Thursday, July 13, 2017

Spotlight

Year 9, Day 194 - 7/13/17 - Movie #2,688

BEFORE: I'm gearing up for my San Diego trip, yesterday I got my merchandise boxes shipped out via UPS, to my (not-so) secret UPS Store location that's very close to our booth - years ago I would ship to a UPS Store 3 blocks away from the convention center, but since I stayed at a little hostel across the street, it made sense.  Now that I'm staying at an AirBnB location up in Mission Valley, it makes more sense to ship my boxes as close to the convention center as possible - fewer steps to go and get the boxes.

I've got a bad reputation for getting sick on the first day of a Comic-Con - OK, maybe 3 times in 15 years, but I still don't like the odds.  I've had colds (back when the NY Comic-Con used to be in February), kidney stones and 2 years ago I had a UTI on my first day in San Diego.  Right now I've got this weird thing happening with my knee, where it sort of pops while I'm walking, and my leg sort of does this weird kick, which would only be a problem if I were going to a large convention hall next week, where I have to do a lot of walking around...

So I'm going to get a check-up tomorrow morning and see if there's anything I can do before Wednesday, like maybe get a knee brace or something.  I put an ice-pack on it last night, but it's one of those things where I don't know if I should be using an ice-pack or a heat-pack - maybe both?

Liev Schreiber carries over from "The 5th Wave".  My recent forays into Netflix revealed that this film is streaming there, which may explain why it hasn't appeared on premium cable yet, despite winning the Best Picture Oscar TWO years ago.  Why the hold-up?  Anyway, I could have also watched this on an Academy screener, but Netflix is obviously more convenient - and being on Netflix now has forced a re-organization of my priorities, which is still ongoing.  In other words, I still have slots to fill before the year ends, so why not identify the most important films, or the ones I think I will most enjoy, and watch them first?


THE PLOT: The story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core.

AFTER: I'm almost done now with watching the Best Picture nominees from 2015 - besides "Spotlight", I've seen them all except for "Bridge of Spies", and I have a copy of that, it's on my list.  That was a tough year, I mean, I don't see how "Brooklyn" or "The Big Short" could have won, maybe "Room" or "The Martian" had an outside chance.  Sorry "Mad Max: Fury Road", but you should have been honored just to be nominated.  Clearly I think this is one of those times where the award went to the film that covered the "big issue", with less regard for how the film was made - no doubt it was substance over style.

Because if it were just about style, I don't see how this film deserves the Best Picture Oscar.  It's one of the worst offenders ever when it comes to the "Show, don't tell" rule - nearly everything that these reporters do just isn't cinematic, sure they're doing "actions", but it's not action-oriented, like, say, "The Revenant", which was non-stop action.  What happens here is that reporters have meetings, they interview people, they talk to other people on the phone, they go read files at the courthouse, they file motions to gain evidence, and then they write articles and publish a newspaper.  NONE of that is cinematic at all!  OK, so they have to drive from place to place, but it's all at regular, law-abiding speed - come ON, how about a car chase or two?  Or a reporter speeding to get to his computer to make a deadline?  The closest we get is a reporter trying to get to the courthouse one day before it closes, and even then, we don't see the hustle, we only see him knocking on the door to try and get in.  "What's that?  You close at 4:30?  OK, I guess I'll come back tomorrow morning..."

I'm sort of dancing around the issues here, because the child molestation issue is so sensitive - plus it's nearly impossible for me to crack jokes about.  My parents are still solid church goers up in the Boston Archdiocese, my father was one of the first deacons ordained there in 1976, and my mother played the organ in church for decades - they still go to church in the suburbs a few times each weekend, and then for fun, there's another church group they belong to in downtown Boston.  Plus the deacons all know each other, so when I was a kid my family's idea of fun was to go to a party at another deacon's house, or maybe once in a while their was a church picnic somewhere.

But I broke from the church a long time ago - I stopped attending mass as soon as I got to college, mostly because it's usually boring as hell.  But when I got divorced in 1996, that's when the real break took place - the official church position was that I had to get an annulment if I ever wanted to take communion again, and I figured, "Nah, I'm good."  Why would I want to be part of an organization that won't take me the way I am, that wanted to tell me that a five-year part of my life didn't really happen, when I was trying to learn from all the things that happened to me, even the bad things.  And then once you get clear of the religion, it all seems rather silly from the outside, where they're all bogged down by silly rules like not eating meat on Fridays and going to mass on Halloween.  (OK, All Souls Day, but you know what I mean.)

But when I was a kid, I did my time as an altar boy - I remember you had to be in fourth grade to get the gig, but the first year I qualified there was a big blizzard (1978?) so nobody could make it to the meetings, and everybody of my age had to wait for the next year's tryouts.  (Because they couldn't schedule more training in the spring, for some stupid reason.)  It was a big deal for me, because on Sundays I had to show up early for church, get my vestments on and light the candles.  My mom didn't want me using matches, so she showed me how to use a cigarette lighter - because that's SO much safer...  And I never had any problems with priests trying to get grabby, which years later, after the scandals broke made me wonder why - wasn't I cute enough as a young teen?  (Hey, I said it would be difficult for me to make jokes about this, not impossible...)

I've had real focus on Boston this year - and why not, if I'm originally from there?  Let's see, I watched "Black Mass", "Manchester by the Sea", "Patriots Day" and now this.  (Are there any others?  Let's see, "In the Heart of the Sea" was partially set in Nantucket...) I grew up reading the Boston Globe, and this film focuses on that newspaper's "Spotlight" team, which takes on long-form investigations and which was tasked by the paper's new editor with re-opening the case of Fr. John Geoghan, a priest who'd been arrested for molesting children. And, more importantly, whether Cardinal Bernard Law (who was perhaps ironically named) had known about his actions and tried to cover them up, which is itself a crime.

It seems there was a lawyer who claimed to have documents proving that Law was aware of Geoghan's actions and engaged in cover-up activities like paying off victims, settling cases in order to seal away records, and then moving priests around to different parishes in order to confuse the issue and make it hard for victims to track down their molesters.  The Spotlight team ended up using the Diocese directories (I remember those phone books, my parents always had similar copies...) to look at the over-arching pattern of moving priests around, and determining that phrases like "sick leave" were code for "this priest is a SICK puppy and was forced to LEAVE that parish because he couldn't stop touching kids."  By making a list of all of the priests on "sick leave", and cross-referencing them with legal cases and accusations, the team is able to identify nearly 90 priests who seemed to have been relocated for various reasons.  Now, this is something like backwards logic, in a sense it's a bit like going through a parts junkyard outside a chop shop in order to solve open car theft cases, but it does get them a list to work with.

Meanwhile the team gets advice from a former priest who has worked on the various methods of "reforming" the priests who are the worst offenders, and his personal research places the rate of sexually active Catholic priests at 6% - since this more or less coincides with the number of Boston priests shuffled around or placed on "sick leave", the team feels confident in proceeding.  But doubt begins to creep in when one legal official asks if they've considered the consequences of publishing their findings, and whether the resulting blowback will be worth the effort.  But it seems the consequences of NOT publishing their findings could be even worse - however, it's fitting that this leads to a crisis of conscience for the reporters.  After all, what business are they in, the business of shedding light on the world's injustices, or the business of selling papers?

Further doubt creeps in when the reporters realize that various parties had given them evidence of widespread molestation years ago, and they didn't really follow up to the extent that they could have. Hey, I guess you do what you can, and the wheels of justice grind slowly, but they DO grind.  (The 9/11 terrorist attacks did manage to slow down the Globe's investigation somewhat...)  And the Boston Globe won a Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for the Spotlight team's reporting.  I'm just not sure why this had to be made into a movie, too - I don't think it enhances the story THAT much to have actors re-enacting a newspaper investigation.  OK, so it worked in "All the President's Men", but that was an exception.  I mean, take any historical event, like Vietnam or the Kennedy assassination, is it better to make a movie about the event itself, or just a reporter's actions after the fact?  I'll always favor the former over the latter.

I'm sorry, I know the issue is really important, but I don't see the film being anything more special than the average episode of "Law & Order: SVU".

Also starring Michael Keaton (last seen in "Spider-Man: Homecoming"), Mark Ruffalo (last seen in "Now You See Me 2"), Rachel McAdams (last seen in "Doctor Strange"), John Slattery (last seen in "Ted 2"), Brian d'Arcy James (last seen in "Sisters"), Stanley Tucci (last heard in "Mr. Peabody & Sherman"), Jamey Sheridan (last seen in "Syriana"), Billy Crudup (last seen in "Jackie"), Gene Amoroso (last seen in "Mystic Pizza"), Paul Guilfoyle (last seen in "In Dreams"), Len Cariou (last seen in "Prisoners"), Neal Huff (last seen in "Moonrise Kingdom"), Maureen Keiller, Michael Cyril Creighton (last seen in "Sleeping With Other People"), Laurie Heineman, Tim Progosh, Elena Wohl, Eileen Padua, Richard O'Rourke, Joe Stapleton (last seen in "Manchester by the Sea") and the voice of Richard Jenkins (last seen in "The Hollars").

RATING: 5 out of 10 cups of behh at Fenway Paak

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