Thursday, February 16, 2012

Broadcast News Chat

Tracy:  So I think James L. Brooks might hate women.
Natalie:  Yeah. There's not much good about the women in this one.
Or for the women.
Tracy:  And As Good As It Gets wasn't good. Neither was Spanglish, or Terms of Endearment, really. It's just so stereotypical: Here's the go-go 80s Working Girl, who can't figure out what she wants. And I'm not sure how I feel about everyone thinking a story on date rape is a fluff piece.
Natalie:  Can't figure out what she wants and can't get it herself anyway. The date rape piece wouldn't be fluff now but it would have given the time frame. There was no such thing as date rape then. But, I think that dates the film (one of many ways).
Tracy:  That's true. But it still felt like sort of a cheap shot--I mean, it seems it's a story that needed to be told, since it is a thing now. But anyway, it did very much have the look of the late 80s. And it shows you how long Qaddaffi has been a problem! I remember liking it, but didn't enjoy it as much the second time around. Though I still love the Albert Brooks’s character. And I think the line "If I were the devil, you're the only one I would tell" is a pretty good definition of love. Did you think that William Hurt's betrayal was that deal-breaking?
Natalie:  I want to back up to James L. Brooks for a minute--I think he's stuck with writing women. He was one of the creators of the Mary Tyler Moore show which, of course, did a lot for women on TV and showed her in a professional setting. But, Holly Hunter's character can't get past that late 60s/early 70s trap women were in. Brooks can't seem to update women and women's roles. I'd not seen this one before and I did not enjoy it. I felt both "romances" were thin and baseless--so, no, there was no deal-breaking betrayal because I didn't see where there was an actual deal. William Hurt's whole character was a problem for me. They wanted to make him noble and all I won't talk about things I know nothing about but then they made him fall into the superficial I'm pretty and a talking head trap without any pressure. There was no actual conflict there. IF there had been more of a conflict and Hurt was actually pushing a LOT to make sure he was in the field or reading books or looking at old footage or really hounding people in the newsroom to KNOW things, I might have bought Hunter's character falling for him. Otherwise, she's just falling for the shiny new boy and that doesn't work in the narrative.
Tracy:  I agree. For as much as he writes women, he doesn't seem to get how a woman like Holly Hunter would work. She might not love Brooks, but she wouldn't fall for Hurt either. And I know the big break is supposed to generate from that speech she gives at the beginning of the film, but that philosophy or value system isn't reinforced any other time, so it ended up making her look hysterical and unreasonable, since Hurt is pretty much this blank placeholder the whole way through. And I guess it's fine to feed him information from Brooks? I think the movie was trying to be too many things--this romance and also this commentary on television news, and ends up doing neither particularly well. Though I do love the sweating scene. Which again, I remembered as being much longer.
Natalie:  And the crying at her desk (and other random places) every day? Without any explanation (which could have worked) that just seems like he wants to make women the hysterics. Between that and Joan Cusack (brilliantly) running though the newsroom, all of the physicality of the film is left to women, which would be fine if it weren't all absurd.
Tracy:  That was a classic run! And I usually really like movies about the business of the news (All the President's Men, Network, even The Paper), but this wasn't. Not really. Does the book have any account that we could buy? As I recall from writing the blurb, it was pretty much showered with nominations.
Natalie::  I do, too. I liked what I've seen of Mary Tyler Moore and other newsroom TV/movies but this one couldn't decide that it was actually about the news. No, nothing we can buy. It starts with, "An invitation to the 1984 Democratic Convention inspired the hectic spirit of James L. Brooks’s fast-paced 1987 media romance. A former CBS television newsman himself, Brooks puts a career twist into the classic concept of screwball comedy." I find that problematic because there are about two scenes one could describe as screwball (sweating and running). And continues, "A film about love, it is also about lovers who think that the only safe love affair is the one they have with their work" which also doesn't work because both men end up in long term relationship at the end while she has only been in one for three months. And ends with, “As ‘news’ itself has become the show business of which Altman was so fearful, the earnestness and time devoted to TV stories seems to issue from another age. But the laughs are still there, and anyone who has ever been turned down for someone less intelligent will never forget Aaron’s quip, ‘I say it here and it comes out there,’ when he calls the newsroom to update Grunick, his romantic nemesis, in an emergency broadcast.” And that's just kind of weak.
Natalie:  OH! There may be another source of our women-hating problem. When James L. Brooks was at CBS, I bet no women were in any position but secretary.
Tracy:  Jeez. It's not screwball at all, and you know this better than I, but don't screwball films tend to feature powerful, complicated women? I'm thinking Bringing Up Baby, but are their others? And no one is married to their work! They all want to be in relationships. I don't know if I've ever been turned down for someone less intelligent, but I got no particular zing of satisfaction from that line. I did think that Brooks did a good job writing the sort of shorthand that very good friends have ("I'll meet you at the place near the thing we went that time"), but didn't really go into why their friendship didn't translate into romance. The Paper is a ton better at capturing the frenzy that it seems he was going for. I really can't think of a justification for keeping this in.
Natalie:  Screwball films do include a lot of powerful, complicated women--especially ones who can keep pace with the men without any aid. Bringing Up Baby (well, almost all of Katherine Hepburn's comedies and those like them with Cary Grant, et al) and His Girl Friday are what I can think of now. But, yeah, they start with a premise of equality and are actually funny and include more physical humor. I got no zing from that line either and it seemed like he might have said it even if he and Hunter were happily married with a picket fence because he, unlike Hunter, stuck to his guns about his professional morals. The shorthand of good friends was great but was almost too rehearsed--like that's just what they say instead of that happening to be what comes out because the name of the place has slipped and the other person just knows what you're talking about. I've not seen The Paper but I don't think this one needs to stay.
Tracy:  Agreed. I think you'd like The Paper! It seems people go nuts all over Brooks's films and I never get it (like As Good As It Gets, which I pretty much heartily despised). But you know what I don't despise? Young Paul Newman.
Natalie::  MmmHmmm. I can't despise Paul Newman one bit.
Although I could do without the eggs.
Tracy:  Yeah. Quease. But it should be fun to talk about it. I haven't seen it in years.
Natalie: I guess I haven't seen it too recently either--at least a few years.
Tracy:  Definitely looking forward to it. 

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