Saturday, February 12, 2011

2005 - Good Night, and Good Luck.

Another week of shows has passed here in Las Vegas - both as performed and as seen. While I've been treading the boards of the V Theater at Planet Hollywood in Aussie Improv Comedy Explosion, I've also managed to see some other shows on the Strip. Fellow Aussies Human Nature have an incredibly slick and entertaining Motown show at the Imperial Palace. And I also was blown away by two Cirque du Soleil shows - the creative and moving Love at the Mirage, which features the music of the Beatles, and the spectacular and awe-inspiring Ka at the MGM Grand, which features theatrical stunts that boggle the mind, including indoor fireworks ... Indoor fireworks, I tell you!

As we launch into another year of nominees, the poll for the next year of review has now been posted. Let me know which 1970s shortlist you would like to see next by voting in the poll on the right.

Last night, I began my review of 2005's Best Picture contenders by having a look at...

Good Night, and Good Luck.
George Clooney
George Clooney & Grant Heslov
David Strathairn, Patricia Clarkson, George Clooney, Jeff Daniels, Robert Downey, Jr., Frank Langella, Ray Wise
Academy Awards:
6 nominations
0 wins

Using real footage of Senator Joseph McCarthy and his Communist-hunting Senate investigations, Good Night, and Good Luck centres on the newsmen who publicly criticised his questionable tactics. As the host of the news magazine series See It Now, Edward R. Murrow (Strathairn) is stoically honest. He and producer Fred Friendly (Clooney) decide to tackle McCarthyism by first airing a show about Milo Radulovich, an Air Force lieutenant kicked out of the military because of his family's political leanings.

Although Murrow and his colleagues were careful to avoid a direct attack on the Senator, the controversial episode catches the attention of network executive Bill Paley (Langella), who warns the journalistic team that they are in dangerous waters. He explains that, since the viewing public mostly wants entertainment, news programs like See It Now are teetering on the edge. When Radulovich is reinstated, Murrow and Friendly take the plunge and begin putting together an episode that will expose the Senator himself, knowing the backlash may jeopardise the show and their careers.

In a way, Good Night, and Good Luck is a very simple film. At only 93 minutes, the narrative is concise, echoing Murrow's own straightforwardness. There is little in the way of physical action, and the entire film takes place indoors, often in small television studios and claustrophobic offices. The black and white cinematography, rife with close-ups and a steady flow of cigarette smoke, accentuates the simplicity, creating a constant feeling that our characters are in the middle of something big.

Despite this narrative economy, the picture somehow manages to squeeze in a couple of equally intriguing subplots. News anchor Don Hollenbeck's (Wise) story of demise is agonisingly poignant. And there is some light tension in watching Joe and Shirley Wershba (Downey and Clarkson) vainly attempt to conceal knowledge of their marriage, which is against company policy. The script by movie star George Clooney and his business partner Grant Heslov is frank and sincere, with more than the occasional witty quip. When Murrow offers to pay for his show's advertising himself with Friendly's help, he laments that Friendly may not be able to afford to buy Christmas presents for his children. The news director points out that Friendly is Jewish, to which Murrow replies, "Well, don't tell him that. He loves Christmas."

In the lead role, the underrated David Strathairn (pictured) as the audacious reporter is expertly subtle, almost stolid, earning his only Oscar nomination to date. Frank Langella delivers another strong performance as the network head forced to administer some tough love. The rest of the accomplished cast - Robert Downey, Jr., Patricia Clarkson, Jeff Daniels, George Clooney - all excel, but Ray Wise is simply heartbreaking as a man expending all his energy pretending not to be sad. And for the trivia buffs, Edward R. Murrow himself has already appeared in Matt vs. the Academy, delivering the introduction to 1956 Best Picture nominee Around the World in 80 Days.


  1. Good Night and Good Luck had the same effect on me that Quiz Show did in 1994. It has a sense of time and place that is palpable. While I was too young to remember the McCarthy hearings and Edward R. Murrow's taking the Senator on, I did remember him from the Person to Person Broadcasts (and found it ironic how much he hated to do that show).

    George Clooney really shows his directing chops in this movie, and relegates himself to a very low key supporting role; a classy move. When he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor this very year for Syrianna, he quipped on stage "Well, I guess this means I'm not winning Best Director."

    David Strathairn, a consummate character actor, made the most of his rare lead actor opportunity. I agree with you Matt on Ray Wise's poignant performance. After his showy role on Twin Peaks, I thought he would get more film roles.

    From the black and white smokey cinematography, to the impeccable sets, wardrobe (down to the eyeglasses), to the great jazz numbers by aunt Rosemary Clooney's backup musicians and the terrific vocals by Dianne Reeves, Good Night and Good Luck may not be able to topple the big hitters from 2005, but like Quiz Show, finds its way to my DVD player about once a year.

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