Tag Archives: review

Quickie Review: Page One

I am one of those people who are inconsolably depressed over the death of print journalism. Growing up reading The New York Times and The Washington Post, I thought it was my destiny I would one day write for one of these noble institutions. OK, maybe not write—but I took it for granted I would at least read them. The internet happened in the intervening decade or two and shocked everyone, including, as it turns out, The Times itself.

The new documentary Page One: Inside The New York Times (Andrew Rossi) addresses the internet’s aftermath, and how it affected print journalism, The New York Times in particular. Beginning with The Rocky Mountain News’ retirement and ending with The Times’ creation of a pay-wall, the director does well describing the reactions from everyone involved, from the television talking heads, the editors, and the journalists themselves.

David Carr, the irascible Times media critic, is our host, and he does a great job defending the newspaper, and attesting to all it has to offer a sustainable, intelligent democracy. His takedown of Newser’s Michael Wolff during a debate was especially fun to watch. After Wolff decries The Times for Judith Miller’s misleading reporting in the run up to the Iraq war, Carr dismisses Newser as a news aggregator. Holding up a cut-up Newser homepage, he shows that by eliminating the mainstream media, one is also sacrificing the site’s content.

There are so many great moments like these, but for an hour and a half documentary, there are simply too many narrative threads to compose something coherent. Sure, it is nominally a look inside The New York Times and how it fights obsolescence, but that in of itself is too much. Sometimes we are in the editors’ meetings, other times we are in Minneapolis learning about David Carr’s past lives, and by the end we are learning more about the Tribune Company’s bankruptcy than we are about the future of The Times.

The problem is not the documentarian, but the subject itself. A newsroom that big, and encompassing so much history, could never be distilled in one doc. And, honestly, the death of journalism is a topic too difficult to compress into mere sound-bytes. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the filmmakers to pick a subject, and the responsibility of a clever editor to make sure the final cut reflects that focus. Page One is a great movie, about a great subject, one I care to hear more of, yet there are times when great isn’t good when covering a story.


Quickie Review: Julie and Julia

So I saw Julie and Julia this weekend and I have to say, I was impressed. I liked the movie’s style and as a blogger, thought that the writer-director, Nora Ephron, portrayed this solitary habit with a great deal of tact and reality. The blogging was neither super-sleek nor silly but looked and felt on camera like the extension of a writer’s life. In my review, I will focus mostly on the screenwriting, what I know best, and answer the question: Should you go see this movie?

Let me hit the plot real quick: Julie Powell (Amy Adams) is a career-stranded twentysomething about to turn thirty. Seeking inspiration, she begins a food blog, recreating all 524 of Julia Child’s recipes from her landmark Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Meanwhile, the other half of the movie is interested in the education of Julia Child (Meryl Streep in one of her best roles) as a cook at Paris’ Cordon Bleu and the writing of the cook book.

As a writer, I was struck by Ephron’s sympathy and understanding of the writer’s life. We see Child nervously prepare the book and then feel sad with her when it initially faces rejection. We feel the same rush of emotion during the final frame when she receives a copy of her book in the mail. Just as Child struggles to publish her book, so does Julie—who carries her unfinished novel like an albatross around her neck—convinced that she does not have the talent to truly be a “writer.” But both Julia Child and Julie are writers, they may not be published at first, but as Julie’s husband Eric (Chris Messina) points out, the simple act of pushing pen to paper is enough. There are no writer badges, and both characters’ acceptance of that simple fact and their ability to persist even if they are not successful writers was the movie’s true message: keep writing until it hurts.

Of course, the movie is also about food, and me not being a foodie probably did not help my enjoyment of that part. I like a turkey on rye sometimes, but what characters eat isn’t important to me. To cut to the chase, as they say around these parts, the Julia part is infinitely more interesting than the Julie part, and not just because of the blogging/book divide. Sometimes the cutting between the two stories is spot-on, other times it is clunky. To me, Julie comes off as selfish and self-absorbed. Her greatest moments seem to be when journalists call. Not that I too am not a sucker for publicity and it is nice to be recognized, but part of the blog is just to write for writing’s sake. OK, I’m digging a hole for myself here so I’ll stop.

Go see Julie and Julia, the script is excellent and the depiction of writers is one-of-a-kind. One thumb up. The other thumb fell off during a duck braising accident ala Dan Akroyd.

Julia Child in the Kitchen

Julia Child in the Kitchen