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‘Spotlight’ sure to receive plenty of award consideration

Date: 12/3/2015

In theaters: Spotlight

“Spotlight” is a film that operates on multiple levels. It is a film about journalistic process, a social thriller and a mystery.

It is also a film that shows what journalists can do if they are not only allowed to do their jobs, but are supported even if the subject matter is the most sensitive and takes on the powerful.  This is, of course, a situation that appears to be happening less and less.

“Spotlight” also shows what is at stake in journalism: the kind of reporting that TV is, at best, reluctant to do.

Set in 2001, “Spotlight” focuses on an independent investigative unit at the Boston Globe. Allowed to pick their own topics and set their own schedule for publication, the reporters come to the realization the occurrence of a priest molesting a child is not a singular event, but instead an epidemic.

The question is how to take on the Catholic Church and the powerful Cardinal Bernard Law in such a way that real change could be implemented.

The film stars Michael Keaton as Walter “Robby” Robinson, Rachel McAdams as reporter Sasha Pfeiffer, Mark Ruffalo as reporter Michael Rezendes and Brian d’Arcy as reporter Matt Carroll.

I heard interviews about how writer and director Tom McCarthy wanted to make this film as authentic as possible. His actors spoke with the reporters they portrayed at length prior to shooting and they were welcome on the set to try to make sure what was being filmed was accurate.

The result is a no nonsense film that details just how difficult it is to assemble such a story and how an initial perception an editor or writer can have about that story can change as the story unfolds.

This is also a film about Boston with the rivalry with the Boston Herald, the might of the Catholic Church and the city’s power elite all part of the story.

McCarthy also shows how within a newspaper organization there are certainly stresses. The Spotlight staff is seen almost as outsiders who are playing by rules that are different to those governing other reporters.

The cast gives audiences under-played realistic performances with Keaton showing once more his dramatic chops are just as impressive as his sense of comedy. The supporting cast is loaded with some great performers – John Slattery, Billy Crudup, Jamey Sheridan, Paul Guilfoyle and Len Cariou – who add great depth to the story.

McCarthy proved with this film that one shouldn’t judge a filmmaker on just his last film – an old Hollywood axiom. In his case that would be the Adam Sandler comedy drama “The Cobbler” which was the largest box office flop in Sandler’s career.

The film both celebrates the power of print journalism and serves as a sort of eulogy for it. In this era of stories that are stretched out on websites to maximize “clicks,” stories that are published before all the details are known – but revised for accuracy after everyone has read the incomplete version – and television stations that trumpet their “investigative” teams who don’t really investigate, it’s heartening to recall how big stories were done in the near past and how they should be done.

This is a film that I’m sure you will see mentioned a lot in the upcoming award season. Go see it for yourself.

On cable television and on the web: Ash versus The Evil Dead

In the most unexpected revival/sequel, director Sam Raimi’s groundbreaking comedy horror franchise, “The Evil Dead” has found new life in a series carried on Starz.

The show is set more than 30 years after the events of the second film in the series and follows Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell), the blowhard semi-idiot hero of the films. Now middle-aged, Ash still has the most evil book in the world, The Book of the Dead, and to impress a date he read a passage from it, unleashing the demonic force that he fought in the films.

Ash is old enough to know better, but he is a randy charming moron.

He now is traveling with two young associates to try to find someone who can read the ancient text and find an incantation to reverse what damage he has done. Pursuing him is a state trooper and a member of the family killed in the second film by the demons who is seeking revenge against Ash.

Campbell has perfected the right mix of buffoon and action star in his performance as Ash and he is a delight to watch, but this series is not for everyone. Those easily offended by gore, played for both comedy and shock, will probably want to avoid this show.

For an old horror fan such as myself this new look at an old “friend” is an over the top – way over the top – blood soaked delight.