(Check out the list so far)
The Movie: Spotlight (2015)
One Sentence Plot Summary: A group of Boston Globe journalists (FAKE NEWS) expose a wide range of sexual crimes committed by the Catholic Church and show the importance of local reporting.
Why It’s on the List: Something that The Wire and Spotlight have done almost better than any other piece of culture is raise the idea of systemic problems. This is in many ways a spiritual sequel to All the President’s Men in some of the ways it copies certain shots and mirrors some of the actions. However, this story is simultaneously bigger yet more local. All the President’s Men is about the exposure of the Nixon Administration, but no one is evercritiquing the system that allowed Nixon to gain power and commit criminal behavior. Spotlight is much more interested in not only exposing the story of the priests and what they did but trying to see how the church facilitated what happened.
The funny thing about this movie being a spiritual sequel is the involvement of a Ben Bradlee. In this case, John Slattery plays Ben Bradlee Jr. and now I kind of want to see Robards and Slattery in a father/son movie (which unfortunately cannot happen as Robards passed away 20 years ago). This movie is about a team of reporters and editors breaking one of the biggest stories in the history of Boston and eventually the world. I would imagine a lot of people became lapsed Catholics because of this scandal. While not the only reason, this is certainly a contributing factor to my no longer being affiliated with this religion.
Although a favorite of mine, it’s important to remember real people were abused both physically and mentally. I think the film handles these stories in a sensitive manner but is not afraid to provide enough detail to make audience members understand what really happened. Many of the victims are shown to be from Boston’s underclass. They are individuals who have been forgotten or abandoned by their families and then taken advantage by men in power.
Tom McCarthy was involved in both The Wire and in this movie, so it’s easy to see the connections and how easy it is to become a corrupted person. The legal profession does not come across very well in this movie, but this feels like one last gasp for truly great journalism to get its just due.
*This story was handled sensitively. I may be missing something, but I didn’t see anything. If I erred, let me know.
MVP: Tom McCarthy is not exactly known for being an auteur, but he does a very good job of presenting this story in a straightforward fashion very similar to other journalism films of this kind. There isn’t a lot of unnecessary sizzle, and the stories are handled with the utmost sensitivity. It would be easy to give one of the actors because of how great the cast is, but McCarthy’s lack of visual style is beneficial for Spotlight.
Best Performance: There are a lot of contenders for this award, and quite honestly, I could give this to the entire cast, but I’m not going to be a coward. The two showy roles are Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo. They get to confront people and give speeches. Ruffalo comes close to chewing the scenery in his big speech about what the priests really did. You almost forget the fact that Ruffalo is the Incredible Hulk.
I am going to go with Rachel McAdams because just like McCarthy, she is subtle and is the one really connecting to a lot of the victims. She also has some great subtle glances directed toward her work mates as well as her grandmother. We do get to know the characters more personally, and in this case, McAdams has a very catholic grandmother. Them sitting down to read the final story serves as the emotional climax of the film in my mind.
Best Quote: “We’re going after the system.”- Marty Baron
Is there a sequel? No.