Tuesday, March 10, 2015

1987 - Broadcast News

It may be a few weeks past already, but since this is my first post back after the Oscars ceremony, it would be remiss of me not to offer a small debrief. As I predicted, Birdman and Alejandro G. Inarritu took home the Best Picture and Best Director gongs respectively. The lesson there is: Never go against the guilds. All in all, I managed to pick 20 of the 24 categories, which sounds impressive, yet that's exactly the way it played out last year, as well. I'd love to credit my superior analysis, but I have to at least acknowledge that there were very few surprises. The favourite won in almost every category, so it turns out that playing it safe is a good strategy.

My darling wife and child are both in Australia at the moment, while I remain here in Los Angeles. This seems like the perfect opportunity to make some real progress on Matt vs. the Academy, but they've already been gone for almost two weeks and this is the first post I've managed to write. Still, I'm determined to pick up the pace while I can.

As such, here is the next contender in 1987's Best Picture race...


Broadcast News
Director:
James L. Brooks
Screenplay:
James L. Brooks
Starring:
William Hurt, Albert Brooks, Holly Hunter, Robert Prosky, Lois Chiles, Joan Cusack, Jack Nicholson
Academy Awards:
7 nominations
0 wins

Set in the exciting world of television journalism, Broadcast News centres around three colleagues of a local news station. Jane (Hunter) is the fiery producer with integrity and ambition. Her best friend Aaron (Albert Brooks) is the reliable reporter with dreams of being an anchor. And Tom (Hurt) is the new member of the team who relies all too much on his good looks and charm for career advancement. Soon, a subtle rivalry emerges between the two men, as Aaron gets passed over for a temporary anchor position in favour of Tom. Their careers are not the only place for competition, however, when it becomes clear they both harbour feelings for Jane.

There's something very neat about Broadcast News. Perhaps it's the cute dialogue that, on occasion, seems almost too perfect. Albert Brooks' character, in particular, is a constant stream of witty self-deprecating one-liners that it starts to feel slightly dated. Then again, maybe I'm just jaded. The script by James L. Brooks (no relation to Albert) is genuinely funny and moving, and I was always entertained, so now that I think about it, I guess cute and neat are part of what makes the film so enjoyable.

Another part is, without question, the performances. Holly Hunter and William Hurt (pictured together) create a plethora of very real moments. They are natural and nuanced, even when intensely staring at each other, displaying the sort of electric chemistry most romantic comedies can only dream about. And if that weren't enough, there is another sort of chemistry, equally engaging, albeit in a more platonic way, between Hunter and Brooks. As best friends, their characters are clearly comfortable around each other, and the two actors deliver some sparkling repartee. Brooks' performance is clearly the comic relief (if you can even classify it as that in a picture that is itself a comedy) and he is sublime in that role, even if his dramatic moments don't quite hit the mark. Fittingly, all three performers earned Oscar nominations.

Supporting them are a gaggle of comedic actors, including Joan Cusack with her trademark silliness. Her little brother John also appears in a bit part as an angry messenger. Strangely, they are both credited incorrectly as "Cusak". And then there's Jack Nicholson as the national news anchor. He only appears briefly a couple of times and, on the surface, it seems like he would be too cheeky and cool for that kind of austere occupation. But there's a rare subtlety to his performance and he pulls it off. I mean, really, what else did I expect? He's Jack Nicholson.

Broadcast News was nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture, but sadly, it didn't collect a single trophy. Probably because The Last Emperor won everything.

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