Good Night, and Good Luck (2005)
I love when things I teach are PG. It gives me a sense of joy, knowing that the world not only made something that people needed to know about, but they did so without language and explicit content. I imagine that there was quite a bit of swearing going on at CBS or with Joseph McCarthy, but this movie doesn't really portray that. There's nothing objectionable in it. I will say, despite having a PG Unicorn rating, kids wouldn't really be all that interested. I think I managed to get one or two high schoolers kind of interested with this one.
DIRECTOR: George Clooney
Man alive, it is going to be hard to write during the summer. Oddly enough, I have more silence and time at work to get stuff done. I get my work done or I get to work before anyone else does and I write. But I have three kids and a wife. One of those kids is a newborn. (Oh, thank you! I wasn't fishing. No, I'm not getting enough sleep.) We'll see how I maintain this schedule. Regardless, I'm going to try my best. If I fall off the horse, I apologize. Regardless, this was not part of the plan. This is the first year that I taught The Crucible. It's actually in our textbooks. Well, as a supplement to The Crucible, there was an excerpt from the screenplay Good Night and Good Luck. We only had a few days left of class and I wasn't going to start a new unit, but watching the movie of the screenplay we just studied? Man, just send the Teacher of the Year awards to Villa Madonna Academy.
I saw this movie when it was in theaters. It got a lot of buzz. My stepfather really dug it. It's odd that he really dug it because the man was a tried and true conservative. I probably was at the time too. I don't like defining my political affiliation now because I think everyone's nuts. (Okay, I'm a moderate and I keep advertising that like it is going to get me an award. Not the Teacher of the Year award. A different one.) From a historical perspective, this is a great docudrama about the events surrounding Edward R. Murrow's reaction to Senator Joseph McCarthy. I don't know why I get so heated about this historical event. I actually have a history minor, but the only thing I really get really excited to study more are McCarthy and the McCarthy hearings. This is my bread and butter. When I teach film, I go deep into studying the Hollywood Ten and stuff like that. It's a very scary time in this nation's history. I think I really like it because it isn't exactly taught in all schools like the Civil Rights Movement or slavery are. This is a time of national shame that people get to if they have the time. I haven't taught The Crucible before because I already teach Death of a Salesman and there are too many great authors to double dip into Arthur Miller twice in one year. But I find all this stuff fascinating. Good Night, and Good Luck is a movie that's aimed for me. But there's nothing that makes you feel more self-conscious and makes you more aware of a movie's foibles than showing it to a skeptical audience. I don't think the kids hated it. It was the last week of school and I'm sure that I was not the only teacher showing the kids a movie. I'm probably the only one who showed them a movie that was part of the curriculum and meant to educate. I think I got a little more self-conscious about this movie because I knew that there were those who were bummed that this movie wasn't an MCU film. As such, there were some things that really bummed me out. I do like Clooney as a director. The man has a very cool way of storytelling that involves crisp imagery mixed with some really awesome jazz stuff going on at the same time. The movie is absolutely gorgeous. Clooney uses black and white for a very functional reason. He blends authentic footage from Murrow's broadcasts with the actors re-enacting the events. It actually happens a lot. That makes sense. It's a news program. There are going to be a lot of prepared footage. But Clooney manages to keep the imagery sharp. It actually makes the world somehow feel more real. There's this graininess to the original footage. The color isn't the contrast when it switches back to the station. The world just seems more real. I like this choice. And again, he has the jazz. The jazz is awesome. I was just listening to Bob Mervak's episode of Armchair Expert with Dax Shepherd and he actually pointed out Clooney's love of jazz. (Also, the Rosemary Clooney thing completely eluded me until that moment.)
But there is a weird element to the whole thing that tends to bother me in movies. It's the gabbiness of the whole thing. There are people who love when people throw around a lot of jargon. These are the fans of John LeCarre. John LeCarre does nothing for me. I get the logic of liking these kinds of stories. It adds this very insane level of authenticity that a lot of movies kind of fail to do. It is meant to feel like you are part of this real world as opposed to this obviously artificial cinematic experience. After all, the point of making movies is to engulf its audience in the action. But the John LeCarre only engulfs people who are really into this. I can't believe it, but I tend to side with studio choices on this one. I never find overly jargony movies that interesting. I feel like I'm sitting at someone else's work and pretending that I know what's going on. To give Good Night, and Good Luck credit, it is no The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. That's just beyond me. I know the basic plot of Good Night, and Good Luck. I can follow the major beats throughout. Considering that I really find McCarthy fascinating and I brought my own background into the movie, that probably helped a lot. But this is one of those behind-the-scenes movies. "Look how newsmen talk." While I got all of the broad strokes of the movie with their dramatic beats, I often found myself confused in the moment to moments. Remember, I'm watching this intently. I'm riveted by this kind of stuff. I had a room full of kids itching to get on summer vacation and probably passive aggressively mad at me for attempting to make them learn during the last week of school. (When I said "movie", a lot of them were cool with that. I'm not a monster. There was no test but I did say that they could cite the movie on the final exam essay.) I can't fault Clooney for authenticity. There's something completely baller about having every detail right. There are these moments where you feel like a fly on the wall in history. There's a brotherhood being forged in that newsroom that is very intense and you cheer for them often...even if you don't know what's always going on that is building it. This seems like I'm crapping on the seriousness of the script in this one, but I suppose it is better than seeing the Hollywoodized version of it. This movie wouldn't work if it pandered a bit. Yeah, I would have enjoyed it more, but I also wouldn't have taken it as seriously. I would wish for a middle ground, but if I asked Clooney and his screenwriters for the earlier versions of this movie, I theorize that the movie might be even more intense and less accessible.
The performances! *mwah* [pantomimes kissing his fingernails showing pleasure]. I think the way this one got on my radar is that it was up for some Academy Awards. You shouldn't be surprised. This movie kind of screams Oscar bait. It's odd to think that this movie is before Iron Man. I remember that Robert Downey, Jr. fell off the map before showing up again as Tony Stark. But there he is, in all of his monochromatic glory. He's great, but I really shouldn't be talking about him. David Straitharn is where the movie is. I have seen this guy over and over. He always seems so mousey. I'm not saying that Murrow is out of his range because he absolutely nails his depiction of Edward R. Murrow. He's fantastic. It's just really alienating to see him so confident. Straitharn depicts Murrow as a even-keeled bulldog. He doesn't let his emotions get away from him at any moment, but Straitharn makes it clear that Murrow was passionate about what he did. The decibel level between the times he has to do a puff piece and when he is attacking the head of the network is negligible. But Straitharn makes it clear that there is a totally different emotional intensity going on between those two scenes. I honestly love that performance and I really hope he won something for that performance. I always find it weird when a director also acts in a movie. Going back to Iron Man, Jon Favreau would play Foggy for a long time after Iron Man, but that part seemed pretty minor. But Clooney placed himself pretty front and center in this movie. While he's not the lead, he is definitely the supporting lead in this movie, maybe only third to Frank Langella. Clooney does a great job as Fred Friendly, the best named man in history. The only complaint I have about Clooney's portrayal is that it is a bit too safe. Clooney is one of those actors who is great, but really hits a lot of the same notes between his separate films. I kind of want someone to shake Clooney up a little bit in this one. There's a lot on the line and it's odd seeing two guys in control. I will say that I don't know much about the real Fred Friendly. Maybe the guy was an anchor, unable to be emotionally moved. I don't know. But I highly doubt that the real Fred Friendly had the cool of George Clooney. That's just my theory. I will also say about casting choices: what makes Alex Borstein fit into period pieces from the '50s and '60s? I keep seeing her in these kinds of roles. She doesn't have a major part in this movie. In fact, I'm not even sure what role she served in the overall narrative. But she is definitely in the movie and she definitely looks like she fits. I mentioned Frank Langella as well. My mom was weirdl obsessed with Frank Langella, especially his portrayal of Dracula. I like him too. I don't know why. I have no specific moment that says, "Frank nailed it!" But he did. He's great. It's so weird that Paley is so famous and revered considering that this movie seems slightly damning to his character.
I now own this movie. Sorry, Lauren, but I'm going to need it for class next year. I'm excited to teach this again. I loved it the first time I saw it, but may have been too vulnerable this time. I'm going to watch it again every year and I'll probably get sick of it after a while. But the movie is great for certain audiences. I just think that, this week, I wasn't that audience.
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Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.