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Friday, May 18, 2007

Movies: Good Night and Good Luck

There were so many things to like about this movie that briefly chronicles the battle between uber-journalist Edward R. Murrow and Communist-hunter Senator Joseph McCarthy. David Strathairn is brilliant as ever as Murrow, with George Clooney doing quadruple-duty as director, co-screenwriter, producer, and on-screen in the role of Fred Friendly, Murrow's producer. Rounding out the cast are heavy-hitters Frank Langella, Patricia Clarkson, Jeff Daniels, Robert Downey, Jr., and the often under-rated Ray Wise in an inspired and subtle turn as the tragic Don Hollenbeck.
Wisely, Clooney chose to let McCarthy play himself via archival footage. If anyone else had read those lines, we'd have thought them to be ridiculous fiction and a parody of the truth. (In fact, test audiences of the film didn't realize that archive footage was being used and said that they felt the actor playing McCarthy was over-acting.)
Murrow's final speech in an address to fellow broadcasters (taken almost word for word from an actual address given by Murrow) warns of the danger of using television strictly for entertainment and of ignoring the instrument's potential for public education.
One wonders what Murrow would think of the present news media's continuous coverage of stories about Paris Hilton, Anna Nicole Smith, and Britney Spears.
If I have one complaint about this movie, it is that, at only about 90 minutes in total length, it seemed entirely too short. I wanted more. I wanted to know more about Murrow and Friendly, but Clooney obviously made the decision that less is more, and I respect that.
Clooney made another choice that I also respect, and that was that, in the way of accuracy, everybody smoked. It was a TV newsroom in 1953. Of course everyone smoked!
There is a group now lobbying Hollywood that wants any movie depicting smoking on screen to receive an immediate R-rating. They feel that it unduly influences children to take up smoking.
Those of you who know me outside of this blog page have heard me say this before, but I feel that it bears repeating:
If a character on a movie screen has more influence on your child than you do, then the blame does not belong with the movie.
I do not know where the expectation has arisen that Hollywood is in some way partially culpable for raising everyone's children. If your kid breaks his arm riding a shopping cart down a hill and into a pond, it is not, in fact, because he saw it in Jackass: The Movie. It is because somewhere along the line someone didn't instill in him that being a jackass is not something to which one should aspire.
Hollywood's children are Lindsay Lohan, River Phoenix, and Todd Bridges. If you can't recognize that Tinseltown is not a good babysitter for your kids, then maybe you shouldn't have any.