Charming cast anchors ‘Morning Glory’

As every good morning news show producer knows, broadcast television is one of the most stressful but rewarding jobs, which is precisely why “Morning Glory” is so fun to watch.

For Becky Fuller (Rachel McAdams), getting hired as an executive producer to work with her favorite anchor Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford) is a dream come true. But as the young producer soon learns, to boost the ratings of the fictional network IBS morning show “Daybreak,” Fuller must not only arrange attention-catching segments but also tame some of the most egotistical personalities in television: anchors Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton) and Pomeroy.

McAdams does a good job playing a frazzled, enthusiastic workaholic who finds herself always glancing at the news competition from the other major broadcasting networks in her free time, rambling and using hand gestures as a form of communication. She delivers a strong performance by becoming the thread that ties all the characters’ narratives together.

Her perky personality perfectly compliments Ford’s stubborn and cranky demeanor as the washed-up news reporter and anchor that was fired from his previous job on an evening show and demoted to a morning show host. In one touching scene, the two banter back and forth as Ford shares secrets that shaped his personality.

Aline Brosh McKenna’s screenplay is similar to her previous work, such as “The Devil Wears Prada.” If McAdams plays the young protagonist that pulls herself up by her own bootstraps, Keaton and Ford share the role of the “devil dressed in Prada.” These powerful personalities wearing  dress shirts and business suits refuse to follow McAdams’ orders, and they make her life a living hell. Keaton and Ford’s bickering is amusing, as each anchor tries to get in the last word before closing the show.

However, McKenna’s trite plotline does not make “Morning Glory” any less enjoyable to watch. Perhaps Ford does not compare to Meryl Streep’s performance in “The Devil Wears Prada,” but he does deliver an honorable scowl and reads the prompter while ardently chewing out fluffy story ideas in favor of maintaining his lost pride and dignity.

Roger Michell also does a decent job as the film’s director, and cinematic elements of the film add to the story. In one such sequence in which everyone is bombarding McAdams’ character with questions, there is a real sense of the pressures on an executive producer. The shooting of the scene with subjective camera angles puts viewers at the center of McAdams’ position of authority as co-workers raise an endless stream of issues.

“Morning Glory” also provides a beautiful panoramic view of New York City. The busy city environment adds another dimension to the film and reflects the competitive nature of the television industry.

While “Morning Glory” may be an enjoyable comedy about making it as a producer in the television industry, the film also holds a few truths that aspiring media-makers can live by: the industry is hard — McAdams’ character is found frequently banging her head against the wall— but in the end, perseverance pays off.

“Morning Glory” was written by Aline Brosh McKenna and directed by Roger Michell.

To see this review featured in The Ithacan, click here.

 

Revisiting the magic: A look at Potter madness at midnight

I haven’t visited Hogwarts, Platform 9 and 3/4 or the world of witches and wizards in over three years — the last time being when I read the book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows shortly after it was released. Yet 24 hours ago, I was at Regal Cinema, waiting in line with true Harry Potter fans. Awaiting for the doors to open and the cl0cks to strike midnight was magical unto itself.

Members of the Harry Potter Alliance at Ithaca College pose for a picture as they await in line for the midnight screening of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows."

It was exciting to see that everyone had made a trip to Diagon Alley, and picked up their wands from Ollivanders before the gathering — which can been likened to when masses gathered for the Quidditch World Cup. It was amusing to see all the Weasleys roaming around the movie theater, each with their lumpy mismatched sweaters, which had to have been hand-knit by Molly Weasley and complete with giant initials of their names. Even more entertaining were a pair of Weasley twins (two girls sporting flaming red wigs and wizarding cloaks dressed as Fred and George, or rather “Gred” and “Forge”; one of them with a bandage on her ear) — their light-hearted jokes and banter with each other in the hallways would have cost them detentions with Dolores Umbridge, especially for disturbing the peace at the movie theater.

Yet as much as we, Muggles, may wish that we were witches and wizards — and that they simply ‘forgot’ to send us an owl with an acceptance letter to Hogwarts when we turned 11 years old, we had the pleasure to pick up a handful of Floo powder and transport into the wizarding world by watching the first installment of director David Yate’s film Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and seeing author J.K. Rowling’s vision on the silver screen.

The movie, which deals with the final battle between He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named (Ralph Finnes) and “the boy who lived” (Daniel Radcliffe), was dark and grim, but a good number of “holy” ear jokes and sexual frustration sets a satisfying balance and tone amidst a wizarding war.  When needed, Weasley brothers are a reliable source of comic relief — whether it is Fred (James Phelps) and George (Oliver Phelps) with their antics, or Ron (Rupert Grint) with his comments. Yates does an excellent job in splicing everything together, so that the movie experience does not feel like a bunch of dementors just got out of the Azkaban prison.

Yet the film paints the full, gritty context for war, showcasing sacrifice and valor. In the first sequence, as one is introduced to Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), one also realizes that she must make her parents forget that she has ever existed in order to protect them. In another scene, Ron is lounging by the radio, anxiously listening to hear if any of his family’s names are called. Harry can be seen playing with a tw0-way mirror from his godfather — persistently believing that Sirius Black is alive behind the veil. And to think — the trio are just kids, skipping school to go on a wild horcrux hunt — puts the whole senario into context.

Despite the grave situation, the heart of the books and movies is friendship. Yet the Harry-Ron-Hermione trio is off-center. Perhaps actor Tom Felton, who plays wizard and death eater Draco Malfoy, describes it best in an interview with MTV: “This whole perfect friendship thing kind of goes out the window a bit.”

However, loyalties — however shaken that the might be — do play a big part in the battle of good versus evil. As for screeplay writer Steve Kloves’s and director Yate’s loyalties to Potter fans, the most disappointing part of the movie is when the movie stops with a lack of end credits.

Just like fans would wait in bookstores with excitement, speeding through Rowling’s words when the book came out, fans will wait excitedly for July 15, 2011 — for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 — and to return to Hogwarts, Platform 9 and 3/4 and the wizarding world.

Why should we care about celebrities?

When Lindsay Lohan was sentenced to spend 90 days in jail this summer, it coincided with news of the BP oil leakage stopping as well as the decision for the appointment of Buffalo’s new police commissioner.

 

Qina Liu

Her sobs in the courtroom — claiming, “It wasn’t a vacation” — filled local half-hour news segments on WGRZ Channel 2 On Your Side and WIVB Channel 4. Yet while I understand why news of Lohan’s arrest may be covered on TMZ, I do not understand why news networks were also covering her episodes with authority — especially since her arrest does not affect anyone from Buffalo, N.Y.

However, information and interest in Lohan’s arrest should not be surprising. As Jill Neimark of Psychology Today wrote in a May 1, 1995 article, “Whether it’s a hero-turned-murderer or a rock star committing suicide, the media brings us together in a global society.” She argues that we put celebrities such as Lohan in the limelight so that we can collectively criticize them — we put them down to feel better about ourselves.

“Though fractured into bits of gossip, celebrities, of course, still bring us real meaning,” Neimark writes. Neimark claims that Paris Hilton’s reality television show, “The Simple Life,” may simply give our lives meaning, and that Lohan’s escapades serve their purpose as entertainment.

While Neimark’s comments may validate why Lohan appears in on local news channels — and why people are interested in watching — using bad celebrity press is demeaning, especially when there is real news to be told. Don’t people deserve to know about the BP oil disaster in the Gulf or about the cholera outbreak in Haiti? Don’t people deserve to learn about real news? Why is our culture so focused on celebrity and not politics or government? Don’t people understand that politics matter — that legislation and opinion affect what one can and cannot do?

Amy Henderson, a historian in the Smithsonian Institution, wrote that people used to value “military heroes” and “eminent statesmen.” People used to look up to people who actually mattered — and perhaps talked about and covered things that actually mattered too. While I am not saying that Lohan does not matter, she certainly matters a whole lot less next to the BP oil spill disaster.

Although Lohan’s claim-to-fame in The Parent Trap and Mean Girls make her a modern celebrity, and she may have been good at what she does, it is overshadowed by the coverage of the press. Her flops of recent movies, such as I Know Who Killed Me, and her stints in jail do not help her image either. In fact, her DWI arrests and her crying incident make her more laughable than credible.

But it is not Lohan’s fault. Perhaps her childhood stardom put her on the media radar in the first place. Still, as Henderson describes, the modern celebrity is “celebrated not for achievement, but simply for ‘well-knowness.’” This explains how a character like “Snooki” has ever entered American households, and why people return to the Jersey Shore. But don’t you see something wrong with that picture?

Should Lindsay Lohan be more famous — or infamous — than the crooks on Wall Street or than those responsible for the oil disaster in the Gulf?

It saddens me that ten years after the U.S. war with Afghanistan began, nobody can name how many soldiers died for our nation in either Iraq or Afghanistan. At the same time, however, everyone knows that Jon and Kate had eight kids, and that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are the Ken and Barbie of the celebrity generation. Everyone knows about Lohan’s misadventures in and out of jail and rehab, but we do not know offhand that according to the Iraq Coalition Casualty count, there were 4,427 and counting fatalities in Iraq and 1,380 similar cases in Afghanistan.

However, I am not here to underscore the importance of celebrity culture and its ability to make a societal impact. I applaud Sean Penn — and not just his ability as an actor — for camping in Haiti and trying to help a good cause. I was happy to see him report to Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! about the conditions in Haiti this summer, and I am pleased that he corresponded with The New York Times about what it was like on the island after Hurricane Tomas swept the country. I am glad that Lady Gaga voiced her opinion about the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. At the same time, I am just asking society to be more mindful of important political and social issues.   

While I will be the first to admit that I found Lohan’s breakdown laughable, I do not understand why mainstream media will highlight Lohan, especially when more time and energy could be devoted to disasters such as the Indonesia tsunami which killed at least 113 people and left 502 missing, or solving the problems exposed in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The BP oil spill, called the “worst in U.S. history” by organizations such as The Los Angeles Times, caused a lasting ecological effect and will affect the area for years. Travis Walter Donovan of the Huffington Post compiled a list of seven long-term effects of the gulf oil spill, which is continuing to affect factors such as tourism and the seafood industry and the economy along the Gulf coast. As for talk of Lohan’s jail time — it will only last until the next time Kanye West interrupts Taylor Swift at the VMA awards or until Janet Jackson flashes her cleavage at the Superbowl.

But do both events really merit the same amount of back-to-back coverage? After all, media reflects a society, and if all we care about is which celebrities are doing drugs, sex and booze, what does that say about us as a culture?

Lohan, although a celebrity, does not deserve to fill the shoes of the 24-hour news cycles of the mainstream media. After all, if issues in the press were not overshadowed by Lindsay’s jail time, perhaps these issues will last longer than 24 hours.

Qina Liu is an Ithaca College journalism major from Buffalo, N.Y.

James Carville tells public to get out and vote

James Carville gives a speech at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 1 at Ithaca College. Photograph taken by Qina Liu.

With bank bailouts, wars and health care on everyone’s mind, political consultant James Carville said people cannot complain about the current political climate without participating in the polls.

Carville, who is a best-selling author and CNN producer, talk-show host and contributor, presented his points at 7:30 p.m. yesterday on the eve of election night in Emerson Suites at Ithaca College. With his background as an influential political pundit, Carville said despite corrupt dealings within government, he values his work in politics, and that the American public should care too.

“I’m 66 years old, and after everything I’ve done, I’m proud to have worked in politics,” Carville said. “Because you can say all you want about politics and it may be true — they may be crooks, they may just say things to get elected, they may run negative ads, they may, in fact, market to interest groups — to some extent, but one thing you can’t say is what they do is unimportant.”

He stressed the importance of involvement, saying that people will not have control over government decisions without first controlling the ballot.

“The ability to communicate is the ability to influence,” he said. “The ability to influence is the ability to have an impact on the direction of the country.”

By impacting the direction of one’s country, one affects whether a country goes to war. One decides whether one will pay for a banking system that ruins the economy. By engaging in politics, he said the American people are making a choice.

“If you want to make the wars that you don’t have any say by people that you don’t know, that is your choice. But I don’t think that that’s the choice that you want to make,” Carville said.

Carville preaches that students should play an active voice in politics.

“I tell my students that there are two ways you can go through life: you can make rain or you can get rained on,” he said. “And I think it’s just an unthrilling way to go through life with an umbrella on your head.”

While the founder of the independent nonprofit polling organization Democracy Corps admitted that the Democrats may be the first to lose the elections tonight, the New Orleans, La., resident said votes are needed to stabilize the left-winged agenda, or to even support the right-winged platform.

“If you’re a Democrat, there’s a hurricane coming tomorrow, and the best you can hope for is somehow it decreases its intensity to a category four — which is bad, but at least you will still have some construction left standing,” Carville said.

Ultimately, Carville leaves the fate of the polls in to the people’s hands.

“Don’t get rained on,” he said. “Make your rain. Be involved. If you don’t like the course, change the course. It’s up to you.”