Monday, February 29, 2016

Spotlight Review

I let out an audible bellow last night when Morgan Freeman announced that Spotlight had won best picture. I could not believe that such a forgettable movie beat out the likes of the Revenant or even Mad Max: Fury Road (it never had a chance :/). I mean if I'm being honest the Oscars have devolved into what the Grammys have been for the last decade. They seldom award or acknowledge movies that clearly deserve it because the academy is compiled of a lot of older-school folk. I mead did you know you don't even need to see all the films nominated in order to cast your vote if your in the academy? How's that fair? How does that demonstrate your credibility in the industry? And how lazy do you have to be to not watch all the movies in a field in which you earn your living? The Oscars are a whole different conversation, but despite its loss in prominence, I am still beside myself that they bestowed their highest achievement to the vanilla ice cream, Toyota Camry of a movie that is Spotlight. I'm so frustrated that I wanted to pen my thoughts down so I can refer to it when someone wants to argue that this was the best movie of the year.

I remember when I first saw this movie walking out of the theateres scratching my head as to why it was so hyped and praised. Okay okay let me start by saying this isn't a bad movie at all. In fact its kinda good.... no..... no that's me being worn down by all the people praising this movie. If I'm being honest its alright at best. The best part about this movie is it's acting. Mark Ruffalo is the star here as he totally transforms into Journalist Mark Rezendes. Michael Keaton and Liev Schreiber both do a good job here too, although I can't really say they did anything special. Rachel Mcadams was fine but I couldn't separate her persona from her role. Actually the more I write and reflect upon this movie, the less special I think it's ensemble was other than their clout. The storytelling is also pretty good too. It's neat seeing things unfold bit by bit into a larger scale issue. But where people are blasting sunshine up this films skirt and the writing department (how this movie WON best original screenplay, let alone got nominated over the Hateful Eight is an absolute mystery to me), I see a movie like the Big Short do the unfolding of a scandal even better. There was little to no emphasis on each pivotal moment as there should have been. It's hard to explain but see both movies and watch as they unfold and I think you'll understand. If I had to rate a movie only on story telling, I'd give this one a 7.5-8 /10. Even if it was a 10/10 that's not all you have to rate/critique a movie solely on. And that's what everyone is forgetting when they hail this film.

Alright here I go, the bars are off. This movie did nothing artistically. Nothing. There is not a single moment in this film that could be interpreted as an artistic liberty or as artistically driven. Why is that important? Well I'll try and explain. Movies can be boiled down to two types: Realist and Formalist. Realist movies are movies that are told and portrayed as they would be in real life (so no dream sequences, no narrations, no altering of history, it can be fiction but no breaking the laws of physics, etc.). This is what Spotlight falls into. Formalist movies are movies that fit under the bill of anything I described in that parentheses. Generally speaking (in my opinion), formalist movies tend to be more interesting and memorable BUT that doesn't mean that it can't be done for realist films. They can (must) use cinematography, music, and a great script to breach mundanity. You need artistic interpretations in each of those areas in order for a film to be memorable or at the very least good. My example for this is Lawrence of Arabia. A movie that could have easily been forgotten as a British ambassador trying to settle disputes in the middle east, is remembered as one of the greatest epics of all time. Why? Because how how it was shot. It has some of the most beautiful, grand, and breathtaking cinematography of all time. The shooting feels epic and so we as an audience feel like we're embarking along an epic journey. That's the power of camerawork. Oh my god Spotlight looks like it was shot by a first time camera man. The shots were so bland and uninspired, I can't remember more than like two locations in this movie. Someone on Reddit (the cornerstone of all opinions and excellence) actually tried to make the argument with me that the underwhelming cinematography was deliberate because it complimented the tone (ie these people weren't big heros// they were understated) of the film AND he even compared it to the simplistic writing style of Earnest Hemingway. To which I said: doing absolutely nothing artistic shouldn't be praised just because it may go with the significance of the film. Hemingway's writing style was completely deliberate and that's one of the thing's he's most remembered for. I don't think this filmmaking style was deliberate in the same way [random redditor] is claiming it's intended, that's giving it way too much of the benefit of the doubt. On top of that no one is going to remember this movie years from now for its cinematography (or at all). Now why waste my time justifying a stupid argument with someone I will never have the distinct privilege of getting to know? Because that is the majority opinion  people seem to have on this movie, and I'm not too sure why. Musical score and supervision is nonexistent here. I would not be surprised if they took the score from a stock website or something. There is no costume design either (not that there needs to be an eccentric one considering the story but it's less than what this movie calls for). There is no coloration design reflexive of tone at all. There's just nothing.

To those of you who have not seen this movie yet, I want to ask you a question that I want you to keep in mind throughout the film: If this movie's story wasn't true, would it be as good as it is in your eyes and the eyes of others? To those of you who have seen it I ask the same question. Your answer is what separates a documentary from a movie. A movie should not be supported on the merits of its truth. I think I can be elevated by reality, but it should not be held up on that sole premise. Film is the one medium where you can present and alter reality into art (visually speaking). This movie did not take advantage of that at all. If you do something different and innovative to the true story I promise it will be more remembered for it. Take American Hustle and the Wolf of Wall Street. Both movies released the same year, both based on a true story, and both nominated for best picture. However one told the story as it was, and one told it in an innovative and interesting way. Which one is the one that people are still talking about today? I haven't heard anyone say anything about American Hustle since the 2014 Oscars. People are still quoting the Wolf of Wall Street today, they're doing the chest bump thing, there are memes and gifs still floating around the internet, there's even a Jordan Belfort song that frats photosynthesize to. And I guarantee you there wouldn't be any of that if Scorsese had told the story as it happened and not in the stylistic way that the movie is. That's truly my biggest problem with Spotlight. And I wouldn't have ripped it a new one if it hadn't been so universally praised. The best picture win was the last straw. If you still like the movie despite all I've said than awesome! I honestly have zero problem with that because opinions are just that, and movies are made to entertain. My hope isn't for the you to go "well if Nick thinks it's got problems than I'm not sure how I feel."My only goal was to help show the underwhelming presentation of this movie. I just want to bring to (spot)light (haHA) the other aspects film making that not everyone talks about. I saw it completely glazed over by so many that I couldn't just let it go. At the end of the day, only time will be the real critic of this movie and we'll see if we're talking about it years from now (or in a week). 6/10