Thursday, September 17, 2015

Thursday Movie Picks: Journalists


I have always had a fascination with journalists. As a kid, I wanted to be Roger Ebert. That's not weird, is it? He is why I have this blog. I loved movies. I read his stuff. I fell in love with writing about movies, with being knowledgeable about them. I have to write about movies. It makes me happy. It is my great hobby in life.

There are some great movies about journalists and journalism. I really had to cut down my initial brainstorm for this post...quite a bit.


Of course, the first movie that came to mind was one that touched me (and so many others) so greatly. That movie is Cameron Crowe's semi-autobiographical love letter to journalism and early-70s rock, Almost Famous. I won't have it as a pick this week. It is too special. It tops too many of my movie lists to be considered here.

This week on Wandering through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks, the theme is Journalists, and I want to focus on movies about the ballsiest of them. Journalists who dare to publish stories that may very well get them in trouble, who told stories, true stories, that people didn't want told. Stories that make us angry or scared or both.

Here are my picks:

The Insider
Dir. Michael Mann, 1999


Based on a Vanity Fair article called "The Man Who Knew Too Much", Michael Mann's The Insider stars Al Pacino as Lowell Bergman, a producer for 60 Minutes at CBS, who takes on the story of Big Tobacco whistleblower, Dr. Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe). I love Mann's style, simultaneously matter-of-fact and aggressive in digging at the truth and creating anger and fear. We feel Wigand's fear. We hate Brown & Williamson for their lies. We admire Bergman for having the stones to tell this story.

Good Night, and Good Luck
Dir. George Clooney, 2005


I'm quite certain that there has never been a more classic badass newsman as Edward R. Murrow. As played by David Strathairn in George Clooney's brilliant Good Night, and Good Luck, he is fully that and more. It is one of my favorite performances ever. This film tells the story of Murrow's team of fellow journalists at CBS, a group of pros bent on taking down Sen. Joseph McCarthy, a manipulative liar who made it his personal mission to bully and intimidate people into admitting ties to Communism. This is easily Clooney's best work as director, shot beautifully in black-and-white.

CITIZENFOUR
Dir. Laura Poitras, 2014


I'll admit. I didn't love this movie. I found it a bit dense and confusing at times. But it scared the shit out of me. It's director, Laura Poitras, is a journalist in the truest sense of the term. She documents the releast of the real. And makes it very well known how much she is hated by the U.S. Government. Since 2006, she has been on "watch-lists" for her hard-hitting investigations into governmental affairs. Fitting that she would be one of the three journalists, along with investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald and intelligence reporter Ewan MacAskill of The Guardian, chosen to help former-NSA contractor Edward Snowden tell his story, one of disgusting levels of government surveillance right here in our own backyard. The details of this story are enough to make you literally fearful about who's watching you. Big Brother is real, and Snowden wanted us all to know that. Poitras did her job well, and she has an Oscar to prove it. 

25 comments:

  1. Great call on including Citizenfour! That definitely belongs here. I still need to see Good Night and Good Luck. The Insider sounds interesting too.

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  2. I really thought Citizenfour was a bit of a missed opportunity both as a piece of cinema and as a piece of journalism. I definitely can see why you picked it though. I picked The Insider too and would have picked Good Night and Good Luck had I not already picked it for Black and White Movies Since 1970.

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    1. Agreed to an extent. I felt that the fact that they took on this story with no fear whatsoever worked as good journalism. But that story was not well told by the media, so I can be thankful for this film, which laid it all out there. It just didn't do it perfectly.

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  3. As much I get annoyed with the total nonsense that can found in The Guardian, I really do appreciate the work they do in many areas such as the surveillance scandal. Haven't seen any of the films though, will make sure I do.

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    1. Get on it. All definitely worth a watch.

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  4. The Insider is getting lots of love this week. I need to check that out. It's ironic to me that it's about a Big Tobacco whistleblower and the next movie you list is one in which cigarette smoke is practically a character. Don't get it wrong, I love GN&GL, the juxtaposition was just funny to me.

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    1. Right!? I was fully aware of that and almost commented on it. Oh, the times and how they change, man.

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  5. THE INSIDER. HELL YES. Love Good Night... too. Strathairn is brilliant. Great call on Citizenfour as well. I haven't seen it yet but I really want to, especially in advance of Oliver Stone's film on Snowden coming up.

    But I am... concerned that I didn't even think of Almost Famous this week. It's one of my all-time favorites, too, so now I'm kicking myself. Great picks this week, man!

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    1. I am really looking forward to Snowden as well. Right up Stone's alley. Thanks, man!

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  6. Great picks! I nearly watched Citizenfour the other night actually, I should have done in preparation for this week!
    - Allie

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    1. Thanks! It's definitely worth watching.

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  7. I so wanted to see CITIZENFOUR when Drew was doing the Four Ways a Best Picture series and it wasn't released in time, I have it in my queue but haven't caught up with it yet but it's a good catch.

    LOVE your other two picks. The Insider could have been slightly tighter with it's editing but overall a great film and while Pacino is good Russell Crowe is just astounding in the movie. Agree the GN&GL is Clooney's best directorial effort and Strathairn anchors the movie forcefully. Glad he was nominated for it, too bad he was competing in one of the strongest lineups in that categories history.

    Like you I share a fascination with journalists and films about them are among my favorites to watch, one of my picks is one of my top 10 favorite films. So much so that I ended up with double the required titles this week so I broke my entry in two doing two dramas and a comedy in each.

    All the President’s Men (1976) - Compulsively watchable chronicle of Woodward and Bernstein’s relentless investigation of the Watergate break-in for the Washington Post. For a drama that is all talk this is a fascinating viewing experience with exceptional work from the entire cast and perfectly judged direction by Alan J. Pakula. One of my very favorite films.

    The China Syndrome (1979)-While on location for a documentary on energy at a nuclear power plant reporter Kimberly Wells and her crew witness a near catastrophe which her cameraman secretly films. When they get back to the station and want to broadcast the story they hit a wall of resistance from both the network and the plant. During further investigation Kimberley discovers how much peril they, and the state of California, were in coming close to “the China Syndrome” and the fact that the issue has not been repaired and the threat remains. Incredibly timely on release, while this was playing in theatres the Three Mile Island accident occurred in Pennsylvania turning the film into a monster hit.

    June Bride (1948)-Carey Johnson (Robert Montgomery), a combat journalist just back from assignment is forced to take a job covering a June wedding for a bridal magazine run by Linda Gilman (Bette Davis), the fiancée he jilted, much to her displeasure. Off they travel to Indiana, with the rest of the crew, in the dead of winter for the “June” shoot. When they arrive Carey immediately starts looking for an angle to his story causing trouble for all involved but most of all for himself. Slight but breezy comedy with a great supporting cast including Mary Wickes, Fay Bainter and Tom Tully. Keep an eye out during the wedding scene and you can spot Debbie Reynolds in a wordless bit, her screen debut.

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    1. I agree on the pace of The Insider. It's been awhile since I've seen it actually, but I remember it dragging out and slowing down at times. And, man, sometimes you just have to have more than 3 picks. It happens.

      Anyway, I too love All the President's Men. Such a classic!

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  8. Broadcast News (1987)-Incisive look at the news division of a Washington D.C. station with a love triangle woven in. Hard driving and ambitious producer Jane Craig (Holly Hunter) is torn between her attractions to the handsome but cloddish Tom Grunick, a new reporter at the station who is on his way up and Aaron Altman a superior reporter who doesn’t have the right look for television despite his skill and who she sees as a brother figure. He loves her desperately and therefore feels a fierce competition with Tom who he sees as inadequate. Set against a station reorganization at a time when hard news departments were still bastions of respectability and fighting the incursion of entertainment news into their formats.

    The Year of Living Dangerously (1982)-An Australian reporter, a very young Mel Gibson, is on assignment in Jakarta during the political upheaval of Sakarno’s rule. He is taken under the wing of Billy Kwan, a brilliant Linda Hunt who won an Oscar, a photographer who worships the leader. Along the way he falls in love with an equally young and striking Sigourney Weaver. He is just starting to build contacts when the situation explodes and it becomes a race for life or death. Filmed with an oppressive atmosphere and tense direction by Peter Weir.

    Libeled Lady (1936)-When his newspaper accidentally prints a false story about an heiress and she threatens to sue for libel he concocts an elaborate scheme to make it appear true, pulling an old friend and his own fiancée into the plan. Things naturally go awry. Classic comedy with four great stars, Jean Harlow, Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy and William Powell working at the top of their craft. Harlow and Powell were engaged at the time this was made but she died the following year before their marriage could take place.

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    1. And now I must regret that I have seen none of you other picks. I am especially ashamed to have never seen Broadcast News, the only Jim Brooks movie I haven't seen and presumably one of his best. All of your picks sound great! Thanks for sharing.

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  9. The Insider - yes! You're the first person I've seen mention that film in these posts. SO spot on. One of the best films about investigative journalism ever made.

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    1. Thanks, man. It was one of the first I thought of.

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  10. I still need to see The Insider because it got raves when it came out and I love Russell Crowe. I love Godd Night and Good Luck-a brilliant film and one of my picks as well. I have to see Citizenfour since it was spotlighted on Drew's blog

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    1. So glad we share Good Night and Good Luck. You will love The Insider. I'm telling you...

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  11. Love that you included CITIZENFOUR! Also LOVE The Insider mention. Such a great film. I really liked GNGL, but I didn't love it...or maybe I did love it but forgot about it mostly....I need to watch it again.

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    1. Honestly, I need to watch GNGL again myself. I just remember being so blown away by it, specifically Strathairn's work.

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  12. A part of me still wants to be Roger Ebert. He's partly why I have my blog. RIP Roger.

    A film about journalism that I love is Kill The Messenger. Jeremy Renner is great in that film. If you haven't seen it, I strongly recommend that you see it.

    But my favorite films about journalism are Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy; Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues; & Network. Network is an American classic. Anchorman is one of the greatest comedies I've seen. Anchorman 2, while not as good as the first, is still very funny.

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    1. I've heard of Kill the Messenger but never saw it. Not a huge Renner fan, actually, but he is good here and there.

      Network is a brilliant movie. I love it. And I love Anchorman as well. The second one was pure crap. I hated that movie. Lol.

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  13. Contemplated having The Insider as my pick as well...it was one of my more recent watches. GNaGL is a great too.

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