Opening and closing films

The Squid and the Whale

Thursday, 6:30 – 11 p.m.
Diana Wortham Theatre presented by Sonopress

88 minutes

Cocktail reception immediately following film.

When Walt Berkman (Jesse Eisenberg), an impressionable 16-year-old, passes off the Pink Floyd song “Hey You” as his original work and performs it at a high school talent show, he’s perfectly content with his rationale. “I felt I could have written it, so the fact that it was already written was kind of a technicality.” At the same time, his 12-year-old brother, Frank (Owen Kline), drinks beer and wonders openly about his mother’s sex life. Both are simply reacting to the fall-out from the bomb dropped on their comfortable family life when their parents – Bernard (Jeff Daniels), a once-promising author and now middle-aged academic and Joan (Laura Linney), a burgeoning writer with a book deal – announce that they are splitting up.

The familiar, steady foundation is shaken. Walt and Frank are relegated to alternating weekends and a jumbled calendar of Mom or Dad nights. The kids are left to grapple with the confusing and conflicted feelings that arise from the sudden collapse of their parents’ marriage.

The Squid and the Whale, written and directed by Noah Baumbach, earned two major honors at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival – the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award as well as the best Dramatic Directing Award. Also starring in the film are Anna Paquin as a young college student who moves into Bernard’s crumbling Brooklyn row house, and William Baldwin as a tennis pro who coaches the Berkman kids, while dating their newly-separated mother. Wes Anderson and Peter Newman produced the film with Charles Corwin and Clara Markowicz. Robert Yeoman served as cinematographer, Anne Ross was production designer, and Tim Streeto edited the film. Samuel Goldwyn Films and Sony Pictures Entertainment are releasing.

From the opening scene, a tennis match that pits father and son versus mother and son, it’s clear that there’s trouble in the Berkman family. Love, anger and divided loyalties are all on display, and in the months to follow, the kids will bounce back and forth between homes like the ping-pong game that is the only form of recreation at their father’s rundown house across the park.

While Walt idolizes his opinionated father and young Frank favors his overly candid mother, it’s a long-forgotten image of the Squid and the Whale diorama at the Natural History Museum that brings a struggling adolescent back to a reassuring, if temporary, concept of home.

An exquisitely layered look at divorce and the resiliency of youth, The Squid and the Whale deftly navigates, with emotional tension and inescapable humor, the realities of a family in transition learning to redefine itself.

Noah Baumbach, who wrote and directed the films Kicking and Screaming (1995) and Mr. Jealousy also co-wrote The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou as well as the upcoming Fantastic Mr. Fox with fellow writer-director Wes Anderson. For his third solo effort, Baumbach turned his attentions to a story both inspired and influenced by his childhood in Brooklyn, NY. Baumbach initially toyed with writing about two brothers in their 30s who were dealing retroactively with their parents divorce, but the script took shape when he began thinking about the story from a younger kid’s perspective. “It was a significant change for me and it freed me up in a lot of ways – allowed me to connect more directly,” he adds. “Later, I started to rework it and write from the parents’ point of view. Suddenly it was a movie about the family.”

This film contains adult material.

Director/Writer: Noah Baumbach Producer: Wes Anderson Editor: Tim Streeto Cinematographer: Robert D. Yeoman Production Company: American Empirical Cast: Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Jesse Eisenberg, Owen Kline, Halley Feiffer, William Baldwin, Anna Paquin

Good Night, and Good Luck

Sunday, 6 – 9 p.m.
Diana Wortham Theatre presented by Sonopress

90 minutes

Good Night, and Good Luck takes place during the early days of TV broadcast journalism in 1950s America. It chronicles the real-life conflict between television newsman Edward R. Murrow and Sen. Joseph McCarthy who chaired the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (Government Operations Committee). Driven by a desire to report the facts and enlighten the public, Murrow – along with his dedicated CBS newsroom staff, headed by his producer Fred Friendly and Joe Wershba – defies corporate and sponsorship pressures and reveals the lies and scaremongering tactics perpetrated by McCarthy during his communist “witch-hunts.” A very public feud develops when the senator responds by accusing the anchor of being a communist. Despite the climate of fear and reprisal, the CBS crew carries on, and their tenacity eventually pays off when McCarthy is brought before the full Senate and rendered powerless as his lies and bullying tactics are finally uncovered.

Directed by George Clooney, who co-wrote the script with the film’s producer, Grant Heslov, Good Night, and Good Luck stars David Strathairn (Harrison’s Flowers) as Murrow, Clooney as Fred Friendly, Robert Downey Jr. and Patricia Clarkson (The Station Agent) as Joe and Shirley Wershba, Frank Langella (The Ninth Gate) as CBS chairman Bill Paley, Ray Wise (Jeepers Creepers II) as Don Hollenbeck, Grant Heslov (The Scorpion King) as Don Hewitt, and Jeff Daniels as Sig Mickelson. GRAMMY Award-winner Dianne Reeves appears and performs in the film as well.

Clooney’s fascination with the famed broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow was the inspiration for telling of one of the most important political upheavals in American history. Clooney’s father had been a news anchor for 30 years and Murrow was a hero to his family, a man every news journalist aspired to be.

For years, Clooney had thoughts of creating something about Murrow. He wrote a TV movie and even considered making a live TV movie in the tradition of his other project, Fail Safe. Yet, for multiple reasons, neither was produced. Clooney knew he didn’t want to make a straightforward biopic. He felt this was an opportunity, among other things, to explore further the nature and power of television by focusing on one of its most revered personalities. Eventually, he and producer and co-writer Grant Heslov decided that Murrow, whose famed career as a journalist spanned many years, would best be depicted in a feature film set during a specific time period. Specifically, they focused on the early ’50s, during Sen. McCarthy’s communist witch-hunts and the televised conflicts that grew out of them.

Both Clooney and Heslov wanted to create an accurate portrayal of the period, so verisimilitude was the key. A conscious effort was made to incorporate many of the speeches made by the people at the time, including McCarthy and Murrow. Although many of the real-life people played in the film are portrayed by actors, the writers decided to diverge from the norm and portray McCarthy through the use of real footage (dictating that the film be made in black and white).

Summing up the film’s import, Clooney has this to say: “There’s an opportunity that one in a hundred young kids actually might learn who Murrow is and have some discussion and have some understanding of what and how [endangered] a democracy can be if fear is used as a weapon.”

Director: George Clooney Producer: Grant Heslov Writer: George Clooney, Grant Heslov Editor: Stephen Mirrione Cinematographer: Robert Elswit Production Company: Section Eight, Participant Productions, Warner Bros. Cast: David Strathairn, George Clooney, Jeff Daniels, Patricia Clarkson, Frank Langella, Robert Downey Jr

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