“The Post” movie review

The Fourth Estate, triumphant! Steven Spielberg’s The Post is a historic biographical drama depicting the story behind the infamous Pentagon Papers that set a monumental precedent in the US Supreme Court following a ruling in the favor of the freedom of the press. Probably the most significant ruling affecting journalism, this film goes beyond the cold, hard facts of the case and into the offices and houses of those who were responsible for shedding light on the lies the US government was spinning to keep the War in Vietnam going. In a manner of speaking, this film could be read as Spielberg’s ode to US journalism, and by extension, to the free press at large. While traditional ink and paper newspapers may be slowly becoming a thing of the past, Spielberg’s film shows that the press has an important place in a democratic society. Without the free press, a nation’s government could easily lie and maliciously mislead its people to serve its own gain. No surprise, Meryl Streep’s and Tom Hanks’ acting is simply brilliant; while the rolls may not seem incredibly complex, it’s the beauty in simplicity that demonstrates the excellent commitment to character that we all have come to respect over the years for these Oscar-winning actors. The Post is a historical drama brought to life for the screen through precise editing, beautiful cinematography, and a gripping score.

Unrest grows at home while the US is deep in the middle of the Vietnam War. With conflicting reports coming out of the warzone, the people of the United States have only the word of their government to assure them the war is going well but they have to continue sending the boys overseas to “win.” After a rogue journalist leaks papers from the Pentagon describing how the US is losing and it keeps sending boys overseas to keep up appearances to the New York Times, the attorney general places a restraining order on the iconic newspaper to prohibit it from publishing the classified material. After word of this unprecedented extension of power, the editor-in-chief of The Washington Post Ben Bradlee (Hanks) comes to have a copy of the papers and desires to publish them in order to show the American people what the government has really been up to. Only one small problem, the owner of The Washington Post Katharine (Kay) Graham (Streep), the first woman to own a major newspaper, is unsure if the papers should be published because she seeks to take the paper public and this could damage that–not to mention that she and Bradlee could go to jail. Go beyond the pages of a history book to witness the thrilling drama unfold as you find out just why The Pentagon Papers was such a big deal.

While many critics and fans of the movie are touting it as the “best movie of the year” or commenting to managers at cineplexes that it’s “amazing,” I am not convinced that it truly is “the best” or as “amazing” as it’s being heralded. Before you go questioning my taste in movies, I completely agree that The Post is an excellently made film–there is nothing wrong with it. For all intents and purposes, it is a perfect film. But just because it’s figuratively perfectly produced and directed, does not mean that it is “amazing.” In many ways, this movie reminds me of Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies. It too is a perfectly made historic drama (coincidentally also starring Hanks) that falls within the same subgenre of drama as The Post. When I think of a Spielberg film, I have come to expect a wow factor. And it’s that lack of a wow factor that troubles me in awarding this film with an accolade such as “best picture.”

Usually, there is a particular scene that evokes strong emotion, perhaps it’s a powerful monologue or heated emotionally-driven exchange between two characters, there are other methods for evoking an eruption of feeling and emotion within the mind and body. Never once did I feel my emotions run high with this film. And I happen to be an entertainment journalist, I teach media writing at a popular university, and spent time in broadcast news. I have a love for the media, the press, and publishing. I also spent time in a media law class in graduate school analyzing the very papers in question, and I still did not feel emotionally woken up by the film. I find the film very well written, produced, shot, directed, acted, scored–everything is done with extreme precision. But, that’s what I have come to expect from Spielberg, Streep, and Hanks. Yes, to be able to consistently deliver excellence is nearly uncanny; but when I know what to expect, it’s much more difficult to surprise or wow me. That’s what is missing from this film in my opinion–the wow factor.

On the socio-political spectrum, I find the commentary on women in leadership is brilliant! Quite happy that the film chose such an incredible woman’s story to tell so cinematically well. The character of Kay Graham is not only an inspiration to aspiring female leaders, but she is an inspiration to all who find themselves in positions of influence or power for which society does not feel he or she is suited. Whereas this prejudice can affect men and women, history has shown that is has affected women more. And this film is a breath of inspiration for young women who will become future leaders around the world. Brave. Kay Graham was an incredibly brave woman who fought the good fight and proved that she could make the tough decisions that are required in order to grow a company. I also find that The Post serves as a beacon of hope that the press is here to serve the American people in a day and time that our government’s leaders claim that the press at large is “fake news.” Newspapers are here to serve the governed NOT the governers. Let the Pentagon Papers be a sign that our leaders are not past deception even if it means sending our military to certain death in order to keep up appearances.

The Post is definitely a movie that all journalists should watch. And not just “conventional” journalists. But anyone who takes part in publishing written, audio, or video media content. Especially those who cover governmental affairs should watch this historical drama highlighting a huge turning point in the freedom of the press.

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Woman in Gold

WomanInGoldAn absolutely beautiful film about art, history, and seeking justice. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but The Weinstein Company and BBC’s Woman in Gold is demonstrably worth 120 pages of words. Woman in Gold is a powerful movie with a timeless, unparalleled story about returning Nazi-stollen art to its rightful owner. Veteran actors Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds deliver commanding performances in this film based on the true story of one of the cases in Austria’s Art Restitution program. Follow along for a compelling journey that is both an historic investigation and a gripping courtroom drama that goes all the way to the US Supreme Court. Witness one woman’s fight to have returned what is rightfully hers, but meeting with seemingly unsurmountable obstacle after obstacle along the way. Woman in Gold is one of those films that will quickly become a favorite of many because of the passion, beauty, and determination showcased in this true story about justice.

Woman in Gold begins with the death of Maria Altman’s (Mirren) sister. Following the funeral, she discovers paperwork that reveals that now-famous paintings, that once belonged to her family prior to the pillaging by the Nazis, are hanging in the Belgrade Museum in Vienna. Also at this time, the Austrian Government has initiated an Art Restitution program to return artwork to its rightful owners–art that was unjustly stolen and illegally acquired by the Nazis. The painting, known as Gustave Klimt’s Adele, is the Austrian equivalent of DaVinci’s Mona Lisa. Facing the daunting fight to get the painting back, Maria hires newly-minted lawyer Randol Schoenberg (Reynolds) to lead and advise her in her legal quest. Their battle will take them from Maria’s quiet Los Angeles bungalow to the bustling historic streets of Vienna, and eventually all the way to the US Supreme Court. Join Maria and Randol for an adventure to right a wrong that dates all the way back to WWII.

Women in Gold is a beautifully produced movie that comes complete with art, history mystery, and litigation. The bedrock of a film like this one requires an incredible screenplay, otherwise, it could turn out to be nothing more than a National Geographic or Smithsonian Channel docudrama special. Alexi Campbell’s screenplay is meticulously written to include both the present action paired alongside the historic events that lead up to the case, which would come to be known as Republic of Austria v. Altman (2004). It is important to note that movies that heavily use flashbacks can take away from the importance of the story at hand; but Campbell’s screenplay strikes a powerful balance between the two, keeping the present story center stage. Director Simon Curtis takes Campbell’s words and brings them to life for the screen. His ability to create a dynamic experience for the audience is showcased well in this film–he truly brings the audience into the world of Maria and her impossible battle for justice. Underscoring the visuals and the gut-wrenching words is an incomparable score by Hans Zimmer. He successfully pairs a classical sound with a modern flare to match the mood of the film set by Curtis, Campbell, and cinematographer Ross Emery in each and every scene.

Once again, Helen Mirren shines beautifully, as she always does, in the roles she plays.  Without a doubt, she was the best choice for this historic role. Her elegant mannerisms with her sharp tongue and quick wit bring Maria to life. The role of Maria is a complex one that required Mirren to have the faced of strength and determination whilst revealing vulnerability and frailty. Playing her counterpart, is the handsome and talented Ryan Reynolds as lawyer Randol Schoenberg. Reynolds was an excellent choice for the role because he can both deliver the character of an underdog lawyer and boyish charm concurrently. His chemistry with Mirren is evident in each and every scene. Even though most of the film is spent with just the two actors principally, the audience will never grow tired of their arguments and banter back and forth. Supporting the principle performers, is an excellent cast that creates the world in which this story of justice and love of art takes place.

For lovers or art and history, this is definitely a movie to catch while in theatres. Seeing the famous Klimt Adele on the screen is overwhelming at times. Thankfully, the world can still see the painting, acquired by Ronald Lauder, in the Neue Museum in New York City. Although this film has not received the attention it deserves, it could very well be one of the year’s first films on its way to an Oscar nomination since Oscars 2015 proved that movies, released early in the year, can make it all the way to the Academy Awards. If you enjoyed The Monuments MenBig Eyes, or Museum Hours, you will likely fall in love with this film.