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By any account, it’s been a big year for movies. 2015 is going out with a bang, as “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” dominates at the box office. But according to some critics it’s not the big and flashy that made this a great year for film – but the quieter winners with standout performances, like “Brooklyn” and “Spotlight”. Many also say it’s been an encouraging year for gender and racial diversity. On screen and behind the camera, women were key to the success of some of the most popular and acclaimed films of the year, like “Mad Max: Fury Road”, Disney Pixar’s “Inside Out”, and more. We look back at the best of 2015 in film.
- A. O. Scott Chief film critic, The New York Times
- Ann Hornaday Movie critic, The Washington Post
- Kenneth Turan Film critic, Los Angeles Times and NPR's Morning Edition
Brooklyn - Trailer
Creed - Trailer
The Big Short - Trailer
Carol - Trailer
Spotlight - Trailer
Room - Trailer
Star Wars - Trailer
Inside Out - Trailer
45 Years - Trailer
Straight Outta Compton - Trailer
Love & Mercy - Trailer
Mad Max: Fury Road - Trailer
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Recent movie headlines have been dominated by the big, the nostalgic, the long-awaited. But many critics say what made 2015 a great year for movies were the simpler films anchored in solid acting and storytelling and a number of winners for the year had women and people of color at their center, on screen or behind the camera.
MS. DIANE REHMHere with me, Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post. On the line from Los Angeles, Ken Turan of The Los Angeles Times. And from a studio at The New York Times, chief film critic A.O. Scott. I know you'll be wanting to join us. Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. And thank you all for joining us.
MS. ANN HORNADAYHello.
MR. A. O. SCOTTHello.
MR. KENNETH TURANHi.
REHMGood to have you all with us. Ann Hornaday, there have been some real biggies this year, but you say that those aren't the ones that stood out for you.
HORNADAYWell, you know, I'm always interested -- I've been sort of obsessed in recent years about preserving a space in the movie-going ecology and the filmmaking ecology for what are sometimes called middle class films or mid-range films, adult dramas. You can kind of put any moniker you want on it. But these are the kinds of films that aren't tent poles. They're not big blockbusters, but they're also not little, scrappy Indies. They're sort of that middle-of-the-road, you know, mid-budget films that are directed toward grownup audiences that I think are sort of an endangered species.
HORNADAYBut thanks to things like award season and being leveraged to build awareness for these movies, there is still a spot for them. But that's always what I've got a sort of a lookout for and I want to make sure that that's still happening.
REHMSo do you think that 2015 has brought a few more of those to the fore?
HORNADAYAbsolutely. And as a matter of fact, one of the big sort of movie business stories has been the success of Universal because they brought out "Jurassic World," which until very recently was the big box office behemoth of the year. But I think I would add the secret to their success has been in cultivating that very mid-range kind of film so they brought things out like "Pitch Perfect 2." They brought "Straight Outta Compton." They had a very diverse slate of films in terms of genre, audiences and they knew exactly how to target those core audiences to make sure that those movies succeeded and maybe even transcended their niche.
REHMKenneth Turan, how do you see it? Was there a certain amount of restraint in 2015?
TURANWell, after watching, you know, the ad campaign for "The Force Awakens," it's hard -- restraint and this year in the same sentence. But, you know, I agree with Ann. I love those kind of films. And, you know, the two that I loved this year that really were what I was looking for was "Brooklyn" with Saoirse Ronan and one that is just about to come out, "45 Years" with Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay.
TURANYou know, these are, you know, films for adults from the studios, you know, or in the holiday season have become kind of, you know, the rarest creature on the cinematic earth.
REHMTony Scott, what stood out for you? What was 2015 the year of?
SCOTTWell, 2015, it's interesting. I mean, I agree with Ann and Kenny that it was -- that there were some very fine, you know, what we think of as dramas for grownups. I would add to my own list "Carol" and "Spotlight," wonderful film. Anyone who works for a newspaper is going to love that movie. But I was struck by both the quality and the popularity of some of the bigger commercial movies. I was kind of surprised, being an old school film snob how at the end of the year when I was kind of going over the highlights how many big blockbusterie type movies were up there.
SCOTTI'm thinking about "Mad Max: Fury Road," thinking about "Creed." This was even before that "Star Wars" movie that...
REHMThat "Star Wars" movie.
HORNADAYThat little scrappy little film.
SCOTT(unintelligible) little bit more. But and there were big movies in the summer, like -- that aren't necessary tent pole franchise movies like "Train Wreck," "Spy," "Straight Outta Compton," that seemed to me unusually, given the recent track record of kind of pretty dull and routine and empty franchise and commercial work to be lively and surprising and diverse in all kinds of ways.
REHMBut Tony, I...
SCOTTSo that was gratifying for me.
REHMYeah, I'd be interested in knowing why you think there have been more so-called adult movies this year.
SCOTTI think there are always some. I mean, I think Ann is right that the Oscar season kind of creates a pocket for them in the release calendar. I think it can be frustrating for audiences and for critics that they all get jammed up into the last three months of the year. But that is what the Oscars have become. They've become kind of the gateway for more serious, more ambitious, more grownup movies to come through and they provide an excuse in a way or a reason for the studios to stay invested in these movies, in addition to the huge, you know, $200 million global franchise movies that still dominate the economics of the business.
REHMKen Turan, do we have any idea how much "Brooklyn" cost to make?
TURANOh, gosh. It didn't cost that much. I would guess around, I don't know, $10 million just off the top of my head.
TURANAnd but you know, I mean, this year, you know, it's kind of the luck of the draw. I mean, as Tony said, every year the studios try and do this for the Oscars and this year, they just happened to have succeeded. One of the things that's fascinating about the movie business and why so many people have tried and failed at it is that it's, in a sense, unpredictable. Sometimes the gods smile on your film and it plays well and sometimes not.
REHMAll right. I'd like to play for our listeners, an excerpt from "Brooklyn." This scene is about halfway through the movie.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALEHey, how did you learn to eat spaghetti like that?
MS. SAOIRSE RONANI've been taking lessons.
UNIDENTIFIED MALELessons? Like -- like, in a class? You can do that? Maybe I could teach it.
RONANNo, no. Diana, who lives in the boarding house with me cooked me some spaghetti and made me try and eat it without making a mess.
MALESo what do you eat in Ireland, just Irish stew?
RONANNot just. We...
MALESo first of all, I should say that we don't like Irish people.
MALEHey, hey, watch it.
MALEWhat? We don't. That is a well known fact.
MALEBecause a big gang of Irish beat (word?) up and he had to get stitches. And because all the cops around here are Irish, nobody did anything about it.
MALEThere's probably two sides to it. I might have said something I shouldn't. You know, I can't remember now.
MALENo. Because they beat you up.
MALEAnyway, they probably weren't all Irish.
MALENo, they just had red hair and big legs.
MALEAll right. Up.
REHMAnn Hornaday, talk a little bit about that scene. It's where our wonderful, beautiful female character, Saoirse Ronan, meets Tony's Italian family.
HORNADAYRight. This is a story of a young woman immigrating to America from Ireland in the 1950s and just building her life and finding herself and part of that is falling in love with this young man. This is an adaptation of the Colm Toibin novel written by Nick Hornby, directed by John Crowley and, of course, starring Saoirse Ronan in an absolutely translucent -- just a transcendent performance. I mean, she has one of the great faces of the screen. And it's kind of this old fashioned, you know, it's always nice as a critic when people ask what do we go see, especially this time of year when families are getting together.
HORNADAYAnd this is the kind of movie I can just unqualify-idly send everyone to. I mean, it's just that rare film that I think will appeal to just about anybody in a family. And it's beautiful and emotional and sentimental without an ounce of saccharin cheapness.
REHMAbsolutely. Tony, would you agree?
SCOTTOh, I absolutely agree. And I think it's also an amazing feat of adaptation. I mean, the novel is so inward and so subtle and so delicate and just takes -- it tells the story kind of from within this young woman's consciousness as she experiences the displacement of coming from Ireland to Brooklyn and then finds a kind of independence and then goes back and finds her sense of identity even more complicated. And it's the kind of thing that's very hard to get right on screen, to communicate the story with sufficient clarity and also sufficient subtlety.
SCOTTThere's so many ways to go wrong, to make it sentimental, to make it melodramatic, to make it big and emotional in ways that betray the story. And it really doesn't. It's kind of delicate and perfect and quiet, but also very intense and gripping. And I think a lot of it has to do with Saoirse Ronan's performance. I mean, for me, this is really the performance of the year or one of them because it's so graceful and so self-assured and so able to show how this girl changes from this kind of, you know, young, scared, unworldly creature who's put on a boat and sent off to this foreign country to someone who's much more sure of herself and has clear idea of how to make a choice and how to be who she wants to be.
REHMA.O. Tony Scott, he's chief film critic for The New York Times. His forthcoming book is titled, "Better Living Through Criticism: How To Think About Art, Pleasure, Beauty and Truth." Short break here, we'll be right back.
REHMAnd welcome back. We've got three absolutely fabulous movie critics with us: Ann Hornaday, who is the movie critic for The Washington Post. Kenneth Turan, film critic both for the Los Angeles Times and, of course, for NPR's "Morning Edition." And A. O. Scott. He's chief film critic for The New York Times. And we are going to take your calls, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or you can send us a tweet. Ann Hornaday, what has the year looked like for women in movies?
HORNADAYWell, it's looked very contradictory because, you know, female representation, both in front of and behind the camera, was very much on the minds of people all over, you know, in Hollywood and those of us who observe Hollywood for a living. As a matter of fact, I think you and -- last time I was here, we were talking about that very issue, with Nicole Kidman and other producers. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is looking hard at this. We have activist filmmakers like Catherine Hardwicke, who is very, very involved in fixing issues of representation in terms of directing and crew positions.
HORNADAYBut then, on screen, you know, we really saw a lot of examples of female-led movies that kind of -- they were kind of a proof of concept of why this...
HORNADAYWell, "Mad Max: Fury Road" is one. "Pitch Perfect 2" did very well. That was a female-driven and female-directed film. Of course we saw the ending of the "Hunger Games" was a great, kind of young, female heroine. And then right on its heels, we have the new "Star Wars," which is very much now set up to be centered around an incredibly competent, strong, appealing female lead. So I do think, you know, there are lots of things at stake here. One, is economic for Hollywood, because they're missing out on a very big audience if they don't pay attention to female-led stories and driven stories. But there's also a psychic cost to people just seeing themselves represented on screen.
HORNADAYThat's hugely important, as we all know.
REHMKen Turan, how do you see it? What women-centered movies stand out for you?
TURANWell, the one that pops out for me is "Carol," which is a story of a romance between two women. It's just -- I almost hate to describe it that way. I just think of it as a great romance that just happens to be between two women. And it's just an impeccably made film that's spectacularly acted by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara and I just was so happy to see it. It's so good.
REHMHmm. Tony, what about you? Has there been, in your view, significant progress on this idea of gender equality?
SCOTTI think there has. But I think it's always too soon to declare a victory. I mean, Hollywood is very good at going backward, you know, at having -- and I think the three of us have been in the business long enough to have seen a lot of Years of the Woman be declared and then kind of the same old stuff coming back. I mean, it is an industry -- in some ways more than a lot of industries in this country -- dominated and controlled by white men. And it's a -- it's kind of a closed system that it's very hard for women to get into at the professional level, you know, at the level of directing and producing and crew -- there's a real fight there.
SCOTTBut I do think, in terms of the onscreen representation, there is a discovery not just of the economic power of the female audience, but also of the crossover appeal. There used to be an idea, I think, that, you know, girls would go see a Harry Potter movie, but boys wouldn't go see a movie, an equivalent movie with a female character. And I think that the "Hunger Games" is very important because it destroyed that on a kind of across-the-board and on a global level. Everyone wanted to see this movie.
SCOTTEveryone wanted to see Katniss. And I think the other place where there's been a real breakthrough and a real flowering is in comedy, which was very male dominated, very kind of the sort of, especially R-rated, raunchy comedies. These were like guys who wouldn't grow up acting out. And this was a very boy-dominated genre. And this year, we have the continued rise of Melissa McCarthy, who's now really one of the biggest move stars just in terms of raw box-office power that we have, and also "Trainwreck," the Judd Apatow movie with Amy Schumer in it, that showed that an area of this genre that had been very much dominated by guys was now open to being reinvented by women.
REHMKen Turan, you mentioned "45 Years" with Charlotte Rampling starring, that opens tomorrow. You called this the must-see movie of the year. Tell us about it.
TURANOh, it's, you know, it's so simple, you know, you almost don't want to talk too much about it. You want people to experience it the way you did. Charlotte Rampling -- I'll say a bit -- Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay play a couple, happily married for all intents and purposes, for 45 years. And right on the eve of the celebration of this, you know, this event, this longevity, he gets a letter, the body of -- and you find this out in like the first five minutes, so it's not really a spoiler -- the body of a woman he had a relationship with before he met his wife. So we're talking 50 years before the letter arrives. She had fallen into a crevasse, a crater and her body had been hidden. And now her body is visible and he gets a letter telling him this.
TURANAnd this is what happens as a result of that letter. And it's very sophisticated. It's very emotionally involving. It's so human, it's so adult, I almost couldn't believe that I was seeing it.
REHMHave you seen it, Ann?
HORNADAYYes. Agreed. Agreed. And it's one of those films -- and I would actually -- it reminded me, the feelings that it evoked were very similar to the ones in "Brooklyn" and "Carol," which -- these are such subtly -- subtle movies. There are no neon arrows pointing you into any direction of how to feel. But by the end, all three have you absolutely riveted...
HORNADAY...almost catching your breath, wondering what is going to happen to these people and what choice they will make. And you're just -- you're almost gasping for air. And "45 Years" gets you there. It absolutely a brilliantly calibrated psychological drama.
REHMTony, tell me about the movie "Creed."
SCOTTWell, "Creed" for me was one of the big and wonderful surprises of this year. I mean, you know, I'm old enough to have seen "Rocky" in the theaters when it first came out and to have watched that franchise really just kind of play itself out. And I just thought, this -- another "Rocky" movie is just great, you know? And I went to see it. I actually saw it a couple of times. The first time I saw it was fairly early. And I was just blown away...
SCOTT...by Michael B. Jordan's performance as the young Adonis Johnson, who's the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed, who you may remember was first Rocky Balboa's great rival and then his best friend. And he wants to box because it's in his blood, young Adonis, and he seeks out -- he goes to Philadelphia and seeks out the Italian Stallion himself, who reluctantly agrees to train him. And he pursues a romance with a young musician, wonderfully played by Tessa Thompson. This movie, which is kind of a remake or a rehash of the first "Rocky," is so fresh and so exciting.
SCOTTIt's a young director, Ryan Coogler, who's -- it's only his second feature. He's something like 29 years old. His first one was "Fruitvale Station," also with Michael B. Jordan. And it is a movie, I think, even more than the "Star wars" movie, that both fulfills the nostalgia of original fans and takes us someplace new and very much now.
REHMAll right. In this short clip, this is an early scene from the movie. And Rocky, of course, Sylvester Stallone, talks to the son of Apollo Creed, who wants Rocky to train him.
MR. SYLVESTER STALLONEYou know, I don't even know what I'm doing here because I got other plans for my life and this wasn't part of it. Your father was special. To tell you the truth, I don't know if you're special. Only you're going to know that, when the time is right. And it ain't gonna come overnight. You're gonna take a beating, you're gonna take this, you're gonna get knocked down, you're gonna get up, and you're gonna see if you got the right thing. But you gotta work hard. I swear to god, if you're not gonna do it, I'm out.
MR. MICHAEL B. JORDANRocky, every punch I've ever thrown has been on my own. Nobody showed me how to do this. I'm ready.
REHMKen Turan, how'd you feel about this movie?
TURANOh, I feel the same way Tony does. I mean, it's like seeing a franchise come back from the dead, you know? You would have sworn there could not be a viable "Rocky" film, you know, ever again in the universe. And Ryan Coogler, who has a wonderful sense, again, of humanity, of people, of naturalness, of not pushing things -- though he operates in this case in the genre area -- he brought it back to life.
REHMI'm just not sure I can bear seeing people in that ring...
REHM...getting hit. It's so hard.
HORNADAYI understand where you're coming from. But those are among the most beautifully filmed sequences in the movie.
HORNADAYYes. It was shot by Maryse Alberti, who's a terrific cinematographer. And the camerawork in the boxing sequences is just -- it's gorgeous. And I think it almost invents a new, you know, after "Raging Bull" and of course all the "Rockys," you wonder, can they reinvent this language? And I really think they have. And, like Kenny and Tony have said, it's the humanism of it that I think just allows it to transcend. I mean, it's such a warm performance from Jordan and from Tessa Thompson and Stallone. I mean, he is just such a touching -- he has so many touching, poignant moments in this film. It's just bursting with humanity and heart.
REHMAll right. And from "Creed," let's move to a very, very different movie, "Room."
REHMWhere a single mother is with a little boy, held captive for years in an enclosed space. And here, she tries to tell her five-year-old son about her life before the capture and before he was born.
MS. BRIE LARSONDo you remember how Alice wasn't always in Wonderland?
MR. JACOB TREMBLAYShe fell down, down, down, deep in a hole.
LARSONRight, well I wasn't always in Room. I'm like Alice. I was a little girl named Joy.
LARSONAnd I lived in a house with my mom and my dad. You would call them grandma and grandpa.
LARSONA house. It was in the world. And there was a back yard and we had a hammock. And we swing in the hammock. And we ate ice cream.
TREMBLAYA TV house?
LARSONNo, Jack, a real house, not TV. Are you even listening to me? When I was a little older, when I was 17, I was walking home from school...
TREMBLAYWhere was I?
LARSONYou were still up in heaven. But there was a guy, he pretended that his dog was sick...
LARSONOld Nick. We call him Old Nick. I don't know what his real name is. But he pretended his dog was sick...
TREMBLAYWhat's the dog's name?
LARSONJack, there wasn't a dog. He was trying to trick me. Okay? There wasn't a dog. Old Nick stole me.
TREMBLAYI want a different story.
LARSONNo. This is the story that you get. He put me in his garden shed, here. Room is the shed.
REHMTony Scott, your reaction.
SCOTTI'm kind of mixed on this movie. I think the first half, which is what we just heard part of, is extraordinary. And it's really remarkable the way -- again, the director, Lenny Abrahamson, taking what looks like an unfilmable book, you know, a very popular bestseller and turning it into a credible movie. So when it is the mother and the child -- it's Brie Larson and this amazing young actor called Jacob Tremblay -- and the intimacy between them and the strangeness of this world -- because this room is the -- Room is the only place. It's the whole universe for this kid. And he thinks that everything else is just TV. And this is the mother, you know, trying to explain to him something else -- the different story that's the true story.
SCOTTI think -- without giving too much away -- in the second half, the movie lost some of the intensity and some of the novelty...
SCOTT...to me and started to feel a little more conventional, maybe a little more sentimental. Maybe it just kind of hit it's points a little too much on the nose. But I would say for the first, you know, 45 or 50 minutes, it's incredible. And there's a scene in the middle which is -- was, for me, the most upsettingly suspenseful and intense movie experience probably I had this year.
REHMKen Turan, how'd you feel about "Room"?
TURANI am, you know, more -- I'm a bit more favorably inclined. You know, I had not read the book, so I really didn't know hardly anything about the story. And for the first half of the film, this time in Room, it's so painful to experience, I really almost left several times. You know, I said, I can't take this. I can't take it. I can't take it.
TURANAnd the film changes. The film changes and its ability to do that really won me over.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Ann Hornaday, as a woman...
REHM...how did you feel about that movie?
HORNADAYOh, I thought it was -- I mean, I agree with everything. I think I'm probably more favorably inclined to it as well. Because, like Ken, I had not read the book. So I went in completely blank slate.
HORNADAYBut, you know, what's interesting -- it's funny, we -- a few movies we haven't mentioned yet and maybe we don't need to, but this time of year is when, you know, we get these sort of big epics that tend to be very self-serious and self-consciously epic. And two of them are "The Hateful Eight" and "The Revenant," both of which involve a great deal of human suffering and kind of make a point of human suffering. And then you have a movie like "Room," and I would argue, "Spotlight," and also a movie coming out soon called "Son of Saul," where they also grapple with these incredibly difficult subjects and situations, but they're much more oblique.
HORNADAYThey're not necessarily literal, in terms of their representation, but they're, I think, for my money, they're exponentially more powerful in terms of the demands on the viewer to enter their own psychic space and use their own moral imagination to complete the picture and complete the story. And I think it's a much -- and I think "Room" exemplifies this.
REHMHow does Brie Larson do as this mother?
HORNADAYOh, it's a fierce performance. And I would, you know, I mean, I think we're all huge fans of Saoirse Ronan's and I still think, if forced, I would say that that was the performance of the year. But Brie Larson is right up there. I mean, she -- it's just a -- it's an uncompromising, intensely felt and conveyed performance.
REHMI just cannot imagine how she could feel that as realistically as even what comes through...
REHM...in that short clip we heard.
HORNADAYYeah, you can hear it. Yes, it's...
REHMYou can hear it.
HORNADAYIt's in the voice, that's true.
REHMHow old is she?
HORNADAYOh, you've caught me -- I don't know.
TURANOh, I think she's in her -- Brie Larson? I, you know, she's in her 20s.
HORNADAYShe's enormously gifted. She did a lovely movie a few years ago called "Short Term 12," if anybody's interested in finding out more about her. And, you know, I think this is the kind of movie that the setup is just so wrenching and anguishing that people might be -- feel put off and not feel like they can take it. But I really encourage people to go.
REHMAll right. Short break here. From our movie critics Ann Hornaday, Kenneth Turan and Tony Scott. When we come back, it's your turn. We'll open the phones. I look forward to speaking with you.
REHMAnd welcome back. Time to go right to the phones, first to Sam in Ashville, North Carolina. You're on the air.
SAMHey, Diane, thank you so much for having me.
SAMI just had a couple comments. You had already mentioned both "The Revenant" and "The Hateful Eight." As a lover of directors, I'm really excited about both of those. I'm going to be able to see "The Hateful Eight" on 70 millimeter next week. So I'm just really happy that the directors are still kind of taking a chance to make films in that format. And also two films that in 2015 that I was kind of curious your guests thought, "It Follow" I thought was amazing, and "Inherent Vice," Paul Anderson's, Paul Thomas Anderson's, last film. Both of those were really great.
REHMSo you want to comment, Ann?
HORNADAYWell, I join you in your love for "Inherent Vice." I caught up to that relatively late. It came in January of this year for us here in D.C., and for various reasons I didn't see it in the -- you know, in the usual fashion. I didn't see it early. And I was just -- I was just charmed by it. I mean, it's -- I think probably the critical consensus was a little less generous than mine. This is another unadaptable book, "Inherent Vice" by Thomas Pinchon, that was adapted by Paul Thomas Anderson with just a terrific performance by Joaquin Phoenix and Josh Brolin and Katherine Waterston, and it's just this kind of hallucinatory, crazy, L.A., noire -- it's just wacky and off the charts, and I loved it.
REHMTony Scott, how did you feel about it?
SCOTTI liked it, too. I mean, for me it was a 2014 movie because it played at the New York Film Festival, and I saw it there. So I -- to tell you the truth, I barely remember it. I can't -- you know, there have been like 800 movies between then and now.
HORNADAYThat's probably appropriate, actually.
SCOTTBut I loved -- I liked Katherine Waterston and Joaquin Phoenix and just the whole sort of like shaggy dog, L.A., you know, maybe there's a conspiracy, maybe there's not a conspiracy, Josh Brolin as the heavy. I mean, it was -- it didn't necessarily add up to much for me, but it sure was a fun movie to watch.
HORNADAYIt's a pleasure -- it's pure sort of woozy, hazy, golden pleasure.
SCOTTThat's very well put.
REHMAll right, to Jane in Dallas, Texas, you're on the air.
JANEThank you so much, and hello everyone. I am a blind moviegoer, and I go at least once a week. And I love movies. I love movies, especially, Ann, the kind that you're talking about, the moderate, you know, grown-up, adult with lots of dialogue movies. But I have to say in this last year, I have been extremely frustrated with the lack of accommodation of movie theaters in terms of ADA accessibility with the descriptive video service. I tried to go see "Jurassic Park." The descriptive video didn't work. I went to see "Brooklyn." About 30 minutes into the movie, the descriptive video description didn't work.
JANEI went to see "Room," and this is just in the last, you know, I mean, well, "Jurassic Park" was the summer, but "Room," I read the book, audio book, and for readers it was amazing. And so I read it all night before I went to see it. And that was not described at all, but because I had read the book, I knew what to expect, and my only comment is that if they had stuck to the ending of the book a little bit better, they would have landed it straight.
REHMWhat do you think, Ann?
HORNADAYWell, I can't speak to the ending because I hadn't read the book. So I will defer to the caller.
REHMOkay, all right. And let's see, here is an email from Kathleen (PH) who said I have read extraordinary "Son of Saul" reviews and want to see it when it's released. Could your guest discuss this movie? Are reviews overstating what a remarkable movie it is, Ken Turan?
TURANYeah, I think it is a remarkable movie. I have probably seen every Holocaust film ever made, and this one is different. You know, there is -- because of the way it's made, it's very artfully done, it's very thought out. It's very planned. And one of the things it does, it gives you a real sense. I think more importantly than the actual plot, it gives you -- it's a fictional sense, but it's a very intense sense of what being inside a place like Auschwitz-Birkenau might feel like.
TURANYou really end up feeling that. Again, it's not a documentary, documentary footage that we've seen is much worse. But there is that emotional sense it gives you that you're here, this is how you'd feel, this is what it would be like. And that I think is a remarkable achievement.
REHMAll right, and let's move now to the film "Spotlight," which is all about the Boston Globe pursuit of a story focusing on the sexual abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests. We have a moment here where one of the Boston Globe reporters, who made it to -- made it their mission to provide proof of a cover-up speaks here.
MR. MARK RUFFALOWe got Law. This is it.
MR. MICHAEL KEATONNo, this is Law covering for one priest. There's another 90 out there.
RUFFALOYeah, and we'll print that story when we get it, but we got to go with this now.
KEATONNo, I'm not going to rush this story, Mike.
RUFFALOWe don't have a choice, Robbie. If we don't rush to print, somebody else is going to find these letters and butcher this story. Joe Quimby from The Herald was at the freaking courthouse.
RUFFALOWhat? Why are we hesitating? Baron told us to get Law. This is Law.
KEATONBaron told us to get the system. We need the full scope. That's the only thing that will put an end to this.
RUFFALOThen let's take it up to Ben, let him decide.
KEATONWe'll take it Ben when I say it's time.
MALEIt's time, Robbie, it's time. They knew, and they let it happen to kids, okay? It could've been you. It could've been me. It could've been any of us. We got to nail these scumbags. We've got to show people that nobody can get away with this, not a priest or a cardinal or a freaking pope.
REHMGod, the passion here, Tony Scott.
SCOTTThat was Michael Keaton as Walter Robinson, and the guy shouting was Mark Ruffalo as Mike Rezendes. I mean, in a way that is a powerful scene, but it's a very atypical scene. One of the things that is really, I think, most impressive about this movie is how restrained it is, how it's about this horrible, almost unimaginable evil, about how for decades dozens, if not hundreds, of priests were abusing children. And it was known about, and it was covered up at the highest levels of the archdioceses, including by the cardinal.
SCOTTAnd long after the fact, these reporters on the Spotlight team at the Boston Globe are trying to dig that up. And it's about the digging, and it's about their growing sense of the evil that has existed in their city around them, in a way under their noses, for a very long time. And it shows you that evil all by implications, all in terms -- there are not sort of, you know, horrible flashback scenes of priests and children, and there's very little shouting. There's a lot of kind of tense discussion in the newsroom, there's a lot of chasing after documents.
SCOTTIt's an amazing movie directed and written by Tom McCarthy, who has managed to make suspenseful and exciting and morally serious activities like talking on the phone or like, you know, looking at a spreadsheet or going to the courthouse to request documents. And it's really amazing filmmaking in that way, that it can give you such a sense of the scale and the scope and the gravity of the story with very little kind of big, emotional grandstanding and speechmaking and table-thumping.
SCOTTIt also gets at, like, how journalists behave at work better than just about any movie I've ever seen, including how badly we tend to dress.
REHMKen Turan, how about you?
TURANOh, I agree. I mean, really, this is really a valentine to old-school journalism. You know, it's kind of ironic that it's coming out now, while newspapers are kind of, you know, fading away, or certainly in trouble if they're not fading away. And, you know, this is really a story that underlines why we need journalism, why we need print newspapers, why those kind of resources that it took to uncover this story. You know, newspapers are the only people that are doing that right now, and if this isn't done, we're going to be a lot poorer as a society.
REHMIndeed, Ann Hornaday.
HORNADAYWell, I must precede this with a full disclosure that they refer to a guy named Baron in that scene, and that's Marty Baron, who was literally the brand new editor of the Boston Globe, who ordered this investigation, and he's now, I am lucky to say, the executive editor of The Washington Post. And Liev Schreiber plays him absolutely flawlessly. Take it from me, folks. It's the perfect performance. But I agree with everything that's been said, and I also think the great strength of this film is that it's self -- it doesn't mythologize journalism.
HORNADAYI mean, it's very critical. There's a lot of self-criticism in it of how the Globe itself turned a blind eye and the institutional deference it showed to the Catholic Church. And I think for all of its procedural detail and the restraint and sort of, you know plodding portrayal of the unglamorous work of journalism, it is enormously emotional. I mean, it manages to just be so potent emotionally without any spin on the ball, and as Tony said without any grandstanding moments or billboards.
REHMAll right, and of course we cannot let this hour go by without talking about "Star Wars." John in Fairfax, Virginia, you're on the air.
JOHNBefore I get to "Star Wars," Ann Hornaday hit it exactly right on "Spotlight." The best part is when they admit they screwed up and that the Boston Phoenix had the story 30 years before. That's so powerful a scene when they make that admission.
JOHNI saw "Star Wars" in the movie theater in 1977, and I was -- it was just an overwhelming experience then. And this movie is a complete remake of that movie, plot point by plot point. Even some of the lines are the same. They flip, a female is now playing the Luke Skywalker part. The guy who plays the villain is the same actor in "This is How I Leave You," and so he's not -- he's not credible as the villain. Somebody in the theater, I went with my five kids, and all of us hated it because it was, like, not -- it didn't advance the narrative at all. It didn't explore the culture at all.
JOHNAnd one of them said, that guy, the villain, looks like Professor Snape. There's nothing villainous about this guy. He's not credible.
REHMAll right, Ken, Kenneth Turan, your thoughts.
TURANWell, you know, this project from -- you know, this is a landmark in commercial filmmaking. I mean, this thing was planned like the Normandy invasion, you know, from beginning to end, and it succeeded, just like the Normandy invasion did, you know. And, you know, it's like the whole thing is, you know, that's -- I'm happy that the fans are happy, and certainly there's a lot of films like this that are a hell of a lot worse than this. But, you know, I agree with the caller.
REHMInteresting. How about you, Tony, briefly?
SCOTTWell, I had -- I also saw it, the first one, or "Episode Four" or whatever it is, in the theater when I was 11.
REHMYeah, me, too.
SCOTTYou know, 15 or 20 times. This movie I think is a very good piece of fan service, a very smart updating of the franchise. Whether it holds up as a movie, the fact is, you know, and I know a lot of people are going to chase me down the street with pitchforks about this, none of the movies really hold up as movies. they're not great movies. It's a great pop cultural phenomenon that has existed for almost 40 years. But none of them is a great movie.
REHMAnd you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. One last movie I want to feature here, and I think all of you have mentioned it, "Carol" with Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. They meet at a restaurant early in the film. The film is based off the '50s novel "The Price of Salt."
MS. ROONEY MARASo I'm sure you thought it was a man who sent you back your gloves.
MS. CATE BLANCHETTI did, I thought it might have been a man in the ski department.
BLANCHETTNo, I'm delighted. I doubt very much if I would have gone to lunch with him.
BLANCHETTThank you. Harge bought me a bottle years ago, before we were married, and I've been wearing it.
MARAHarge is your husband?
BLANCHETTMm-hmm, well, technically we're divorcing.
BLANCHETTDon't be. And you live alone, Therese Belivet?
MARAI do. Well, there's Richard. He'd like to live with me. Oh no, it's nothing like that. I mean, he'd like to marry me.
BLANCHETTI see. And would you like to marry him?
MARAWell, I barely even know what to order for lunch.
REHMTell me your thoughts on this movie, Ann.
HORNADAYWell, this is an intoxicating film, another great adaptation, written by Phyllis Nagy but directed by Todd Haynes, who listeners might remember several years ago did sort of an homage to the '50s, delectable '50s melodramas of Douglas Sirk with "Far From Heaven," and then he did an adaptation of "Mildred Pierce" for HBO, where he also kind of indulged in his love for Sirk. And this is very much in that Sirkian tradition of surfaces and rich textures and lush visuals and meaningful looks, but everything's under the surface.
HORNADAYAnd I think the kind of gloss, glossy sheen of the form and -- suits this narrative perfectly because it's really all about a love that cannot speak its name during that era, as these two women fall in love. And I agree with Kenny, it's a love story. I mean, the fact that it happens to be two women is almost incidental to a story that I think everyone can sort of fall into and feel like they're falling into right along with Rooney Mara's character.
REHMTony Scott, your thoughts?
SCOTTI think this is an amazing movie, and I think also it's amazingly shot. It's the great cinematographer Edward Lachman shot it. And just the colors and the textures, it's one of those movies where so much of the emotion and so much of the undercurrents of desire and fascination are in the colors and the camera angles and the editing rhythms. So it's just -- it's a beautiful piece of pure cinema in that way.
SCOTTIt also, I think very usually, kind of tries to show this love affair simultaneously, as it were, from both sides. It's not just about the Rooney Mara character's fascination with Carol, this older, glamorous woman, but also it kind of turns the desire and the fascination the other way, too. So you get a very rich and nuanced and complicated and very emotional feeling of the way that this love is growing between these two people.
REHMAll right, last question for you, Ken Turan. In five seconds, who is your nominee for female Oscar winner?
TURANOh, I say Saoirse Ronan. I mean, that is a captivating, subtle performance, and that's the one I have to go with.
REHMAll right, and you, Tony?
SCOTTI'm going to go with Charlize Theron in "Mad Max: Fury Road."
REHMAll right, and you, Ann?
HORNADAYI'm Team Saoirse, as well. There you have it.
REHMIt's going to be fascinating. This has been just wonderful. I've really enjoyed it. Thank you so, so much. Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post, Ken Turan of the L.A. Times and A. O. Tony Scott of The New York Times. And thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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