Even Better than I Remembered

Even Better than I Remembered

[The Little Theatre. 4/14/2020. Except where indicated, images provided by Amy Stockwell]

By Amy Stockwell

The “Beyond the Fold: Journalism on Screen” series presented The Insider before an enthusiastic crowd at the Little Theater on Thursday night.   The award winning 1999 film by Michael Mann is a dramatic telling of how a whistleblower’s explosive revelations made it through the gauntlet of corporate journalism at CBS’s 60 Minutes.  The series is jointly offered by City Newspaper and the Little and started last December:  the final film in the series will be Obit on May 12.

7/5/20. Little Theater. 240 East Avenue. [Photo: David Kramer from Rochester Jewish Film Festival goes virtual!]

The Insider tells the story of how corporate research executive Jeffrey Wigand blew the whistle on tobacco’s addictive character, and the complex ecosystem of Big Tobacco working to keep that character out of the courts and out of public opinion.

Part courtroom drama and part high stakes thriller, the film is ultimately the story of personal courage and its consequences for its two leads:  the whistleblower and the journalist who guided the telling of his story.  Nothing is simple and no one is drawn without some shades of gray, but individuals act in heroic and unexpected ways.  I found it to be both enormously satisfying and realistically alarming, inspiring and optimistic, and ultimately a cautionary tale about how many obstacles people face in doing the right thing.

The film has an all star cast with remarkable performances by  Russell Crowe (in his first big leading role), Al Pacino (fabulously nuanced as producer Lowell Bergman) and Christopher Plummer as Mike Wallace.  A bevy of supporting characters including Gina Gershon as a ruthless and highly polished corporate attorney reward the viewer at every turn.

For those of us who lived through the nineties, the subtle references to current events (O.J., Clinton impeachment and the Unibomber) were absorbing Easter Eggs now seen through the veil of decades gone.  Michael Mann’s cinematography and distinctive style of menace remain as overwhelming as I remembered it from having first seen The Insider on the big screen close to its release date.  What is even more rewarding in seeing it now is how compelling the film’s main story remains:  how hard and how necessary it is to tell the truth.

City Editor David Andreatta monitoring the discussion

The film was followed with a panel and discussion moderated by City Editor David Andreatta with Brighton author David Cay Johnston who further deepened the evening by recounting personal tales of Lowell Bergman and his own struggles to present important stories.


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About The Author


Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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