Jimmy McGovern: Soap Writer With Substance

Behind the charming accent and sweet demeanor hides a clever cynic. Angry at the injustice of society, Jimmy McGovern has a reason to write. In an unexpectedly controversial Bafta lecture, he covers generating story, professionally causing offense, and the gravity of hard work. “You haven’t got to be better, you just have to work harder.” … Read more

One Surprising Scene That Earns Spotlight Best Picture

spotlight - best picture

I really enjoyed Spotlight. Not a masterpiece, but a relevant story, well told. Irony is not my strong side, and some now believe that I genuinely have the balls to criticise the winner of both Best Picture, and Best Original Screenplay.
You’re giving me too much credit, guys.

What I wanted to demonstrate, is that you can’t apply advice for emerging screenwriters to films written by seasoned – and successful – filmmakers. “Well, obviously!” I hear you say. Yet, beginners often look at these films to justify seemingly brave choices.

Let’s first look at the Spotlight win in the context of two decades. The past 10 years’ winners, and those from ’76-’85.


Best Picture 2006-2015

The Departed
No Country for Old Men
Slumdog Millionaire [O]
The Hurt Locker
The King’s Speech
The Artist
12 Years a Slave
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

[/twocol_one] [twocol_one_last]

Best Picture 1976-1985

Annie Hall
The Deer Hunter
Kramer vs. Kramer
Ordinary People
Chariots of Fire
Out of Africa

I don’t think Spotlight measures up to the standard of the 70’s and 80’s winners. Against recent winners, it compares much better.

So what did I like about the film?

best picture - spotlight - keaton - ruffaloSeven Reasons Why Spotlight Is A Best Picture

  1. It’s a drama that scored $40m+ at the B.O.Oscar®-winners are historically often dramas, and they don’t always perform very well at the box office.
  2. It features an ensemble cast – and doesn’t fall apart.Writing multi-protagonist stories for the large screen is hellishly difficult. You’ll find that those who do it successfully, have experience in television, like Spotlight co-writer Josh Singer.
  3. The issue is not painted in black & white.In politics, you won’t get heard unless you speak in slogans. Sadly the same is becoming true for movies with an opinion. Spotlight cannot be blamed of oversimplifying, as I will demonstrate below.
  4. Past story; cautionary tale for the future.The story may deal with events that happened 15 years ago, they are still acutely fresh in the minds of many. Perhaps as entertainers we have the duty to ensure we – and our audiences – stay cautious.
  5. It’s about journalists.Anyone with an interest in the media will have witnessed the rapid decline of the standards of practice of – previously respected – newspapers. More now than at the time of All The President’s Men, journalists are the guardians of our democracy. Or should be.
  6. Characters are relentless.From a purely technical perspective, Spotlight hooks us into a difficult subject through the POV of characters that are determined, unrelenting, even obsessive.
  7. It’s not L.A. or N.Y. for a change.

Okay, perhaps not enough reason for you to call it Best Picture. But don’t forget that the Oscars® are also a little bit about taste … and a whole lot about politics.

Now here is a scene that made me look at the picture differently.

Fifty Shades Of Grey

spotlight - ronald paquinSpotlight slowly builds. Initially I wondered “how are they going to make this work”, but once their task was clear, I loved how each character took to it in their own way.

The new editor Baron (Schreiber) sees an opportunity and a duty to take on the challenge, while old-timer Robby (Keaton) is reluctant. Staffers Sacha (McAdams) and Mike (Ruffalo) are the pit-bulls, attacking the case, without ever relenting. They’ll provide the momentum to get us deeper into the case.

Just past the mid-point sits a scene of merely ninety seconds, that makes this film truly special. It goes into brave territory, and reminds us of the complexity of child abuse. Rather than demonising the perpetrators and appealing to the audience’s primal lust for revenge, it shows us how difficult the issue really is.

Sacha visits a former priest named Ronald Paquin. The elderly gentleman who opens the door, radiates a child-like innocence. A wolf in sheep’s clothing. Then, the conversation gets a totally unexpected twist, leaving both Sacha and the viewer speechless.

-Karel Segers

7 Reasons Why Spotlight Shouldn’t Have Been Made

People go to the movies to be entertained. The emerging screenwriter should rule out writing scripts for any other reason than that. Like Spotlight. This film should not have been made. Even with its impressive cast, at the time of writing it only grossed about $40m, which is barely what you would expect the production budget to be. Why Spotlight … Read more