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MIKE WALLACE IS HERE

As energetic as its subject, Avi Belkin’s propulsive new documentary profiles the veteran broadcaster who became infamous for his hard-hitting interviews and “gotcha” segments on 60 Minutes. Because Wallace came of age with the birth of television and remained active for decades to follow, the movie also serves as a time capsule that spans more than half a century.

I lived through all of this, but even I had to pause for a moment to remember names that once were newsworthy and now have faded with time, from Thomas Eagleton and John Ehrlichman to Leona Helmsley. Belkin’s decision not to identify Wallace’s interview subjects until the end of the film may mute its impact for viewers who weren’t around in the 1960s, 70s, or 80s. But he does capture the essence of Wallace’s TV persona and offers tantalizing excerpts from a wide variety of programs, from early confrontations with columnist Drew Pearson and the Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan to later segments with Barbra Streisand, Vladimir Putin, Oprah Winfrey, and the Ayatollah Khomeni (!), to name just a few.

We also get to see how Wallace responds when the tables are turned and he is on the firing line, confessing some of his regrets as a much-married man and absentee parent. The film is light on biographical information, perhaps because there was so much material to cram into one feature-length film. There is no mention of his son, newsman Chris Wallace, although we catch a glimpse of them together on TV late in the proceedings.

Ultimately, through candid talks with colleagues like Barbara Walters and Morley Safer we come to understand what drove this aggressive newsman and how he viewed himself at different stages of his long career.

Having watched Wallace since childhood, when he was a familiar face hosting game shows and doing commercials, I was riveted to the screen from start to finish. As a character portrait and reflection on an era, Mike Wallace is Here is as vibrant and timely as its subject.

To learn more about when the film may be playing, go to https://www.mikewallaceishere.com/

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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