Journalists. Intrepid crusaders for truth and justice, or cynical slingers of sensationalism and the now-dreaded ‘fake news’? It might be some combination of the two (except of course for self-appointed film critics, whose dedication and value are without question), but the world of journalism has always been of interest to filmmakers, with its capacity for high stakes, morality plays and occasionally, a quickly-escalating news team brawl. All through September into early October, the Light House Cinema will be screening an extensive selection of great films about journalists, news anchors, newspaper men and more in the media, with classics both cult and canonised from some of the biggest names in Western filmmaking. Exploring journalism in all its forms, ‘Hacks’ season is here and we have the full schedule for you to peruse.
Almost Famous – Sat Sep 2, 9.30pm
Hacks season will be kicking off in style this evening with a Karaoke Party screening of Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous. The Smithfield cinema will have themed cocktails on the night to get the viewing audience in the mood to singalong to the sounds of the 70s, as a karaoke session will follow the film. Based on Crowe’s own experiences touring with rock bands, the film follows young Rolling Stone writer William Miller as he accompanies the band Stillwater on tour, trying to get his first story published.
All the President’s Men – Wed Sep 6, 3pm & 8.30pm/Sat Sep 9, 10.30pm
Depicting what has been called “maybe the single greatest reporting effort of all time”, All the President’s Men tackles what was once the biggest scandal in American politics, back before that changed several times a week. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman play the Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, as their investigation of a botched burglary of the Democratic Party Headquarters at the Watergate apartment complex in 1972 and their contact Deep Throat lead them all the way to Nixon in the White House.
Network – Fri 8 Sep, 10.30pm/Mon 11 Sep, 3pm & 8.30pm
At times like these, where we’re all mad as hell and not gonna take it any more, Network resonates harder than ever. Sidney Lumet’s film about media manipulation, exploitation for ratings and ruthless corruption of ideals remains one of the best American satires of all time. When news anchor Howard Beale’s on-air breakdown proves to be a ratings smash, the head of the network’s programming department wants to turn it into their next hit show, all while stringing along Beale’s friend and news department president, Max. Network not only has a fantastic director at the helm, but an exceptional script by Paddy Chayefsky and stand out performances from Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Peter Finch, Robert Duvall, Ned Beatty and Beatrice Straight, who deservedly won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for a performance that clocks in at just over five minutes long.
The Killing Fields – Sat 9 Sep, 3pm/Tue 19 Sep, 8.30pm
Set in the brutal Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, The Killing Fields is centred around two journalists, American Sydney Schanberg (Sam Waterston) and Cambodian Dith Pran (Haing S. Ngor), trapped in the country during Pol Pot’s brutal “Year Zero”, in which two million “undesirable” citizens were killed. Haing S. Ngor served three terms in Cambodian prison camps in real life before arriving in America, and won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in his first acting role.
Citizen Kane – Sun 10 Sep, 2pm/Thurs 14 Sep, 3pm & 8.30pm
You may have heard of Citizen Kane. The first film directed by Orson Welles, the topper of so many “greatest of all time” lists, the movie that could be shown almost entirely in clips from The Simpsons (there was no cane in Citizen Kane though). A reporter pours over the life of newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane, based on real-life magnate William Randolph Hearst, as he tries to uncover the meaning of Kane’s dying word: “Rosebud”.
The Social Network – Fri 15 Sep, 10.30pm/Sat 16 Sep, 3pm
Arguably the first great film with new media as part of its subject matter. David Fincher directs an Aaron Sorkin script that details the sordid fall outs and bitter lawsuits that ensue from the founding of Facebook, because as the poster memorably told us, “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies”. Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg launched him out of “Not Michael Cera” territory and into being a respected actor in his own right, and with Zuckerberg possibly gearing up for a presidential campaign for 2020, maybe we’ll end up with a sequel a few years down the line? The Saturday screening of the film will be followed by a panel discussion on the impact of social media platforms on modern day journalism.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (35mm) – Mon 18 Sep, 8.30pm/Fri 29 Sep, 10.30pm
Back when Johnny Depp being ‘weird’ on screen was a bit more multi-layered and less disingenuous and irritating, he played Raoul Duke, alongside Benicio Del Toro as his attorney, “Dr. Gonzo” as they travel through bat country, into Las Vegas, loaded up with almost every narcotic known to man. Terry Gilliam brings the writing of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson to life, drug flashbacks, lizard people and all.
In Cold Blood – Sat 23 Sep, 10.30pm
In Cold Blood is based on the book of the same name by Truman Capote, his literary peak, the writing process of which was turned into its own film decades later in Bennett Miller and Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s Capote. The film follows two criminals whose botched robbery leads to them brutally murdering a rural family. They attempt to hide from the police, only to come to terms with their own mortality and the consequences of the terrible violence that they committed. In Cold Blood is a look at American crime through the eyes of one of the great American writers.
Good Night, and Good Luck – Sun 24 Sep, 3pm/Fri 6 Oct, 10.30pm
Initial audiences who watched Good Night, and Good Luck remarked that the actor who played rabid anti-communist Joseph McCarthy was way over the top, hysterical and unbelievable. Every scene featuring McCarthy was archive footage of the man himself. That might give an idea of the political climate shown in George Clooney’s film, about the era of rampant Red Scares and attacks to journalists that brings McCarthy into conflict with the reporter Edward R. Murrow, who along with his team defies pressure from sponsors and the higher ups to examine the truth behind the scaremongering.
The Devil Wears Prada – Wed 27 Sep, 8.30pm
In much the same way that Citizen Kane‘s lead was a thinly-veiled version of media tyrant William Randolph Hearst, Meryl Streep’s formidable Miranda Priestly serves as a stand-in for Vogue editor Anne Wintour in this acidic take on the fashion industry. Featuring Anne Hathaway as an aspiring journalist struggling to survive as Priestly’s junior assistant at her prestigious fashion magazine, The Devil Wears Prada is an acidic and highly quotable comedy with a lot of brains, great clothes and capable supporting performances from the likes of Emily Blunt and Stanley Tucci.
Zodiac (35mm) – Sat 30 Sep, 10.30pm/Wed 4 Oct, 8.30pm
Another David Fincher film, Zodiac has a similar structure to a crime thriller, as a dedicated team find themselves falling in too deep as they try to find the identity of the infamous Zodiac killer. Only this isn’t detectives hunting down the serial killer in question, but the reporters at the San Francisco Chronicle. A talented cast led by Jake Gyllenhall, Robert Downey Jr and Mark Ruffalo shows the cracks that can split reporters when they chase down a story as grim, with as many unanswered questions, as the Zodiac killings.
Anchorman – Sat 7 Oct, 10.30pm
Ending on a bit of a lighter note, the Light House will be showing the beloved comedy Anchorman as part of a “Sex Panther Moustache Party”. Presumably hosting a Pants Party in public is a bit of a no no. Ron Burgundy is San Diego’s top rated newsman in the very casually sexist sphere of broadcasting of the 1970s, but his world changes dramatically when Veronica Corningstone is hired to be the station’s newest anchor. Get ready to enter a glass cage of emotion and quote along with one of the most popular movies of the 2000s.