Sunday, December 5, 2010

The News on Film

I am an admitted news junkie therefore I love any film that has to do with the subject of the media. Hollywood's most recent foray on the topic is Morning Glory, the Diane Keaton-Harrison Ford romantic comedy (Rachel McAdams is the real star of this film) about a daytime news show. "Daybreak" is last in the ratings and the former beauty queen host and legendary anchor of course clash while Adams as producer tries to keep the show --and her life -- from unraveling.

Rachel McAdams
Perhaps my favorite film is Broadcast News (1987), director James L. Brooks story of a tv news producer (Holly Hunter), the brilliant writer who is secretly in love with her (Albert Brooks) and the handsome yet awkward on camera anchor (William Hurt). The film is hilarious yet poignant as the Washington news bureau suffers the fate of many in television today -- downsizing due to the economy. Brooks steals the show with some of the best one liners on film. And for a piece of trivia, Debra Winger was supposed to play the female lead but pregnancy got in the way.

Hunter, Brooks and Hurt
Desk Set (1957) is the story of what happens when computerization hits a television network research department.  Spencer Tracy stars as the engineer ordered to reshape the department and Katherine Hepburn as Bunny, the sharp tongued head researcher. There is lots of witty dialogue and banter, not to mention sterling performances. The film was originally a play and rumored to be based on an actual CBS  researcher (and IBM!).

Hepburn and Tracey 

Network (1976) is perhaps the quintessential film on the news business, albeit a dark one. The fictitious Union Broadcasting System suffers from poor ratings and places their somewhat deranged head anchor Howard Beale (Peter Finch) as an angry prophet with his own "entertainment" show, adding "I'm mad as hell and not going to take it anymore" to the national  lexicon. Faye Dunaway won the Oscar as the cold, calculating producer Diana Christensen. It's satirical, brilliant and a must see.

Dunaway as uber producer Diana Christensen

The Infamous Morning After shot: Dunaway with her Oscar by the pool 
And last but not least....All The President's Men (1976) is the political thriller based on the non-fiction book of Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Cal Bernstein as they uncover the unraveling of the Nixon presidency. Everything clicks with this film -- the performances, direction and story are first rate. The film won an Oscar for Best Art Direction as production designer George Jenkins dutifully recreated the Post headquarters on a Warner Brothers soundstage, right down to the phone books.

Hoffman and Redford

Jason Robards as Post Editor Ben Bradlee. Designers measured and copied
 original newsroom desks for an authentic recreation
Photo credits: Columbia Pictures, Warner Brothers, Twentieth Century Fox