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Good Night, and Good Luck.

A movie directed by George Clooney

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Good Night and Good Luck -- interesting but not "important"

  • Oct 13, 2010

Good Night and Good Luck tells the story of Edward R. Murrow’s first indirect, then direct assault on the irresponsible activities of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s anti-Communist hearings. The movie depicts Murrow’s program See It Now as the salient in the movement to end, or at least limit, the power McCarthy and his team.

If that was the only theme of the movie, it might have been successful. Instead the movie creates an incomplete sketch of Murrow, the producer Fred Friendly, the newscaster Don Hollenbeck, and a few others. Small and mostly pointless subplots augment the main story: Hollenbeck’s insecurities and a marriage that has to remain secret because of CBS rules, for instance.

The only subplot that isn’t unnecessary or tangential is the longstanding television debate about news and information versus entertainment. The president of CBS, William Paley explains that a the quiz show $64,000 Question costs half as much as Murrow’s See It Now and makes significantly more money. Further, this subplot ties directly into the frame narrative the movie uses. The movie opens and closes with Murrow delivering a screed against the wasteland of television, where entertainment and escapism have trumped news and information. Had the film used this debate in a more fleshed out manner as well as the McCarthy attack while leaving out the other subplots, it would have been a far tighter film.

There are good things about this film, however. Filming it in black and white helped frame the it in it’s time. Since See It Now was broadcast in black and white, it makes sense that the film should be shown in the same manner. It is possible to argue all sorts of other metaphorical reasons, but I think the cultural one is the strongest. The best feature was the use of actual McCarthy footage rather than reenacting it. The “junior senator from Wisconsin” as Murrow calls McCarthy, is a frightening figure to see because of the fear he was instrumental in stoking; using an actor to try to mimic this would have been a very poor move. In addition, the footage used was not the standard that is typically used. Good Night and Good Luck focuses on two individuals who were not famous, but average Americans. Rather than center on the Hollywood figures or writers like Dashiell Hammett, Good Night and Good Luck shows us the grilling of Annie Moss. In these areas, Good Night and Good Luck shines.

None of the performances were bad, none were stellar. David Strathairn was good as Murrow, but not great. It is obvious that he studied footage of his character, but he never seemed to stray from the television persona Murrow portrayed. It is possible that Murrow was always stiff and careful, so this criticism could be misplaced. Still, I got the sense that Strathairn’s Murrow was never ‘off’ camera.

Good Night and Good Luck is a topical piece meant to remind us of what can happen if we let our fears be controlled by those we elect. Fear determined the outcome of many elections in 2004—either fear of ‘the enemy’ who is still very hard to define or fear of gay marriage. Fear may be a leading issue for the next several general and midterm elections. The cliché is that people vote their pocketbook. Generally this is true, but in today’s climate, people vote their fear. Good Night and Good Luck didn’t really succeed, for me, in reminding a general audience of this. Those of us who are aware of the vote-your-fear issue, are very aware of McCarthy, what allowed him to be created and fostered. Those who are not aware of fear voting or are not aware of McCarthy are probably not going to, by and large, put the two together as a metaphor for our current situation.

The review is over, what follows is some personal opinions about the history covered in the film.

The film alludes to the concept that McCarthy was going to self-destruct. His kind of fear and hate mongering would have eventually faded on its own because, historically, American’s don’t have the stomach, attention span, or energy to carry on that level of emotional reaction for very long. Besides, the Army would have gone after McCarthy anyway, it might just have taken a wee bit longer without Murrow. The time distance between the See It Now broadcast and the final censure in the Senate was so short that you cannot pin the success on Murrow. Murrow had the guts to stand up in an exceedingly professional way to allow McCarthy some extra rope to hang himself—this rope was just one of many given that the armed forces were also trying to get rid of the loud mouth senator.

We are not in the same situation now that we were then. Yes we have politicians calling those who agree with them patriots and those who disagree in league with the enemy or just deluded. But this is not new, every generation has that. We do not have the general population of the country frightened that they could be next to face the hearings. Some Americans may feel frightened, and this is horrible, but the general population is not in a place where they would worry about that. None of us have had to sign or take a loyalty oath. What is happening today is what happens when you have a minority president who has a movement behind him—they have to justify their presence, and nothing says ‘keep me on’ better than a war, or a host of wars. This will also pass on its own. When this administration is gone, we will begin to throw more eggs at it than we are currently, but that is also just the way the American people do things. Even the beloved Reagan had some egg on him when he left office.

We will not learn to elect people based on any number of movies. These decisions are made not with care but with family tradition and gut instinct. Issue movies appeal to higher levels of reasoning than usually are operating when you finally get to the voting booth. What the pocketbook screams and what parts of us shudder in fear determine how we vote, or even if we vote. So Good Night and Good Luck isn’t an important film. It is interesting in parts, dull in other parts, but it isn’t ‘important.’


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More Good Night, and Good Luck. reviews
review by . April 07, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
We'd better be careful when some think
For a film that some conservatives may find little good in and some liberals may find nothing bad in, I think George Clooney with Good Night, and Good Luck has come up with a movie that is surprisingly engrossing. It's an inside look at the decision Edward R. Murrow made to expose Senator Joseph McCarthy on Murrow's news show, See It Now. Clooney uses a black-and-white documentary style, showing what McCarthy was doing with his accusations of Communist infiltration into the government and …
review by . March 26, 2009
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"Hoover, he was a body remover I'll give you a dose But it'll never come close To the rage built up inside of me Fist in the air in the land of hypocrisy Movements come and movements go Leaders speak, movements cease When their heads are flown ‘Cause all these punks Got bullets in their heads Departments of police, the judges, the feds" -Rage Against the Machine in the song Wake Up, written by Zack de la Rocha     It's nearly impossible to comprehend the stifling smog …
review by . June 15, 2009
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He really was broadcast journalism's first superstar.  Edward R. Murrow was not a particularly handsome man nor did he possess the charisma that seems to be a prerequisite to be a television anchor in our day.  Rather,  Murrow was  a dedicated journalist who cared deeply about his country and who would ultimately risk his career in the pursuit of a story.   "Good Night, and Good Luck" is George Clooney's outstanding 2005 film recalling …
review by . December 05, 2006
Good Night, and Good Luck was the famous television sign-off by one of American television's most famous journalists; Edward R. Morrow of CBS. Jumping into the national spotlight with his work during WWII, Morrow became a mainstay of American TV during the 1950s. This show expands on one of the most important chapters of his career, his initial and public questioning of Senator McCarthy's tactics on his news show. This questioning would be the beginning of the end for McCarthy, as it led others …
review by . July 11, 2006
posted in Movie Hype
I went to see 'Good Night, and Good Luck' because I wanted to see history reinacted. I received what I wanted. The reinactment by the very able David Straitharn as Edward R. Murrow is noble and absorbing. It is also a great touch that we see the actual hearings by Senator Eugene McCarthy. It makes the movie part documentary and part reinactment, and both aspects are done admirably. George Clooney has helped create as part director, writer, and actor a fine movie. The behind the scenes drama where …
review by . March 26, 2006
posted in Movie Hype
Many of us in the early 21st century have no memories of the 1950s and have been led to believe the decade was all about sock hops, Howdy Doody and clean-cut American families. But the early '50s was also a time of great paranoia and fear in the United States, when Sen. Joe McCarthy led a witch hunt for Communist sympathizers on American soil.    More than 50 years later, McCarthy to me was little more than a symbol of government gone astray. Edward R. Murrow, the newsman who …
review by . March 15, 2006
GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK is a brilliant piece of film making, a film that recreates a period in our history when gossip mongers and fear exploiters took the lead for a terrifying few years that threatened to extinguish civil rights forever. Not unlike now! And that is one reason this film carries so much resonance: the story of the bravery of popular news reporter Edward R. Morrow (David Strathairn) and his associates Fred Friendly (George Clooney), Joe and Shirley Wershba (Robert Downey, Jr. and …
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About this movie


Good Night, and Good Luck. is a 2005 film directed by George Clooney and written by Clooney and Grant Heslov that portrays the conflict between veteran radio and television journalist Edward R. Murrow and U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, especially relating to the anti-Communist Senator's actions with the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

The movie, although released in black and white, was filmed on color film stock but on a grayscale set, and was later color corrected to black and white during post-production. It focuses on the theme of media responsibility, and also addresses what occurs when the media offer a voice of dissent against the government. The movie takes its title from the line with which Murrow routinely closed his broadcasts.

The film was rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America rating system for mild thematic elements and brief language.

The film was nominated for six Academy Awards.

Without force-feeding its timely message,Good Night, and Good Luckilluminates history to enlighten our present, when the need for a free and independent press is more important than ever. In 90 breathtaking minutes of efficient and intricate storytelling, writer-director George Clooney and cowriter Grant Heslov pay honorable tribute to the journalistic integrity of legendary CBS newscaster Edward R. Murrow,
Director George Clooney who confronted the virulent and overzealous anti-Communist witch-hunting of Wisconsin Sen. ...

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Director: George Clooney
Genre: Biography, Drama, History
Release Date: October 7, 2005
MPAA Rating: PG
Screen Writer: George Clooney, Grant Heslov
DVD Release Date: March 14, 2006
Runtime: 1hr 33min
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
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