February 23, 2006

Good Night, and Good Luck

The use of history to shed light on the present might not be a new idea, but it's certainly an effective one.

George Clooney, from behind the camera, uses the communist-hunting McCarthy era to frame his comments about today's media in Good Night, and Good Luck, taking television journalist Edward R Murrow's fight against Senator Joe McCarthy in the early fifties as his subject.

The film is shot entirely in black and white, with lots of heavy dialogue and a minimal soundtrack (aside from some extended jazz pieces away from the main action). The result is a claustrophobic feel that highlights the climate of fear enveloping the journalists who try to question their government.

David Strathairn is spot-on with a convincing performance as the chain-smoking Ed Murrow. He is backed up by a superb supporting cast that includes Clooney himself, Robert Downey Jr and Ray Wise, who gives an excellent performance as the anxious Don Hollenbeck.

While the action remains faithful to the 1950s details - I can't remember ever having seen so much smoking on a cinema screen, for one, and the newsroom is dominated by men - there are obvious parallels between today's world and the one portrayed in the film. Then, America was embroiled in an ideological war that threatened freedoms at home and resulted in a self-censoring media. Today's enemies may have changed, but the debate surrounding the West's reactions to them is largely the same – and the film uses the comparison to powerful effect.

But while there's no doubt about Clooney's intended message, he certainly didn't graduate from Michael Moore's 'bash them over the head with a stick' school of directing. Good Night, and Good Luck has only a few subtle laughs, but it's a fine film with a touch of class.

February 08, 2006

Family Planning

I don't know why I am so surprised by Amanda Platell's contribution to feminism on Channel 4's 30 Minutes last Friday. It was exactly what I ought to have expected from a former Conservative press secretary.

I'm not sure what disturbs me most. The way that she does her level best to undermine the progress women have made in the last 50 years? The hypocrisy displayed by Platell (described by Channel 4 as a "high-profile career-woman"), who implies that women should abandon career hopes if they wish to have a family? Or the fact that one of my friends - herself a career-focused woman in her mid-twenties - said this weekend that she thought Platell might be right?

I agree with Platell to an extent - we shouldn't be encouraged to start families in our late 30s and early 40s. The health risks have been well documented, and besides, who really wants to be approaching retirement just as the kids' university fees are due?

What I object to is the suggestion that we're all mapping out our futures on a neat little time-line like school children scrawling 'i luv billy' on our exercise books. I had many a schoolfriend who had everything planned at 13 – when she would marry, how many children she would have and what she would call them (incidentally, none of them envisaged giving birth at 43).

But life has a knack of being incredibly non-compliant with our plans. Has Platell considered that maybe women don't plan to wait to have a family, but have yet to find the right man to have one with? Perhaps if we were content to simply marry the first person who asked and stay together 'for the sake of the children' there would be less of a problem - but I think we've moved on from there.

Platell is right when she says we have to make compromises if we want a work/life balance. But why do only women need to be told this? Somehow men have managed to 'have it all' for years without anyone agonising over how, god forbid, they can have a career and raise a family. Maybe women might manage better if society didn’t expect them to take on the family part by themselves, and make them feel guilty when they find they can’t cope.


I'm not very technologically minded (why on earth did I think a blog would be a good idea, anyway?). I didn't actually mean to post a giant picture of my ugly mug. Ahem. Sorry.

profile photo

My very first blog...

I feel like I should get a badge or something. Woohoo! Congratulations, Kirsty, you have your very own blog... now think of something entertaining to say.

*tumbleweed drifts by*

Anyway, if you're interested, watch this space. I may not post very regularly here but I intend to use this site as a way of organising my thoughts, and possibly even inflicting some attempts at journalism on you. I apologise in advance... stay with me, I'm alright really.