Volume 75, Number 26 | November 16 -22, 2005

Koch On Film

By Ed Koch

“Paradise Now” (+)
This interesting and well-made movie is intended to portray the situation of the Palestinians living on the West Bank under Israeli control. Two young men, probably in their 30s, are day laborers at an auto repair shop. Said (Kais Nashef), in a rage and arguing with a Palestinian customer, intentionally damages the customer’s car and is fired. He and his friend, Khaled (Ali Suliman), are seething because of the Israeli occupation and decide to sign on to become suicide bombers or “martyrs.” How they deal with fear and regret makes up the balance of the movie.

Said (Kais Nashef) is examined more closely in the script than is Khaled. He meets a young, well-educated woman, Suha (Lubna Azabal), a few days before he is to execute the suicide bombing. She is used to express the views of the non-violent Palestinian who believes a peaceful resolution can be found. Said’s mother expresses the anguish of all mothers when she learns of his intent.

I, of course, am appalled by the acts of terror now used worldwide by Islamic fanatics from Israel to Iraq, Spain to England, and India to the United States, deliberately killing and maiming innocent civilians seeking to achieve a political goal. Some critics describe the film as an effort to understand suicide bombers. I believe it is a propaganda tool in praise of their actions. Nevertheless, it is worth seeing in the same way the Leni Riefenstahl’s appalling but brilliant movie on Adolf Hitler, “Triumph of the Will,” is worth seeing.

“Good Night, and Good Luck” (+)
This is a well-done movie worth watching, but it is not in the four-star category almost universally accorded it by other critics.

The script details the negative and threatening pressures on CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow (David Strathairn) bent on exposing the infamous Senator Joseph R. McCarthy. McCarthy abused his power in the course of revealing that Communists had infiltrated the U.S. government and were actively assisting the Soviet Union. In attempting to name individuals, he unfairly pilloried many people who were not Communists and violated the rights of others who were.

Everyone at CBS realized how perilous it was to take on McCarthy, particularly its CEO, William Paley (Frank Langella). He knew the possible economic consequences of making McCarthy an enemy of CBS; nevertheless, he supported Murrow. Murrow’s chief colleague at the station was Fred Friendly (George Clooney). Some of Murrow’s colleagues were in danger of losing their jobs and one, Don Hollenbeck (Ray Wise), loses his life as well. A smart move on the part of Clooney, who directed the film, was not having an actor play McCarthy. Instead, his presence and comments come from actual news clips.

The best film examination of McCarthy and his excesses was the documentary on the Army-McCarthy hearings during which the Army’s attorney, Joseph Welch, took on the senator and asked him, “Have you no sense of decency?” It is available on video.

There were in fact Communists in the U.S. government who should have been and were exposed. Once such individual was Alger Hiss who was exposed by Whittaker Chambers and denounced as a Soviet spy. At the beginning of the Hiss inquiry, the country was torn with liberals not wanting to believe he had betrayed the U.S., but today there are few doubters. McCarthy’s tactics, however, violated the rights of so many people that he turned off the American people including President Eisenhower who added his condemnation of McCarthy as well.

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