February 1, 2016

Spotlight (2015)

Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schriber, John Slattery

Al Jazeera America is shutting down in April. In case you haven't heard of it (and with such low viewership, it's entirely possible you haven't), Al Jazeera America was as close to a nonpartisan news network as we have in the States. It gave unbiased, global news coverage without the circus of constantly covering whatever the latest "big" story was. (Think: airplanes disappearing or whatever Trump said yesterday.) But as it turns out, no matter what the Americans say, the majority don't actually want straightforward, factual news coverage. They want to watch news that matches what they already believe. Coincidentally, that probably explains why The Newsroom only lasted two short seasons. Or the very existence Fox News. *eyeroll*

This movie is the Al Jazeera America of movies. It's factual, straightforward, and without a lot of fabricated drama or overacting. They let the story shine through. And the story is so compelling, it doesn't matter that that's all there is to it. It's like reading the perfect news story, without all that pesky reading.

The content of the movie is impeachable. It's a story we all know (or should, anyway), a story we are all horrified by (or again, should be), and a story that people need to be reminded of because of our national tendency to be completely outraged by something before moving onto the next big outrage a minute later. It's a fascinating story to watch unfold, even if you already know how it all turns out.

Perhaps that's to the credit of the ensemble cast, who truly share the acting load equally. So imagine my surprise that the Academy picked out Ruffalo and McAdams to receive acting nominations! To be honest, the only thing that bothered me about the movie was Ruffalo's acting. Literally. That's the only thing. Michael Keaton assumes this completely authentic-sounding Boston accent and totally pulls it off. Ruffalo, on the other hand, doesn't try out an accent, but instead does this weird crooked lip pursing throughout the entire movie. Was he trying to "get into character?" Maybe that's how his real life counterpart talked, except no one really knows who he is, so it just seems like a weird acting tic. I can't explain it. So besides that, there are two scenes where he has a shouting fit, thereby assuring us of his commitment to the story and his anger at the Catholic church, which is what I'm assuming earned him the nomination. Because you know, shouting makes people seem passionate or something.

There's not much else I can say about the story, mostly because I am still speechless after watching it. (And again, I already knew the outcome of all this. So the impact really says something.) It doesn't carry the personalized emotional journey of my favorite Catholic-Church-is-evil movie, Philomena, but it actually carries a larger impact because of the timing and the scale of the scandal. This movie makes me wonder why we are all ok about condemning Scientology and their shady methods of silencing dissenters but somehow Catholicism emerges from this scandal with plenty of believers and supporters. If we found out a secular corporation were doing this, it would be boycotted until the attrition of consumers forced it to close. Yet, people put their blinders on--for decades!--because doing otherwise would somehow compromise the church that they *need* in the community. I don't get it. I just don't. And what's more, I'm not sure I want to even try.

Final word: This is the kind of movie that stays with you long after you've watched it. Particularly if you are Catholic, I would imagine. 

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