Sunday, June 29, 2008

Summer Hibernating

Movietime again! I watched "Good Night and Good Luck", the 1950s story of newsman Edward R. Murrow's clash with Senator Joe McCarthy, the commie-chaser. Excellent. It's startling to see all the cigarettes in the movie, but that's the way it was back then. Murrow went on the air with his cigarette! David Strathairn is terrific as Murrow. It's obvious that George Clooney made the movie with a passionate drive to get it right - and he does.
In those days the news producers had to answer for their content to the corporate sponsors of the shows, but could still make their own decisions. Today the corporations own the networks and cable channels and give the orders. Back in the day, Morrow thought the standards for TV news had fallen to a low point in catering to folks who want their news easy and entertaining. Surely, he's rolling his grave at the state of news gathering and producing today. I look back and see his era as a golden age.
Joe McCarthy of the House Un-American Activities Committee, which was investigating Communist infiltration into the US Government, ruined and intimidated a goodly number of people before his downfall, and to take him on was a huge risk for Murrow. The movie uses actual footage of McCarthy instead of an actor. To see his accusations and bullying questioning of Annie Lee Moss, a Pentagon communication worker, is stomach-turning. Poor lady. She looks terrified. Ray Wise is excellent in the role of Don Hollenback, a journalist at CBS, who is smeared with charges of being a pinko. You can see the fear in his face as he waits for the ax to fall.
I liked the jazz soundtrack with music by Diana Reeves and a jazz combo. Scenes from performances by Reeves and her group are interspersed between scenes of the movie.
Next up was "Pollock", a film about the artist, Jackson Pollock. Depressing beyond depressing. It's well-done, but a real downer. Does all art involve this much angst? I don't think so. Pollock was an alcoholic, and it's always grim to watch that kind of tale of destruction play out. Along with telling Pollack's story, the moviemakers try to give the viewer insight into the artistic process.
Ed Harris directed the movie and played the role of Pollock. He and Marcia Gay Harden, playing Pollock's wife, Lee Krasner, also an artist, both do fine work in their roles. Pollock gives Lee a hell of a time of it. Amy Madigan is outstanding in the role of Peggy Guggenheim, an early patron of Pollock.
I'll never look at Pollock's paintings in quite the same way after seeing the movie. The photo above shows the real Pollock at work in his later technique of drip painting. I love the moment in the movie when an interviewer asks him what his paintings mean. He looks pained and says, (not a direct quote) "Look at the grass and the birds. Can't people just look at things and enjoy them?"


Paul said...

Great reviews, Mimi. I think I may catch up on movie watching when I'm finally home.

themethatisme said...

"Look at the grass and the birds. Can't people just look at things and enjoy them?"

Sadly misspelt name that fella.

FranIAm said...

I loved Good Night and Good Luck. Must see Pollack!

Thanks Mimi!

Grandmère Mimi said...

Paul, thanks. You will very likely see more reviews, since I bought four videos cheap from Blockbuster. But I can watch those at my leisure.

Sadly misspelt name that fella.

TheMe, ?

Fran, your misspelling of the artist's name made me laugh out loud.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

I've been wanting to see Pollock.

Good Night and Good Luck was interesting. I had to write the Cold War chapter for an American history textbook a number of years ago, so it's always fascinating to me to see things set in that time period.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Ruth, one of the pluses in getting old is that you've lived a chunk of history.

I hope that my words about "Pollock" being depressing won't steer anyone away from it. It was quite well done, and I highly recommend it.

Jane R said...

I loved "Good Night and Good Luck." I also watched it with great emotion since my my father was put on the blacklist in that era (for refusing to testify against a friend who was accused of being a "red" and instead testifying in his defense) and I was born during that time (actually after the worst was over). It is one of the few movies I have seen on the big screen during the last few years.

I would love to see the Pollock movie. The quote reminds me of a video interview of Marc Chagall that ran during the humongous Chagall retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris when I was about 15 -- the first exhibit I went to where I really went "wow" and fell in love with the artist. The interviewer asked Chagall something like "why is there a woman inside that cow?" or "why is there a cow in the corner of the picture?" (about one of those Chagall paintings where there are creatures flying around) and Chagall said "it's just there." I loved it and I loved him for it.

Nathan Empsall said...

Good Night and Good Luck was good - the acting strong, the message powerful and still resonant - but I wish it had been more of a biopic. Another hour looking at Murrow's WWII coverage, which was just as barrier-breaking and courageous, would have been splendid.

Padre Mickey said...

What you REALLY need to watch is some Bollywood.
E-mail me and I'll give you some great titles to watch.
You won't be sorry!!

Padre Mickey said...


Padre Mickey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Grandmère Mimi said...

Jane, that was a terrible time. How proud you must be to have a father who was blacklisted by McCarthy.

I like Chagall's response, too.

Nathan, that would have been lovely, but that wasn't the movie they made. I think Clooney wanted to highlight the McCarthy period, because some of the same sort of heavy-handed bullying is happening now. And to stick it to the media, too.

Padre Mickey, watch it there. You'll give me a reputation as a commie sympathizer - com-symp was the short verson, I believe.

Grandmère Mimi said...

About the Bollywood list, Padre, you have my email address. Send it on.

it's margaret said...

Grandmere--thank you for the reviews. Now I have two movies on my must-watch list. I confess, we don't watch movies very often. --our biggest TV is a 13-incher, and we still use rabbit-ear antena! (now, don't anybody blacklist me because of that! --please!) But on occassion, we do rent a DVD and cook some popcorn.

Now I have a reason to do so!

Grandmère Mimi said...

Margaret, your internet movie reviewer says thank you.

TheMe, nevermind. I get it now. I'm a little thick sometimes. Only one letter wrong.

themethatisme said...

2 surely, Pillock.
Him that is.

Counterlight said...

I've not seen the Pollock movie, but from what I've heard, it may well be spot on. The man was a mess, and from an early age. All those Abstract Expressionists were messes. Rothko was the biggest mess of all, a hateful manic depressive addicted to booze and pills who treated everyone around him so shabbily. He finally ended it all in a 1970 suicide.

I hope extreme suffering is not a requirement for great art. They've all done their share of suffering, but many ended up quite successful and happy. The last thing poor old Van Gogh wanted was to be Van Gogh of missing ear fame. He wanted to be the artistic version of Tolstoy or Victor Hugo, not some institutionalized maniac eating his paint and cutting up his arms, making brilliant pictures in his few lucid moments.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Him that is.

TheMe, you'd better not mean me. I'll be forced to ban you.

many ended up quite successful and happy.

Counterlight, and there's you.

The movie was tough for me to watch, because I had flashbacks to "Life With (Alcoholic) Father". Lee was wise to insist that they not have children.

themethatisme said... if I would.