Movie Review – Good Night and Good Luck

Rating – A

George Clooney’s Oscar-nominated docudrama pits TV newsman Edward R. Murrow (David Strathairn) against Sen. Joseph McCarthy and his single-minded crusade to quell the red threat at home. Despite corporate pressure to back off, Murrow and his CBS staff are determined to examine the lies and fear tactics perpetrated by McCarthy during his Communist witch-hunts. The impressive cast includes Robert Downey Jr., Patricia Clarkson and Jeff Daniels.

[Warning – more rant than a review. Got started and could not stop.]

Like most folks my age I was aware of the age of “McCarthyism” but having been born after it took place it was just something I studied in AP US HIstory. Modern history, but history none-the-less.
This movie was the first significant exposure I have had to this time in our history in a long while and there were paths that Murrow started us down with his reporting style and many parallels to what is happening to us today.

I believe prior to this the modus operandi for the news was to be impartial and just present the facts – to be fair and balanced. I think Murrow saw a wrong being perpetrated upon the US and realized he could no longer sit on the bench of impartiality and he had to speak out for what was right – not conservative, but correct.
Was he the predecessor to the folks we see on the the news today that speak out against injustice, inaccuracy, or ineptitude? We have Fox on the right and Kieth Olbermann on the left, and Jon Stewart in the middle. All very passionate about what they believe and not afraid to speak out. We have classic “impartial” news broadcast – but it is getting easier and easier to find the news that agrees with your beliefs. It is great to hear things that reinforce what you believe – but are you getting the full picture and does it lead to disagreement and anger?

Here we are 50 years later and we have forces that are driving where this country is going without the over-site and accountability that is expected. During the movie we see President Eisenhower talking about Habeas Corpus and the foundation it provides to our country – can anyone say ? This country was set on a path 5 years ago that I see no easy way out of. And odds are the folks that put us on this path will ride off into the sunset next January – god willing – leaving a mess for Clinton or Obama to navigate us through. This will not be easy and I am afraid it will get harder before it gets easier.

One thing that Murrow did very well was to use McCarthy’s own words to hang him. Sounds like the 1950’s version of The Daily Show – without the humor.

This was in a time when the news department was what established the reputation of the network. I think the classic half-hour news shows are decreasing in relevance – look how Katie Curic’s move to CBS has been less than successful. Tom Brokaw and Brian Williams I respect – but it is rare that I make time to watch the news in the evening. Today I get my info from the web and, said to say but true, The Daily Show.

Sorry about the rant – but as you might I have guessed this movie struck a chord with me and got a little carried away.
Bottom line – liked the movie . . . a lot.

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One thought on “Movie Review – Good Night and Good Luck

  1. Great Movie. Completely agree with your rant. Recently ranted myself about the whole “finding news that support your beliefs”, and you’re right, it’s not going to get you the full picture. {BTW, a great line: “It’s hard to see the whole picture from inside the frame.”].

    Also, Murrow should be considered a hero for stepping up and stating the case against the media’s direction at that time. I linked to some his oft-quoted speech in my 2007 post “Not News To Me“, and of particular significance is this segment, which can be heard [just the start] at the beginning of this movie:

    Our history will be what we make it. And if there are any historians about fifty or a hundred years from now, and there should be preserved the kinescopes for one week of all three networks, they will there find recorded in black and white, or color, evidence of decadence, escapism and insulation from the realities of the world in which we live. I invite your attention to the television schedules of all networks between the hours of 8 and 11 p.m., Eastern Time. Here you will find only fleeting and spasmodic reference to the fact that this nation is in mortal danger. There are, it is true, occasional informative programs presented in that intellectual ghetto on Sunday afternoons. But during the daily peak viewing periods, television in the main insulates us from the realities of the world in which we live. If this state of affairs continues, we may alter an advertising slogan to read: LOOK NOW, PAY LATER.

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