MONDAY MOVIES: “The Paper”

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CREDIT: wikipedia.org

I’m not sure how I’ve worked in journalism for as long as I have without seeing “The Paper,” but I’m glad that I recently did! The film provides a fictional day in the life of a newspaper editor, played by Michael Keaton. You immediately get a glimpse at the pressures of the job, the difficulty of the work/life balance, his passion for his industry — and how he copes with it all.

Of course, the movie wouldn’t be complete without the performances of other veteran actors like Glenn Close, Robert Duvall, and Marissa Tomei. Together, they help highlight some of the challenges that historically have (and will continue to) face journalists: Deadlines, corporate budgets, and finding the most relevant stories and delivering them to their audience.

The movie isn’t new; it was released in 1994. Despite its age and a media landscape that looks radically different now, “The Paper” still seems topical: Journalists will always have the enormous responsibility of finding and relaying information that impacts the communities where we live. And this film shows, over the course of one day, some of the people and processes that help make that possible.

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MONDAY MOVIES: “Double Indemnity”

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CREDIT: FilmForum.org

Some films get better with age — or at the very least, with life experience. I just watched “Double Indemnity” for the first time in nearly 20 years. What struck me is just how seeped in Los Angeles is it… References to the Hollywood Bowl, Glendale, Los Feliz, etc. — areas I now know better than when I watched it the first time. Not only do I have a geographically sentimental attachment to it at this point in my life, but I also have a richer appreciation for the actors and what brought them to this movie. And the director. And the characters. And the film style.

Here’s hoping I appreciate it even more in another 20 years.

MONDAY MOVIES: “The Brothers Grimsby”

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CREDIT: sonypictures.com

Just watched “The Brothers Grimsby” — a raunchy comedy all about family.The movie is centered around Nobby, a fun-loving family man searching for his long-lost brother. It turns out that his brother, Sebastian, is a government spy; when they finally meet, it’s at the worst time for Sebastian, and as you can guess, it goes hilariously sideways from there.

It’s a fun, silly movie with a heart of gold. Even though it’s all about the importance of family, it’s not necessarily for the whole family… it’s rated R for a good reason. But if that’s no problem, then you’re sure to enjoy some laughs!

MONDAY MOVIES: “Tootsie”

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CREDIT: Columbia Pictures

CREDIT: Columbia Pictures

“You are psychotic!”

“No, I’m not, I’m employed.

It’s not always easy to make a living, especially in New York City and working in show business. But for Michael Dorsey in “Tootsie” (in a legendary performance by Dustin Hoffman), it’s especially tough since his personality tends to rub people the wrong way. So he gets resourceful and decides to try out for a part as a no-nonsence woman who doesn’t pull any punches. His tenacity — and desperation — lands him the role, and the rest is history. If you haven’t had a chance to see it, you’re missing out. It’s no wonder that it’s an Oscar-winning film — it’s a well-written and well-acted script for the ages.

Moreover, there are lots of lessons to be had about hard work. First, who says you can’t land your dream job, even if it’s not exactly how you envisioned it? Michael Dorsey wanted to be a steady actor, and he became one — in perhaps the most convincing role of his career so far, playing Dorothy Michaels. It took a paradigm shift and some nerve, but he wanted the job and he got it.

Next, it’s one of Dustin Hoffman’s greatest performances — not just by playing a woman, but by playing a man playing a woman. He poured his soul into the role. If that sounds silly, then you should really watch this clip in which Hoffman says Tootsie “was never a comedy for me.” He approached the role in real life as seriously as his character did.

Perhaps most importantly, Tootsie teaches us to see the best in people. Dorothy Michaels not only brought out the best in Michael Dorsey and the characters around him, but it also brought out the best in Dustin Hoffman. His character focused on helping and empowering people, especially those whose voices were muted by arrogance and ignorance. We could all learn a little from Dorothy’s honesty and bravery.

CREDIT: Columbia Pictures

CREDIT: Columbia Pictures

MONDAY MOVIES: “Begin Again”

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CREDIT: beginagainfilm.com

CREDIT: beginagainfilm.com

I can see myself living in the world in which “Begin Again” is set.

It’s a charming movie in which down-on-his-luck record executive Dan Mulligan (played by Mark Ruffalo) discovers the unseen potential in Gretta James (Keira Knightley) and convinces her to record an album. Their collaboration involves finding innovative and unorthodox ways of making music, to the delight of everyone involved. I won’t give away the rest, but it’s a good-sounding, good-looking, and inspiring movie that I recommend.

The lesson that I took away from the Oscar-nominated film is that if you have a gift — in Mulligan’s case, the gift of finding and making music — don’t give up your dreams just because you’ve hit a rough patch. Sometimes our best laid plans don’t turn out exactly how we envisioned them, but what comes our way instead may be better than we ever imagined.

Click here to watch Adam Levine perform “Lost Stars” at the Oscars

 

 

 

 

MONDAY MOVIES: Serpico

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Credit: IMDB.com

Credit: IMDB.com

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I’m just now getting around to seeing “Serpico”. It’s one of the best police movies ever made — not to mention that it’s a true story. But it’s also a cautionary tale of the isolation and stigma attached to being a whistleblower.

If you haven’t seen it, here’s a brief synopsis: “Serpico” follows Officer Frank Serpico after he graduates from the police academy and enters the force as a wide-eyed, well-intentioned cop. But he quickly realizes that many of his fellow NYPD officers don’t play by the rules, and he develops a burning desire to stop corruption as far and wide as he can. Of course, it’s a major undertaking — at the cost of his sanity, his relationships, and his street cred. In fact, when he was shot in the line of duty, his fellow officers wouldn’t even help him out. (And this is all portrayed in a landmark performance from Al Pacino)

The real Serpico still lives in New York state, and he can still tell the tale of being a beacon of truth. But he’s lucky to be alive. While “Serpico” makes for an engaging film, it also brings up a lot of questions: Did Serpico do the right thing? Did he make a difference? Did he go about it the right way — or could he have been more methodical and calculated about his approach?

It’s worth a watch, because it shows the dangers of doing the right thing at all costs and it’s a reflection of how easy it is to not do the right thing. Do you find that your profession is the same way? Are you held accountable for bending the rules, or is it easy to follow your moral compass? No matter how you answer, “Serpico” will make you think hard about your actions.

MONDAY MOVIES: “Whiplash”

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CREDIT: sonyclassics.com/whiplash/

CREDIT: sonyclassics.com/whiplash/

It’s not surprising to learn that “Whiplash” was filmed in 19 days. The brief timeframe speaks to both the surprising simplicity and intimacy of the film, as well as its intense tempo.

Tempo: That’s the key word. It’s a mad rush toward perfection and madness. But at what cost? That’s part of the reason that I wanted to include it on Justin’s Jobs. It’s a common theme of some of the best films this year: People who follow their passions to dangerous levels.

In the case of Andrew Neiman (played by a very focused Miles Teller), he wants to be the greatest drummer in the world. His goal — the same as many of his classmates at an elite music conservatory — is to play for infamous conductor Terence Fletcher, played by J.K. Simmons in a performance that is sure to earn him the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. But Fletcher is a perfectionist — to the point of verbally and physically abusing his pupils. And this is where the heart of the movie lies: As a teacher or mentor, how much should you push to help someone achieve perfection? To achieve one’s greatness, to become the best in the world at something, what are you willing to do to achieve it? How much pressure are you willing to tolerate?

The relationship between Neiman and Fletcher is intense, and at times, cringeworthy. This is not a lighthearted film. You can even argue that there’s no “good guy” here. The characters’ obsessions make for some great music and an exciting plot line — and it left me wondering what would come of their tortured partnership. Will their tune have a happy ending? It all depends on the tempo.