Broadcast News appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The movie looked decent, but a combination of dated source material and digital artifacts made it less than attractive.
Sharpness was one of the many erratic elements. While close-ups and two-shots looked concise, anything wider tended to break up a bit; those scenes could come across as a bit blocky and ill-defined. Overall delineation remained decent to good most of the time, though. I noticed no issues with jaggies or shimmering, but some light edge haloes cropped up at times, and artifacts like mosquito noise became apparent at times. At least source flaws failed to appear, as the movie came with a clean print.
Colors tended to be bland, even though the movie went with a natural palette. Much of this stemmed from the general flatness that often affected 1980s film stocks; the tones leaned toward a brown tone that made them unimpressive. A few brighter elements appeared, but the colors usually seemed somewhat drab. Blacks were acceptably deep, but shadows tended to be dense; low-light shots demonstrated a lack of clarity. At no point did the movie look bad, but it rarely looked especially good, either. Still, the image was positive enough for a “B-“ once I factored in the limitations of SD-DVD.
While not dazzling, the Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack of Broadcast News was pretty good for the film’s genre and era. A chatty flick, the mix offered decent environmental information for a few sequences – street scenes, parties, a war sequence – but these were exceptions to the rule. They did open things up in a moderately positive manner, though, and music boasted nice stereo presence. The surrounds weren’t especially active, but they added to the experience in a satisfactory way.
Audio quality was good. Lines appeared fairly natural and lacked edginess or concerns. Music showed good punch, and effects were fine. They didn’t have much to do, so they never taxed the speakers, but they demonstrated fine clarity. Though the mix never excelled, it was positive enough for a “B-“.
How did the picture and sound of this 2010 Criterion release compare with those of the old DVD from 1999? Both areas demonstrated improvements. The audio seemed clearer and demonstrated a more active soundscape. In terms of visuals, the 2010 disc was cleaner and tighter. The limitations of the source meant that the 2010 DVD wasn’t a killer step up, but it definitely looked and sounded better than its 1999 predecessor.
At least the 2010 Criterion release improves on the 1999 DVD’s extras. Both include the film’s trailer, but everything else is exclusive to the Criterion version.
Disc One provides an audio commentary from director James L. Brooks and editor Richard Marks. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at the movie’s origins/influences and development, story and character notes, cast and performances, sets and locations, music and editing, research, and a few other areas.
For its first 45 minutes or so, we find a terrific commentary. After that? Not so much. Brooks dominates the whole thing and has quite a lot to say for the movie’s first third or so, but after that, he peters out to a moderate degree. Oh, he still gives us a reasonable amount of info, but gaps become more prominent and praise more frequent. Overall, the commentary’s worthwhile, but it’s not a consistent pleasure.
Over on Disc Two, the main component comes from a documentary titled James L. Brooks – A Singular Voice. It runs 36 minutes, 24 seconds and includes notes from composer Hans Zimmer, writer/producer Al Jean, critic Ken Tucker, ICM chairman/CEO Jeffrey Berg, filmmaker Wes Anderson and actors Marilu Henner and Julie Kavner. We hear about Brooks’ career in TV and movies as well as themes that pervade his work.
“Voice” acts more to appreciate Brooks than to discuss his work. We get a smattering of minor insights here, and it’s nice to see a recap of his career, but I don’t think we learn a whole lot. As a general overview, it’s enjoyable, but it doesn’t deliver much depth.
Next comes an Alternate Ending and Deleted Scenes. The former fills 10 minutes, two seconds (including Brooks introduction), while the latter go for a total of 19 minutes, 25 seconds. We get 15 cut sequences, and they throw in some unused or neglected characters. The main addition comes from a gay government employee with a crush on Tom; this allows the TV reporter to get scoops that boost his career.
In addition, we see more of the Tom/Jennifer relationship, longer scenes between Tom and Aaron, producer Ernie and his wife, and a longer confrontation between Tom and Jane at the airport. All of these are at least moderately interesting, but they were good cuts. The movie’s already too long, so the extra beats would’ve done more harm than good.
As for the alternate ending, it would finish the movie on a more traditional note. Brooks indicates that he received a ton of criticism for the flick’s finale, but I don’t have a problem with it; I just don’t like the coda. It’s unclear if the coda still would exist if Brooks used this ending, but I don’t care for it.
We can watch the 19:25 of deleted scenes with or without commentary from Brooks. He tells us a bit about the clips and why they got cut. Well, he says that some of the time; Brooks’ commentary tends to be spotty, so don’t expect consistent coverage. We get a few nice notes but not a ton.
Disc Two ends with two featurettes. Susan Zirinsky goes for 17 minutes and offers notes from Zirinsky, a veteran TV news producer and one of the inspirations for the movie’s Jane Craig role. Zirinisky discusses her career and involvement in the film. She’s blunt and funny as she provides a terrific look at the person behind the character.
We wrap up with the simply titled Featurette. It splits into two areas: a 1987 piece produced by Fox (7:55) and additional interviewa and on-set footage (18:38). Across these, we hear from Brooks and actors Albert Brooks and Holly Hunter. Both in the puffy featurette and the collection of outtakes, the interview bits don’t tell us much; we get a few general observations but nothing particularly memorable. The behind the scenes footage is better but also fails to become especially terrific.
Like all Criterion releases, this one comes with a booklet. In this 16-page piece, we find an essay from film critic Carrie Rickey as well as some credits and photos. It’s skimpier than many Criterion booklets, but it still has some good qualities that make it a nice capper to the set.
With two Oscar-winning lead actors, an Oscar-winning director, many other talented folk at its disposal and a great theme, Broadcast News should’ve ended up as a classic. Instead, it gives us something pretty good and that’s it; the movie certainly has its merits, but it comes with too many flaws to be special. The DVD provides acceptable picture and audio as well as a generally good set of supplements. I can’t say I’m wild about the film itself, but this turns into its best DVD incarnation.
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