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Review: Page One: Inside the New York Times

3.0

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Page One: Inside the New York Times
Photo: Magnolia Pictures

“There’s no times at all—except The New York Times,” Paul Simon sang about the hardship of romance, though the quote also speaks to how the paper has seemed to simultaneously epitomize and transcend journalism. Both a profound influence on and a literate exemplar of American culture, the Times is now perhaps the most crucial canary in mainstream media’s asphyxiating mineshaft. Andrew Rossi’s talking-head-oriented documentary Page One: Inside the New York Times allows this print titan a kind of nail-biting self-portraiture as it peers off the precipice of (hopefully) a 2.0 rebirth. Intimately circling the media desk and ace staffers such as David Carr, Brian Stelter, Bruce Headlam, and Bill Keller, the film provides a taste of the day-to-day challenges of news-corralling, as well as eyewitness analysis of how the digital age has transformed the role of the newspaper from an information conduit to a legitimizing voice.

Given that the Times‘s employees are both the focus and our rhetorical guides through this discussion, though we do hear from outsiders with varying sympathies, the movie can’t help coming off like a defense for the value of old-school journalism. This argument only occasionally feels pitiful; there’s some “aw, shucks, we’re sorry” self-analysis around Jayson Blair’s plagiarism and Judith Miller’s controversially influential coverage of Iraq’s WMD stockpiling. But considering the curious symmetry between the film’s release and the debut of the Times‘s online pay wall, much of the landscape-surveying, and the bids for the Times‘s extant relevance, appear as unsavory bids for subscriptions. Gay Talese takes us back to the good ol’ days when CBS and NBC were cribbing scoops from the Times‘s morning edition; others’ points that Gawker’s meta-coverage of Times reportage implies an evergreen social worth. Recounts of the coverage of scandals surrounding the Tribune Company’s bankruptcy subtly argue that the media needs to be comprised of rival institutions to keep itself in check.

Rossi’s roughhewn hero throughout is the media columnist David Carr, who provides some narration and a slew of juicy biographical details in addition to his topical interviews. (His trajectory from drug addiction and incarceration as a twentysomething to a career in media reporting becomes a conscious metaphor for the Times‘s own resilience and purported transformative abilities.) But while Carr argues cogently for the Times‘s existence, he also recognizes that editorial value is not necessarily a marketable entity in the digital landscape. “Have fun figuring it out,” he says in one telling scene after admitting that he’ll only last another decade or so on the masthead. One senses that this confession is meant to establish Carr’s quasi-cynical personality, but it more dramatically reveals an essential distinction between off- and online news writers: Traditional newspapermen doggedly seek the scoop, but the monetization of clickable content is a foreign concept. Carr is a writer (a shrewd and lively one), but he’s not, and sees no need to think like, a brand. That the Internet’s peculiarities have necessitated the development of this kind of self-value will indeed continue to cattle-prod journalism toward a new and perhaps, at first, bleak era. And it’s hard not to hear death knells for the old guard when newspapermen start assigning themselves brand prices out of vague, jaundiced entitlement.

Director: Andrew Rossi Distributor: Magnolia Pictures and Participant Media Running Time: 89 min Rating: R Year: 2011 Buy: Video

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Awards

Oscar 2019 Winner Predictions: Original Screenplay

This season, Hollywood is invested in celebrating the films they love while dodging the cultural bullets coming at them from every angle.

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Green Book
Photo: Universal Pictures

You know, if it weren’t for the show’s producers effectively and repeatedly saying everything about the Academy Awards is terrible and needs to be changed, and the year’s top-tier contenders inadvertently confirming their claims, this would’ve been a comparatively fun and suspenseful Oscar season. None of us who follow the Academy Awards expect great films to win; we just hope the marathon of precursors don’t turn into a Groundhog Day-style rinse and repeat for the same film, ad nauseam.

On that score, mission accomplished. The guilds have been handing their awards out this season as though they met beforehand and assigned each voting body a different title from Oscar’s best picture list so as not to tip the Oscar race too clearly toward any one film. SAG? Black Panther. PGA? Green Book. DGA? Roma. ASC? Cold War. ACE? Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Even awards-season kryptonite A Star Is Born got an award for contemporary makeup from the MUAHS. (That’s the Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild, not the sound Lady Gaga fans have been making ever since A Star Is Born’s teaser trailer dropped last year.)

Not to be outdone, the Writers Guild of America announced their winners last weekend, and not only did presumed adapted screenplay frontrunner BlacKkKlansman wind up stymied by Can You Ever Forgive Me?, but the original screenplay prize went to Eighth Grade, which wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar. Bo Burnham twisted the knife into AMPAS during his acceptance speech: “To the other nominees in the category, have fun at the Oscars, losers!” In both his sarcasm and his surprise, it’s safe to say he speaks on behalf of us all.

As is always the case, WGA’s narrow eligibility rules kept a presumed favorite, The Favourite, out of this crucial trial heat. But as the balloting period comes to a close, the question remains just how much enthusiasm or affection voters have for either of the two films with the most nominations (Roma being the other). As a recent “can’t we all just get along” appeal by Time’s Stephanie Zacharek illustrates, the thing Hollywood is most invested in this season involves bending over backward, Matrix-style, to celebrate the films they love and still dodge the cultural bullets coming at them from every angle.

Maybe it’s just tunnel vision from the cultural vacuum Oscar voters all-too-understandably would prefer to live in this year, but doesn’t it seem like The Favourite’s tastefully ribald peppering of posh-accented C-words would be no match for the steady litany of neo-Archie Bunkerisms spewing from Viggo Mortensen’s crooked mouth? Especially with First Reformed’s Paul Schrader siphoning votes from among the academy’s presumably more vanguard new recruits? We’ll fold our words in half and eat them whole if we’re wrong, but Oscar’s old guard, unlike John Wayne, is still alive and, well, pissed.

Will Win: Green Book

Could Win: The Favourite

Should Win: First Reformed

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Watch: Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir, Starring Honor Swinton Byrne and Tilda Swinton, Gets First Trailer

Joanna Hogg has been flying under the radar for some time, but that’s poised to change in a big way.

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A24
Photo: A24

British film director and screenwriter Joanna Hogg, whose impeccably crafted 2013 film Exhibition we praised on these pages for its “disarming mixture of the remarkable and the banal,” has been flying under the radar for the better part of her career. But that’s poised to change in a big way with the release of her latest film, The Souvenir, which won the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Prior to the film’s world premiere at the festival, A24 and Curzon Artificial Eye acquired its U.S. and U.K. distribution rights, respectively. Below is the official description of the film:

A shy but ambitious film student (Honor Swinton Byrne) begins to find her voice as an artist while navigating a turbulent courtship with a charismatic but untrustworthy man (Tom Burke). She defies her protective mother (Tilda Swinton) and concerned friends as she slips deeper and deeper into an intense, emotionally fraught relationship that comes dangerously close to destroying her dreams.

And below is the film’s first trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9Al2nC0vzY

A24 will release The Souvenir on May 17.

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Awards

Oscar 2019 Winner Predictions: Sound Mixing

For appealing to voters’ nostalgia for drunken karaoke nights of yore, one film has the upper hand here.

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20th Century Fox
Photo: 20th Century Fox

Given what Eric wrote about the sound editing category yesterday, it now behooves me to not beat around the bush here. Also, it’s my birthday, and there are better things for me to do today than count all the ways that Eric and I talk ourselves out of correct guesses in the two sound categories, as well as step on each other’s toes throughout the entirety of our Oscar-prediction cycle. In short, it’s very noisy. Which is how Oscar likes it when it comes to sound, though maybe not as much the case with sound mixing, where the spoils quite often go to best picture nominees that also happen to be musicals (Les Misérables) or musical-adjacent (Whiplash). Only two films fit that bill this year, and since 2019 is already making a concerted effort to top 2018 as the worst year ever, there’s no reason to believe that the scarcely fat-bottomed mixing of Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody will take this in a walk, for appealing to voters’ nostalgia for drunken karaoke nights of yore.

Will Win: Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody

Could Win: A Star Is Born

Should Win: First Man

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