Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Review of Captain America: The First Avenger

What do you get when you combine a boring director with a boring leading man? I'll give you three guesses. Read the review, which previously appeared in "The Weekender," here.

P.S.--Great photo, right?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Verdict on "Valentine's Day"

In order to answer a nagging concern about "Crazy, Stupid, Love." I finally saw Garry Marshall's ode to attractive people falling in love despite fake obstacles and contrivances.

My fiancee's aunt had liked the movie, especially the number of hunky guys present, a fact that had no influence on me. She then added, "But there's also Jessica Biel and Anne Hathaway..."

"Are they topless?" I replied.

Sadly, after watching "Valentine's Day" from beginning to end I can report: No female actress gets topless, though Shirley MacClaine does wear a lovely series of blouses. Oh, and you see Hector Elizondo's package.

One of those things is true. Either way, proceed with caution.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

An Awakening in an Elantra

Unless you live smack dab in a city or can have publicists willingly give out DVD screeners, reviewing movies requires a car. This is especially true now that I'm living outside Philadelphia, a commuter friendly city that holds screenings in the adjacent suburbs.

Those who read this blog regularly--all three of you--know that I'm not the biggest fan of driving. I'll do it, but I get nervous. What is the traffic like? Where can I park? What if I get lost? How much gas will I need? A few months ago, I endured a series of unfortunate events that made me realize that I need to not overcomplicate the very simple, sometimes enjoyable task of going from point A to point B.

Bottom line: I had to grow a pair.

In January I went to a screening of "Biutiful" in Philadelphia. As is my overprepared wont, I gave myself plenty of time, brought directions, and hired a sherpah to guide me through the rough patches. Things were going fine until I hit a nasty patch of traffic. The screening was at 10 a.m. The minutes sped by 9:40, 9:50 a.m. Like the mature, sensible adult I am, I started to panic.

Got on the exit, now racing to the parking garage like I'm in the nerdiest version of "Bullit." I got to the parking garage, and realized I was in the service vehicle entrance. Flustered, I tried to figure out where I was, how I got here, how I was going to get out....


Me and my car had gone through the parking garage's gate.

The car was fine, but mortified doesn't begin to describe how I felt. My mind raced through options and then I realized I had to come clean. So I went to the garage's office, and explained what happened and that I was prepared to compensate for the cost of the damage. The manager, couldn't have been nicer. She said that this thing happens often, not to worry about it, and just to reenter.

By the way, I made the screening on time.

Since then, I've been a little reluctant to drive into Philly for screenings. The fiancee, who I think was a getaway man in a past life, loves to drive. Since she can tag along to most screenings now, she handles the commute.

This week I had two screenings in Philly that I had to drive myself to. The trips were smooth and I drove with gusto and verve (i.e., well above the speed limit). As I headed for home last night, I realized how stupid I had been. I'm not dismantling a bomb. I'm not facing the firing squad. I'm driving a friggin' car.

Imagine employing the same scaredy cat mindset to pay bills:

Oh god, what if I don't sign my name on the check? If it's a day late, will the creditors start calling? Did I spell the company's name right? What color ink should I use? Is that pen full? Is that pen full?!?!

Here's the other thing: I want people to rely on me. If I can't drive someone to the airport, what's going to happen when a real emergency arises? Being dependable isn't something you can be on a whim. It takes effort--and the personal insight that only comes on a mad dash to see a bleak Spanish film.

P.S.--On the way back from "Biutiful," I mistakenly chose the wrong address on the GPS, forcing me to take a roundabout way home. A 35 minute drive took close to 90 minutes. I have no philosophical bon mots to share. That was just my own shining stupidity.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Etc.--A Tale of Two Fourths, Celeb Profiles, Commercial Wives

Though I've only lived in Bucks County for less than a year, I really like it. One reason is that it's near Philadelphia, a city that is completely without airs.

I lived within a train ride of New York for years and years. I love the city and its neighborhoods and its quirky urgency. But I'm always aware that I'm not part of the club and its pricey perks. I can see it in the stares of some New Yorkers when I tell them where I live. It was even worse when I called New Jersey home. I could feel people imagining me standing in line at the Olive Garden or spending my weekends shopping for discount James Patterson novels at BJ's.

Never mind that I didn't work in New York or couldn't afford to live there unless I roomed with four dudes in a studio apartment the size of a garden shed. To some people, not living in New York was an irredeemable character flaw.

The difference between Philadelphia and New York can be found in its holiday celebrations. Last weekend, I switched back and forth between their July 4th events, which took place on a sultry evening.

New York's emcee and setting: An immaculately groomed Nick Lachey in front of a gorgeous backdrop of the Hudson River and gloriuously phallic buildings.

Philadelphia's: In the downtown, where some dude in a t-shirt and shorts drenched in sweat to the point that he looked like he had just run through a car wash.

New York's star musical guest: Beyonce, who looked like a million damn dollars.

Philadelphia's: The O'Jays' Eddie Levert, dressed in the event's t-shirt, who was straining so hard and sweating so profusely, I thought about calling 911.

New York's crowd: Enthusiastic, but subdued.

Philadelphia's crowd: During Boyz II Men's performance--yes, they're still around apparently--a large woman got onstage and started grinding on one of the singers. After he retreated to warble the remainder of a 15-year-old hit, the modern-day Moms Mabley danced for at least another minute before anyone escorted her off. The Roots' tuba player was in hysterics.

New York's fireworks: Spectacular

Philadelphia's fireworks: I don't know. I never saw any and I watched for an hour. The fiancee watched longer before calling it a night.

But here's the thing. I loved Philly's celebration, because it felt like a terrific outdoor barbecue complete with embarrassing family members and mistakes. In short, it was the kind of place where I'd have a good time, where anyone was welcome.

Philly is growing on me.

--I love "GQ" but it has to stop assigning young female journalists these "nights on the town" pieces with hunky celebrities. I realize that profiling boring matinee idols like Channing Tatum and Chris Evans is torture, but this approach doesn't work for several reasons.

a.) It takes away from the subject. It's just my opinion, but a reporter should never make him or herself the subject of the story.

b.) It's gimmicky -- you're not catching the subject in his element -- and it takes the place of real reporting. That's what made Gay Talese's legendary profile of Sinatra so good--he chased outside sources. Chris Jones excels as these because he captures Benicio del Toro or Naomi Watts at a certain time in their lives.

c.) Unless subject and writer get down to business in the bathroom stall of a trendy nightclub, it's just an orchestrated PR stunt to make the subject seem like a regular guy.

--Is there a reason why the wives on TV commercials are so bitchy? Have you seen the one for "5 Hour Energy" where the wife is angry that her previously sleepy husband now has the temerity to work out with her? Or what about the one for NBA merchandise where the alarm rings and the wife punches her jersey-wearing husband?

At some point before I dide, I'd love to see a sitcom or a commercial where husbands are not portrayed as clueless bozos so grateful to have a reasonably attractive partner that they put up with surly, patronizing behavior.

--Articles to read: Ryan D'Agostino's brilliant profile of Dr. William Petit; Robert Huber's examination of Philadelphia's scandal-plagued Catholic priests in "Philadelphia"; Michael J. Mooney's look at a high-school basketball hoax in Texas.

--"Hoarders" is back, which makes me wonder: Why are there never any attractive hoarders?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Book of the Month, July 2011

I love books. They're fun, educational, and their covers have such pretty colors.

Since this blog currently features a review of "Page One" and an interview with the doc's director, Andrew Rossi, it's only that this month's BOM covers another publishing giant--"Sports Illustrated."

Michael MacCambridge's "The Franchise" is a thoroughly researched, immensely entertaining history of "SI," its office politics and hard-living staff. The latter includes legendary college football scribe Dan Jenkins (who partied like a rock star), bonus king Frank Deford (who left to edit the ill-fated sports daily, "The National"), and Mark Kram (a tempestuous, talented boxing writer who went off the rails).

"The Franchise" is an outstanding, sadly overlooked predecessor to "Those Guys Have All the Fun," James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales's rock-solid oral history of ESPN. You may also enjoy MacCambridge's inspiration: Robert Draper's excellent history of "Rolling Stone" magazine.

That's all for now. Until next month, read in peace.

P.S.--"The Fighter" is still lousy.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Andrew Rossi Q&A

Who's up for a little chat with the director of "Page One: Inside the New York Times"? Not only was Rossi engaging, I learned something about postmodernism. And he wiped out the memory of that day's train ride to Philly, which featured two meth addicts on the verge of collpase.

Working on scheduling an interview next month with an indie film darling. Who is it? Start your guessing.

This article previously appeared in the July issue of ICON and is reprinted with permission. (Thanks, Trina.)


Yes, documentary filmmaker Andrew Rossi did read the print edition New York Times this morning on the train ride from New York to Philadelphia. But the presence of a cell phone and some kind of smart phone—I'm not enough of a tech head to recognize the brand—suggests that Rossi stays informed in other ways.

That dichotomy is at the heart of Rossi's terrific documentary, Page One: Inside the New York Times, which profiles the paper's media desk. The staff of 14 covers the changing media world, including the famed newspaper's own struggles. Through the personal and professional developments at the Times, Rossi captures the evolution of journalism mid-stream. It involves more than advances in technology and the growing influence of social media. People's careers are on the line.

In a 25-minute interview, Rossi, an associate producer on another splendid newsroom documentary (Control Room), talks about Page One's "script," what the recent resignation of Times' executive editor Bill Keller signifies, and offers job advice to a worried interviewer.

Page One opens July 1 in Philadelphia.

Pete Croatto: It took six months of negotiations for the New York Times to agree to be involved in this film. When did the breakthrough occur?

Andrew Rossi: One of the more important meetings was with the journalists of the media desk. I came to the meeting [with] pink eye because my young daughter was sick and I got it from her. So I came to the meeting with red, puffy eyes. I told them, "I thought if I was crying during this meeting you would decide to be nice, and say yes."

I probably had one of the most tense meetings in the whole process. A lot of the journalists were concerned that while I was shooting, how could they trust that what I would capture would not compromise sources. There was a lot of talk about process. I just very frankly and deliberately explained that my process is in this tradition of Cinéma vérité: to shoot and collect materials that render an accurate portrait of what I'm shooting, of what my subject is. It's a relationship of trust, so that, of course, I'm not going to sneak a shot of something and put it on YouTube and try to compromise people's sources or embarrass them.

Instead, what I'm doing is I'm trying to give viewers this front row seat inside the four walls of an institution, which could be the Wall Street Journal or the Washington Post or the Los Angeles Times for that matter—anywhere that has original reporting as its main base—and let people be themselves. And let viewers then decide: Is this something that's very archaic and seems bloated and is a waste? Or rather are we seeing vital conversations and truth squadding going on to create a paper every day that is contributing to our understanding of the world. I think the fact that I wasn't going in with some agenda other than just to capture what was going on there, it resonated with them.

PC: It had to be weird for them because the reporters are used to being the profilers, and now they're the subjects. Did you sense any discomfort on that end, that they couldn't control the final product?

AR: I found with [media desk editor] Bruce [Headlam] and [media columnist] David [Carr] and [reporter] Brian [Stelter] a real sense of pleasure to engage in conversations that challenged the stories that they were writing, challenged their own conclusions, and almost provided them with an outlet to think more broadly about some of the stories that they were reporting. I had to be a real student of their own work and try to tease out the stories that are most emblematic of what's happening to the media landscape and constantly be aware of what their schedules were and what they were planning to write on.

PC: You were essentially a one-man crew. How hard was it to chronicle the media desk but also the editor, the reporters, and the paper itself?

AR: It was extremely challenging, but I was very lucky to have a co-producer and co-writer, Kate Novack, who I was able to call on while I was shooting. I'd schedule to do an interview with [Times' executive editor] Bill Keller and then say, "OK Kate, go to talk to him about the Afghan war logs being released this morning. Can you help come up with questions? Somebody mentioned x, y, z. Can you do some research on that?" And then Kate was also in the process of compiling a list of and researching people outside the Times that we could speak to as a counterpoint. Then in the down time moments from shooting in the building, we would then assemble and do these other interviews.

PC: You mentioned how Ms. Novack was the film's co-writer, which I find odd since this is a documentary. It's not as if there's scripted dialogue. Why is there a "written by" credit?

AR: We did actually cull David's columns and produce a sort-of narration, a voiceover that comes in and out of the film, so we did do that. I was shooting for about 14 months, but in order to structure…we viewed it as a play within a play. All of the different stories that the writers are producing are these little vignettes or scenes that illuminate some aspect of the media landscape. Then there's this macro-, meta-play, which is what's happening to the paper itself and to their own personal trajectories there. Ordering all that material, Kate and I sort of wrote that. We decided what the order should be and how one thing relates to another and when we needed to go out to David Remnick [editor of the New Yorker] to provide some insight or [media journalist/author] Sarah Ellison.

PC: How hard is it to coordinate a script that was so complicated?

AR: It was joyous. It's a thrill.

PC: Really?

AR: Yeah. It's physical. It's intellectual. It's a real fusion of many different muscles—both mental and physical.

PC: So, as a filmmaker, there's a creative challenge in putting this together?

AR: There is, but there's also a sense of like, put yourself in the right place at the right time. The other layer of challenges was that there was an urgency to complete the film in a timeframe where it could sort of enter the broader cultural conversation and have an impact.

PC: The fact that newspapers are dying has been talked about for years. In making this movie how did you make that debate current and attention grabbing?

AR: So, people have been trying to make a "newspaper movie" for years. I was, in fact, developing something for HBO at the time when I started on this. I was told that a new producer was coming to HBO every week with an idea about doing a newspaper movie. As you say, this crisis in the newspaper business has been gaining increasing urgency for like five years. But when I looked at the problem is when it reached the front door of the New York Times.

I had a pre-existing relationship with David Carr and it seemed that this idea of focusing on the media desk while giving this intimate portrait of, in a Cinéma vérité format, what people do at the New York Times, which has this incredible brand, could tackle some of the largest theoretical debates in the question about the future of journalism. But [we'd] also have this fascinating character with a great sense of humor and a real poetic take on the media that I think also taps into something even larger than newspapers—society's general ambivalence about digitization.

PC: Was it always the plan to have David Carr as the guy up in front, or did that happen as filming progressed?

AR: He was actually going to be the sole protagonist, initially. Then we broadened out to include the entire media desk and it became more of an ensemble. Even when we transitioned to that structure, David was always what I called the Virgil character, from Dante's Inferno. Virgil is taking Dante through the various [circles] of hell.

PC: Is that what the Times is going through right now, that it's on this tumultuous journey that has a destination but before it gets there, a hell of a lot is going to happen?

AR: I would say, to continue with this analogy, that they're in purgatory. I think Bill Keller stepping down last week really crystallizes this idea that an era of crisis at the Times has abated, come to a close.

PC: Really? Because in the movie he has that great line where he says that it feels like he's wearing a bloody butcher's smock. You think his leaving is more about things being resolved, but couldn't it be fatigue? He's been executive editor for about 10 years.

AR: I believe that his decision to step down was made on the basis of him feeling that the paper was in a more secure position than it was when he assumed the role [after the Howell Raines-Jayson Blair scandal], and that he was able to see the paper through the Great Recession, through two rounds of layoffs, corrections in the reporting that Judith Miller did on WMDs (weapons of mass destruction). Also, on his watch, he had so many journalists killed or kidnapped. It's been a very tumultuous period in American life. You take any two or three month snapshot, with the tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan, he's had a really full plate in addition to this other unforeseen layer of economic disaster and calamity in the newspaper business.

The fact that now he, along with the publisher, has sort of assessed that he can step down and hand off a paper to Jill Abramson that has preserved his promise of providing quality journalism—to me, is a very hopeful event. But the challenges all remain. I think the movie kind of takes on a whole other level of significance.

PC: You've mentioned the movie's themes and sub-themes, but in the process of filming day after day for 14 months did you think to yourself, "Where are we going with this?" Or did you have a game plain laid out?

AR: At the risk of sounding sort of pretentious, I'm an admirer of postmodern theory in addition to [screenplay teacher] Robert McKee, who is the author of Story. So I view my process of telling story as a fusion of bricolage in the sense of [French anthropologist Claude] Lévi-Strauss, the notion of combining found objects to create meaning. So then everything that I'm collecting in the vérité sense are all these little elements that can be put together within a set of genre expectations about three-act structure and McKee's idea of plusses and minuses and scenes turning in a way that a film audience can [appreciate].

PC: Doesn't this style go against your status as a Cinéma vérité director?

AR: I think it goes back to this notion of [the film] being a play within a play. When we're following Brian Stelter reporting on this video that WikiLeaks has released with the Reuters journalist, and then Bruce Headlam is trying to have Brian finish the story so he can pitch it to the A1 meeting. And then Bill Keller and [editor] Ian Fisher and Bruce are debating the accuracy of the video and whether WikiLeaks is an advocacy group or a journalistic group. All that material is being collected in a classic Cinéma vérité manner, meaning that I'm really trying to be, as much as possible, a fly on the wall. All of that gets presented in that scene. There are a couple of tangents into comparisons with the Pentagon Papers, but for the most part that's 10 minutes just on the reporting of one story and one day, which is not necessarily so common in most reality-influenced documentary films or television that we see.

There's this wonderful line where Bruce Headlam is asking Brian for his article and Brian is sort of equivocating, and then Bruce turns to the camera and says, "He's lying." To me, that's a classic vérité moment, it's true to the moment. That's not a sit down interview with someone like, "What was it like to write the story?" That's really capturing the scene in the newsroom unfolding.

PC: So it's organized reality?

AR: I view it almost like literary journalism, but with picture instead of words.

PC: You do interview Gay Talese, who's a legend in the genre.

AR: That, and the New Journalism that he was a pioneer of, is such an inspiration to me. And The Kingdom and the Power, specifically, I think is a breathtaking work.

PC: If the Times fails, what do you think is the ripple effect?

AR: I think the ripple effect would be devastating. "Consider the source" is the tagline that Participant Media [the film's co-distributor] came up with. I think it's really important because all the stories that are linked to [online]. I think there's a New York Times article tweeted every four seconds, stories on Facebook, stories that get aggregated or just referred to all across the net or get embedded in news reports that we watch on television. The New York Times is one of a handful of organizations that's doing original iron-core news reporting like [writer/author] Alex Jones refers to.

PC: I'm a journalist. It used to be, as media desk reporter Tim Arango says in the movie, that if you got to the New York Times you had a 30-year career. Where do people like me go now?

AR: You're at The City Paper?

PC: Actually, I write for ICON, it's a monthly A&E pub. But I also write for newspapers, magazines, Web sites. I'm just curious, where is that new stability?

AR: It sounds like you're already living a sort of challenging, professional life.

PC: I'll show you my checkbook.

AR: Unfortunately, it's probably more of the same.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Film Round-Up for June 2011

In this edition of the Film Round-Up, a bland documentary, a bold indie film, a family-style blockbuster, and one of the worst movies of the year.

Note to Emma Roberts: You can't go on like this. Invite Emma Stone to lunch and figure out how she does it. IM Carey Mulligan. Call you Aunt Julia and learn how she got into "Pretty Woman" territory.

Actually, I just saw "Larry Crowne." You may want to hold off on that last phone call.

As always, these reviews previously appeared in "ICON" and are reprinted with permission (thanks, Trina).


All In: The Poker Movie (Dir: Douglas Tirola). Tirola's documentary examines the factors behind poker's rise over the last decade-and-a-half: namely, the 1998 Matt Damon-Edward Norton drama Rounders, the advent of technology that actually made televised poker games absorbing, and the unlikely success story of Chris Moneymaker. An unsuccessful, inveterate gambler, the aptly named accountant, who could barely make ends meet, entered the 2003 World Series of Poker—and won the whole thing. His victory cemented poker's anybody-can-win reputation, and saved the sport/game/hobby from irrelevance. Tirola adroitly details poker's journey to pop culture prominence, so the movie is informative. Overall, it's as dry as toast. There's no central figure and Tirola has nothing to offer aside from facts and insight. We're subjected to another entry in documentary films' current obnoxious trend: opinion-spouting experts taking the place of narrative momentum. Despite its wide array of sources (poker players, writers, even Kenny Rogers), All In feels utilitarian, like the ambitious adaptation of an instruction manual or a pamphlet. ** [NR]

Septien (Dir: Michael Tully). Starring: Robert Longstreet, Onur Tukel, Michael Tully, Mark Darby Robinson, Rachel Korine, Jim Willingham, John Maringouin. Eighteen years ago, Cornelius Rawlings (Tully), a star high school athlete, vanished. Bearded and expressionless, Con has finally returned to the family farm, and to his two equally eccentric brothers—Amos (Tukel), whose stylish, gruesomely violent paintings speak of the family's secret pain, and Ezra (Longstreet), the effeminate "matriarch" obsessed with cleaning and order. The family must address its issues when Con's morally dubious coach (Robinson), now a plumber, fixes the farm's septic tank, prompting the unannounced arrival of a black-clad preacher (Maringouin). Utterly bizarre in spots (try to forget the men-on-man breast sucking scene), mysterious to the point of being opaque, but Tully unearths the humanity from the layers of oddness. Septien details the dark side of the stoic, long admired model of manhood: dangerous emotions have nowhere to go. Obviously, not for everyone's taste. As for the definition of "septien," Tully says it captures "a particular feeling of nostalgia," which for the sports-loving director/writer could refer to Rafael Septien, the scandal-plagued place kicker who played in the National Football League from 1977 to 1986. Available on-demand. *** [NR]

The Art of Getting By (Dir: Gavin Wiesen). Starring: Freddie Highmore, Emma Roberts, Michael Angarano, Rita Wilson, Sam Robards, Elizabeth Reaser, Blair Underwood. Fatalistic NYC prep school student and "Teflon slacker" George Zinavoy (Highmore) is content to doodle in his textbooks and drift through his senior year. Thanks to a selfless act, he becomes friends with a sexy, sophisticated classmate (Roberts). They're clearly meant for each other, but since he's a brooding, moody artiste—and the movie's running time desperately needs padding—they can't connect. The first of Wiesen's many mistakes is building a movie around an unlikable, unappealing caricature of a mopey teen. The writer/director makes no attempt to turn George into a human being or to use him to satirize his Upper West Side trust fund baby classmates. Everything is approached with solemn intentions, so we're asked to sympathize with attractive kids living in million dollar apartments, whose New Year's Eve parties take place in lavish nightclubs with lax alcohol policies. By saddling these mature kids with grown-up problems in adult situations, Wiesen manages to isolate everyone. Adults will find the results fetishistic, like a sweeter version of Kids. Teens will find the movie condescending unless they've attended Phillips Exeter Academy or have slept with 25-year-olds. The Art of Getting By isn't just divorced from reality; I'm pretty sure it's divorced from anything that's ever happened on Earth. * [PG-13]

Super 8 (Dir: J.J. Abrams). Starring: Joel Courtney, Kyle Chandler, Riley Griffiths, Elle Fanning, Ron Eldard, Noah Emmerich. For a group of friends in the sleepy town of Lillian, Ohio, the summer of 1979 means working on a no-budget zombie flick that features a middle-school beauty (Fanning) and loads of fake blood. A different, troubling excitement builds when a train derails in the middle of their shoot, prompting a lot of missing electronics and the visit of military personnel with vague intentions. Writer/director Abrams (the most recent Star Trek) again avoids blockbuster bombast, crafting a tension-filled good time that doubles as a tender account of growing up and letting go. Courtney is wonderful as the shy, motherless kid who finds his voice, with Chandler outstanding as the youngster's gruff and clearly overwhelmed deputy father. By concentrating on people—and timing his thrills with precision—Abrams has fashioned a family adventure on par with E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Fitting then that Steven Spielberg served as a producer. **** [PG-13]

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Big Review: Page One: Inside the New York Times

Excellent. David Carr steals the damn show.

(This review previously appeared in "ICON" and is reprinted with permission. Thanks, Trina.)


Instead of documentary filmmakers reporting on a subject or demonstrating their own style, an increasing number are content to feature a non-stop, yammering array of experts. Like being read a 3,500-word magazine article or attending a lecture where the speakers change every 30 seconds, this strategy does not contribute to first-rate filmmaking.

Andrew Rossi's Page One: Inside The New York Times, which covers the newspaper industry's tenuous status, isn't just about smart theories and grave predictions. It's about people's livelihoods. Even at the paper of record, no one is safe, a human component that elevates Rossi's film. We get much more than an absorbing think piece about uncertain times (or Times).

The director spent over a year following the goings-on at the Times' media desk, which was created in 2008 to cover the ever-changing media world—including the Times' own layoffs and financial problems. We meet Bruce Headlam, the no-nonsense editor. David Carr, the been-around-the-block star who is the paper's most passionate defender. Tech-savvy wunderkind Brian Stelter is a new breed of reporter and, possibly, an odd fit. He's astounded when reporters boast of writing stories that he saw on Twitter 12 hours ago. Executive editor Bill Keller, who recently announced that he's stepping down, steers the ship through choppy waters.

Though other sources elaborate on journalism's evolution, Rossi shows the real-life implications. There's a macabre aura to the media desk. Its staff exposes the limits of traditional mass media, which the Times represents. Stelter sums it up when writing about WikiLeaks' posting decrypted footage of a 2007 U.S. Army assault on Baghdad: "They just dropped it off on YouTube and waited for the world to find it." The Times' reputation as an indispensable news source is at risk. Online rebels like Julian Assange can provide information beyond the capabilities of a typical newsroom. Social media like Twitter and Facebook mean that anyone can share a story. And don't forget blogs, which is how Stelter, who ran TVNewser, reached national prominence before joining the Times at the preposterously young age of 21.

Reporter Tim Arango says landing at the Times once meant a 30-year career. Not anymore. We see veterans get laid off, including one whose interview is filmed against a sad background: her office belongings packed in bags. The battle between old world and new world exists at the Times. Carr, the raspy voiced, eloquently cantankerous media columnist, is a classic newspaperman and the film's central figure. During an announcement for a partnership between Vice Magazine and CNN, the magazine's founder, Shane Smith, declares that his special on Liberia trumps the Times' coverage. "Just a sec, time out," Carr interrupts. "Before you ever went there, we've had reporters there reporting on genocide after genocide. Just because you put on a f***ing safari helmet and looked at some poop doesn't give you the right to insult what we do." He quips that Stelter is actually a robot assembled in the newspaper's basement whose purpose is to destroy him.

A former cocaine addict and welfare recipient, Carr has the survival skills of a cockroach. He represents the value of the New York Times and other newspapers: People go into the world and report stories. This is illustrated by one of the pointless new media vs. old media conferences that Carr attends. In the film, the 54-year-old battles it out with Newser, a Web site that collects major headlines which serve as links to stories. He holds up a print out of the site's home page. Then, he reveals the home page featuring headlines actually reported by Newser staff—it's riddled with holes. The Internet may allow us to get news instantly and for anyone to share an opinion on any story. But someone has to pursue those stories. That requires old-fashioned attributes like digging for facts in unpleasant places and interviewing the reluctant.

The New York Times has one of the best collections of reporters in the world, which is the source of the paper's influence: It provides news for so many other outlets. How much longer will that last before Gawker, Apple, or Google find a shortcut? Will reporting then become an undesirable trade like auto repair or plumbing? Rossi doesn't rely on talking heads or provide easy answers. He shows where journalism is headed, where it's been, and profiles the survivors finding their place in the reshuffling. That uncertainty makes Page One a captivating and honest film. [R]