Thursday, June 13, 2024

Oscar Spotlight is on Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton in “Spotlight,” Story of Intrepid Boston Reporters


Tom McCarthy’s “Spotlight” moves up in the Oscar race to first position as it gets ready to open on November 6th (next Friday).

“Spotlight” boasts a sensational ensemble cast who play Boston Globe reporters and editors unearthing a pedophilia scandal involving 90 Catholic priests. It’s a riveting full on three act film that never flags as the paper’s investigative unit, called Spotlight, puts together a story that takes on Boston’s Archdiocese and then Cardinal Bernard Francis Law.

Last night the movie premiered in New York with a swell after party at the Harvard Club. Tonight, “Spotlight” hits Boston’s Coolidge Corner, with the last premiere set for Los Angeles.

This is a movie that is so good the audience breaks into applause before the credits roll, just as the last scene goes to black. But there is silence later. When the incredibly full crowd left the Ziegfeld, it was a somber event. “Spotlight” ends but the abuse, we know, keeps going.

Still, we can celebrate fine movie making. A lot of the cast was in attendance last night– from Mark Ruffalo and Michael Keaton to Liev Schreiber (with Naomi Watts), Brian D’Arcy James, Stanley Tucci, and Len Cariou (the original star of “Sweeney Todd” on Broadway, thank you very much). Missing: Rachel McAdams, John Slattery, Jamey Sheridan, and the wonderful Paul Guilfoyle (of “CSI” fame– great casting).

There were plenty of the stars’ friends, too, including Patricia Clarkson (so good in Learning to Drive), Bobby Cannavale and Peter Dinklage, who all starred in McCarthy’s “The Station Agent” some 12 years ago, as well as “Foxcatcher” director Bennett Miller, Carla Gugino, Katrina Snowden, and the immortal Kathleen Turner.

Newish Open Road films can breathe easy– they will take “Spotlight,” McCarthy and even composer Howard Shore– whose haunting score propels the tension of the investigation– to the Oscar finals without a doubt.

“Spotlight,” I am happy to say, held up beautifully from its opening in Toronto six weeks ago. McCarthy manages to illuminate the reporters’ attack on the story with a perfect sense of rhythm. Kudos to editor Tom McArdle, who’s worked with McCarthy on all his terrific films, even the bad one (“The Cobbler”).

“Spotlight” is a Big Idea film, on an Important Subject. McCarthy could have made something clinical. But the script and the actors have unique chemistry. The characters are so well delineated that you come to root for them– and that’s all you need to reach a wide audience.

PS Michael Keaton– we talked about the long time he took off before returning with “Birdman,” “Spotlight” and next year’s “The Founder,” in which he plays McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc. For a while there, it looked like he wasn’t coming back, I said.

“Yeah, but it was worth the wait, wasn’t it?” Keaton replied. Indeed.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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