Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: David Carr, Brian Stelter, Tim Arango, Bruce Headlam, Bill Keller
Written by: Kate Novack, Andrew Rossi
Directed by: Andrew Rossi
MPAA Rating: R for language including some sexual references
Running Time: 88
Date: 01/01/2011
IMDB

Page One: Inside the New York Times (2011)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Headlines and Shoulders

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Filmmaker Andrew Rossi, a producer on the documentary Control Room, gains unprecedented access to the New York Times newsroom for a year. He focuses mainly on three top reporters, recovering drug addict David Carr, former blogger Brian Stelter, and Tim Arango, who decides to transfer to Baghdad. It follows the process and creation of a handful of news stories, from their inception to their publication. The documentary also looks a bit into the paper's troubled recent history, including the scandals surrounding Judith Miller and Jason Blair, as well as the rise of the Internet and the drastic impact of the recession. Ultimately it asks the unanswerable question: can the New York Times survive, and what would happen if it did not?

Overall, this is a dynamic, supple documentary, open to differing opinions and ideas, without concluding anything. It finds a good, rich balance of characters, and strikes gold with Carr, who is a hardened, cynical character unafraid to speak the truth; we see him striking down his opponents as well as bestowing his love and respect upon colleagues.

It's fascinating to watch Carr and his fellow reporters work, often waiting for calls to be returned, or for elusive final confirmations. But the victories are here too; in its way, it's as exciting a newspaper movie as All the President's Men. In a relatively brief span, the movie covers an amazing rich amount of material, and though it does not paint a rosy picture, it certainly does not pronounce the paper dead: it provides a certain amount of hope.

Magnola's Blu-Ray comes with a high-def picture, even if some of these guys don't look that great in high-def. Nonetheless, this qualifies as one of the great newspaper movies of all time. Extras include a quick interview with Carl Bernstein, who has a different view of newspapers and the web. There are also interviews with Emily Bell and Sarah Ellison, a reaction of journalists to the movie, 21 minutes of additional scenes, Q&A highlights, and a mini-feature about Tim Arango in Iraq.

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