Saturday, December 19, 2015

Wow. Just wow.

Saw Spotlight today. It's thrilling, intense and disturbing ... which is quite an accomplishment for a movie whose basic plotline is well known to us all before we even buy a ticket.

On one level, it's about how The Boston Globe broke the story that the archdiocese not only knew about priests abusing children, they perpetuated it by moving the offending clergy from one parish to another ... and on to more young potential victims. It shows how The Globe invested time -- important and unusual in this 24-hour news cycle world -- to get the right story right. Meaning, when they had it cold that 13 priests were guilty of molestation, a shocking allegation, they held it and waited until they could prove misdeeds by a dizzying 70+ priests. Their goal was not just to notify the public, not just to let the victims feel validated and heard. Management at The Globe wanted to make sure that the numbers were so staggering that Bostonians had to know this was institutional abuse, that Bernard Law and The Vatican had to know about it.

It reinforced the difference between print and broadcast journalism. Every year on 9/11, MSNBC rebroadcasts it's minute-by-minute coverage of the attack on the Twin Towers. It's fascinating to watch history unfold in real-time, to watch as our lives changed forever. It's important, too, to see how TV news is gathered and disseminated. National Geographic has made the original footage of 11/22/63 and the Kennedy assassination available and it struck me the same way. TV news is about getting us the visuals and getting them first. Print journalism gives us context and accuracy. As consumers of news -- and citizens -- we must never forget that. We must be sure we pay attention to both.

Spotlight is also about the reporters. The toll this story took on them. How they kept going. Some were parents. Many were Catholic. They felt a a certain responsibility that this sexual abuse had gone on as long as it had, unreported. It reminded me of hearing Carol Marin of the NBC5 here in Chicago talking of the Laquan McDonald police shooting. She recently said the news media here in town had to take responsibility for not going after that story with greater dedication. At a time when the press is the punching bag of right wing politicians, it's refreshing to see that they consider themselves public servants, nevertheless.

Rachel and Sacha
It gave me a chance to watch Rachel McAdams. One of my favorite actresses, she plays real-life Globe reporter Sacha Pfeiffer and delivers some very effecting moments. Michael Keaton and Mad Men's John Slattery are very good, too.

I almost forgot Stanley Tucci! He disappears  completely into this character. Mitchell Garabedian is a difficult-to-like lawyer you just have to respect and admire for his tenacity on behalf of the victims. It leaves you shaking your head in disbelief and sadness that a law firm can support itself defending victims of sexual abuse at the hands of those in power.

I cried at the end of this movie. For the enormity of the problem. For the lives ruined. For the faith shaken. For the City of Boston, which (not the first time) has felt like a mirror of my beloved Chicago. For myself, an unheard victim of abuse myself (though by a relative, not a clergyman).

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