Tag Archives: Edward R. Murrow

GEORGE CLOONEY’S GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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I love the mood and rhythms of George Clooney’s magnificent Good Night, And Good Luck. This film has so much classy style and verbal sophistication that it’s always a pleasure to revisit, and it’s loaded with an utterly obscene cast that included David Strathairn, Jeff Daniels, Robert Downey Jr., Patricia Clarkson, Tate Donovan, Matt Ross, Tom McCarthy, Grant Heslov (who also co-wrote the tack-sharp script with Clooney), Robert John Burke, Ray Wise, Robert Knepper, the always awesome Reed Diamond, and Frank Langella. Cinematographers must jump at the chance to shoot in black and white (or have their images digitally converted to the format), and Robert Elswit’s gloriously beautiful work in the monochromatic style is beyond shimmery and old-school-wonderful to take in. The film recounts the period in which Senator Joseph McCarthy began his absurd quest to expose Communists in America, while CBS News icon Edward R. Murrow (the elegant Strathairn in the performance of a lifetime) dedicated himself to highlighting the indecencies being perpetrated by McCarthy’s crooked Senate “investigation.” Clooney’s film discussed morals and ethics, both on the journalistic and human side of life, and by shooting in black and white, Elswit was able to convey simple truths of good vs. evil, and correct vs. wrong. The smoky atmosphere made up of the constant sight of lit cigarettes added ambience and texture to the old-fashioned yet still slightly heightened pictorial quality. There’s an intimacy to the images in this film, with the 1.85:1 aspect ratio used smartly and efficiently; Elswit always understands the importance of utilizing the space within the frame regardless of how wide he shoots any given film. The agile and varied aesthetics in Good Night, And Good Luck perfectly mixed with the smoky and shadowy black-and-white lensing, and when combined with the vintage 16mm news material which showcased McCarthy and other real life members from this exciting chapter of American History, a sense of almost surreal verisimilitude is achieved. And as usual, when a production looks and feels as realistic as this one did (the TV-set detail and period appropriate studio/camera equipment is remarkable) it’s that much easier for the filmmakers to create a distinct and believable visual atmosphere. It’s no surprise that Elswit was nominated for an Oscar for this evocative piece of work, while the film in general was bestowed with six Academy Award Nominations, including nods for Best Picture (Heslov), Best Director (Clooney), Best Actor (Strathairn), Best Screenplay (Clooney and Heslov), and Best Art Direction (James D. Bissell and Jan Pascale). Top to bottom, from first frame to final shot, this is a terrific piece of storytelling and moviemaking.

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