DXMachina (dxmachina) wrote,

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Good Night, and Good Luck

Odd coincidences are neat. One such occurred last weekend when I was watching DVDs whilst puttering around the house. The first was Sink the Bismarck, about how the British naval staff coordinated the search for and ultimate destruction of the infamous German Battleship from down in the basement of the Admiralty. Okay, it's not really as dry as all that. There are some corking good naval gunnery battle sequences, along with the obligatory melodrama down in the basement. Fortunately, the melodrama is understated and doesn't detract or distract from the story much. (As compared to the execrable Midway, which is essentially the same movie, except set in the Pacific a year later. Instead of Sir Kenneth More quietly going about his business down in the basement, we get Charlton Heston chewing scenery as a one-man task force, along with Hal Holbrook affecting one of the worst accents ever, and an insane side plot about Chuck's son's Japanese girlfriend being carted off to an internment camp. So awful. I'm ashamed to admit that I actually paid to see it.)

I could spend a lot of electrons writing about Bismarck, but that wasn't my point in bringing it up. My actual point is that the film features Edward R. Murrow in a bit part, playing himself back when he was reporting from London during the Blitz. The odd coincidence is that the next DVD I watched was a copy of Sneakers I'd picked up recently ($5.50 at Wal*Mart!). Sneakers features, among others, David Strathairn, who of course plays Murrow in Good Night, and Good Luck, which I saw last evening with veejane. (The third DVD I watched that afternoon was Chicken Run, but there's no coinciding there that I can see, other than that, like Bismarck, it mentions the RAF.)

Plotwise, Good Night, and Good Luck is almost the same movie as Bismarck. A group of professionals working in a claustrophobic environment quietly go about their business to deal with an imminent threat to their country. Instead of 15" guns, the battle is fought using Murrow's newscasts and Joseph McCarthy's polemic. There is little in the way of introduction to the situation in either film. They both have some melodrama, and although GNaGL's melodrama is telegraphed, it is at least historical. Both films do need it, because despite the seriousness of the problem faced, there's very little tension in the main action. Both films are bookended by commentary from Edward R. Murrow. One can even conflate William Paley with Winston Churchill.

The lack of tension allows time to notice things. It's not just that it's in black and white (as was Bismarck), it's that it's exceptionally grainy, Tri-X pushed to 1600 grainy black and white. There are a lot of close ups, which when shown on the big screen, allow one to examine every single crease and pore on each actor's face. In the scene where Murrow is typing his "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves" commentary, there's a monitor up in the corner showing a test pattern to subtly indicate that it's the middle of the night. The period details are great. Everyone smokes. A lot. The NY Post is correctly shown as a broadsheet.

The way they handle McCarthy is interesting. McCarthy is just as much a character in this as Murrow, but rather than have an actor portray him, he only appears in the news footage. In effect, he's playing himself. This parallels the way Murrow portrayed McCarthy on See It Now, simply showing footage of the man speaking, allowing him to hang himself with his own words, then commenting afterwards.

I knew quite a bit about the details of the story going in. Sixty Minutes once did a piece looking back at the Radulovich case, and HBO did a biographical film called Murrow. I was surprised when Vee mentioned that she doesn't know what the real Murrow sounded like, or even what he looked like. Strathairn doesn't look much like Murrow, and his voice is very different, although he got Murrow's mannerisms and cadence perfectly. He was excellent. Murrow's voice was deeper and fuller. When we were talking about it last night, I couldn't remember who played Murrow in the HBO film. Turns out it was Daniel J. Travanti, who does sort of resemble Murrow, but sounds an awful lot like Strathairn. The only thing I remembered about the HBO film was that instead of George Clooney, Fred Friendly was played by Rory Gilmore's granddad.

Anyway, I liked it a lot. Vee's review is here.

Coincidences abound, actually. On our way back to the T, Vee and I were talking about Patricia Clarkson, who plays Shirley Wershba in the movie. Vee mentioned a film Clarkson was in with Peter Dinklage set in an old railroad yard in Jersey, which sounded sort of neat, so I looked it up when I got home. The movie is The Station Agent, and it was written and directed by Thomas McCarthy, who plays the CBS reporter in GNaGL who found out after his divorce that his ex-wife had belonged to the Communist party before they were married.

As we were leaving the concession stand, I recognized the fellow walking into the theatre ahead of us. It was L, good friend JZ's brother's partner, so I said hello. He didn't recognize me (we've only met a couple of widely scattered times), so I said, in the unthinking manner of someone who spends way to much time on the net, that we were friends of "JZ," at which point he gave me a look of incomprehension, and turned back towards the theatre. That was when it occurred to me that I was using JZ's handle, and a called after him, "Wait, I mean J______ Z____," an actual name that he did recognize. D'oh!

It'a only 6:30, and I've already had twelve trick-or-treaters. Good thing I bought extra candy on the way home.
Tags: geekianna, movies

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