The time period in which a film is released plays a large part in judging the film as a whole. Looking back at certain films from a 21st century standpoint heavily recolours our opinion of them. For example films dealing in terrorism pre-9/11 are viewed very differently from their modern day counterparts, and even some of Bond’s womanising antics in the Connery and Moore days are heavily criticised by some as being overtly sexist. To ignore the context in which a film is made could almost be as much a mistake as disregarding the writer or even the director. This may be most commonly argued in older creature features pre-CGI, as numerous effects can be looked back on as corny or laughable, but were cutting edge at the time of release. Or even when regarding overt racism that can be seen in some older films such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s. With this thought in mind it may be worth asking if the current attention to scandals such as Jimmy Saville, Rolf Harris and Bill Cosby have coloured the way in which we view this years ‘Best Picture’ Oscar winner, Spotlight.
There have been several films in the past that brought home the gold, only to be questioned a year or two later. How Green Was My Valley winning over Citizen Kane in 1941, and Crash over Brokeback Mountain in 2005 both come to mind. The King’s Speech, for example, was released in 2010, just as Prince William announced his engagement and swept the country into a somewhat enhanced form of patriotism. Granted the film was in production before the announcement, it seems worth questioning as to whether or not the coinciding announcement led to the film gaining more attention, combined with the performances of both Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush.
Spotlight had some tough competition this year, going up against films such as The Martian, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant, and Bridge of Spies. Spotlight was somewhat of an underdog, with a number of film websites and magazines placing their bets on The Revenant. Its success is not only a surprise but a breath of fresh air. Since the Oscars were less than a month ago, it seems unfair to judge whether or not it deserved the Oscar for Best Picture at this point, it is truly an excellent film, well directed and written with a superb cast that is hard to find fault with. But with the subject matter of the film, and the overabundance of the scandals in the news, it is interesting to wonder whether this is a case of the times affecting the Oscar outcomes.
If the current influx of child abuse scandals in the news are indeed one of the reasons why the film gained so much attention in the academy, then it has certainly earned it. The events that inspired the film were essentially a catalyst for not only the investigation of the church, but publicly acknowledging that child abuse does happen and that it shouldn’t be swept under the rug and ignored, even when committed by people that we wouldn’t normal think capable of such actions. If the news is responsible in part for Spotlight’s Oscar win, then it only proves that the events of the film were just as impactful on film and television as they were on the rest of the world. Truly, Spotlight’s Oscar win is not only impactful for the film industry and the creators, but a win for the hard working journalists that fought to bring these truths into the spotlight.
(Damn, that was a bad pun)…