Friday, January 20, 2017

Decade of Best Pictures: SPOTLIGHT

Welcome to the first DECADE OF BEST PICTURES series of reviews where we will be taking a look at a decade of Best Picture winners over the course of 10 days. In this series we will be looking at the decade of Best Pictures from 2005-2015 in reverse chronological order! This first entry will be for the 2015 Best Picture winner SPOTLIGHT!

Spotlight is a 2015 movie from director Tom McCarthy that chronicles the true story about the Spotlight team at the Boston Globe in the early 2000s as they uncover the local and international systemic child-molestation scandal and cover-up by priests and the Catholic Church. The film stars Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Brian d'Arcy James, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Stanely Tucci, and Billy Crudup.

I’m going to come straight out: this is an incredible film. As someone who is a massive cynic about journalism and genuinely believes the world has lost its journalistic integrity, to see a film about journalists doing their jobs, and doing them properly, is powerful. Watching this film gives me a lot of hope and inspiration. For the dying local paper business, that is a powerful thing. I really don’t think that I can understate this from a social importance standpoint. Much like the classic film Network, this film tells the other side of the same story and the pairing is really important. There’s a lot of bad but we need to keep the good going.

Beyond the social significance, this is an extremely well made film. The directorial vision, the drab, but real, cinematography, and the performances are all phenomenal and work to produce a technically excellent film. McCarthy takes you through this story in a really detailed and interesting way that feels, in some ways, like a noir. It is filled with the finding of subtle clues and the frustrating process of having a good idea of your conclusion but having no idea how to prove that conclusion. Only a great director could manage what this film pulls off.

The cinematography is also really great in this film. This was shot by Masanobu Takayanagi who shot Warrior, The Grey, Silver Linings Playbook, and Black Mass and he does a brilliant job. There is nothing flashy about it. This film looks as drab as Boston can look. They have scenes in really stark and bland newsrooms that somehow keep you engaged. There is also a brilliant scene in the bowels of a library that are so true to life believable that make this film hit home even harder with me. I think the choices made in this area make this film what it is, which is rarely something that can be said for cinematography.

Finally, the performances in this film are uniformly great, and sometimes spectacular. Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber, Stanely Tucci, Mark Ruffalo, and Rachel McAdams all stand out and all for extremely different reasons. Keaton plays a conflicted and stern newsman who feels immense guilt that only grows as more is discovered. Schreiber is this quiet and reserved character that is dead set on breaking through the nonsense to get to the truth. Tucci is frank and unique with a poignant perspective on the world that is constantly captivating. Ruffalo is emotive and is the voice of the audience in the film to a level of perfection. McAdams brings out a sense of empathy that the film needs and does so with a wonderful sensitivity and brilliance. All of these roles are so different but they are done at such a high level that they combine to create a performance piece that truly merits a standing ovation.

There is basically nothing wrong with this film. I would say it doesn’t reach total perfection for me because it only connected on an intellectual level. I love this film intellectually but, though I have some emotional investment, I didn’t emotionally invest entirely in this film like I should have. I also thought there was one character (Billy Crudup’s) that could have used a little more time to get his story out.

Overall, Spotlight is a magnificent and socially important work of cinema. It wouldn’t necessarily have been my choice for Best Picture, however the Academy did, seemingly, select a great film and one that will endure because of the enduring significance of its message coupled with the extremely high level of filmmaking on display.

Ryan’s Score: 9.5/10

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