I honestly had a real plan for this article. It was going to be a week long event in which we had guest writers discussing things like #OscarsSoWhite, how terrible the panel is due to ridiculous rules, eligibility, and voting, but I just can’t seem to care enough about the award show to make a real effort at posting something profound.
In lieu of an article about how awful the Oscars have become (and pretty much always have been), I’m going to go over some of the major categories and see if we can find something of interest somewhere among them to talk about.
Academy Award for Best Actress
First off, I really don’t like the fact that we still distinguish between “Actresses” and “Actors” via gender. They are all actors and should be treated as such. In my opinion, we should really put Jennifer Lawrence (nominated this year for the movie Joy) up against Eddie Redmayne (nominated for his (her?) performance in The Danish Girl) or Matt Damon (nominated for The Martian). If you’ve seen Joy, you know it’s no where near the caliber of her past performances (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, etc.), but it’s still a well put together movie and for her part, she does everything right and again, showcases an immense amount of talent.
Anyway, there are other actors (yes, screw the word Actress) that are nominated as well, here is a quick round up:
Cate Blanchett, in Carol Aird, as Carol
Brie Larson, in Room, as Joy “Ma” Newsome
Jennifer Lawrence, in Joy, as Joy Mangano
Charlotte Rampling, in 45 Years, as Kate Mercer
Saoirse Ronan, in Brooklyn, as Eilis Lacey
IWTMM’s Prediction: Jennifer Lawrence
Of course it has to be Jennifer Lawrence. Everyone loves her (she is really seemingly charming by all accounts) and if the panel even recognized any other actor’s name in that pile, then I would be surprised. Just give her another one, let her trip on the stairs or her dress *cue laughter* and a “surprised” winning speech.
IWTMM’s “Who Should Have Won”: Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road.
Seriously, you’ve likely seen Mad Max: Fury Road, the other nominations, not too likely. If you have (or even if you haven’t), Charlize Theron kicks so much ass in two hours than all the “Action Stars” of the 80’s combined. I totally think she should go all Kanye West on the Winner.
Academy Award for Best Actor
I believe they add, “in a Leading Role” to this title, but I don’t really care (that’s going to be a theme during this whole article). Let’s take a look at our powder-white nominees:
Bryan Cranston, in Trumbo, as Dalton Trumbo
Matt Damon, in The Martian, as Mark Watney
Leonardo DiCaprio, in The Revenant, as Hugh Glass
Michael Fassbender, in Steve Jobs, as Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, in The Danish Girl, as Lili Elbe / Einar Wegener
IWTMM’s Prediction: Leonardo DiCaprio
Leo has been passed over for this award in four separate years. They skipped a year between nominating him so it didn’t look too suspicious, but I believe DiCaprio has been thoroughly snubbed. It likely doesn’t make any difference to him. Did you see what he got to do in The Wolf of Wall Street?
I mean, come on, you think Leo cares? Does he want to win, probably, it’s seemingly a big deal to these Hollywood types. But if a little gold statue is more important than the millions he rakes in for almost every film he does, then I really think the “art” in film is moot.
Academy Award for Best….
You know what, I really don’t give a crap. The Oscars are horrible. The monologue is obnoxious and no matter who wins, someone is going to be upset. I don’t even have enough apathy to finish this article.
IWTMM’s Prediction for Best Director: Adam McKay for The Big Short
IWTMM’s Prediction for Best Picture: The Big Short
Seriously, I don’t care. The Big Short was a phenomenal movie with excellent actors, a horrifying reality, and was honestly both entertaining and filmed very well. It’s on the “Unicorn List”. It’s both entertaining and “Critically” acclaimed. So, for my money, it’s going to come out the winner, but I really don’t care. The whole thing is just a big Hollywood circlejer…….
…..and that’s all I have to say about that. At least I get to see Zootopia next weekend.
Heavy subject in today’s review. As usual with anything a little bit off kilter, controversial, or political, I want to state that we at I Watch Too Many Movies will not give our own personal opinion on the movie. We are just here to review the movie itself.
Michael Bay is one crazy dude. Not only can the man figure out a way to kill the Transformers as a franchise with exceptional CGI and explosions, but he can also slow down long enough to direct a film like 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. When I say slow down, I’m probably searching for the word restraint.
Even if Bay twisted the explosion knob down from his usual 11, this was still an action movie after all, so yeah, there were explosions. I will give it to Bay that he did something that I didn’t think was possible: took a highly charged political issue and made it about the event instead of the aftermath. That takes some guts and I appreciate Mr. Bay for that action and sparing us from his opinion.
13 Hours was based off a 2014 book (13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi by Mitchell Zuckoff, who took actual accounts from the point of view of the Benghazi compound’s defenders. The book itself does not address any of the political controversy surrounding the attacks in the aftermath of the September 11th, 2012 horrible incident.
I’ll give a quick thought I had while I was watching the film. In the beginning, the information on the screen read, “This is a True Story”. If you’ll recall, I explained what these types of terms meant in the world of film. When I read those words on the screen, I got to thinking about the “Chain of Custody”. Quick definition is that when evidence or something else is handled by multiple people, each of them sign off so that anyone can quickly identify where, when, and who had the evidence. Basically, it’s a much more accurate version of “Telephone”.
Anyway, all I’m trying to say is that you can believe the depiction of the events in the film about as much as a packet of salt. Here we have an author who discussed the events with the survivors, then we have Michael Bay and his writers dissecting the book and creating a screenplay from it, and finally the actors actually got a chance to discuss the events with the individuals that experienced those hellish hours.
If you want my opinion, the “Chain of Custody” had so many places to break and I believe it did. That’s okay though. Like I said, there were no allegations made in the film or the book, and the actors portrayed their characters who likely couldn’t care a “Lesser Hemsworth Brother” about the politics.
We’re glad they took the politics out of the event. Great job Mr. Bay. Now, what did you fill the two hours with? Actually a pretty solid action flick. From the very beginning of the movie, it was obvious that our heroes were in hostile territory. I mean even before Jim Halpert, excuse me, I mean John Krasinski‘s character lands in Libya, he’s given the evil eye about 100 times.
At this point, it is my complete obligation to tell you that I really had a hard time separating Krasinski’s character from his portrayal of Jim Halpert in The Office. He doesn’t deserve that at all, as there isn’t even a “Hint of Halpert” (say that five times fast) in the whole movie. I just really kept waiting for him to turn and look at the camera and shrug his shoulders. I saw an interview with him and he said that he never once slipped into a Halpert-ism. In fact, all the actors do a very good job (but odd how more than two of them were from The Office). Perhaps it’s because they were allowed to discuss this particular incident directly with their real-life counter-parts or something else, but every single person took their job seriously. It was the script that was a bit heavy handed.
Here is my huge issue, these guys went through hell and back. You don’t have to spend every other minute reminding me that they either have a family, a dog, or a pet cactus. WE GET IT, the stakes were high. In Hollywood, there is a tendency to spoon feed the audience the emotions of the characters instead of letting the ambiance and actors do their jobs and, you know, tell the story. Chuck Hogan, who wrote the screenplay from the novel, can do good work, I’ve seen or read it. He wrote The Strain series with Guillermo del Toro and even wrote the novel in which the film The Town was based. So I’m not quite sure why the audience is bashed over the head with a Skype call to family, new pregnancies, calling children, or even taking photos into battle throughout the whole movie. If anyone had bothered to watch the trailer, they would know that there is tons of action, gunfights, and explosions, then they likely knew someone was going to die. Come on, this is based on a real event, you could have spoiled the movie by reading a HISTORY TEXTBOOK.
Other than being told repeatedly that this is a dangerous situation, the film is fine. Typical action with plenty of gunfire, death, explosions, and the terrible feeling that you have no idea who is your enemy and who may be a sympathizer. I was especially impressed by how the actors shot and reloaded in this scenario. Typically, in every other action movie, an automatic weapon fires for minutes at a time and doesn’t need to be reloaded. This wasn’t the case in 13 Hours. Small 3-4 round bursts and dedication to actual tactical maneuvers that might be used in an actual battle.
The set was interesting in that the creators used all of the actual blueprints to construct the buildings in the film. That’s a pretty neat bit of dedication. Last thing that was impressive? The beards. Apparently, and this is true, if you’re going to be stationed in a CIA base, and you’re hired mercenaries, then you have to have an awesomely groomed beard at all times.
Didn’t read my fancy words, here is the short version:
Michael Bay actually showed some restraint in this film about a real-life event that was devastating for our country and he kept the political aspects completely out of the film. The actors did play “super-hero” versions of their actual counter-parts, but they hit the right notes and didn’t ring false at all with just a few real touches. I was a little disappointed in the script as it intravenously fed you the stakes of the event and the artificial terror of someone dying. It’s not a bad film to see in theaters, but you’ll enjoy it just as well by streaming or buying it on Blu-Ray. Oh, and if you even had to wonder what I consider to be Michael Bay’s best film, then shame on you.
Quick little bonus for all you good boys and girls. In the first 15 minutes of the film, I realized that all grizzled looking action stars had one thing in common: they either roll up their shirts or wear short sleeves. Just take a look (and know this is just the tip of the iceberg):
Now you can look for it in the next film you watch. Have a nice day.
So this has been a tough one. In general, a movie review, not to mention the reviewer, has to separate the subject matter of the film from the performances of the actors and the general tone, look, and feel of the movie. Spotlight was difficult because, as I’ll mention later, this made me really sick to my stomach and broke my heart. Well, I’ll go ahead and define a few things and then do my best keep it light and to give a review this film based on the entertainment value and not the wretched subject matter.
First things first. I want everyone to know the difference between “Inspired by a True Story/Events” and “Based on a True Story”. Anything that is “Inspired by” a person, place, or event typically leans more on the fictitious side. The screenwriter(s) or director might have gotten something right from the truth, but that could be something as simple as the names of the people involved, but most take a lot of liberties with the story. While Argo was “Inspired by True Events” Ben Affleck largely downplayed how the Canadians did most of the work and the whole tense end sequence was pure fiction.
Now we get to things “Based on a True Story/Event”. This typically swings completely the other way than “Inspired By” films. Most of the material is not fictionalized, but sometimes names, places, length of time the event occurred in, etc. One of the best examples is 127 Hours. If you’ve seen that film, then you know you can go ahead and ask the crazy bastard who actually sawed his arm off and then went back for more adventuring.
Now that we have cleared up some common misconceptions, let me tell you where Spotlight falls in this spectrum. When you go back up and look at the movie poster at the beginning of the review, you’ll see the following phrase: “The true story behind the scandal that shook the world.” Notice there are no “Inspired By” or even “Based On” in that byline. Spotlight goes one above the other movies we’ve talked about. This is a true story. The director, Tom McCarthy and screenwriter Josh Singer both have the unenviable job of bringing this tale of molestation, corruption, and investigation to the silver screen. Now that we know that this is pretty much biographical, let’s dig into the film.
Again, trying to separate the subject matter from the film, that’s the goal but unfortunately Spotlight really focuses on two things that bug the hell out of me: child molestation and organized religion. Last week on Wednesday Wars we celebrated Veterans, and I was explicit in that most of the post was satire. I didn’t bring my personal bias or thoughts about war and soldiers in general. However, in this case, I will not hid my thoughts on the matter. Like I said in the title, I believe most (if not all) organized religions are crooked and have no place in the modern world. On top of that, and here is where my confirmation bias comes into play, I have absolutely no trouble with believing that the Catholic church is a sordid and dangerous institution. That’s about all I’m going to say on the subject matter.
Spotlight is an investigative team from the Boston Globe who take on large cases and brought to light an absolutely abhorrent story of Catholic priests molesting young boys and girls in the city of Boston. Their 2002 article then spurred a look at the Catholic clergy sexual abuse scandal’s. Tom McCarthy, the director, has spent more time in front of the camera than behind it, but you can easily feel the tension in his style. This is something he cares about. Every single frame depicts a horrifying look into one of the oldest institutions in the World and McCarthy makes sure you feel that disgust. Whether it’s from the decidedly grey tint to the cinematography or the extremely heated dialogue written, it’s very apparent that something is seriously wrong here. He absolutely excels at making you feel uncomfortable, as you should, and for a film to elicit emotions like that is really what it’s all about. Of course we love the light-hearted comedies and action films, but sometimes, when you see a film like Spotlight, you’re reminded why the moving pictures are there at all: they exist to move you.
While the discomfort in the theater was absolutely palpable in the air, the ante was upped even from there with the unbelievable cast they put together. I’ll list the major people here, but everyone involved in this production, especially the actors portraying the victims, were involved in a way that you don’t see everyday. It’s as if they understood the gravity of the subject matter and that their acting and every word of dialog would somehow stop this sort of abuse by supposedly trusted individuals. As I said, let me toss out the main cast: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, and Stanley Tucci. I honestly don’t believe I’ve ever written the names of such talent in one review.
The three that I really want to showcase (just couldn’t use the word “Spotlight” there) are Ruffalo, Keaton, and Tucci. First off, it’s really good to see Michael Keaton taking meaty roles recently. Last year’s critical darling, Birdman, was the first time I saw his acting chops really get challenged since the ’89 Batman.
Anyway, Keaton succeeds as the editor of the Spotlight team by not only being their bosses, but he really digs into the trenches with them on this story. I sincerely hope the real Walter Robinson treated his employees the way Keaton gelled with the rest of the cast.
Stanley Tucci usually plays the creepiest of characters, have you seen The Lovely Bones? If not, and you’re a parent, I recommend you don’t. You’ll be convinced Tucci is outside of your house every night. As if one Boogeyman wasn’t enough, Hollywood had to cast Tucci in roles that he’s way too good at. However, in Spotlight, he portrays the attorney that is attempting to bring the criminals to justice. Yes, these people are the worst kind of criminals. And this is going to be really controversial, but at least murderers end their victims’ lives. Anyone who has been molested, raped, physically abused, etc. can attest that at some point you feel you’d rather be dead than live the life laid out in front of you. So, Tucci brings in victims, discusses cases, and the whole time I don’t know how he doesn’t throw up.
In my opinion, the true star of the film is Mark Ruffalo. I love him as The Hulk, but this was a much different role.
Ruffalo very much represents the audience in this film. Not only does he have some of the toughest scenes (many with Tucci), but he handles most of the legwork of the film. The sheer anger and disgust that is put on display with not only his words, but his mannerisms. There are several shots he is in that his face clearly depicts what I hope everyone who watches this film feels: revulsion. I would have never believed he was capable of this range, but he pulls it off, and again, maybe it’s due to how important the investigation that the real Spotlight team did.
There is no good way to end this review. We all know what happened and the fallout. Much of it was covered up as best as it could be by the church, but the World was made aware of a serious systemic problem in their ranks. I didn’t do a good job of separating myself from the subject matter and the film, but hopefully what you read conveyed my own anger and revulsion to this issue. That’s something that just can’t be taken lightly.
Didn’t read my fancy words, here is the short version:
Everyone involved in making this movie did two things: they made it entertaining and they made you feel disgust and anger. This film will move you. It’s opening in wide release today, so I recommend you go take a look. It’s not for the faint of heart, but if you can get past the truly horrific nature at the core of this film, you’ll find actors who care a great deal, a good investigative story, and writing/dialogue that should, and will, make you sick. For me, it confirmed my beliefs. Will it do the same for you, or will it challenge them?