Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Spotlight Review

I saw this movie about two weeks ago now. There's a few reasons why I didn't get my review up right away. The first reason is that I was honestly super busy. The second reason is that this is the type of movie where people don't rush out to see it. The awards buzz is super high for this movie and the closer we get to awards seasons, the stronger that buzz will get and thus the more attention this movie will get. So there wasn't a huge hurry and so I chose to focus my efforts elsewhere with my blog for the time being. That said, this is a movie that I was super excited for. There's two main things that drew me to this. The first is that if you legitimately say best movie of the year and strong contender for best picture, you have my attention. I look at Oscar predictions pretty much year round and right now this looks like the movie to beat. The second main thing that drew me to this movie is that it's a journalism movie, specifically an investigative journalism movie. I dig those. I think there's a lot of reporters that get a bad rap when they actually do a lot of good. This movie shows how investigative journalism can save lives and it's really fantastic!

The issues discussed in this movie are issues that I'd kinda heard about, but didn't know a whole ton about. This movie shines a "spotlight" on this issue and is really eyeopening. This isn't the type of movie you go to in order to be entertained. You go to be educated because the issue I speak of is the Catholic Church scandal. I say scandal, but I really mean scandals. Thousands if not millions of scandals worldwide over the last century that have been swept under the rug and consequently been the cause of thousands if not millions of lives being ruined and destroyed. It's the huge issue of Catholic priests molesting children. "It's just a few bad apples," the Catholic Church has said, lying through their teeth as they fight and fight to keep this issue hidden. And for years and years they've been good at hiding this to the point where they have deceived most of the world into thinking that it actually wasn't a big issue. The movie Spotlight follows a group of investigative journalists in the early 2000's who work for the Boston Globe and call their group Spotlight. They are made aware that there may be a huge issue in Boston regarding Catholic priests molesting children. They're unsure what to think of at first, but they start digging and the more they dig, the more they realize how big this issue is. I don't want to reveal how big this issue is. I want you to watch the movie to find out for yourself. But nevertheless, to call it disturbing is probably a huge understatement.

I do want to be careful here. I don't want to go out and say that the Catholic Church is inherently bad and should be referred to as the great and abominable church with everyone who follows it being a follower of Satan. That's going way too far. But nevertheless, this is a movie that hit a nerve with me. And it should hit a nerve with just about everyone who sees it. If you care at all about children, it should hit a nerve. It's one thing to say a Catholic priest molested a child. I mean, that's horrible and awful in every single way. But it's another thing to have that described to you. It's like the Ray Rice issue last year. We all heard the story of him punching his then-fiancée (now wife) in an elevator. That was bad enough. But then the footage got released and people saw him punching his fiancée and that's when they really reacted. He outright decked her, knocking her out cold. Then he dragged what looked like a lifeless body out of that elevator. We were all horrified. The Ravens cut him, the NFL suspended him indefinitely, and he has not played a down of football since. It's actually kinda sad because plenty of other players have done similar, if not worse things and got a second chance. Ray Rice appealed the suspension and won, being officially reinstated. He's extremely apologetic and his fiancée even forgave and married him. But yet no team has even dared to sign him and they probably never will. Why not? Because we all saw the video. It's unfair, but that's how the world works sometimes.

This is exactly what Spotlight does. No, we don't get shown what the Catholic priests do. But our team of reporters go out and find victims that are willing to share their story of what happened to them when they were young boys. One victim in particular is talking to one of the reporters in private and when he gets to the part of his story where he got molested, he simply says, "And then he molested me." But that's not enough for this reporter, who in this instance is played by Rachel McAdams. She wants him to go in detail. So he does. I'm not going to describe in detail in what he said, but it's heavy. Like I said, it's horrific enough to hear that a young boy was molested, but to hear exactly what happened takes it to a new level of disturbing, which absolutely crushes you and makes your blood boil. What makes it worse is that these are spiritual leaders doing this. It's bad enough for a football coach or a neighbor to do this. But to have a young, vulnerable child be molested by someone who they trusted with spiritual matters is heart-breaking to say the least. These kids may never trust any religion again because they tried when they were young and it got them molested. And all of that will be on the heads of these priests. I myself am a religious person and this disgusts me. I won't quote scripture, but needless to say God is not going to be happy with these priests. And there's a lot of them doing this.

I will say that there are only a few scenes in which these events are described in detail by victims. This is probably a wise choice. It wouldn't be good to shove this down our throat for the whole movie, but enough is told to make everyone emotionally invested in this story and so when these reporters uncover more and more about how big this story really is, you get more and more emotionally crushed knowing that this isn't just a few bad apples doing horrific things. Then you think about how many years this has been going on without you realizing it or not thinking about it enough, and it becomes even more sad. This is touched on directly as there comes a point in when our reporters realize that they had the opportunity to uncover this years ago, but didn't take it seriously. You don't hate the reporters for this. Rather it gives them a very human element because then you realize that perhaps no one had done anything about this for a long time. But then there's so much admiration for this group that they were the ones that finally took this monster down. This movie is a very emotional, yet honest ride. For most of it, it's simply a movie about reporters reporting. You might think that this is a boring premise, but it's not. At least it wasn't for me. And by the looks of things, I'm not the only one here that was completely invested. It's at 8.6 on IMDb (which has actually gone up the more votes it's gotten) and 98% percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

As I see it, this is a great example of a real-life super hero story. Many of us have loved the superhero movies that have come out in the last decade. In these, you have a hero or a group of heroes who use whatever super power they have developed or discovered to save the world from an evil villain who has done and wants to continue doing very bad things. Spotlight actually follows this formula. We have a group of reporters who we should refer to as real-life super heroes. The power that they have developed is the power of investigative journalism, which has saved lives. Journalism is my major and I have taken an investigative journalism class. Once you know what is public record and the information you can uncover if you are persistent in digging, you can uncover a lot of things that people are trying to keep secret for whatever reason. The group of reporters in this movie are fighting the monster that is the Catholic Church. Like I said, not every Catholic is bad. In fact, the majority are very good. But there is a high enough percentage in the church that are monsters that it makes for a vicious fight for our heroes. A fight that is emotional and rough because timing and technique is everything in order to actually make a difference and stop what is happening.

There are a lot of people worth praising in this movie, but I am going to quickly focus on the three that really stood out to me. Those three are Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, and Rachel McAdams. Let's start with Michael Keaton. After making it huge in the late 80's and early 90's with roles in movies like Batman and Beetlejuice, Michael Keaton's career took a nosedive, which is sad because I think he is fantastic. Last year's Birdman was his career rival in a huge way, giving him his first Oscar nomination. I'm glad he has followed that up with this role because in my opinion this is just as memorable as his Birdman role and I hope this newly found success continues. Next up is Rachel McAdams. She probably gives the third best performance of the three of them, but I was really impressed with her in this role because she usually has done romantic dramas in her career and although she's always been likable, she's never been one that I've taken too seriously. Until now. This is the best I've ever seen her and I hope she continues getting these types of roles. Saving the best for last is Mark Ruffalo. This is a man that has done many amazing things in his career, but especially in the last five or so years. In fact, he's become one of my favorite actors. With that in mind, this next statement should blow your mind. Mark Ruffalo gives the best performance of his career. If I were to pick one person to win an Oscar from this movie, it's him. But in terms of awards, I hope I don't have to pick. I hope all three of these people at least get nominations, because they deserve it.

Yes, this movie did hit a nerve for me. I knew that this issue with Catholic priests was a problem, but I didn't know how big it actually was until I saw this movie. This was a very eyeopening experience for me and I would say that this is one of the most important films of the year, if not the most important film. I loved the story. I loved the direction. I loved the emotion. I loved the acting. I loved how it shows the power of investigative journalism and the impact that a group of reporters can have on the world. I'm also glad that this is a movie that actually is getting a lot of attention from everyone. Last year there was a movie called Kill the Messenger that was also a story about investigative journalism that I think is almost just as powerful as this. It didn't deal with child molestation or the Catholic Church, but it dealt other big issues and also effected me emotionally in different ways. I ended up putting that movie in my top 10 favorite movies of the year last year. Sadly it was ignored by most people -- critics, awards people, and general audiences alike. I'm glad that Spotlight isn't suffering the same fate as that movie. It deserves the praise and recognition. Just like Kill the Messenger made my list last year, Spotlight is sure to make my list this year. In fact, as of the posting of this review, it is my favorite movie of the year. I'm hoping that a certain movie that that comes out in less than two weeks takes that crown, but for now it belongs to Spotlight. As such, my grade for Spotlight is a 10/10.

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