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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

Good Night, and Good Luck [Blu-ray]

 

(George Clooney, 2005)

 

Warner - Region FREE - Blu-ray vs. Lions Gate - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

 

 

 

 

   

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz  Lions Gate caps and info from Felix Kellewald

 

Studio:

Theatrical: 2929 Entertainment, Section Eight & Participant Productions

Blu-ray: Warner Home Video  Lions Gate Home Entertainment

 

Disc:

Region: FREE! (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:32:55.236    1:32:47.270

Disc Size: 16,816,776,100 bytes   23,175,495,680 bytes

Feature Size: 15,686,922,240 bytes   21,759,873,024 bytes

Video Bitrate: 20.24 Mbps / 24.00 Mbps

Chapters: 23 / 12

Case: Standard Blu-ray cases

Release date: August 1st, 2006   / August 3rd, 2009

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-2 Video  /  MPEG4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

Dolby Digital Audio English 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps

DTS-HD Master Audio English 3734 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3734 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), English, French, Spanish, none

English, English (SDH). none

 

Extras:

• Commentary by Director/Screenwriter George Clooney and Producer/Screenwriter Grant Heslov

• Good Night, and Good Luck Companion Piece – in SD (15:00)

• Commentary by Director/Screenwriter George Clooney and
Producer/Screenwriter Grant Heslov
• Good Night, and Good Luck Companion Piece – in PAL SD, it would seem
(15:28)
• Photo Gallery - in HD

 

 

The Film: 8
Good Night, and Good Luck is more distinguished than entertaining, more well-intended than inspired. It is nonetheless an important and well-directed and scripted film. More important, it is a film about America's present as well as its past, for the parallels between government censorship and control of the media is as pervasive today as was in the days of Senator Joseph McCarthy and his list of names fifty years ago. Today, however, that control is more insidious. The public, while it thinks of itself as informed, is victim to a form of brainwashing that it seems to invite, even to encourage. We are in serious trouble and, for the most part, the media today is not doing its job. Thus, this movie.

George Clooney made his film in black & white so as to maintain our focus and not be distracted by pretty sets or too much verisimilitude, not only because TV in the fifties was in black & white. [cf. notes on Image, below.] There is a deliberate documentary feel to the film: Dialog seems to actually emanate from the actors instead of looped and dubbed later. Dianne Reeves is actually singing, and what we hear is the recorded track of what we see. That's novel. The projected images of McCarthy and others is archival footage from the time.

Clooney's artless direction begins at a reception in 1958 to honor Edward R. Murrow several years after the events that make up the drama that follows. Clooney's unselfconscious camera observes bits of time and place as it scans the guests in dreamy, grainy visuals in shallow depth of field – the hairstyles, dress and jewelry fashion, the omnipresent cigarette smoking. He eavesdrops on fleeting fragments of conversation. Clooney himself is seen only momentarily, the actor and his character utterly inconsequential at this moment. The guest of honor is waiting in the wings, about to make what has become a classic speech on the responsibility of the news media, and especially television news.

David Strathairn's impersonation of Edward R. Murrow is tight, reserved, restrained, ready to spring forth with a well-placed, unassuming, but insightful phrase. Once we see Murrow, no longer the celebrity we know from radio and television, move from behind the podium or away from the TV camera, we feel the authenticity of Straithairn's extension to a "real life" creation - for you and I have no direct knowledge of the man other than as newscaster and interviewer: There is no glitch in the transition from the impersonation of the man we know to the one Clooney wants us to know and the one Straithairn becomes.

With Murrow now fixed clearly in our minds, the other, less familiar, but still very important real-life characters come to life in Frank Langella's William Paley, tough-minded but sympathetic head of CBS; Jeff Daniels' Sig Mickelson, the man responsible for developing CBS news for television, George Clooney's understated Fred Friendly, Murrow's associate partner in the See It Now series, the hard-hitting investigative program that eventually led to 60 Minutes; and Ray Wise's desperate and rapidly disintegrating Don Hollenbeck, one of the more painfully visible casualties of the Hearst papers' attacks on journalists that criticized McCarthy.

Murrow and Friendly had been on the lookout for a way to expose the tyranny of McCarthy's bogus and irresponsible accusations. Joe Wershba, played by Robert Downey, Jr. (a generally underappreciated actor in the hands of director that can help contain his natural exuberance) brought to CBS the necessary footage in the case of Lt. Milo Radulovich, a reserve officer had been summarily retired by the Air Force because his father and sister had been accused of being communist sympathizers The investigation of the case by See It Now, and subsequent attempts by the military, other news organizations and CBS itself to censor it, is the main focus of the movie. Wershba, by the way, went on to become one of the original producers of 60 Minutes. Prior to and during the events of the movie, Wershba was married secretly to the character played by Patricia Clarkson: Shirley Wershba also wound up eventually at 60 Minutes. The main points of the drama of Good Night, and Good Luck is commented on and interpreted for us in the Wershba's conversions "at the water cooler."

The smoke, the all important cigarette smoke, serves not only to create the time and place but to offer a screen to protect one's innermost thought from prying eyes and ears. Colleagues didn't necessarily speak their mind openly, even in a newsroom meeting. Not only was there the ominous threat of censure and the blackball, this was a time when professional staff could and would be fired if it were learned that they were married to each other. It seems strange in an otherwise liberal entity such as a television newsroom, but Clooney wants to make it clear that the evil eye is watching everywhere and real effects follow.

 

 

Image: 9/9  NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

Despite its modest bit rate, limited feature disc size and MPEG-2 encode, Warner's transfer of Good Night, and Good Luck to Blu-ray is of stellar demonstration quality. It was the first black & white film represented in the medium, a state of affairs bordering on irresponsible. (The title came out in August of 2006 and up to that point there hadn't been another black & white entry in over 350 titles.) To be accurate, Good Night, and Good Luck isn't actually shot on black & film. A few years ago, Kodak introduced Vision2 500T 5218, a color negative film with exceptional color contrast. (Syriana, Spiderman-3, Ray, Vanity Fair, and Notes on a Scandal are some of the other assignments it has been asked to take on.) Clooney used this it for starters to achieve maximum continuous tone so that when converted to a monochrome it would retain a knockout grayscale.

There is a luster to the flesh tones that isn't present in color films in high definition – none that I've encountered as yet, anyhow. Still, there is cutting-edge sharpness and resolution, perhaps best exemplified in the scene where Friendly takes on the military - Glenn Morshower, an actor who has made a career of portraying government agents and military personnel, in another totally credible representation of military loyalty. Feast your eyes on those fabrics and campaign ribbons, ladies and gentlemen.

More than most color films on hi-def, even good ones, there is a 3-dimensional quality to this presentation that drops the jaw. It is carefully lit to keep the background at arm's length, and our seeing it in black & white helps focus our attention on what is important. The magical, wispy, lighter than air quality of the cigarette smoke that pervades so many scenes in Good Night, and Good Luck is captured perfectly in this BD release. The SD version was very good indeed - so much so that an upgrade is really not necessary. It misses only the refinements of texture and the 3-dimensional effect that high definition can bring, which is no small thing, I assure you. There are no motion challenges to speak of in the film, so the DVD version is adequate in that respect as well. Of course, the smoke is too thick and heavy and, well, thick and heavy. I felt restless watching the DVD, but with the Blu-ray, no doubt largely due to the tangibility of the image, I remain glued to the screen. For those of us that want to show off what this medium can do, you could hardly have found a better Blu-ray title to do it with.

 

Despite the different encode - the image quality of the two doesn't vary as much as we were anticipating. In fact the disparity is so small we began to question our method of obtaining the captures. Contrast appears marginally improved (richer black levels) on the UK release but it is probably not a deal-breaker depending on what type of system you are viewing it on. Those who are more discerning should probably get the Lions Gate release which may also be minutely more detailed.  

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Warner - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP vs. Lions Gate - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Warner - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP vs. Lions Gate - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Warner - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP vs. Lions Gate - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Warner - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP vs. Lions Gate - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Warner - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP vs. Lions Gate - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Warner - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP vs. Lions Gate - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Warner - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP vs. Lions Gate - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Warner - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP vs. Lions Gate - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Warner - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP vs. Lions Gate - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Warner - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP vs. Lions Gate - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Warner - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP vs. Lions Gate - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Warner - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP vs. Lions Gate - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Audio & Music: 7/8
No uncompressed audio – aye, there's the rub. Good Night, and Good Luck was one of the early titles transferred to high definition, and Warner seems not to have gotten the word that this applies to audio as well. Thus we have only a single English language audio track in simple Dolby Digital 5.1. As it happens this works well enough: the dialogue, even when overlapping, is clear and properly staged. What we want and, to a modest extent get, is a sense of the varied spaces of the CBS newsrooms, offices, and studios. This is where an uncompressed audio mix would have been just the ticket. That said, the dialogue is exquisitely realized. Close your eyes, and Murrow is the same room with you – person to person, you might say.

The film doesn't have any real aggression as an action film would but the UK edition gives us a lossless track that can easily handle all that "Good Night and Good Luck" dishes out. Agaion, those more sensitive to the audio - should go the way of the UK Lions Gate release.

 

Operations: 5
The movie starts almost immediately after loading - always a mercy. Menu functions are unremarkable, getting the job done without bringing attention to themselves. While there are chapters – 23 of them – there is no scene selection menu. Curious.

 

Extras: 4
Front and center is an enjoyable, casually informative Commentary with Director/Screenwriter George Clooney and Producer/Screenwriter Grant Heslov. Also included is a 15-minute featurette "Good Night, and Good Luck Companion Piece" in respectable 4:3 SD that offers interviews with a few of the filmmakers and some of the surviving newsroom employees. No footage of Murrow, though. What is lacking is a serious background piece on Murrow, McCarthy and perhaps a complete TV segment from See It Now and Person to Person.

Extras appear to duplicate but the UK edition does tack on a Photo gallery.

 

 

Bottom line: 8
A must-see movie, not only for the sake of the political issues (in the largest sense) raised and dealt with coolly and relentlessly - though not without detachment - but also for the excellence of Clooney's direction of actors and his seamless interweaving of documentary footage and his memorable cinematic replica of a certain milieu, a rampant insanity, in post-war America.

When this movie made its appearance on Blu-ray, Warner was still many months away from embracing high bit rate dual layer discs or default uncompressed audio regardless of content. The studio still doesn't do this in every case, but it's a direction they are moving toward. Given the relatively limited audience for this title, we may not see an updated edition, perhaps with more substantial extra features, anytime soon. Even so, Good Night, and Good Luck looks terrific in high def and is a worthy addition to your library. At this writing, Amazon offers it at a sizable discount.

 

The film has classic overtones and it's great to have a true HD version out. The Lions Gate superiority may only seem moderate to most but we can now definitely state that it is the best transfer presentably available - and that is our preference.   

Leonard Norwitz
June 19th, 2007 /

Gary Tooze, Felix Kellewald

January 2010

 

 

 

 

   

About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.


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