Thursday, February 19, 2009

[DVD] The Paper (1994)

I’ve been to a newsroom only twice in my life. First, it’s to collect some lucky draw winnings, and I had a sneak peek into the hustle and bustle of a newsroom from behind a glass panel. The next one was more up close and personal, because a journalist friend brought me right up to his desk (and an incredibly piled up one at that), and I had first hand view of how news got made. Or at least it seemed that the next day’s articles were done up because there were few people left in the office, and there was a group huddled at one corner.

Ron Howard’s The Paper was one of those films that I didn’t catch at the cinemas (at that time, the teenage me only recognized Michael Keaton of his 1989 Batman and 1992 Batman Returns fame), and missed a number of scheduled telecast and re-runs on television. So it’s no surprise that I snapped up the DVD the minute I saw it in the discount bins at the store. And I wonder just why the heck it took me so long to get down to watching this, with no regrets (save for the technical aspect of the presentation).

Keaton plays a Henry Hackett, a sub-editor for a small time tabloid in New York. Being a go-getting workaholic, he often puts his family life aside, which of course puts his very pregnant wife Martha (Marisa Tomei) under a lot of stress especially with her pregnancies woes, and not being able to get out there and do stuff. For their financial stability, one of the many subplots here involves her getting Henry a job interview at a larger paper, The Sentinel, and threatens him not to sabotage his own opportunities for advancement, which we learnt that he does so quite frequently in order to stay where he is.

And it’s not rocket science why too, as the bunch of folks he’s working with is really madcap, and I think I too can thrive in such as a stressful, chaotic, but totally livewire environment. Each character presents a separate subplot which intertwines with Henry’s life, and in one scene which I was totally mesmerized with, was when everyone dropped by Henry’s office, and it went just off the hook. Wonderful stuff there, especially when you have Glenn Close as a rival sub-editor who happens to be the office bicycle (erm, that means everyone had had a ride), Robert Duvall as an ailing editor stricken with cancer and trying to reconcile with his estranged daughter, and Randy Quaid in a totally hilarious role as the bummer in the office.

All these while the team had to debate with the front page story for the next day, centered on reporting what’s accurate and doing what’s right – the social responsibility in being a paper, with pressure on them because they had missed the previous day’s scoop. Everyone’s preoccupied with their own personal agenda, set against an office where the air-conditioner isn’t working and driving temperatures and tempers up. It’s work and family over a period of 24 hours, and I felt that this film had a story that ranks itself up there with other films that deal with their narratives over the same time period.

You’d have come to expect a certain assured standard from director Ron Howard, and this film demonstrates nothing less. Everything naturally comes together perfectly toward the end like the birth of a new dawn, with relationships bruised but not battered, and what I also enjoyed here was John Seale’s superb cinematography which had this extremely fluid motion when bringing us in and around a newsroom for that office tour each time we run around like crazy with Henry. The paper would be one of my personal favourites, and my only regret (besides the technical aspects of the DVD) was why it had taken me this long to uncover this gem of an enjoyable film.

The Code 3 DVD by Universal, despite being stated it's in a widescreen presentation, turned out to be a 4x3 full screen version instead. Disappointingly misleading, if I may add. It's a barebones version, so I thought the very least was that it was in its proper aspect ratio. Subtitles are available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Thai and Korean, and scene selection is available over 16 chapters. Some text-based production notes, and cast and filmmakers filmography are included for Michael Keaton, Glenn Glose, Marisa Tomei, Randy Quaid, Robert Duvall and director Ron Howard.

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