Weekend Reel Reads: Reporters, Villains and History On-Screen

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by Steve Greene
October 21, 2012 4:59 PM
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Weekend Reel Reads is a regular feature that gathers lengthier stories related to the world of film criticism you may have missed during the week. If there's anything you think would be ideal for future installments, please let us know at critic@indiewire.com.

Real Reporters on the Screen? Get Me Rewrite!

Films have never been accused of romanticizing their subjects. (OK, maybe they have. All the time, in fact.) In light of a new screening series being held at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, New York Times writer Dan Barry looks at how the classic journalism films tended to glamorize the very nature of newspaper reporting. Instead of places where uncleanliness and repetition reigned supreme, these films took great joy in painting newsrooms as bastions of wit and speedy organization.

"What I choose to forget, of course, are the less than thrilling ways in which I spent the other 98 percent of my time: telephoning, photocopying, typing. Lots and lots of typing. And trust me: the tap of each key did not echo like gunfire aimed at a corrupt Mr. Big. It was decidedly less cinematic than rat-a-tat-tat. More like: Tap. Tap. Backspace. Tap."

The Holocaust Haunts The Flat and Israeli Documentaries:

As Annette Insdorf points out in her piece for the Huffington Post, we're entering a filmmaking period where the chronicles of the Holocaust are being told by third generation survivors. As distance grows between our time and the horrors of the past, the question of identity becomes all the more focused and inherent to the particular stories told. Insdorf uses Arnon Goldfinger's "The Flat" as a central case study in how this focus is sharpening.

"Time is a palpable factor in these documentaries about the Holocaust. On the one hand, the number of living survivors dwindles every year, lending a sense of urgency to record them. But with the passage of time, new, low-cost technology allows for easier filming of elderly survivors and the retracing of their wartime trajectories."

Javier Bardem: Sinister? Me?

One of the things that makes Emma Brockes' profile of the Spanish film star compelling is that Bardem is the type of person that eschews the traditional Hollywood methods. He doesn't discuss his children and he remains politically conscious without it pervading his public persona. As he's primed to ascend the ranks of James Bond villainy, it seems as good a time as any to catch a few glimpses into the career and support group that helped bring him to his respectable and successful career in the industry.

"There was a point during filming when Bardem appeared in a scene with both Dench and Daniel Craig. 'And I looked at them both and forgot the lines. There was a silence and Sam said, 'Cut, what's wrong?' And I said, 'I'm sorry, man, I just realised I'm in a James Bond movie and M and James Bond are looking at me.''"

E.T. on Blu-Ray

Steven Spielberg is definitely a subject that's spawned unending tomes of content, both online and in print. But there's a point near the end of Scott Tobias' AV Club writeup of the new "E.T." Blu-Ray that stresses how important this film is in the director's filmography. It's not just Elliott's exploits with an alien, but Spielberg's relationship to fiction and his choices in navigating his filmic worlds.

"Giving Elliott and E.T. the extra-sensory connection of feeling what the other one feels is the most powerful device in the film, and the most evocative of Spielberg and his imaginary friend; after all, what is an imaginary friend but an extension of the person doing the imagining? Spielberg plays it to comic effect in a famous—and perhaps a little too cute—sequence where the alien raids a beer-stocked fridge and an inexplicably drunk Elliott liberates the frogs marked for dissection in his science class. But the emotional payoffs are overwhelming, especially once the connection between the boy and his new friend falls away, making their teary goodbyes seem like the severing of an umbilical cord. Their parting could be the end of a vivid dream where Elliott wakes up at home, surrounded by family, like Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz."

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