“If it bleeds, it leads”–Armstrong Williams
Honest reporting is what journalism is all about, right? Wrong. Modern news is a high end dollar call girl strutting her stuff on Capitalism Boulevard in the seediest part of town. Integrity (just ask Brian Williams of NBC), reliable sources, and fact checking have been thrown to wayside in lieu of ratings and fear reporting. The trifecta for ratings success relies on selling fear, violence, and scandal. TV, newspapers, and internet sites aim to condition us to fear our neighborhoods, and propagate the ideology that we are all targets in a deadly world as the media conglomerates; acting as the all-seeing Oracle that is our only savior from impending doom.
“Do you know what fear stands for? False Evidence Appearing Real.” Great truth spoken by sociopath Lou Bloom, portrayed by Jake Gyllenhaal in the multi award winning Nightcrawler (2014). Nightcrawler is a neo-noir crime thriller set in the nocturnal sinful streets in the City of Angels, where a driven but a lost, young man, desperate for work, and his meaning in life stumbles into the high-speed world of L.A. crime journalism. His discovery of this freelance occupation, explores “Gonzo” film crews who capture catastrophe, murder, and social decay. Lou asserts himself as a “stringer” to the new calling of “nightcrawling.”
Waiting is the hardest part. Bloom waits in silence listening for police sirens or his police scanner because in the news world, visceral RED = ratings and big PROFITS. The goal of “nightcrawling” is to capture real-time footage with a desensitized eye as the souls of humanity deteriorate live before your eyes like a carcass on the side of the road.
Blooms employs the homeless Rick, Riz Ahmed of Four Lions (2010), a young man desperate to make money, whose duties entail assisting Lou navigate on the harsh L.A. streets, memorizing numerous police codes on the scanner, and racing to filming locations before rival “stringer” Joe Loder, Bill Paxton of Near Dark (1987) can capitalize on their payday.
Bloom befriends and manipulates Nina, Renee Russo of Thor (2011), a local TV news veteran, to ensure that his footage is played on the evening news while upping the demands as his notoriety for shocking footage increase. Bloom, wanting to be the very best blurs the line between observer and participant to become the star of his own story by interfering with crime scenes and withholding information from law enforcement.
Nightcrawler, helmed by Dan Gilroy in his feature length directorial debut, is a cold, dark and voyeuristic film that will educate audiences with the truth of how simply toxic and degrading our obsession for viewing negative content we have become. Gyllenhaal delivers a superb performance as he portrays the role with an animalist gaunt look (rumored that he worked out eight hours a day in preparation), calculation and cunning of a desert scavenger hungry for the blood of fresh meat that is similar to a coyote on the prowl. The cinematography and over all look is very beautiful and sterile as it captures the toxic and gritty subject matter and embraces the style of old film noir films with its manipulation balance of lighting and shadows.
Nightcrawler is a honest commentary on the current human condition that we are hooked on 24 hours news programs (Fox, CNN, and TMZ), reality shows (all of them), and violent sports events (UFC). We have become nothing more than pawns in ratings games as we lose a bit of our innocence and souls every time we tune in.
So next time you are glued to one of these news outlets and feel your spirit fade and your anxiety rise— kill your TV, turn off your computer, or simply do something positive like donate your time to a charity or help your fellow man. If you are interested in becoming a “stringer,” I suggest you watch Nightcrawler to know what is in store for you and remember what J.J. Jameson taught us, “No jobs! Freelance! Best thing in the world for somebody your age.”