Aug. 20, 2017
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'Obit' Review

May 31, 2017, 12:00 am

Inside a brittle folder in a metal filing cabinet in an overstuffed room, there’s evidence that journalists had been preparing for her death since 1931. Now, it’s 2010, and former teenage daredevil pilot Elinor Smith has died in her 90s. Out comes the file from the newspaper morgue, the advance obituary written by a reporter himself already long dead. And so begins the research about her role on the early aviation stage—and it’s got to be done by tomorrow.

In the tradition of 2011’s Page One—which featured newsroom action at The New York Times and an extensive look at famed, now late, media writer David Carr—this newest documentary about the Gray Lady gets inkstained with the most common of denominators: the obituary pages.

Turns out, there’s still a whole department at the Times for obituary writers who take on stories from across the nation and the globe. Once a busy part of the news operation, the morgue service is still part of how they research the movers and shakers from 50 years ago who are now dropping like flies. Sure, the internet has renovated research tactics, but it’s refreshing to see writers tenderly parse through old pieces of newspaper and hold actual photographs close to their eyes; history buffs will love the archival video footage that helps bring the newspaper stories to life.

And if you’re one of those people who goes goo-goo on social media every time a Gregg Allman or a Chris Cornell or a Prince fades to black, you might want to hear about the day Michael Jackson died. The editors and writers of Obit are an articulate, thoughtful bunch. Each day, says obituarist William Grimes. “You have a chance that you can’t repeat; it is a once-only chance to make the dead live again.” 


7
+ Great inside view of the press
- If you think journalists are the enemy, you won’t like this

Obit
Center for Contemporary Arts,
NR,
93 min


 

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