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Oscar Films for 2016: Spotlight

Spotlight is a movie about the consequences of the actions by the Catholic Church in Boston to allow the pedophile priest Geoghan to practice his sexual perversions on vulnerable Catholic children for 34 years before he was finally apprehended and prosecuted by the civil authorities in Boston. Church members and even other priests would report him to his superiors and the superiors would pull him from the parish and perhaps send him to rehabilitation, pray over him, declare him cured, and then send him back out to work in another parish with other children.

Spotlight is the name of a special group of journalists for the Boston Globe who research important stories about Boston for months or as long as it takes and who publish their results in the paper in special sections devoted to their work. In 2002, Geoghan was finally arrested and tried for his sexual assaults on children (the picture opens in a police station after he has finally been arrested and where the Catholic church is bailing him out) and the Spotlight team began to write about his depredations and sexual abuse of minors and who knew what about them. The Boston Globe has a series of articles about the movie and the process of presenting this problem to their readers. They also have the original two part article published in 2002 that introduced the problem of pedophile priests in the diocese. They are all interesting reads and I can recommend them. They gave me more of a background to the movie.

But the movie is not just an indictment of the Catholic church and its failures for decades to protect the little children that are supposed to be "suffered and allowed to come to Jesus". The movie also explores the failures of the Boston community to stop the practising pedophile priests. From the civil authorities and the police who allowed the church to protect the priests instead of subjecting them to civil law and building cases against the pedophiles and prosecuting them, to the schools who allowed the priests (that they knew about) to teach and coach and select their sexual prey, to finally, the Boston Globe itself that had the beginnings of the horrific story at least a decade before the 2002 break-out of the story. The Boston Globe never bothered to follow up those beginnings and bring them to light (Spotlight).

The movie is primarily about the story and the plot and the characters in the pedophile priest scandal. The movie is well written although it doesn't go into the depth of the backstory, you have to read the Boston Globe articles for that. The movie has a bit of the thriller about it. During the course of the movie, you begin to wonder who at the Globe shut down the original story about Geoghan and the pedophile priests and why they did it. Were they conspiring with the church too? There is a disembodied voice on the landline phone of a former priest and now psychologist who acts as a DeepThroat informer and advisor about the problem. You begin to wonder if he is setting the Spotlight team up.

The movie is well-acted. The standout performance for me is Liev Schreiber, he wasn't nominated for an award, who so beautifully personifies the outsider who comes into a community and clearly sees what is wrong and needs to be fixed. Schrieber plays the paper's editor-in-chief who chooses the topic of pedophile priests for the Spotlight team to research. He is new to the job and from a Miami paper. He is Jewish in a community of Irish Catholics. Liev Schreiber underplays the character but every movement or pause in his body language or line delivery shows his estrangement from the wider community that his character has entered and his tentative approach to integrate himself into his new environment. He gives a beautiful and full performance of character with limited dialogue and just a few scenes.

The direction of the film is satisfactory. The movie is concerned with plot and character. There is no great or attention grabbing set design or camera work or lighting. I wouldn't say that the direction is pedestrian, it is competent but it keeps your attention on the people and the story. It is like the writing in a good newspaper. It tells you what you need to know, it is good enough for that, but it is not literature. This movie is not about art or the art of making a movie. It is about people's souls and how they lose them and gain them.

Recommended. This is better than a good Sixty Minutes report.

Another article that I found in my research is about the Catholic church and priests in Baltimore and their possible involvement in a nun's murder in the 1960s.

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