Films on Media

War on Whistleblowers:
Free Press and the National Security State

Documentary 2013 NR 1hr 6m. This documentary highlights four cases in which whistleblowers exposed government wrongdoing to the media and faced serious repercussions. Eye-opening, frank, and disturbing, this film is a must watch. This is a very good documentary and is a fraction of what is really going on in our government. The people of this country need to stand up and say NO MORE and start fighting for your rights before they are gone. See Full Review

Out of Print (2013)

Documentary 55 minutes 2013. Out of Print draws us into the topsy-turvy world of the written word, illuminating the turbulent journey of the book through the digital revolution. Writers, publishers, readers, all in flux. Booksellers closing shop. Librarians and teachers seeking new roles. Ray Bradbury, Scott Turow, parents, students, educators, scientists — all highlight how this revolution is changing everything about the printed word — and changing us. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon as an online bookstore, places us in the middle of the debate. People tell us they read snippets all day long, yet one of five Americans no longer reads a single book, in any format, in an entire year.

The Central Park Five

Documentary 2012 NR 1hr 58m. This documentary examines the case of five teenagers, all African-American or Latino, who were falsely accused and convicted of the brutal rape of a white woman in 1989. The facts are revealed that the entire police brass, DAs, politicians and especially the NYC media was complicit in railroading these youths. Modern forensics exonerated them with the help the actual perpetrator who eventually confessed. When I heard Ken Burns was involved in producing this film, I immediately wanted to see it. See Full Review

Patriocracy

Documentary 2011 NR 1hr  26m. This incisive and timely documentary examines the extreme polarization of the U.S. political landscape and seeks to identify the underlying causes. Politicians, journalists and pundits share their theories regarding America’s current age of anxiety. See Full Review

Manufacturing Consent
Noam Chomsky and the Media

Documentary 1992 NR 167 minutes. Funny and provocative, this 1992 documentary explores the political life and ideas of Noam Chomsky, a world-renowned linguist, intellectual and political activist. Chomsky illustrates how the media tacitly manipulates public opinion to further the agendas of the powerful. A compelling examination of the suppression of news about the U.S.-supported Indonesian invasion and subjugation of East Timor brings home the point.See Full Review

The Power of Nightmares:
The Rise of the Politics of Fear

Documentary 2004 NR 180 minutes.  This three-part documentary explores the use of fear for political gain, given the lasting impact of 9/11 and with media sensationalism at an all-time high. This is not about nightmares, but instead about people in power who give us nightmares for their own benefit.  The first, “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” examines historical aspects of international threats. “The Phantom Victory” looks at how two disparate groups, radical Islamists and neo-conservatives, apply similar tactics. And “The Shadows in the Cave” asks the question, “Is organized terrorism an illusion?”  The facts revealed by this documentary series are very interesting and will change your perception of what they call the “War on Terror”.  See Full Review

News War
Investigation into the Future of News

Documentary Frontline Four-Part Series 2007 NR. The PBS public affairs program turns its famously critical eye on its own world: modern American journalism. Tracing the evolution of the U.S. press from the Nixon era to the Iraq War, “Frontline” interviews key figures in print and electronic media. With interviewees including columnist William Safire, conservative commentator Pat Buchanan and Google CEO Eric Schmidt, the program examines the myriad factors that shape the news. Frontline examines the political, cultural, legal, and economic forces challenging the news media today and how the press has reacted in turn. Through interviews with key figures in print, broadcast and electronic media over the past four decades — and with unequaled, behind-the-scenes access to some of today’s most important news organizations, Frontline traces the recent history of American journalism, from the Nixon administration’s attacks on the media to the post-Watergate popularity of the press, to the new challenges presented by the war on terror and other global forces now changing — and challenging — the role of the press in our society. The fourth hour of News War looks at media around the globe to reveal the international forces that influence journalism and politics in the United States.

America in Primetime

Documentary 2011 TV-14 4 Episodes.  Discover the creative forces behind television’s modern golden age as writers, producers and performers discuss key elements of acclaimed TV shows.  It covers all the major shows that have impacted society in a very analytic way.  This is a fantastic trip down the road we have traveled to get to the media culture we have today.  Insightful anecdotes and first hand accounts behind some of televisions most loved creations fill this mini-series. Each episode steps back to the beginning, filling in the story of how some of the iconic archetypes of television has been created.  Wonderfully made, and filled with info and insights.  This show truly chronicles the growth and evolution of television in the modern age.  Very interesting!  I cannot stress enough how informative, entertaining and exciting these four episodes are.  One of the best series of documentaries I’ve ever seen.  My only complaint is that there aren’t more episodes.
Episodes:
1 Man of the House
2 Independent Woman
3 The Misfit
4 The Crusader

Miss Representation

Documentary 2011 NR 1hr 30m. Explore how the mainstream media’s often disparaging portrayals of women contribute to the under-representation of females in positions of leadership. We all know that there is sexism in the media, but this movie explains and highlights it through experts, victims, and stone-cold facts, with an interesting and engaging format. I knew that women had it hard media-wise, but I had no idea how bad it was. Although the basic idea is not news to me, this film provides valuable concrete proof of that in an interesting way. The film presents startling facts and gives you information that you may have known on some level, but that also needs to be brought to the forefront for anything to change. The vast interview footage of well-respected individuals keeps the film fresh and not too repetitive.  The facts that you learn from this documentary are surprising and shocking — enough to move you to tears. At its best, Miss Representation uncovers the real reason behind the negative portrayal of women in media — money. Corporations perpetuate the blonde, blue-eyed, big-breasted, skinny, sexy, submissive stereotype of a woman (for decades now) so that women buy endless products to become that unachievable image.  The fact that women bear the burden of discrimination for the sake of the business interests of organizations run and owned by men is made painfully clear. Rarely does a film provide such insight and depth into an issue that we as both a society and individuals have become immune to. Men have treated women as inferiors to men throughout human history, and violence towards women certainly predates the onset of modern media. Television and magazine ads merely perpetuate and exploit what has been the relationship between the sexes since time eternal. It’s convenient when the whole of history backs up the misogynistic rhetoric that these groups spew out upon the public. Like class warfare, the people with the power – men – always fight to maintain the status quo. Treated as second-class citizens are the poor, the disabled, the elderly, the children, the people of color, and the women. Until human rights are a focused global priority, women’s rights will simply languish in the weird twilight between mere placation and true equality. However, the film never asks why are women complicit in their own degradation? Why do women dress scantily in rap videos, etc.? Are there women who think that their objectification is smart business? Think Brittany Spears — she has little singing talent, so that won’t bring in the bucks, but she becomes a sex symbol and makes millions. Also not addressed in the film is the developing parental obsession that overtakes a woman after she has children, which is one of the silent killers of her progress in a given field. By the time ‘bringing up baby’ is no longer the consuming job it once was, it is often too late to recapture the career moment. So I do agree that — yes, as usual — women themselves aren’t called to task for any of this in the film. Did the media and politics create the Kardashians, or did the Kardashians create the Kardashians? The most distasteful display in the movie for me was not the “reality” TV stars calling each other bitches, but the “news” anchors and talking heads saying insulting things about powerful women. However, I would overwhelmingly recommend this documentary. This is an excellent film — a must-watch. Touches so many aspects of how woman are portrayed in the media and popular culture: fashion, entertainment, and politics. It’s meant to get people thinking and talking about this extremely important issue. And it does just that.  Please watch this film. Many, many, women are still in the dark when it comes to the oppression of women. This film gives so much insight into the negative influence that media has on the public. If you are a woman in America, you need to watch this film. Women can do so much better than this. Women should watch this film to help empower themselves. My only concern is that it may appear to be a film made for women only and push away the potential male viewer that should be required to watch this film. Men should see this film to help realize how ingrained sexism is in our society and how to change it. Everyone should see this film to understand how to treat people (especially women) with the respect they deserve. This is a documentary that is appropriate for all age groups. A must-see for your young daughters and sons. I believe schools should show revealing documentaries like this as a mandatory curriculum. This is a good film, a crash course in gender and media studies. This is a must-see film. I am so happy that someone made a documentary about this. I think if people start to pay attention to how incredibly damaging the media’s portrayal of women is to both men, women, and children, then things just might change. I can’t express enough how much I wish there were more films like this in the mass media. I personally do not watch TV because of the degrading programs being shoved down our throats. At least with Netflix I get to choose what I watch. And this film was put together by a young, blonde, attractive woman. For me, that only adds to the credibility. The small amount of the filmmaker’s personal stake in this topic provided just enough of a connecting thread throughout the film without getting too self-indulgent. See, Girls? Still room for a brain.

Big Boys Gone Bananas!*

Documentary 2011 NR. 1hr 42m. Big Boys Gone Bananas!* is the follow-up to the 2009 film titled simply BANANAS!*, the true story about a Swedish filmmaker and a banana corporation. This fascinating new documentary follows the battle between the Swedish filmmakers and the fruit giant Dole Food Company, which conducted a legal and publicity campaign against the filmmakers to prevent the showing of their first film about a lawsuit won in Los Angeles against the company for its use of banned pesticides in Nicaragua that make field workers sterile. What is a big corporation capable of in order to protect its brand? Swedish filmmaker Fredrik Gertten’s experienced this recently: dirty tricks, lawsuits, manipulation, at the price of free speech.  This film is a must-watch (even if you haven’t seen the original film BANANAS!*) about just how powerful multi-national corporations are, and how the media continues to fail the public or worse than that, deceive and lull us into complacency. American media has been corrupted by corporate power through corporate ownership, corporate advertising, and global corporations who threaten to pull advertising if investigative journalism displeases them. In 1998 the Cincinatti Enquirer did an expose of hometown Chiquita Corp. similar to Gertten’s BANANAS!*, but Chiquita forced them to scrub the story, fire the two reporters, pay $15 million to Chiquita, and run a headline apologizing to Chiquita. Shame on you Dole. This Big Boys Gone Bananas!* is a David vs. Goliath, showing filmmaker Gertten fighting for the right of documentary filmmakers to do what they feel is right, and that is to expose bad practices of big corporations. Unfortunately Goliath always has more money because the big corporations targeted have deep pockets to file lawsuits, in this case to sue to keep the film from being seen. Dole has 75,000 employees in 90 countries, and earns seven billion dollars a year, making them the biggest food company in the world. “So the stage is set. In one corner, Dole the largest producer of fruits and vegetables in the world, fortified with high-priced attorneys and spin-doctors. In the other corner, a Swedish independent filmmaker, armed with his conviction of what is right. What are the odds he’ll win?”  See Full Review

Bananas!*

Documentary 2009 NR 87 minutes. Nicaraguan laborers are paying a high price health-wise while working to get cheap bananas onto the world’s tables, and Southern California personal injury lawyer Juan Dominguez has decided to do something about it. This film tells his story. Swedish director Fredrik Gertten follows Dominguez as he takes on corporate giants Dole Food and Dow Chemical on behalf of 10,000 banana workers made ill by a pesticide used in Nicaraguan plantations years after it was banned in the States. This 2009 film titled BANANAS!* was followed by a sequel film two years later in 2011 titled Big Boys Gone Bananas!*

High Tech, Low Life

Documentary 2012 NR 1hr 25m. Meet Tiger and Zola, two “citizen reporters” who travel throughout China, facing censorship and even imprisonment in their pursuit of the truth.  Citizen journalism at its best. The courage of these people is amazing, and their passion is inspiring. After I watched this, I tried to search for recent blogs by Tiger but couldn’t find anything. This film gives you the feeling and the flavor of Beijing. The real stuff. The way real people live and work and how they are naturally. The countryside scenes and the travel scenes nail it! I lived in China four years 2006 to 2010 teaching English, and this show brought back many memories. This doc shows the importance of the flow of information, and how each and every one of us can make a difference in our communities. I remember Facebook being blocked and on some occasions Yahoo and Google as well. Censorship in China is little known by most around the world, and I was fascinated. This doc does a good job at showing the censorship going on over there. Although it’s not as bad as everyone thinks. In four years I saw so much change it felt like I was inside a time-machine watching new developments pop up overnight — a lot of the same stuff going on here in the States. I recommend this film for anybody who has never been to China. I must say, this film opened my eyes to life in China. We should never take our freedom for granted. I really enjoyed this movie. And great job by all involved in this film! Great watch!

Burma VJ

Documentary 2008 NR 85 minutes. Filmmaker Anders Ă?stergaard’s Oscar-nominated documentary profiles the courageous efforts of a renegade band of Burmese reporters (aka the Burma VJs) who — in the face of a repressive regime and media censorship — refuse to be silenced.

WMD: Weapons of Mass Deception

Documentary 2004 NR 90 minutes. Independent investigative reporter and filmmaker Danny Schechter’s documentary focuses on how the media mistakenly shaped people’s views of the Iraq War through their intense coverage from the war’s inception through February 2004. Schechter’s film examines provocative theories such as the Pentagon’s involvement in media messages, how new methods such as satellites and embedded journalists distorted media coverage, and the competition between media outlets.

Page One
Inside the New York Times

Documentary 2011 R 1hr 31m. A lively and entertaining look at an American institution coping with technological change and a bad economy. Documentarian Andrew Rossi goes inside the New York Times to examine how the venerable paper and its reporters are responding to the massive changes in how news is gathered, analyzed and dispersed. This is a great documentary that artfully portrays the dilemma of print journalism in a very dramatic and entertaining way. It is a confusing time for them but it’s pretty clear that the traditional newspaper publishing model will no longer work.

Under Fire:
Journalists in Combat

Documentary 2011 NR 1hr 30m. Intense interviews with journalists from around the world shed light on the traumas faced by those who risk their lives to report from war zones.

An Unlikely Weapon:
The Eddie Adams Story

Documentary 2008 NR 1hr 26m. A provocative look at photographer Eddie Adams, best known for his photo of the summary execution of a Vietcong guerilla fighter in Saigon in 1968.

Out of Balance

Documentary 2007 NR 65 minutes. Documentarian Tom Jackson turns his lens on some inconvenient truths about energy titan Exxon Mobil and its effect on climate change. Spotlighting the company’s efforts to fund skewed media campaigns and support global-warming skeptics, Jackson builds his case in interviews with leading writers and scientists in the field of climatology. The film also explains the science behind global warming, as well as offering up some solutions to the crisis. See Full Review

Capturing Reality: The Art of Documentary

Documentary 2008 NR 97 minutes. This illuminating documentary about making documentaries features notable directors such as Werner Herzog, Nick Broomfield and Errol Morris discussing the art, craft and unique challenges of nonfiction filmmaking. Topics range from ethical concerns and theories about the power of images to techniques for interviewing, editing, sound design and more. Scenes from acclaimed documentaries reveal how master filmmakers put it all together.

The Billionaires’ Tea Party

Documentary 2010 NR 54 m. Filmmaker Taki Oldham imbeds himself in the Tea Party groups Americans for Prosperity and Freedomworks, revealing how corporations and the Koch Brothers engineered these fake grassroots called “Astroturf” organizations designed to look like organic grassroots movements.

Ralph Nader
An Unreasonable Man

Documentary 2006 NR 2hr 2m. Thought-provoking and revealing, this biographical documentary profiles the personal and professional life of Ralph Nader, one of America’s most controversial consumer advocates and political activists. Interviews and archival footage help illuminate the career of an influential public figure whose willingness to take on big industry, beginning with General Motors, earned him a reputation as both a hero of the working class, and eventually as a public pariah after the 2000 presidential election. See Full Review

South of the Border

Documentary 2009 NR 78 minutes. Eager to investigate how the U.S. media has depicted Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, director Oliver Stone journeys south to interview the man himself and speaks with several other South American presidents in the process. This movie, although accused of being propaganda, is propaganda from a point of view that is rarely seen by Americans, and it will make you think about your own country — not just its role in the hemisphere, but in its domestic politics. The definition of Propaganda is information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc. This film isn’t that. It’s the opinion of the leaders interviewed, and their view of the United States as they see it. There are well documented facts about the corruption of the U.S. toward South America, the C.I.A. death squads murdering leaders of countries in South America (read “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” for a first hand account), and the control the IMF has/had over South American countries. I found “South of the Border” refreshing in its attempts to let us hear what the leaders of these countries think, which is something we never hear from main stream U.S. media. So they don’t think like the American Government. So what? Why is that propaganda? What I learned from this film is that leaders in South America are standing up to the American Government and American Corporations, and doing things their own way, and for the most part, it’s working.

Media Malpractice

Documentary 2009 NR 115 minutes. Talk show host turned filmmaker John Ziegler examines the role of the media during America’s 2008 presidential election, using clips from TV news and other sources to argue that Barack Obama received preferential treatment over his political rivals. Declaring that media bias all but swept Obama to victory, the film also features an interview with Sarah Palin, who alleges that journalists unfairly maligned her throughout the campaign.

News War: Requiem

Documentary Frontline / World 2007. At a time when fair and accurate news coverage is more essential than ever, 2006 marked one of the deadliest years on record for journalists. Surprisingly, despite the fierce fighting in Iraq, most of the slain journalists did not die in combat. They were deliberately targeted, hunted down, and murdered for investigating corruption, crime, or human rights abuses in countries around the world. In Requiem, Frontline/World essayist Sheila Coronel looks at the dangers journalists confront as they try to tell their stories and pays special tribute to reporters working in the Philippines, Russia, Turkey, Zimbabwe, China and Iraq who have been killed, jailed, or exiled for daring to speak truth to power.

News War: War of Ideas

Documentary Frontline / World 2007. In the fourth hour of News War, Frontline/World reporter Greg Barker travels to the Middle East to examine the rise of Arab satellite TV channels and their impact on the “war of ideas” at a time of convulsive change and conflict in the region. His report focuses on the growing influence of Al Jazeera, and the controversy around the recent launch of Al Jazeera English, which U.S. satellite and cable companies have declined to carry. Barker also visits the “war room” of the State Department’s Rapid Response Unit, which monitors Arab media 24 hours a day, and meets with U.S. military officers whose mission is to engage the Arab news channels in debate.

Plunder: The Crime of Our Time

Documentary 2009 NR 100 minutes. Filmmaker and media critic Danny Schechter explores how the current financial crisis was built on a foundation of criminal activity, uncovering the connection between the collapse of the housing market and the economic catastrophe that followed. To get the real story, Schechter — aka “the News Dissector” — interviews bankers, economists, journalists and even a convicted white-collar criminal who blew the whistle on dishonest business practices. This film is very descriptive and accurately portrays the economic events that lead us to the dire situation we are in now. As a business student myself, I can attest to the facts presented in this film – as they are being taught to me currently in study. I did not find it to be biased, but can understand why others thought it to be. The film takes no prisoners, nor should it. People should be outraged by what has taken place. Corporate America was given the keys to the car via deregulation, and their greed ran it off the road. I don’t know where America is headed, and I wouldn’t dare guess. But if enough people watch this film and do their homework, then maybe we can avoid the mistakes of yesterday.

South Korea: Everyone’s a Journalist
The Story of OhMynews

Documentary Frontline / World 2007. Reporter Vanessa Hua travels to the ultra-wired metropolis of Seoul, South Korea, to report on OhmyNews, the world’s largest citizen journalism site, and to explore whether such a model could be replicated in the United States.

Chalmers Johnson
Speaking Freely: Vol. 4

Lecture 2007 NR 52 minutes. Writer and professor Chalmers Johnson warns of the dangers of American imperialism, a trend evidenced in the presence of U.S. military bases abroad, the passage of the Patriot Act and the executive branch’s use of military force.

Independent Intervention
Breaking Silence

Documentary 2006 NR 51m. This penetrating documentary stresses the need for an independent media, free from political bias and corporate ideologies, by examining how various media outlets have crafted the information we’ve been given about the war in Iraq since 2003. Footage from independent sources is compared with that from mainstream media, which often focuses on technology rather than people. Interviews with experts Noam Chomsky and Amy Goodman are included.

Dog Bites Man

Mockumentary 2006 NR 1 season.  KHBX’s news team in Spokane, Wash., keeps a collective eye on the next big story in this mockumentary-style series about local TV “journalism” at its most ridiculous — which in KHBX’s case includes the hard-hitting segment “What’s in Your Muffin?” The show’s ensemble cast features Matt Walsh as preening on-air reporter Kevin Beekin, Andrea Savage as producer Tillie Sullivan and Zach Galifianakis as cameraman Alan Finger.

Man Bites Dog

Mockumentary 1992 UR 96 mins.  A satirical look at how the media affects and promotes violence in modern society. Spoofing reality television, a fascinated documentary crew follows a charismatic yet unrepentant serial killer on his murder sprees. The crew attempts to objectively document the horror, but as the violence escalates, they ultimately get sucked into participating. Man Bites Dog won the International Critics’ Prize at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival.

History of Talk Radio

Documentary 2005 NR 60 minutes. Freedom of speech takes to the airwaves in this revealing look at talk radio. The program covers the history of this fast-growing format through archival material of talk radio pioneers including Joe Pyne, Alan Burke and others and features interviews and clips of leading hosts Larry King, Howard Stern, Don Imus, Rush Limbaugh, Bob Grant, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, Ollie North, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Morton Downey Jr. and G. Gordon Liddy.

Iraq: Reporting the World
Trying to Cover the World’s Most Dangerous Place

Documentary Frontline / World 2005. Nick Hughes visits the chaotic streets of Baghdad for Frontline/World to find out how journalists survive in a war in which they have become targets. He travels with men and women whose quest for the story not only requires body armor as a tool of the trade, but also can lead to sudden death.

Outfoxed
Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism

Documentary 2004 NR 1hr 17m. Filmmaker Robert Greenwald delivers a no-holds-barred documentary on Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News cable channel, which has been criticized in certain quarters as running a “race to the bottom” in television news. Featuring interviews with a range of media experts, the film offers an in-depth look at the dangers of burgeoning corporations that take control of the public’s right to know and explores Murdoch’s ever-expanding media empire.

Murdoch’s Scandal

Documentary Frontline 2012. Rupert Murdoch, owner of the Wall Street Journal and FOX News Channel, is in the fight of his life. Frontline correspondent Lowell Bergman details the battle over the future of News Corporation, Murdoch’s reputation and his family’s fortunes.

Shut Up & Sing

Documentary 2006 R 93 minutes. This documentary centers on country music’s The Dixie Chicks and their nationwide vilification over an off-hand critical comment one of them made in London in 2003 about President G. W. Bush on the eve of the Iraq war, saying she’s “ashamed that the President of the United Sates is from Texas”. Over a three-year period, the singers went from darlings of the industry to political targets, receiving death threats and being demonized by the national media and denounced by some ex-fans. Country music stations refused to play their music from fear of losing listeners. This documentary joins the Dixie Chicks’ journey following ‘The Incident’. The Chicks were boycotted on country radio and received death threats simply for voicing an opinion and standing up for freedom of speech. The film does a good job of documenting the effect that a single comment by a performer had on the group’s entire career. Raises the question: Is it unpatriotic to make a negative comment about the President? Ever or just in a time of armed conflict? The subject matter transcends country music. This doc is about two things: 1) free speech and its consequences and (2) how we as Americans view free speech. The fact that the rightwing was so up-in-arms about a single comment is now laughable in view of the fact that most of the country eventually turned against that war for oil and his lies about weapons of mass destruction. They were spot on and ahead of anyone else when it came to the (deserved) criticism of the Bush doctrine. It’s scary to watch what happened just a few years ago in this freeze on free speech. It is refreshing to see these true artists hold onto their integrity, whatever you think of their politics.  It is shameful that an ordinary jab at the president, that was so innocuous, led to such a crazy witch hunt. This movie is a wonderful cautionary tale. Highly recommended! Wake up, America! Directed by Barbara Kopple (of Harlan County, U.S.A. fame) See Full Review

The Yes Men Fix the World

Documentary 2009 NR 87 minutes. Two didactic pranksters known as the Yes Men — Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno — employ monkey business to highlight the political and economic shenanigans surrounding ecological catastrophes like the 1984 Union Carbide Corporation disaster in India. They pose as spokesman for the Dow Corporation (which took over Union Carbide) and go on live TV apologizing for their role in the incident and pledging to fix the wrong. In this film, the Yes Men go after a collection of corporations who have injured the world in one way or another. They go into corporate meetings and conventions posing as heads of business to expose how greed and instant stock satisfaction destroys lives. They also pose as representatives of HUD at a meeting in New Orleans about destroying existing public housing after Hurricane Katrina. They also help put out a “special edition of the New York Times” featuring “All the News You Would Like Printed”. See Full Review

Bowling for Columbine

Documentary 2002 R 119 minutes. Famed filmmaker and left-wing political humorist Michael Moore tackles America’s obsession with firearms that results in violence and murders in this Oscar-winning documentary centered on the Columbine High School massacre of 1999. I was anticipating a shallow film on gun control, a topic with which I have no vested interest. On the contrary, Michael Moore does not deal so much with guns or gun violence, as to possible causes for the apparent ‘culture of violence’ in America. This documentary raises many interesting and thought provoking questions. It does seem to provide one possible answer: ‘fear’.

The Century of the Self

Documentary series 2002.   Adam Curtis’ acclaimed series examines the rise of the all-consuming self against the backdrop of the Freud dynasty.  To many in both politics and business, the triumph of the self is the ultimate expression of democracy, where power has finally moved to the people. Certainly the people may feel they are in charge, but are they really? “Century of the Self” tells the untold and sometimes controversial story of the growth of the mass-consumer society in Britain and the United States. How was the all-consuming self created, by whom, and in whose interests?  The Freud dynasty is at the heart of this compelling social history. Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis; Edward Bernays, who invented public relations; Anna Freud, Sigmund’s devoted daughter; and present-day PR guru and Sigmund’s great grandson, Matthew Freud.  Sigmund Freud’s work into the bubbling and murky world of the subconscious changed the world. By introducing a technique to probe the unconscious mind, Freud provided useful tools for understanding the secret desires of the masses. Unwittingly, his work served as the precursor to a world full of political spin doctors, marketing moguls, and society’s belief that the pursuit of satisfaction and happiness is man’s ultimate goal.

Episode One: Happiness Machines,  Season 1 Episode 1,  58 min.

The story of the relationship between Sigmund Freud and his American nephew, Edward Bernays. Bernays invented the public relations profession in the 1920s and was the first person to take Freud’s ideas to manipulate the masses. He called it “engineering consent”.  He showed American corporations how they could make people want things they didn’t need by systematically linking mass-produced goods to their unconscious desires.  Bernays was one of the main architects of the modern techniques of mass-consumer persuasion, using every trick in the book, from celebrity endorsement and outrageous PR stunts, to eroticizing the motorcar. His most notorious coup was breaking the taboo on women smoking by persuading them that cigarettes were a symbol of independence and freedom. But Bernays was convinced that this was more than just a way of selling consumer goods. It was a new political idea of how to control the masses. By satisfying the inner irrational desires that his uncle had identified, people could be made happy and thus docile.  It was the start of the all-consuming self which has come to dominate today’s world.  Since propaganda was helpful in wartime, he believed similar mass persuasion could also be used in peacetime for different purposes.  But the Germans in WWI had given the term “propaganda” a bad name, so Bernays came up with an new term for propaganda: “public relations”.  One of his first clients was the tobacco industry, and his first achievement was a campaign that overcame the taboo against women smoking, and persuaded women to smoke cigarettes in public.  He asked one of the new psychoanalysts what cigarettes mean to women, who said that cigarettes are a symbol of the penis and male sexual power, and if he could find a way to connect cigarettes with the idea of challenging male power, then women would smoke, because then they would have their own penis (as unbelievable as that sounds).  So he arranged for debutantes to smoke during the Easter Parade in NYC, creating scandalous publicity, claiming they were suffragettes lighting up what he called “torches of freedom”.

Bhutan: The Last Place
Television Arrives in a Buddhist Kingdom

Documentary Frontline / World 2002. Frontline/World explores the impact of television on a remote Buddhist kingdom in the Himalayas. After centuries of self-imposed isolation, Bhutan legalized TV in 1999 — the last country in the world to do so. Follow Rinzy Dorji, the local “cable guy,” as he hooks up “an electronic invasion.”

The Merchants of Cool

Documentary Frontline 2001 The award-winning “Frontline” television show trains its investigative lens on marketing moguls who conduct endless surveys and focus groups sampling the tastes, attitudes and aspirations of American teens to determine exactly what they want. As Hollywood and Madison Avenue craft tailored versions of teenage life in movies, TV, music and advertising, just how far will they go to reach the hearts — and wallets — of American youth? They will do anything to tap into the 150 BILLION dollars of spending power that 12 to 19 year-olds possess. They are the “Merchants of Cool”, and they will use every technique in the book just to sell to you. This Frontline special is an exploration into the marketing machine that controls nearly 90% of what we read in print, see on TV and movies, and listen to on the radio. The Merchants of Cool (2001) is slightly dated at this point, and it contains many examples that were relevant during its release but less so now. Still, it is important that teens understand that not all images they encounter are benign, but rather a calculated effort to dip into their wallets.

Wag the Dog

Satire 1997 R 110 minutes. When the president is caught in a sex scandal less than two weeks before the election, White House spinmaster Conrad Brean (Robert De Niro) creates a phony war with the help of Hollywood producer Stanley Motss (Dustin Hoffman) to distract the electorate. From acclaimed director Barry Levinson and writers Hilary Henkin and David Mamet comes this biting look at American politics and its insidious relationship with the media.

Weapons of Mass Distraction

Satire 1997 R 96 minutes. As two warring media moguls (Gabriel Byrne and Ben Kingsley) grapple for ownership of a coveted professional football team, they use the newspapers, magazines and television stations they own to destroy each other’s reputations. Larry Gelbart (Tootsie, television’s “M*A*S*H” and the musical “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”) penned this big-business satire originally produced for HBO, co-starring Mimi Rogers and Jeffrey Tambor.

The Princess and the Press

Documentary Frontline 1997. The day Princess Diana died in Paris, her brother, Earl Spencer, blamed the media for her death. Frontline examines how the Royal Family’s relationship with the British press, once governed by unwritten rules of privacy, evolved into the media circus that surrounded Princess Diana in her final years.

Why America Hates the Press

Documentary Frontline 1996. Frontline offers a tough, insider’s examination of the culture and tactics of the national press corps. With public respect for the press at an all-time low—–on par with public regard for politicians—-journalists have begun to break ranks to probe what has gone wrong. Frontline follows the nation’s top political journalists along the 1996 presidential campaign trail and behind the scenes of the weekly talk shows where reporters are transformed into celebrity pundits. Through the eyes of a few key journalists, this report explores the dynamics of the news business and its troubling impact on American politics.

Smoke in the Eye

Documentary Frontline 1996. Frontline investigates the war between network news and the tobacco industry in the wake of the $10 billion libel suit against ABC and the controversial decision by CBS not to allow 60 Minutes to air an explosive interview with a tobacco company whistle-blower. As media companies increasingly come under the control of large corporations, will their newsrooms continue to aggressively report on corporate America?

Who’s Afraid of Rupert Murdoch?

Documentary Frontline 1995. In the last forty years, Rupert Murdoch has gone from publisher of a marginal newspaper in Adelaide, Australia, to chairman of one of the world’s largest and wealthiest media empires. His business acumen combined with a gambling spirit has made him an enormously successful player in the communications industry. Frontline correspondent Ken Auletta probes Murdoch’s drive to establish the first global telecommunications network and examines how Murdoch’s success has been dogged by controversy over journalistic standards and the use of political influence.

Spin (1995)

Documentary 1995. Spin is a film by Brian Springer composed of raw satellite feeds exposing politicians’ pre-appearance planning. It covers, not only the United States presidential primaries, 1992 and presidential election, but also the LA riots as well as the Operation Rescue abortion protests. Using the 1992 presidential election as his springboard, Springer captures the behind-the-scenes maneuverings of politicians and newscasters in the early 1990s. Pat Robertson banters about “homos,” Al Gore learns how to avoid abortion questions, George H. W. Bush talks to Larry King about Halcion — all presuming they’re off camera. Composed of 100% unauthorized satellite footage, Spin is a surreal expose of media-constructed reality.

Does TV Kill?

Documentary Frontline 1995. Before the average American child leaves elementary school, researchers estimate that he or she will have witnessed more than eight thousand murders on television. Has this steady diet of imaginary violence made America the world leader in real crime and violence? Frontline correspondent Al Austin journeys through what is known about television violence and how it affects our lives. The program reveals some unexpected conclusions about the impact TV has on the way we view the world.

Natural Born Killers

Satire 1994 NR 1hr58m.  Mickey and Mallory Knox hit the road on an interstate killing spree that triggers a manhunt and garners amazing ratings for a tabloid TV star.  The film tells the story of two victims of traumatic childhoods who became lovers and mass murderers, and are irresponsibly glorified by the mass media like a Bonnie-and-Clyde couple.  Don’t let the DVD cover or the film’s surface level violence fool you.  It’s not just about murder…the whole production is a metaphor for our world, even today.  The media. Popular opinion.  Ethics.  Morality.  A country full of sheepish humans.  Everything’s analyzed and ridiculed here.  This film is an intense commentary on our “sick” “normal” American society.  Robert Downey as reporter Wayne Gale on a series called â€?American Maniacs’ does a seeming parody of TV reporter Geraldo Rivera that is a brilliant exaggeration of his excesses and a satire of American media practices.  I’ve always loved this movie and its statement on how the media glorifies society’s monsters.  Much of the film is told via parodies of television shows, including a scene (â€?I Love Mallory’) presented in the style of a sitcom about a dysfunctional family.  Commercials that were commonly on the air at the time of the film’s release make brief intermittent appearances.  Throughout the film, background scenes show psychedelic versions of violence from movies, TV shows, comic books, and media coverage of criminals and mass murderers.  The movie is shot and edited in a frenzied and psychedelic style consisting of black and white, animation, and unusual color schemes, and employing a wide range of camera angles, filters, lenses and special effects.  This exaggerates the daily bombardment of modern life by the mass media, especially TV.  The film emphasizes the influences on the common masses in America, primarily via the media.  Natural Born Killers ends with the couple symbolically destroying the mass media, as represented by reporter Wayne Gale, and successfully fleeing together to live a relatively “normal” life, with kids and a Winnebago.  Director Oliver Stone considered Natural Born Killers his road film, specifically naming Bonnie and Clyde as a source of inspiration.  Furthermore, both films fall under the road film genre through their constant challenges of the society in which the characters live.  The characterizations in the film are over-exaggerated.  The killer couple showing exaggerated glee in their murder spree.  Robert Downey Jr. as TV reporter Wayne Gale in his tasteless and relentless pursuit of scandal and ratings.  Rodney Dangerfield as the child-molesting father of Mallory who is beyond menacing and into farce.  Tommy Lee Jones as a prison warden who is entertainingly manic.  The killing culture that Natural Born Killers pushed to an absurd extreme has become reality.  Much of the “violent media makes violent children” hysteria of the 90’s no longer exists.  Now we don’t seem to care how watching violent acts affects us.  Instead we’ve moved on to a sort of violence one-upmanship.  The most popular TV shows are often the most violent.  PG-13 movies are incredibly violent, as long as there’s no blood.  R-rated movies take on-screen violence to new heights with clever CG effects.  So with this film Oliver Stone did not shock society into becoming a bit more introspective about our appetite for violence, and instead gave some permission to revel in it.  But I think highly enough of myself to expect that I will be revolted by violent psychopathy, whether or not someone else tells me I should be.  From almost the moment of its release, the film has been accused of encouraging and inspiring numerous murderers in North America, including the Heath High School shooting and the Columbine High School massacre.  Stone has continually maintained that the film is a satire on how serial killers are adored by the media for their horrific actions and that those who claim that the violence in the film itself is a cause of societal violence miss the point of the film.  Great movie on the morals of our society — sorry if you don’t “get” this movie.  Many critics said that Oliver Stone was a hypocrite for making an ultra-violent film in the guise of a critique of American attitudes.  Is this film just banal post-modern garbage that indulges in mindless violence that masquerades as social commentary?  One critic noted that the movie “hits the bulls-eye” as a satire of America’s lust for bloodshed, but it repeated Stone’s main point so often and so loudly that it became unbearable.  Other critics also found the film unsuccessful in its aims.  Instead of letting the viewers make up their own minds about the characters and their actions, the director imposes his own morality with heavy-handed satire.  So the result just doesn’t click, and overall I think it’s a flop.  Notorious for its violent content and inspiring “copycat” crimes, the film is controversial.  The frank truth is, this is a cult classic, and you’re going to either love it forever, or turn it off in the first 15 minutes.  Technically it’s great; the casting’s great, the acting’s great, the camera work is great.  Have fun!  Not for the faint of heart, but not a film to be ignored.  Film critic  Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film four stars out of four and wrote, “Seeing this movie once is not enough.  The first time is for the visceral experience, the second time is for the meaning.”

The Panama Deception
Exposing the Cover Up!

Documentary 1992 NR 91 minutes. Filmmakers Barbara Trent and David Kasper explain the untold truths behind the United States’ 1989 invasion of Panama in this hard-hitting documentary that illuminates the complex relationship between Gen. Manuel Noriega and the U.S. government. Juxtaposing interviews with experts and eyewitnesses with historical media reports, the film shows how the press helped win the American public’s approval despite widespread condemnation abroad.

The Bonfire of the Vanities

Drama 1990 R 125 minute. Brian De Palma directs the film version of Tom Wolfe’s satire about race, politics and greed in 1980s New York. In it, Tom Hanks stars as Sherman McCoy, a wealthy Wall Street investor whose life takes a dark turn when his mistress (Melanie Griffith) hits a black youth with his car. When tabloid journalist Peter Fallow (Bruce Willis) gets wind of the situation, he turns it into front-page news, inciting a racial incident in this game of dog-eat-dog.

The King of Comedy

Drama 1983 PG 105 minutes. Director Martin Scorsese hits a satirical bulls-eye in this black comedy that explores the absurd lengths to which nebbish Rupert Pupkin (Robert De Niro) will go to land a spot on the TV talk show of his idol, Jerry Langford (a wonderfully caustic Jerry Lewis). Pupkin believes that one appearance on Langford’s show will be his ticket to stardom, so he kidnaps his idol and sets into motion a chain of events you have to see to believe!  See Full Review

Network

Drama 1976 R 121 minutes. Screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky predicted today’s rash of trash television and shock-driven newscasts with this ahead-of-its-time satire that centers on a network news anchor named Howard Beale (Peter Finch) who loses it on the air. His outrageous rants boost the station’s ratings and intrigue cutthroat network execs Faye Dunaway and Robert Duvall. William Holden contrasts their avarice as an old-school TV journalist who’s hopelessly out of step.When a network news anchor loses his mind on the air, his outrageous rants reach viewers at home, boost the ratings and intrigue a pair of cutthroat network executives in this Oscar-winning masterpiece that predicted today’s rash of trash television. This film is brilliant. So far ahead of its time and still very much relevant today. There is a speech given in the film to the character Howard Beale about how he sees the world as countries and people when really the world is just a college of a few overpowerful corporations. An aging newsanchor decided to break out of the cookie cutter mold that newsanchors are supposed to fit into. Since he is being forced into retirement by the network, what could he possibly lose from speaking his mind on air anyway? Naturally, audiences loved him because he was an “Every Man” kind of newsanchor pushing through all the crap. Just being real and honest with the viewers. it also reveals the truth about international takeover by powerful corporations that control everything. The premise that business is the king, and individuals, governments, and nations are enslaved by the monetary reach of these corporations.

All the President’s Men

Docudrama 1976 PG 139 minutes. The film that launched a thousand journalism school students, All the President’s Men chronicles how the work of reporters Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) contributed to the public downfall of President Richard M. Nixon. The duo connected a Washington, D.C., hotel break-in with a Nixon “dirty tricks” team assigned to discredit Democratic rivals, launching a series of tense events that forced Nixon to resign. This story of the exposure of the Watergate break-in and subsequent coverup by two Washington Post reporters focuses attention on the inves­tigative journalism that has done so much to make Americans skeptical and even cynical about their nation’s institutions.  See Full Review

Two Days in October

Documentary American Experience 2005 NR 90 minutes. In October 1967, a U.S. regiment walked into a Vietcong ambush that killed 61 soldiers — and raised doubts about whether the war was winnable. Meanwhile, University of Wisconsin students protested the presence of Dow Chemical recruiters on campus. The demonstration soon spun out of control, marking the first time a protest became violent. Told by those who took part in the events, the film offers a window into a defining American moment.

The Front Page

Drama 1974 PG 105 minutes. Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau play battling newspapermen in 1920s Chicago in this fast-paced version of the comedy classic from director Billy Wilder. Lemmon is ace reporter Hildy Johnson and Matthau his irascible editor, Walter Burns. Hildy wants to quit and marry Peggy Grant (Susan Sarandon), but Walter will do anything to stop him, and an escaped killer (Austin Pendleton) gives him just the scoop he needs to lure Hildy back to work.

A Face in the Crowd

Drama 1957 NR 125 minutes. Andy Griffith plays Lonesome Rhodes: a castaway maverick and rodeside cowboy who, reluctantly, becomes a radio sensation. A masterpiece about the hypocrisy behind many of the popular and beautiful people who have either graced the media or the political scene and have let power go to their heads. Elia Kazan’s masterpiece proves that celebrity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. When talent scout Marcia Jeffries (Patricia Neal) spots drifter Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes (Andy Griffith) and makes him a superstar, he gets a taste of the good life. But his hunger for klieg lights, fed by run-ins with famous people such as Burl Ives and Bennett Cerf (who play themselves), turns desperate, and he loses sight of who he is and what he’s truly about.

Ace in the Hole

Drama 1951 NR 111 minutes. Fired from a number of big-city papers, reporter Charles Tatum tries to re-establish himself in New Mexico. When a local store owner is trapped in a cave-in, Tatum turns the victim’s misfortune into a media frenzy to further his own career.

Citizen Kane

Docudrama 1941 PG 119 minutes. Orson Welles reinvented movies at the age of 26 with this audacious biography of newspaper baron Charles Foster Kane, which, in essence, was a thinly veiled portrait of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst. Welles’s complex and technically stunning film chronicles Kane’s rise from poverty to become one of America’s most influential men — and it’s considered one of the best movies ever made.

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