TIS the season of Oscar-bait cinema. Films designed to appeal to the preferences of the academy and made to win armfuls of awards.
Steven Spielberg’s The Post is unapologetically just that. A film made to triumphantly herald the importance of brave journalism in an age of rampant fake news and Trumpian attempts to undermine press.
A worthy message, yes. But I left The Post with a hollow feeling similar to the one I felt after Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. Solid, technically efficient cinema that did not grab or move me in the way I had hoped.
To find The Post compelling you need to buy into the performances of Hanks and Streep. Yet there is something inescapably dull about both of their overly polished hero acts.
Too often it feels as though we are watching Streep and Hanks bathe in heroic moments, sniffing the Oscar statuettes rather than living the characters. They lack the sincerity that only Bob Odenkirk’s performance seemed to harbour. The drama of the film, for which there is surprisingly, suffers immensely – the snores to my left and right confirmed this.
Spielberg is all too happy to indulge in this self-congratulatory tone – and the result is numerous eye-rolling moments. Most namely, Streep angelically standing in the light during the courtroom scene before exiting past a long row of awe-inspired women.
We do not need these moments to understand that Katharine Graham was an inspiration to a generation of women. Spelling it out in such axiomatic terms is unnecessary in a way that underestimates the audience and cheapens the message. It comes off almost as overhanded as the film’s use of photoshop or the hand animated gestures of President Nixon as we peer through the White House windows. Not to mention a Watergate cliffhanger ending that would have been best left to a written epilogue.
Give me Alan J. Pakula’s All the President’s Men (1976) or Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight (2015) any day – films that are a true testament to the power of good journalism without the incessant need to reach over and pat themselves on the back.
IT might not be up there with All The President’s Men but The Post is a fine film. A timely reminder that in this age of fake news and bullying American presidents a free Press is essential to the workings of a democratic society.
Of course, phone hacking was a step too far but an independent press in the pursuit of the truth is a must. As crucial as an independent judiciary and free elections. So rock on The Post.
From a cinematic point of view, the acting is exceptional with Meryl Streep as newspaper proprietor Katharine Graham leading the way. She is a woman very much in a man’s world and proves more than their equal.
A publisher by default, Graham is hard wired into the top echelons of American society. But when it comes to a choice between revealing the truth about America’s involvement in Vietnam long before it sent troops to do battle with the Vietcong, or keeping her regular dining guests (politicians and advisers galore) sweet, she opts for disclosure. This is despite the imminent flotation of her company on the New York stock exchange, a deal that could be abandoned by her actions.
She is encouraged to disclose by newspaper editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) who is bored that his paper – The Washington Post – has become sanitised. When the New York Times is prevented from printing more details about the top secret Pentagon Papers it has in its possession, Bradlee seizes the moment.
Veteran Post journalist Ben Bagdikian (Bob Odenkirk) manages to get hold of the papers. It is then a question of: ‘will we publish or won’t we?’ Lawyers, advisers and bankers all try to dissuade Bradlee and Graham. Compelling, sometimes thrilling viewing.
The film, directed by Steven Spielberg, is beautifully filmed, romanticising an era when newspapers ruled the media roost. Hot metal, printing presses, banks of desks and typewriters are everywhere. Of course, it romanticises the past but deservedly so.
I loved the film. Nostalgic? Yes. Flawless? No. But an important film, demonstrating why we need an independent Press prepared to challenge the elite and the establishment. And no, not a snore within earshot when I saw it.
Do you agree with Yin or Yang?