When the New York Film Critics Circle named Michael Keaton Best Actor, the game changed for Spotlight. The ensemble cast had been honored at the Gotham Awards the night before; up until that point critics and pundits found it difficult to discern a lead actor among the fine ones in this movie. But this win for Keaton makes sense on so many levels: He portrays the Spotlight bureau chief Walter "Robby" Robinson who, as a character grows and changes in the manner of a classic protagonist, allowing Keaton to be considered for the prize he did not receive for his lead turn in last year's Birdman. The Best Supporting spot can go to Mark Ruffalo who plays Michael Rizendes, one of the key Spotlight reporters on the Boston Globe story about pervasive abuse of young people by Catholic priests. Bringing the film into sharper focus, Spotlight is about the media's role in the cover-up.
At dinner at la Grenouille last Tuesday night, many of the cast Ruffalo, John Slattery, screenwriters Josh Singer and director Tom McCarthy, and members of the real life Spotlight team: Robby Robinson, Mike Rizendes, Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) and Ben Bradlee, Jr. (John Slattery) were guests of honor. Much of the movie is based on interviews with the actual reporters: meeting Sacha Pfeiffer, actor/director Tim Blake Nelson, a guest at dinner, could not get over how much McAdams channeled her, even down to wardrobe. As to Mark Ruffalo, his performance hews close to his own social commitment. Preparing for this role, he shadowed Rizendes. But even before, he shared ideals for truth in journalism and life, as an activist against the Iraq war, and on environmental issues, he takes a stand against fracking.
Crash director Paul Haggis, a host of the evening, sat with an ice pack above his right eye, the victim of, yes, a crash. Before heading off to the emergency room, he spoke about Spotlight's fine direction. With some directors, he said, you are awed by every shot. You wonder how they did it. In this film, Haggis especially admired this film's selfless direction. You could say, Spotlight is about coming clean without the sins of pride or ego. As Walter Robinson said about his part in the scandal, "I made a mistake.
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