Southern critics take a shine to ‘Spotlight’
The fact-based newspaper drama “Spotlight” — still at the Malco Ridgeway Cinema Grill after a month in Memphis — was named the best film of 2015 by the Southeastern Film Critics Association.
Fifty-five critics from nine states — Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia — participated in the SEFCA poll. Voters included two members of the staff of The Commercial Appeal, John Beifuss and Chris Herrington.
Inspired by The Boston Globe’s Pulitzer-winning investigation of the Roman Catholic’s church coverup of pedophile priests, “Spotlight” also earned nods for Best Ensemble (the cast includes Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Stanley Tucci) and Best Original Screenplay (credited to director Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer). The victory continues a run that has positioned the film as perhaps the top contender for the Oscar for Best Picture of 2015: “Spotlight” also was named the year’s best by critics groups representing Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and Washington, among other locations.
“‘Spotlight’ was a clear favorite with our members,” said SEFCA president Philip Martin of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He said 99 movies received at least one vote in the poll, “but ‘Spotlight’ appeared on 80 percent of the ballots and received 19 No. 1 votes, by far the most of any film. Rarely have we had that sort of consensus ... .
Adding a Memphis connection to the SEFCA awards, “Best of Enemies,” a documentary about the Gore Vidal-William F. Buckley Jr. debates of 1968, finished second in the Best Documentary category. The film — now available via Netflix and on Blu-ray and DVD — was directed by Memphis’ Robert Gordon
The 10th annual Wyatt Award, given to the film “that best evokes the spirit of the South,” went to “Finders Keepers,” an oddball documentary about a dispute over a North Carolina man’s amputated leg. The movie has yet to receive a Memphis screening but is available on Amazon and iTunes. The Wyatt Award is named for the late Gene Wyatt, a critic with The Nashville Tennessean who was a charter member of the group.