I thought there was only one non-R Best Picture nominee this year. I'm sorry, The Post, for assuming you were R. There was really nothing R about you. But I also have to say that there wasn't much that was PG-13 about you either. Yeah, you threw a few s-bombs in there. I'm sure that was just an attempt to stay kind of edgy. But you aren't an edgy movie, The Post. More like White Toast. (And that, right there, was the moment I became a real film critic.) PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg
I can't win with this review. I liked it better than everyone I respect. I hated it more than everyone who loved it. What can I do with that? My biggest takeaway is that I've already seen a better version of this movie when it was called All the President's Men. Heck, HISTORICAL SPOILER ALERT, the movie teases this almost as a prequel to All the President's Men. It's like Samuel L. Jackson showing up at the end of The Av--you know what? I've used that joke too many times. It's like one of the other blatant teases of another film, but I'm too lazy to actually figure out what that other film is. (How's that for ensuring that my writing stays in the blogosphere?)
This is the Academy Award nominee that I was least excited to see. It reminded me of Spotlight based on the trailers. I'm kind of right and I'm kind of wrong about that review. For those who don't remember, Spotlight took Best Picture, I think. Like Spotlight, these are stories that would be better served as documentaries. I talk about this quite a bit on the podcast, so I won't go too deep here. I get why biopics like this are made. Documentaries are for the snobby elite. They can't really get nominated for the Academy Awards and no one really sees them. The problem with these kinds of movies is that they aren't necessarily cinematic enough. I think Spielberg fights against this impulse with The Post and good for him. But these kinds of movies, especially when it comes to what I'm now referring to as "reporter movies" is someone getting off the phone and infodumping the crap out of some stuff he just heard on the phone. It kind of sounds like this:
Guy 1: I just got off the phone with my guy from the White House.
Guy 1: He says he heard about our guy meeting with a man from the Nicaragua thing three months before Ivanovich says he had received the telegraph from Bahrain.
[Editor then takes the Lord's name in vain and there's a discussion about the necessity of publishing this]
I'm kind of right. That's most of the movie. Okay, I made up the details, but that's how all of these movies tend to be. There's something riveting about that for a certain amount of time. It makes you feel like you are somehow important, listening to these conversations with important men about important men. But then you should realize that you could be watching a movie about the Ivanovich and the Nicaragua thing instead of hearing second or third hand about it. A documentary would give you interviews and actual copies of the documents so you could interpret it for yourself. Why do I need Tom Hanks pretending to be someone else to do it for me? It's because people don't watch documentaries. I thought the content of Spotlight was necessary to cover, but dramatizing it just seemed like a huge waste. There's nothing cinematic about the experience. Like I mentioned, Spielberg has to be somewhat aware of this. He's letting his camera play like there's no tomorrow. I pulled out my phone in the theater (like a monster) to check IMDB to see who had directed this because the look of the movie felt familiar. After I saw that it was Spielberg, I realized it had his thumbprint all over it. The color tinting, the performances, the pacing stuff. It was all there. I wonder why Spielberg has slowed down on the summer blockbuster and focused on the Academy Award. Has he gotten a Best Director award? (Wikipedia tells me he got it for Saving Private Ryan.) It just seems like he is fighting for it. I know that he's directing Ready Player One, but that seems few and far between.
The thing that might frustrate me more about this movie is that I don't really want another Nixon movie. Not only have I felt that this movie has been made about newspaper men taking down Nixon, I feel like Spielberg has made this movie before. He hasn't, but Zemekis touched on it pretty nicely with Forrest Gump. Nixon always seems to be our allegory for when the government isn't functioning correctly. I think that filmmakers should be going after a government that they are unhappy with, but I think we need to start being more creative with our veiled allegories. The Post tries so hard to stress about the importance of a free press and I respect that. But touching on this one time in history with Vietnam and Richard Nixon is just getting old. The message has been told. It has been heard loud and clear. The problem with tapping the same well, despite the fact that the message gets old, is that no one really wants to listen to it anymore. It becomes preachy. I almost started this review with the phrase, "That old chestnut" because this exact movie has been made before. In this case, it was made with some of my favorite actors, but that's not a good excuse. (I know, Meryl Streep is in this one. I'm going to talk about her in a moment.) But a lot of them are in this movie because they get along with Spielberg. (Holy crap, Tom Hanks is also Forrest Gump. Tom Hanks, I like you too much to consider you to be obsessive with Vietnam.) Speaking about the actors of this movie, putting David Cross and Bob Odenkirk in a dramatic film seems like a choice. This is a dramatic piece. There's, like, zero jokes in this one. Okay, there are lighter moments, but this is kind of a serious movie filled with serious people. How are you supposed to ask me to take you seriously when you stand Bob right next to David for many scenes? Like a monster again, I texted a photo of the two of them standing next to each other to my friend Dan in Canada. This might be an indication of how engrossed I was in the movie. I couldn't stop watching it from an outside perspective. While I wasn't exactly distracted, I kept watching it like I was watching a movie. That's a problem because that's not what Spielberg wanted me to do. He wanted me to fight the system alongside him. I didn't. I was looking up technical specifications and taking photos of Bob and David to send to Canada. I wasn't disengaged from the film, but I wasn't strictly locked into it either.
Let's talk Meryl Streep. The past year has had me spouting vitriol about American treasure Meryl Streep. Last year, I just about had it with her. She made Florence Foster Jenkins, a movie that continues to enrage me to this day. That movie was bad, but Meryl Streep got an Academy Award nomination for that piece of trash. Sometimes that happens. Sometimes, someone turns in a good performance in a bad movie. This was not one of those times. Meryl Steep was terrible in that movie and I want to erase that. I questioned whether I should be watching the complete nominees based on that film. Meryl Streep was good in The Post. In fact, she was really good in it. Her part might have been the most riveting part of the movie. I'll even go as far as to say that she should have been nominated. But this might be more telling about the fact that the Academy needs to stop nominating her. It is coming across as a running gag. I was really about to write her off. I almost didn't watch this one and I will say that Meryl Streep was one of the reasons that I almost didn't. Her performances have been so safe that I couldn't sign up for another one. Then she turned this in. I'm not saying it is the performance of a lifetime, but because the Academy kept nominating her, I actually grew a distaste for her. It was starting to cry wolf and I almost missed a time when she was there. She's good. I don't know if she deserves the award, but she definitely deserves the nomination. This isn't a bad movie, so I won't say that it is a good performance in bad film. I will say that she's better than the rest of the film. The odd thing is that I don't consider the performances by anyone bad. I just don't think that a lot of the movie requires range when it comes to their infodumping.
The Post overall was okay. I'll go as far as to say that it was solid. I just think that filmmaking needs to evolve past this kind of movie. Today's Westerns don't look like John Wayne movies. Same thing with war. Dunkirk was a new kind of war movie completely. Why are we handing in the same kinds of journalism movies? Let's push ourselves and find a way to either make this a documentary or make it something completely new.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.