The Newsroom—Created, Directed and mostly written by Aaron Sorkin/ co-produced by Sorkin, Scott Rudin, and Alan Poul/starring Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer, Olivia Munn, Alison Pill, Dev Patel, Sam Waterston, Thomas Sadoski and John Gallagher, Jr./Airs on HBO, Sunday at (approximately) 8 p.m./1 hour
Bifocal Reviews by Barbara Rich and The Other Guy
(B) Words can be used as weapons and Aaron Sorkin is once again armed and dangerous. I like the show. I wait with great anticipation all week, for HBO’s Sunday evening program, Newsroom. I love the fast pace of the back-stage network newsroom and I particularly like Jeff Daniels’ performance. He is able to capture the character of a quick-witted, well-informed and even tempered intellectual responder to world events, as well as, from out of nowhere an explosive, emotional real-life human being. Each character has their own unique quality that draws you into the multiple plotlines, just as Sorkin has done in his other great works. I’d like to also add that Sorkin’s genius is not only in dialogue, but in character development. For instance, he has made Jeff Daniels’ anchor character a Republican…who often gets called a ‘liberal’ by members of his own party. Contrary to those who are trying to knock a good show because it doesn’t glorify a narrow political agenda or publishing perspective, I appreciate a chance to look at my own behavior through this obviously conflicted pair of eyes. Will McAvoy (the name of Daniels’ character on the show) at least tries to make his decisions based upon uncovering the truth and doing the right thing, rather than just what will make the investors happy. To the journalists and info-tainment mongers who are quick to react negatively to the show, I say: Don’t dish it out if you can’t take it. Definitely four binoculars are due to this one.
(OG) Just as Sorkin’s West Wing, The Social Network, Charlie Wilson’s War and Moneyball all served to establish the defining role of many (already notable) actors, as well as put socially significant institutional changes into pinpoint perspective, this latest Sorkin adventure lays bare the Fourth Estate. Newsroom takes on the current state of affairs in the News-Entertainment industry and juxtaposes it against the somewhat nostalgic notion that our First Amendment right to free speech and freedom of the press work hand in hand with the truth and are essential elements to creating an informed democracy. The notion that “fluff is not news” has raised the rancor or many of those who call themselves journalists, because they are NOT what they claim to be. It’s all right to be an entertainer, whose primary medium is words, but not to pretend that somehow your opinion or manufactured position is actually a conscientious search for the truth. The reviews I’ve seen of this ABSOLUTELY RIVITING, BRILLIANT AND PERFECTLY ACTED HBO show demonstrate exactly what Sorkin is saying about what is wrong with the news these days, as well as how to go about fixing the problem. The quest for making money with a total disregard for whom gets hurt, it is clear, is the root of most of our problems in the U.S. In this regard, Sorkin is saying simply what was said in a book written by 82 year old martial artist, inventor and international ambassador for the United States, Jhoon Rhee (Trutopia): That the first order of business should always be, simply telling the truth. Let’s not make it easier for liars or the selfish to succeed. As Daniel’s character points out in last Sunday’s episode, “Why can’t we just call a lie a lie?” I pray that HBO continues to allow Sorkin to produce these wonderful, thought provoking commentaries on current events, in a way that demonstrates the difference between what goes on behind the camera, and what SHOULD air as an honest-to-goodness television newscast. I applaud him and—if it matters to anyone--will continue to watch. Bravo! Four binoculars!
To Rome with Love—Written and Directed by Woody Allen/Starring Woody Allen (Jerry), Flavio Parenti (Michelangelo), Roberto Benigni (Leoplodo), Alison Pill (Hayley), Alessandro Tiberi (Antonio), Judy Davis (Phyllis), Allessandra Mastronardi (Milly), Alec Baldwin (John), Ellen Page (Monica),Penelope Cruz (Anna)/Greta Gerwig (Sally) and Jesse Eisenberg (Jack)/Rated R/1hr35min
By Barbara Rich and the Other Guy
(B) Having just returned from vacationing in Italy made this film even more meaningful to me. I was surprised to see so many subtitles, but being of Italian decent, I welcomed it. The film lost nothing because of the beautiful flow of this romantic language, besides you can see with your eyes what is happening. Italians, as they say, talk with their body.
This movie might just cross over and be a candidate for a foreign film award and is so Woody Allen. After all, he is the writer, director and one of the many stars. Woody just gets better with age. Early on I was not a big fan, but last year’s Midnight in Paris and this year’s To Rome With Love has given me a new appreciation. Uniquely funny situations with Roberto Benigni were sidesplitting. Another memorable situation with Woody’s character going to Rome to meet his prospective son-in-law provided many laugh-out-loud moments. All the cast of characters found themselves in common situations amplified by the genius of Woody Allen. If you want to “forget your troubles come on get happy” this is the movie to see. Alec Baldwin is wonderful as a kind of Roman chorus, along with some other characters who speak to the audience and to other characters while the action is taking place. I recommend this film, if for nothing else, the trip to Italy. Beautiful country. I give it three binoculars, or as the Italians would say “Molto Bene!”
(OG) Maybe it’s just the fact that this was a Woody Allen film—I LOVE Woody Allen-- and I was programed to like it from the outset. On the other hand, that’s exactly what this film was about…perspective. Woody Allen holds up the quirks, flaws and idiosyncrasies of being human like a mirror where he stands in front of it with us. He never leaves himself out of the reflection because, he knows, in the end that even though he is a celebrity, the director and a great comic writer…he’s just one of us. That’s the central theme and the strength of this film and most of those where Woody is allowed to be Woody. I think that the last two films are refined and improved versions of some of his previous classics that may have been a little ahead of their time for some audiences. Play It Again, Sam and Bananas come to mind as two previous Allen films that allowed him to explore basic human themes released from the bounds of reality. His comic imagination is allowed to soar in To Rome With Love on so many levels. It is a series of loosely bound stories of lovers and celebrity in what is called The Eternal City. Everything is based upon perspective, though. The movie starts, as if a series of vignettes are being presented by a traffic cop—he talks directly to the camera, so it’s easy to see why this is the case. The film ends with a different guy opening a window onto the street where the original scenes take place. He has a whole different view of the same city, and wants to tell different stories about the people there. In To Rome with Love the stories have very little connection to one another and within each, we are continuously being asked to suspend “just a little bit of disbelief” for the sake of the overall impact. When a character (who has yet to come on camera) is spoken of as “really beautiful and sexy” we assume it is going to be Penelope Cruz, but when the “actress” arrives, it is Ellen Page. No slight on Page, but she is no Cruz. In another story, a newlywed, played brilliantly by Allessandra Mastronardi, is seduced by a fat, balding actor who she says “is the most sexy” man alive! Then, Benigni (who we are told at the outset is completely average and uninteresting) becomes the star of a reality show, who can’t stand fame, but hates it worse when he looses the spotlight. For me, the funniest bit was how Woody’s character decides to do an opera with a man he heard singing in the shower. As he turns out, like many of us, he can ONLY sing while in the shower. So, Woody decides to put on a production with this guy standing naked, under running water. It’s hilarious and would be worth the price of admission, even if the rest of the film weren’t great! I am giving this one four binoculars, and I don’t speak any Italian.