Film Dump: Journalism 101

I never knew that a major subject I was bound to dislike and a favorite hobby of mine would clash at one point in my life. Still, it happened last month when our professor gave us an opportunity to watch a couple of films that center around journalism/news reporting. From then on, I just knew that those were the final days that I would love that certain subject.

P.S. some very minor spoilers might appear, so beware.


Contents:

  1. All the President’s Men
  2. Shattered Glass
  3. Spotlight

1. All the President’s Men (1976)

Directed by: Alan J. Pakula
Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Jack Warden
Length: 2 hours, 18 minutes
Rated: R

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I’m ashamed to admit it, but I sighed heavily when our professor announced that we were going to watch Pakula’s All the President’s Men. When my sister was also required to watch it in the past, she left me an impression that it was kind of a drag and I automatically believed her for some reason—I now hate myself for doing so without even watching it because this has become one of my favorite films.

As I’ve said in my poorly written reflection paper, All the President’s Men has shown me that journalists aren’t really that different from the masked vigilantes we see in comics (or TV, since we’re now in the 21st century), such as Batman and Daredevil. It’s silly, but think about it: both are/were once ordinary people and they risk their lives for a better society. The difference? One of them is real.

It also made me realize just how important data gathering is in news writing. Throughout the film, I was amazed at the level of attentiveness Carl Bernstein (played by Dustin Hoffman) had whenever he conducted an interview. There were so many things that he could have missed had he not been paying close attention to the interviewees, and those things were what helped them expose the Watergate Scandal (this isn’t really a spoiler, since it’s quite popular).

Oh my God, imagine if Bernstein and Woodward (played by Robert Redford) weren’t determined to publish the story—Nixon would have stayed in the White House much longer with plans that are much more dangerous than Watergate. I’m sorry for being too immersed in the idea, but it legitimately frustrates me how they could be so observant and attentive. Other girls may have their #relationshipgoals, but I have my #woodsteingoals.

Bonus: these guys may be dads now but back then they were baes lmao ok imma see myself out

Rating: 4/5
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2. Shattered Glass (2003)

Directed by: Billy Ray
Starring: Hayden Christensen, Chloë Sevigny, Peter Sarsgaard
Length: 1 hour, 34 minutes
Rated: PG-13

The story of Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward has become so popular in the field of journalism that Shattered Glass even referenced them in the first 5 minutes of the film. This one is about a journalist named Stephen Glass (played by Anakin Skywalker Hayden Christensen).

Word of advice: if you don’t know who he is and don’t want to be spoiled, don’t Google him. My classmates and I had no idea who he was and it really made watching the film much more thrilling.

Anyway, if I were to compare the previous film to Shattered Glass in terms of the element of surprise, this one takes the cake. But again, it may have been because I wasn’t aware of Stephen Glass’s story (or Glass himself, for that matter). At first, we were only focusing on the journalism tips that Glass was giving out to a bunch of students. But about 30 minutes into watching the film and it was as if we were watching the newsroom spin-off of How To Get Away With Murder. Without the murder part, of course.

Honestly, the film is very 2000s when it comes to the aesthetics: baggy work clothes, those huge-ass corporate ties matched with huge-ass coats, that kind of stuff. So if you’re looking for something aesthetically pleasing, I suggest Wes Anderson’s filmography.

But seriously, story-wise, Shattered Glass is great. The way it connected the classroom scene with the main plot was beautifully done, especially in the last 10 minutes of the film. We, the audience, aren’t supposed to be sad about a certain character, but it still managed to make us (or at least, me) weep a little for said character. And now that I’m recalling the scene, it’s actually kind of tragic—but not in the way you’re thinking.

Do watch it on your free time. I believe that anyone will enjoy it, whether or not they’re familiar with journalism. If you have watched it and did enjoy it, I suggest reading this (lengthy) article by Vanity Fair. It’s a good read and it made me have a deeper understanding of the situation. But, again, if you haven’t watched the film and don’t want to be spoiled, I don’t recommend opening the link.

Rating: 3.5/5
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3. Spotlight (2015)

Directed by: Tom McCarthy
Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams
Length: 2 hours, 8 minutes
Rated: R

Our professor didn’t actually require us to watch Spotlight, but I still did because, you know, journalism. Fun fact: I actually watched this before watching the two previous films, and I didn’t regret it one bit.

The film focuses on a group of journalists from The Boston Globe who, in 2001, was trying to publish a story about the pedophilia that was happening in the local church. During the 2016 Oscars back in February, almost everyone was flipping out because “What the hell is this bullshit and how did The Revenant/The Martian/Room/Mad Max lose to this?”

It’s perfectly understandable that the general public would be bemused about the whole thing. After all, since when did a film involving a bunch of journalists just doing journalist things become Oscar-worthy, right? (Ahem, see All the President’s Men.)

I don’t know what criteria the Academy Awards uses in picking a film for Best Picture, but what makes Spotlight amazing, for me, is the fact that these people are able to fight one of the most influential sectors of the country—the church—with only a pen and paper as their weapons. I mean, I’m not really sure how powerful the church is in the US, but if something like this in the Philippines, these journalists would be fighting practically the whole country, and that isn’t even an overstatement.

So yes, Spotlight didn’t have the incredible CGI that The Martian and Mad Max showcased; it didn’t have the same amount of intensity that The Revenant was able to offer; it may not be the Best Picture that everyone expected, but it’s telling us a very important issue in today’s society. I sincerely hope that we focus on that, instead of criticizing it for its lack of the “wow factor”.

Oh, and yes, the clothes in this film is still baggy as fuck. That, you may criticize.

Rating: 3.8/5
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