Good Night, and Good Luck, taking its title from the signature sign-off line of Edward R. Murrow, amounts to unabashed hero worship of the "crusading" CBS newsman, directed and co-written by George Clooney, who also plays Murrow's television producer, Fred Friendly. (In the lead role, David Strathairn has Murrow's somber countenance, speaks with his cadence, and goes through a full carton of his coffin nails.) Framed by a literal "Salute to Edward R. Murrow" in 1958, and by the guest-of-honor's scolding assessment of the current state of TV journalism, it centers on his famous face-off four years earlier with Sen. Joe McCarthy, now known in ever widening circles as the Boogeyman. (McCarthy, seen only in grainy archive footage, looks even cruder than usual in opposition to the crisply photographed thespian smoothies.) Clooney, son of a TV newscaster himself, and high-profile Hollywood liberal, would no doubt be pleased if the sitting duck of the past were taken to be a stand-in for the fluttery fowl of today -- Rush Limbaugh, Oliver North, and Co., the religious right, Karl Rove, take your pick -- and pleased, too, if Murrow's example were held up to the news networks of half a century later. But be careful, George, what you wish for: the network that appears to come closest to Murrow's stance of advocacy, if nowhere near his humanity or integrity, would be Fox.
Clooney can surely rival any of his targeted enemies, past or present, in piety; and even, albeit in a somewhat different sense, in reactionaryism: taking up the social-conscious subject matter of the Lumet-Ritt-Frankenheimer generation (he had already done so in his live-television experiment of Fail-Safe a few years back), setting it in the precise period of their salad days, shooting it in black-and-white (not just matching the custom of the time, but Expressionistically matching the Weltanschauung of white hats versus black hats), scoring it with outmoded moody jazz, and treating it in the hectoring, lecturing style of the Rose-Serling-Schulberg screenwriters. In truth the message is gotten across with an altogether unacceptable amount of speechifying; and for all the feverishly overlapping dialogue and the occasional hustle-bustle of cast or camera, it is steadfastly a static film, nailed to a platform. You can be on, or near, Clooney's side in politics and a long way away in aesthetics.
Dreamer, the writing and directing debut of the mere co-writer on Coach Carter, John Gatins, is one of the endless supply of inspirational true sports stories to come to the screen, this one the horsetrack story, and only fractionally true, of a filly called Soñador (Spanish for Dreamer, but Mariah's Storm in real life) who in midrace breaks her cannon bone (something to look up in the dictionary afterwards) and will never be able to race again, though with proper care, particularly from a blond moppet, just might walk, and just might breed, except that she turns out to be infertile, too, and then turns out to be able to do more than just walk. Admirers of Seabiscuit will be prone to find this redundant, but inasmuch as I am not one of them, I was free to find it contrastingly modest, unpretentious, and sensible, if in a frankly sentimental vein; richly, radiantly photographed by the reliable Fred Murphy; and touchingly played by eleven-year-old Dakota Fanning (already looking older than in War of the Worlds last summer), and even more touchingly, because taciturnly, by Kurt Russell as the horse's trainer and girl's father. For the life of me, I can't figure why Russell is not universally acclaimed as the most credible actor alive and the nearest thing in modern Hollywood, lacking only the body of work, to John Wayne, Henry Fonda, James Stewart. Toward that end, I direct your attention to the scene of parents' night at school when he is called upon to read aloud his daughter's creative writing exercise and comes to realize with increasing discomfort that her fairy-tale King is his own pseudonymous self ("All those who loved him greeted the King with pie and coffee"), and I further direct your attention to the follow-up scene of literary appreciation when he tucks the writer into bed. In the meantime I shall remain, if I must, a one-man band.