I love the Academy Awards and last year I realized how few of the “Best Picture” winners I’d actually seen. So I made it a goal to see all 83 winners and blog my thoughts about them along the way.

Why did it win? Should another movie have won instead? Has it become a beloved classic or do many of you not even recognize the title? I invite you, my friends and guests, to comment along with me. Do you agree/disagree? I should be fair and place a SPOLIER ALERT on this blog since I’ll be writing about various parts of the movie. So read at your own risk…

I have often told people that I have movie amnesia… I can see a movie and forget all about it years later. So for that reason, I am re-watching the 27 I’ve seen before. That said, if no one visits or reads my blog and I basically perform the online equivalent of talking to a brick wall, that’s fine; if for nothing else, it’ll be my own reminder. Enjoy!

And the Oscar goes to…

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Spotlight, 2015

Rated R

I admit I was hesitant to watch this film. I am a born-and-raised Catholic and am proud of my faith. I am certainly not proud of the atrocities that have happened under the shroud of this religion. I had a fear this film would Hollywood-ize these tragic events and end up making blanket statements that ‘Catholicism is corrupt’ or ‘most priests are pedophiles.’ “Spotlight” did not do that, in its defense, but I can’t help but wonder how many more people were turned off to religion because of it, and that saddens me.

The journalistic team behind Spotlight, a side circulation of the Boston Globe, is responsible for focusing on and bringing to light major stories, and in 2001, they dig up a doosie. What is first an investigation into a few child abuse cases within the local Catholic Diocese, snowballs into a major scandal that involves a shocking 80+ cases and reveals that these priests were not punished, but rather just relocated to different churches or dioceses. It’s a sickening revelation. Boston has a very large population of Catholics, many of whom we realize have been affected in some way by abuse but have been too afraid to come forward. We learn the Church capitalized on this fear, paid out-of-court settlements when needed, and simply rerouted the offenders rather than jailing them and seeking therapy. The movie follows the team as they discover more and more cases and speak to more and more victims. The end of the film lists the names of the dioceses across the US that were/are under question (although the list is not complete) after this sparked a nation-wide investigation.

Another disconcerting piece of this scandal though is that the Boston Globe had been sitting on information given to them by previous victims for many years before this was sufficiently given the attention it deserved. Boxes of evidence were shelved in the basement because somebody dismissed it as speculation or insubstantial. Later victims could have been saved if this had been brought to light sooner. Yet another upsetting part of all this, is the small group of lawyers who represented the Church, settling for pittances in order to basically shut the victims and their families up. So. Many. Disastrous. Mistakes.

Overall, I think the film was well done but don’t think it deserved this top award for the year. I can’t help but wonder if the Academy felt pressured to vote for it because it would make a political and social statement in doing so. The proper media didn’t give it the deserved attention when it was appropriate, and perhaps they felt they could now. The film almost felt like a made-for-TV movie or a documentary… I feel that a Best Picture winner should represent the very best we had to offer in a year, taking the viewing audience on a journey and reaching a range of emotions doing so. I don’t think I’m alone in this thinking, as it turned out to be the second lowest-grossing film to win this award (behind “The Hurt Locker” from 2009).

“Spotlight” also won Best Original Screenplay and had four other nominations. It was up against seven other movies for BP: “The Big Short”, “Bridge of Spies”, “Brooklyn”, “Mad Max: Fury Road”, “The Martian”, “Room”, and the one most deserving of Best Picture IMHO, “The Revenant.”  I saw “The Martian” in the theatre on date night and was pretty impressed. When the hubs was first telling me about the movie, it sounded so extreme but realistic, and in my late pregnancy-brain haze, I asked, “Wow, true story?” Face palm. I will say though, if we had been to Mars and left a man behind, that movie shows exactly what would have happened- it all looked very plausible. I also recently saw “The Big Short” which was considered a top contender for this award. I’m not entirely sure it should’ve been though. Aside from it being a very interesting/distressing/true story, it didn’t have that certain je ne sais quois to win.  (It could be the fact that I felt like it was really a foreign language film… sadly, that vernacular and certain intelligence is not compatible with my brain.) “The Revenant”, on the other hand- holy mother of intensity! I saw a preview for that movie when we saw “The Martian” and I immediately thought, no way man. If I could get an anxiety attack from the preview alone, there was no way I could handle the whole movie, even IF my main squeeze Leo is in it. After “Spotlight” won, I figured I couldn’t accurately judge whether it was the deserving winner or not unless I watched the film everyone thought was a shoo-in for the award. So, I forced myself to watch it. On a small screen. With a crappy sound system. There’s no doubt in my mind that it deserved to win Best Picture. It’s just the type of film that encapsulates that achievement in cinema. From the nail-biting storyline and passion of the actors to the award-winning cinematography and breathtaking beauty of the rugged landscape- it is an overall pretty phenomenal film.


Spotlight’s Team Leader, Peter Canellos, said something that hit me hard: “They say it's just physical abuse but it's more than that, this was spiritual abuse. You know why I went along with everything? Because priests are supposed to be the good guys”. He’s absolutely correct and that’s what’s so tragic. Along with the physical and mental abuse as a direct result of these acts, the victim is also being given a very distorted and false depiction of a spiritual mentor. The victimized  will naturally come to question and likely renounce their faith if the very person who’s supposed to be trusted is the one taking advantage of them. I worked for a year as a second grade teacher at a Catholic school in a suburb of Chicago where I witnessed the closure of several schools in the Archdiocese as a result of declining enrollment. One of the reasons: people were just too afraid to send their children to an educational institution run by the Church.


Don’t ignore someone’s pleas for help or dismiss them as insignificant.

Bringing attention to something so monumental takes patience and a whole lot of guts. The journalists worked long, hard hours making sense of clues and notes, researching, and interviewing both victims and offenders all in order to attempt to right a very big wrong.