good night and good luck

do we already have a thread on this? i just finished watching this and found it terribly dull. i cannot believe that this got a best picture nomination or that so many smart people told me to watch it. perhaps it plays much better on a big screen, i don’t know. i do know that i felt no tension of any kind, felt no dramatic interest, and didn’t get the connection between the film’s narrative and its aesthetic, which frankly reeked of “good taste”. the opening scene looked a bit like a cross between ads by calvin klein and debeers diamonds, and the shiny beauty of the cinematography (not to mention the songs and score) muted for me the impact of what was being said. yes, it is a worthy story, and in these days of non-journalism, a necessary reminder of a time when the television news was worth watching, but it is not a great film by any means.

oh, and leland palmer is in it. i kept waiting for him to be possessed by bob and smash edward r. murrow’s face into a wall, but no such luck.

anyone else seen it?

5 thoughts on “good night and good luck

  1. I have it at home; I was looking forward to it, and still am, although less so. I’d feared exactly what you wrote, but I’m willing to give it a shot. (Sort of have to, now that it’s already arrived.)

    I saw a horror film called Dead End the other night, and Leland Palmer starred. He’s the dad of a family who gets stuck on a spooky road, driving and driving and trying to escape. The story is predictable (the title is a spoiler, but the plot was almost ridiculously obvious, anyway) but there are some good moments. Leland Palmer being the best thing about it. I have no idea why I put it on my queue… where the hell did I hear about this film?

  2. I think I published a one-word response back in January (“good”). I found it to be a noble and well-intentioned film but a bit too noble (a bit too good for its own good) and I found David Strathairn to be less than engaging (talk about mimicry passing for the art of acting). It had its merits but why it ended up with so much critical love has baffled me. I liked Ray Wise in the film–he brought some vulnerability into the narrative and while his scenes were sentimentally manipulative, I appreciated the gesture.

  3. Couple quick thoughts: I thought this was reasonably entertaining–the sort of thing I’d have been pleased to see on HBO, and perhaps fondly reminiscent of those great tv dramas Clooney often idealizes. (I kept thinking throughout of the pretty fine Fail Safe Sidney Lumet updated as live tv a few years back, starring Clooney.)

    The action was static. Not just historically a tad too familiar–its narrative seems conventional to the point of irritating. The plot hits certain easy signal notes (Ray Wise was pretty good but the doom in his eyes from the first moment we see him was only slightly less obvious than if he’d walked around with a copy of _The Bell Jar_), and certain less familiar but too pat notes (the singer and songs as interludes between moments–nice idea, not so persuasively rendered). In short, not bad, certainly not great.

    But I will challenge Jeff: I thought Strathairn was marvelous. He may have been mimicking, but he nailed the on-screen clarity of Murrow, and was even better off. The guy remains an intriguing cipher–barely able to make eye contact unless he’s staring into a camera or arguing with someone; folding in on his cigarette, right shoulder angled up, like a study in lines and shadow. Maybe I’ve seen so much range from Strathairn–the limp biscuit of _River Wild_, the sensitive handyman of _Passion Fish_, the tough outdoorsman of _Limbo_, the astonishingly nuanced husband in _A Map of the World_, and the outstandingly repulsive seducer of _Blue Car_… the guy just sinks and slinks into roles–maybe I was captivated by the difference of this role, the plasticity of the player. Still: I found him riveting.

    I also think Clooney is a really fine technical director. The staging and shot composition is so busy but never cluttered–the visual energies of the piece often (if not always) made up for the somewhat static narrative. I was really, really impressed by how this looked.

  4. Yeah, fair enough. Nicola watched this the other night, and I got hooked by a second viewing much more than the first. Strathairn is better than I gave him credit, but his plasticity is still evident. He’s an extemely disciplined actor but this performance is all surface and I didn’t walk away as if I knew the guy one bit (or if I did I found him to be a lot less interesting than the man essayed in that New Yorker article from a couple of months ago). What I like most about GNGL is the photography and the art direction.

  5. george clooney is a really interesting man — interesting actor, heart in the right place, good technical director (mike’s words). but he’s not an inspired director, and maybe he should stick to acting, even though, truth be told, the two films he directed are better than many, many other equally successful films directed by people whose only job is to sit behind the camera.

    this is, i have to agree with arnab, a bit of a dull film. the best thing about it is its ideology, and god knows we do need to remind journalists to do their jobs in these terribly troubled times. this is why the academy gave it a nod, though i sincerely hope no one considered for a second this film should win an oscar. (i’m blanking out in this precise moment on what movie did get a best film oscar, and only regretting it wasn’t Brokeback Mountain). but the similarity between the communist witch hunt and the terrorist witch hunt, intentionally emphasized, i think, in the movie, were really frightening to me.

    it is not clear from the movie whether e.r. murrow was decisive in bringing down mccarthy. clooney chooses to limit the film to the claustrophobic environments of the newsroom and the corporate offices upstairs (with a-bit-too-regular interludes at the bar), and i missed getting a sense of what was happening outside. i don’t know anything about murrow, but the film didn’t particularly want to make me know more. it left me, instead, with a desire for a wider picture, a greater historical sense of who did what, of the various forces at play in mccarthy’s strength, at first, and demise, afterwards. anyone who knows anything about american history can supply to missing info by him or herself. but a film that’s so limited in scope ends up being confusing, whether the audience can supply the missing pieces or not.

    the main problem with the film, at the end of the day, is that it lacks a spark — or so it seems to me. i found myself not really caring a whole lot about the fucking show. cancel it, move it to sunday afternoon, whatever. how important was murrow, exactly?!?

    i like newsroom movies a lot, actually, but this one had too much smoke — literally, but also somewhat as a prop for an intensity i couldn’t feel.

    and the subplot with robert downey jr. and patricia clarkson, well, what a waste of actors and cinematic energy! a real throwaway.


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