Oscar Beat: ‘Spotlight’ Explodes as Major Contender Across the Board

     September 15, 2015

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The Toronto International Film Festival is known for having “those screenings” where a film just explodes, kicking it into the public discourse in a very big way. It happened with Silver Linings Playbook, it happened with Slumdog Millionaire, and it happened this week with Spotlight. Even though the film already had its world premiere at Telluride a few weeks back (where it was also warmly received), co-writer/director Tom McCarthy’s procedural drama about the Boston Globe reporters who investigated and uncovered systemic sexual abuse in the Catholic Church broke out in a huge way with its screenings at TIFF (read Matt’s review here), announcing the film as one of the very best of the year and a major contender in the coming Oscar race.

This is a truly astounding film about the consequences of silence, culpability, and the power of rigorous investigative journalism. It’s a genuine ensemble piece without a single weak link, and it’s emotionally hard-hitting without going for the cheap tearjerker. The script by McCarthy and Josh Singer is pitch perfect, and McCarthy’s delicate direction gives the film a propulsive sense of movement while trusting the actors and the story to carry the movie towards its powerful, cathartic, and ultimately hopeful conclusion.


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Image via Open Road Films

So yeah, this thing has the makings of a bona fide Oscar favorite. Nominations for Best Picture, Director, Screenplay* are all in the cards, and when it comes to the acting the only difficulty is choosing who goes in what category. A true ensemble piece, Mark Ruffalo and Michael Keaton probably have the most screentime and could maybe be justified in submitting as Lead Actor, though they’d be more at home in the Best Supporting Actor category alongside a beautifully nuanced Liev Schreiber or colorful John Slattery (and maybe even Stanley Tucci or Brian d’Arcy James—this bench is deep and everyone gets to hit a home run). A Best Supporting Actress nomination for Rachel McAdams would also be entirely warranted for her measured portrayal of relentless yet patient reporter Sacha Pfeiffer. Basically, this film is already a near-lock for the SAG Award for Best Ensemble, and if the Oscars had a similar category you can bet it’d be the clear frontrunner right now.

Howard Shore’s score is also noteworthy and could be a contender should the Academy take a strong liking to the film, and I do have a feeling they might. While voters have been reticent in the past to award films that are “too dark,” Spotlight is ultimately a hopeful film that champions good people doing good work without devolving into hagiography—part of the film’s message is that no one in Boston was beyond culpability for what was allowed to happen for decades, and that includes the Boston Globe.

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Image via Open Road Films


I hesitate to use the term “frontrunner” at such an early stage, but Spotlight really is an astonishing film that’s going over exceptionally well with TIFF audiences. Should it become a bona fide contender, it would be Open Road’s first foray into the Oscar race—they’ve come close with films like Nightcrawler and End of Watch in the past, but Spotlight feels like something special. Keep your eye on this one, folks.

*Though this is based on reporting from the Boston Globe, Mashable’s Josh Dickey hears Open Road will be submitting the script in the Best Original Screenplay category.

Click here to catch up on all of our TIFF 2015 coverage thus far, and peruse recent TIFF Oscar Beat articles below:

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