Oscar cliffhanger: Will ‘The Big Short’ fall short because of bias against comedy director Adam McKay?

the big short adam mckay steve carell

The Big Short” has exceeded expectations this season, so much that it’s now one of three top contenders to win Best Picture at the Oscars, along with “The Revenant” and “Spotlight.” But following losses at the SAG Awards, Directors Guild Awards and BAFTA Awards, I keep wondering if it would be performing even better — maybe even be the bona fide frontrunner to win — if it had a different director.

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To clarify, I don’t mean that “The Big Short” should be better directed. It’s actually my favorite directing achievement nominated for Best Picture. But the academy is notoriously snobbish, favoring prestigious films about weighty subjects by prestigious filmmakers and pedigreed casts.

Sure, “The Big Short” has a weighty subject (the financial collapse) and a pedigreed cast (Oscar-winners Brad Pitt and Christian Bale, Oscar-nominees Ryan Gosling and Steve Carell). But its director, Adam McKay is best-known for broad comedies like “Anchorman” and “Talladega Nights,” which generally don’t win much respect from the academy.

Despite that fact, McKay earned Best Director bids from BAFTA, the DGA and the Oscars. But might he and the film be winning even more prizes if he had a more highfalutin resume? We asked our forum posters. Read some of their comments below and join the discussion:

OnTheAisle: Good question. I was watching the film and wishing that Mike Nichols was still here. He would have been masterful in shaping the film into insightful social commentary.

thedemonhog: Yes, his lack of name prestige is at the core of why people have a hard time accepting “The Big Short” as a serious player … So “The Big Short” missed a lot of precursor director nominations such that it was not taken seriously until the industry announced its nominations and it seems like it has come out of nowhere. To be clear though, “The Big Short” would not be a stronger contender if it had a different director. The BAFTA, DGA and Oscar nominations for Adam McKay prove that. “The Big Short” would be perceived as a stronger contender if it had a different director.

CanadianFan: The media wouldn’t have been so late to recognize it as a contender if someone else directed it. Still, whoever directed “The Big Short” would not be able to take down Inarritu or Miller. The film is just not as technically robust and grandiose, which is what the Academy has been gravitating towards as of late, give or take a “King’s Speech.”

AwardsConnect: It’s an interesting question. My initial hunch was if a sitcom director like James L. Brooks could win an Oscar on his film debut, a seasoned big-screen filmmaker like McKay should be capable of doing so too. That said, I have no doubt there are some stuffy Academy members who will refuse to support McKay based on prior filmography.

JackO: It can’t really be stronger than it already is: a top 3 BP film.

AMG: Quite simply yes. I like to think the film would have been much stronger with another director at the helm. But more than that, one reason I place the film low on my preferred list pretty much across the board is because I don’t like the idea of the director of frigging “Anchorman” being Oscar nominated, and likely winner for writing.

OperaJunky: I think the problem might partially McKay. But I think “The Big Short” is as divisive a film as The Revenant. As much as “The Revenant” is divisive because of its length, brutality, and story, I think “The Big Short” is just as divisive.

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Photo Credits: Adam McKay and Steve Carell by Chelsea Lauren/Variety/REX; “The Big Short” by Paramount Pictures

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