Why didn’t you tell me what it was about?

Shocking news: I went out to watch a movie tonight…and I liked it.

The movie was Spotlight, and I had absolutely no idea what it was about, going into the theater. I only went out because my wife was watching the Republican debate, and when Cruz started whining like a 5 year old that everyone was picking on him, I had to flee before I ripped the television off the wall. So the Morris Theatre Cooperative got my money. If the debate had been on a few hours earlier I would have been watching Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Trip, and I would have liked that better than the Republicans, too.

Spotlight had excellent acting and a strong story, but I have to say that one of the most appealing things about it was the anti-clerical theme. It’s all about the pedophile priest scandals in Boston, and how a team of reporters at the Boston Globe cracked the story. It’s a movie to bring a grim smile to the face of any atheist — grim because there were so many victims of the ratfucking Catholic Church, but a smile through the pain because at least a few high-ranking nasties got exposed. And then got promoted straight up through the Catholic hierarchy.

OK, there really wasn’t much to smile about.

But still, a phenomenally good movie. Go watch it.

Next dilemma, though: who to cheer for at the Academy Awards this year? I was solidly for Mad Max: Fury Road, but now I wouldn’t mind seeing the anti-Catholic movie get the nod.


  1. taraskan says

    I recommend Betrayal, the book produced by the Boston Globe about these events. It doesn’t exactly rehash the film and is more a sourcebook of the raw data, which is always handy.

    I liked that Spotlight gave a fairer representation of Richard Sipe, the ex-priest psychologist who led them to the right people, as he’s kind of been unfairly painted as a fringe conspiracy theorist by the larger media.

    You liked the acting better than I did. I like Keaton, but he has a habit of taking roles that don’t exactly fit him. The last one that really clicked for me was The Paper (1994).

  2. says

    Yes, “Spotlight” is awesome. As a cradle Catholic who grew up in an environment where the Church was the undeniable voice of God, I took quite a while to see how “tolerant” the hierarchy could be of errant clerics. (And no, I didn’t make such a cute altar boy that I had to fend off any priests in my youth; that would have made the inner rot that much more obvious that much sooner.) The Boston scandal was of awesome (but regrettably not unique) proportions and went right up to the very top. I remember following the news stories revealing the complicity of Cardinal Bernard Law in shuffling pedophile priests about while ignoring or (at best) making excuses for their crimes. When, at long last, Boston got too hot for the cardinal, the pope (JP II at the time) very conveniently snatched him away to a job in the Vatican—but it was obviously a dash for sanctuary before Law was subjected to criminal prosecution.

    I’m reminded that Cardinal Francis Spellman of New York was reported to have a fondness for chorus boys and would send his episcopal limousine to pick up a favored minion at the stage door after Broadway performances. No one said anything about it at the time, of course, because no one would ever believe it. And if that’s what Spellman thought, then he was certainly correct back in those days.

  3. chigau (違う) says

    Before I read this post, I heard an interview on CBC (Canada) with Sacha Pfeiffer, one of the real-life protagonists.
    That already made me want to see the movie.

  4. taraskan says

    @Zeno vis Spellman, There’s a good point, somewhat glossed over in the film. IIRC, it seemed to make the case that the celibacy policy is partly to blame for the systemic behavior (obviously not the systemic cover-up), but really it was their safety net and positions of authority over minors. After all, in the 15th century or so, when the celibacy vow was taken with a grain of salt, cardinals had entire youthful entourages for their amusement, often nude during festivals. Luther famously recorded Leo X having vetoed a motion to reduce their number. Just to dash the idea they simply ‘lacked an outlet’ or something. It’s just power corruption through and through, and I’d liken it to why there is a higher incidence of sex crimes on military bases.

  5. jacksprocket says

    “the ratfucking Catholic Church,”

    If they’d been fucking rats, few would have objected.

  6. Pascal's Pager says

    Haven’t seen spotlight. My mind is still blown over Mad Max Fury Road.

    Mad Max all the way.

  7. says

    They could make a similar one about the dark deeds coming out of the judicial inquiry into the same thing in Australia. Its looking increasingly like a bishop in a parish where a catholic boys school was a hunting ground for pedophile priests knew more than he let on to the inquiry. He was promoted through the ranks to archbishop and then cardinal before getting a promotion to the Vatican. While he was in Australia he was doing damage control on the revelations. This consisted of acts like holding a meeting with the parents of an abused child in a church basement used as a store room. The parents were forced to sit on tiny school chairs while the Cardinal lorded over them sitting on what they described as a throne. The Cardinal is supposed to return for further questioning but he is “too ill” to travel. It seems they found he has a heart after all. It is just not a very good one

  8. Tethys says

    Speaking of the heartland, we had our own scandal way back in the 80s. I convinced my friend that he had to tell his parents about the ratfucker gustafson. My friend died via suicide years ago, and there were at least two more ratfuckers and 6 other victims that I know who have never come forward. Abusive priest gets disability, support from Twin Cities archdiocese
    Archdiocese gave pedophile salary, disability benefits, expenses and consulting work..

  9. says

    Out of curiosity, I wondered what Good Ol’ Bill Donohue had to say about the movie. He admits now that there was a problem, but…

    The fact of the matter is that the sexual abuse of minors by priests has long ceased to be an institutional problem.

    Oh, of course. Right. No rapey priests in the church anymore.

    But even if we believe that (and I don’t), that doesn’t mean we should drop the issue. There are priests who raped children still in the church. There are priests who covered up the actions of priestly rapists for years, still in the church.

    Does Donohue say of secular murderers that, well, the victim is dead, it’s no longer an institutional problem, let the accused killer go free?

  10. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    Good thing you don’t live near Boston, where there was a brief flurry [pun] of controv about how the story was inflated by putting ex post facto details in as if they were historically accurate. I can’t recall the details cuz I decided to disregard argument over adding actual facts into the story for dramatic purposes.
    One detail I seem to recall was about a scene set in The Boston Globe where the reporter laid out the whole story to the editor for approval for print, when actually that meeting never happened and the writer published the story without approval. Ruffalo discussed this a bit with Seth Meyers as Seth’s guest. [I may have got that all jumbled up, but regardless]

    Funny coincidence, Wednesday27th I bopped into Boston (Brookline) to attend a book reading sales pitch. Across the street was a local theater that shows obscure art films and such. Looking at the day’s offering, was the film “Spotlight”, that both of us said “I wonder what that’s about”.

  11. laurentweppe says

    Does Donohue say of secular murderers that, well, the victim is dead, it’s no longer an institutional problem, let the accused killer go free?

    If the killer’s a cop, I suspect he will

  12. gmacs says

    It’s all about the pedophile child molester priest scandals in Boston


    Remember: there’s a difference. Pedophilia is a condition of the mind, not an action. It can be helped before it leads to child abuse.

  13. says

    Yeah, slithey tove@15, it is a movie, a dramatization, not a documentary. While there’s a lot of truth to it, Hollywood will ignore or invent whatever it feels it needs for a better story. (I learned this a long time ago… the lead character in the 1994 film “Iron Will” is “based on” real historical figures. But it’s a mix of several people, and the closest match didn’t actually win. Disney somehow didn’t include that his dog team ate the lead dog.)

  14. blf says

    That is the secret of getting PZ to like a movie — make him watch part of a Republican debate.

    Well, if the thugs actually had a debate, that could be worth watching / listening-to, just for the novelty value of them performing Cage’s 4′33″ over and over again. Of course, they wouldn’t pay any royalties…

  15. DanDare says

    I went and saw last night – mainstream Australian theatre – with wife and daughter. Wife is an ex-catholic. Very well crafted film. I thought it captured the mechanisms used to keep a lid on it very well.

    As mentioned above we have good ol’ Cardinal Pell to deal with as one (but not the only) high ranking priest involved in institutional shenanigans. There is something about him in the news at least once a week at present.

    I find it interesting the Globe stories prompted calls for an investigation here in Australia but when our PM at the time decided to hold a royal commission it was not focussed on the church but on all “institutions” that have covered up child abuse. I was dubious at first, seeing it as a deflection, but oh boy the stuff that came crawling out from under the rocks is staggering.


  16. says

    I saw it the day it came out. It made my list of the best movies I saw in 2015. I went in with high expectations and it met them. Even the Vatican liked it:

    Luca Pellegrini, who frequently comments on art and culture for Vatican Radio, praised “Spotlight” for demonstrating “the inexhaustible and uncontainable force of the truth.” His review was posted in Italian on the Vatican Radio website.

    “It was a group of professional journalists of the daily ‘Boston Globe’ that made themselves examples of their most pure vocation,” Pellegrini wrote, “that of finding the facts, verifying sources, and making themselves — for the good of the community and of a city — paladins of the need for justice.”

    Because if there’s anyone who champions truth, facts, and justice it’s the RCC.