Stop the Presses! Another Movie List!
With the current flicks Capote and Good Night, and Good Luck recasting light on the legacies of such luminaries as, respectively, Truman Capote and Edward R. Murrow, CourtTV recently compiled its lists of the most memorable reporters from the movies.
The usual suspects are included: Woodward and Bernstein (Redford and Hoffman) from All the President's Men, Howard Beale (Peter Finch) from Network, etc., etc. It's all kinda silly, of course, but it's kind of a fun read, if you like that sort of thing.
Nevertheless, speaking as a journalist and an insufferable movie geek, there are some noticeable omissions I feel compelled to add, since, as any regular reader of this blog knows, I care about the most piddling and trivial shit you could ever imagine.
Chuck Tatum (Kirk Douglas) from Ace in the Hole (1951)
Director-writer Billy Wilder undoubtedly drew upon his own experience as a Vienna reporter in this acidic tale of a former New York tabloid writer, Chuck Tatum, trapped in a dusty New Mexico town. When a miner ends up trapped in a collapsed cave, Tatum contorts the imminent tragedy into a media carnival of epic proportions (after the movie tanked with audiences, studio execs tried the less hard-boiled title of The Big Carnival). Tatum's diverging obsessions, the desire to break a big story and his concomitant self-loathing, encapsulate the dilemma of many a reporter -- and human being, for that matter (not that the two are necessary mutually exclusive, mind you).
Stephen Glass (Hayden Christensen) from Shattered Glass (2003)
The fascinating, twisted tale of a real-life journalist wunderkind whose too-good-to-be-true stories for The New Republic turned out to be just that. Stephen Glass had a terrific ride until his fabricated scoops caught up with him; this movie brilliantly captures his rise and subsequent fall from grace. Hayden Christensen has never been better (hell, you might argue he hasn't even been good since) as the sniveling, insecure, affirmation-starved Glass ("Are you mad at me?" is his mantra), with Peter Sarsgaard every bit his equal as then-TNR editor Charles Lane.
J.J. Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster) from Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
Supposedly based on Walter Winchell, Hunsecker is one of the great monsters of American cinema. In a career-defining moment for one of the great actors of his generation, Lancaster is astounding as the icy, arrogant, power-hungry king of New York who thinks nothing of destroying lives ("You're dead, son; get yourself buried," he tells one of his many victims) and wants to get jiggy with his little sister. In another lifetime, he could've been a star on FOX News.
Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino) from The Insider (1999)
A bit of a glorified portrait of the crusading TV news producer, Michael Mann's The Insider nevertheless accurately captures the ongoing tug-of-war between journalistic integrity and corporate realities. Pacino is somewhat more controlled than usual as the "60 Minutes" producer who latched on to tobacco industry whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe). While the problem of corporate America leaving its fingerprints on the news media is as old as journalism itself -- Good Night, and Good Luck reminds us of that -- that doesn't make The Insider any less riveting.
Suzanne Stone (Nicole Kidman) from To Die For (1995)
In this overlooked Gus Van Sant-directed satire, Kidman plays a beautiful, vapid and vicious wannabe TV news reporter willing to do anything for fame and fortune. Aside from being funny and nasty, what makes To Die For and its anti-heroine so memorable? Well, there's this ...