Spotlight (2015) - Can't Stop the Movies
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Spotlight (2015)

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Live in Boston?  You're likely a Catholic.  The Church and city are so synonymous that everyone knows, is, or has lapsed from their grace.  But sometimes it takes an outsider to see the sin in a virtuous façade, and with one observation a team of reporters begins a long and trying investigation into the evil these "good men" do.  Tom McCarthy directs Spotlight from a script written by McCarthy and Josh Singer, and stars Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, and Stanley Tucci.

Unassuming crewI had to ask myself - just how long did it take me to notice the sexual abuse committed by the Catholic Church?  I ask because I don't remember.  My memory has this haze between when the Catholic Church was only the guilt-ridden older brother to the Episcopalians we went to when I lived in South Carolina.  In my memory the Catholic Church was a monolith then somewhere along the line it all switched and the abuse seems so disgustingly natural to the structure of the religion my mind just didn't make a note of it.

But I remember where I was on 9/11.  I remember sitting at my desk in my grammar class in high school while my teacher stood at the end of my aisle staring in horror at the television screen.  Even then I knew it meant war, more meaningless death, and the next few years proceeded as painfully and disastrously as my seventeen-year old mind predicted.

Spotlight, in its own painful way, reminded me of the dedication of those who continued doing their jobs in spite of 9/11.  The characters aren't heroes, they're people flawed in their actions and have filters which selectively chose information as the months rolled on when the proof of the sexual abuse was in their hands the whole time.  Writer / director Tom McCarthy, one of my absolute favorites (I'll assume The Cobbler was the price he paid to make this), has made so many low-key movies of insight that I wouldn't have picked him to handle something with the scope of Spotlight.  But he was the perfect choice because he is at his best when depicting people just trying to get the job done.

McCarthy does not film Spotlight with much visual aplomb, but that is part of its philosophy on tragedy and evil.

Tom McCarthy does not film Spotlight with much visual aplomb, but that is part of its philosophy on tragedy and evil.

This comes forward in the way he photographs Spotlight with cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi.  The dominant images are people at their desks, solid lines down rows to their bosses office, and when the scope of the abuse hits these professionals Takayanagi makes the decision not to zoom in on their expressions.  Instead the camera dollies out, slowly, as the silence fills the room and the professionals sit in stunned silence.  All the hard work they've put in to this point to uncover the sexual abuse is small in comparison to the spread of corruption through Boston and they are reminded of how small their viewpoints are.

McCarthy and Takayanagi bring everything to proper perspective in Spotlight.  So often the Catholic Church is presented as this overwhelming symbol of guilt.  In Spotlight it is just another building where sinful men commit heinous crimes.  The photography, which seems so plain at first, serves to underline just how normal these buildings are.  The abuse hides in view of everyone - just like the warning signs sent to the Boston Globe.

When the investigation is interrupted by 9/11 it's just that - an interruption.  The only sign we get that it happened at all is a shot of a television showing smoke pouring out of the World Trade Center.  That McCarthy chooses not to linger on these images is not surprising because the cinematography has already prepared us to accept that the holy buildings of religion and capitalism are facades for the suffering underneath.  The professionals of Spotlight respond to their crisis with the same dedication of the first responders to the wreckage of the twin towers.

I've been an admirer of

I've been an admirer of Liev Schreiber for years but he communicates pain with such subtlety he reminded me of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Holding all this together is a magnetic performance from Liev Schreiber as Marty Baron, the editor who pushes the Boston Globe's "Spotlight" team into action.  If McCarthy's visual storytelling hides the evil in plain sight, Schreiber keeps his pain as locked away as possible.  It's the little glances which let me into his head, staring out a window in thoughtful consideration of a church steeple, and letting a moment of frustration wash over his face when he learns the law of Boston is intertwined with the Catholic Church.  The evil committed in the name of religion isn't just in overt attacks, it's also in the casual persecution and displays of power over the innocent.

Schreiber's performance is so good because it eschews flashy displays of emotion and the rest of the cast tunes in with relatively muted professionalism.  I'm a little surprised that Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams have received so many award nominations for their work here.  Not because they're poor, but because they are instilling their characters with the same sense of professional rigor which informs McCarthy's images.  Even Michael Keaton lets his charisma loose in controlled, angry, bursts which is a far cry from his bravura Birdman performance from last year.

The nominations McAdams, Ruffalo, and McCarthy all picked up for their work in Spotlight just goes to show the best work does not mean the "most" work.  Spotlight is not low-key, but simmers, letting the spare photography and professionalism of its leads do the heavy lifting where a lesser movie might pump up the volume.  In his way, McCarthy has made one of the definitive post-9/11 movies by focusing on the reality of life and tragedy.  Evil works plain as day, the good people do is sometimes just doing their job correctly, and we move on from these tragedies by addressing their causes as best we can before getting back to work.

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Tail - SpotlightSpotlight (2015)

Directed by Tom McCarthy.
Written by Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer.
Starring Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, and Stanley Tucci.

Posted by Andrew

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  1. Spotlight shows how difficult it is to get the truth out of an organized crime syndicate. A team of Boston journalists worked tirelessly to find out that the Catholic church knowingly was running a massive organized childrape crime syndicate in Boston and around the world back in a time when the Catholic Church had a powerful influence. It also shows how Catholic followers tried to help the church get away with it.

    Make no mistake, Spotlight is a movie about organized crime, featuring the Catholic church, the largest organized childrape crime syndicate in the history of the US, and in BRUTAL defiance of Jesus in Matt 18:6-14, where Jesus said childrape was unforgivable.

    This movie shows how the Catholic church exhibited the same “code of silence” that the mafia has, without the honor, as they were protecting at least 249 “confessed” pedo-priests in Boston.

    The pedo-priests in the Catholic church raped over 1,000 children in Boston alone, thanks to at least 249 pedophile priests, hidden and protected by hundreds of other priests, including Cardinal Law. (Only 90 were known at the time of the movie, but credits at the end show 249, and the number is now at least 268).

    The Catholic church admitted 4,329 substantiated, accused pedophile priests in the US in their own John Jay report of 2004, and of course they lied. Since 2004, they have found an ADDITIONAL 6,630 pedo-priests according to the USCCB Schuth report of 2013.

    And the Catholic church hid & protected 100% of their known pedo-priests, worldwide (Matt 18:6-14). Cowardly, rampant, unforgivable evil, in brutal defiance of Jesus.

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