Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Is the sun going down on newspaper flicks?

I usually like to photograph sunsets with a large body of water in the foreground. For this, I had to settle for the parking lot and its trees. Below, I found several small bodies of water on the pavement.

Sometimes, good things happen when we least expect them. And on an otherwise cloudy day in Central Florida, I wasn't planning to see a spectacular sunset.

But the sun poked through and lit up those clouds just as I was getting home from the movies last night. The only bodies of water near the parking lot of my apartment complex were the puddles created when it rained earlier. I snapped a few shots.

sunset_0004The movie I saw was "State of Play," a political scandal-murder mystery about newspaper journalism in Washington, D.C. Many of the scenes in the movie brought back memories, such as the one at Ben's Chili Bowl in Adams Morgan.

An increasingly familiar scene at newspapers these days was near the end. The main character, a reporter played by Russell Crowe, writes his big front-page story, hits "send," and suddenly, the page is being printed (about four hours after deadline).

Where's the copy editing, huh? I noticed at least one mistake as the camera focused on the computer screen when the story was being typed. But no. Copy editors are being laid off nationwide. And because the reporter already busted deadline, there's no time for quality control.

Either that, or Hollywood just doesn't find copy editing that sexy. (Filmmakers have no idea.)

In the movie's final sequence, the camera follows the printing process from a negative of the front page, to the plate, to the press, to the paper, to the sidewalk box. Many film critics are wondering whether this will be the last big Hollywood piece to romanticize a dying medium, an "artifact," as The New York Times put it. As people who like to make up words would say, the genre is "sunsetting" along with its source material.

If future newspaper movies are anything like "State of Play," however, I'd rather not see any more. It wasn't at all interesting, suspenseful or action-packed. Crowe may play a mean gladiator, but he's less than believable as a fierce reporter.

I was expecting a better film. But sometimes, our expectations - when we have them - let us down.

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