Talk Radio [Celluloid Hero]
Talk Radio (1988)
Radio is crazy. Most of the people in the industry are crazy, especially in the talk radio genre. It’s one thing if I have an opinion on Pink Floyd that you disagree with, you’re probably not going to send me threatening letters (please don’t); however, if I start ranting about religion or gun control or abortion, the odds are someone is going to get really really mad.
“Talk Radio” started as a play written by Eric Bogosian, based on the true story of Alan Berg, a DJ who was murdered in 1984. The play was a success, and adapted for film by Bogosian and Oliver Stone.
Since it started as a play, the cinematography is very stylized. Most of the action takes place within the on-air studio, with the camera revolving around the desk, or looking through windows from the studio into the producer’s booth. Setting a movie in such a confined space forces a director to be creative, and Stone does a very good job.
The story was great, and from what I’ve read about Alan Berg, pretty much true. Berg was a shoe salesman before becoming a DJ, and Bogosian’s character Barry Champlain was a suit salesman. Both were Jewish, both liked to upset their callers, and both came to violent ends. The acting from everyone involved was solid, from Bogosian to one of my personal favorites John C. McGinley. Alec Baldwin has a great role as Champlain’s boss.
I was drawn to this movie, obviously on the level of being an on-air personality myself. I couldn’t help but compare it to my life, or even comparing it to the Free Beer & Hot Wings Show. The guys can be jerks, rude to callers, and maybe have a viewpoint opposite of the audience, but I’ve never felt like they made a truly offensive statement, and definitely not anything that would result in violence against them. Still, there is some strange fear that someone could take the step from sending an email that says “you’re stupid” to actually deciding to take their anger out on a DJ.
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On the [Celluloid Hero] scale, “Talk Radio” gets a 7 out of 10.
[Each week, Varacchi explores cinema from his own perspective. From indie to foreign to mainstream, he’ll watch it all. Suggestions and recommendations are welcome, leave a comment below. CLICK HERE for the Celluloid Hero archives]