Spotlight (2015) – Oscar Bait 101


The best way to describe Spotlight is by using the overused moniker “Oscar Bait” but unlike most other movies that fell under the umbrella term’s shade, no other movie embodied Oscar voting body pandering better than Spotlight. 

Based on true events, Spotlight follows the exploits of the titular investigative journalist team as they do all they can to expose the truth behind the Boston archdiocese’s rampant and hidden sexual abuse, and by extension, expose the systematic cover-up and denial of the Catholic church.

If there was a checklist for everything that makes the Oscar voting block cream their pants, Spotlight would have filled that shit up perfectly and it should be no surprise as to why it got the top award in this year’s controversial Oscar race while accumulating a metric fuckton of other trophies that were not represented by golden naked men.


As Seen on Television


Just to clear things up, Spotlight is not a bad movie. Spotlight deserves praise when it comes to the technical aspects of film making, such as the casting or the production value, because not only does Spotlight do a good job of making the year 2001 and its big fucking computers feel nostalgic but it also shows how grueling it was for the journalists that made up the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team when they saw just how deep the church’s corruption went.

Over the course of Spotlight’s two hour run time, the tension gradually mounts and never lets go, with each new revelation about the Catholic church somehow trumping the one that was just previously unearthed a few minutes ago. You know a movie is doing its job when a scene featuring a dude inputting data into Microsoft Excel feels as tense as waiting for the next big shit inducing scare in a horror movie.

Despite what my opening statements may imply, Spotlight is a decently made historical biopic that does an incredible job of showing audiences the importance of the Boston Globe’s expose but that’s about all it does. For a movie based on one of the biggest controversies the Catholic church has faced in recent memory, Spotlight does little outside of retelling a headline that could easily be found online or through a fuckton of backtracking and homework in CNN news archives. Sure, the acting is astounding in an otherwise generic biopic but that’s like complimenting the fucking awesome bowl your serving of plain boiled rice came in.

Since the movie did nothing beyond retelling the hardships and pressure these journalists faced when trying to uncover the truth, it begs the question as to why the movie was even made in the first place when a documentary covering the exact same topic would have sufficed in telling audiences just how messed up it was discovering that the Catholic church turned a blind eye to the sexual abuse. Movies, whether they are based on real life or not, should take advantage of all the visual and auditory benefits the medium provides and Spotlight squanders the opportunity by following the safest and most predictable route imaginable.


Journalistic Repetition


In 2007, there was a movie that centered on the joint efforts of both journalists and detectives as they did all they could to expose the truth behind the Zodiac Killer over the course of multiple decades. The movie, Zodiac, is 2007’s equivalent of Spotlight albeit with fewer major awards. As I was watching Spotlight, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’ve seen the movie before, only it had horny priests as its main antagonist instead of a serial killer.The reason why I bring up Zodiac is because it had the exact same purpose as Spotlight did: to win awards through means of journalism and Mark Ruffalo.

And by the look of things, it worked perfectly even if it lost a number of miscellaneous awards to The Revenant (2015), a movie that will be forever remembered as that one time when Leonardo DiCaprio got fucked by a bear all in the name of those elusive trophies with a golden naked man on them.

When it comes to biopics, there’s very little room for creativity not because of the source material but because of the formula a majority of these biopics have willingly shackled themselves to, which is what made Spotlight a decent movie but not a spectacular one. Just because it’s based on fact doesn’t mean the movie has to feel like a two hour version of a historical documentary’s reenactment scenes spliced into the equivalent of a well financed TV movie, which Spotlight felt like.

Spotlight should have taken notes from Selma (2014), the Martin Luther King Jr. biopic that took a look at one of his major actions but focused on the human element of the Civil Rights movement. Spotlight, on the other hand, is more than content with showing viewers how tiring it was for journalists to sift through fuck knows how much research material without giving much emphasis on the toll it took on them outside of some emotional scenes that were too far in between to have an impact. Like most award winning biopics out there, Spotlight gives more emphasis to the historical event than the people in it, making it an awesome documentary but a passable movie.

People love to complain about corporate made cash grabs that pander to the youth but they barely bitch about movies that were custom made to pander to award giving bodies, which is what Spotlight is a good example of. Objectively, Spotlight is not a bad movie and as far as biopics go, it’s one of the better looking ones out there but that’s the thing: it’s just another biopic where actors show off what mad acting skills they got. If you’re the type who likes the genre, then I won’t take anything away from you if Spotlight made your day but personally, the only difference this movie had with a documentary is a tense data crunching scene and a depraved secret society of horny fucking priests.




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One thought on “Spotlight (2015) – Oscar Bait 101

  1. It’s so nice to read a review that’s not afraid to call Spotlight what it is (I was too chicken in my review). Like you said, Spotlight isn’t a bad movie, it’s just a bit predictable. And I’m relieved I’m not the only one who hates standard biopic mechanics – and no, making the whole thing an elaborate flashback doesn’t change the formula enough (looking at you, Walk the Line).
    That said, I gotta disagree that Zodiac was Oscar-bait, as I think it’s both a better and less-conventional movie than Spotlight even though they cover similar ground.

    Liked by 1 person

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