July 20, 2009

Good Night and Good Luck - 2005

Director: George Clooney
Writers: George Clooney and Grant Heslov
Starring: David Strathairn, George Clooney, Robert Downey Jr., Patricia Clarkson, Jeff Daniels

With the recent demise of the great newsman Walter Cronkite, I decided to start off with a film about another man in the field, who seems to be relatively forgotten today. Good Night and Good Luck chronicles the struggle of Edward R. Murrow and others working at CBS at the time to "defy corporate and sponsorship pressures, and discredit the tactics used by Joseph McCarthy during his crusade to root out communist elements within the government." The film accomplishes exactly that, without veering into the realm of the biopic. Its crowning achievement can be found in an anecdote that Clooney shares on the film's audio commentary: 20% of one test audience was unfamiliar with Joseph McCarthy, and wanted to know the actor who portrays his segments of the film. Clooney responded that McCarthy did such a good job making himself look like a jerk at the time that only actual footage of the anti-Communist hearings was used, rather than trying to recreate them.

Clooney made this movie because he "thought it was a good time to raise the idea of using fear to stifle political debate." Considering the times we lived in until recently, where it once again became un-American to criticize the government, it couldn't have been more appropriate. So when you think of him in the future, try to ignore that he was once People's Sexiest Man Alive (which he reminds us of about three times, in jest, in the commentary), or that as Batman he "kicked Governor Freeze's ass." Instead, think of director George Clooney, and his paean to journalism of yesteryear.

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