Thursday, March 09, 2006


The Last Word on Clooney...

...goes to Peggy Noonan:
Was his speech wholly without merit? No. It was a response and not an attack, and it appears to have been impromptu. Mr. Clooney presumably didn't know Jon Stewart would tease the audience for being out of touch, and he wanted to argue that out of touch isn't all bad. Fair enough. It is hard to think on your feet in front of 38 million people, and most of his critics will never try it or have to. (This is a problem with modern media: Only the doer understands the degree of difficulty.)

But Mr. Clooney's remarks were also part of the tinniness of the age, and of modern Hollywood. I don't think he was being disingenuous in suggesting he was himself somewhat heroic. He doesn't even know he's not heroic. He thinks making a movie in 2005 that said McCarthyism was bad is heroic.

How could he think this? Maybe part of the answer is in this: The Clooney generation in Hollywood is not writing and directing movies about life as if they've experienced it, with all its mysteries and complexity and variety. In an odd way they haven't experienced life; they've experienced media. Their films seem more an elaboration and meditation on media than an elaboration and meditation on life. This is how he could take such an unnuanced, unsophisticated, unknowing gloss on the 1950s and the McCarthy era. He just absorbed media about it. And that media itself came from certain assumptions and understandings, and myths.
Exactly, Clooney's Good Night And Good Luck is a "good" movie -- from a technical standpoint. It is filmed expertly. It has some fine performances by David Straitharn, Frank Langella and, yes, Clooney himself. But it is not "bold" or daring. It's target isn't even either the McCarthy-like politicians Clooney suggests run the country today -- or even the broader American audience. It's target is -- as Noonan hints -- the media itself. He made a movie to remind the media how the media once conducted itself.

But, as Noonan says, "old" Hollywood made movies for the broader audience, not for its own self-satisfaction.

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