More “Mobi-Mini-Movie-Reviews” – 20th March 2016

The 2016 Oscars – The final batch of “Mobi-Mini-Movie-Reviews”

In this blog, I will review “Spotlight”, “Room” and “45 Years,” which will bring to a conclusion my review of films with 2016 Oscar nominations.

Spotlight.

1909823_originalI saw this movie before the Oscar winners were announced. I wasn’t particularly attracted to it, as although the subject sounded interesting, I was fearful that it might be a rather plodding film – about journalists slowly uncovering a scandal that is no longer as shocking as it was back in 2001.

(Indeed, does anything shock us anymore?)

As with Brooklyn, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

In many ways, this is an old-fashioned type of film and brings to mind similar films such as All The Presidents Men. Spotlight, is a well-made, thoroughly professional film that was a joy to watch.

It relates the true events of The Boston Globe’s investigative reporting unit, who uncovered widespread abuse of children by catholic priests in the Boston diocese. Even more, it uncovered the indefensible and disgraceful cover-ups by senior clergy – in particular, the head of the arch diocese, Cardinal Bernard Law – in order to protect the perpetrators and the ‘good name’ of their church.

Spotlight was the title of the Boston Globe’s four-person unit that went into battle against the powerful catholic establishment and who also came under enormous pressure from those on high to cease and desist.

The film traces events back to the very start of the investigation when there weren’t even enough facts to make a publishable story. Later, when it became clear that there was indeed a verifiable story which involved a single abusive priest; the editor refused to publish the story until they had uncovered the whole sorry mess.

It was only after the Spotlight team succeeded in gaining access to hitherto court protected documents that they were able to blow the scandal wide open. As soon as their story was published, hundreds more victims of abuse came forward to give their own stories of abuse at the hands of Catholic priests in the Boston area.

One priest alone was revealed to have raped or molested 130 children for decades while Cardinal Law moved him around to different churches rather than going to the authorities and having him charged.

Cardinal Law also orchestrated secret settlements for claims of abuse made against at least seventy of his priests, in which families were paid to keep silent about the molestation and rape of their children. The cardinal resigned after the story became public, but two years later he was promoted to a prestigious position in the Vatican by Pope John Paul.

Since the Spotlight’s gritty exposition in 2002, mass sexual abuse of children has been uncovered in the Catholic Church – not only throughout the United States but all over the world.

The tight paced direction, the great music score, and the brilliant ensemble acting by Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery – and especially Mark Ruffalo – have all made this a film well worth watching. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Along with most people, I was fully expecting The Revenant to get the nod for Best Picture, and I actually cheered out aloud when they announced the most coveted Oscar of all went to Spotlight. It deserved it.

Four and a half  Mobi-Stars out of five.

*

Room

poster_7726Room is a pretty good movie. It is based on a novel by Emma Donoghue who also penned the film script. It is the story of a woman who was locked up and sexually abused for 7 years inside a 10 ft. by 10 ft. shed.

It is also the story of her 5-year-old son who was born and raised inside the ‘room’ with no knowledge of the outside world. He assumes that the small television set they watch every day is just ‘make believe’.

The story is sometimes difficult to watch as we see mother and son play out their daily lives in this room, where the male perpetrator appears at night to have his way with mom while little Jack sleeps in the closet. They are both totally under the control of this evil, sexual pervert and there seems no hope for them.

I confess that I was worried that the entire movie would take place in the ‘room,’ as after about 45 minutes I was  starting to become tired of watching such unspeakable misery.

Fortunately, my concerns were unfounded. Jack manages to escape by pretending he is dead. The cops find Jack and glean enough information from him to work out where the shed is located. The rest, as they say, is history.

The final part of the film is devoted to the trials and traumas of Jack and his mom adapting to the real world at the family home of his grandparents.

The film handles this sensitively and realistically, although I would certainly take issue with the shocking and invasive questioning by a TV reporter, even though Mom was being paid for the interview.

Even in today’s sensationalist America, where just about anything goes, an interview like this would never be allowed to happen to such a distressed and traumatised woman – money or no money.

I don’t know why, but I could tell that the film was adapted from a book. Some of the events – such as Jack rolling himself up in a carpet probably works well in a book but less well on screen. It didn’t ring true.

Maybe I’m nit-picking, as generally speaking, the film works well and holds your attention throughout.

Jacob Tremblay, as Jack, acts out of his skin and Brie Larson, as the mother, is also excellent and does everything that could be expected of her in the acting department.  

But for this reviewer, she wasn’t the best actress amongst those nominated this year for an Oscar, even though she won. But there again…I’m probably biased.

Four Mobi-Stars out of five.

*

45 Years

45_yearsThis is a quintessentially English film about an elderly married couple, Geoff, and Kate, who are preparing to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary.

The couple are from different social backgrounds and have a different political belief system, but they have lived together happily as man and wife for nearly half a century. They still enjoy each other’s company and are clearly very fond of each other.

But insert a heart-shattering event a few days before the big wedding anniversary party and you have a cracker of a story. The ‘event’ is the receipt of a letter from Switzerland which informs Geoff that his long dead girlfriend from more than 45 years ago has been discovered in the mountains, her body still preserved in the sub-zero conditions.

It soon becomes evident that despite protestations, Geoff still holds a torch for his long dead lover. The news of her body being discovered has a startling an unsettling effect on him and his relationship with Kate.

It brings into question his true feelings for the woman he has been married to for 45 years. Poor Kate has to come to terms with the fact that she had spent a lifetime with a man who had always regarded her as second best – a sort of consolation prize. 

As with “Amour,” that wonderful French film about an aging  couple, 45 Years is brought alive by the tour de force acting of its two stars – Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling.

When I tell you that 45 Years is probably the best piece of film acting that Courtney has ever done, yet he is still out-acted by the brilliant Rampling, then you know you will be watching something that is really special.

The film may be quintessentially English, but the story is universal. The marriage and the relationship between the two protagonists could have taken place almost anywhere. The lives and dialogue they shared together may have been very English, but we can all identify with the feelings at the heart of the story.

Not a great deal happens in this beautifully crafted film, which is directed and adapted by Andrew Haigh; but hand on heart – there wasn’t a single moment when I wasn’t riveted to the screen.

Lately, I have developed a terrible habit of picking up my smart phone every time a film starts to lose my attention; but this didn’t happen once in the 96 minute running time of this wonderful film.

Sure, I can appreciate that the film is not for everyone, and for that reason it probably didn’t merit a nomination for best film, but why Brie Larson was chosen over Charlotte Rampling for the best acting Oscar, only the Hollywood luvvies can answer.

Five Mobi-Stars out of five.

 

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