Page One: Inside the New York Times’ Macbooks

There are a lot of people using Macbook Pros in this movie. Moving on.

Not since what many consider the greatest movie ever made (sorry Vertigo, Kane reigns the superior film in my eyes) has there been a movie so interesting and engaging about the newspaper industry, at least that I can recall.  The poster for this movie claims it is from the people that brought us Food Inc. and  An Inconvenient Truth, films I am not necessarily a fan of, but I was completely into this one.

All the people seem very comfortable doing interviews and being in front of the camera.  It’s what they do.  The writers and publishers make a living by putting out their work and credibility for everyone to see.  They argue about what is and isn’t front page material based on ethics, reader interest, personal interest, amount of information gathered and trusted, etc.  I found it fascinating.

A large portion of the movie covers the debate on will the New York Times fall and is the newspaper becoming obsolete? With the rise of the internet and blogging and even online newspapers many question if print will last.  Having seen what the internet has gone through growing up, I still say not yet.  Internet doesn’t seem to have as much credibility with anyone being able to partake.  As you are reading a blog post, I promise I am not damning the use.  The internet is a personable place, but I feel it should be left to that and the print remain with the “professionals” entrusted under the companies.

The Thin Blue Shadows

The Thin Blue Line is dark.

I’m not referring to the content, though I wouldn’t argue that, I’m speaking in literal terms.  The film is visually dark, especially in the reenactments.  Today, reenactments seem to be the norm for most of the historical documentaries you might see on PBS.  This was not the case back then, and while I don’t think director Errol Morris NEEDED them, I sure do think he was right to put them in.  The reenactments make the movie more sinister with the troubling subject matter already in consideration. Morris was smart to use the shadows and show absolutely NO faces in the reenactments.  He doesn’t show much of anything outside of the shadows.  Take a scene where someone is using a typewriter.  Even this is a reenactment, but it happened, and using the same words (however you’ll see no more than the person’s fingers) It doesn’t matter when the murdered police officer’s partner got out to shoot, the shooter inside the car or the testifying couple driving by, you can’t see anything. Except the milkshake the partner throws out the window which is the brightest moment in the non interview portions.  The interviews are enough, and mixing it with newspaper headlines and pictures were highly effective, but the additions help hit it home.  To “see” what is going on targets emotions more than people talking, which isn’t to be ignored as the content to which they speak is heavily loaded.

Finding out this movie helped Randall Dale Adams be released from prison is amazing.  It shows how powerful film can be.   I’m not sure how the justice system worked but somewhere along the way someone decided “maybe this isn’t exact..” The film wants to support Adams, at least I feel it does.  And it does this while being very fair to BOTH Adams and Harris. Their interview segments don’t seem biased, they are both given their say.  The rest of the interviews can be difficult because we choose who to trust and who is more competent.  The reenactments ADDED next to the interviews of Adams almost beg you as a viewer to root for him.  I don’t think they are biased reenactments as they try to keep a neutral portrait of the events in the darkness.  It can’t be claimed that everything happened exactly the way they chose to retell and edit it of course, but dammit the milkshake stays in the film!

Messing Around With the North

In Chapter 2 of Saunders, Errol Morris claimed that documentaries with a journalistic approach took away from the art of it.  Robert Flaherty filmed Nanook of the North and it was noted in Chapter 3 and in viewing the film that he possibly made alterations for the betterment of the movie.  For example, the camera would not have fit inside the built igloo, and the confusion among the wives was never fully addressed.  It begs to ask how much the director can influence “truth” and what the intentions are, as he did not set out to make a documentary necessarily but succeeded regardless.  I don’t think much harm was actually done.  Watching what these people do and go through was the point and did enough: it did what it was supposed to do.  So while it could be called an observatory natured documentary, I still think Flaherty put in the heart and made it personal like Morris spoke of in the first place.