"Remember This?" is a recurring feature on HuffPost Entertainment, resurrecting pop-cultural artifacts that haven't enjoyed the spotlight for quite some time. Today, Christopher Rosen remembers "The Paper." If there's a topic you want us to cover, let us know in the comments.
Last week, Time Out New York published its list of the 100 best movies set in New York City. All the obvious choices -- Woody Allen ("Annie Hall," "Manhattan," "Broadway Danny Rose," "Hannah and Her Sisters"), Sidney Lumet ("Dog Day Afternoon," "Serpico," "Network"), Spike Lee ("Do The Right Thing") and Martin Scorsese ("Goodfellas," "Mean Streets," and the collection's No. 1 title, "Taxi Driver") -- were represented, but there was one striking omission: "The Paper."
Don't judge. Released in 1994, when headliner Michael Keaton was still a movie star, Ron Howard's ode to tabloid journalism, sweltering Manhattan summers and the cool comfort of 1010 WINS is New York movie perfection.
There's an attitude to "The Paper" that doesn't feel manufactured, like it does in "The Amazing Spider-Man." (Though that film was shot partially in New York, Marc Webb's superhero extravaganza has the anonymous buzz of Toronto.) "The Paper" exudes an energy that can't be faked. Part of that is because of the ticking-clock script (written by David Koepp and his brother Stephen). The film follows a day in the life of Henry Hackett, an editor at the New York Sun (a stand-in for the New York Post), who must contend with his very pregnant wife (Marisa Tomei), a job interview at the prestigious New York Sentinel (a thinly veiled New York Times), and the murder of two out-of-town businessmen in Williamsburg, which may have been racially motivated. (1994 spoiler: It wasn't.)
Over the film's two hours, Howard mixes comedy with heightened drama; of course everything comes to a head in Henry's life, both personal and professional, all at once. But, sometimes, New York life is like that. The best part of "The Paper" is that it seems to realize this. For New Yorkers, even the smallest issues can add together to create something epic on a daily basis. As an anchor on 1010 WINS says in a bit of meta-narration, "Your whole world can change in 24 hours."
Beyond being a great New York movie -- and any film that includes 1010 WINS sounders is a great "New York movie" -- "The Paper" is a very good movie movie. Keaton is at his best as Henry, fueled by Coca-Cola and profanity. Howard, always underrated at culling great star performances, gets strong work from the supporting cast as well: Glenn Close, Robert Duvall, Roma Maffia, Tomei and a pre-Star Whackers Randy Quaid are all excellent. Close, especially, is sort of brilliant. She's funny and tough and having a blast; the way she curls her lips around the line "You are so fucking fired" is the stuff of legend.
In the end, though, "The Paper" succeeds because it creates a New York you want to inhabit. Henry's world is tough, sweaty and annoyed, but it's also honorable. It's fair. "The Paper" exists in a Manhattan where the little guy wins because he tries the hardest and swears the most. What other options are there, anyway? After all, they were out of tote bags.
Follow Christopher Rosen on Twitter: www.twitter.com/chrisjrosen