Nightcrawler: The Sensationalization of News story

Lou and Nina
Photo source from Mirror 

   We are all familiar with news manipulation in our TV screens. Media manipulation, as they term it, seems so real that we can no longer call it fake because we are subconsciously hooked with it. Last year, one of the interesting films the caught the attention of many moviegoers is the film by Dan Gilroy entitled Nightcrawler. The film is about the sociopath named Louis “Lou” Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaals) who likes to film footages of accidents and crimes in Los Angeles and sell it to a news channel for profit. The film discusses the artfully staged stories that the media manufactured to sell in the public. 

   "Charming sociopath" and "supremely creepy", as what many film critics describe the character of Lou. As you watch the film, you will get hook with his character and wants to know more as the film progresses. A grisly satire of US media, Nightcrawler never bores you as a spectator. The dark humor element of it makes you laugh at the same time feel the horror engrave with it. For example, Lou’s personal mantra - “if you want to win the lottery, you have to make the money to buy a ticket.” – seems have a point in pertaining to work hard to earn one’s success in life. But as the film develops, the application of it becomes a “pretty sick joke”. As it implies, Lou’s philosophy is funny and has a point but at the later part it becomes provocatively interesting. Gilroy gives us an idea of “if it bleeds, it leads” aphorism of news gathering and the “fetishistic pleasure in the minutiae of violence and death.” 

   Lou’s character is not only remarkable in the film. For example, the role of Nina (Rene Russo) also symbolizes the desperation of media in today’s competitive environment. In the film, Nina’s colleague asks her – “You’re going to show this?” Nina does not hesitate to show the video she obtains from Lou to the public because she knows that it helps boost the ratings of the not so lucky news channel. More importantly, it helps resurrect her career as News Director/Producer. She wants to stay relevant in the eyes of her boss and most especially in the public. That’s why she needs Lou for her survival and longevity. The same as Lou wants Nina for his career advancement. 

   Many critics have stated that Nightcrawler is reminiscent of such films as American Pyscho, Taxi Driver, Network and Ace in the Hole. But Gilroy makes a fresh version of it that is applicable in today’s media landscape. His film “pushes boundaries of journalistic ethics” and it states no clear moral grounds for audience contemplation and reflection. It received good reviews and Nightcrawler was nominated in several film award giving bodies like the prestigious 2015 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

   The film is good for reflection in terms of our consumption of news and information. In the case of the Philippine media, it is obvious that they derived its inspiration from their US counterpart. As we can observe, the style of Pinoy media is somewhat the same in terms of reporting and how they sensationalize stories ala telenovela to suit the taste of Filipino audience. For example, the case of Mindanao war coverage, Oakwood Mutinee incident in 2007, the typhoon coverage and the recent 44 “fallen heroes” coverage were skillfully stage to suit the agenda of the few. The Social Media somehow break this “tradition” in news reporting. It helps democratized the flow of information and free speech for healthy discourse. But this medium is slowly penetrating by the mainstream media to expand their reach. 

   In this age, where information is readily available, it is important to assess it in terms of its facts and credibility. Nightcrawler reminds us that if we are not careful of this hungry and overly ambitious individuals who likes to feed our desires and fears for profit, we will end up (metaphorically speaking) like the character of Rick Carey (Riz Ahmed). Nightcrawler is one the films that help us realize the ugly side of the media industry and how its influence penetrates in our lives. 

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