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'Broadcast News': Great To Be Oscar Nominated

Albert Brooks, Holly Hunter, William Hurt in Broadcast News

Next in line at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' “Great To Be Nominated” series is James L. Brooks' 1987 best picture nominee Broadcast News, which will screen on Monday, July 16, at 7:30 p.m. at the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. Co-producer Penney Finkelman Cox, actor Christian Clemenson, costume designer Molly Maginnis, and music editor Robert Badami will take part in a panel discussion following the screening.

Unlike most Hollywood fare, Brooks' films as a director – Terms of Endearment, Broadcast News, As Good as It Gets, Spanglish (I haven't seen I'll Do Anything) – are geared for adults. Those adults, however, must be not only willing but downright eager to swallow every cliché in the book, accept self-conscious banter as “witty dialogue,” and swim in an ocean of sentiment that feels as sticky as the brain of William Hurt's Broadcast News television reporter. (Admittedly, compared to the current crop of “news” personalities plaguing U.S. TV screens, Hurt's dishonest dolt looks like a model of intelligence and integrity.)

U.S. critics and audiences clearly don't have a problem with Brooks' approach to storytelling, as the first three of the aforementioned five films have gone on to earn large sums at the box office and to win numerous accolades.

Broadcast News, the story of a network news producer (Holly Hunter) who must decide between a tall but vapid reporter (Hurt) and a not-so-tall but ethical reporter (Albert Brooks), has its moments, but the film ultimately fails to deliver partly because Brooks must pander to his (sitcom) audience, and partly because I found it impossible to believe that anyone — let alone an intelligent woman like Hunter's producer – could be interested in someone like William Hurt's reporter, especially considering that Hurt is hardly the warmest or most charismatic of actors. (That's why it was such a pleasant surprise when I saw his mesmerizing psycho turn in A History of Violence a couple of years ago.)

Hunter, however, does well as the feisty producer, while Brooks is excellent as the guy who gets the right stories but who can't get the right girl. Jack Nicholson appears in a brief role that should have been left on the cutting-room floor.

Broadcast News received a total of seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture (James L. Brooks, producer), Actor in a Leading Role (William Hurt), Actor in a Supporting Role (Albert Brooks), Actress in a Leading Role (Holly Hunter), Cinematography (Michael Ballhaus), Film Editing (Richard Marks) and Writing - Screenplay written directly for the screen (James L. Brooks). (For the record, the winner that year was Bernardo Bertolucci's sumptuous but vapid The Last Emperor.)

Bryan Gordon's Oscar-winning live action short Ray's Male Heterosexual Dance Hall, about an unemployed man who must dance the dance in order to make the right business connections, and Bill Plympton's Academy Award-nominated animated short Your Face, about a man whose face undergoes bizarre transformations while he sings, will be screened prior to the feature.

Passes for the remaining screenings in part four of “Great To Be Nominated” are $30 for the general public and $25 for Academy members and students with a valid ID. A $5 discount is available for those who wish to renew their passes from parts one, two or three of the series. Individual tickets are $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students with a valid ID. Passes and tickets may be purchased by mail, in person at the Academy during regular business hours or, depending on availability, on the night of the screening when the doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets also may be purchased online at www.oscars.org/events. There are no minimum order requirements and no transaction or processing fees. Tickets may be purchased online until noon PST on the day of the event.

Curtain time for all features is 7:30 p.m., and pre-show elements will begin at 7 p.m. The Academy is located at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. For more information, call (310) 247-3600.

Photo: © A.M.P.A.S.


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