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My hat to George Clooney. He doesn't take the easy way out. His seriousness of purpose is undeniable and his talents as a filmmaker a concrete reality. This, his second feature, is a no frills account of a period in American history that left visible scars but, as it happens, many have forgotten. History repeats itself but its protagonists seem diluted in this modern obsession with political correctness. David Strathairn - best actor at the Venice Film Festival - is chillingly perfect as Edward R Murrow, reminding us that TV times have changed in an unrecognizable way. The space for real thought on network news has been replaced by the circus atmosphere of 24 hour cable shows with loud mouths, sound effects and video graphics. The inter-cutting between Murrow/Strathairn and the real Senator McCarthy creates the perfect illusion of a startling reality. The timing of the film couldn't be more perfect. I hope we can all fill in the voids and connect the dots. It's time to look back and think before our past becomes our future. Thank you Mr Clooney, thank you very much.
The film does not - as some have suggested - unfairly portray McCarthy as a sub-human monster. Its presentation of McCarthy is limited strictly to the thread of the storyline and never does it waver toward name-calling or character assassination. This is particularly striking given that MCarthy was a well-seasoned alcoholic and clearly suffered from a narcissistic personality disorder. He was ripe for parody because his eccentricities were so pronounced, but this film is remarkably even-handed about the Senator's deeds and behavior. There are no allusions either to his peculiar friendship with Roy Cohn, whose notorious homosexual relations with private G. David Schine eventually led to McCarthy's demented charge that the Army was infested with Communists. Some have even suggested that McCarthy was no stranger to gay trysts. All of this could have made for an explosive - and typical - "Hollywood" movie and would indeed have been propagandistic, shallow and simple-minded. Instead Clooney has made an intelligent, cogent, fair-minded film about ethics, high standards and integrity.
I don't know where to begin. If one judges a film by its ability to literally transport the viewer to another time and place, this film succeeds. If one judges a film by the cinematography, the composition of the scenes, whether the characterizations are well drawn, this film succeeds. If one judges a film's merits on integrity, truthfulness, honesty, this film succeeds. Good Night and Good Luck captures a moment in time.We look back on the fifties as a simpler time, our period of innocence. This film tells us straight and true that it was no simpler and no more innocent than our lives today.In fact, the sharpest contrast drawn between today and back then is the intelligence and the literacy, the erudition and the commitment to the tenets of good journalism of Edward R. Murrow and his crew.I cannot picture a Brian Williams or anyone else telling the owner of the network, as Murrow tells Bill Paley, "I can't make it to the game tonight. Thanks for inviting me, but I'm busy tearing down your network." A flawlessly executed film, the acting ensemble well cast, the point clearly and eloquently made, this film should be nominated for an Oscar, a Golden Globe and anything else that's out there. Thank you George Clooney. Your father is correct. "You got it right." Thank you Steven Soderburgh. Thank you, Mr. Murrow.
Actor/Director George Clooney pays tribute to truth and decency amid
distrust and uncertainty in the Communist witchhunts with his
recreation of its greatest hero, the newsman of newsmen, Edward R.
Murrow, in Good Night, and Good Luck.
In the early 1950's, the Communist scare and the subsequent subversion of citizens' rights was at its apex with blacklists and rampant accusations resulting in ruined lives and careers. Edward R. Murrow (David Strathairn) was the grand master of the news airwaves in the infantile medium of television. With his show's director, Fred Friendly (George Clooney) and his production team, he picks one obscure news item regarding an Air Force serviceman who is dismissed due to unspecified charges. Murrow and CBS essentially take on the US Air Force amid this climate of suspicion and presumed guilt. Later, Murrow's team takes on Senator Joseph McCarthy by making critical comments of the senator's own words and contradictions. McCarthy retaliates with accusations of Murrow's supposed association with un-American groups just as the parent network, CBS, reels under sponsorship pressure and the unpredictable whims of network president William Paley (Frank Langella). As Murrow and his own staff come under tense scrutiny by McCarthy and even CBS, public reaction and the response of the print media come to the forefront.
Nothing can compare to the words that were written and spoken with such conviction and honesty as those uttered by Murrow. The title of the movie is a direct quote that Murrow employed to sign off each week at the close of his interview shows. The filmmakers (including director Clooney and writers Clooney and Grant Heslov) were wise to let the text stand on its own. They also benefit from good performances from a cast headed by Strathairn (L.A. Confidential, A League of Their Own), a journeyman actor who has finally found a core role to call his own, and he makes the most of it. He gets the mannerisms and cadence down quite convincingly, and while Strathairn may not look exactly like Murrow, he has the persona nailed. Frank Langella (Dave) is excellent as the mercurial Paley whose support of Murrow was tenuous at best. Ray Wise (Twin Peaks) registers in what could have been a more defined role as a doomed newsman whose guilt by association triggers some life changing events. Patricia Clarkson (The Station Agent) and Robert Downey Jr. (Chaplin) as secretly married staffers, Joe and Shirley, round out the cast. Ironically, perhaps the best performance can be attributed to McCarthy himself as newsreels offer a fascinating, perverse glance at the infamous politician whose flamboyance and dogged theatrics doomed the careers of many government officials and film or television actors. The duel between Murrow and McCarthy seems like two heavyweights going at it verbally in the public arena.
The cinematography by Robert Elswit (Magnolia) is crisp and starkly lit in black and white to evoke the past. The production design and costumes are consistent with the period. Just the sight of newsmen typing on old style typewriters or production assistants carrying around film reels instead of videotape or discs is amusing. The editing by Stephen Mirrione (Traffic, 21 Grams) is tight and well paced. At times the studio broadcasts of a female blues singer bridges various sequences in theme and mood. The broadcast of a live network news program is staged with realism and with the frenzy and excitement that only live television could bring. One wonders what TV veterans like Sidney Lumet or Robert Altman could have brought to the table.
Murrow's show was kind of a precursor to the current granddaddy of all prime time news shows, 60 Minutes. It was interesting to see that his was not a perfect career having to mix fluffy showbiz interviews with such personalities as Liberace on his Person-to-Person show with legitimate news reports. At 93 minutes, the film surprisingly seems a bit short. You almost feel like this is a big budget episode of the famous You Are There reenactment shows. The story ends almost abruptly as it begins being bookended by a formal event honoring Murrow in 1958.
A couple of things don't quite work in the film. The characters of Joe and Shirley must come to terms with the network's policy forbidding marriage among its coworkers, but this subplot doesn't significantly serve to move the story forward. Clooney shows a workman-like approach to directing the film but it just doesn't grab you as emotionally as you would like. You sit there entranced by the history but are never fully given to the pathos of its characters. Instead, the film becomes almost a quasi-documentary bereft of much feeling.
As previous films have dealt with the Red Scare and blacklists, this film compares favorably with The Front and the great television movie Fear on Trial. Although the Soviet Union was a major threat to the United States during the Cold War, the accusatory enemy from within was perhaps as great a menace. The implications and parallels to today's political climate and the role television has in shaping perception are clearly the point Clooney and gang are trying to make. Murrow's formal speech, which begins and ends the film's story, is itself a prophetic and sobering commentary and indictment of the possibilities of television and foreshadows the future with amazing prescience. It shows that one man made a difference. Such is the testament to a heroic reporter whose integrity this film manages to capture, albeit in a brief history lesson.
"Good Night, And Good Luck" is one of the best films of the year. Beautifully directed by George Clooney (who also co-stars), this is a film that exercises a powerful message and social commentary that remains relevant today. Filmed in tight frames of black and white, "Good Night, And Good Luck" also brings back the smoke-filled atmosphere of broadcast journalism and television in the 1950s. The film focuses around CBS journalist Edward Murrow and his attempts to take down Senator Joseph McCarthy through his news program, "See it Now." David Strathairn, playing Edward Murrow, gives one of the best performances of the year and is surely swimming in Oscar territory. Clooney makes his biggest leap in the film industry yet. He, too, may join Strathairn for an Oscar nomination, but in the Best Director category. Filming in black and white, and interspersing news conferences with actual footage of McCarthy, Clooney is an emerging talent worth watching. The ending and the very last frame lets "Good Night, And Good Luck" stay with those who watch it. It ends very abruptly, as if Clooney wants to show the failing, yet lasting effort Murrow had--how he stands as a symbol for the continuation of truth and who is willing to bring it out to the public. The end has a very honest bleak tone to it--we want to see Murrow continue to let the public know what's actually going on in the country, but one man's fight isn't good enough. Clooney chooses a perfect and powerful ending. He makes a bold statement on how public interest in television has contributed to the decay of society, whether it is 1950 or 2005.
This film was a real treat, with Strathairn's dead-on performance as
legendary journalist Edward R. Murrow a sure bet for at least an Oscar
nomination. Perhaps the best decision by writer-director George Clooney
was to cast no one in the role of Senator Joseph McCarthy. Instead,
Clooney uses actual footage of McCarthy in the HUAC hearings and press
conferences. Movies based on actual historical events often
sensationalize events, but the extensive use of documentary footage
brings home the reality of this movie's story line.
In addition to Strathairn's best performance to date, the entire cast delivers, from Clooney himself as Murrow's producer Fred Friendly, to Frank Langella as CBS chairman William Paley, to Ray Wise as the insecure anchorman Don Hollenbeck. If there is a weak point in the cast, it is Jeff Daniels, who was given little to do in the role of news director Sig Mickelson and did little with it.
As most people today are acquainted with the 1950s through black-and-white images, the decision to film in black-and-white also feels appropriate, and helps the documentary footage to blend in seamlessly with the filmed actors. The only real failing of the movie is the lack of real drama. Throughout, Murrow and the gang are seen to have the upper hand, although they sweat about the potential consequences of every action. The slice of history, the ideas presented concerning the proper role of news media, and the terrific performances all more than make up for this, however, and I strongly recommend this film to those who lived through the McCarthy era and to those, such as myself, who only have witnessed it in the rear view mirror.
"Good Night, and Good Luck" is the kind of film that has elicited
strong opinions in the IMDb forum. In fact, most of the critics point
out at the manipulation of the actual events and what they perceive as
character assassination of the late Joseph McCarthy and the role he
played during the "witch hunt" conducted by the late senator from
Wisconsin. Whether these points are right, or wrong, in the minds of
the contributors, most seem to disregard the film on that criteria,
In fact, "Good Night, and Good Luck" shows a time in the American past that served as the model in the way television introduced the format in which the news was going to be shown to the country using the emerging technology to keep people informed. As such, CBS under William Paley's leadership, amassed a lot of talent and it became the yardstick in which other news programs were going to be judged against. George Clooney, in his second directorial job, recreates what he and his co-writer, Grant Heslov, thought about that period at the beginning of the era of television news.
The film has a documentary style that serves well to illustrate the story being told. Most of it occurring in the CBS studios in New York during the fifties. The crisp black and white cinematography, by Robert Elswit, gives the movie a nostalgic look to the way things were done in those days. Mr. Clooney has inserted scenes where a black jazz singer interprets some standard songs as though it might have been the next program following the actual news hour, and act as a buffer in the events being presented.
At the center of the story is Edward R. Murrow, the CBS anchor at the time. Mr. Murrow was greatly admired for his contributions during WWII and his broadcasts from London bringing commentaries about the war to America. Mr. Murrow was a giant in the field, most admired by all Americans because his integrity and the way he presented his stories, which ranged from the sublime, to the ridiculous, as it is the case with the interview with Liberace in Sherman Oaks where he asked the entertainer about his future wedding plans.
The strong cast assembled for the film is excellent. David Strathairn, one of our most versatile actors plays the leading role. His take on Murrow's mannerisms and the way he spoke to his audience in front of the camera is captured with great detail. Mr. Strathairn gives a good performance, but one never really knows much about the man in the way the screen play has been written. Yes, one gets the impression of Mr. Murrow's high ethics, but as far as what made him tick, one has to wait for another biopic to find out.
The ensemble cast plays well under Mr. Clooney's direction. Robert Downey Jr., Patricia Clarkson, Ray Wise, Frank Langella, Jeff Daniels, and George Clooney are seen in the newsroom as they portray their models under Mr. Clooney's direction.
I just saw this film, and I have three words to sum it up: A terrific
Yes, there were people who thought this was just leftist propaganda but they all walked out in agreement that 'Good Night' was a very well made movie about a person who exploited fear in the people of the united states in 1953.
David Strathairn gives the performance of his career as Edward R Murrow, a legendary 1950's news reporter. His performance has the complexities, mannerisms and subtleties that you would expect from Murrow. His performance does for Murrow for what Adrien Brody did for Wladyslaw Spilzman, you truly do believe him. Count on a Oscar nomination.
George Clooney's direction, writing and acting are all very strong this side of Roberto Benigni's 'Life is Beautiful'. Clooney may direct himself to his first Oscar.
Another revelation in this movie is Frank Langella, who plays Bill Paley (the head of CBS). He backs Murrow and Friendly to the end, but also tells them the cold, hard truth . He tries so hard not to jeopardize the both of them.
All that being said, this may be the underdog movie at this year's Academy Awards. Strathairn and Clooney both give outstanding performances but this year their competition is stiff. Straithairn going after Philip Seymour Hoffman for his performance in ' Capote ' and Clooney going after Peter Sarsgaard for his performance in 'jarhead'.
A very good film and worth the 90 minutes of your time.
I've had the "Edward R. Murrow" Collection from CBS for years and have
enjoyed watching it's biography of Murrow, the complete Milo
Radulovich, McCarthy and Annie Lee Moss shows many times. I'm sure
George Clooney must have these as well as he used the actual footage
extensively in his fine drama "Good Night and Good Luck". As a previous
poster said, by concentrating on what was actually presented, Clooney
is able to focus on the ethical issues that were the real substance of
the broadcasts, rather than the tragicomic personalities involved. He
wants us to see that the same issues are in our lives today, (Clooney
has had his own battles with would-be modern McCarthys like Bill
O'Reilly), but he isn't going to force the issue. He's doing exactly
what Murrow and Friendly did with the McCarthy broadcast: using the
actual record to tell the story.
There are minor, but significant embellishments, mostly an impressive cast of actors who can tell us more with one look than an entire speech. Leading the way is David Straithairn as Murrow. Except for possessing a higher pitched voice than the original, he's got his man down cold. I would pick Frank Langella as William Paley, here presented as a man with ideals but who is rooted in the realities of business, the sort of guy who has to make the tough decisions the idealists like Murrow don't have to or want to deal with. Then there is Ray Wise as the vulnerable Don Hollenbeck, who was one of the co-creators of "You Are There", a program this film somewhat resembles. He wound up being "there" when he didn't really want to be.
What really enhances the show is the black and white photography, (actually, according to the notes, it was "The film was shot on color film on a grayscale set, then color-corrected in post" whatever that means). Not only does it heighten the drama, (magazine photographers, in the days when they had a choice, said "black and white for drama, color for excitement"), but the tremendous resolution seems to bring out each furrow and poor on each person's face, allowing the viewer to see into their souls.
This film portrays an episode in television history. That period was
covered in a class on documentary film that I took many years ago as an
undergraduate. So, I've seen the full episodes of Murrow's challenge,
McCarthy's attack on Murrow, and Murrow's response.
McCarthy overreached when he went after the Army. And Murrow, I have learned from other sources, waited until McCarthy was politically wounded before challenging him. These elements are missing from the film. My guess is they were omitted to avoid boring the audience.
For those with no experience with McCarthyism, the film may be boring anyway as some have already commented.
However, like Arthur Miller's play, The Crucible, which set McCarthyism in the time frame of the Salem witch trial hysteria, this film does a decent job of portraying the atmosphere of fear engendered by continual hysterical threats to the personal safety of the American people from within or from without. It does not show the chilling effect the atmosphere of fear imposes on the journalist.
It does show a relationship between the corporation and the journalist. This is an important point. It is well made. I find this the most relevant part of the film.
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