Friday, November 25, 2005

Holiday Cinema

We just got home from seeing "Good Night, And Good Luck." The title is a little like the movie: plodding and muzzy. It's the story of how Edward R. Murrow stood up to Senator Joe McCarthy on CBS News. It's filmed in luxe black and white and may take the record for the most cigarettes smoked in a 90 minute movie. Murrow (David Straithairn) even smokes during his broadcasts. It seems problematic that I want to say the amount of smoking in the movie was the thing that interested me most. I didn't learn anything about the McCarthy hearings (they are shown as original footage, not re-enactments) and not much seemed to happen outside of a few (admittedly brave) character attacks on McCarthy by Murrow on the air. A bunch of people of no given designation played by famous actors (Patricia Clarkson, Robert Downey, Jr., George Clooney, etc.) mull around, smoking and concentrating intently on various monitors. A couple tries to hide their marriage from the CBS company, which prohibits employee marriage for some undisclosed reason. Occasionally we zoom in on a big-bosomed gal in a sound booth singing standards like "How High The Moon." Sometimes Murrow stares at her, but I don't know why, or where she is relative to where he is (down the hall from the newsroom?) And that's pretty much all that happens. Murrow is often shot in close-up, with half his face illuminated, like a Rembrandt. Though he is clearly smart and knows his way around a turn of phrase, his face is like a block of wood. He didn't seem like a person, just a "newsman." His personality remains impenetrable throughout.

Speaking of which, reviewers have been whining that they didn't get to know the "real" Johnny Cash in the new biopic "Walk The Line." I had no such complaint. I was so riveted by his love for June Carter that I totally forgot about the legend of "the man in black." I first heard about their 35 year marriage and torrid 10 year courtship in an NPR piece by Sarah Vowell, in which she talked about the song "Ring of Fire" and how passionately Carter wanted to resist Cash, who was married and addicted to pills. She herself was divorced with two small children, a fact that her core audience frowned upon. Although the early scenes of the movie are a bit hackneyed, once Cash and Carter meet the electricity is continuous. That Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon sing their own songs is a major perk. They do an amazing job, and when they duet, it's passionate. I could watch them sing for hours, even though I wasn't previously familiar with any of their music. I kind of didn't care about any cliched bits because the performances are so good, and because I was so busy rooting for them to get together. I'm sensing nominations for both of them, and well-deserved.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is nice to hear about all the movies you have been seeing lately. Get them in while you can. Jeff and I often daydream about how we used to flit off to the movies on a moments notice. Those days seem so far away now. We are hoping to get one good one in by the end of the year...wish us luck!