Advance Blu-ray Review: Criterion Tells It Like It Is with BROADCAST NEWS

Criterion’s BROADCAST NEWS doesn’t hit the street for five weeks (January 25), but Badass Digest has already looked at it.

The Movie

The film opens with our trio of protagonists as kids foreshadowing their future struggles to find their way to happiness. Holly Hunter stars as Jane Craig, a workaholic network news producer (modeled on a real CBS news producer) who evokes something of a southern, grown-up Lisa Simpson. Albert Brooks is Aaron Altman, a brilliant but socially-awkward news reporter, and William Hurt plays Tom, a hunky but relatively brainless anchor who comes to work for Jane and Aaron’s network.

Also in the mix are Jack Nicholson, Joan Cusack, Boston Legal‘s Christian Clemenson, and Robert Prosky, who is best known to my generation as the station director in Mrs. Doubtfire, even though he’s done so much more. Cusack’s memorable “tape run” apparently still happens in newsrooms to this day.

The story touches on the nature of news and what it has deteriorated into in the decades since Murrow birthed the cult of personality in news. Over 20 years later, the “infotainment without the info” problem has become definitively much worse. The beauty of what Brooks does here is that he layers the subtext into the no-laugh funny story of two guys going for the same girl.

The Look and Sound

Director Brooks and editor Richard Marks personally supervised and approved the digital restoration of the video and audio. The colors are rich and bright, and the grain isn’t scrubbed down such that everyone looks waxy (like a number of 80’s movies do on studio Blu-rays). The picture detail especially pops thanks to the variety rough fabrics used in the costumes. Contrast and black levels are rock solid. The sound lacks any noticeable hiss or pops.

The Supplements

Audio Commentary featuring director James L. Brooks and editor Richard Marks
Brooks admits early on that it’s been at least ten years since he’s seen the movie. The track is not super chatty, but there are some good nuggets peppered in throughout, and he focuses mostly on the bigger picture surrounding the film rather than narrate “so now this happens”. In general, I just love listening to Brooks talk. Marks doesn’t talk too much, but he contributes some memorable stuff. There’s a fair amount of “oh, hell, I forgot we even shot this” kind of stuff, so be warned.

Alternate Ending & Deleted Scenes with commentary by James L. Brooks
Broadcast News is known to many for not having a fairytale ending where things are wrapped up neatly. Seeing the footage of this alternate ending that goes in the conventional direction is rather amazing. That bit alone, along with the commentary that accompanies it, is reason enough for fans of the film to straight up buy this set. The deleted scenes bridge into discarded subplots and characters that would have fundamentally altered the focus and nature of the film. Unused footage is, more often than not, a gigantic waste of time in terms of bringing some new insight into the making of a movie. That’s not the case here.

James L. Brooks: A Singular Vision [TRT 36:06]
I. Groundbreaking Television
II. Moving into Film
III. The Zeitgeist
“Singular Vision” is comprehensive, 2010-produced documentary that features talking heads from Hans Zimmer to Julie Kavner (Marge Simpson) to the CEO of ICM talking about his career progression from his early days in TV to film and back and forth. It’s split into three distinct eras (seen above). “Groundbreaking Television” touches on the inception and the big progressive strides taken by shows like Room 222, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Taxi. “Moving Into Film” goes from Terms of Endearment to As Good As It Gets. “The Zeitgeist” takes a few steps back and looks at big picture impact Brooks has had with things like The Simpsons. I loved the inclusion of a clip of Ed Asner as Lou Grant saying “News is truth, Jack, and I’m not going to make it into something fake!”.

Susan Zirinsky [17:02]
The primary model for Jane Craig as played by Holly Hunter was this lady, a producer for CBS (exec producer of 48 Hours…the TV show not the movie). She’s delightfully candid about her life and how it directly affected the development of the character.

Vintage Featurettes
Promo Featurette [7:56]
Interviews and On-Set Footage [18:39]
These are pretty standard issue vintage reels of people talking about the movie while they were making it over 20 years ago. It’s nice to have on here, but this is far from the big deal that most of the above is.

Final Thoughts

Criterion recently started a partnership with MGM, releasing Paths of GloryNight of the Hunter, and now James L. Brooks’ best film (with Sweet Smell of Success coming in February). It’s one of the best things to happen in the home video world this year.

Some would argue that News is Brooks’ only good film, but I think that’s a bit harsh and wrongheaded. Whereas I can’t imagine a reasonable defense of Spanglish, I’ve got nothing against Terms of Endearment or As Good As It Gets. Criterion’s curation of the package here gave me a different perspective on the film and its construction than has been done (or was possible) ove rhte last 23 years. I’ll update this post once I have a look at the booklet, which wasn’t available at the time of this posting.

Amazon has the Blu-ray for pre-order at $27.99. The DVD is currently $21.99.

[caption id=“attachment_6334” align=“aligncenter” width=“348” caption=“Anyone else think it's funny that the Blu-ray sticker covers William Hurt's face?”]