spotlightSpotlight and Its Evil Twin

When I think of mysteries, I usually think of a murder, a missing person, or a stolen object.

In catching up with the movies that won Oscars for their screenplays this year (original and adapted) I was surprised that both were mysteries: just on a grander scale.

In "Spotlight," Boston Globe editor Marty Baron asks his private investigators (reporters) to look into the systemic problem of Catholic priests molesting children.

"We need to focus on the institution not the individual priests. Practice and policy. Show me the Church manipulated the system so that these guys wouldn’t have to face charges. Show me they put those same priests back into parishes, time and time again. Show me this was systemic, that it came from the top down."

The folks at The Next Picture Show podcast compared how screenwriters Josh Singer and Todd McCarthy followed in the footsteps of "All the President's Men." The appeal of the mystery doesn't lie in the crime itself (because we already know the outcome) but in the way a team of intrepid reporters works to get that story. This approach fits squarely into the police (or journalist) procedural genre.

One of the criteria that Olympic judges take into consideration is "degree of difficulty." After seeing the film version of "Doubt," and the documentary "Deliver Us From Evil," I didn't have a burning desire to see another treatment of this subject matter. But I agree with the late Roger Ebert's motto: "No good movie is depressing. All bad movies are depressing."

thebigshortAnother depressing subject is the housing bubble that sent the world's economy into free fall.

On the Filmspotting podcast, Josh Larsen dubbed, "The Big Short" (which Charles Randolph and Adam McKay adapted from Michael Lewis's book), "Spotlight's' evil twin."

Filmspotting's Adam Kempenaar said, "It's a crime story where the corpse is the American economy, the culprit is the entire American financial system, and the detectives aren't your normal detectives who are trying to piece things together after the fact. They already know all the pieces. They're just waiting for the picture to become clear, and they're actually betting on it, and they're going to benefit from it…

"We don't just get them sitting around talking about 'well here's what the numbers show. Here's what the data says. These mortgages are all bad.' They go… 'if we're going to do this, we have to understand it.' And they go off just like detectives investigating a case."

And, yes, it's by the Adam McKay who directed "Anchorman," and, yes, it's a comedy.