friday random ten

oscar run xii: good night, and good luck

I'm not sure these comments will be very cohesive ... I loved Good Night, and Good Luck as I watched it, if I'd given it a rating on my way out of the theater I might have gone for the full 10 out of 10, and I have no qualms about recommending it, but the flaws I didn't worry about as I watched the film seem more important as I reflect upon them.

So, to get some of the many excellent things out of the way. George Clooney has crafted a concise account of a specific moment in time, kept the attention of the audience while dealing with material that could easily have been drab, made several important decisions as a director that greatly enhance the movie (the black and white look, the apparent accuracy of the depiction of newsrooms in the 50s, getting David Strathairn to play Ed Murrow), and brought it all home in less than 100 minutes (it wins this year's Golden Booty Award, awarded annually to the Best Picture nominee with a running time closest to that of Booty Call). The focus of the film is remarkable, in subject matter (it's not about the entire career of Murrow, or of McCarthy for that matter, but only about the period when they crossed swords) and in settings (most of the film takes place in cramped quarters inside a news studio).

And Clooney's underlying argument, that today's press doesn't do its job, that today's Joe McCarthys are not called on their lunacy, that in fact today's Joe McCarthys are as often as not members of the media themselves, is a good one.

And yet (and how many films are there where I don't ever say "and yet"?) ... the precision, the conciseness, the focus, means that the film's vision of Edward R. Murrow is too narrow. There's too much hero worshiping, and Murrow's career was more complicated than what we see in this film. This makes the movie, in retrospect, seem a bit untrustworthy.

And while Clooney mostly makes smart moves as a director, his decision to include musical interludes is a bad one. The interludes are fine in and of themselves, and they might even work in a more surreal film. But here, with Clooney striving for the maximum in authenticity, it's just odd and confusing to see Dianne Reeves singing sultry tunes somewhere in the CBS studios.

The movie is nominated for six Oscars, and they are a mixed bunch. Best Picture? Possibly. Best Director? Also possible. Best Actor? Why not? Best Cinematography and Art Direction? It really shines in these areas, even if I'm not quite sure what "art direction" means. Best Screenplay? Here, I'd have to disagree ... much of the best dialogue in the film is taken directly from transcripts from Murrow's television shows, and I can't see honoring such a process with a Best Screenplay award (maybe if it was in the "previously published" section instead of the "written directly for the screen" section).

I very much liked this movie. I can also imagine having some excellent discussions with people who know more than I do about the history of the period in question.

One last note ... as with Syriana earlier, the print I saw today was a disaster. The black-and-white photography was very intense ... too bad the entire movie featured an incessant array of specks and flaws. Anyone who wonders why people opt for watching movies in their home theaters should keep in mind how crappy many prints are in the theater. When everyone goes to digital projection, don't blame me, blame the people projecting all these crappy film prints all these years.