movies about the news. Papers are closing, reporters are job hunting and newscasters no longer have the respect that Walter Cronkite once enjoyed. But there was a time when the most glamorous stars played reporters with panache and style. Think of Jimmy Stewart in “The Philadelphia Story” or Cary Grant in “His Girl Friday.” Now the profession more often has the Ted Baxter (from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”) template than the elegant, ethical Edward R. Murrow that David Strathairn played in “Good Night, and Good Luck.” Here are some of recent movies about the news:
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
Will Ferrell delightfully inhabits every 1970s sexist cliché in this slapstick farce about TV news. As the number one anchorman in the San Diego market, Burgundy is all vanity and male entitlement, until (gasp) Veronica (Christina Applegate) arrives to share the news desk. This feminist turn of events upsets his world, along with his male entourage including Paul Rudd, a crude reporter, and Steve Carell as a mentally-challenged weatherman. The result is a goofy satire directed by Ferrell’s longtime collaborator, Adam McKay, who also directed “Talladega Nights."
This all-star ensemble dramedy captures 24 hours in the life of a New York City tabloid paper. Ron Howard directs this fast-paced drama that captures the obsessive and chaotic nature of journalism, as well as the competitive zeal that can destroy relationships, both personal and professional. Michael Keaton plays Henry Hackett, city editor of the New York Sun. With a pregnant wife, and a job offer from a more prestigious paper on the table, Henry wants to leave the low-paying, thankless tabloid world. Yet, he finds himself holding the presses so that he can chase down an explosive story along with columnist Randy Quaid before the deadline. The paper has severe financial problems that Henry’s executive editor Glenn Close and publisher Robert Duvall can ill afford to hold the paper. All these stories intersect and conflict in a funny and honest look at the big personalities that cover the news.
Is the network news entertainment or journalism? This classic James L. Brook drama poises the question in two very different up-and-coming reporters. There’s the all-American, but not so bright golden boy William Hurt versus the nebbish intellectual who knows the facts, played by Albert Brooks. Deciding between the two men is Holly Hunter at her intense, chattering best, as a talented but aggravating news producer. Brooks’ brilliant scene of anchoring the newscast is a comedy must-see. Beyond the love triangle and a devilish cameo from Jack Nicholson, the story brilliantly captures that conflict between what is true and what the people want.
All The President’s Men
As the legend goes, Woodward and Bernstein brought down that evil varmint, President Nixon. This perfect suspense thriller brings all the tensions and stakes of Washington D.C. political coverage by two young, inexperienced reporters to life. Idealism versus corrupt politics, and the seen-it-all editorial staff, especially the superb Jason Robards as Ben Bradlee, seesaw in this high stakes drama. With Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman in the lead roles, and director Alan Pakula expertly weaving the complicated details of the Watergate story into a taut drama of journalistic ethics and the ugly truth of our government. Gathering the news will never seem so important again.
On the flip side of the shimmering ethics of “All The President’s Men,” lies the dark, festering vision of Paddy Chayefsky cynical story of a raving TV anchor having an on-air nervous breakdown. When Howard Beale starts screaming “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore,” it is the shout heard across America. Of course, network executive Faye Dunaway, who won an Oscar for the role, sees the profit in this turn of events. Directed by auteur Sidney Lumet, this stark look at corrupt TV networks (cough, Fox News) is as relevant today as when it won four Academy Awards.