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Linkmeister

If you're serious about finding the article, here might be a good place to start. My search term was ["The Crucible" contemporary criticism.]

Kit Stolz

Agree that the movie isn't exactly crackling with tension; in fact, as much as I enjoyed looking at it, I had trouble staying awake.

But what struck me most: Murrow gets up in front of his peers to accept an award and excoriates the industry in which they work for lack of seriousness...and implicitly, everyone in the room.

Once upon a time, some Americans actually expected television to be more than dumb-and-dumber entertainment. It's almost inconceivable now...

Kate Marie

From Terry Teachout's review of Good Night and Good Luck in Commentary (the whole thing is probably not available unless you subscribe to their digital archive):

"There has always been something faintly silly about Hollywood’s worshipful portrayal of journalists. With the exception of such cynical comedies as Howard Hawks’s His Girl Friday (1940), most American movies purporting to show journalism as it is take for granted the trustworthiness and good intentions of the average reporter. Not surprisingly, these films are usually the work of outsiders who know nothing about the daily workings of newspapers, magazines, or TV news divisions. Even when a branch of the media is shown as gravely flawed, as in Sidney Lumet’s Network (1976), James Brooks’s Broadcast News (1987) or Michael Mann’s The Insider (1999), one need not look too hard to find the starry-eyed idealists in the woodpile, earnestly speaking truth to power.

If George Clooney’s Good Night, and Good Luck, a docudrama about Edward R. Murrow—the title is the catchphrase with which Murrow closed his radio and TV newscasts in the 1940’s and 50’s—were merely another such exercise in hagiography, it would be unworthy of consideration for other than its purely cinematic qualities. But Clooney, the latest of Hollywood’s Left-liberal actors to go behind the camera and make politically oriented films of his own, has added to the mix a more telling form of idealization: in this movie, he also becomes the latest Hollywood director to make a film in which the truth about American Communism is deliberately falsified. Moreover, in a piece of bad timing, his film happens to have been released simultaneously with Bennett Miller’s Capote, in which a serious effort is made to suggest precisely some of the inherent moral ambiguities of real-life journalism that Good Night, and Good Luck mostly overlooks.

...

As is now widely acknowledged by scholars of the period—and as American intelligence officials knew at the time—the American Communist party was used by the Soviets as an intelligence apparatus through which, starting in the early 30’s, Soviet spies successfully infiltrated the U.S. government. Yet with the exception of one glancing, carefully unspecific reference to Alger Hiss, the script of Good Night, and Good Luck takes no notice whatsoever of this well-known fact. Rather, we are invited to suppose that the activities of Hiss, Julius Rosenberg, and other Soviet agents were nothing more than a paranoid fantasy on the part of McCarthy and his supporters.

We know better, but, damningly for Clooney’s project, Murrow himself did not. He had been, for example, one of the most vocal defenders of Laurence Duggan, a State Department official who committed suicide in 1948 after the House Un-American Activities Committee revealed that Whittaker Chambers, the Soviet agent who was Hiss’s controller, had identified him as another agent. Decoded Soviet cables made public years later proved that Chambers was telling the truth, just as he had told the truth about Hiss.

Needless to say, Duggan goes unmentioned in Good Night, and Good Luck. Instead, Clooney devotes several minutes of the film to footage from another episode of See It Now in which McCarthy is shown interrogating Annie Lee Moss, a Pentagon employee who worked in the Signal Corps code room, a highly sensitive area. McCarthy accused Moss of having been a Communist without offering evidence to back up his claim. Murrow in turn offered this interrogation as proof of McCarthy’s irresponsibility—yet, again, no mention is made in Good Night, and Good Luck of the fact that the Communist party’s own records later proved Moss to have been a party member."

Terry Teachout has also written quite a bit (not very favorably but with his characteristic intelligence) about Arthur Miller. The best review of "The Crucible" is by Robert Warshow in The Immediate Experience.

Sigh. But the whole tenor of this debate makes me rather weary. Lance, you are obviously an intelligent person. If it's possible for conservatives like me to condemn McCarthy and to acknowledge that his demagoguery and despicable tactics were meant to whip up hysteria and votes for himself and the Republican party, why can liberals not acknowledge that there was a certain form of liberal "anti-anti-Communism" that not only had a problem with facts (see Hiss and the Rosenbergs), but also discounted the threat of Communism (not just domestically but in general) because they failed to treat its sympathizers and fellow travelers as the apologists for oppression and mass murder that they were.

Campaspe

Kate Marie: I do not see why Murrow's defense of a man he believed to be unjustly accused by a demagogue renders him unworthy of respect. At the time, the evidence against Duggan was far from conclusive. I realize this is an unpopular concept at the moment, but there is such a thing as the presumption of innocence. That Murrow stood up for it, and for a man he considered a friend and a mentor, doesn't diminish him in my eyes.

I'm not sure which movies Teachout has in mind, aside from the ones he cites. Surely not Inherit the Wind, which Gene Kelly's Hornbeck is the most wholly contemptible character in the movie; Unforgiven, where the journalist is a credulous fool; Die Hard, where a ruthless TV reporter deliberately risks the life of Bruce Willis and other innocents; or the most famous example of them all, where Mainstream Media Magnate Kane, told there is no war in Cuba, quips, "you supply the prose poems, I'll supply the war." Fact is, for just about every starry-eyed idealist reporter in American film, there's another with his feet in the muck and his eye firmly on the main chance. The movies Teachout mentions seem to irritate him merely by dint of suggesting that some journalists do have ideals, an odd position for a man with a journalism degree to take, but let him have it. What's more surprising is the whiff of apologetics about that sorry era coming from a man who has made a distinguished career writing about film.

You can try to quantify how much damage Soviet agents did in the American government. There's no argument about how much damage HUAC did to the American film industry. You can talk about "apologists for oppression and mass murder," but that was and is hardly confined to anti-anti-Communists, particularly not in the 1950s. There were plenty of apologists for murder walking around the country, fully employed. (Wernher von Braun, anyone?) I take it quite personally that I have so little to see of the work of artists such as Dorothy Comingore and Paul Robeson, that there are huge gaps in the filmographies of people like Zero Mostel and Ring Lardner Jr., that we drove Charlie Chaplin to exile and John Garfield to an early grave. If liberals haven't owned up to the fact that someone like Robeson's support for Stalin was far from pretty, well, I don't see too many conservatives willing to step up and talk about just what was so damned necessary about parading a bunch of show people in front of a bribe-taking nitwit.

Kate Marie

Campaspe,

I don't think Murrow's defense of Duggan renders him (Murrow) unworthy of respect, nor do I think Teachout is arguing any such thing. Teachout's point seems to be that it *should* have complicated Clooney's hagiography of Murrow just a bit. His critique is not really of Murrow, but of Clooney, who -- according to Teachout -- treats the Murrow era without any of the historical perspective he might have gained in the last fifty years or so.

"If liberals haven't owned up to the fact that someone like Robeson's support for Stalin was far from pretty, well, I don't see too many conservatives willing to step up and talk about just what was so damned necessary about parading a bunch of show people in front of a bribe-taking nitwit."

-- But you're kind of making my point for me. I'm saying it loud ... I hate McCarthy. *Should* conservatives own up to McCarthy's stupidity and immorality? Of course. Should liberals own up to the offensiveness of Paul Robeson's (and many others') unregenerate Stalinism? Of course.

Hollywood loves to dramatize the evils of McCarthyism (and that's well and good), but how about a biopic about Dalton Trumbo, for instance, which makes clear the hateful ideology of the regime he essentially took orders from and that adds the little detail about him naming names of alleged pacifists to the FBI (on the orders of the ACP) during the time, post the breaking of the Hitler-Stalin pact, when the Soviet Union was once again trying to drum up support for the war? It's easy to claim all the facts are on your side when you consistently omit any mention of facts which may prove inconvenient.

Campaspe

You're right. You're saying McCarthy was contemptible, with the asterix that he was kind of, you know, right, at least about certain individuals named in Venona. And I'm saying that Robeson's apologetics for Stalin were also contemptible, with the asterix that Robeson was a huge talent and I still wish I could see more of him.

My bottom line is that I don't think the actions of individuals, such as Robeson and Trumbo, can be viewed as equivalent to actions of the state. Exactly what power did an actor and a screenwriter have? (A screenwriter, for god's sake, possibly the least powerful person on any studio lot.) Neither Trumbo nor Robeson were liberals and they would probably have bristled at the label. They were leftists of the deepest dye. McCarthy and J. Parnell Thomas, on the other hand, were representatives of the U.S. government and acting with its full force and acquiescence.

I have not seen the Clooney film and I'm willing to bet Teachout may have a good point, as a little ambiguity often helps a script. Lance almost says as much. What Lance also writes, however, leads me to think that Clooney may have streamlined the narrative to make his larger point about what happens when fear becomes the driving force of public policy. You tell me whether it's that theme, and not the idea that the name Duggan should have popped up somewhere, that is really eating conservative critics.

Kate Marie

"My bottom line is that I don't think the actions of individuals, such as Robeson and Trumbo, can be viewed as equivalent to actions of the state."

-- I tend to agree, with the caveat that, while the consequences of Trumbo's/Robeson's commitments didn't have the same power to affect people's lives as McCarthy's demagoguery, their personal moral culpability *might* be viewed as equivalent to McCarthy's or to lesser supporters of McCarthy. After all, even Trumbo and Robeson had victims of a sort -- Trumbo those people whose names he gave to the FBI (as well as Maltz and Rossen, whom the CPUSA pretty viciously persecuted for their "heresy") and Robeson those people whom he refused to help during the Soviet purges. And in the end, the victims of McCarthyism -- though there were many -- are far, far outnumbered by the victims of the regime to which Robeson and Trumbo (and Hiss and Duggan) pledged their allegiance.

As for what's really eating the conservative critics, I couldn't say, since Teachout's is the only commentary I've read on the film. In general, though, I'll take an argument on its merits. If the reviewer/critic makes a good point, I don't bother looking for ulterior motives.

If I *were* to play the ulterior motive game, though, I'd ask why Clooney wanted to make a point that is so unoriginal. I mean, let's face it, the " what happens when fear drives public policy" theme has been done to death on the stage and screen, from The Crucible through Dr. Strangelove to the Iron Giant (and I'm not arguing artistic merits here, since I think the latter two are good movies). You tell me whether taking on McCarthyism isn't one of the easiest ways to get oneself taken seriously as an "artist" -- and not just any artist, but a *brave* artist -- among Clooney's pals.

Anyway, he's welcome to make any movie he wishes. When he makes a movie about real people and historical circumstances, and with a fairly explicitly political content, why shouldn't he expect to be criticized for his simplistic treatment of that history?

And why, for that matter, is it "kulturkampfery" to address the historical/political claims of "Good Night and Good Luck" and *not* to complain about an episode of Law and Order that supposedly suggests a moral equivalence between Democrats and Republicans?

Campaspe

I'd agree that the theme has been done to death, if it didn't keep rearing its ugly little head in real life. It isn't Mr. Clooney keeping it relevant.

harry near indy

lance, in the gang that couldn't shoot straight, jimmy breslin has this throw-away line about the fbi being more concerned about commies in greenwich village than mobsters in midtown.

and iirc, folks like the walkers, the falcon and the snowman, and aldrich ames did a lot more damage to the united states than hiss. and they did their deeds during the administration of ronald reagan, who went out of his way to say he was an anti-communist.

they didn't for money.

those accursed prostitutes.

i'm tired of this running battle by the right or conservatives about who was a commie in the 1940s. hell, according to your standards, fdr was a commie.

Kate Marie

Okay, Campaspe, if the theme is relevant today, all the more reason to treat it with complexity.

Ummm, Harry, was someone here defending Aldrich Ames? And did Reagan or any anti-communist ever claim he was innocent? In other words, your point is a little opaque.

By *my* standards, FDR was a commie? Really? How so? Let's see ... Alger Hiss, Julius Rosenberg, Laurence Duggan, Paul Robeson, Dalton Trumbo. Are you suggesting that it's questionable whether those people were Communists? And *conservatives* have a problem with facts?

Kate Marie

P.S. And it do find it kind of amusing that "liberal" Clooney can make a movie about what happened forty-fifty years ago, and then when "conservatives" complain that his treatment of the facts is simplistic and dishonest, "liberals" complain wearily about the "running battle about who was a commie, etc." Strikes me as an attempt to have your cake and eat it, too.

LowLife

I'm contemptible. I'm an apologist for Robeson. It doesn't surprize me at all that when a man of obvious talents is rejected by the society that produces him that he looks elsewhere for rights and opportunity denied him. That he was so wrong is his personal tragedy. That America pushed him away is her national failure.

Clooney's film was all about trying to exhort the press to do their job. It was about Murrow's speech rather than his actions vis-a-vis McCarthy. The rest was to show that how it can be done and why it should be done. The whole how many communists can be placed on the head of a pin question wasn't covered because it was beside the point.

Kate Marie

Lowlife, with all due respect, it kind of cracks me up that when people raise objections to the historical distortions in this film (which is *about* Murrow and McCarthy), others rush in to suggest that all this history stuff doesn't really matter. If Clooney's real point was what you suggested (to get the press to take responsibility), why didn't he choose a story with less historical baggage? Why didn't he make a movie about the contemporary press, for instance?

But taking on McCarthy is safe and easy. And when people bother you with that pesky history stuff, you can tell them it's all beside the point.

As for Robeson, he was indeed an enormous talent treated shamefully in America. There were many hugely talented African-Americans who were treated shamefully by this country and its people. Not all, or even most, of them, however, responded by espousing the most hateful and illiberal ideology on the planet or by countenancing and supporting a regime which murdered and oppressed millions and millions of people. So I have no problem thinking of Paul Robeson as a greatly talented but despicable human being, just as I have no problem thinking of those who persecuted *him* as despicable.

Lance

KM,

Taking on McCarthy may be safe but it ain't easy or Ann Coulter wouldn't have been able to crank out a best-seller portraying him as the hero he thought he was. And if movie-makers can't take on easy targets, there go all the movies about World War II, the Spanish Inquisition, the Roman Empire, and the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Nazis as bad guys? Safe and easy. Torquemada as a torture-happy zealot? Safe and easy. Caligula, Nero? S and E again. Custer as genocidal glory hound? Been there, done that.

McCarthy is an easy target NOW. What I wish the film had done more of was show him as what he was THEN, and I wish that not because I think we need another movie about what a bad guy the Tailgunner was, but because I think it would have made for a more dramatic movie.

I think LowLife is probably right about the importance of the How I Got That Story theme, given Clooney's admiration for his journalist father. Good Night and Good Luck does do a fine job of showing what it was like to put together See It Now. But I still think it's important that we understand the urgency of the story, again just for the sake of dramatic tension.

LowLife

"So I have no problem thinking of Paul Robeson as a greatly talented but despicable human being"

Judge not, lest you be judged. In other words, give a brother a break.

Kate Marie

Lance,

I have nothing against safe and easy. I'm just not going to award Clooney any medals for artistic courage.

My main point still stands, though. It's a bit odd to make a movie about Murrow and McCarthy (whatever one's motivation), to meticulously create a "historical" look and feel, and then to complain when some critics accuse you of distorting the history you're representing.

Your criticism of the movie on aesthetic/dramatic grounds makes sense, but criticisms on historical grounds aren't and shouldn't be out of bounds -- or dismissed as "kulturkampfery" or beside the point.

Lance

KM,

Has Clooney complained? He hasn't done it here. I wish he would. Maybe he will. He's a very nice guy, and showing up on somebody's blog (I'm not counting Arianna's and neither is he)is something he might do for kicks.

The movie is historically accurate. It's not historically complete. No movie can be. You don't like it that he left out certain facts. I don't like it that he left out other facts. I think Good Night, and Good Luck would have been a more dramatic movie if Clooney had included a few of my missed facts. It wouldn't have been any more dramatic if it had yours, it would just be cluttered and confused. The facts you are after belong in a different movie. One that could be interesting and exciting, by the way, as long it didn't star Ben Affleck.

The attacks on Brokeback Mountain and the other Best Picture Nominees were all politically motivated and aimed at the movies' politics---or the politics the critics assigned to them---and their intent was to discredit the ideas in the movies without engaging with those ideas. That's Kulturkampfy.

Kate Marie

Lance,

I guess I don't know how you're defining "attack" and I certainly have no idea whether *all* of the criticisms of those movies were "attacks" or whether they were *all* politically motivated, as I have read barely any of them. I'm wondering if you would characterize Teachout's quite reasonable criticism a politically motivated attack?

I'm certainly no defender of kulturkampfery, but it seems to me it occurs perhaps just as often on the "left" as on the "right." I haven't seen Brokeback Mountain or any of the other Best Picture nominees (except Capote, which I thought was quite good), but -- in the course of flitting across the surface of the blogosphere -- I read just as many people touting, say, Brokeback Mountain as some kind of celluloid social activism as I heard denouncing it for its "degenerate" message. Those are flip sides of the same coin, it seems to me. The kulturkampfers who want to embrace a film based on its "message" are little different from the kulturkampfers who want to decry it for the same reason.

Campaspe

Lowlife, I agree with you that Robeson was more sinned against than sinning. As Americans, surely it concerns us more that the treatment of African Americans was so appalling that Stalin's Russia looked better by comparison. What saddened and angered me in reading about him was stories of people personally appealing to him for help ... and getting turned down. That is what I find contemptible and can't condone.

As for embracing a film solely on its "message;" if that were the tendency of most liberal film critics, Stanley Kramer would be regarded as the greatest filmmaker of all time, and he ain't.

Kate Marie

Campaspe, I don't claim that's the tendency of *most* mainstream liberal film critics, but that it seems as much a tendency among liberal pundit-types who comment on film as among conservative pundit-types who comment on film. I'm assuming most of the kulturkampfers that Lance criticizes are not really mainstream film critics (but maybe I'm wrong).

burritoboy

Ok, boys and girls, now we're gonna set this place on fire!

"At any rate if you sit down to watch it, accepting the idea that a free, energetic, and courageous Press is a good thing in a democracy and you hold no brief for Joe McCarthy and his methods"

That's precisely what the movie is actually questioning:

Good Night's entire mise-en-scene points to how rare and unusual Murrow is. The "bookends" of the movie are perhaps the most important clue to the movie's deciphering.

It's several years after the events of the plot, McCarthy has fallen and Murrow is the greatest lion of the press. Yet, at a celebratory dinner, Murrow excoriates the press for being courtiers - what we now call "press whores". That is, the press' celebration of Murrow is fatuous - Murrow's victory over McCarthy has not led overall to the media actually speaking truth to power, but continuing to suckle up to power. The press seemingly cannot follow Murrow's example.

Though Murrow succeeded in fighting McCarthy, he failed in the greater sense, which is why he is a tragic figure in the movie.

The general ideology in democracies is that the media will compete vigorously to inform the public. The vision is that the media will often speak truth to power to sell newspapers (i.e. as a newspaper owner, to line my pockets, I'd want to reveal various scandals and corruptions). This was, in fact, true of early print journalism (in the eigthteenth and early nineteenth centuries).

What Good Night shows is that:
1. this ideology of an active press does not seem to hold for modern journalism, especially that of broadcast journalism
2. broadcast journalism, it's ownership concentrated in a few private hands, is produced within a much more corporate structure than print journalism.

This is why the "method of production" is so emphasized in Good Night. It is actually quite important that CBS does not allow it's employees to marry (and both work at CBS). The needs of CBS internally as a large organization are more important that CBS' role as part of the press, or informing the public, or so on. Therefore, CBS has the same rules as any other major corporation of the period.

This is also why the role of Paley is so mysteriously prominent: Paley is not a muckracker, but an elegant aristocrat, who must however exist within a network of power. It is not that he is (or isn't) a conservative - it is that he is forced to heed Washington's opinion constantly and ensure that Washington looks favorably upon CBS, lest CBS' broadcast licenses are impaired. Paley must heed those who rule - and if McCarthy rules, then even the powerful Paley must ensure his organization takes that rule into account. Paley can oppose McCarthy, but only carefully and with a high care for tactics and timing. Again, in dramatic opposition to print journalism.

burritoboy

"The movie never shows McCarthyism reaching out through the television screen to touch any living, breathing human beings."

Actually, it does, but the movie is very subtle. First, obvious oppression is well, obvious. Someone loosing their job unfairly would bring the American sense of "that McCarthy, he's evil, so evil to do that to our hero!" Which quickly descends into a good hero chasing down the evil villian plot. Which would become another stupid thriller movie.

What Good Night does is show how the structure of McCarthyism is reaching out and subtly modifying other institutions of society:

1. McCarthyism heightens the power of the corporation - now Joe and Shirley Wershba need to seriously fear that CBS' corporate rules will destroy their careers, because if Joe IS revealed as a communist, no other firm will hire him now. It's not that the corporation is anti-communist(or has any real politics at all), it's that no firm can risk Washington's disapproval when the downside to any corporation of firing the tiny numbers of Communists is minimal.

McCarthyism gives more power to corporations. CBS decides to ignore Wershba's Communist past, but that past now is a weapon that CBS can always use at a moment's notice against Wershba.

2. McCarthyism's lowering of civility within society gives weapons to those willing to use demagoguery. Thus, people with weak personalities or have lack of power are susceptible to being oppressed or manipulated by those to whom McCarthyism has given new power. This is the story of Don Hollenbeck, for instance. McCarthyism is constantly degrading Hollenbeck's psyche a little bit each and every moment.

Thus, those who survive McCarthyism tend to be those less sympathetic to others' plights, who are more ruthless than others, or cover up their secrets better, or are more manipulative than others - irregardless of their politics. McCarthyism removes many needed elements and personality types from society, which becomes cruder, meaner and harder as a result.

There's a lot else in this vein in the movie, but that's just two thoughts I had.

burritoboy

"McCarthy is an easy target NOW. What I wish the film had done more of was show him as what he was THEN"

That would be a very bad plot strategy. I believe Clooney is specifically trying to avoid putting the focus on McCarthy as an individual person, but rather trying to illuminate McCarthyism as a system. Focusing on McCarthy as a person would nearly inevitably mean blaming McCarthyism primarily upon one single idiosyncratic person - when McCarthyism was a tactic of very many people. This is the mistake people make when they demonize McCarthy's personality problems, when numerous other powerful people (without McCarthy's rather florid personal problems or unstable personality) invented, supported, aided, used and imitated McCarthyism.

Campaspe

A., I loved your thoughts. You should re-post at your blog, darn it. The point about the survivors is particularly interesting. I'll be pondering that one for a while, especially as it relates to what happened in Hollywood post-HUAC.

burritoboy

Thanks, Siren!

I think it's also important to think precisely about why Strathairn's Murrow is such a distant and remote figure. As you've probably guessed, I think Good Night is not only a masterpiece, but reveals Clooney as one of the greatest contemporary American directors.

"I'm not sure which movies Teachout has in mind, aside from the ones he cites"

Er, among the finest American movies, the media is usually regarded with very great skepticism, adding to your examples:

Ace in the Hole (enough said)
Sunset Boulevard (Wilder's crime reporters at the very end of the movie have the morals of child-pornography-making hyenas)
Sweet Smell of Success (enough said)
Face in the Crowd (Kazan pretty much says that modern media is fascism's dream come true)
Blue Gardenia (Richard Conte's columnist is one of the creepiest and most manipulative "heroes" ever seen, I think)
Samuel Fuller's Shock Corridor (reporters are egotistical, narcissist nutcases)
Dazed and Confused (the school newspaper staff isn't on the newspaper to actually do anything worthwhile, but really is in it to hide from the jocks and spruce up their college applications)

and so on.

harry near indy

burritoboy, i remember scenes from the right stuff when the reporters and photographers in those old-fashioned flash bulb cameras were shown.

they weren't shown as individuals but in medium shot or far-away shot. and when they were on screen, you could hear the sound of locusts.

i thought it was very apt.

Lance

bb,

Siren's right about posting your thoughts at your place. You make a good case for the film's deserving its Oscar nominations/wins. But, while I agree that all the ideas and themes you point to are in the film---it's a very intelligent piece of moviemaking---I didn't feel their force as I watched. (Again, I'm still mad at myself for not having seen it in the theaters early on. Very different experience.) I liked the Paley subplot and Frank Langella's performance, but I also think that my enjoyment of those scenes depended on my having read Alexander Kendrick's biography of Murrow and Halberstam's The Powers That Be.

I got what was going on with the bookends and they did make me mad and sad about the Media today. I liked the way they made Strathairn look just a little older too, a bit sick and worn down.

As for the Wershbas being the people who feel the effects of McCarthyism---I knew they both continued to work for CBS. Joe Wershba was in on the start of 60 minutes 10 years later, so I wasn't worried about them.

I think what I'm wishing for is pretty much the same movie, but with actors in place of the news footage and a couple of extra scenes---if Clooney had shown us Radulovich being interviewed, shown Paley at a party.

Kevin Wolf

Gosh. I guess I joined the Party late. So to speak.

I'm in agreement with you, Lance. While I admired and also enjoyed the movie overall, it did not have as much dramatic impact as I hoped for. It's really that simple.

I do think the short running time is a clue as to the narrow scope Clooney was shooting for. As you indicate re the discussion above, some of those issues or extra info - valid or not - don't belong in this movie.

burritoboy

"I liked the Paley subplot and Frank Langella's performance, but I also think that my enjoyment of those scenes depended on my having read Alexander Kendrick's biography of Murrow and Halberstam's The Powers That Be."

Well, Clooney (as any great filmmaker) is operating on multiple levels. For viewers who are novices in thinking about organizations, the movie is rather subtly shifting their focus of thinking - from the personality level to the structural level. That's why the personality of McCarthy is essentially trivial within the movie, partially why Murrow is such a distant hero and why there's so much emphasis on the mode of production. (A central argument of the movie is that structural analysis is what is needed, not demonization of McCarthy).

It's critical to remember that very few American viewers (even advanced ones) are familiar with this type of analysis, especially since American film has always avoided looking at things structurally, always preferring to personalize events (i.e., Nixon and McCarthy's politics are nearly always ascribed to their flawed individual personalities, for one example).

For viewers who are more experienced with Clooney's type of analysis, there are entirely different pleasures or lessons they can glean from the movie.

Kate Marie

burritoboy, your analysis of Good Night and Good Luck is very interesting. I haven't yet seen the film, so I don't know whether I would agree you, but I'll keep your analysis (and Lance's) in mind when I *do* see it.

If Good Night and Good Luck is more of a structural analysis of McCarthyism, though, I would still suggest that there are simplistic and complex forms of structural analysis. I have no idea which of those forms applies to Clooney's film (if any), but my guess is that it's extremely hard for a non-documentary film to accomplish a complex structual analysis and retain its dramatic pull. That's why films generally do better providing complexity/ambiguity at the level of character rather than displacing it onto "structure." In other words, if the film can't find a way of creating drama/interest in the characters *first,* it might fail to create an interest in the structural analyis it offers. Even if it succeeds as structural analysis, then, it might fail as art.

What are some examples of other films that you think provide structural analyses of social phenomena?

cali

Gee, I suppose all the comments this post generated are testimony to the *non-political* nature of "Good Night, & Good Luck."

Lance, I would have rather liked to have heard your thoughts about the film if you had seen it when it was first released. I'm afraid some of what you've written is a push back of sorts against all the opinions and reactions you digested before watching the film.

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