I do this every year, but I love politics. See, that wasn’t hard to say and yet, so many of us go out of our way to not get into a political conversation; too scared to offend the other person. Why? The reality is politics affect virtually everything in life, no matter the country, state or city that you reside in. Politics, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is the art or science of government. The organization dedicated to the advancement of the arts and sciences of motion pictures is The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. That’s an odd coincidence, or is it? Fact is politics just about rule this ceremony each and every year, a reality we all need to except, including yours truly. So, I guess I shouldn’t be shocked with the recent news of the Academy issuing a statement to reform the voting rights and membership rules, by adding more women and minorities in membership and changing lifetime voting rights. That’s a good first step in the right direction, all be it far too late given how politics have tarnished what use to be a much shinier golden statuette. Having said that, it’s still the ‘super bowl’ for movies and the one award show casual moviegoers will tune in for, even if they hadn’t seen any of the eight films nominated for Best Picture. So, it’s in that spirit I introduce “Spotlight,” the most controversial film among all the nominees and one that just happens to be coming out on DVD tomorrow.
There’s no doubt journalism has taken a hit during the 21st century. What used to be known as a ‘cool’ profession has nearly faded away thanks to the growth of the internet. Too many voices and outlets almost cloud the essence of journalism and the power it can have. Sure there are still pockets within the industry doing what it takes to publish hard stories that grab readers, but it’s getting harder and harder to find. So it didn’t take much for me to latch on to a film like “Spotlight,” which not only focuses on a controversial story with the Catholic Church, it shows journalism in a light many of us either forgot about or have never seen. Back to the church though, which cannot be understated given the enormity of this story that broke in 2001. Problem is, most people either forgot or didn’t pay attention to it given it was heating up about the time 9/11 happened. So it was good that director Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer worked that into this story because bad things do happen which can obviously delay stories even as big as this one was. That said, what I found most surprising was how the Catholic Church was OK with the film. Figure after so many years of hiding something as terrible as this, you would want to deflect and deny whatever you could. But, as Cardinal Sean O’Malley of the Archdiocese of Boston said in an article in the The Boston Globe, “Spotlight illustrates how the newspaper’s reports prompted the church to deal with what was shameful and hidden.” That’s big and just part of the reason why this film has been such a winner amongst critics.
People might not like the fact that dramas tend to dominate award season, but the reality is, they tend to be the best overall films. Sure, a comedy can be great and probably deserves to be among the final picks for Best Picture, but a drama has a way of leaving you motionless. Plain and simple, dramas can be very powerful and “Spotlight” was no different. Maybe it was a given considering the story centered on the Catholic Church, but I still had no idea what this amazing team from the The Boston Globe did back in 2001. What a story to tell and one that really should be lifted up given the impact it had going forward. Sometimes true stories can be hard to watch, but not this time, as Director Tom McCarthy was able to pull out excitement in the oddest of places. With backdrops consisting of cold colors and clean lines, McCarthy made sure the story, not set dominated the headlines supporting his nod for writing. I just don’t understand the nod he also got for directing. It’s absurd when you left guys like Steven Spielberg and Ridley Scott out of the mix. I know, I have already said my peace about that, but it did make me look back to see when the last time a director won the Oscar over someone more deserving. I get it, you can’t nominate all eight directors behind the films chosen for Best Picture, but I can tell you that Tom Hooper winning back in 2010 for “The Kings Speech” was ridiculous. Anyone with a brain knows that Christopher Nolan deserved it for “Inception” that year, but that was then and this is now. McCarthy, despite the amazing work he and Singer did with the script that might turn into gold, will not have the same fate for directing. It’s just not the kind of film you think was helped by the director, much like its editing nod which it will also not win thanks to far better choices.
I always find it interesting with films like “Spotlight,” the cast tends to look a certain way supporting its Screen Actors Guild Award for ‘Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.’ But, there’s not really a huge star or trending star. There’s just a group of really talented actors all doing their job. It doesn’t sound sexy, but it gets the job done and leading this group was none other than Michael Keaton, who wasn’t nominated. I know, I was shocked too, but I guess his nomination for “Birdman” last year was his only chance. Some may argue he was second fiddle to Mark Ruffalo here, but to me Keaton made sure this story moved along with just a subtle gesture or moment. What a presence, yet he was snubbed in favor of Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams, who were good, but not great. For McAdams, this felt like something we have seen before from her while Ruffalo just looked uncomfortable, almost taking you out of this powerful story. So whether he was overplaying it on purpose based on how Michael Rezendes acted or moved, it wasn’t as consistent as I would have liked. But, we’ll see what happens as I have been known to miss on this category once or twice. Then again, with competition like Mark Rylance and Tom Hardy on the ballot, I think I’m safe.