Thursday, October 06, 2005

Hollywood revisionism: George Clooney's new movie, Good Night and Good Luck gets a thorough review in Slate, in a piece by Jack Shafer. Shafer is kind to Clooney, complimenting him as a director, but very critical of his cherry-picking of historical evidence.

A terrific movie about the Murrow-McCarthy duel could be made, mind you, but Clooney and company ignore the material that might argue against their simple-minded thesis about Murrow, the era, and the press to produce an after-school special. It's a shame, too, because Good Night and Good Luck's unbeatable production values and sharp performances constitute key ingredients of a great historical drama. Plus, Clooney is an able director, artfully meshing the original documentary film footage from Murrow's weekly CBS series, See It Now, with recreations of the studio end of the broadcasts.
He accuses Clooney of essentially hero-worship when it comes to Murrow, and crafting a piece that is intentionally disregards any facts that don't support the impression of Murrow as a lone voice for liberty standing up against a crackpot Senator. While Shafer isn't an apologist for McCarthy by any stretch, he provides much back story that complicates Clooney's vision.

In truth, I don't think Clooney has a hero worship problem with Murrow, so much as he's the most pseudo of all Hollywood pseudo-intellectuals. The story probably came across his coloring-book covered desk and some flunky showed him how he could spin it as a "cautionary tale" that would boost his street cred with the intellectual left. It will take a lot more than this to make anyone take him seriously, other than MoveOn types who'll proclaim him the hero-of-the-week for Speaking Truth To Power. If Shafer's right, though, all Clooney's done is direct another dumbed down look look at history because anythng else would fracture his tiny little brain.

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