Fun prescient fact: Among the notes I made about Spotlight immediately upon seeing it was this: “new frontrunner for me.” Skipping right from A to O (as in Oscar), I’d like to think that I straight-up Called Best Picture. (But really, I thought The Revenant was going to win, and I’m oh so glad it didn’t.)
So anyway! Yeah, this was a beautiful movie! Arguably the best of the year, though up until I made that little note, I was fully in camp The Big Short. But Spotlight edged it out because it was about a terrible thing that affected people — youths — who had no choice. (I guess the same argument could be made about the crux of Short, but… for whatever reason, the idea of children being molested by priests hit me harder emotionally than the idea of people being screwed over financially. Both are terrible, awful things, though.)
It's so cool that the 5th season of The Wire won an Oscar
— Stefanie Lee (@stefaside) March 1, 2016
So anyway, again. I wrote the above tweet the night of the Oscars, and while it was a joke, the sentiment behind it was completely genuine. See, Tom McCarthy, he of Season-5-of-The-Wire and The Station Agent fame, directed and co-wrote Spotlight, and if you know anything about The Wire, you know it received almost no accolades.
McCarthy winning an Oscar is incredibly satisfying for fans of the show, particularly because it rewards the part that he carried over from his acting experience there into directing this movie — and that’s creating diligent, no-frills, responsible, profound art. It truly feels like it could be an extension of the show. (Minus the fact that Boston is the whitest town of all time.) McCarthy clearly took his work very seriously when he played a journalist, and translated it into one of the most fascinating, important depictions of journalism on the big screen. Journalism isn’t a glamorous profession, nor should it be portrayed as such, and Spotlight gives it the cinematic treatment it deserves.
By that, I mean that the movie wasn’t about the acting. Or maybe it was. Whether it was or it wasn’t, the acting was so good and subtle that it didn’t even matter. Sure, both Liev Schreiber (as Marty Baron) and Mark Ruffalo (as Mike Rezendes) clearly studied their real-life counterparts’ tics and got them down perfectly and could have stolen the show, but they didn’t. They let the tics come out to serve the plot, and never more than that. And sure, a cast that also included John Slattery, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Brian D’Arcy James and Stanley Tucci could have made it impossible to escape into the story fully. Those are all very Known names.
But the story — and the work! — were the centerpiece. Pardon the cheese that’s about to whiz out here, but all those actors were second-billed-and-below to the character of Journalism. Not in an overly reverent sense, but in the most democratic, truthful sense. Each reporter, editor, source and aide had something to contribute to the larger project, and each of them knew how important the work would be in the long run.
To attempt to bring down the Catholic church — and the wretched, stubborn, numerous followers that comprise it — is practically a death wish, and one that’ll make you lose your faith in humanity, especially the more you learn about what the institution itself is capable of burying. But the Boston Globe spotlight team did it. They made sure that something evil was cast into the light, where it couldn’t help but be stopped. And the honorable, clear justice that this movie did to their spotlight work thrust it into an even bigger, even more deserving spotlight. See it and know it.