Spotlight’s most obvious ‘eureka moment’ scene does not arrive, as in so many journalist procedurals, after a long night of drinking and piecing things together with clippings and red string. Nor is there some sort of secret source who demands a dangerously mysterious meet-up after dark. Instead, three reporters look through a series of public domain files, during work hours, and discover a pattern that has to be confirmed via the use of an Excel spreadsheet. It’s this stubborn commitment to authenticity that makes Spotlight such a distinct Oscar-friendly true story film, the lack of embellishment on an already fascinating story both one of its most commendable virtues and a contributor to its main weakness. Justice is done to this important tale, at the occasional expense of conventional dramatics, in an unshowy and sharply subversive Best Picture frontrunner. (more…)
Birdman, the latest effort from distinctive director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárittu, is a particularly bold film. Not only is it very technically impressive, but it deals with risky themes like the differentiation between pop culture and art and the inherent impotence of critics, which when handled poorly can make a film look self-conscious and above reproach. Luckily for both the movie and the audience, Birdman negotiates these incredibly complex and substantial themes deftly and with a sense of scope and proportion, touching on modern pop-culture, egomania, self-delusion, and the fundamental purpose of art; no small order for a film so immediately accessible. Beautifully written and performed, with a striking and unique soundtrack alongside genuinely breath-taking cinematography, Birdman is a strong contender for the best film of 2014.