Join 3,422 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Good Night, and Good Luck
September 30, 2005 4:55 PM   Subscribe

Next month, I'll be paying to see a black and white movie for the first time since 1974's "Young Frankenstein". This time the subject this time is slightly more serious: Edward R. Murrow vs Senator Joseph McCarthy. Listen to Walter Cronkite recount the historical (and historic) events of 50 years gone by. The jury is still out, but after just his second film we can venture that George Clooney might have the makings of a pretty good director (as well as one who can raise the level of debate regarding whether fear should be used to take away civil liberties). A recent Salon interview with Clooney and (of course) you've got to see the trailers (Windows Media and QuickTime).
posted by spock (43 comments total)

 
I'll probably pay to see it too, but if you haven't seen a black and white movie since Young Frankenstein, you have been seriously missing out. To name just a few obvious gems, any of which can hold their own against a Mel Brooks movie any day of the week: Wings of Desire, Dead Man, The Man Who Wasn't There, Manhattan, Raging Bull. Pi.
posted by bingo at 5:08 PM on September 30, 2005


What, you didn't see Schindler's List????

But seriously, this movie looks fantastic and it'll definitely get a bit of my money.
posted by pmbuko at 5:09 PM on September 30, 2005


"I think that if Barbara Lee would read the history of Joe McCarthy, she would realize that he was a hero for America."
- Steve King (R-IA), 9/27/2005

The 44-year-old actor, known for his outspoken attacks on the Bush government ...

I never knew.

Sad to say you haven't paid for a B&W movie since 1974. Support your classic movie houses! Also, Dead Man by Jim Jarmusch is great.

On preview, big thumbs up also for Wings of Desire and The Man Who Wasn't There!
posted by mrgrimm at 5:13 PM on September 30, 2005


Great post. The movie's very good. I reviewed it here.
posted by muckster at 5:17 PM on September 30, 2005


Dead Man by Jim Jarmusch is great.

Agree. One of my fav's.

And... Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid by Steve Martin... or not.
posted by tkchrist at 5:20 PM on September 30, 2005


It's definitely the right time for the film's subject. Listening to the Cronkite segment, and the quotes from Murrow and McCarthy was occasion for deja vu.

On black and white film, Jarmusch makes neat flicks. Down By Law is also well worth a viewing.
posted by Drastic at 5:29 PM on September 30, 2005


I live in Nebraska. There are no classic movie houses to support. I'll be surprised if I don't have to drive an two hours to find it playing, and I live in a university town.
Also I meant "pay to see at the theater". I've seen others on DVD, etc.
posted by spock at 5:33 PM on September 30, 2005


I'm looking forward to see the movie, but it's unfair to characterize McCarthy's activities as simply fearmongering in order to reduce civil liberties. Keeping in mind that he had nothing to do with HUAC, his investigations ended up being vindicated to a certain extent after the fact, and many of the subjects of his committee were in fact Soviet spies. There is no doubt that the Soviet Union mounted massive intelligence operations that specifically targeted the US government after WW2, and while McCarthy certainly went overboard on more than one occasion (eventually leading to his downfall), he was most definitely not just chasing ghosts. Apologies if this politicizes the thread, but the Clooney characterization of McCarthy and the era in the BBC article at least I think is quite flawed and simplistic.
posted by loquax at 5:42 PM on September 30, 2005


I went to the advance screening the Center for American Progress sponsored a few weeks ago and can vouch that it's a great movie. Clooney spoke after the screening and emphasized the importance of using the real footage of McCarthy to make sure there was no cries of "hatchet jobs" against him. Letting the monster speak for himself did wonders. (The heavy use of the footage was the main reason the film was B&W, by the way. The meshing of real film to the acted parts was really good.)
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:44 PM on September 30, 2005


I have a man crush on Clooney.

Clooooooney.

and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is a pretty good flick. slightly underrated imho.
posted by dig_duggler at 5:49 PM on September 30, 2005


I'm not up on that part of the story, loquax. Any documentation you can point us to? Even if true, this appears to be a case of the cure being worse than the disease.
posted by spock at 5:50 PM on September 30, 2005


I'm looking forward to see the movie, but it's unfair to characterize McCarthy's activities as simply fearmongering in order to reduce civil liberties. Keeping in mind that he had nothing to do with HUAC, his investigations ended up being vindicated to a certain extent after the fact...

"certan extent". Right.
posted by delmoi at 5:53 PM on September 30, 2005


I went to the advance screening the Center for American Progress sponsored a few weeks ago and can vouch that it's a great movie. Clooney spoke after the screening and emphasized the importance of using the real footage of McCarthy to make sure there was no cries of "hatchet jobs" against him.

I knew that he didn't use an actor, but I wondered about why. He didn't explain it on the daily show. Makes a lot of sense, although you can always take comments out of context.
posted by delmoi at 5:56 PM on September 30, 2005


loquax, at the NYFF press conference, Clooney emphasized that Morrow never questioned whether or not McCarthy's accusations were factually right or wrong--there's a scene in the movie dedicated to this when Murrow says, "We don't know if these people are Communists." According to Clooney, Murrow was so principled that he only questioned the constitutionality of McCarthy's methods.
posted by muckster at 5:58 PM on September 30, 2005


From Wikipedia:

In 1995, when the VENONA transcripts were declassified, further detailed information was revealed about Soviet Union espionage in the United States. VENONA specifically references at least 349 people in the United States—including citizens, immigrants, and permanent residents—who may have cooperated in various ways with Soviet intelligence agencies. It is generally believed that McCarthy had no access to VENONA intelligence, but VENONA supports the view that a few, though far from most, of the individuals investigated by McCarthy were indeed Soviet agents. These are several prominent examples:

Emphasis mine. There are 7 listed. How many people did McCarthy persicute?
posted by delmoi at 6:01 PM on September 30, 2005


Even if true, this appears to be a case of the cure being worse than the disease.

"certain extent". Right.


Exactly my point - debate about him and the era is completely valid and necessary in my opinion, but rather than framing it as "Should fear be used to take away certain civil liberties?" (Clooney's words), it should be more along the lines of, "in light of a serious, secretive threat, what actions on the part of the government are appropriate and which are not", or something like that. It wasn't just empty fear, and I'm not sure how "civil liberties" in general were affected by McCarthy. His investigations focused solely on exposing Communist spies and sympathizers with the US government (mostly), not the population at large as was the case with HUAC, which is a different discussion.

As for information, wikipedia is a good start:

McCarthy
The VENONA Project and it's significance
History of Soviet Espionage in the US

How many people did McCarthy persicute?

None, officially. No prosecutions, no convictions. Again, I'm not saying he or his methods were perfect, but that's the debate. In many cases, it would be impossible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that an agent of the government is a spy for the USSR. What should the government do? Nothing? Allow subversion of the UN and senate? I honestly don't know the answer. Is it better to allow suspected real subversives to operate unmolested or to act, not by killing or imprisoning them as in other countries, but by destroying reputations and impugning character, including those who are innocent, which is pretty much what McCarthy did. That's the debate, I believe, not what Clooney is saying.
posted by loquax at 6:12 PM on September 30, 2005


Again, I'm not saying he or his methods were perfect

I should add, "or even good".
posted by loquax at 6:13 PM on September 30, 2005


McCarthy didn't really give half a shit about freedom or the threat of Communism. He was looking for something to increase his visibility (as he was thinking of running for President), and the Red Menace fit the bill.

It was all about him and what he wanted, and only tangentially about Communism. Ego and selfishness all the way.
posted by watsondog at 6:17 PM on September 30, 2005


Clooney's father was an anchorman, and Good Night, and Good Luck focuses more on Murrow than on McCarthy. The question at the heart the movie is: what responsibilities do broadcast journalists have, and how can they fulfill them in a medium that's ruled by ad revenue?

The thing I keep coming back to when I think about the film is the fact that after Murrow's initial attack on McCarthy aired, viewers calling in were 15 to 1 pro--there was a silent majority that hated McCarthy's methods, but was too frightened to speak up until Murrow did so publicly. It must have felt somewhat like the unscripted TV moments we saw during Katrina--except that it looks like now, everything's back to "normal."
posted by muckster at 6:25 PM on September 30, 2005


Ed Wood is another great, recent B&W movie.

I'm looking forward to this movie as well.
posted by pruner at 6:33 PM on September 30, 2005


Another great black and white film that's been released since 1974 is Tim Burton's Ed Wood (arguebly his last great film).

Also, spock above mentioned that he lives in Nebraska and there are no good indie cinemas to go to, but I would point him in the direction of both The Ross (Lincoln) or The Dundee (Omaha). Both show great stuff (although I don't know if either are getting Clooney's new one).
posted by almostcool at 6:35 PM on September 30, 2005


haha... I beat you by 2 minutes almostcool ;-)
posted by pruner at 7:20 PM on September 30, 2005


On a very-loosely-related tangent, I just got back from Serenity about an hour ago. It's a fantastic movie, and I recommend it highly. SF, sort of a combo of Bladerunner and Gunsmoke. I STRONGLY suggest seeing this one. Best movie I've seen in years.

Sorry for the segue. It didn't seem worthy of a FPP, but I hadda say something.
posted by Malor at 7:33 PM on September 30, 2005


You didn't see π?
posted by b1tr0t at 7:51 PM on September 30, 2005


responsible broadcast journalism? where?
posted by brandz at 8:06 PM on September 30, 2005


Supposedly, the b&w of GNGL looks better than usual because it's actually printed on b&w stock, which is more expensive. The result is that you get great grey tones. Looks really good what with all those people smoking elegantly etc.

And if we're just hyping new movies: Capote is really freakin' good.
posted by muckster at 9:25 PM on September 30, 2005


Supposedly, the b&w of GNGL looks better than usual because it's actually printed on b&w stock, which is more expensive. The result is that you get great grey tones. Looks really good what with all those people smoking elegantly etc.

Really? I heard that it was filmed in color first, then printed on b&W because filming in b&w was too costly. But then, I don't really know about these sort of things, so...*shrug*

And George Clooney is more than just man candy? Who knew? (well, I did.)

This is one of the reasons why I decided to go to a SF based school. I get to see this movie and Mirrormask! Hooray!
posted by kosher_jenny at 12:58 AM on October 1, 2005


Thanks for posting this. I like Clooney in most things I've seen with him. It's interesting in a good way to see Robert Downey Jr. working. Oh and fuck I hate salon.
posted by peacay at 2:06 AM on October 1, 2005


I'm interested in seeing the movie. I think it's very timely, and I trust in Clooney's intensive research. I have read numerous articles/interviews about the film and I am satisfied that it is a genuine project for Clooney (and I'm basically a cynical person).
I only wish it would change the so-called news reporting we experience today.
posted by Radio7 at 3:04 AM on October 1, 2005


Ahem. The Man Who Wasn't There.

Also, I heard a mixed review on NPR yesterday on Capote: good but sluggish was the upshot.
posted by yoga at 4:34 AM on October 1, 2005


Pleasantville and Sin City are both mostly black-and-white, with symbolic use of color.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:24 AM on October 1, 2005


That Cronkite link is brilliant. Thank you.
posted by jmgorman at 6:53 AM on October 1, 2005


Clerks, anyone?
posted by the_bone at 11:43 AM on October 1, 2005


The most excellent Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid. Now, excuse me while I make an ...adjustment.
posted by thanotopsis at 4:34 PM on October 1, 2005


people who post to threads without reading them first are retarded. several of them on display here.
posted by mr.marx at 6:06 PM on October 1, 2005


I'm not concerned about "politicizing the thread". The post is about both the movie and the historical events that it is based upon.

The subject is well framed by Clooney and there ARE important lessons that (apparently) have been forgotten. You have to look at the environment at the time (fear and anti-communist hysteria) and the way he operated. Justifying his actions by pointing to any apparent success he may have had ignores all of the innocent people who were affected by his smear and innuendo campaign. His tactics violated fundamental rights (allegedly) afforded to citizens of the U.S. (Freedom of Speech, The 5th Amendment, and the right to due process - to name a few).
posted by spock at 6:28 PM on October 1, 2005


Other notable post-1975 black & white films: The Elephant Man, Manhattan, Clerks, Stranger than Paradise, Eraserhead, U2: Rattle and Hum, Forbidden Zone, She's Gotta Have It, the non-concert sequences of Madonna: Truth or Dare.
posted by jonp72 at 6:32 PM on October 1, 2005


Surprised no one has mentioned Quiz Show, another great, modern, b&w film. I also loved Wings of Desire and Dead Man.
posted by neuron at 6:35 PM on October 1, 2005


neuron - Quiz Show wasn't B&W
posted by pruner at 7:07 PM on October 1, 2005


Tailgunner Joe was a grandstanding drunk, a buffoon, and a thug, who didn't care whose life he ruined, or what constitutional rights he trampled, in order to get more attention and notoriety.


He's an American embarrasment and a disgrace, and any attempt to paint his mindless witchhuntery as anything even quasi-legitimate is neoconservative revisionist history and masturbatory fantasy at best.

(He also ate sticks of butter to keep the rotgut down)
posted by stenseng at 9:48 PM on October 1, 2005


This was awesome. I saw a preview of it and personally I think there's something seriously wrong with the academy if there aren't at least a couple of nominations. Personally, I think David Strathairn richly deserves best actor for his portrayal of Edward R. Murrow. He is certainly one of the best actors alive today.
posted by muppetboy at 10:29 PM on October 1, 2005


(I think stenseng might be a communist)
posted by loquax at 10:44 PM on October 1, 2005


I look forward to the movie, just for the reminder of what REAL journalism looked like. When is the last time you saw that on your television screen?
posted by spock at 10:50 PM on October 1, 2005


« Older Typetester,...  |  Is God nothing more than an at... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments