Advertisements

Tag Archive: All the President’s Men


It’s a little difficult to get your head around.  Eight years ago when I suggested going to your video rental store to watch the ultimate Fourth of July movie–Jaws–we still had several video rental stores in every town.  It’s very different now with streaming services (have you finished Season 3 of Stranger Things yet on Netflix?) and any Blu-ray you want available overnight for purchase from retailers like Amazon.  To be fair, you can still rent movies, the plastic disc kind, at local Redbox machines, and Family Video still has a good footprint across the nation and a broad video selection (pretty much Blu-rays prevail, so sorry to people still with only VHS and plain ol’ DVDs).  Back in 2011 when I listed some recommended viewing material for Independence Day here at borg, I mentioned some films including my pick for today.

Every audience, every moviegoer, is after something different.  If you’re looking for action try on Captain America: The First Avenger, or even binge the entire Captain America series of films.  The first Independence Day movie from 1996 has your dose of sci-fi, and it’s an easy choice to go to especially if you’re too young to have watched it before.  Even Independence Day–the day, not the movie–means different things to different people.  I would recommend to anyone films like Dave, The American President, The Post, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, All the President’s Men, Sergeant York, Far and Away, The Last of the Mohicans, Lincoln, Glory, and Dances with Wolves–each covers some aspect of what America stands for.  Actually Frank Capra has more in the category, too, including Meet John Doe and State of the Union.  

Four of my favorites are playing on Turner Classic Movies/TCM today.  At 8:30 a.m. Central is John Ford′s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, followed at 10:30 a.m. Central by Ford’s Fort Apache These are some of the famed director’s finest works, and high points for both Henry Fonda, John Wayne, and Maureen O’Hara, plus the stories tell other tales of the American experience (and both rate high on my all-time best Westerns list here).  A recent anthology film fits the bill for today well–that’s the Coen Brothers’ The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, which we reviewed here at borg last year.  It tells several stories of the pain, struggle, and sacrifice of peoples from throughout the world coming together to build a nation.  But what’s that sure-fire Fourth of July movie that should appeal to everyone?

Continue reading

Advertisements

Review by C.J. Bunce

When the worst of us does its best to silence the rest of us, you get a story like 1971’s Pentagon Papers bombshell.  When a voluminous, decades-in-the-making, confidential government report that demonstrated unconstitutional behavior by a succession of presidents from Truman through Johnson is leaked to the press, The New York Times first reported on it, and the Nixon administration sought and was granted an injunction preventing the Times from publishing further articles on the subject.  Director Steven Spielberg focuses his new expertly crafted biopic The Post on The Washington Post as it decided whether to publish excerpts of the Pentagon Papers in the face of the Times injunction, primarily through the eyes of newspaper owner Katherine Graham, played by Meryl Streep, and managing editor Ben Bradlee, played by Tom Hanks. For the average moviegoer, Spielberg takes a rather mundane footnote in American history and makes it completely engaging and entertaining.  Carefully re-creating the early 1970s more than 45 years later with everything from the annoying mishandling of coins as you tried to make a payphone call, to the rotary phones we all used, to the weekly ritual of the family newspaper strewn across the living room, to costume designer Ann Roth’s hand-sewn vintage wardrobe re-creations, eyeglasses, jewelry, and hairdos of the era, to old technology and random items on shelves (that might prompt you to think it’s time to get a new iced tea pitcher), to the thankfully bygone days of women sitting in one room at a party and the men in another, to board rooms completely devoid of women (although today there is still rarely more than one or two), Spielberg makes the best use of the film medium, sharing a timely and important story for a new generation of moviegoers.

Filmed in the same 1970s noir style as Alan J. Pakula’s All the President’s Men (and using a newsroom set that is almost as accurate as that film’s 1975 California movie set version of the real thing), The Post might as well be a prequel.  It’s almost as good, lacking some of the more heart-pounding, real-life thrills of Watergate, like the mysterious informant Deep Throat, the uncertainty of whether someone in the government was going to think The Washington Post’s press coverage was worth killing over, and the perceived nature of the stakes (the executive branch vs. the Fourth Estate).  To his credit Spielberg had the more difficult task of re-creating an era and a newsroom in 2017, when Redford was filming his movie only three years after the events took place (and Spielberg is also certain to illustrate the stakes to both the players and the nation of this earlier event).  From the opening scene Spielberg traverses familiar territory, opening with an embedded government wonk in a warzone in Vietnam, as believable as his earliest team-up with Hanks, in Saving Private Ryan.  Seamlessly composer John Williams rejoins his long partnership with Spielberg in this scene, offering one of his best scores in years, alternating within the film an intensity that rivals his Raider of the Lost Ark compositions with the contemplative import of the moment realized in his Schindler’s List soundtrack.

Yesterday is today, as scene after scene attests to the same corporate deal making, the same roadshow investors, the same IPO efforts, the same boardroom antics, the same misogyny, the same shuffling of blame, and the same indifference to the public good permeates the nation and the news.   Convincingly selling us on the gravity of the story is the best ensemble cast put together in the past year.  Streep plays a surprisingly layered Katherine Graham, a socialite who would become the first woman Fortune 500 CEO and first woman to helm a major newspaper, best known for her role in the Pentagon Papers and Watergate.  Streep never ceases to amaze as she creates yet another character as believable and authentic as any of her past award-winning performances.  The Tom Hanks that won best actor Oscars for Philadelphia and Forrest Gump is also back, playing the strident editor Bradlee for all it’s worth, complete with the editor’s accent, brusque language and bravado, equal to Jason Robards’ Oscar-winning take on the same man in All the President’s Men.  The rest of the cast is a virtual Who’s Who of the current top genre actor scene.

Continue reading

Forty-five years later it’s become clear that confidential informant Deep Throat’s role in the Watergate scandal that resulted in the 1974 resignation of President Richard Nixon was far less than the legend that had been built over the years.  Despite the top journalism by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein–it was really good ol’ fashioned dogged reporting and investigation that brought the White House down–it is their own account, as documented in their book All the Presidents’ Men that in fact created the mythos of the secret crusader that revealed all.  For 30 years the mystery of what Washington insider was really the pseudonymous Deep Throat was one of the biggest mysteries of modern political history, the history of journalism, and the history of modern America.  Who was the secret informant?  Many around during Watergate would never find out, including Nixon, although he had speculated it was FBI Director Mark Felt.  The world knew that Woodward and Bernstein knew the answer.  It was all the exciting stuff of a paperback suspense thriller, until Felt admitted in 2005 that he was, indeed, the informant.

Yes, the title violates the “don’t make it so damned long” rule of titling a great movie, but since we’ve known the secret persona of Mark Felt for twelve years, it’s really been only a matter of time until we’d get to see Watergate from a new angle.  Mark Felt:  The Man Who Brought Down the White House, from Sony Pictures Classics, looks like an interesting enough thriller, but can it possibly have what made the four-time Oscar winner All the Presidents’ Men such a benchmark in the history of film?  All the President’s Men was exciting despite the audience knowing the ending.  Now the audience even knows the key secret of the story, so it will be up to a compelling story for this new account to succeed, and a great cast.

Director Peter Landesman has assembled an impressive cast.  Liam Neeson (Schindler’s List, Taken, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, Batman Begins, The Chronicles of Narnia) plays Felt.  Diane Lane (The Outsiders, Judge Dredd, Man of Steel) plays his wife.  Michael C. Hall (Dexter, Paycheck) is White House counsel to Nixon, John Dean.  Julian Morris (New Girl, 24, Valkyrie) is Bob Woodward.  Tom Sizemore (Twin Peaks, Striking Distance, China Beach) plays an FBI agent, and CIA agents are played by Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek, Super 8, Thirteen Days, Knots Landing) and Eddie Marsan (Atomic Blonde, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Morrell, The World’s End, Sherlock Holmes, V for Vendetta).  Noah Wyle (Donnie Darko, The Librarians, A Few Good Men) plays Department of Justice official Stan Pottinger.  Pat Gray, acting FBI Director at the time of the break-in at Democratic National Headquarters at the Watergate Hotel complex, is played by notable genre tough guy actor Martin Csokas (The Lord of the Rings, The Equalizer, The Amazing Spider-man 2, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Alice in Wonderland, Aeon Flux, Timeline, Xena: Warrior Princess).  Also look for Josh Lucas (Hulk, A Beautiful Mind) and Kate Walsh (The Drew Carey Show, Scary Movie 5).

Here is a preview for Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House:

Continue reading

100 Film Warner Bros banner

Not long ago the idea of having all your favorite movies available for viewing instantly was as far out there as hover cars.  With streaming options like Netflix you can have access to thousands of movies and TV series in a flash, only limited by the speed and quality of your own home access and viewing technology.  But just like online news will never replace the physical daily newspaper, streaming will never replace the home video library.

Back in early December we previewed here at borg.com four movie collections as gift ideas of varying price ranges, from the three-film The Dark Knight Trilogy from Warner Bros. to the eight-film Tarantino XX 8-Film Collection from Lionsgate Miramax to the 15-film Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection from Universal Studios to the massive 22-film Bond 50: The Complete 22 Film Collection from MGM.

Continue reading

By C.J. Bunce

Journalists in real-life tend to get a bad rap from folks who don’t understand how critical the Fourth Estate is in keeping the masses informed, upholding the First Amendment, and ensuring and fostering an open marketplace of ideas.  Journalists in fiction have been portrayed as good or bad, reflecting the realities of any profession.  Archetypes dating back from the days of yellow journalism survive to this day, in part because of the general nature of journalism and its origins as an apprentice-learned field.  We emulate the past leaders of our professions to some extent.  Journalists are practically unregulated.  Regulations resulting from the 1934 U.S. Communications Act that protected the public and set boundaries for the profession have changed over the years, loosening restrictions on reporters (at least in the States) yet the news business draws the same personalities–driven people who get a thrill from searching for a needle in a haystack, who won’t give up until they can quote chapter and verse about that needle.

In mirroring reality over the years, Hollywood has shown us as time marches on what real journalists look like, what they do in their profession that we like and don’t like.  You can see a shift from yellow journalism’s search for the biggest headline to journalists attempting to change the world, breaking barriers, asking questions, digging deeper, and often crossing the line to get the truth behind a story.

As Jeff Daniels, Sam Waterston and Jane Fonda headline The Newsroom, a new journalism-inspired TV series this airing this summer on HBO, let’s look at where Hollywood has done a good job (or not) in its depiction of newsrooms and their occupants.

I know a lot of journalism educators have their students watch some of these shows as part of understanding the history and nature of the craft of investigative reporting (mine did) and I often wonder just how much that has served to get students and future professionals in the mindset of the classic feet-on-the-street reporters.  Case in point: It Happened One Night (1934)  Clark Gable plays a reporter, cocky and sure-footed, yet a bit of a slacker who is not making the cut with his editor.  He pursues a spoiled heiress who runs away from home, played by Claudette Colbert, to get a big headline for his paper, and becomes romantically involved with her by picture’s end.  His reporter is the type depicted in film for the next several decades.  Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1945 film State Fair starred Dana Andrews as a reporter covering the Iowa State Fair for The Des Moines Register.  Andrews’ confident character showed reporters as people to admire, and also illustrated that reporters are people, too, as he becomes involved with someone he meets (Jeanne Crain) while covering his story (like Gable’s character in It Happened One Night).  Even Dustin Hoffman’s take on Carl Bernstein in 1976’s All the President’s Men seems to emulate this strident reporter attitude, adding a bit of renegade to the mix.  Randy Quaid in the Ron Howard newspaper film The Paper is another variant on this guy–sleeping in the newsroom, seemingly some kind of drifter yet street smart, knows all the right people especially if part of the city’s underbelly, and just the guy you want when you need a partner on a big story.  Although The Paper seemed more of a caricature of journalism–complete with Michael Keaton shouting “Stop the presses!”–it definitely is a lighter entry in the catalog of journalism films.

The newsroom is the center of the biggest film ever made, Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane (1939).  Charles Foster Kane’s classic line:  “I think it’d be fun to run a newspaper” connects with anyone running a journal, newspaper, or magazine.  And as loud and off-the-wall as journalists are depicted here, Welles got the film absolutely right, basing the entire story on the life and times of media baron William Randolph Hearst.  In pursuing the mysterious “Rosebud,” the journalist who bookends the story adds a double layer of truth with reporter as storyteller.  The excesses of yellow journalism and the abuse of the medium permeated many mainstream movies of that era, including Frank Capra’s Meet John Doe (1941). Not entirely a newspaper movie, it does focus on an over-eager reporter played by Barbara Stanwyck who, like Kane, creates news where there is none for the sake of headlines.

Reporters as valuable, even crucial and noble members of society elevated the Fourth Estate to something of a venerable realm with movies like Call Northside 777 (1948).  There Jimmy Stewart picks up a dead case of a man convicted of a crime that only his mother believes he didn’t commit.  Based on a true story, Stewart’s reporter leaves no stone unturned in early Chicago, ultimately risking his own life to get the man out of jail (the film also reveals the first use of the lie detector machine as an investigative tool).  The height of the importance of newspapermen, of course, came with the Washington Post bringing down a presidency, as documented perfectly in All the President’s Men (1976), a film whose newsroom could not better reflect a real-life, working newspaper office.  Jason Robards, Jr. played Ben Bradlee as only a real editor could be played and Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman played young aspiring journalists Woodward and Bernstein in a mystery movie that could prompt anyone to enter the field.

The year 1976 also highlighted the more modern arm of journalism, broadcast journalism, in the popular film Network, which caused  viewers to repeat forever the phrase “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”  But here, it seems dated now, Faye Dunaway, William Holden, and Peter Finch just seem to have shed a light on the problems of any business in crisis, and despite its focus it does not make my recommendation list that well-document the journalist experience.  However, where Network shone a dark light on broadcast journalism, the timely China Syndrome reflected the value of reporters in society.  Jane Fonda’s bright and cheery fluff reporter who wants to report hard news is as real and inspiring as it gets, and Michael Douglas’s role as photographer who pushes the envelope to get a story rounds out a great reporting team.

Genre movies based on comic books have revealed to most of us our view of the editor and reporter in a big city newsroom, and the result doesn’t miss the mark so much.  Jackie Cooper as The Daily Planet’s Perry White in Superman (1978) and later, Lane Smith’s work in the same role in the Lois & Clark (1993) TV series revealed a tough-as-nails editor every bit as real as Ben Bradlee at the real Washington Post, although Smith’s take brought Cooper’s 1950s-1970s era version into a version more familiar to 1990s newsrooms.  A more cartoonish but similar role was played well by J.K Simmons as Peter Parker’s editor J. Jonah Jameson in Spider-man (2002).

Modern Hollywood, and perhaps modern audiences, latch onto the journalists as sleuths.  That thrill and danger that may not be the stuff of daily working journalists certainly happens in real life from time to time and more modern films exemplify that.  In Pelican Brief (1993) Denzel Washington gives a textbook performance as an investigative reporter.  In The Insider (1999) Russell Crowe and Al Pacino reveal journalists as watchdogs, taking on big tobacco and the media themselves as politics prevents the long-time respected TV news show 60 Minutes from telling the story the reporters want to tell.  Good Night and Good Luck took us back to the same CBS newsroom 40 years prior, as Edward R. Murrow (David Strathairn) and his team (including a memorable performance by Robert Downey, Jr.) take on McCarthyism in the 1950s.  Veronica Guerin (2003) revealed the true story of a reporter played by Cate Blanchett whose pursuit of the story shows the extent reporters will go through for their cause–the pursuit of truth.  There is simply no more exciting and gritty film about newspaper reporting than David Fincher’s Zodiac (2007), following Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey, Jr. and Jake Gyllenhaal in pursuit of the Zodiac killer in 1970s San Francisco.

Most recently British television has reminded us that classic news stories still make compelling entertainment.  You can probably ignore the U.S. remake of the same name starring Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck, but the British original TV series State of Play (2003) follows newshounds John Simm and Kelly MacDonald as they work for a brilliant newsroom manager played by genre actor Bill Nighy in their pursuit of the truth behind the death of a young political worker who may or may not have gotten too close to an up-and-coming politician.  Like Robards, Cooper, and Smith mentioned above, Nighy crystallizes for us the role of the newsroom editor/manager.  Then last year the BBC’s The Hour (2011) took us back to 1950s fledgeling broadcast journalism, including the pressures of England’s complex government and politics and the impact of censorship laws on the media.  Romola Garai and Ben Whishaw star not as news anchors but producers behind the scenes in a refreshing new look at the business of news.

As media evolve into multimedia, Hollywood will no doubt keep pace with more fascinating storytelling, and we’ll be on the lookout for the next great journalism films.

        

It’s like the Canadian band Barenaked Ladies said in their hit song:  It’s all been done before.

But of course it hasn’t.

We sometimes tell ourselves that when we run out of ideas.  But just as much as there are always going to be millions more stories for writers to tell, there are stories out there already created that are waiting to reach a new audience.  Stories we love, but stories that we’d really love to see transformed into another medium– onto the TV or silver screen.  These are the film adaptations.  And they are a key part of movies of any genre.  The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences even has their own Oscar for adapted screenplay that often coincides with the Best Picture winner.

What are your favorite stories?  Have they all been made into movies?  Do you wish that any of them would be turned into a movie?  Do you wish most of them hadn’t been made into movies?  What stories would you like to see that have not yet been adapted to film?

You can adapt anything into a movie if you’re creative enough.  The biggest source for adaptations are books.  The result?  Some are good (Jaws, Godfather, To Kill a Mockingbird, Jurassic Park) and some bad (like every live action film based on Dr. Seuss/Theodor Geisel, who must be turning in his grave at what happened to his franchise after his death), or even hopelessly bad (like The da Vinci Code, which should probably not have merited a novel in the first place).   A painting by Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer inspired a novel and then a film adaptation—The Girl with a Pearl Earring.  The movie Ever After takes a fairy tale and merges it with a painting of Leonardo da Vinci’s Head of  Woman to create both a retelling and an alternate history of sorts, placing Leonardo himself in the middle of the fairy tale.

The Phantom of the Opera was turned from a theatrical musical into a movie (and even the reverse happens, as Sunset Boulevard went from film to musical).  The video games Tron, Doom, Resident Evil, and Tomb Raider all have been adapted into movies (how about Pitfall?).  Even the Parker Brothers games Clue and the Milton Bradley game Battleship have been adapted into film (wouldn’t it be great to try again with the characters in Clue?).

Wait long enough and even classic TV gets made into movies, like The Dukes of Hazzard, The Addams Family, The Brady Bunch, and the new Johnny Depp adaptation of Dark Shadows.  Last week the BBC reported that Bob Dylan’s album Blood on the Tracks is currently being made into a movie (and the album itself was even inspired by the short stories of Anton Chekhov), and the story of the song Amazing Grace (with Ioan Gruffudd and Benedict Cumberbatch) hit theaters only a few years ago.  Then there are adaptations of a writer’s angle on some famous or infamous figure in real life, like Schindler’s List—the biopic or historical adaptation is everywhere–but usually starts with the novel.  And even newspaper articles can end up as the original source for an award winning film, like All the President’s Men.  Certainly last but not least, comic books and graphic novels are the current rage, with movies adapted from Road to Perdition to Cowboys & Aliens to the soon to be released Avengers.

Source material for film adaptations is virtually unlimited.

We’ve asked our four borg.com writers not what the best adaptations are, but instead what are their picks for what should be the next adaptation from Hollywood.  What are the top 5-10 books, comic books, video games, or characters, etc. you’d like to see adapted into a movie—that haven’t been adapted yet?  We’ll start with Art Schmidt’s take on would-be adaptations tomorrow.