This is an ever-evolving story of a girl writer and her two greatest loves, the movies and travel. As she hikes the trenches of Hollywood, you're brought along for the ride.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Ugliness And Questions Of Morality Arise in 'Nightcrawler'

When I was in journalism school, we talked about journalistic integrity and we read books by Katherine Graham  and Walter Cronkite .  I was required to take classes like Communications Law and study Supreme Court cases related to journalism.  Things like copyright infringement and invasion of privacy.

This was when the internet was still in its infancy.  E-mail was a new concept and "going online" was more a novelty than a necessity.  Although he didn't live to see the rise and proliferation of social media, Walter Cronkite, anchorman of CBS News and the grandfather titan of broadcast journalism, foresaw where the internet might lead.  In response, he expressed concern that people would be less likely to tune into hard news to keep up with current events.  More likely, he predicted, news and entertainment would morph into one entity-- something he coined "infotainment."

It's happened.  And it's getting worse.  The intense hunger for celebrity gossip and entertainment content have given rise to reality shows and made paparazzi even more cut-throat in their pursuit of snagging a high-roller photo or capturing a spectacle on tape.  Everyone's a filmmaker.  Everyone's got a camera.  And we've all got cameras with us all the time.  Conveniently located in the palm of our hands.

This is the background that sets the stage for Nightcrawler, a film written and directed by Dan Gilroy.  Jack Gyllenhaal is excellently creepy as Lou Bloom, a sociopathic loner who's schooled himself about everything purely from what he's gleaned from the internet.  His bug-eyed appearance, stringy hair, and the speediness at which he rattles off sound bites give the immediate impression of a stereotypical "sleazy car salesman."  But he's not.  As Lou drives the dark streets of Los Angeles one night, he discovers something that changes his life (and the lives of many others) :

All you need to make some quick cash is a camera, a police scanner, and a lack of conscience.  

This is the world of crime journalism.  Lou quickly bullies his way in and starts work as a freelance, amateur videographer.   Before long, he's capturing the goriest of urban crime,  twisted car crashes, fires, and other spectacular scenes on tape.  He immediately attempts to hawk his footage to news organizations, most of whom turn him down.  BUT he finds a buyer with the News Director of KWLA, a low-rated news station desperate to turn their ratings around at seemingly any cost.  From the get-go, Lou's gritty and intrusive footage puts news organizations like KWLA into a quandary.

This is questionable territory.  Where do we draw the line?  If a news station is just "reporting the news," at what point does it crossover into "profiting from other people's tragedies"?  How does a news organization justify broadcasting graphic and horrific images just for the sake of getting viewers?

These are the kind of questions and the underlying social commentary that Nightcrawler presents to us.  Where are we going?  Where have we been?  When we see things on-screen we deem so graphic and horrific and intrusive that they're  the absolute opposite of everything we believe in, why can't we look away?  Why are we drawn to the darkness?

Nightcrawler forces us to ask some hard questions about human nature while examining answers that don't come easy. And these are only a few of the moral questions the film presents.

At the heart of it all is Lou, who, in his reminiscence of Norman Bates, also happens to have all the characteristics of a sociopath.  He's superficially charming, intelligent, pathologically egocentric and antisocial.  On top of it all, he lacks remorse and is incapable of love.  And Lou is desperate for glory and recognition.  It's all a dangerous combination.  The extremes to which Lou takes his work, make my skin crawl.  Much like the people he captures on film, I felt violated.  It's a horribly uncomfortable feeling. But a very good film.


The Gory Truth Of 'Nightcrawler'
The Society Of Professional Journalists = Code Of Ethics
The Paparazzi Reform Initiative
Media Ethics And Society

Copyright © 2014 by KLiedle/@cococaffeine

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