Film Review : Spotlight (2015)

IMDB Score – 8.3
Rotten Tomato Score – 97%
Metacritic Score – 93/100

Directed By – Tom McCarthy
Starring – Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, Brian d’Arcy James, Neal Huff, and Billy Crudup

The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core.

It wasn’t too long ago that I was sitting in my Intro to Journalism class with excitement in my bones because I had finally gotten to the point where I was going to learn how to become something I’ve wanted to become since I was a kid, a journalist. Well, thanks to the very mediocre standards at a particular country college in New Jersey, that dream was, and still is, put on hold. Frankly, I wasn’t a big fan of newspaper journalism. I didn’t care about what was said in the town meeting this weekend because it most likely involved Mrs. Phelp’s rose bush and how she couldn’t expand it due to the stupid creek next to her house which should be filled up. I don’t care about Mrs. Phelps. I wanted and still want to be a conflict journalist. The real dream is travel the world and report on stories that aren’t so readily available to be told. Stories that Vice started to do before they started writing articles on what food is the best before anal sex. I wanted to expose crime and change how people saw the world. This would entail exposing the world as a dark evil place filled with criminals, but at least the rosey colored glasses would be puled back a bit. That dream has been put on hold while I try figure out my life in more immediate ways. That doesn’t however keep me from planning such adventures. They’re still present in my mind. They came back up to the surface in a big way after finishing Tom McCarthy’s 2015 film that thankfully doesn’t star Adam Sandler, Spotlight.

You read the synopsis at the top. You read the newspapers ten years ago. The Catholic Church is fucked up. Like, REALLY REALLY fucked up. My interest in this film was tied to the journalism aspect as I described in the first paragraph, but I also wanted to see how a major market film would handle this kind of subject matter. I turned out to be very pleased with how they decided to do it.

Spotlight is basically This century’s “All the Presidents Men”. Yes, I’m aware that this observation has been realized and written down by probably every single person who has ever talked about this film this year. It does however ring true. McCarthy decided to stay close to the procedural side of telling this story and skip all the shiny dressings that usually accompanies a salad like this. With Spotlight, you have just basic ingredients, except these ingredients are made with extreme care and focus. Gone are the things like romantic ties between main characters. Rachel McAdams and Michael Keaton don’t have a secret love fling. Swirling orchestral music isn’t harpooned at us whenever something emotional or powerful happens. The film lets us do all the work when it comes down to feelings and it’s to the films credit that by the end, my gut has been falcon punched into infinity. The film stands for itself and that’s really what I loved about it. The camera work wasn’t flashy but you can really notice it in small movements during pivotal scenes toward the end. McCarthy didn’t paint a new and unheard of masterpiece with his camera, rather he decided to hunker down and make every damn shot and cut count. It’s a reason why the film got nominated for editing, director, and screenplay. Those three things are what make this film special to me. It’s a technically perfect film as far as pace and tone goes, especially with the dark subject matter. It would almost be insulting to try to throw in cheesy love triangles when talking about something as serious as the rape of A LOT OF KIDS BY PRIESTS.

Speaking of subject matter, uhhhh yeah, it’s pretty horrible. The interviews with the victims and in one case, one of the men responsible, were done extremely well. McAdams does her best work here. I’m honestly a little perplexed why she got nominated for this role as I thought that Charlize Theron was phenomenal in Mad Max, but it’s not like McAdams was in any way bad. It wasn’t special to me. Mark Ruffalo however deserved his nomination. The dude killed it like he usually does. Keaton and the rest of the cast were perfect in their roles and you can’t really go wrong with casting Stanley Tucci in anything. The cast were perfect in their handling of such dark and disturbing subject matter. They were just as invested in their roles as the journalists they were portraying were in theirs.

The film is nominated for Best Picture and honestly, I wouldn’t be upset if it won. It’s not a special effects marvel like The Revenant or Mad Max, but it does what it does perfectly and that is tell the story of one of the biggest scandals of the last couple hundred years. It’s a haunting film that stuck with me for a while after I saw it and will hopefully shed a little more light on the church. My journalism path may be on hold, but I’m happy there was a film this year dedicated to the craft of reporting stories that aren’t getting any light.

4.5/5



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Film Review : Foxcatcher (2014)

IMDB Score – 7.2
Rotten Tomato Score – 88%
Academy Award Nominee for Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Makeup, and Best Original Screenplay

Directed By – Bennett Miller
Starring – Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Sienna Miller, Venessa Redgrave, Anthony Michael Hall, Guy Boyd, and Brett Rice

The greatest Olympic Wrestling Champion brother team joins Team Foxcatcher led by multimillionaire sponsor John E. du Pont as they train for the 1988 games in Seoul – a union that leads to unlikely circumstances.

(I’m going to try a different writing style with this one and see if it works out. Just a FYI)

Like Whiplash, I’ve been aware of this film for a long time as it had a very early run at film festivals early last year. I heard Steve Carell was a revelation, that the film was a contender for Best Picture, and that Bennett Miller crafted a tight thriller aimed to get under your skin. Well, some of those things ended up being true, some didn’t. Let’s get into this.

Steve Carell – This was really the first thing I heard about the film. Steve Carell, Michael Scott himself, can act with the big guys. Considering he was recognized by the Academy, I’d say that he has found his way into talk of great working actors today. I didn’t think however that his performance was as monumental as most are claiming. I think that the fact that it was Steve Carell behind that enormous shnoz added to the talk of greatness. The guy who was speaking gibberish on Bruce Almighty and throwing tridents at people in Anchorman was now taking on a serious acting role in trying to portray John duPont. I think he did as fine a job as anybody could have, I just think the actual part was a bit underwhelming. duPont doesn’t say much. This role was all in the eyes for Carell and by all means did he nail it. My favorite parts of the film were when Carell, as duPont, is confronted with a problem, and his gaze goes cold, and his mind seems to be racing, but there is zero emotion on his face. That’s all Carell. He was able to give off such a creepy and subtle psychosis that even though I didn’t know the outcome of the story, I knew something bad was brewing. David Oyelewo should have been in the Best Actor category, but I had no problem with Carell being there.

The screenplay – This is where the film had its flaws. I love quiet films. This film is VERY quiet. There is a very subtle score consisting of light piano and strings but most of the film is dialogue and while that is happening, there is silence. There were times where this kind of slowness was totally important in the building of these characters. Other times it meandered. There were scenes involving duPont and his obsession with being in control that were important theme wise but seemed to drag on film wise. The two hour and fifteen minute run time felt like three hours mostly due to this meandering. The end of the film was also very abrupt and didn’t really give us reactionary points of view from all parties. Shocking? Oh, hell yeah. The pivotal scene that begins the end of the film is one of the most chilling scenes I’ve seen this year, but after that the film just kind of fades away. I needed more resolve. There was also a lot of holes in the film where Shultz and duPont start to get closer to each other. There’s a scene on a helicopter before a ceremony that leads right into bad haircuts and total character change. Nothing explained it other than what happened on the helicopter. Just felt forced.
Other than that, I felt that the comparison and development of duPont and Mark Shultz was fascinating to watch. Both these characters had father/mother issues, felt like they were in the shadows of somebody else, and loved America a whole lot. It’s a great character study.

Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum – Both of them, teamed with Carell of course, kicked major ass in this film. I said as the film was starting that I wanted to see if Tatum could actually act or if he was just a one trick pony with his sexy dancing and his buddy cop comedies. The dude can act. I’m now in the group of people that sees him as an actor rather than a celebrity who tries to act. For the record, I loved him in 21 Jump Street. Like Carell with duPont, Channing portrayed Mark Shultz as a silent time bomb, ready to explode at a given point. I was impressed. Ruffalo has been a favorite actor of mine for a while and even I didn’t understand the praise he got for this film until about three quarters of the way in. Then I got it. The last quarter of this film, Ruffalo becomes one of the more sympathetic characters I’ve seen in film in a while. He portrays the character and personality of Dave Shultz so well that all sorts of emotions were flying by the films end. He earned his praise.

The liked the film. I’m glad I didn’t see it in theaters because I may have fallen asleep but the film worked in most ways in telling the chilling tale of what happens when you mix immense power and money with mental illness. The three actors knocked it out of the park and the film had great tone and color. It dragged in bits, but overall it’s a film that I can see getting better with age. The character study alone of duPont and Mark Schultz was worth the watch.

3/5