Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
"LAST OF THE MONSTER KIDS" - Available Now on the Amazon Kindle Marketplace!

Monday, February 5, 2018

OSCARS 2018: The Post (2017)

Steven Spielberg isn't just one of the most beloved and successful filmmakers in Hollywood history, he's also fairly prolific. He's never taken more than a two year break between any of his films. Recently, he's even gotten into the habit of working on two movies at once, filming one while prepping another. It seems Spielberg likes to split his time between special effects-driven blockbusters and smaller, more serious dramas. “The Adventures of Tintin” was accompanied by “War Horse,” “The BFG” was filmed back-to-back with “The Bridge of Spies.” His latest EFX-fest, “Ready Player One,” will come directly on the heels of “The Post.” The director's latest drama could not come at a more pertinent time. A historical story about a government eager to censor and control the free press was seemingly tailor made for the era of Fake News.

The time is the late sixties and America's involvement in the Vietnam War continues to drag on. After witnessing the war firsthand, analyst Daniel Ellsberg learns the U.S. Government believes the war is unwinnable. In 1972, he leaks a copy of these reports to the New York Times. The Nixon administration, incensed by this breech of security, forbids any other paper from publishing the report. After reporters at the Washington Post receive a copy of the Pentagon Papers, the Times' owners and editors – Katharine Graham and Ben Bradlee – have to make a tricky decision. Do they defy the government, putting their entire paper at risk, in order to get the truth out to the public?

“The Post” is, as you'd expect, a movie heavy on political and social intrigue. Some aspects of this are more compelling than others. The bits devoted to Ellsberg sneaking the papers are decently suspenseful and a strong way to start the film. This then smacks right into a slow series of sequences detailing ownership mix-ups at the Post. You see, Katharine Graham inherited the paper from her late husband and the paper's backers, all men, doubt her ability to run it. When there's a war going on and the government is trying to censor the press, focusing on the interpersonal drama behind the Post's ownership didn't strike me as too pertinent. However, I do like how “The Post” focuses on the day-to-day operation of a newspaper. Leads drop out of nowhere, bit part writers haggle for space with big stories. One amusing scene has a bunch of people, inside a house and being served lemonade by a little girl, trying to assemble the disorganized and unnumbered Pentagon Papers.

Sony purchased “The Post's” screenplay in October of 2016, a few weeks before a failed steak salesman conned his way into the presidency. Despite obviously being written before 45 came to power, “The Post” can't help but come off as a statement on this ridiculous mess we as a country are now in. Richard Nixon hated the press because he was a paranoid control freak who saw enemies everywhere. Donald Trump hates the press because they hurt his big boy feelings. Either way, the comparison is made clear in a scene where Nixon's hatred of the press is explained to Graham. “The Post's” celebration of how important it is for the press to challenge a corrupt government is almost sappy. John Williams' score soars with powerful strings and sweeping melodies. The movie's final scene put almost too fine a point on Nixon's downfall. Still, it's a statement that needs to be said, now more than ever.

If the highly respected director, historical setting, and timely story didn't make it evident that “The Post” is an important movie, check out its cast. The film is headlined by Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, about as critically acclaimed as a pair of actors as you're likely to find. I give Meryl a lot of shit – as should everyone – but she's genuinely good here. As a woman challenged by everyone around her, she makes hard decisions and stands up for herself. Hanks, America's Dad, is even better suited to Bradlee. A slightly cantankerous senior editor, Hanks nevertheless plays Bradlee as someone standing up for what is right. Spielberg fills the supporting cast out with other recognizable faces, many of them from prominent TV shows, such as Bob Odenkirk and Alison Brie. Interestingly, David Cross wears heavy make-up as Howard Simmons but his distinctive voice gives him away.

Despite being in his seventies now, Spielberg's cinematic energy hasn't slowed down any. “The Post's” visual construction is zippy and quick, almost frantic at times. Spielberg's camera frequently slides through the offices and editor's rooms key to the story. In one moment, his camera even leaps back and forth between two men having a conversation. Instead of coming off as choppy, this style emphasizes how little time everyone has to make their decisions. Once “The Post” picks up speed, it rarely slows down. This is also seen in its resolution, where the court case against the newspaper is dismissed over the course of a single, short scene.

In another Oscar year, “The Post” probably would've had a clear shot at Best Picture. It ticks off pretty much every box that appeals to the Academy. However, 2018 is a very strange time to be alive. “The Post” only managed to nail down two nominations. Being the Academy's waifu, Streep got her token nod. The film itself was nominated for Best Picture and probably wouldn't have gotten that if this was a year with five Best Picture choices. Still, it's a pretty good movie, handsomely put together, with a fine cast, and a generally powerful point behind its story. [7/10]

No comments: