All the President’s Men
For many, this is the gold standard for movies about journalism and perhaps the most apt in the current US political climate. A true story of young and hungry Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein’s (Dustin Hoffman) investigative reporting of the Watergate scandal that led all the way to the White House and eventually helped topple president Richard Nixon. Its skill was injecting real drama into the often tedious, painstaking process of an investigation which went on for months. Also helped by a star turn from Jason Robards as legendary Post editor Ben Bradlee.
Page One: Inside the New York Times
This 2011 documentary, set in the offices of the New York Times, captures on the ground level the challenges facing the future of the newspaper industry: falling ad revenues; how to monetise online content; falling editorial budgets; and the distrust in mainstream media. So, it is still quite relevant. What could have been a self-important essay on the importance of the Times is saved (mostly) by the characters - mainly David Carr, the paper’s star media reporter. A single dad and former drug addict, Carr is charismatic and with a voice which sounds like he smokes 80-a-day. It is important viewing for anyone with a passing interest in how or whether old media can survive.
A dark look at the state of local TV news and the “if it bleeds, it leads” culture it deals in. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a slightly creepy freelance camera man who spends his nights trying to win the race to violent crime scenes and grisly accidents across LA in the hope of selling his footage to the local TV station the following day. As he gets further into his work and his mental state suffers, the film asks you to think how far he will eventually go for the killer shot.
David Fincher’s 2007 film revolves around the still to this day-unidentified Zodiac serial killer who murdered five people in Northern California in the late 1960s. Rather than concentrate on the conventional who-done-it narrative or the point of view of the victims, Fincher instead concentrates on how the lives of those who spent years trying to crack the case are affected. Primarily San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist Robert Graysmith, played by Jake Gyllenhaal (him again), Chronicle reporter Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr) and police detective David Toschi, played by Mark Ruffalo.
This retelling of the investigative team of the Boston Globe - the eponymous Spotlight - and their probe into the Catholic Church, its paedophile priests and the global scandal it created is sober and measured in a way which suits the subject matter. The reporters’ biggest challenge is overcoming faith in an institution so trusted by a majority Irish Catholic city. Despite public and political backlash, newly appointed Globe editor Ben Bradlee Jnr - a direct link to All the President’s Men, which it’s often been compared to – persists in the investigation. Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo (him again) are excellent as the scale of the horrific crimes becomes evident.
Will Ferrell is professional idiot and 1970s news anchor Ron Burgundy, who along with his crack team of reporters and his trusty hound Baxter (“Baxter, is that you? Baxter! Bark twice if you’re in Milwaukee”) do what successful white people did in 70s San Diego: drank scotch, ate steak and had questionable views towards women. All that changes when Ron meets aspiring news anchor Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate). They fall in love (“It’s terrible. She has beautiful eyes, and her hair smells like cinnamon!”) but hit a rocky patch we he realises she’s gunning for his spot (“I’m in a glass case of emotion!”).