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Film is food for soul of a nation

October 28, 2005

MorrowFor all of us who grumble that movies offer up little of value, "Good Night and Good Luck" is here.

You may have to hunt for a theater to see it, in spite of the film grossing a staggering $38,000 per screen early on. But when you do find a screening, it will be like finding a polished diamond in a mountain of slag.

To call this film a George Clooney spectacular might be misleading. We have come to expect extravagance from this "s" word, something this film is not. It is spare and smoky (both literally and figuratively). It is set in a time of dreary Westinghouse design and tedious repression. It is filmed less in black and white than gray. It has the fingerprints of intellectual, arty Hollywood types all over it. So what exactly makes it deserving of such an accolade?

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Well, Clooney acts, directs and writes. Thus the adjective fits. Though a drama and not a documentary, it is so well researched, so detailed and nuanced, one would think one were stepping back to the mid-1950s.

Clooney does not charm but rather reaches out to take the audience at the gut. It is not accidental that this film is described by the promoters with the line "In a nation terrorized by its own government, one man dared to tell the truth." Terror is a buzz word these days, used by governments to feed national fears -- both ours and others.

We are meant to apply the lessons within this film to our own times, our own leaders, our own willingness to use our God-given abilities to analyze and to act. Making a film like this takes courage -- perhaps not as great as that of Edward R. Murrow and his producer, Fred Friendly, when they helped bring an end to the tyranny of the House Un-American Activities Committee's anti-Communist hearings -- but courage nonetheless. Dissent, after all, is the marrow of patriotism.

For those reasons and more, "spectacular" is the word.

My hope is that generations that did not live to see America hoodwinked and diminished by dread, innuendo and mass hysteria, will go witness what I remember.

It will be good for the soul, good for the state of our nation as it is now and as it will someday be.

* CAROLYN HOWARD-JOHNSON of Glendale is a novelist and poet who remembers Murrow's "See It Now" and the furor of the McCarthy era.

Carolyn HowardJohnson20051029gxkkaske(LA)

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