Talk Radio May 28, 2015 23:28:49 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on May 28, 2015 23:28:49 GMT -5
Talk Radio (1988)
Directed by: Oliver Stone
Directed by: Oliver Stone
Eric Bogosian in Talk Radio.
Barry Champlain (Eric Bogosian) is a contemptuous talk radio personality in the Dallas area, boasting a caustic sense of humor his listeners love and his detractors loathe. Most of his phone calls involve loners, drunks, sex fiends, neo-Nazis, and many other unique souls, all of whom finding themselves cut down several sizes when they are placed on air with Barry, who gives them a far-left rant they never anticipated. Barry gets off on lambasting the public, often ignoring the instructions of his stressed boss Dan (Alec Baldwin), his long-suffering producer/girlfriend Laura (Leslie Hope), and powerless program director Dietz (John Pankow), all of whom preparing themselves for a national broadcast for Barry's program due to commence very soon.
Oliver Stone plunges us into the lives of this soul in Talk Radio, arguably his most underrated film, and a soul, for that matter, who most of us would probably hate if we came in contact with in real life. There are hints of self-loathing on Barry's behalf throughout the entire film. Consider the scene when a sensuous caller dials into Barry's program and questions why he uses his intelligence to belittle people for their opinions and goes on to say it's because he is scared and fickle. Barry's face becomes void of any expression; the cool guy smirk and upturned eyebrows are traded for a blank stare and moistening skin. Barry is often greeted with so many strange, incompetent, sometimes incoherent callers that never question his personal ethos that when he finally finds a caller who does such a thing, he is momentarily silenced.
Yet, despite infrequent setbacks like this, Barry persists on, turning talk radio dialogues into personal monologues driven by condemnation of culture, societal ethics, and misfit culture. When he has the mic, he is in charge above all and his greed monopolizes the entire scenario. He's like a more politically charged and less charismatic Howard Stern. He's stripped of every inherent thing likable about radio personalities, and yet, I found him to be one of the most fascinating anti-heroes and despicable characters I had ever seen committed to film. This very idea is what's exposed throughout Talk Radio; we are fascinated and entranced by people like Barry, who give us what we need to fulfill our ugliest human desires, metaphorically cleansing ourselves of deprivation, and yet, dirtying us up with a whole new layer of muck and rancid human hate.
Writers Stone, Bogosian, Tad Savinar, and Stephen Singular (author of Talked to Death: The Life and Murder of Alan Berg, concerning the life of radio personality Alan Berg, whom Barry Champlain is based upon) deeply consider this notion whilst fleshing out Barry into a thoroughly watchable presence. If Barry endlessly spewed hate without a shred of wit, we wouldn't buy it. However, Barry is smooth in his conversation, immaculate in his diction, and his ability to go off on two to three minute monologues, featuring a plethora of adjectives and complex political ideas, is nothing shy of entrancing. Bogosian gives an Oscar worthy performance in one of his few film roles (and only starring roles), making incredible use of the smallest film setting next to an elevator. His impeccable vocal delivery, which manages to send shivers down spines when he goes from casual conversation to intense, politically/racially-charged monologue, and his subtle, but very noticeable, mannerisms are all on point with every scene in the film.
Talk Radio is also a film of sublime aesthetic quality, thanks to Stone and cinematographer Robert Richardson (who later went from working with Stone to working with Martin Scorsese on films like The Aviator and Hugo) making the most out of the tight-knit radio room. Every square-inch of the room is at Stone and Richardson's disposal, as they allow the camera to linger on shots of the radio switchboard, the yellow/red ON-AIR light, which becomes a blinding sight during a couple extreme closeups, the TV screen, which shows which callers are on hold, and, probably the most mesmerizing of all, as stated, Bogosian's facial expressions. These small transitory scenes allow for a huge impact on the overall project in terms of effectively creating a darker, more sinister mood and Stone and company certainly don't skimp on them. It's inclusions like these that make a good film into a great film, or even make a great film an incredible film.
Above all, Talk Radio catches Stone in a mood of critiquing the media's influence on culture, even before Stone was haled for directing Natural Born Killers; what happens when dark, perverse programs like Barry's become the staple for a nation's culture? The opening monologue of Barry's has him condemning American culture as predicated upon pornography and slasher films, and Stone, in turn, spends the next one-hundred and forty-six minutes examining this idea. Through vivid camera angles, a magnificent and deep central performance, an immersing story and character at the core that do nothing but make the audience turn a mirror onto themselves, and gripping pacing throughout the entire film, Talk Radio is a masterclass of pulpy thriller filmmaking masquerading, though occasionally operating, as a drama.
Starring: Eric Bogosian, Alec Baldwin, Leslie Hope, Ellen Greene, and John Pankow. Directed by: Oliver Stone.