In an underdog win for a movie about an underdog profession, the newspaper drama “Spotlight” took the Oscar for the best picture at the 88th Academy Awards. Tom McCarthy’s film about The Boston Globe’s investigative reporting on sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests won over the favored frontier epic “The Revenant.”
“Spotlight”, an ode to the hard-nose, methodical work of a journalism increasingly seldom practiced, took the night’s top honor despite winning only one other Oscar, best original screenplay, for McCarthy and Josh Singer. Such a sparsely-awarded best picture winner hasn’t happened since 1952’s “The Greatest Show On Earth.”
“We would not be here today without the heroic efforts of our reporters”,..said producer Blye Pagon Faust. “Not only do they effect global change, but they absolutely show us the necessity for investigative journalism.”
Earlier in the afternoon, actor Mark Ruffalo and McCarthy joined a group of about 20 people protesting sex abuse in the Catholic Church outside Los Angeles’ downtown cathedral. Ruffalo was nominated for best supporting actor for his role as Michael Rezendes, a tenacious reporter on the Globe’s Spotlight investigative team.
The rally was one of several nationwide organized by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
Ruffalo told the group, “I’m here to stand with the survivors and the victims and the people we’ve lost from Catholic priest childhood sex abuse,” The Times reported.
“Spotlight” producer Michael Sugar accepted the best picture award as the film’s cast — and some of the people they portray — stood behind him on stage. “This film gave a voice to survivors and this Oscar amplifies that voice, which we hope will become a choir that will resonate all the way to the Vatican,” he said.
In accepting the best original screenplay Oscar for “Spotlight,” McCarthy said, “We made this for all the journalists who have and continue to hold the powerful accountable and for the survivors, whose courage and will to overcome is really an inspiration to us all. We have to make sure this never happens again.”
In the weeks leading up to the ceremonies at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, three of the eight best picture contenders, “Spotlight,” “The Revenant,” and “The Big Short,” seemed to jostle at the head of the pack. That uncertainty provided the 2016 Oscar race with a rare note of suspense: Would voters opt for the old-school period epic about a man struggling against the elements, a financial farce that juggles satire and outrage, or the quiet but powerful drama about journalists uncovering a staggering institutional cover-up? In the end, the understated drama and social impact of “Spotlight” prevailed.