Craven: Change At The Movies

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(HOST)  During hot weather, filmmaker and commentator Jay Craven finds
himself indulging in the summer pleasures of swimming holes – and
air-conditioned movie theaters.

(CRAVEN) I recently saw this
summer’s movie juggernaut – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
and liked it. I found Part 1 cheerless, confusing, and a bit over the
top. But the new film takes on dramatic weight as Harry embraces his
own mortality, overcomes fear, deepens his capacity for love, and gains
new strength to fight off the demons who threaten him, his comrades, and
his beloved Hogwarts school.

I like the eternally loyal trio of
Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, and Harry – and can’t help but see how
these sturdy companions have become role models to young people. To say
nothing of how the Harry Potter books have prompted millions of kids to
read. So, hurray for the whole series that created and sustained a
cultural moment. This final installment marks the end of an era.

I saw another less commercial film that also charts the end of an era.
"Page One: Inside the New York Times" opens with a scene of the Times’
press room – as workmen move giant rolls of newsprint en route to
becoming tomorrow’s paper. I found myself moved by this sight of ink
and newsprint and panel trucks lined up to whisk the days news to corner
kiosks, grocery stores, and kids on bikes poised to speed down city and
suburban streets.

As important newspapers have folded – and
others have shut their foreign bureaus and slashed their staffs, I’ve
marveled at how the Times remains the most important media organization
in journalism. I rely on the paper’s detailed and up-to-date narrative
of incident, character, and place – and its thoughtful range of opinion –
that can simultaneously inform, stimulate, and aggravate me on any
given day.

"Page One" isn’t a great film – it suffers from a
haphazard structure and I wish it had dug more deeply into the
complexities of "getting the story." But the documentary shows how the
Times remains alive to the moment, even as it’s battled its way back
from the Jason Blair plagiarism scandal, its phony pre-war reports on
Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, the digital revolution, and a
faltering economy.

And I found myself again moved by the film’s
final images, where, just weeks after announcing painful staff
reductions, Times Executive Editor Bill Keller appears on an open
staircase in the midst of the paper’s vast newsroom.

A chill
went down my spine as Keller shared that morning’s announcement that the
paper had been awarded five Pulitzer Prizes – for subjects ranging from
the struggles in Afghanistan and Pakistan – to conflicts of interest
among military analysts who help TV networks cover the wars.

couldn’t help but be absorbed by this glimpse behind the scenes of a
great paper struggling in a changing world to do what it does best as an
essential but fragile practitioner for the democratic exercise of a
free press – that still has enough clout to make a difference.

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