Tag Archives: Spotlight

My Top 10 Movies of 2015

Yep, it’s that time when I publish my opinions on what were the top movies and films of the year. 2015 was a better year than 2014 in many ways. It gave people lots of reasons to go see a movie. It also gave a lot of good quality films as well. Basically the year gave a lot to be admired. It also helped the film industry breathe a sigh of relief as they may have felt that they were losing crowds because of new media forms.

Nope, people still like going to the cinema to see a movie. And 2015 gave lots of good reasons from your typical superhero movies to the return of a maverick series to a sci-fi film that came from nowhere to amaze people to a film that will infuriate you over bankers to a bear attack for the ages.

So without further ado, here are my Top 10 films of 2015:

Big Short

  1. The Big Short
  2. Mad Max: Fury Road
  3. Ex Machina
  4. Bridge of Spies
  5. The Revenant
  6. Spotlight
  7. Room
  8. Straight Outta Compton
  9. Carol
  10. Inside Out

Honorable Mention:

  • The Hateful Eight
  • Brooklyn
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  • Love and Mercy
  • Anomalisa

And there you have it. My Top 10 films of 2015. For my past lists, just click on the links below:

 

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2015 Oscars: The Buzz And The Biz

Best Picture 2015

This year’s Best Picture nominees brought in the most box office gold since 2012 but the winner…

Once again, it’s my annual look at this year’s top Academy Awards contenders and how they fared at the Box Office. This was something that once again had to wait until one month after the end of the Oscars to get the full picture. Boy did they have a lot to tell. Once again, all credits for my research to Box Office Mojo.

Before I get into explaining the box office results, I’ll let you all in that Awards Daily showed an interesting graph. It showed how not even $500,000 was spent on a For Your Consideration ad for a Golden Globe win but a win brought in megamillions. It also showed how millions are spent on For Your Consideration ads for the Oscar but the box office draw isn’t even half of what one gets from a Golden Globe win. Something to think about. Especially as we all read on.

When the nominations were announced, two of the eight Best Picture nominees–Mad Max:Fury Road and The Martian— had already grossed over $100 million. That wasn’t the case last year when none of them passed that mark on ‘Nomination Day.’ And that was the Thursday just before American Sniper had its wide release. Actually the eight-set of Best Picture nominees turned in an average of over $75 million. Very impressive.

The film that definitely had its biggest boost since its Best Picture nomination was The Revenant. Between Nomination Day and Awards day, it grossed $116.5 million. A significant boost also came to Room which only grossed $5.2 million before the nominations but $8.2 million between Nomination Day and Awards Day. Films like Spotlight, The Big Short and Brooklyn didn’t double their grosses after their nominations like The Revenant and Room did but their Oscar nominations did give them a good added boost. The Big Short received an additional 423.9 million: more than 50% more than before its nominations. Brooklyn also showed a bigger-than-50% increase in its box office results after their nominations. Spotlight also had an increase but it was just slightly over $10 million.

The only three movies that didn’t see a significant boost after their Oscar nominations were Mad Max: Fury Road, Bridge of Spies and The Martian because they had already neared completion of their box office run with their totals as impressive as they would get. Actually Mad Max: Fury Road wasn’t re-released after its Oscar nominations.

Now Awards Day came and three of the eight Best Picture winners had grossed over $100 million. However the Best Picture winner was a film that was one of the lowest-grossing of the eight nominees: Spotlight. It didn’t even have $40 million grossed by Awards Night. Ever since it’s only grossed an additional $5.2 million and it’s highly unlikely it will hit $50 million. This makes it the second year in a row the Best Picture winner failed to gross $50 million and the third year in a row it fails to gross $100 million. This is a bit of a surprise since I said to myself months earlier: “One more Best Picture winner that fails to gross $100 million and I’m done with Oscar tracking.”

Actually those were temporary feeling as despite Spotlight‘s low gross, it was a film that gave something to admire. However it does point some interesting stats. This will make it the fourth Best Picture winner of the 2010’s that didn’t gross $100 million and there’s still four more years left. The naughts, the decade before the 2010’s, only had three that failed to do so as did the 90’s. You’d figure that the title of Best Picture Winner’ would be a draw to the box office but now it appears less than ever. This shows an interesting detail about how the Academy is in terms of voting for Best Picture. In the past, it was almost always a Hollywood picture. Then things changed with the 1996 Oscars when Jerry Maguire was the only one of the five Best Picture nominees done by a major Hollywood studio to receive a Best Picture nomination. All of the other four nominees including winner The English Patient were independent films.

Since then, the independent films have been winning the Academy over. This has led to a bigger gap than ever between blockbuster films and critical darlings. It has definitely become evident over these last ten years. It’s a bit of a downer for me because I’d really like to see good cinema do well at the box office deep down inside. However it’s becoming more fact. I read an article from Awards Daily which talked about how independent films and films of critical renown don’t so well nowadays at the box office. In the past, you had the movie box office which gave a first run and second run of movies before it even hit video. Now we have such a wide variety of media methods like Netflix and Shomi. It seems like if you want to bring people to the movies, you have to have what it takes to do it. Moviegoers are now choosier as they can decide whether a movie is worth seeing in a cinema or worth waiting for it on Netflix. That would often mean big special effects and often theatre things like showing them in 3D or AVX or in D-Box seats. You mostly won’t get that with the films that win the biggest critical renown. That could have a lot to do with the Best Picture winner constantly grossing lower and lower. For the record, the last Best Picture winner that grossed $100 million+ is 2012’s Argo.

The box office may not have been friendly to Spotlight but it was friendly to the eight Best Picture winners as a whole. The eight have grossed a combined total of $803.8 million– just over $100 million per film for the first time since 2012– an all of them have grossed over $10 million. Spotlight wasn’t the only nominee to bag some extra money after the Oscars. The Revenant took an extra $11.4 million, The Big Short gained an extra $1.6 million, Brooklyn grossed an extra $1.5 million and Room grabbed an extra $1.2 million. Overall The Revenant and Room were the two with the biggest boosts from the Oscar buzz.

The box office results of this year’s nominees told a lot about moviegoers and their choices this year. The winner told lots about the Academy and how they’ve changed as far as voting for Best Picture. Next year should tell more.

Oscars 2015 Best Picture Review: Spotlight

Spotlight stars Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton and MArk Ruffalo as journalists ready to settle the score.

Spotlight stars Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo as journalists ready to settle the score.

I’ll admit I saw Spotlight two months ago and I’ve been procrastinating at writing my review. Now that the Oscar nominations are out–actually only an hour ago– this is a better time than ever.

The film begins in the 1970’s of a priest being fired from his job as a teacher at a Catholic elementary school in Boston. Fast forward to 2001. The Boston Globe has a new editor, Marty Baron. He first learns of the investigative Spotlight team of the paper headed by Walter ‘Robby’ Robinson.

Baron gives the Spotlight team a story to chase: a story of a priest sexual abusing children and Cardinal Bernard Law knowing about it and doing nothing about it. It first starts as a pursuit on a single priest who was continuously moved around from school to school. Over time it they would uncover that there were many priests who also committed acts of sexual abuse on school children and they were all covered up by the Archdiocese.

This is one story they had to get to the bottom of. However they’re limited in terms of resources. Plus they need permission to access sealed documents and have a trial or even an inquiry happen and they doubt they can get it from a Catholic judge. They talk with a head of a victims rights group who himself was abused, they talk to other abuse victims, they talk to a lawyer who’s handling the cases of some of the victims and they even find through an ex-priest who tried to rehabilitate pedophile priests that there could be as 90 sex offenders in the clergy. Further research uncovers additional priests moved about upon their actions being revealed and being listed as ‘relocated’ or ‘resigned.’

In September 2001 it appears the Spotlight team is finally ready to release the story. Then 9/11 happens which makes every other news story in the world take a backseat and cause even a further delay of the story being printed. However the wait works for the better as one of the Spotlight reporters, Michael Rezendes, uncovers proof through publicly available documents that Law knew all about the abuse going on and ignored it. Then a major victory. The judge grants them the right to look into sealed documents. Just as they are about to print the story, Robinson confesses he published a list of pedophile priests in 1993 but he never followed up on it. As the story is published, it creates history.

I’m sure that some people would be nervous about this film and declare it ‘anti-Catholic.’ In fact if I were a conservative conspiracy theorist, I would say Spotlight is a film released by an anti-Catholic director who wonders where all the Catholic hate from liberals went once Pope Francis came to power and wants Spotlight to bring it back. But I’m not a conspiracy theorist nor am I a conservative pundit. In fact the film has received positive feedback from Vatican Radio and even the current Cardinal of Boston praised it in showing how the Archdiocese had to confront its wrong.

I will say that I’ve seen bigger even more savage attacks on the Catholic Church in films in the past, especially from Martin Scorsese. In fact I remember watching 2002’s The Magdalene Sisters where the nuns were depicted as total monsters. I feel films nowadays are less anti-Catholic than that of 20 years ago or even 40 years ago. In fact one thing I give the film credit for is that it looks at all sides. It may portray Cardinal Law as a conniver but it wasn’t hard on depiction of the priests. In fact one scene that stuck out to me was when one of the alleged priests was interviewed. He not only appeared confused in how he didn’t know what sexual abuse was but admitted that he was raped as a boy. That not only shocked me but left me wondering how many of the abusive priests were themselves sexually abused as a boy?

On a personal note, I will admit that when I first saw the film, I left the theatre asking myself “Jon, why did you return to the Catholic Church?” It was a dilemma for days but it did solve itself over time. In fact shortly after, I wrote on my Facebook page: “I gave the Catholic Church a second chance in 2003 and it better not blow it this time.” I will never excuse a priest for sexually abusing any child. I believe they should be brought to justice. In fact, Pope Benedict clarified the issue when he said: “Forgiveness is not a replacement for justice.” I know you can’t take back the past however you can improve the future. The Catholic Church has not become blind to the issue of sexual abuse. In fact I learned from one man who tried to enter into education for the priesthood he had to get a criminal record check, an HIV test and a psychiatric assessment. I’m happy that the Catholic Church is taking the best preventative measures to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

In fact off topic from the film, I will admit that sexual abuse and the various Diocese’s and Archdiocese’s bad handling of it is a problem but I will also say that it’s a problem that goes far beyond the Catholic Church. It’s a problem that exists in other churches as well, it exists within certain families, it exists within school and it even exists within children’s sports programs. In fact this decade’s biggest sexual-abuse-and-cover-up story came not from a Catholic institution but from coach Jerry Sandusky and the cover up from Penn State university. Makes you wonder why the priesthood gets a lot of defamation from the sexual abuse of those while children’s sports coaches don’t get the same defamation. A sex offender is a sex offender no matter what their profession or even if it’s not to do with a profession at all.  Same thing with Universities, especially since it’s only come to light that colleges have a known rape problem but they’re doing next to nothing about it.

Back to the film, I think the biggest thing the film was focusing on was the bad marriage of church and state. Separation of church and state is enforced in the American constitution but it’s not to say it does find its way mixed into politics one way or the other. In fact I don’t think Spotlight attacks the Catholic Church as a whole but actually attack the Archdiocese of Boston. The film presents how the Archdiocese of Boston has such a huge influence over the city. We’re talking about a city with a huge percentage of Catholics and with a history of the Catholic Church giving, providing and influencing the city. No wonder a city like Boston would have such high regard for the Archdiocese. No wonder most Bostonians would look at priests as father figures. No wonder also would that present the biggest difficulty in terms of getting the ugly truth out, especially with people having a high regard for the Church in power and with a Cardinal sweet-talking those determined to get the truth.

The theme of sexual abuse may be very prevalent in the film but I think the biggest focal point of the film was to show a group of reporters uncovering a scandalous story and bringing it to print. One thing is the film doesn’t make like the Spotlight team are the blemish-free good guys of the film. It’s made known near the beginning of the film that this information was given to them five years earlier. They themselves made a big mistake of their own by delaying the story. Sure, they did a whole whack of effort to finally bring it to press in 2002 but they could have done it sooner. I think that was the whole thing of Spotlight is that it was a movie disinterested in making the image of a hero out of anybody. Besides we already hear of the mistakes of having an image of somebody is a bad thing as one abuse victim admitted he looked at priests to be like God. I’m sure millions more have had that deluded image of the priest being like God in their head. However it also shows how easily people can be feel a sense of betrayal by a Church when such atrocities occur. You can’t really blame them for being that disheartened.

I give top credit to director/writer Tom McCarthy and his co-writer Josh Singer for directing a complex film that’s like a bunch of pieces of a puzzle that had to be put together. This is a story that’s set in the Spotlight room of the Boston Globe and set in various other places throughout and they had to both show all the different parts of the story and make them come together from time to time. They did a good job of making this complex story come together without straying off into unimportant territory. Also they did a very good job of writing a story of sexual abuse that was watchable. I’ve seen other films of sexual abuse that were more explicit like 1992’s The Boys Of St. Vincent. Mind you it was a 90’s thing to do explicit entertainment because envelope-pushing was all the rage back then because 1; you could never put enough nails in the coffin of the Hays Code and 2; because back then softening of scenes or leaving such things out was considered a form of ‘denial’ in art. Anyways these are not the 90’s anymore and watchability is values more. I’m sure if they showed scenes of abuse in the film, it would make it somewhat unwatchable for many. I feel they made a good choice of limiting the topic of abuse to conversations of victims with the journalists. Especially since the top point of the film is how they brought the story to press. Besides I don’t consider compromising elements in a film for the sake of making it more watchable to be a filmmaking weakness. It’s not the 90’s anymore and Tom McCarthy’s not among the likes of Lars Von Trier.

As for acting, there were a lot of great individual performances most notably from Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams but none of them owned the film. In fact another top quality of the film is that it’s a combined effort from all the actors to play parts that don’t steal the show and add to the story telling by making it look like a unified effort. Even acting of the smaller roles that that of the abuse victims were excellent and added to the story. Overall this not simply a film that’s well-crafted. This is a film that does capture your intrigue. It’s a combined accomplishment from McCarthy, Singer and the actors.

Spotlight isn’t strictly about the incident. It’s about getting the story to the presses and the battles the Boston Globe had to go through to break the silence and finally get the word out. Keeps you interested from start to finish.