garnered Best Picture nominations.

What it’s won thus far: The Big Short has won adapted screenplay honors at the WGA Awards, BAFTA Awards, and Critics’ Choice Awards, and the movie won the top prize at the PGA Awards, which is considered a reliable predictor of Best Picture success at the Oscars.

Why it should win: The Big Short is ambitious, topical, funny, infuriating, well-acted by a crack cast, and creatively realized by a director making an impressive first foray into Oscar territory — a combination no other Best Picture contender can quite claim. It may not be grand or uplifting, but McKay’s film speaks to age-old truths about human nature while telling us about the world we live in now.

Why it won’t win: Spoonfuls of sugar notwithstanding, The Big Short is a pretty bitter pill to swallow. Like its narrator, Jared Vennett (Gosling), the movie is often brash and unsubtle — in one scene a short-sighted S&P employee peers through dark-tinted dilation glasses. And in a year when the lack of diversity in Hollywood has become a hot-button issue, The Big Short is ultimately framed by the story of how a few rich white guys made a fortune on a global economic disaster.

Vegas odds: 6/1, according to Paddy Power, making it the third favorite in the race.

The Big Short
  • Movie