Touchstone Home Entertainment’s Bluray of Michael Mann‘s The Insider looks perfectly fine. It looks like film, which is the right way to go, of course. Noticable but tolerable grain levels. Dante Spinotti‘s cinematography looks as good as it did when I first saw The Insider at the big Academy premiere in late October 1999.
It’s a significant upgrade from the DVD, of course, but how could it not be? If I had my druthers the look of this Bluray would be tweaked just a bit more because I like my Blurays to “pop” just a bit more, but that’s me. I don’t mean to indicate that the Bluray hasn;t been “done right.” It has been. It’s fine. No beefs.
But I do have a problem with the lack of a decent “making of” documentary. There’s so much to get into with this film, so much to look back and reflect upon in terms of issues that reach well beyond the concerns of the entertainment industry, that it’s a shame that Disney decided to merely remaster the elements for a bare-bones release.
For openers there’s the story of Marie Brenner‘s researching and writing of “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” the May 1996 Vanity Fair story that inspired the film. The writing of the screenplay by Eric Roth, and Mann’s massaging and tweaking and whatever else. The casting. The shooting and the logistical challenges. The reactions by CBS News and 60 Minutes staffers, particularly the late Mike Wallace.
You wouldn’t expect that a Disney Bluray would include an honest look at the spectacularly awful marketing of the film by Disney feature publicity, which in my mind is one of the great cock-ups of all time. The Insider is basically about how CBS corporate interests allowed a major 60 Minutes news story to be diluted over fears of a Big Tobacco lawsuit. And yet Disney marketers somehow allowed the public, some in the press and even some in the filmmaking community to run with the idea that The Insider was an anti-smoking film.
I recall attending an Insider press conference with Mann and Al Pacino and Russell Crowe and others, and that’s exactly what was on the minds of at least some of the journalists.
Consider a piece I wrote three years ago:
“Most of the moviegoers who’ve heard of The Insider probably still think it’s an anti-smoking drama, but you’d think that a smart guy like Jason Reitman would know better. The Insider is about the killing of a major 60 Minutes news story, and about the wreckage (personal, professional, cultural) that this action causes. At most the film was peripherally or tangentially about smoking.
“The fact that Big Tobacco had enough money and legal power to make CBS corporate feel legally threatened (and thus leading to the story being de-balled on 60 Minutes) is what’s crucial to the story. It was a movie about big-time TV journalists being pushed around and then folding their tent. But the adversarial element could have just as easily been weapons manufacturers or any politically powerful concern.
“Since The Insider was released in ’99, it’s become common knowledge that due to their corporate-ownership and corporate priorities, major news media orgs can’t really be counted upon to report the tough stories (’03 Iraq invasion, WMDs). Robert Kane Pappas‘ Orwell Rolls In His Grave (’04) spelled this out pretty clearly. For my money the serious hardball information today comes sporadically from the N.Y. Times and from Bill Moyers’ Journal but mostly from online reporting and columnists and from the British newspapers. TV network news is pretty much out of the game.”