Thursday Movie Picks #62: Journalist/Reporters for Print/TV

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Thursday everyone! This is another entry to the weekly Thursday Movie Picks that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog. Here’s the gist:

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. This Thursday’s theme is… 

Movies featuring journalists/reporters for print/TV

I LOVE this month’s theme as I actually wanted to be a journalist growing up. I was thisclose to enrolling in Journalism major in college before I switched to Advertising. I like a lot of film that involve journalism, especially investigative journalism that continues to be an intriguing subject today. In fact one of the films I’m anticipating later this year that screened at TIFF is SPOTLIGHT, about the Boston Globe’s investigation into the child molestation scandal within the local Catholic Archdiocese. These three films also involve scandalous events that’s notable in their time.

So without further ado, here are my picks:

All The President’s Men (1976)

AllPresidentsMen

Reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein uncover the details of the Watergate scandal that leads to President Nixon’s resignation.

This was one of my Blindspot picks of last year and I’m glad I finally saw it. It’s as much a detective tale as it is about journalism. I like how the story stays focused on the investigative aspect of the scandal and how the Post finally got to publish it, there’s no unnecessary subplots about the personal lives of the leads or anything of the sort. What an intriguing slice of American history, and as someone who’s not born in the US, it’s especially fascinating to see. To this day, every political scandal is tagged with the “-gate” suffix because of this, which adds to the timeless aspect of this film. Thanks to Robert Redford for acquiring the rights to Bernstein’s and Woodward’s memoir and for Mr. Pakula for bringing this engrossing political history to life. The two leads Redford and Dustin Hoffman are in top form here, but it also feature fantastic supporting performances from Hal Holbrook who played Woodward’s extremely secretive source, “Deep Throat.”

The Insider (1999)

TheInsider

A research chemist comes under personal and professional attack when he decides to appear in a “60 Minutes” expose on Big Tobacco

This film (as well as HEAT) is why I will always admire Michael Mann. I was disappointed by Blackhat but I think he’s still a phenomenal filmmaker that can infuse such a compelling drama to an otherwise ho-hum story. Russell Crowe gave one of his best performances in his illustrious career, which I think deserved a Best Actor Oscar more than his role in Gladiator. I dedicated this post to highlight some of the scenes I love from this film. The relationship between Dr. Jeffrey Wigand (Crowe), the whistle blower of the mammoth tobacco company Brown & Williamson’s and Lowell Bergman, a senior producer on 60 Minutes (Al Pacino) is compelling to watch. It’s amazing how even just two people talking on the phone can be so riveting, but that’s the genius of Mann’s style. Lots of great supporting cast here too, most notably Christopher Plummer as the legendary CBS News reporter Mike Wallace, Bruce McGill as trial lawyer Ron Motley, and Michael Gambon as the top tobacco company exec.

Veronica Guerin (2003)

VeronicaGuerin

Based on a true story, this is about the Irish journalist Veronica Guerin, a reporter for The Sunday Independent, who exposed some of Dublin’s most powerful crime barons and drug lords in 1996.

One of my all time favorite Cate Blanchett performances, where she totally disappeared into her role. Cate not only portrays the feisty reporter, she embodies the journalist’s incredible valor in investigating Dublin’s drug trafficking. You immediately believe her as the character and the Aussie thespian even nailed Guerin’s Irish accent convincingly. I know some of you might be put off by Joel Shumacher as director, but it’s a good film, so give it a shot if you haven’t already. It’s one of the great examples of the danger of investigative journalism and how some of them are truly unsung heroes for their bravery to expose things that are harmful to society.

 

BONUS PICK

Philomena (2013)

Philomena

A world-weary political journalist picks up the story of a woman’s search for her son, who was taken away from her decades ago after she became pregnant and was forced to live in a convent.

I already had the three above locked down but I still want to include this film as I haven’t reviewed it yet. I LOVE Dame Judi Dench and she’s simply phenomenal as Philomena (hey that rhymes :D) Steve Coogan (who also co-wrote the script) played the disgraced former journalist Martin Sixsmith who ended up coming alongside Philomena Lee in her journey to find her long lost son. A lot of his acting consist of bewildered reaction to Philomena, especially the part where she basically divulges the entire plot of a trashy book she’s reading that he couldn’t possibly be more disinterested in. It’s a bittersweet story that made me laugh and cry. Dame Judi is mesmerizing here and she’s as effortlessly adept in comedy as she is in dramatic roles. I find the story to be poignant, thought-provoking, and profoundly moving.

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What do you think of my picks? Which movies involving journalism/reporting are your favorites?

Seven Favorite Cate Blanchett’s Performances

I began jotting this list right after I saw Hanna a few weeks ago, but since May 14th, is her 42nd birthday, it’s fitting to publish this today in her honor.

Catherine Élise Blanchett, the Melbourne-born actress seemed to be destined for greatness right from the time she graduated from Australia’s National Institute of Dramatic Art at 23. In just about a year, she had already won Sydney Theatre Critic’s Circle Theatre award for Best Newcomer in Kafka Dances. The first time I saw her must have been in Elizabeth, and immediately I was in awe of her transcendent acting ability and striking screen presence. The film might not have been a masterpiece, but her performance was pretty darn close. The only thing more astonishing than her performance is how The Academy didn’t give her most-deserved Oscar that year.

I have since watched over a dozen films of hers and not a single one of her performances has been disappointing. Even in bad movies — not that she’s been in many of them — she remains a delight to watch on screen. Yes, even Irina Spalko in the ill-conceived Indy 5 doesn’t diminish my admiration of this great actress. Cate is one of those rare artist who’s got the perfect combination of beauty and brains… she is luminous and stylish on the red carpet, but yet she’s not afraid to look plain or even ugly on screen, unlike many other vain what-so-called ‘actors’ who won’t take on a less-than-glamorous role for fear of ruining their image. No matter what she looks like in a given movie, one can expect an amazing depth and intelligent charisma she consistently projects on screen. There is also this chameleon-like quality that makes her perfectly suitable of any genre, from quintessential costume drama to contemporary thriller. Combine that with her knack for accents, Cate is without a doubt one of the most versatile talents working in Hollywood today.

The many faces of the great Cate

As I said above, there hasn’t been a single disappointing performance from Blanchett, but these seven are the ones I enjoy the most from her, even if the film itself might not be the greatest. Please bear in mind I have yet to see I’m Not There (I know, I know, it’s in my Netflix queue!) and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, so my list might look different once I’ve seen those. Anyway, here they are in order of the film’s release:

  1. The Virgin Queen in Elizabeth
    Blanchett tackled a complex role of Queen Elizabeth I seemingly with ease, from the monarch’s arduous ascension to the throne to her early reign. She’s so comfortable at the center stage, carrying the film on her delicate shoulders with such charisma that you’d be hard pressed to believe it was her first feature film. Both strong and vulnerable, it’s a dazzling breakthrough performance that’s worthy of an Oscar, even to this day, people still think she was utterly robbed (by Gwyneth Paltrow no less!).
  2. Kate Wheeler in Bandits
    Ok, so this isn’t one of the best crime comedy out there, but I thought it was quite entertaining and enjoyable. Cate pretty much stole the show from Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton, the two bandits who fell for the run-away housewife they kidnapped. Sporting a spot-on southern accent, her quirky performance was such a hoot to watch. She definitely have a knack for comedy, something I wish she’d do more of to balance her more serious/darker roles.
  3. Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
    Interestingly enough, most of the actors I love, both men and women, usually have a distinct voice. I absolutely adore Cate’s narration right from the moment she spoke the words “It began with the forging of the Great Rings…” Her luminous beauty makes for a perfect elf-princess who’s wise as well as kind to those who oppose the great evil Sauron. She’s easily one of my all-time favorite character in the entire franchise, so I’m thrilled that she will reprise her character in The Hobbit next year!
  4. Charlotte Gray in Charlotte Gray
    Just another proof that Blanchett can play all kinds of nationalities believably, in this WWII romantic thriller, she played a young Scottish woman who joined the French Resistance to rescue her Royal Air Force boyfriend who’s lost in France. I saw this film a long time ago, but I remember how good Cate was in this. This is the kind of role tailored for someone with her dramatic chops and she does the title role justice. I saw the trailer again earlier today and it made me want to re-watch the movie. Michael Gambon and Billy Crudup are both good in this as well.
  5. Veronica Guerin in Veronica Guerin
    Another title role and this time it’s a biopic of an Irish crime reporter who was murdered by the country’s drug lords in 1996. Cate not only portrays the feisty reporter, she embodies the journalist’s incredible valor in investigating Dublin’s drug trafficking. She looks the part and even does the Irish accent convincingly, which is what you come to expect from her. Don’t be put off by Joel Shumacher, it’s actually a great film with a great message of courage and risking one’s life for the good of others.
  6. Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator
    This is the role on everyone’s best-of list and it’s no surprise why. This is Cate at the top of her game, practically transforming herself into a classic Hollywood icon. It’s as if she belonged in this era with that side-part wavy hairstyle, those vintage clothes. Cate stole every scene she was in with her spot-on Hepburn’s mannerism and speaking voice. That dinner scene with Howard Hughes and her family is a downright classic! Finally the Academy recognized her stunning performance and awarded her a well-deserved Best Supporting Actor Oscar.
  7. Marion Loxley in Robin Hood
    Sure this movie is quite divisive and not exactly Ridley Scott’s shining hour, but I quite enjoyed it and it definitely has its merits. As I said in my review, Cate’s casting is one of the movie’s major strength. She made me sympathize with Marion almost instantly, and her chemistry with Russell Crowe’s Robin is sweet and affecting. Their scenes together are wonderful to watch, but then again, we’re talking about two of the most charismatic actors in Hollywood, not just the ones from Australia.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Susan Jones in Babel
  • Tracy Heart in Little Fish
  • Marissa in Hanna

So happy birthday to my favorite actress… looking forward to more wonderful roles in the future!

Dear readers, what are your favorite Cate Blanchett’s roles? Please list ’em in the comments.