The Good Girl, The Good Lord Bird, Good Night and Good Luck, and a few more films

The Good Girl (2002)

Justine is a 30-ish worker at a grocery store, stuck in a boring marriage with a stoner husband who paints houses for a living. She doesn't know it yet, but she's itching for something new in her life, which turns out to be Holden, a new hire at the store.

"I want to knock your head open and see what's inside."

Holden's real name is Tom, but he's renamed himself for Catcher in the Rye's Holden Caulfield. He feels "put upon by society and the hypocrisy of the world," and Justine feels sorta the same, so a friendship blossoms and quickly goes awry.

It's another interesting story from Mike White, who's become one of the best writers working in TV and movies — Chuck & Buck, Freaks and Geeks, School of Rock, The White Lotus. In The Good Girl, he makes the characters and the grocery store seem genuine, and pops in as an actor too, playing the store's comically Christian security guard. 

Justine and Holden are both living ordinary American lives that demand conformity, and they're trapped, but the movie isn't. It offers no easy resolution, and feels like an indie despite an all-star cast — Jennifer Aniston, Jake Gyllenhaal, John C Reilly, Zooey Deschanel. 

This movie is seriously good, and the star is the writing.

Verdict: YES.

#299  [archive]
JUNE 4, 2024

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Good Little Bunny with the Big Bad Teeth (2010)
Streaming free at Vimeo

This is a wordless animated short, about a rabbit with bad teeth and bad breath, trying to make friends with other animals in the forest. The animation is digital but fine, the colors pop, and the soundtrack sounds like a pinball machine (in a good way). It's more cuteness than comedy, and it's enjoyable.

At about six minutes, it's the same length as old-school Looney Tunes, and would fit nicely between the coming attractions and feature film at any cinema. That's where it belongs! Moviegoers would feel they'd gotten a little more value from their tickets, and theaters would have a few more minutes to sell popcorn — everybody wins. Bring back the shorts, I say, and start with this one. 

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Good Lord Bird (2020)

Before the US Civil War, John Brown was a wingnut religious radical who tried to end slavery. He believed God was on his side, so he bravely but stupidly seized a US armory in Harper's Ferry, Virginia. Now his story is a miniseries on Showtime, starring Ethan Hawke. 

"We'll bring flowers to your funeral."

Hawke's Brown is a tower of honorable insanity, who leaves a trail of hellfire and brimstone everywhere he walks. "It's a beautiful country," Brown says a few times, at some of America's ugliest moments.

Brown's story would seem to yield no humor whatsoever, but based on a novel by James McBride, with a script co-written by Hawke, some laughs are infused between Brown's religious nuttiness and murderous acts. They're honest laughs, though, at the situations, and never at Brown's historical expense. 

Being an admirer of Brown, I am not disappointed by the show, but Brown is not really the lead character. More of it's about Onion, a cross-dressing boy slave freed and welcomed into Brown's entourage. Played by Joshua Caleb Johnson, the kid becomes a man along the way, and he's fallen under Brown's spell, and eventually becomes a key player in the raid.

Frederick Douglas (do not call him 'Fred') is presented nearly as hugely as Brown, and when the two of them gather for a meal with family and Onion, there's more words than food in their mouths.

"The question is, did John Brown fail? He certainly did fail to get out of Harper's Ferry before being beaten down by United States soldiers, and to lead a liberating army into the mountains of Virginia. So, did John Brown draw his sword against slavery, and thereby lose his life in vain? And to this I answer ten thousand times, no. No man fails or can ever fail who so grandly gives himself and all he has to a righteous cause."

The soundtrack occasionally features modern music, and that's a mistake, but there aren't many mistakes here.  

The Good Lord Bird starts good and gets better as it goes, with seven easy-to-binge hour-long episodes, building up to the raid on Harper's Ferry, which — spoiler — does not turn out as Brown had planned.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Good Neighbor Sam (1964)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

Jack Lemmon plays Sam, an advertising executive, with Edward G Robinson as Nurdlinger, an egg dealer with a fetish for family values. Nurdlinger will only deal with Sam's ad agency if he's convinced Sam is an upstanding family man, which Sam certainly is.

Ah, but here's the comedy — Lemmon is happily married, but thanks to the kind of coincidences that only happen in movies, he also needs to pretend he's the husband of his wife's best friend. This makes it appears that Sam is in a three-way marriage. How wacky is that!?

Based on one of Jack Finney's many non-sci-fi novels, this is like a two-hour episode of Bewitched, without the witchcraft. There are some laughs, though. Hey, Bewitched had a few chuckles, too.

Unfortunately, the last act devolves to Jerry Lewis level.

Verdict: MAYBE.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Good News (1947)
Streaming free at Tubi

This was Animal House for a time when comedies didn't need to be funny.

There's a pretty new student at Tait College, all the boys are chasing her, but she only has eyes for the dullest one of them. In lieu of jokes, there are plenty of songs, of which none are either awful or memorable. The dancing is quite good, however.

June Allyson, Peter Lawford, and Mel Torme star.

Verdict: MAYBE, charitably.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005)
Streaming free at Hoopla, with your library card

Edward R Murrow was World War II's most renowned reporter for CBS Radio, and then became a TV interviewer and commentator for CBS TV. He took his journalism straight, no chaser, and went into battle against Senator, scaremonger, and life-ruiner Joseph McCarthy. 

This is the story of that confrontation, with David Strathairn as Murrow, George Clooney as Fred Friendly (Murrow's producer), and frightful clips of Joseph McCarthy as Joseph McCarthy. The title comes from Murrow's long-time tag line at the end of every broadcast: "Good night, and good luck."

The real events unfolded before my time, but word via Google is that this movie's more accurate than most movies "based on a true story." All of the movie-Murrow's rather long and impassioned speeches are verbatim from the original telecasts.

"We have currently a built-in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing information. Our mass media reflect this. But unless we get up off our fat surpluses and recognize that television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse, and insulate us, then television and those who finance it, those who look at it, and those who work at it, may see a totally different picture too late."

Strathairn is terrific in the leading role, but his Murrow is so very serious about everything, he seems like a walking ulcer. It's a righteous ulcer, though, and the conflicts between the reporter and the Senator, and also between the network's news operation and its business side, make for a fine story. 

There's of course no hope that anyone at CBS today, or at any other TV network, would show the courage seen here. 

Verdict: YES.  

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The final days of the theatrical cartoon short 

Randy Finley, and Seattle's Seven Gables theaters 

Ah, Seven Gables — once upon a time, it was a local chain of movie theaters here in Seattle, always showing the best movies, with real butter on the popcorn, and never ads on the screen.

Before I moved away in the 1990s, and before Seven Gables sold out to some giant corporation, I attended all of their theaters — the Broadway and Broadway Market, the Crest, the Egyptian, Greenwood, Guild 45th, Harvard Exit, the Metro, the Neptune, the Seven Gables, the Varsity... It's been 30+ years since I've been inside any of them, but I remember each of them, and which films I saw there.

Movie theaters used to exist. Now there are thousands of effectively identical 'theaters' with a dozen or more auditoriums down twisting hallways. They're all the same, and I'll never go again and never miss it.


• • • Coming attractions • • •     

Good Will Hunting (1997)
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)
Goodbye, Dragon Inn (2003)
Goodbye, Mr Chips (1939)
Gorgo (1961)

... plus schlock, shorts, and surprises

— — —
Now accepting movie recommendations,
starting with the letter 'H'.
Just add a comment, below.
— — —

Illustration by Jeff Meyer. Click any image to enlarge. Arguments & recommendations are welcome, but no talking once the lights dim, and only real butter on the popcorn, not that fake yellow stuff. 
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  1. I really hope you'll be reviewing Gran Turino, the greatest movie ever made.

    1. I suspect you're kidding but hope you're telling the truth. It's on the list.

      Clint Eastwood has entertained me and angered me and made some fine films, but I'm skeptical that he's capable of making the greatest movie ever made. What about Mannequin Two: On the Move?

    2. Not kidding, it's a fantastic film, though arguably a confused one. I've watched it probably two dozen times. Imagine Archie Bunker - with a gun.

    3. Is that the one where the preview had Eastwood snarling "Get off my lawn"?

    4. One of many, yes

  2. Inherit the Wind is unnecessarily timid, a better play than movie, and doesn't start with G, but it's better than most films of the last 65 years, its heart is in the right place, and nobody snaps his suspenders like Tracy.


    1. It's on my list, thanks. It's been too long. All I remember is the good guys win, and it has one of the Darrins in it.

    2. I agree the good guys won, but they lost the trial. John Scopes was found guilty, which he freely admitted, and was fined a hundred bucks, nearly half his annual salary. Given the composition of the U.S. Supreme Court now, the case is still under appeal. Would the good guys win today?

      John T. Scopes

    3. The good guys might still win, but the tide is turning. All of 'liberal' history is up for a rematch. Public education, civil rights, and voting are on their way out, abortion is gone, and contraception is probably next.

    4. I got my vasectomy early to avoid the rush. Fifty years early, actually. You don't want to rush into these things.


    5. Briefly considered getting one of those, certainly would've rushed into it, but my insurance at the time wouldn't cover it.

  3. Gideon's Trumpet is a made-for-TV movie that is better than most popcorn films and is historically pretty damn accurate. Henry Fonda chews the hell out of the scenery. And it starts with G.


    1. Hey, I saw that on TV many years ago, and remember it fondly, though I remember nothing about it but Henry Fonda. Definitely goes on the list for a rewatch, thanks.


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