Review by Marc Platt
If you are a "Journalism Junkie" like myself, you would walk into the Robert Redford, Cate Blanchett star-driven "Truth" journalism biopic with cautious optimism. Let's face it, we KNOW that 24-year all star anchor Dan Rather was driven from his anchor seat by his corporate news bosses.
Most of us probably had forgotten the events of that 2004 George W. Bush v John Kerry "Swift Boating" election and CBS News's debunked coverage of "Dubya's" BS National Guard Service. This story is a small part of the total big picture in hindsight, since "44's" administration presided over a near depression, a housing crisis and two wars that cost America 4,500+ young men and women in two ill-fated wars.
This fantastic movie focuses on a '60 Minutes' segment that ultimately ended the careers of several creditable journalists. Producer (and author of the book this is based on) Mary Mapes had the story correct about Bush's likely "AWOL" story during his 5-plus year national Guard service, but suffered humiliation when the "Process" of her story crumbled, bringing Dan Rather's storied career at CBS to an end after Bush's 2nd inauguration in January 2005.
This film is really a tale that focuses on the ever-increasing shift of "News v Corporate Money." That is the driving theme. The truth doesn't matter if it hurts the bottom line.
Redford, Blanchet, Topher Grace, Dennis Quaid and Elisabeth Moss are the good guys in this story. They are pitted against their own bosses and let me tell you Bruce Greenwood, who plays Andrew Heywood the News Division President is great as the corporate villain in this film.
Kudos to director James Vanderbilt, who also adapted Mary Mapes book into a journalistic thriller screenplay. We kind of know what is going to happen to these people, but we get caught up in the integrity and the drama of the way it played out.
More kudos to Doug Mankoff, Brett Ratner and their fellow producers for getting this film made.
I am a sucker for any film that speaks "Truth to Power" and that is exactly what is happening in this film. Blanchett and Redford are completely mesmerising and believable from the opening frames on.
I have always been a fan of Redford as an actor and as a director. What a pleasure to just see him JUST act in a film in 2015 after so many fantastic directorial projects.
Dear Parents of Mentally Challenged Possible Mass Murderers:
Did you know that this this ass wipe Oregon shooter was ANOTHER mentally-ill kid whose MOM HELPED his gun obsession along by being a gun nut herself? Just like Newtown.
Parents are a huge factor when it comes to enabling mentally ill kids to become assassins. If you have mentally unbalanced children DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT keep guns in your house. Do not train autistic kids how to shoot guns, etc...Use your heads.
A Grateful Nation
By Marc Platt
Let us not forget that Henry Ford revolutionized America in the 20th century with his assembly line and focus on his employees working as a team. Jeff Bezos has done something similar with his revolutionary tech giant Amazon, a company that caters hard core in the favor of its customers.
The recent (August 17, 2015) New York Times article is quite critical of the company and its internal practices that make it seem that they are extra hard on their employees who either don’t fall into the company line, or may be tentative in the fulfillment area that Bezos and his team obviously consider the lifeblood of their organization.
Amazon is valued at $250 billion for a reason. They are certainly the most over-achieving retail outlet in the world, experimenting with fulfillment by-way-of-drones among other things that carry the company forward.
Scott Galloway is a Clinical Professor of Marketing at NYU Stern School of Business where he teaches Brand Strategy and Digital Marketing to second-year MBA students and has said that Amazon “can’t survive as a pure play retailer…You may think that Amazon is the most innovative company in retail over the past 10 years and that might be true, but if you look at the last five years, it’s been Macy’s from a shareholders standpoint and Amazon has the lowest return of every major retailer in the last year,” Galloway said.
It is apparent that Jeff Bezos is willing to spend big dollars in the fulfillment area in hopes that Amazon is the last man standing. Galloway thinks the other retailers will have to follow Amazon’s lead with this long-term strategy: “A multi-billion dollar investment at last mile of incredible fulfillment infrastructure, hoping that other retailers have to follow them and run out of oxygen because no other outlet has access to the same cheap capital.”
Galloway has also noted that Amazon has an Achilles heel with their shipping costs having exploded nearly 40%-per-year “What they took in for shipping was nearly $3 billion, but they spent nearly $7 billion on transportation costs,” he said. “This is not sustainable.”
Despite Galloway’s interpretation, Amazon is still raking in big bucks. They are “Social Capitalists,” redistributing their profits taking a loss in one area for the overall good of the operation. Amazon does everything humanly possible to keep the customer satisfied, possible at the expense of their over-worked employees.
The New York Times article brought up many troubling “Inside Amazon” issues, but those will likely take a back seat to the public, who has come to expect this top-rate customer service model that will likely force a sea change among the other companies who want to compete.
Commentary By Marc Platt
"Amy" is an extremely well-done documentary about an extraordinarily talented young woman whose life was ripped apart by her addiction to drugs, alcohol and love. Amy Winehouse had a very short life that was marred by control issues with lovers and family members, as well as the demands of an entertainment industry that insists on tearing its stars down after building them up. Amy Winehouse was more than just a singer, she was a unique pop and jazz singer. She was one of the great ones as Tony Bennett so eloquently stated in this movie.
The film's director Asif Kapadia had access to Amy Winehouse's family and collaborators, allowing us to take a fascinating peek into her childhood and dysfunctional upbringing. Her parents divorce was an event that would haunt Winehouse throughout her lifetime and that is very evident in this documentary.
Kapadia borrowed the same formulaic techniques that made VH1 so popular with their 'Behind The Music' TV series so many years back. We see Amy's good, bad and ugly sides throughout the film. We KNOW how her story will end, but we are riveted to the train wreck because of the crafty way Kapadia tells the story, using her own words, her brilliant lyrics and the words of her friends, family and professional associates in the unfolding drama.
The music sounds refreshingly honest in its development and the scene of her singing her monumental "Back to Black" track in the studio is stunning. The only reason that footage exists is because Matt Rogers happened to be filming his friends The Dap Kings who were there in the studio at the time. The Dap Kings would be instrumental in the sound of Winehouse's "Back to Black" CD. Rogers happened to be there for the vocal recording and captured it on film. This remarkable film footage as the absolute highlight of this movie.
As a music nerd, I would have appreciated more explanation about her creative process with producer and co-writer Mark Ronson and the Brooklyn-based Dap-Kings band who helped them actually create the sound of "Rehab" and other songs that would blow the doors off the music world and make Amy Winehouse a virtual prisoner of her own fame. That is the part of the story Asif Kapadia decided not to explore in this film. There is plenty of coverage of other collaborators in the context of "The Story." The minimal references of The Dap Kings and Mark Ronson's instrumental contributions as major collaborators is missing from this documentary. They were integral players in catapulting Amy Winehouse from United Kingdom rising star-to-the-worldwide sensation she became.
Regardless, I loved the film and admire the way Kapadia used grainy film of Winehouse's own performances and her haunting hand-written lyrics on the screen to tell the story of her young life and eventual death due to substance abuse.
This is a story that has been played over and over again with youthful and talented artists like Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain all of whom were also 27-years-old when they met their demises.
Love & Mercy
By Marc Platt
I have to admit, I usually do NOT like these biopics. I usually fear that the acting will be a caricature of the rock stars they are portraying.
That did not happen here at all. Paul Dano was more than believable as an actor playing the YOUNGER 1960s version of Brian Wilson and John Cusack gives one of his very best performances (along with 'Hi Fidelity') as the 1980s older Brian. Both actors capture the simplicity Brian comes off as a person, yet the complexity he suffered because of the emotional abuse heaped on him by his father and Mike Love.
Elizabeth Banks gives her second career-defining performance (along with 'Seabiscuit') as Melinda Ledbetter, who would later become Brian's 2nd wife.
As a songwriter, musician, recent author and life-long Beach Boys fan, I was skeptical going in, but the work my old pal Darian Sahanaja did as a music consultant on this film is greatly admired by me and those in the know. He helped mold Paul Dano as a credible musician, utilizing Sahanaja's 20 years in the Brian Wilson camp to the max.
Great work by all the musicians (not actors) who appeared as The Wrecking crew, including another dear friend Willie Aron.and another stalwart L.A. musician Rob Laufer also appear.
This is an Oscar-worthy movie in many categories and the story is compelling and accurate. For nerds like me, I would have liked to see Brian's collaborators like Tony Asher and Van Dyke Parks given a little more credit and reverence, but that is nitpicking.
Great movie! Go see it even if your are NOT a Beach Boys fan.
by Bill Pohlad
Written by Oren Moverman & Michael Lerner
Starring John Cusack, Paul
Dano & Elizabeth Banks