white noise (noah baumbach, 2022)
film fatales #182: messiah of evil (willard huyck & gloria katz, 1973)

revisiting the 9s: good night, and good luck (george clooney, 2005)

[This is the eighteenth in a series that will probably be VERY intermittent, if I remember to post at all. I've long known that while I have given my share of 10-out-of-10 ratings for movies over the years, in almost every case, those movies are fairly old. So I got this idea to go back and revisit movies of relatively recent vintage that I gave a rating of 9, to see if time and perspective convinced me to bump that rating up to 10.]

In 2006, I wrote about Good Night, and Good Luck:

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. 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 don't have a lot to add, except that I think I was a bit hard on the film, meaning if it had come out in the 1950s, I would have already given it a 10. I complained about the music interludes, but this time, they seemed right. I still think Best Screenplay is a bit of a stretch, except everything in the film, real footage and speeches and "acted" material, is blended perfectly. Good Night, and Good Luck is an exceptional film.


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