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Broadcast News
The Criterion Collection
(Blu-ray)

review by Zach B.

 

 

MPAA Rating: R

Running Time: 132 Minutes

Starring: William Hurt, Albert Brooks, Holly Hunter

Written and Directed by: James L. Brooks

 

 

Studio: Criterion

Retail Price: $39.95

Features: Audio Commentary with Writer/Director James L. Brooks and Editor Richard Marks, Alternate Ending and Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Brooks and Marks, James L. Brooks — A Singular Voice, Susan Zirinsky Interview, Featurette, On-Set Footage, Theatrical Trailer

Specs: 1.85:1 Widescreen 1080p High Definition, English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Subtitles, Chapters (35 Chapters)

Released: January 25th, 2011

 

 


"Broadcast News" is presented in a 1080p High Definition transfer, keeping its original 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio. This brand new transfer was supervised by James L. Brooks and editor Richard Marks, and is easily the best the film has looked on home video. While the print is quite clean, there are a few instances of dirt pieces and blemishes — none of which are distracting. I noticed a little bit of shimmering in some scenes too. Otherwise, there's a lot to love here: there is fine amount of film grain, which keeps the movie a warm look. Detail is phenomenal (you can see a tremendous amount in the background on the sets), color saturation is rich and balanced, black levels are great and fleshtones are accurate. There's a good vibrancy to this transfer, and the images certainly leap out. It's not perfect, but nobody should be disappointed with this transfer in the least bit. 

 


"Broadcast News" features an English 2.0 track, presented in DTS-HD Master Audio. This is a straightforward track that has very high fidelity, is crystal clear and has a certain depth to it despite being limited to the front channels. The film is heavy on talk, so thankfully, all of the dialogue comes in perfectly. There are some sound effects that give the movie a bit of a pop (the close calls and wooshes in Joan Cusack's mad rush in the newsroom comes to mind), and Bill Conti's catchy, zippy scores sounds quite nice too. This film's soundtrack was cleaned up, and as a result, I did not detect any hisses, pops or cackling. This is a fitting mix, and solid all around.

English subtitles are included.

 


Many, many yars ago, Fox released a bare bones version of "Broadcast News" on DVD. This is a movie that deserves the special edition treatment, and I couldn't be more pleased that it is now part of The Criterion Collection. 

First up is an Audio Commentary with Producer/Writer/Director James L. Brooks and Editor Richard Marks. Brooks dominates this track, as Marks chimes in here and there or when he's prompted by Brooks. Brooks hasn't seen the film in years, and he's very enthusiastic and proud of his work here (and rightfully so). Brooks touches on everything: working with the actors, the last minute casting of Holly Hunter, inspiration he took from a real newsroom he visited, the dynamics of the characters, the editing, the visuals, sets, research and so much more. Brooks raves about his actors, and is very impressed by them to this day — and he calls the film the most satisfying creative experience he ever had. This is a very well-rounded and even track that's an essential listen if you're a fan of the movie.

A real treasure is the Alternate Ending and Deleted Scenes, with Optional Commentary by Brooks and Marks. The alternate ending is preceeded by an audio intro, where Brooks goes on about the background of this never-before-seen footage. Brooks himself has a remarkable story which I dare not to ruin here about what happened the day the ending was shot. Making it more fun is that Brooks hasn't seen the ending in over 20 years, so you're essentially watching it live with him. It makes for a good watch, and was clearly not the right ending for the movie. But as Brooks explains, he struggled in how to close the film.

There are about 20 minutes of deleted scenes, and there's some really fascinating material here. Roughly half of the scenes involve a source that Tom meets, which Brooks explains that he cut for timing purposes and how it made Tom into something else. Some other scenes expand on what's in the final film, and others are enjoyably character moments. Certainly worth watching, with Brooks's comments and without.

Made specifically for this release is a new short documentary about the filmmaker, entitled James L. Brooks — A Singular Voice. Running 36 minutes, it is divided into three parts: it covers Brooks' television work, his most notable films ("Terms of Enderarment," "Broadcast News" and "As Good As It Gets") and the talents he's helped mentor over the years. It can be a little dry at times, but it is quite insightful and gives a great glimpse at the common themes and character types found in his work. Critic Ken Tucker gets the most speaking time, and gives a good analysis of common threads in a typical Brooks project. Julie Kavner (of "Simpsons" fame and "Rhoda") talks about her work on Brooks's programs, working with him and how a "Simpsons" episode (where Homer steals cable) still holds up. Marilu Henner talks about a memorable "Taxi" episode, composer Hans Zimmer talks about Brooks's film work and working with him and ICM honco Jeffrey Berg speaks of the formation of Gracie Films. We also hear from Al Jean ("Simpsons" showrunner) and how Brooks easily found a heartwarming conclusion to a "Simpsons" episode, and Wes Anderson who speaks of his experiences in taking "Bottle Rocket" from a short to a feature. This is a concise piece, and really captures the essence of an extraordinary talent.

A real treat is the Susan Zirinsky Interview. Zirinsky is a veteran CBS news producer, and was partially the inspiration for Holly Hunter's character in the film (all that crying? It came from her). Zirinsky is a hoot here: she's candid, fiercly intelligent and very interesting. Zirinsky played a major part in the film's production. Brooks interviewed her extensively as part of his research, and Zirinsky speaks about their inital meeting and what Brooks asked her about. She has great anecdotes from the set too, namely how she coached the actors and how she personally researched and wrote all the news that's read in the movie — which required a lot more thought than some might realize. Zirinsky is a real firecracker, and it's clear that news is not only her life, but something she's immensley passionate about. This is 17 minutes that is well worth your time.

A 8 minute EPK Featurette is included. It is studio fluff, but still offers some good background on the movie. There's also 20 minutes worth of additional On-Set Footage, which is B-roll and extended interviews from the EPK. It's worth watching too, as James L. Brooks and the actors offer some fun and worthy comments. The movie's original Theatrical Trailer is included too.

Finally, inside the package is a lovely booklet, featuring a fantastic essay by film critic Carrie Rickey. As with every Criterion release, it is a must read. 

 


"Broadcast News" is James L. Brooks operating at the peak of his powers, and is quintessentially his most accomplished film and seemingly sums up Brooks as a writer and filmmaker. I recently saw his latest film, "How Do You Know," and was very disappointed — it was hard to believe that the film had James L. Brooks's name on it. 

Criterion has delivered an outstanding Blu-ray edition for Brooks's second directorial outing. The film not only looks and sounds excellent, but offers a trove of well-produced supplements — the documentary pieces, vintage material and deleted footage are priceless. This is a must have for any library.