Video Picks Archive

April 19, 2000
This Week's Video Picks
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Reviews by Rachel Deahl <>

This week my picks are The Insider (1999 - ) and Network (1976 - ).

Director Michael Mann is no stranger to the character study. In Heat, the director pits Al Pacino against Robert De Niro in a long, drawn-out cat and mouse chase dominated by lingering shots of the Los Angeles skyline and lengthy close-ups of the two central characters. With The Insider, Mann continues his exploration of the dual character study to stunning effect. Focusing on a 1994 exposť "60 Minutes" composed about malpractice in the tobacco industry, the film chronicles the evolution of this complex story. Following the relationship between the show's producer, Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino), and the guilt-wracked chemical engineer, Jeffrey Wigand (Russel Crowe), he coerces into coming forward with incriminating information, the story ultimately leads to a legal battle between CBS and the tobacco industry.

Based on a fascinating true story (the inspiration for the film was a Vanity Fair article entitled "The Man Who Knew Too Much"), The Insider deftly handles this provocative story about the failings of American media. With an electrifying performance from Crowe (who should have won the Academy Award), the film is most effective in conveying all that was ultimately lost from what should have been a media victory.

Mann's characteristic slow and penetrating camera work, which was often overbearing and showy in Heat, is put to good use here in capturing Wigand's decline (Crowe basks in the attention he is paid, and his subtle performance complements the direction perfectly). Though the movie is a little too long, it makes a powerful statement about television journalism, truth and the American public's blindsided faith in the benevolence of both.
Full review by Matt Heffernan from November 7, 1999

Of course the malevolent nature of television news has been examined on film before; Sidney Lumet's 1976 film Network is perhaps the most well-known foray into this field. Based on a script by Paddy Chayefsky, Network offers up a satirical take on the depravity of the corporate structures churning out our primetime news.

Peter Finch plays a news anchorman who, nearing the end of his career, is revived (professionally, that is) from a breakdown he suffers while on the air. When ratings soar, Finch's unstable newsman is championed by the network and allowed to spew his crazed delusions to the delight of primetime viewers.

Dominated by powerful performances from Faye Dunaway, William Holden and Finch (who won a posthumous Oscar for his supporting role) Network is an even darker examination of the evils that TV can do. Interestingly enough, now, more than twenty years after its release, the film has turned out to be more prophetic than satirical.

For more information, visit the Internet Movie Database:
The Insider (1999)
Network (1976)

Here's some merchandise for sale at
The Insider (1999) -- VHS
The Insider (1999) -- DVD
The Insider: Original Soundtrack -- Compact Disc
Network (1976) -- VHS
Network (1976) -- DVD Home
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