James L. Brooksí Broadcast News gets the Criterion treatment on Blu-ray, the film presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this dual-layer disc in a new 1080p/24hz hi-def transfer.
While the image is just as sharp as can be and never falters in this area, the image does look flat and never truly impresses. The filmís colour scheme is nothing particularly special, sticking with the bland tans of the office environment, and nothing really pops because of this, other than some bright reds that can almost look out of place in comparison with everything else on the screen. But skin tones look natural and blacks come off very deep and clean. Also, as pointed out in the commentary, colours have been corrected during one moment near the end of the film, which have always looked off in previous home video releases.
Thereís a few marks but nothing glaring, and overall the digital transfer is stable other than a couple of shimmering effects in some patterns. In all it does look good but something (more than likely Brookís not-so-flashy directing style) holds it back. 7/10
All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.
Iíve caught pieces of this film over the years, having only seen the entire thing a few months ago, but I was rather surprised Criterion was releasing a special edition Blu-ray (and DVD) for it. I enjoy a few of Brooksí films (including this one) and am of course a fan of The Simpsons, but, other than maybe sharp dialogue and some great performances found in his films, I canít say Iíve seen anything particularly special about them. But after going through the supplements on here Iíve not only found a new appreciation for Broadcast News, a film I already liked well enough, but Brooksí work overall.
First up is a rather energetic audio commentary featuring James L. Brooks and editor Richard Marks. Brooks has control of the track, Marks popping up intermittently throughout until maybe a little past the midway mark where he starts to contribute much more. I was rather surprised how this film came to be, a lot of it sounding to have been sort of made up as they went, despite having a script. Brooks admits he wasnít really sure how to end the film and he hoped shooting the film in order would help him figure it out (though considering some of the alternate scenes found elsewhere on the disc, he still wasnít truly sure.) He of course covers casting, explaining how he came across Holly Hunter (then basically an unknown) and of course getting Jack Nicholson in his cameo (which took a little bit of begging.) He also talks about how specific he was in casting people in the background, going after a certain look, even going around to offices in the same building he was filming and pulling people from them. Marks gets into detail about editing at one point, stating the film was originally about 3.5 hours long (yikes!) and the two also point out some surprises (a John Cusack cameo, shot when he was visiting his sister, Joan, on set) and share plenty of funny stories. But, despite the script and all of the research that went into it, I was surprised how much of the filmís stand out moments actually sound to have happened by accident. Itís a surprisingly breezy and funny track, and far more interesting than I would have thought.
The next feature is a good one but a little disappointing if only because it feels thereís so much more material that could be covered. James L. Brooks Ė A Singular Voice is a 36-minute documentary on the career of James L. Brooks that includes interviews with Julie Kavner, Marilu Henner, Hans Zimmer, Ken Tucker, Wes Anderson, and others. The documentary looks at his early television career with The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda, and Taxi, and then moves to his films, though only concentrate on Terms of Endearment, Broadcast News, and As Good as it Gets. In the last section they cover how heís helped up-and-comers like Wes Anderson and getting his film Bottle Rocket made, and then looks at The Simpsons. Throughout everyone talks about Brooksí observations, how in tune he can be with the audience, and the humanism he adds to everything. Again itís good but my one complaint is that it feels rushed and I feel thereís more material out there, and I actually expected more about The Simpsons than the rush job it gets. But the one big surprise was the fact we actually get clips from all of the television shows and films mentioned, pointing out the human touches Brooks adds. Due to rights reasons (as I understand it anyways) Criterion usually avoids adding clips from other films to their supplements so it was actually nice to get the clips that the interview participants are referring to. Another surprise: the clips all look really good, having been restored, including the ones from the television shows, and Iím hoping the fact the couple of clips shown from The Simpsons look far better than any of the transfers found on the DVD releases means the early seasons might be coming to Blu-ray at some point soon.
Anyways, moving on, we come to Deleted Scenes, which also includes an alternate ending. The alternate ending in particular is fascinating. I wonít ruin the ending of the film (or this alternate ending) but it was shot out of fear that many would hate the original ending. Itís a slightly different version of a deleted scene that would have appeared near the end originally, just delivering a different outcome of course and Brooks was right in not using it. The segment runs 10-minutes, though only 4 of those minutes are devoted to the actual scene, with Brooks delivering an audio-only introduction talking about the scene and why he shot it. The scene itself plays out without his voice over. It hasnít been restored but is in very decent shape and has held up well over the years.
The deleted scenes themselves run 19-minutes and are also another pleasant surprise in this release. While there are a couple of extended bits to existing scenes, thereís actually a whole other sub-plot introduced in these scenes, involving a source that Hurtís character gains (which is related to another news story that is mentioned in passing in the film itself.) Thereís also an extra scene that would have appeared near the end that, if used, would have completely changed the tone of the final scene between Hurt and Hunter (and it also uses similar dialogue that appears in the alternate ending.) These are some of the more fascinating deleted scenes Iíve come across recently and they actually do change some of the characters, Hurtís primarily. The optional commentary features Brooks and he discusses the scenes, even expanding on some things mentioned in the feature commentary, and explains why they were cut (time was primarily the reason.)
Criterion next includes an interview with CBS news producer Susan Zirinsky, who worked as a consultant of sorts on the film. She talks about first meeting Brooks and helping him on his research for the film, and then recalls her work on the set. This is the most disappointing supplement since I was hoping for more details about the actual newsroom world in the 80s and her experiences, but she only briefly mentions things related to this and concentrates more on what she did to help make the film more realistic, though this is admittedly still interesting itself (like the fact she wrote the news stories that appear in the film.) The interview is about 17-minutes.
Next is an 8-minute featurette put together by Fox for the filmís initial release, which has interviews with Albert Brooks, James L. Brooks, and Holly Hunter. Itís a fluff piece and doesnít add much. But what prove to be more interesting are the interview outtakes from the featurette. Running 18-minutes these clips have the three get into more detail about the film, script, roles, and characters. The final 9-minutes is made up entirely of behind-the-scenes footage showing Brooks directing and scenes being set up.
The disc then ends with a theatrical trailer that is typical of a romantic comedy from the time.
The booklet included features an essay on the film by Carrie Rickey, who examines the film and Brooksí career. Itís a decent essay but not required reading.
Though it may not look like much I was very pleased with the features overall. I liked the film to begin with but itís become a far more interesting film to me after going through everything on here. 9/10