As far as sheer entertainment value goes, The Wolf of Wall Street is one of the best movies to come out in years. Beyond the superficial draw of nudity, swearing, and general debauchery, the films lightning fast pacing, in your face fourth wall breaks and rapid dialogue move the narrative along at such an engaging rate that the three-hour run time is barely noticeable.

Blending equal parts heist film and wild teen party flick, Scorsese wrestles complete control of our attention. Which is why when, halfway through the film, Jordan Belfort turned to the camera and prepared to explain the mechanics of the stock market that make the entire plot of the movie tick, I got excited.

Economics, especially stocks, are complex, abstract and incredibly boring, all things that make them difficult to understand for the average person without a degree in finance. But here we were, totally on board with everything this character said and ready to learn. If the rest of the movie had been Leo Dicaprio explaining the nuances of penny stocks in a New York accent over a backdrop of sex and drugs I would not have complained. Scorsese had been handed the perfect opportunity to shed at least a little light on the muddled mess that is the public knowledge of the economy. And then he very deliberately didn't.

While one could argue that decision was intended to go along with the film's running theme of our complete apathy towards anything that can't be gilded or snorted, I think the real reason for the aversion to explanation was that Scorsese was scared. He was afraid that the good faith built up by his engaging filmmaking style would have already been used up by his decision to make the protagonist as un-heroic as possible. He was afraid that even slightly slowing down the film's rapid pace, even for a 60-second explanation of stocks in a film that had found the time to explain the subtle nuances of how ludes work, would cause him to lose his audience. Despite being best known for its sex, drug use, and excessive use of the F-word, in this particular instance the Wolf of Wall Street played things annoyingly safe.

Apparently I wasn't the only one who thought this. Two years later, out came The Big Short, another movie about financial corruption that capitalized on the same style of fast cutting, bold fourth wall breaks and rapid pacing to hold the audience's attention. But instead of squandering that attention on making some sociological point about crime and punishment, lesson learning and the types of people we're willing to identify with, The Big Short actually explained things. Not for a brief moment to let the audience know the minimum information needed required to follow the plot, but for the entirety of the film. It broke down an extremely abstract subject into digestible information, gave the audience the necessary background needed to understand that information, and topped it all off by making it entertaining. While it was no substitute for a more comprehensive study of the topic, it made strides in defining an issue that so confused so many.

The hypothesis that The Big Short was a response to The Wolf of Wall Street is pure conjecture, and the two may very well have been completely unrelated, but the similarities in style and subject matter are very clear. The Big Short even went as far as to cast Margot Robbie, one of the stars of Wolf, in a brief, unexpected and amusing cameo.

Whether the two are directly related or not, The Big Short still shows that film is a viable medium to explain things to audiences, that issues don't need to be oversimplified or painted in black and white for the public to follow them, and that all of this can still be entertaining and fun to watch. And at the end of the day, I think educating the audience on the causes of a little-understood event that personally and majorly affected the vast majority of them is a little more important than telling them for the umpteenth time that greed is bad.