Today is Theme Day #1 for this year’s Blogathon, when everyone who’s doing the month-long challenge is encouraged to write on the same subject. Our topic: 5 movies that have inspired you, or inspired your writing.
I’ve worked as a journalist or freelance reporter and editor my entire career. Here are some of the movies that helped direct me toward that path or inspire me to do what I do:
All the President’s Men (1976)
I didn’t know it at the time, but Woodward and Bernstein helped me become a reporter. The book and movie came out while I was in high school. I didn’t immediately connect the dots between myself and working as a journalist. But it did stoke my growing interest in politics and the small role I could play in helping make the world a better place.
Absense of Malice (1981)
As far as casting goes, Paul Newman and Sandy Field wouldn’t have been my choice for this film, the story of an innocent man targeted by prosecutors out to solve the mystery of a murdered union boss and the unwitting role an reporter plays in the set up. The takeaway from this movie: you can’t take what sources tell you at face value – even if they’re supposed to be the good guys. Take notes, do your own digging and verify, verify, verify. The other lesson of this movie – one that should go without saying but bears repeating anyway – don’t sleep with your sources.
Broadcast News (1987)
In the late 1980s, women in the media business were still attempting to break the glass ceiling standing between them and prime-time on air jobs or upper management. Holly Hunter’s character Jane Craig was our hero. Smart and strong, she kept her vulnerabilities to herself (with crying jags in the privacy of her office) and refused to sacrifice integrity for her own happiness. Did that send a message that you can’t have it all? Maybe. But it was the right message for the time.
Almost Famous (2000)
Have you ever been so passionate about something you’d risk everything – school, family, lying about who you are – to pursue it? In Almost Famous, William Miller – the alter ego of writer and director Cameron Crowe – does all of that at the tender age of 15 to pursue his dream of being a rock journalist. He gets his chance when Rolling Stone sees some writing he’s done for underground music magazines and asks for pitches. He ends up going on the road with an up-and-coming rock band. Almost Famous is about a lot of things, but the part I like the most is Miller’s persistance. After turning in a lousy first draft of his road tale with the band, the magazine gives him a second chance. The revised manuscript, a first-person account of sex, drugs and rock and roll, is great. But when the magazine to fact checks the piece, band members deny everything. Yeah, that happens, and it’s not fun. Watch the movie to find out how things work out.
State of Play (2009)
In this remake of a British TV miniseries, a team of investigative reporters for a fictional big-city daily work alongside a police detective to solve the murder of a congressman’s mistress. The film moves at a break-neck speed, and isn’t without some plot holes (that no doubt the longer miniseries version did a better job of filling), and has an almost unbelievable number of plot twists. But it succeeds in capturing what it’s like to be on a big story and capture what’s really going down while on deadline. If you’ve ever worked in a newsroom – physical or virtual – you know what I’m talking about. There’s nothing like that particular kind of adrenaline rush. And State of Play managed to capture it. Besides, it’s got Russell Crowe, who even looks good playing a schlumpy journalist.