Wednesday, March 2, 2016

"Best Picture Of 2015 - 'Spotlight' - Really?"

This determination brings to mind the leading presidential candidates:

“Is this the best we can do?”

Lemme tell you something, and I am laying it unapologetically on the line:

I could be very wrong about this.

A lot of times I have watched movies a second time and found remarkable nuances that I had missed the first time – “between the cracks” elements not concerning the story which is inevitably my primary concern but in the “emotional” presentation of the movie that upgraded it beyond my initial response.  A League of Their Own comes to mind here.  Originally, I did not think much of the movie.  I saw it again, and now, it’s one of my all-time favorites.

Maybe if I saw Spotlight again, I would connect with its subler attributes.  Spotlight is indisputably a respectable offering, well-intentioned and skillfully executed. 

But “Best Picture”? 

I realize that when it comes to annual awards, voters obligatorily “mark on the curve.”  They can only pick from the, this year, eight available nominees.  The current candidates do not have to compete with Gone With The Wind, The Godfather, Bridge on the River Kwai or Lawrence of Arabia, to name just four, and avoiding the terrible  “Best Pictures.”  Nor can voters decide, as with baseball’s Hall of Fame Nominating Committee, that there is nobody this year deserving of the honor.

In contradistinction to Spotlight, the four above-mentioned movie examples I subjectively selected display… how do I describe it… ?

Scope and majesty.

These are big movies.  Lavish.  Spectacular.  Extravagant in ambition and execution. 

In short (in my view):

Movies worthy of projection on a seventy-foot screen.

Setting aside the pervasive expansiveness of the exposed criminality – the number of abusing Catholic priests that were involved – Spotlight bears a ringing similarity less to a film worthy of the Motion Picture Academy’s highest recognition than to an ambitious episode of Law & Order: SVU.

(“Going the other way” in this regard, I think the Oscar voters’ hunger for the visceral satisfaction of a “movie-movie” explains why the Mad Max operation won six Academy Awards.  As Tina Fey astutely observed during the program, how can Mad Max’s hallucinogenic production design possibly lose out to Bridge of Spies’  “Tom Hanks’s…. house”?)

There have been comparisons between Spotlight and All The President’s Men, focusing on both films’ grounding in the procedural application of journalistic shoe leather to ultimate spectacular effect. 

I agree with that comparison.  Hard work and exceptional perseverance are at the meat and potatoes of both stories.  And both stories are big, although you cannot arguably get bigger than breaking a story that leads to the resignation of the President of the United States.  But after that, comparing the two movies is like Tiffany’s versus “I know a guy who can get you the same thing but at a fraction of the price.”

From a conceptual standpoint, All the President’s Men did everything imaginable to make the production feel “important”, while the Spotlight M.O. appears committed assiduously to a realistic “human scale.”

There is All The President’s Men’s hyper-realistic dialogue – William Goldman, the Aaron Sorkin of his era, won a “Best Adapted Screenplay” Oscar for the script.  There’s the pervasive glitziness – All The President’s Men made an empty parking garage shimmer with glamor and excitement.

Most significantly, there’s the casting.  Show me in Spotlight the superstarical mega-wattage of Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman.

Now, your preference – to which you are indisputably entitled though it differ diametrically from my own – may be to believe that an everyday (albeit agonizingly painful) story is most effectively communicated via a “No frills” everyday sensibility, rather than as an over-produced Hollywood spectacular.

You may be right about that.  I myself, however, have a word for Spotlight’s stylistic approach.


Did that sound curmudgeonly to you?

This may require further investigation.


Wendy M. Grossman said...

I'm hoping this vogue for reenactments of true stories passes soon. I loved SHOW ME A HERO (apparently the project David Simon had in mind even before THE WIRE), but that was partly because I had never heard of the case it was based on (and it was brilliantly done). But it's getting ridiculous the number of these things there are now of quite famous cases apparently on the basis that people would rather watch reenactments of famous things whose endings they already know than new fiction in which anything might happen. Sort of the anti-sports. This past year alone: STEVE JOBS, JOBS, THE PROGRAM, GOING CLEAR, CONCUSSION...

GONE WITH THE WIND's filmmaking is still spectacular...but oh, the content has not aged well.


Peter B. said...

Absolutely curmudgeonly!