Posts Tagged ‘Good Night And Good Luck – movie review’

This evening’s post is a book review and a movie review.
Book review: Edward R. Murrow: and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism  (2004©)
This book was written by Bob Edwards and chronicles the life of the famous radio and TV news journalist: Edward R Murrow.  A little background – I grew up listening to the famous record series “I Can Hear It Now (1933-1945)“.  I’m not sure why my mom bought them for me as a child, but I have distinct memories of listening to these albums (actually, 78rpm LPs, as in “Long Playing” for all you music streamers) along with my copy of “The Lone Ranger“.  Incidentally, anyone interested can hear much of, if not all of, the records on YouTube.  You can certainly hear enough of Murrow’s voice to appreciate what he sounded like to Americans who were just discovering radio.
The book is a fascinating account of the parallel track of radio and TV news journalism with early to mid-20th century world / American history.  The main body is 166 pages in my hardbound copy and I found it a VERY fast read.  If you have any interest in the history of broadcast journalism this is a terrific introduction.  Having grown up during the 1960’s, when many of the names in the book were faces on my TV every evening, the book really brought back memories.  Of particular interest, the “Afterword” runs about 13 pages and more or less precisely describes the news we see on TV (broadcast and 24-hour cable) today.  The book would be highly recommended based on the “Afterword” itself, but I found the whole book fascinating.  Final recommendation: Highly recommended!  Needless to say, there will be quotes to follow on my blog…
Movie review: “good night, and good luck.”  (2005)
This is my second review of this movie / DVD.  The original review can be found at:  Journalism And Fantasy  from back in 2012.  My first review pretty much stands as is.  This is an outstanding movie about a critical time in American history – 1953 to 1958 and covers the conflict between Senator Joseph McCarthy and Edward Murrow.  McCarthy was trying to fight communism in the U.S. government (and then within the U.S. as a whole) and over-reached by using government intimidation to restrict free speech and association and, ultimately, freedom of the press.  When Murrow used the power of television to confront McCarthy and his bullying tactics, McCarthy fell from public grace.  He was censored by the Senate and, ultimately, died in disgrace as a cautionary tale about the abuse of power in a democracy.  Ironically, some of the individuals he “exposed / persecuted” were later found to actually be Soviet agents when the U.S.S.R. fell and some of their spying records became public.  This has not, however, vindicated McCarthy in the eyes of history.  Rather, these instances seem to be the exceptions which proved the rule of innocent until proven guilty.
If I have one critique of the movie, it would be that it leaves you hanging.  There is the drama of Murrow’s (probably) most famous speech – to the Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA) convention in Chicago (1958) – popularly known as the “Wires And Lights In A Box” speech (which can be found in its entirety here), which leads into and then ends the movie, but there is no summing up.  The viewer is left to do their own research on Murrow’s career and life, and the result / reaction to his speech.  The fact the speech is actually a prophecy of the type of radio and television news we are experiencing today is also left for the viewer.  This is the type of DVD I would pay more for to get the extras (but I NEVER do this).
Even with that single criticism, this is a terrific movie and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in American journalism, history or the rule of law in a free and open society.
On This Day In:
2015 Not Mine, Anyway
2015 South By South East
2013 Don’tcha
2012 I Hear A Distant Thunder
2011 A Poison Tree

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This week I re-watched “good night, and good luck.” (GNGL), and “John Carter“, (JCoM) both on DVD.
During the 1960’s-70’s, when I was coming of age, the most trusted man in America was Walter Cronkite who presented the evening new for CBS.  But before Cronkite, there was another journalism legend at CBS – his name was Edward R. Murrow.   GNGL is a movie about the abuse of power by a government figure (Senator Joseph McCarthy) and the struggle to contain / curtail that abuse by CBS TV journalist Edward R. Murrow.  While Murrow did not “personally” bring down McCarthy, Murrow’s programs marked the start of McCarthy’s fall from grace.  GNGL is the story of the broadcasts which ultimately led to the vote of censure by the U.S. Senate against McCarthy.
The movie is shot in black and white to highlight the “feel” of 1953 America – in the days before color television (yes, kids, there was a time when TV was in black and white ONLY) – like watching an Ansel Adams nature portrait come to life.   It worked for me, even though I generally don’t care for new films (that is, non-classics) which don’t seem to use the drama provided by black and white as well as it appears in GNGL.  The writing and performances are crisp and David Strathairn captures Murrow perfectly (or as near as I can imagine it to be).
I did not see this film at the theater and this was my second time viewing the DVD.  I’m not sure why, but I don’t have my first viewing on this blog.  The movie is from 2005, so it’s possible I saw the DVD before I started this blog (in ’09).   In any case, this is a highly recommended!!
As an aside, as a young child, I grew up listening to a box set of 78 LP’s titled: “I Can Hear It Now“.  I still have vivid recollections of sitting in an old red armchair and listening to history over and over again: “Fear Itself”, “Day of Infamy”, “Greatest Hour”, the destruction of the Hindenburg, etc.  Some of the greatest moments of 20th century radio and the thread which linked them in my mind was the voice of Edward R. Murrow.
The second movie I watched was “John Carter“, which was originally supposed to be called “John Carter of Mars” or “John Carter and the Princess of Mars“.  I did see this movie at the theater and I’ve watched it on DVD when I first bought it, but for some reason, I didn’t review it – probably, because I watched it mid-week and didn’t get back to a review on the weekend (procrastinating me).
For those not familiar with the story, Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote a series of eleven short novels about a Civil War officer who is transported to Mars and who then has a series of adventures leading up to his becoming a War Lord of Mars.  The books were written / published over a number of decades.  I first encountered the books while I was in the Army.  My roommate knew of my interest in adventure novels (mostly SciFi) and told me about the series, which was his favorite while he was growing up.  He seemed quite surprised I had never heard of the series.  Anyway, I bought the series and carried them around for the better part of 35 years before finally getting around to reading them.  I was motivated to read them by the up-coming release of the movie.
This is one of those movies people say can never be shot because of the nature of the special effects required to convey the story.  Well, I’m happy to say technology has caught up with imagination in this age of the super-hero movie, so this movie could finally be made.  You can read my initial review here.  On re-watching the DVD, my opinion remains – it’s a VERY entertaining little movie.  Is it a great movie?  No…  Has a lot of the stuff (FX) been done before?  Yes.  Does it matter?  Nope, not to me anyway.  Summer escapism / action flick…  If the movie gets you to go back and read the books or the Tarzan series (also written by Burroughs), then the movie has served its purpose in history.
The shame is the movie was so badly marketed, it lost Disney a ton of money and there will probably not be any sequels developed.  That’s a shame because there are a lot worse movies out there that have a ton of abysmal sequels.  Strong recommendation (borderline high recommendation) – I enjoy it more each time I view it.

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