C. Robert Cargill February 8, 2011
It’s always nice when Criterion pulls out and dusts off one of your deep-fried cinema favorites to give it new life on DVD and Blu-ray, and today is just such a day. James L. Brooks has brought us a number of classics — from television series like Taxi, Rhoda, and Mary Tyler Moore, to films like As Good as it Gets and Terms of Endearment. But for my money, his very best work comes in the form of his 1987 masterpiece Broadcast News.
Broadcast News stands as a monument to a time gone by, harkening back to a moment in history before the 24-hour cable news cycle, when the nightly news was king. But this film comes from an even more delicate time when grizzled reporters and brilliant newsmen were being replaced by vacant, well-coifed hairpieces and even more intellectually corrupt tabloid journalism. There is something heroic about the film, standing as the last lone voice crying out about the death of journalism as anchors ceased to be drawn from the ranks of veteran reporters and began being pulled from beauty pageants and sports desks.
Holly Hunter is a tireless, obsessed news producer stationed at the Washington bureau alongside her best friend, a fearless but nerdy reporter played by Albert Brooks. Things get thrown into disarray when the network hires a good-looking but decidedly dim reporter (played by William Hurt). Hurt knows he’s dim and wants to learn, but Hunter won’t teach him the ropes, hating everything he represents to her industry. What follows is a love triangle that serves not only as great drama, but as an allegory for the news industry’s own dichotomy — prizing intelligence but loving the flash and glitz of a pretty face as much as anyone else does.
The film is a heartbreaking piece of cinema that is at times simultaneously hilarious. Chock full of incredible performances and brilliantly written dialogue, Broadcast News stands as one of the very best films to come out of the ’80s and is a great addition to the Criterion catalog. And in true Criterion fashion, the Blu-ray comes with a number of special, exclusive features. Probably most interesting is a never-before-seen alternate ending that Brooks spends a good five minutes setting up with needed preamble to explain how it got bungled at the last minute. In addition, there are 20 more minutes of deleted footage that include an entire subplot excised from the film and a number of great scenes brimming with added character development. Broadcast News fans will flip for some of this footage. Also included: an in-depth 35-minute documentary about Brooks’ legendary career, and a revealing director’s commentary for the film.
Broadcast News is easily my favorite recent choice for a Criterion release; it’s worthy of the C in the corner. Pick this one up at your earliest convenience.
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