Good day, dear listeners and readers.
The second top-rated podcast on iTunes right now after This American Life isn't RadioLab. It's not Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me or The Moth. It's Welcome to Night Vale, a serialized science fiction created by members of the New York City theater group The Neo-Futurists. The independently-produced show takes the form of a nightly newscast, where the 'Voice of Night Vale' Cecil Baldwin calmly details the regular goings-on of a day in town: the current whereabouts of the mysterious glow cloud; the disappearance of an entire PTA meeting; or how a group of hooded figures set up shop in the brand new dog park, to which you and your pup should never, ever go. While part of the fun and drama of the show is that the weird is described and not seen, someone must be looking at these numbers and plotting a movie version. Here's our dream cast.
Matt Bomer as "Cecil Baldwin"
He's got the perfect voice for radio and the looks to fulfill every Cecil fan's cinematic dream. It's really not fair.
Rodrigo Santoro as "Carlos"
Cecil is quite taken with visiting, mysterious scientist Carlos — especially his beautiful, perfect hair. Our film version has to live up to the newsman's gushing descriptions, so Santoro is the guy.
Helen Slayton-Hughes as "Old Woman Josie"
That's Ethel Beavers, to Parks and Recreation fans. We like Helen for kind soul Josie, who tolerates the Angels who've taken up residence in her house.
Randy Quaid as "The Apache Tracker"
Cecil constantly expresses disgust for the man, who wears "cartoonishly offensive Native American headdress" and claims to be much more in touch with the spiritual world than he actually is. This just seems fair.
Ellen Page as "Intern Dana"
We know the Juno star can do plucky. So she's perfect for Dana, the intern who somehow manages to survive while many of her peers disappear or die all manner of violent deaths.
In the 1950s Senator Joe McCarthy began a witch hunt in Washington and Hollywood to cleanse the nation of "commie sympathizers." No one dared stand up to him for fear of being targeted themselves until journalist Edward R. Murrow (David Strathairn) did an expose of the senator on his television program See It Now. In doing so he risked himself the livelihoods of the reporters working for him and the reputation of CBS. The network stood behind him although very reluctantly and Morrow swayed public opinion--a landmark moment in broadcast journalism.
David Strathairn is wonderfully subtle as the legendary Murrow from small nervous facial tics as he prepares to go live on the night of his controversial broadcast to his barely concealed contempt for the puff pieces he has to do like an interview with Liberace. Patricia Clarkson and Robert Downey Jr. also do nice work as a married couple who hide their relationship since it's against company policy but their characters--and indeed all of the characters--are all very thinly sketched. The meatiest supporting role belongs to Ray Wise (Laura Palmer's crazy dad on Twin Peaks) as CBS news anchorman Don Hollenbeck who is barely hanging on after being labeled a "pinko" in the right-wing press. George Clooney as Murrow's producer Fred Friendly is low-key but still deftly funny. A number of supporting players like Tate Donovan don't have much of a chance to stand out. McCarthy himself is presented only in archival footage.
George Clooney in his second outing behind the camera is clearly going for a documentary type of feel resulting in out-of-focus shots and quick pans that often land on nothing at all. Dramatic scenes are interspersed with so much unedited archival footage that after a while it does feel like you're watching a documentary although a documentary would likely have provided more context. For some reason a jazz singer (Diane Reeves) is frequently seen performing in a studio at CBS or at a club that Murrow's staff all frequents. The musical interludes are lovely but ultimately rather pointless. You have to respect Clooney's wanting to tell this story and to tell it an unadorned non-Hollywoodized kind of way that Murrow himself would likely have approved since he didn't approve of mere "entertainment." But except in a few rare moments the film remains more of a dry history lesson than a movie in its own right.