Film Recommendations: Social commentary and the Coronavirus
Good Night, and Good Luck (2005), directed by George Clooney.
Film Recommendations: Social commentary and the Coronavirus
Lanz Aaron G. Tan (The Philippine Star) - May 24, 2020 - 12:00am

My picks this week stretch discussions that have grown more prescient in the pandemic — from the importance of free press, oft overlooked struggles with mental health, and the dangers of avarice. These three selections highlight the importance of films not just as a vessel for escapism but a means for social commentary — an important medium to depict the struggles of humanity.

Good Night, and Good Luck (2005), directed by George Clooney.

As visceral as it is poignant, Clooney’s directorial debut plunges into the ethics and persecution of journalists in the McCarthy era — when anti-communist sentiment reached fever-pitched paranoia in the US. Shot in color and then transposed into black-and-white, Clooney’s film takes us back to an era many of us don’t remember; it follows the journalists who refused to back down to Sen. McCarthy and were threatened for holding him accountable. But perhaps the temporal distance from the film’s subject matter is what makes Clooney’s film such a frightening reminder that the obstructive terrors we shelved away in the ‘50s are still very much alive.

The Hours (2002), directed by Stephen Daldry.

The Hours unpacks the importance of understanding mental health through three interwoven plot threads stretched across 80 years and disparate locations. Daldry’s film analyzes the frustrations of people who are forced to conform to society — to live lives that others tell them are better, but don’t make them feel at home. Above all, The Hours underlines the importance of patience in reaching out to those who may be having difficulties — even though they act as if all is well — and the rippling consequences of our actions in coping with mental health.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), directed by Martin Scorsese.

The ethos of Scorsese’s film is excess. In Oliver Stone’s 1987 film Wall Street, Gordon Gecco famously said, “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.” But what was hinted in Stone’s film coats the frames in Scorsese’s. From its 180-minute runtime, breaking the then-Guinness World Record for most swears in a motion picture (at 2.81 “fucks” per minute), and scenes of nudity and drugs, The Wolf of Wall Street is an ethereal experience that transports viewers to a lifestyle most could hardly dream of. With energetic whip pans, swooping dolly-zooms and dizzying crane shots, Scorsese effectively captures the attraction of such a lifestyle — but it’s the very amorality of it that condemns its purveyors to a sobering punishment.

GEORGE CLOONEY
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