With awards season kicked into high gear, the movie the industry is buzzing about is “Spotlight.”
After winning accolades from critics’ awards and guild nominations, it seems to be emerging as the consensus favorite among fractured voters aligning behind big movies like “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “The Martian” or smaller movies like “Carol” and “Trumbo.”
When I received the “Spotlight” screener earlier this week, I immediately changed my plans to watch “Chi-Raq” or the Janis Joplin documentary at my local art house theater to make my own popcorn at home. I wanted to revisit this movie and to gain a better understanding. I predict this movie is poised to win over the members of my critics group.
After a second viewing, I thought “Spotlight” holds up as a powerful testament to the old-school spirit of journalism that is slipping away in our modern era of reactionary sensationalism, gossip mongering, and blatant misinformation. Following the journalists uncovering the Catholic sex abuse scandal in Boston in great detail, it is truly one of 2015’s greatest movies.
One expects multiple Oscar nominations because of the gripping performances, but this hasn’t been the case with early awards. Rachel McAdams has been the only actor to receive an acting nod between SAG and the Golden Globes. Though not a sure-fire indication of an Academy Award nomination, being nominated builds momentum which is something “Spotlight” needs to maintain as a smaller movie.
It is a simple problem. Similar to awards voters picking their favorites without a consensus emerging, multiple actors for “Spotlight” are being shut out because they don’t have enough support. There are too many supporting actors from “Spotlight” cancelling each other out with the voters. This is an issue most movies wouldn’t mind happening. However, someone from “Spotlight” deserves an Oscar for acting.
There is good will for Michael Keaton especially after losing the Oscar for Birdman last season. People want to see Keaton win this time. During the North American premiere screening of “Spotlight” at the Telluride Film Festival, which I attended, he was glad to be there and proud of his work. Before the movie, the crowd sang “Happy Birthday” to him. He lit up the room and did pushups for the audience.
From my perspective, “Spotlight” played well for audiences in Telluride. I volunteered at the Werner Herzog and witnessed the crowd react to many movies, but nothing like this one. As a CinemaScore pollster, I interact with audiences often. I smell crowd pleasers and know how people react positively or negatively. I am confident that if there was an audience award at Telluride, “Spotlight” (or maybe “Viva”) probably would’ve won it.
The entire cast shouldn’t have considered supporting. I think Open Road made a mistake with not putting Keaton as lead. Keep Ruffalo in supporting and move Keaton to lead. A lot of Keaton’s support comes from an emotional reaction with him having a second chance at winning so it made sense to keep Keaton in supporting. He would have an easier time actually winning.
If I had to choose one performance supporting performance to award, it is Mark Ruffalo’s hands down. Throughout “Spotlight,” he was dorky and impassioned to follow the leads, check the facts, and write the correct story. I thought Ruffalo knocked it out of the park especially in this scene of a showy emotional outburst which embodies the moral outrage of the Catholic sex abuse scandal they are uncovering.
Ruffalo has been nominated for Oscars twice. From his sweetly sincere turn in “The Kids Are All Right” to last year’s brutal and under-appreciated “Foxcatcher,” he encompasses a great mix of emotional weight, serious talent, and genuine maturity. He isn’t Christoph Waltz playing the same character in a Tarantino movie twice. He has established a versatile career for himself in the Marvel movies as The Hulk.
With a true range within his work, his good natured demeanor, and his passionate humanitarian causes, Mark Ruffalo is a bright spot in the Entertainment Industry. He will one day win an Oscar. Why not now for “Spotlight?” As his character demands from his fellow colleague in the emotionally charged moment, “Its Time.”