Good Night, And Good Luck

 

Good Night, And Good Luck

Written by Grant Heslov & George Clooney

Directed by George Clooney

2009


Production:

Theatrical: Participant Productions & Section Eight

Video: Warner Home Video


Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080p

Codec: MPEG-2

Disc Size: 16.82 GB

Feature Size: 15.69 GB

Bit Rate: 20.24 Mbps

Runtime: 93 minutes

Chapters: 23

Region: All


Audio:

English Dolby Digital 5.1

English Dolby Digital 2.0


Subtitles:

English, French & Spanish


Extras:

• Audio Commentary by Writer/Director George Clooney & Co-Writer Grant Heslov

• Good Night, and Good Luck Companion Piece


Amaray Blu-ray case. 1 disc

Release Date: August 1, 2006


See my amendment regarding a more recent release from Lion Gate in Region B.

Comment

Good Night, and Good Luck is more distinguished than entertaining, more well-intended than inspired. It is nonetheless an important and well-directed and scripted film.  More important, it is a film about America's present as well as its past, for the parallels between government censorship and control of the media is as pervasive today as was in the days of Senator Joseph McCarthy and his list of names fifty years ago.  Today, however, that control is more insidious.  The public, while it thinks of itself as informed, is victim to a form of brainwashing that it seems to invite, even to encourage.  We are in serious trouble and, for the most part, the media today is not doing its job.  Thus, this movie.


George Clooney made his film in black & white so as to maintain our focus and not be distracted by pretty sets or too much verisimilitude, not so much or because TV in the fifties was in black & white.  [cf. notes on Image, below.]  There is a deliberate documentary feel to the film: Dialog seems to actually emanate from the actors instead of looped and dubbed later.  Dianne Reeves is actually singing, and what we hear is the recorded track of what we see.  That's novel.  The projected images of McCarthy and others is archival footage from the time.


     


Clooney's artless direction begins at a reception in 1958 to honor Edward R. Murrow several years after the events that make up the drama that follows.  Clooney's unselfconscious camera observes bits of time and place as it scans the guests in dreamy, grainy visuals in shallow depth of field – the hairstyles, dress and jewelry fashion, the omnipresent cigarette smoking.  He eavesdrops on fleeting fragments of conversation.  Clooney himself is seen only momentarily, the actor and his character utterly inconsequential at this moment.  The guest of honor is waiting in the wings, about to make what has become a classic speech on the responsibility of the news media, and especially television news. 


David Strathairn's impersonation of Edward R. Murrow is tight, reserved, restrained, ready to spring out with a well-placed, unassuming, but insightful phrase.  Once we see Murrow, no longer the celebrity we know from radio and television, move from behind the podium or away from the TV camera, we feel the authenticity of Straithairn's extension to a "real life" creation - for you and I have no direct knowledge of the man other than as newscaster and interviewer: There is no glitch in the transition from the impersonation of the man we know to the one Clooney wants us to know and the one Straithairn becomes.


     


With Murrow now fixed clearly in our minds, the other, less familiar, but still very important real-life characters come to life in Frank Langella's William Paley, tough-minded but sympathetic head of CBS; Jeff Daniels' Sig Mickelson, the man responsible for developing CBS news for television, George Clooney's understated Fred Friendly, Murrow's associate partner in the See It Now series, the hard-hitting investigative program that eventually led to 60 Minutes; and Ray Wise's desperate and rapidly disintegrating Don Hollenbeck, one of the more painfully visible casualties of the Hearst papers' attacks on journalists that criticized McCarthy.


Murrow and Friendly had been on the lookout for a way to expose the tyranny of McCarthy's bogus and irresponsible accusations. Joe Wershba, played by Robert Downey, Jr. (a fine actor in the hands of director that can help contain his natural exuberance) brought to CBS the necessary footage in the case of Lt. Milo Radulovich, a reserve officer had been summarily retired by the Air Force because his father and sister had been accused of being communist sympathizers The investigation of the case by See It Now, and subsequent attempts by the military, other news organizations and CBS itself to censor it, is the main focus of the movie.  Wershba, by the way, went on to become one of the original producers of 60 Minutes.  Prior to and during the events of the movie, Wershba was married secretly to the character played by Patricia Clarkson: Shirley Wershba also wound up eventually at 60 Minutes.  The main points of the drama of Good Night, and Good Luck is commented on and interpreted for us in the Wershba's conversions "at the water cooler."


     


The smoke, the all important cigarette smoke, serves not only to create the time and place but to offer a screen to protect one's innermost thought from prying eyes and ears.  Colleagues didn't necessarily speak their mind openly, even in a newsroom meeting.  Not only was their the ominous threat of censure and the blackball, this was a time when professional staff could and would be fired if it were learned that they were married to each other.  It seems strange in an otherwise liberal entity such as a television newsroom, but Clooney wants to make it clear that the evil eye is watching everywhere and real effects follow.


     


The Score Card

The Movie : 8

A must-see movie, not only for the sake of the political issues raised and dealt with coolly and relentlessly - though not without detachment - but also for the excellence of Clooney's direction of actors and his seamless interweaving of documentary footage and his memorable cinematic replica of a certain milieu, a rampant insanity, in post-war America.


     


Image : 9/9

The Blu-ray transfer of Good Night, and Good Luck is of stellar demonstration quality, despite its taking up only 16 GB of space.  It also has the advantage at the moment of being the only black & white film represented in the medium, a state of affairs bordering on irresponsible. (This DVD came out in August of last year, and there hasn't been another black & white entry in over 350 titles.)  To be accurate, Good Night, and Good Luck isn't actually shot on black & film.  A few years ago, Kodak introduced Vision2 500T 5218, a color negative film with exceptional color contrast.  (Syriana, Spiderman-3, Ray, Vanity Fair, and Notes on a Scandal are some of the other assignments it has been asked to take on.)  Clooney used it for starters to achieve maximum continuous tone so that when converted to a monochrome it would retain a knockout grayscale.


There is a luster to the flesh tones that isn't present in color films in high definition – none that I've encountered as yet, anyhow.  Still, there is cutting-edge sharpness and resolution, perhaps best exemplified in the scene where Friendly takes on the military  - Glenn Morshower, an actor who has made a career of portraying government agents and military personnel, in another totally credible representation of military loyalty.  Feast your eyes on those fabrics and campaign ribbons, ladies and gentlemen.


     


More than most color films on hi-def, even good ones, there is a 3-dimensional quality to this presentation that drops the jaw.  It is carefully lit to keep the background at arm's length, and our seeing it in black & white and carefully helps as well.  The magical, wispy, lighter than air quality of the cigarette smoke that pervades so many scenes in Good Night, and Good Luck is captured perfectly in this BD relaease.  The SD version is very good indeed - so much so that an upgrade is really not necessary.  It misses only the refinements of texture and the 3-dimensional effect that high definition can bring, which is no small thing, I assure you.  There are no motion challenges to speak of in the film, so the SD version is adequate in that respect as well.  Of course, the smoke is too thick and heavy and, well, thick and heavy.  For those of us that want to show off what this medium can do, you could hardly find a better BD title to do it with.


     


Operations : 8

The movie starts almost immediately after loading - always a mercy.  Menu functions are unremarkable, getting the job done without bringing attention to themselves.  Subtitles are in English, French and Spanish, as on the SD.


     


Extras : 6

Featuring an enjoyable, informative Commentary with Director/Screenwriter George Clooney and Producer/Screenwriter Grant Heslov.  The 15-minute featurette "Good Night, and Good Luck Companion Piece" in standard definition offers interviews with a few of the filmmakers and some of the surviving newsroom employees.  No footage of Murrow, though.  Not bad.


     


Recommendation : 9

As just stated, the SD is quite satisfactory, but the BD makes the all the difference between sitting through what feels like a TV documentary on the hand, and a theatrical movie on the other.  I felt restless watching the SD, but with the Blu-ray, no doubt largely due to the tangibility of the image and despite its Dolby Digital soundtrack, I remain glued to the screen.


     


Amendment : 10

Lions Gate has since (August 3, 2009) released this movie in a Region B (locked) Blu-ray edition, with about 30% more space allotted to the feature film in an AVC MPEG-4 encode, a 20% higher bit rate and, most significantly, an uncompressed DTS-HD MA audio mix.  Even the commentary is uncompressed (LPCM).  There is an extra Photo Gallery in HD, but the documentary extra feature is PAL SD, so you will need the appropriate player to unlock it.


Leonard Norwitz

LensViews

June 19, 2007

Revised June 18, 2010


     







          
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