Monday, October 17, 2005

the long thought on goodnight

History was never my strong subject at school. And movie reviewing isnt my strongest of skills. So combine american history with american movies, and self is at as lost as macalay culkin in home alone II. Great, now i’ve even raised expecations with that analogy.

My point is this, movies on historical events pass me by fairly unimpactfully. Five years back, at a discussion of ‘all the president’s men’ my awe at the discussion of the movie started and ended with the knowledge that watergate was the name of a building, giving rise to the ‘watergate scandal’.Who knew? I was content in letting that fact be the only takeaway from the discussion. In anycase, years of doing the ‘readers dont digest’ rounds of filmfare magazine, and the ability to correctly predict endings of bollywood fillums brought in me a naive thought that self might be a movie critic. You know, bash a few, laud a few, give it a rating bordenline enough to make you an expert be it a flop or a hit.

But the point is, it sometimes IS greatly satisfying to view a movie on american history and come away with the feeling of having watched a classy film, very well-timed and beautifully handled, while still being ignorant on the historical significance and the importance of the historical characters in it. Its like when you catch a surprisingly great flick on the arabian horses and their tough situation. Granted you know nothing about the fodder scam that arabia is under now, but if hte movie is good enough, you would have that vague ‘i watched smtg satisfying’ feeling. You dont need much skill for that kinda feeling, and thats exactly what i felt this weekend. Self came away with shining eyes and an inspired soul, but could only vaguely recall the name of characters and the senator in the movie, the movie that was ‘goodnight, and goodluck’. If an inspired soul is what George clooney aimed for, you got it dude. If driving home the idealogies of the main character was, too bad. but for that, i blame myself.

Goodnight, and goodluck is the movie of CBS reported Edward Murrow, who exposed and consequently brings down senator McCarthy. I know, very “all the president’s men”ish..but the investigation of the story is NOT the highlight. What is?

a) Camera work—kudos to the team for deciding to shoot it all in black and white. The smoke-filled CBs newsroom and the cigarette dangling from tip of finger is absolutely enhanced in a B&W mode. The crisp, direct tone of the movie is supplemented very well with the non-distracting and effective use of black and white. Especially since the senator’s courtroom and hearing scenes are the original recordings, it blends splendidly

b) editing–tautness is the tyrannical theme of the movie, and i mean that in a good sense. Tautness, i feel, is easier to portray if the movie is a series of events unfolding. [if the reporters were to, lets say, run around collecting clues]. When the movie is of a slightly preachy, introspective nature, tautness can possibly be impossible to achieve. Little things add to the tautness, Murrow’s direct launch into his report, bypassing the ‘good morning america’ cliche, delivers the sense of urgency and the high tension in the newsroom everytime.

c) The characters–David Straitharin, as murrow in unbelievable. He looks like someoone who shot right out of 1950’s and probably will go right back. He is introspective, passionate, principled, cynical and sarcastic in the few lines he delivers off-the-camera. His speech at the felicitation ceremony, in the beginning and end of the movie, are in one-word, inspiring. When he says “i dont mean to say dont dedicate the tv for entertainment..all i ask is dedicate one day a week for a report on education reforms” you can sense the audience nod in understanding [well i went to a theatre of fairly old patrons]. When he does little bits of shows on fashion and housewives to have a steady income, he doesnt draw pity, just a smile.

The characters of shirley and joe, though slightly irrelevant to the plot, surprisngly work well to move the wheels of the story forward, acting as narrators, they replace the audience within the story. expressing thoughts and feelings that the audience probably feels at that point of the movie. George clooney as fred friendly, the producer of the show that exposes the senator, is controlled and believable.

The final message isnt preachy, its merely observational. Its probably easy to see it as “dont pollute the medium of TV with garbage” theme, but methinks the message is more “dont insulate and protect yourselves behind the laughtracks”. And i’ve never been happier abour NPR ever since.

inspired to no effect,


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bharath said...

NPR too, has it sproblems Peps (It was largely funded by GM a few years ago). But it is probably one of the best programming available. Do you know science friday has become a podcast?

Happy to have read the review. been meaning to watch it when the DVD comes out. It isn't one of those must watch on big screen, right? :-) :-)

Peppy said...

well, that depends on if you would rather watch a rajnikanth movie on or off-screen, personal decision :-p its not a star wars for sure, but the theatre effect does bring a sense of realism, unless you have a 42 inch plasmascreen and home theatre system.