Friday, November 6, 2015

They All Shine in SPOTLIGHT

I saw SPOTLIGHT for free at a special screening.  I will pay to see it again at a cineplex.  The movie is that good.  As I wrote in September, do not be surprised to hear that Spotlight gets an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. I would give Rachel McAdams an Oscar nomination right now for Best Supporting Actress.  I've seen her in several movies but I have never seen her as alive, as real and as committed to a character as she is in Spotlight.  She becomes that sharp, tireless, working class reporter who doggedly pursues the truth and spends many often dreary hours on foot doing the hard work of an investigative journalist for a Boston newspaper.  She plays a member of the investigative news team for The Boston Globe that broke the major and startling story of sex abuse allegations against Catholic priests and the church cover-ups that followed.  Boston is a very Catholic city and this scandal shocked those of the Catholic faith.
The head of this team for the "Spotlight" section of the paper is played by Michael Keaton.  Is he good enough for another Oscar nomination, one to follow the nomination he got for Birdman? Yes.
Birdman won the Oscar for Best Picture of 2014.  In it, Keaton played a middle-aged actor in a career lull.  Twenty years earlier, he was a top Hollywood action movie star.  Now he's turned to the serious Broadway stage for reinvention and career revival.  There is opposition.  There's prejudice against him because he was a Hollywood star.  He's in the cast of a company in troubled rehearsals for a Broadway drama slated to open.  The company has individual egos. The talented but neurotic actors never seem to come together as a team to put on the show.  That's just the opposite in Spotlight.  This company works together as a team.  A hard-working, no frills team at a time when journalism itself is on the brink of major changes due to social media and the aftermath of the September 11th attacks.  Here's a preview.
Spotlight is an outstanding newspaper journalism drama in a league with Alan Pakula's 1976 classic, All the President's Men.  Just like in that movie starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford, a film also based on a true story, we see the essentials of journalism as it once was.  Reporters take notes by hand, they ask questions, they ask follow-up questions, they go to libraries and do research, they pound the pavement doing footwork in pursuit of the truth.  They work the phones.  They write and write and write.  Let's face it.  We're now in an age in which newspapers are disappearing.  In this digital age of social media, people rewrite press releases or retweet items on Twitter and consider themselves journalists for doing so.  They google Wikipedia instead of checking sources in a library.  In that regard, Spotlight praises a sadly disappearing era in the art of journalism.
Spotlight also works as a tale of redemption.  After America was attacked, we've read that there were signs of possible danger, signs that some officials in Washington didn't fully regard.  Were there signs in Boston that priests had been sexually inappropriate?  Were there adult males who, in youth, had been sexually molested by priests but their stories seemed to fall on deaf journalistic ears?  Something had to be done.

I'm Catholic and come from a Catholic family.  Most of my education was in parochial schools.  The first time I ever heard about a priest being sexually inappropriate was when I was a young adult, new in my broadcast career and working in Milwaukee.  I was at a neighborhood bar with friends and struck up a conversation with a friendly guy about Catholic school.  We traded stories about being altar boys.  Then we talked about altar boy retreats.  I never went on one but he used to attend them.  He stopped when a priest came into his room one night.  "The next thing I know, he's on top of me," he said seriously.  I was stunned and speechless for a moment because I'd never heard of such a thing.  I said, "Did you tell your parents?"  He replied that his parents would've killed him had he ever said something like that about the beloved priest.  There was nothing he could do.  And then I got it.  It wasn't just sex.  It was power.  The abuse of power.
That reality is in Spotlight.  That newspaper team is the David going up against the powerful corporate Goliath of the Catholic Archdiocese. This is an excellent movie with fine actors in top form.  Besides Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams, the cast includes Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci, John Slattery and Billy Crudup.  It was written and directed by Tom McCarthy.  He also directed and wrote The Station Agent, The Visitor and Win Win.  Those three I'd highly recommend for weekend DVD rentals. I'll not be surprised if Tom McCarthy gets Oscar nominations for writing and directing Spotlight.

Put it on your cineplex movie list.  Spotlight is one of the best films of this year.


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