Friday, September 23, 2005

NY Film Festival opener

•Good Night. And, Good Luck

Written and Directed
by George Clooney

Nowadays,when color is sooo much cheaper than it used to be, there has to be a reasonfor going black & white. There is, and we’ll get to it in a moment, butfirst, there’s the question of the age of the intended audience.

Sen.Joseph R. McCarthy (R-Wis.) was censured by the US Senate on December 2,1954 a little less than fifty-one years ago. That means that everyone whowas alive at the time is in middle age, and those who were old enough tostill remember watching it on TV live is eligible for Social Security retirementbenefits. In other words, to the large majority of the people what happenedhere is ancient history.

For ancient history, you need context, whichis what this film hasn’t got. We start in 1958, and famed journalist EdwardR. Murrow (David Strathairn) is getting an award for his achievements, andhe begins his acceptance speech with a scathing attack on Television. Itwas as easy to attack TV back then as it is today, the only difference beingthat there were only three networks [Dumont having gone broke], and ColorTV had only been just invented, which means that when we flashback to themain action of the film, everything on the tube was in Black and White.

Whichis why the rest of the movie is as well. The images on the small screen matchthe images on the big screen, and everything looks the same. It’s a reallynifty conceit. But we really don’t get anything else, like who just WAS JoeMcCarthy, and what was so terrible about the Communist menace that the wholecountry was terrorized?

The beginning of 1954 was a rather good timefor CBS news. With production costs lower than most sitcoms and dramas, newsdocumentaries were the crown jewel in the crown of what was called the Tiffanynetwork. Murrow, his producer
Fred Friendly(George Clooney) and boss Sig Mickelson(Jeff Daniels)
Wereworried about ratings more than anything else, and when there was a smallstory about an Army lieutenant named Milo Redulivitch who was given a generaldischarge because his father and sister were liberals, or possibly worse,the concept of guilt by association rightly shocked CBS into doing an entireprime time TV show on it.

But the show

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