Finally, unflashy is recognised. Thank the Lord the Best Picture Nude Gold Guy went to Spotlight. God must have really wanted producer Michael Sugar to say before a global audience, “Pope Francis, it’s time to protect the children.” Hell, yeah!
Spotlight — haven’t seen it? See it.Because it’s an immaculately constructed ensemble piece, superbly acted without grandstanding (save 15 seconds of high grade cheese from Mark Ruffalo) — and, don’t worry, it doesn’t waste time glowering at paedophile priests. They’re just the mostly off-screen quarry that a bunch of obsessive, plodding journos are hunting, through paper records, phone calls, trudging on the pavements of Boston and having doors closed in their faces. Old school print journalism.
THE EVERYDAY AWESOMENESS OF SPOTLIGHT
It’s an awesome film that can create escalating tension without the threat of violence or dramatic lighting or scary music, using instead shots of hand-held rulers descending pages of lists of names; in one exciting scene a journo hops into a cab and directs a short cut to the office. The film maintains its grip despite our knowing the outcome of the work — which exploded the terrible secret of preying priests, won a Pulitzer Prize and stretched into a year-long series uncovering ever more horror stories.
Because it never glamorises the journalists and their methods (there should be a simile “As drab as journalists”). In truth, it’s a corrective to triumphal hindsight, showing us at how points an event, like this investigation, may have been doomed by a moment’s lack of courage or conviction or strategic vision.
IT TOOK A VILLAGE
Because the lawyer for child plaintiffs (Stanley Tucci) makes the pained remark: “If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one.” And what held the Boston Globe back for years was that none of the villagers wanted to hear or believe, despite multitude victims and offending priests. The forlorn attempts by the damaged to get their story out return to haunt the paper.
Because the Church dominated the city, was everywhere in everyone’s lives, it was too horrific and too personal to confront it. The Church had everything to lose, and ways to lean on the nosy but, often, leaning wasn’t necessary. The prologue is in a police station: a priest, having been caught red-handed, is whisked into the night in a church sedan; the scene defines complicity — ie, compliant City. (Maybe the arrival of a non-Bostonian Jewish editor, Marty Baron [excellent Liev Schreiber], was another belated act of God.)
Spotlight arrives at the pointed intersection of a problematic moment, when long-form investigative journalism faces a grave financial outlook, and the Catholic Church and its henchmen face the fury of a long-suppressed, widespread group who are demanding answers, acknowledgement and justice. The film reminds us that humble daily work counts — satisfaction is achieved step by inch-step. Spotlight is anti-heroic — its very ordinariness is extraordinary.
IN OTHER R -RATED OSCAR HIGHLIGHTS
How great was it when the sound editing team for Mad Max: Fury Road, Mark Mangini and David White, came on stage for MM:FR‘s 3rd or 4th or 5th Oscar of the night and one of them hollered: “Fucking Mad Maxers!”
(The MM:FR Australian contigent was easily the least polished and most earthy of Oscar recipients; their style reminded me of Qantas crew. George Miller was robbed; Inarritu, give back the Director Oscar. And George really shoulda’ taken Best Picture too; MM:FR is a true original among the earnest and the obvious — gloriously kinetic, visually unforgettable, thematically nailing the 21st century, and stupendous FUN. It’s George Miller’s visionary art, consummately and craftily shaped into a foot-stomping action entertainment, what movie genius!)
So, after “Pope Francis, it’s time to protect the children” the wicked backroom programmers close the night of #OscarsSoWhite with Public Enemy’s Fight the Power. Yo!Yo!Yo! R-E-S-P-E-C-T:
Elvis was a hero to most
But he never meant shit to me you see
Straight up racist that sucker was
Simple and plain
Mother fuck him and John Wayne
Cause I’m Black and I’m proud
I’m ready and hyped plus I’m amped
Most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamps
Sample a look back you look and find
Nothing but rednecks for 400 years if you check