Print Media – 2 Documentaries: “The September Issue” and “Page One.”
“Newspapers? Magazines? What are those?”
I fully expect my son to ask me these burning questions some day years from now, when e-readers have taken over the land and physical forms of print media have gone the way of the dinosaur and the dodo bird. Though I don’t think physical books will ever go away, it can’t be denied that other forms of print media will likely fade away and evolve into online-only publications.
Recently, two documentaries (that I watched via Netflix) got me thinking about this.
The first is “The September Issue,” in which infamous dragon lady Anna Wintour (Editor of “Vogue” magazine) and her talented staff put together the magazine’s most important issue of the year. (You remember Wintour, right? She’s the one Meryl Streep plays, albeit with a changed name, in “The Devil Wears Prada.”)
Both docs are very well-done and smartly focus on the more colorful characters at both establishments. “Page One” attaches itself mostly to reported David Carr, a former drug addict turned cantankerous old coot of a great reporter. This guy doesn’t mess around, and he’s fascinating to watch. “The September Issue” largely rests on the shoulders of Grace Coddington, the magazine’s creative director, who comes off incredibly likable and as the hero to Wintour’s ice queen villain. In one amazing sequence, Coddington ropes the documentary cameraman into appearing in a photo shoot. Wintour likes it, but tells them to airbrush out the cameraman’s belly, and that he needs to go to the gym. Coddington, the eternal hero, gets on the phone and gets the airbrushing cancelled – “Not everything can be perfect in this world,” she says, with a glint in her eye. She’s great – at her job (as evidenced by the photo shoots she supervises, which are obviously the best of the lot) and as a character in this film. She’s really great. Wintour is riveting to watch, too, though she never comes close to likable. (Her daughter, on the other hand, comes off immensely likable, especially when she declares she won’t become a fashion editor.)
Overall, both these docs are interesting to watch and very enlightening to those who care about the people behind the mirrors. “The September Issue,” by focusing one on singular goal – to get this massive issue out on time – succeeds better than “Page One,” which meanders about a bit, addressing many things on a surface level and not much in depth. There’s talk about Twitter, lying journalists, lay-offs, the death of the newspaper, the war, and some other stuff, but there’s no real compelling focus. (Though Carr is the hands-down star of the show, there’s isn’t enough of him.)
Definitely check out “The September Issue” if you want to be terrifically entertained by a documentary. (If you have the interest, “Page One” is also well done, and I’m not in any way slamming it. It’s just the obvious second place finisher in this race.)