Broadcast News

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Question: What do The Simpsons, As Good as It Gets, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Terms of Endearment, and Taxi have in common? You’re probably thinking… a nude cameo appearance by Christopher Walken? Er, well… WRONG! What these iconic productions share is their creator, one of the most inventive and prolific minds ever to fight rush-hour gridlock on the Hollywood Freeway: James L. Brooks.

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Despite a fondness for virtually all of Brooks’ big screen projects (including the delightful Spanglish for which Adam Sandler allegedly underwent hormone therapy in order to convincingly portray an adult), only one appears on our roster of déjà views: his 1987 masterpiece, Broadcast News.

For a primer on déjà views, consult our August 17, 2016 Buckaroo Bansai post.

Broadcast News tackles a serious topic—namely the slippery slope of celebrity journalism (attention Brian Williams)—but does so amidst the richly romantic/comedic triangulations of its three deliciously flawed protagonists, portrayed by William Hurt, Holly Hunter, and Albert Brooks.

In what is easily the film’s most dramatic sequence, Broadcast News offers a thrilling behind-and-in-front-of-the-camera look at how a breaking news story is brought into our living rooms in real time. Although conceived thirty years ago, this set piece is easily more entertaining, exciting, and au courant than any of the backstage shenanigans Aaron Sorkin managed to cook up over the course of three seasons on his much celebrated but overly glib Newsroom on HBO.

For those who count, Broadcast News received seven Oscar nominations, including best picture. The New York Film Critics Circle named it best movie of 1987 and James L. Brooks best writer/director. It also tagged Holly Hunter as best actress. In his review in the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert gave it four out of four stars.

Worth the price of admission: Albert Brooks (no relation to James L.) steals every frame in which he appears and establishes his place in the pantheon of unforgettable character actors in a hilarious, heartbreaking scene that put the term “flop sweat” on the map.

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James L. Brooks’ most recent contribution to our world (as a producer) is The Edge of Seventeen, a 2016 coming-of-age dramedy that features Hailee Steinfeld, whom, you may recall, earned an Oscar nomination at age fourteen for her breakthrough performance as Mattie Ross in the Coen Brothers’ 2010 remake of True Grit.

This film is currently in theaters. It received a Rotten Tomatoes ranking of 94 percent, just a shade lower than the 98 percent earned by Broadcast News. We have seen it. And like virtually every project Mr. Brooks has put his stamp on over the past fifty years, it rocks.

Here’s the trailer for Broadcast News.

(For those who pursue trivia: Albert Brooks’ real name is Albert Einstein.)

© 2016 Ron Dulaney

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