David Carr is an unlikely New York Times columnist, a former crack addict who once left his infant twin daughters in a freezing car while he bought drugs.
Now he’s the charismatic centerpiece of “Page One: Inside the New York Times,” a documentary that takes a revealing, behind-the-scenes look at America’s most prestigious newspaper.
Granted free access to the Times newsroom, filmmaker Andrew Rossi spent a year exploring the paper’s operation and its place in the changing media landscape. The story is told primarily through the eyes of Carr and his colleagues in the Times’s media department, including editor Bruce Headlam and reporters Tim Arango and Brian Stelter.
What sets it apart from other inside-media docs is Carr, an outspoken, gruff journalist with an acerbic sense of humor who could be a character in a modern version of “The Front Page.”
The disheveled, raspy-voiced Carr turns out to be an eloquent defender of traditional, mainstream media who promises to “vaporize” anyone predicting the Times’s downfall. He’s also a take-no-prisoners reporter who is shown doggedly pursuing a story about the collapse of the Tribune Co., which went bankrupt under greedy, self-indulgent owner Sam Zell.
Carr’s personal saga -- he survived jail, cancer and a major relapse after more than a decade of sobriety -- is woven into the narrative without distracting from the larger issues.
Bill Keller, who recently announced he’s stepping down as the paper’s executive editor, quips about wearing “bloody butcher smocks in the newsroom” as he prepares for more layoffs.
But too often, the film treats the Times as an oracle that dictates the country’s news agenda. That once might have been true, but it overstates the case in today’s hydra-headed media.
Just don’t tell Carr I said so.
“Page One: Inside the New York Times,” from Magnolia Pictures, opens tomorrow in New York and July 1 across the U.S. Rating: ***
Buck Brannaman has a magic touch with horses. He can calm them with his voice, guide them with his hand and teach them tricks.
He’s a real-life horse whisperer and the inspirational star of the documentary “Buck,” which traces his transformation from abused child to world-famous horse trainer. If you’re not moved by this film, you either hate animals or have a heart of stone.
First-time filmmaker Cindy Meehl, who met Brannaman at one of his clinics, tells his story through interviews, vintage clips and extensive footage of the four-day training sessions that keep him on the road and away from his wife and daughter most of the year.
Wearing a wide-brim white cowboy hat, jeans and fringed chaps, Brannaman teaches gentle methods of handling horses that include soothing stroking and light prodding with a short flag stick.
He believes most horse problems can be traced back to the owner. “Your horse is a mirror to your soul, and sometimes you may not like what you see,” he says.
Brannaman, a consultant on Robert Redford’s “The Horse Whisperer,” is equally eloquent when talking about getting beaten up by an alcoholic father who trained Buck and his brother to perform rope tricks on the rodeo circuit.
After Buck’s mother died, the abuse grew worse until the two young boys were finally adopted by a loving Montana couple.
“Buck” includes a scene in which he tries to tame a wild horse that may have suffered brain damage at birth. It’s a case of one damaged soul trying to save another.
“Buck,” from Sundance Selects, opens tomorrow in New York and Los Angeles: Rating: ***1/2
What the Stars Mean: **** Excellent *** Good ** Average * Poor (No stars) Worthless
(Rick Warner is the movie critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)