LOS ANGELES (AP) - “Morning Glory” reveals the further encroachment of entertainment into news, with Harrison Ford playing an old-school anchor who’s forced to co-host a network morning program. Merely the notion of fashion and cooking segments causes him to bristle.
But this theme has been explored several times before _ and much more proficiently _ throughout the years in movies. Television in general has long been a favored subject for filmmakers; it’s the next best thing to skewering their own industry.
Here are five movies about TV that truly are must-see viewing:
_ “A Face in the Crowd” (1957): Director Elia Kazan and writer Budd Schulberg were eerily prescient more than 50 years ago in depicting the power of television to make or break a personality, to turn an unknown into a magnetic figure or a megalomaniac _ or both simultaneously. In his film debut, Andy Griffith is hugely charismatic as Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes, a rambling, country-boy drunk with a gift for song. Patricia Neal, intelligent and charming as a plucky radio reporter, discovers him while recording a piece at a small-town Arkansas jail. In no time, a star is born, and that star grows into a monster. TV comes calling, then groupies, then politicians. This could just as easily be the story of Sarah Palin or Snooki.
_ “Network” (1976): Long before “Broadcast News” lamented the softening of TV news, Sidney Lumet probed the same themes, but with a sharper sense of satire. Like Kazan’s film, so much of what happens in “Network” remains so relevant today. Paddy Chayefsky’s Oscar-winning script about a newsman gone mad can be over the top, but it also provides a disturbing look at power and desperation. Faye Dunaway is fierce (and stylish) as the ratings-hungry TV executive who will do anything to keep the numbers up. Nominated for 10 Academy Awards, it won four, including Peter Finch’s posthumous best-actor win for his startling portrayal of anchor Howard Beale. He’s mad as hell, and … well, you know the rest.
_ “Good Night, and Good Luck” (2005): In his second film as a director, George Clooney proves he’s an unexpected master of timing and suspense. His recreation of pioneering newsman Edward R. Murrow’s on-air battles with Sen. Joseph McCarthy over the senator’s 1950s anti-communist crusade is an ambitious marvel of precise vision. Shot in crisp black and white and set in only a few rooms at the CBS News headquarters, it has the spare look and cadence of a play and runs an efficient 90 minutes long. David Strathairn masters Murrow’s mannerisms and speech, leaving you hanging on every word and feeling as if you, too, are on the brink of something vital and thrilling. Nominated for six Oscars, including best picture.
_ “The Truman Show” (1998): Twelve years ago, reality television was still relatively in its infancy, but director Peter Weir and writer Andrew Niccol vividly presage the phenomenon of celebrity culture gone wild, and the voyeuristic fascination with learning the most intimate details of a person’s private life. In one of his earliest and most effective dramatic roles, Jim Carrey stars as Truman Burbank, a happy-go-lucky insurance salesman who has no idea his entire idyllic life is a television show, with cameras following his every move and actors playing his wife (Laura Linney), friendly neighbors and co-workers. Ed Harris is chilling in an Oscar-nominated supporting role as the TV producer who tracks Truman’s existence from a control room on high.
_ “Tootsie” (1982): All the players here are at the top of their game: Dustin Hoffman as notoriously difficult actor Michael Dorsey, who lands a soap opera role only by dressing in drag and calling himself Dorothy Michaels; Sydney Pollack, hitting all the right notes as director and providing harsh laughs as Michael’s agent; and Teri Garr, Charles Durning, Bill Murray and Dabney Coleman, who all stand out in supporting parts. It’s silly and slapsticky and absurd, but it also has something to say about gender roles and relations. Nominated for 10 Oscars, it won one for Jessica Lange’s elegant supporting work as the television co-star Michael secretly loves. An absolute comic classic, but with real sweetness and heart.
Think of any other examples? Share them with AP Movie Critic Christy Lemire through Twitter: http://twitter.com/christylemire.