We’ve reached the “gotcha” portion of our viewing. In Spotlight, a team of intrepid reporters get to the bottom of the Catholic Church pedophile scandal, and in The Big Short a few super smart people get to the bottom of the mortgage scandal. I’m a sucker for a newspaper-based story, particularly when peopled with earnest champions of the truth. But while I really liked Spotlight I thought The Big Short was a more inventive, interesting and compelling movie. Explaining sub-prime mortgages and other complicated financial scams in a way we can all understand was just one of the ways the movie worked. The performances were spot on (with one exception) and the entertaining storytelling kept me riveted. Some mysteries remain: How did Christian Bale (The Big Short) and Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight) both receive nominations for their roles? Bale’s over the top performance was at odds with the rest of the cast while Mark Ruffalo played his reporter role as if he was Bruce Banner on the edge of turning into the Hulk. Robbed of nominations: Steve Carrell and Ryan Gosling in The Big Short and Michael Keaton in Spotlight.—CKB
This one’s tough, because both of these movies tell complicated stories really, really well. The Big Short tackles the 2008 housing meltdown, and the economic catastrophe that results. Christian Bale plays a quirky financial wunderkind who sees the housing collapse coming, as do Steve Carrell and Ryan Gosling (both of whom should have received Oscar nods), but none of them can get anyone to sound the alarm. I expected this movie to be deadly dull and formulaic, but credit the writers for finding funny, inventive ways to explain complicated financial information. The Big Short leaves you mad, frustrated and disgusted, which in no way makes the movie bad. In fact, I’d say it proves just the opposite.—EFH
Spotlight tells the story of the Boston Globe’s investigative journalism team that in 2001 uncovered decades-long child sexual abuse by priests, and the 34-year cover up by the Boston Archdiocese. Now, I love a good crusading journalism story, and Spotlight is among the best. Aside from righting a horrific wrong and giving the Church’s victims a voice, the movie points out the important work done by investigative reporters. (Another wrong is that Michael Keaton isn’t nominated for an Oscar and Mark Ruffalo is.) If there’s one takeaway from the film it’s that society benefits most when journalists and newspapers are supported so that they can do their jobs
Winner, again unanimous: The Big Short.