Friday, April 8, 2016

2015: Spotlight

It starts relatively small: a Boston priest is accused of molesting children. No one at the Boston Globe is particularly interested in this story, until the new editor-in-chief asks the four-person investigative team known as "Spotlight" to dig deeper. What they uncover is an alarmingly widespread pattern of sexual abuse within a system that looks the other way and enables it to continue indefinitely.

While I definitely liked this better than the previous year's winner, it's certainly not the best film to ever win this award. The pacing isn't ideal. The beginning in particular is very slow and draggy and rather boring, and I couldn't help thinking, Really? THIS won Best Picture? Once the Spotlight team actually starts investigating, it gets much more engaging, but it's still lacking in some respects. The screenplay won an Oscar, but while there was some good writing, much of the dialogue was flat and felt artificial: more than once I thought the characters would have worded things differently than the lines. But I could have been wrong about that because there isn't an overabundance of character development, so I might have gotten a different impression of the characters than intended. However, after the first fifteen minutes or so, I was fascinated enough by the story that the better aspects of the film outweighed these flaws, and I came away with an overall positive opinion of the movie.

I think the lack of character development actually works somewhat well in that it shifts the focus away from the journalists and onto the story they're covering. The scenes when they're interviewing victims are very well done, and I wanted more of those. On the other hand, I had trouble with the scenes when they were interviewing or talking about people who knew that this was going on and either did nothing or made the problem worse because I kept getting them mixed up, so a little more character development would have been nice. Overall the performances are solid. Mark Ruffalo mumbles a lot, which makes him hard to understand, but I like the way he portrays his character's enthusiasm. The rest of the Spotlight group - Michael Keaton in his second Best Picture winner in a row, Rachel McAdams (halfway through my mom turned to me and asked, "Is that Regina George?"), and Brian D'Arcy James, who I did not recognize with that mustache - all do a good job of portraying slightly different reactions to the story as it unfolds. I like the way the four of them interact; they make a believable team. Personally, though, I found the supporting performances by Liev Schreiber, as the driven, poker-faced new editor-in-chief, and Stanley Tucci, as an eccentric attorney determined to help victims, more outstanding than the leading performances. But again, maybe we aren't supposed to get to know the main characters very well.

It seems pretty obvious that this film won Best Picture more for the subject matter than for being an exceptional movie. I haven't seen most of the other nominees yet, but I find it hard to believe that this was the best of the bunch. Granted, it is a very intriguing and disturbing story, but the execution is lacking. Some scenes are unnecessary, some need to be expanded upon. Most of the tension in the story feels artificial and forced - was it actually likely that other papers would steal the documents the second they were released, especially since no one else knew they were available? Chill, Mark Ruffalo. I was also confused by the big epiphany that they should use the record books to find priests that followed the pattern of disappearing and reappearing in a new parish every few years, since I'd assumed that was why they'd taken the books in the first place. To summarize: it's a decent movie, and I'm glad I saw it, but it has too many flaws to make it truly deserving of this award.

I don't have a clue what's coming up next, but in the meantime you should read my blog about Best Actress Winners here. I'm caught up except for the most recent winner, so now I'm trying to decide what to blog about next. If you have any suggestions let me know. It doesn't necessarily have to be Oscar-related, but it will probably be movie-related.

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