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The 365 Best Films of the 2000s

Heroes of the Zeroes: Good Night, and Good Luck

Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

“Good Night, and Good Luck”
Rated PG
2005

Today’s TV news isn’t a 24-7 blur of white noise, partisan blowhards and vapid puff pieces. It’s only 23-7.

Edward R. Murrow didn’t live to see it, but the CBS newsman foretold it in 1958, warning that TV’s use only to distract, delude, amuse or insulate — and not also illuminate or inspire — would be its undoing.

Shot in ravishing black-and-white, George Clooney’s 2005 “Good Night, and Good Luck” chronicled Murrow’s (David Strathairn) commentaries about Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s destructive anti-Communist crusade.

But “Good Night” refused to simplify Murrow as a conquering hero or use McCarthy’s censure as a rallying cry. Murrow worked through plenty of trepidation, rising above personal attacks, political bluster and corporate pressure to persuade viewers that lines had been crossed. And while he afflicted the comfortable, he couldn’t comfort the afflicted, like colleague Don Hollenbeck — devastatingly destroyed in the courts of public and self-opinion.

For its serious subject matter, Clooney and Grant Heslov’s screenplay isn’t without time-capsule chuckles, silken song breaks from Dianne Reeves, snappy newsroom banter or nick-of-time levity. And Robert Elswit’s Oscar-nominated cinematography savors the era’s ducktails, pomades and smoke. (It shares subject matter, period-detail beauty and Frank Langella with the also-great “Frost/Nixon.”)

Untethered to any post-TV era, though, is a conclusion that America gets too comfortable with the mental inactivity it enables. Without responsible information, television is “merely wires and lights in a box.” The titular signoff begins as Murrow’s trademark and ends as a challenge to a medium — one too often unmet today.

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7 Responses to “Heroes of the Zeroes: Good Night, and Good Luck”

  1. [...] it’s simply not up to par with Clooney’s other directorial efforts. “Good Night, and Good Luck” showed how to do old-fashioned Hollywood drama right, and even “Confessions of a Dangerous [...]

  2. [...] Heroes of the Zeroes: Good Night, and Good Luck | THE FILM YAP Tagged as: best films, heroes, zombie Leave a comment Comments (0) Trackbacks (0) ( subscribe to comments on this post ) [...]

  3. Nick Rogers says:

    mia: That scene is the "nick-of-time levity" I had in mind. That’s a phenomenal comic pause in the movie.

    Everybody: Yes, David Strathairn is an actor who’s good even in bad films.

  4. Lauren Whalen says:

    Don’t forget "A League of Their Own," where he was the Harvey employee who stuck up for the women’s baseball league–one of the few suits who appreciated their hard work and sacrifices.

  5. Joe Shearer says:

    David Strathairn was a badass in this movie. He is one of the great underappreciated actors working.

    My favorite unheralded Strathairn was "The River Wild," where he was Meryl Streep’s (and Kevin Bacon’s) b*tch the whole movie then saved the day. And he was awesome in "L.A. Confidential," a GREAT movie with one of the best casts you’ll see this side of "Glengarry Glen Ross."

  6. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Nick Rogers, The Film Yap. The Film Yap said: We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home. http://bit.ly/c0NDKx #bestfilmsofthedecade #heroesofthezeroes [...]

  7. This movie is so freaking good. One of my favorite moments is, I think, the first time he talks about McCarthy, and the switchboard is silent. Then they find out why: it’s not plugged in. The second that’s rectified, the damn thing’s practically ablaze.

    David Straithairn is such an underrated actor. He’s amazing in this, and in everything.