Saturday, January 07, 2006

Good Night, and Good Luck.

Good Night and Good Luck, LLC
Director: George Clooney
Length: 90 min.
Format: 35mm
Date Viewed: 7 January

"Good Night, and Good Luck" is perhaps the most beautiful looking film of the year, if not the last few years. Presenting the film in black-and-white was a strong choice by Clooney, and it works, along with the realistic production design and dark, smoke-filled rooms, to make the film look like it may have been shot in the late 50s or early 60s. The strange thing is that it does not resemble an American production from this era so much as a European production in terms of its mise-en-scene, specifically in the way the camera moves and even in minor details like the text crawl towards the beginning. The ensemble cast are uniformly stellar, but many of the characters were not established at all in terms of their names or roles on Murrow's show, which leads to much confusion to those who don't have an extensive knowledge of Murrow's program. This is one symptom of the film's main flaw, a surprising lack of context. Names are tossed about in clearly important ways, and yet, the importance is lost of those of us too young to know who they are. Further, the HUAAC era is not well explained outside of the very few, though pivotal, events underlined in the movie. I know the basics of what happened, and a little as to extent of the committee's damage, but I could have used more establishing information to put the film into greater context. I think the film's strength is in not becoming bogged down in the entirety of HUAAC's multi-year crusade, and overstating Murrow's role in it's downfall, but a little more background would have allowed the audience to understand to film as a whole as opposed to needing me to take a minute to desperately try and remember who William F. Buckley was (I failed). The film excels, however, at giving us a look at the first footholds of advertisers power over the nightly news, and at the dangerous persuasiveness of the media to present extreme ideas as objective truth. We witness the latter especially in two amazing found artifacts, a blatantly biased television ad for cigarettes which lauds consumers for not listening to advertisers while buying their cigarettes - clearly America's best - and also in an interview between Murrow and Liberace (!) who covers his "plans for marriage" with the most obvious sham stories (Princess Margaret?) that most viewers probably fell for. The film also makes a strong allusion to our current political climate, tying McCarthyism to the War on Terror (McCarthy used the same tactics as found in Bush's November 13, 2001, Military Order [66 Federal Register 57831 (2001)]), and also to the infotainment and biased government mouthpiece role of modern TV journalism. The lessons we can take away from "Good Night, and Good Luck" are very important, and we can look to Edward R. Murrow as a role model in using the news to combat the loss of our civil rights and the lies perpetrated by men and women in power.


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