365 Movies By Day Reviews of Movies I Watch that I Feel Like Writing About

29Jan/180

The Post (2017)

I was able to preview Steven Spielberg's (Jaws, Saving Private Ryan) The Post two years before it was released to the public and even a year before it went into the production. It was called Spotlight and it won the Oscar for Best Picture. It was a fantastic movie. I wish I was more than kidding and with that, I could be more positive about my viewing of, what I hoped could be, one of the best movies of the year. That was months ago when I only knew of the movie title and that it starred Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep. In my head, I envisioned a movie about an army outpost and was very intrigued. But then I saw the preview and I wished the movie would have been about a post office instead. Then, when I was halfway through the movie, I wish I had been watching a movie about a bedpost, a fence post, or any other post that would have represented something far less predictable and boring than the waste of talent and time that was being projected on the screen in front of me. It was one of those times (I've had many recently) where I have been more than grateful for having a MoviePass. The thought of actually paying for some of these 2017 movies is even more terrifying than the disappointing IT, a movie that was neither scary nor good. And, with the exception of a couple of non-Oscar nominated movies that I am still looking forward to, but have yet to see (Hostiles, The Florida Project), The Post successfully ends 2017, the worst year for movies so far this century.

There were a few great things that happened at the movies in 2017. There were a number of movies (some good, some not so good) about outsiders, about characters who feel like they don't belong, or at least characters who perceived themselves to believe like they didn't belong or had others believing them to be outsiders. Films like this included IT, I, Tonya, Get Out, The Shape of Water, Call Me By Your Name, Logan, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Stronger, A Ghost Story, Lady Bird, and others. For someone who often feels like an outsider, I enjoyed seeing so many movies revolved around these themes, even when many of those failed to live up to my lofty expectations. The second great thing about 2017 was all of the great supporting actor performances. These included the nominees (Willem Dafoe - The Florida Project, Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Christopher Plummer - All the Money in the World, and Richard Jenkins - The Shape of Water), but also Armie Hammer or Michael Michael Stuhlbarg (Call Me By Your Name), Jason Mitchell or Garrett Hedlund (Mudbound) Finally, 2017 brought us one the best Lead Actress races of the century. Margot Robbie (I, Tonya), Sally Jenkins (The Shape of Water), Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird), Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) and..........Meryl Streep for The Post. I get it. She's Meryl Streep. But does she need to be nominated each and every year? This felt like an uninspired movie where she and Hanks were both going through the motions, relying on Spielberg and the success of Spotlight to lead them to Oscar gold. An amazing race got watered down with the obligatory inclusion of Streep. Jessica Chastain (Molly's Game), Brie Larsen (The Glass Castle), and Michelle Williams (All the Money in the World) all delivered fantastic performances and each deserved that fifth spot over Streep.

At The Golden Globes, one of the first jokes Seth Meyers made was about The Post winning the night's biggest award before even the first category of nominees was read. Hanks, Streep, and Spielberg all smiled and laughed like they were the kings and queen of the party, believing in their heads it was just a matter of time until they were giving their winning speeches on stage. In the end, when the Oscars were announced, The Post received just two nominations. Unfortunately, the categories they were nominated in were two of the three or four most important (Picture and Lead Actress). I'm grateful that, even in a very poor year like 2017, that neither The Post or Streep has a chance to win an Oscar. For everything that Spotlight did correctly in 2015, The Post did incorrectly in 2017. The Post felt like a half-assed effort and did not give us the third movie to the Spielberg/Hanks trilogy that we were hoping for (Saving Private Ryan and Bridge of Spies was the other two movies these two powerhouses combined on).

But onto this lackluster film that is going to feel many moviegoers into thinking it's a legitimate movie of the year candidate. The first thing I would ask these people if they've seen Spotlight. If they said no, I would tell them to watch it instead of The Post. If they said yes, then I would tell them to watch it again instead of The Post. I know that by now I've made it out to seem like it's the worst movie of the year, it's not. It's just average and doesn't deserve to be listed with the other Best Picture nominees. With that said, most of the Best Picture nominees this year do not deserve to be nominated. I've seen all nine. There should have been five. And I didn't even love all five. But the five nominees should have been Call Me By Your Name, Get Out, Dunkirk, The Shape of Water, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. And really the first two don't even have a chance. It will likely be Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri winning over Dunkirk and The Shape of Water. And to all of those directors who had wished they had released their movie in 2017 rather than 2015 or 2016, I feel for you.

So here we are, four paragraphs into the review and I haven't even talked about it yet. Set in 1971 Washington DC, The Post is a true story that revolves around the publishing of the Pentagon Papers, or rather, exposing the coverup of Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson on what really went on with The Vietnam War. We learn that in 1965 a man named Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys - FXs The Americans) briefs the Secretary of Defense and the Chief of Staff about the progress of The Vietnam War. When the facts he shares are not presented to the public correctly (it was said that things in the war were going better than they actually were), Ellsberg decides its time to take matters into his own hands and sneaks out of the Pentagon with classified documents on the Vietnam War. He meets in secret with two of his colleagues as they make copies of the papers. Ellsberg reads them, and it reveals that four U.S. presidents (Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson) were covering up certain facts regarding the war, contrary to what they had told the press.

 

Sidebar conversation that took place a year ago...

Spielberg, Hanks, and Streep meeting over drinks.

Spielberg: "You guys want to do a movie and got an Oscar nomination?"

Streep: "On what?"

Speilberg: "Doesn't matter. I'm Steven Spielberg. You are Meryl Streep. That's Tom Hanks."

Streep (laughing): "Great point."

Hanks: "It doesn't even need to be that good. We are Hollywood royalty!"

Laughs all around.

Spielberg: "I was thinking of doing something on the Pentagon Papers."

Streep: "A newspaper investigation movie. Isn't that what Spotlight was?"

Spielberg: "Spotlight-Schmotlight. That movie won with Tom McCarthy directing it. I'm Steven Spielberg!"

Laughs all around.

Streep: "Let's do it!"

Hanks (toasting): "To us...three of the best this industry has even seen!"

Spielberg and Streep: "Cheers!"

Sidebar end.

Fast-forward to 1971 and enter our leads. The Washington Post publisher Kay Graham (Streep - Doubt, August: Osage County) and her managing editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks - Captain Phillips, Philadelphia) are informed by the Chief of Staff that President Nixon that he doesn't want the city's newspaper to cover his daughter's wedding. There is a lot going on with The Washington Post at the time...each of which could have been its own story, rather than spreading itself too thin by lump summing everything into one movie. It results in everything happen both too fast and being watered down quite a bit. Bradlee suggests to Graham that The Post expands their coverage on certain topics to attract a wider demographic of readers. It is well-known that the paper is struggling financially and another decision that Graham needs to make is if she wants to make the paper a publically traded company. Again, with so much going on, we have to wonder if this is a major focus of the movie or is this a side story? The film is so inconsistent at times that we don't really know.  There is also talk of having a lack of confidence in Graham because she is a woman. Again, this could have been an entire story, but it's just something talked about on the side. This movie was rushed and sloppy. It tried to tell too much and in doing so, it didn't tell anything well enough.

But back to our "main" focus in the movie, which is making The Washington Post reputable. And one of the biggest ways it could do that is by publishing a story that everyone would read. Hence The Pentagon Papers. The New York Times publishes a story on obtaining the Pentagon Papers with news on the White House's cover-up stories. While Graham has dinner with Times editor Abe Rosenthal (Michael Stuhlbarg - The Shape of Water, Call Me By Your Name) and his wife, Rosenthal's assistant walks over to his table to inform him that Nixon wants to take the Times to court over the story. So they bail and The Washington Post gets thousands of papers that have no page numbers and are in no particular order (designed that way). Bradlee and his team (which includes Bob Odenkirk from AMC's Better Call Saul) and dozens of others must find each printed piece of paper and get it in the right order in about 10 hours time AND convince Graham to publish the papers, knowing quite well that they could get sued by the President of the United States, it could go to the Supreme Court, and they could all go to jail if it ruled against them for publishing the secret government study about the Vietnam War. But of course, that didn't happen. When we get the phone call that the Supreme Court ruled in their favor, in lightning-quick fashion, we get all of the expected smiles, hugs, fist pumps, and congratulatory handshakes. Even if you didn't know the outcome, you could have still figured it out. And even, if for some reason, the conclusion was in doubt, you would have still rolled your eyes at the formulaic conclusion.

The movie tries to make itself more important than it is. Rather than being a historical retelling, it tries to make subliminal comparisons of Nixon to The Washington Post to President Trump and, basically, the entire press. I do not get political with my writing in my reviews or my social media or even in texts or emails. If you want to talk politics, I'll discuss them (not argue) with you to a certain extent and then I'll just exit the conversation. But I will say that a President of the United States should probably place more of his time and energy into keeping our country (and to what he can) our planet safe and less time on Twitter and bickering with a press that knows how easy it is to get him riled. There are SO many ways where our 45th President is failing where our 44th President excelled. Ok. Enough. But Spielberg and company apparently rushed to get this film made so that it could be a 2017 release in order to show the events of 25 years ago mimicked the events of last year. Or maybe Spielberg and company just rushed because they knew how bad 2017 was for movies and knew if this movie had been released in any other year, it would not be a Best Picture nominee. Who knows? Who cares? Even those who do like this film are unlikely to ever watch it again. I do love Tom Hanks but, My God, am I glad he didn't get a Best Actor nomination for this film.

This was not a great film.

Plot 7/10
Character Development 6/10
Character Chemistry 6/10
Acting 6/10
Screenplay 6/10
Directing 6/10
Cinematography 7/10
Sound 5/10
Hook and Reel 5/10
Universal Relevance 8/10
62%

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