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Film / The Paper

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The Paper is a 1994 comedy-drama film about 24 hours in the life of a fictional New York City tabloid, directed by Ron Howard and starring Michael Keaton, Glenn Close, Marisa Tomei, Randy Quaid and Robert Duvall.

The film depicts a single, hectic day in the personal and professional life of New York Sun metro editor Henry Hackett (Keaton). The main story of the day is the murder of a couple of visiting businessmen. When the reporters discover evidence suggesting a police cover-up of evidence of the main suspects' innocence, they rush to scoop the story in the midst of professional, private and financial chaos.

This film provides examples of:

  • Bait-and-Switch: As Alicia reads the morning's edition of the Sun with pride, a nurse asks if she can look at it after her. Alicia beams a warm smile at her, then says, "Buy your own!"
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Henry claims (and demonstrates!) that all you need to get into any building in the world is a clipboard and a confident wave.
  • Big Applesauce: Set in New York, and could only ever be set in New York.
  • Bland-Name Product: Henry works at the New York Sun, which is the name of an actual defunct NYC paper (though the name was revived the following decade) but in the film is patterned after the Daily News. He gets a job proposal from the more prestigious New York Sentinel, which is clearly a New York Times stand-in.
  • The Cameo: A ton of real journalists and reporters (the most well-known of which would probably be Kurt Loder and Bob Costas) make brief cameo appearances as themselves.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Done by Henry when Paul Bladden calls to confront him about stealing the lead off his desk:
    Bladden: Well, I hope you're satisfied, asshole! You just blew your chance to cover the world!
    Henry: Well, guess fuckin' what? I don't really fuckin' care! You wanna know fuckin' why? 'Cause I don't fuckin' live IN THE FUCKIN' WORLD! I LIVE IN FUCKIN' NEW YORK CITY! SO GO!....FUCK YOURSELF!!
  • Da Editor: Bernie White (Robert Duvall) is the grizzled editor-in-chief of The New York Sun. Henry has to get his ideas past him, and White isn't willing to take big gambles with the front page like Henry is.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: As befits a film about a daily newspaper, the story covers a single 24-hour period.
  • Foreshadowing: Soon after arriving into the office, Henry says that he can smell that it's going to be a difficult day. It is.
  • Intrepid Reporter: An entire cast full.
  • I Always Wanted to Say That: A very well-done one occurs when Henry wants to stop the paper from going out bearing an incorrect front-page article:
    Henry: We stop and replate. Go upstairs and write up what you've got. Tell Lou to send down "They Didn't Do It".
    Michael McDougal: Hey Henry, are you going to say it? You gotta say it.
    Henry: Use the same art they used for "Gotcha!"
    Michael McDougal: Come on, how often do you get the chance? You can't just do it and not say it, come on!
    Henry: I - Stop the presses!
  • I'll Take Two Beers Too: A variation. When Alicia is shot, someone calls calls 911 and says, "A woman's been shot. We need an ambulance!" The delirious Alicia says "Can I get one, too?" and then passes out.
  • Local Angle: A Running Gag. Foreign news reports will only get published in the Sun if they involved, or were observed by, someone from New York.
  • Logo Joke: The logo transitions into a large antique clock situated above an open park in New York City.
  • Married to the Job: Henry spends all his time at the office as a newspaper man. He's introduced waking up in bed, lying on top of the covers, still in his suit from the night before. His wife, Martha, wants him to take a new job to spend more time with her.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: During the course of their investigation, Henry, Martha and McDougal find out there's more involved than just a couple of white businessmen getting gunned down in Williamsburg. Turns out they may have been the victims of retaliation for losing a fortune in Mob money, with the assassins spray-painting a racial epithet on their car as a Red Herring.
  • Must Have Caffeine: As a dyed-in-the-wool journalist, Henry lives on caffeine, though in this case it's in Coke. Someone asks, "Why don't you just drink battery acid instead?" He replies, "No sugar!"
  • The Paranoiac: McDougal (although it's not a major aspect of his character). To wit:
    Henry: "When did you get so paranoid?"
    McDougal: "When they started plotting against me."
  • Perp Walk: Two black kids are arrested for the murders of two wealthy businessmen, and all the media outlets in town are involved in a Media Scrum to try to get a photo or video of them during the perp walk. As a result of the scrum nobody can get a good shot.
  • Product Placement: Henry's obsession with chugging Coca-Cola Classic is a Running Gag. The news room has several glowing Coke machines that are often in the background. Interestingly, his wife tells him he might as well drink battery acid. Minute Maid is also present and prominently displayed in a number of scenes.
  • Running Gag: Phil and his orthopedic chair.
  • Scandal Gate: One reporter has driven his colleagues mad with his constant assertion that he is about dig up a major story.
  • "Shut Up!" Gunshot: Martha, Carmen, Wilder, Phil, and Janet are all in Henry's office, trying to talk at Henry about various problems. McDougal calmly bulls his way through the throng with two bundles of newspapers and fires a shot into them. After everyone shuts up:
  • Worst News Judgement Ever: A key plot point. On the day when every other news outlet in the New York area leads with the story of the apparently racially-motivated murder of two white financiers, the eponymous newspaper, led with a story about McDougal's cars being towed (part of McDougal's Escalating War with the NYC Parking Commissioner).
  • Yet Another Baby Panda: The paper always looks for a funny story to end on.