Fine and Mellow

I have mixed feelings about the movie Good Night, and Good Luck. But not about the soundtrack...

There are quite a few vocalists and singers out there trying to capture the magical sound of the small combo pop-jazz that emerged after the demise of the big bands. The pinnacle, of course, are the two albums Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong recorded in the late 50s with the Oscar Peterson trio and Buddy Rich: Ella and Louis and Ella and Louis Again. This soundtrack is not in that league. But it is graced by the deliciously savory voice of Dianne Reeves, possibly the best jazz singer out there these days. And it's good to know that someone is still reaching for the heights, instead of just fooling all those nice people laptop-tapping away at Starbucks.

October 27, 2005 4:04 PM | | Comments (1)

Categories:

1 Comments

Ms. Bayles,

Your article in the Weekly Standard is a very thought-provoking piece, and I can completely see where you're coming from. But perhaps we were looking for different things from Good Night, and Good Luck. I sought an artful commentary on a fascinating chapter of broadcast journalism. I gather that you sought a comprehensive portrayal of Edward R. Murrow and the McCarthy proceedings. Make no mistake: McCarthy isn't the focus of this film. Rather, this is a movie about early news media. There's McCarthy, but there's also an interview between Murrow and Liberace, questions about the role of television in society, and other fascinating staples of an industry in the "adoption" stage.


The "deadwood" sub-plot between the two Murrow staffers plays an important role of grounding viewers in the social mores of the time. To produce a movie in 2005 about events that happened fifty years ago, a screenwriter needs to "place" the viewer in the time. And that's not simply achieved by "meticulous re-creations of early-1950s offices, TV studios, and hotel bars." Today's high school students, for example, won't understand the social context of the 1950s (or the witch hunt that ensued) without a foil. The sub-plot provided this context: not only was TV "unfree," as you suggest, but so were those who produced its content. This was still the "Father Knows Best" era; the hippies' colorful progress was still a decade away.


I thought casting Joe McCarthy as himself was brilliant. The comment I read said that test audiences felt "the actor playing McCarthy was overacting." Using the archival footage preserves McCarthy's peculiarly impassioned presence. These images add credibility to the story: THIS is what Murrow, Friendly, et al were up against, and THIS is how they used the dawn of the television newscast as a discussion forum to address it.


McCarthy isn't the only character without a body. As far as I can recall, the cast is limited to media types. There are no bartenders or street-sweepers. Rather, the film concentrates on the industry. The exception is Dianne Reeves, who is another foil for the time: a Jazz Age remnant whose lyrical music broods with social undercurrent. In one poignant scene, a beleaguered Murrow and Friendly watch Reeves through sound-proof glass. She and her songs somehow provide escape from their world.


Finally, I think the speech Murrow gives to the Radio-Television News Directors Association serves as an amazing bookend to the story. One realizes how little television has changed in 50 years. Programs are still tied to sponsor funding, and they're often loaded with sass and style in lieu of meaningful messages. As the credits roll, the audience recognizes this as the thesis statement for the entire project. It's not about Communism. It's about Journalism. And it ends here with this quote from Murrow:


"...This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box." (For full text, see http://www.rtnda.org/resources/speeches/murrow.shtml)

Leave a comment

Soundtrax

PRC Pop 

The Chinese pop music scene is like no other ...

Remembering Elvis 

The best part of him will never leave the building ...

Beyond Country 

Like all chart categories, "country" is an arbitrary heading under which one finds the ridiculous, the sublime, and everything in between. On the sublime end, a track that I have been listening to over and over for the last six months: Wynnona Judd's version of "She Is His Only Need." The way she sings it, irony is not a color or even a set of contrasting colors; it is iridescence.

Miles the Rock Star? 

Does Miles Davis belong in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame? Here's my take on his career ...

Essay Contest 

Attention, high school jazz listeners ...

more trax

Me Elsewhere

Edward Hopper 

Painter of light (and darkness) ...

Dissed in Translation 

Here's my best shot at taking Scorcese down a few pegs ...

Henri Rousseau Revisited 

"Henri Rousseau: Jungles in Paris" appeared at the National Gallery of Art in Washington this fall ...

Paul Klee's Art 

Paul Klee was not childish, despite frequent comparisons between his art and that of children...

Our Art Belongs to Dada 

Rent my "Dadioguide" tour of the Dada show (before it moves to MoMA) ...

more picks

Blogroll

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Serious Popcorn published on October 27, 2005 4:04 PM.

Talk About a Sleeper was the previous entry in this blog.

Essay Contest is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

AJ Ads


AJ Blogs

AJBlogCentral | rss

culture
About Last Night
Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Artful Manager
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
blog riley
rock culture approximately
critical difference
Laura Collins-Hughes on arts, culture and coverage
Dewey21C
Richard Kessler on arts education
diacritical
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dog Days
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Flyover
Art from the American Outback
Life's a Pitch
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
Mind the Gap
No genre is the new genre
Performance Monkey
David Jays on theatre and dance
Plain English
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Real Clear Arts
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
Rockwell Matters
John Rockwell on the arts
Straight Up |
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude

dance
Foot in Mouth
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Seeing Things
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...

jazz
Jazz Beyond Jazz
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
ListenGood
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Rifftides
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...

media
Out There
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Serious Popcorn
Martha Bayles on Film...

classical music
Creative Destruction
Fresh ideas on building arts communities
The Future of Classical Music?
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
On the Record
Exploring Orchestras w/ Henry Fogel
Overflow
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
PianoMorphosis
Bruce Brubaker on all things Piano
PostClassic
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Sandow
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Slipped Disc
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds

publishing
book/daddy
Jerome Weeks on Books
Quick Study
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera

theatre
Drama Queen
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off
lies like truth
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world

visual
Aesthetic Grounds
Public Art, Public Space
Another Bouncing Ball
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
Artopia
John Perreault's art diary
CultureGrrl
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary
Modern Art Notes
Tyler Green's modern & contemporary art blog
Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.