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THE POST: Jaded ‘Hollywood’ view of history

History has a way of always looking good.

In the rear view mirror.

Case in point—“The Post” (i.e. The Washington Post newspaper)—which is up for Academy Awards for both Best Picture and Best Actress (Meryl Streep) and directed by Steven Spielberg.

To get us started, here’s the official synopsis: “Katharine Graham (Streep) is the first female publisher of a major American newspaper—The Washington Post.

With help from Editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), Graham races to catch up with The New York Times to expose a massive cover-up of government secrets (one year before the Watergate break-in) that spans three decades and four U.S. presidents.

Together, they must overcome their differences as they risk their careers—and very freedom—to help bring long-buried truths to light.”

We are shown that in the midst of releasing to the world the top secret documents, that are later known as “The Pentagon Papers,” The Washington Post is also up for a private stock offering on Wall Street and nervous bankers are pleading with Ms. Graham to drop this story ASAP as, if it goes to print, it is most likely going to sink the stock offering, thus dooming the newspaper (as well as the Graham family fortune) and in all likelihood, lead to its permanent closing.

At the film’s opening, we are introduced to Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys), a rank and file US solider in the midst of the Vietnam War.

In a very awkward night scene by director Spielberg (so dark you simply cannot make out what is happening) as a small US Army squadron (including Ellsberg) are overwhelmed by the Viet Cong. As gunfire erupts all around, suddenly director Spielberg fades the scene to black.

We can only assume that Ellsberg made it out alive because, suddenly and without any understanding of the historical setting, we immediately see Ellsberg as a top-secret advisor to the Pentagon.

Ah … what?

Next Ellsberg is shown pilfering away a suitcase full of highly classified documents from one of America’s leading military contractors and within moments the photocopying of the materials begins.

Huh?

Cut to some near future date (we have no idea how long) where The New York Times and The Washington Post are in an editorial battle for these selfsame top secret papers. The Times prints some of what Ellsworth gives it, before legal challenges from the US Government halts any further publication.

A few days later—it could be longer but we have no idea—the entire “Pentagon Papers” dossier is unceremoniously plopped into the hands of Ben Bagdikian (Bob Odenkirk), one of the Post’s leading reporters. This sets the stage for an ethical journalistic battle between hard-charging Bradlee, the Post’s attorneys and Graham who seems perpetually perplexed if the newspaper should (or should not) run all of the “Pentagon Papers” or just sit on them until the initial public offering (IPO) is concluded the following day on Wall Street.

Of course, history tells us that the Post did run these top secret documents and, along with the New York Times, was vindicated in doing so by an emergency ruling by the US Supreme Court.

Whew.

I didn’t think I could type that fast.

Dear Reader, I really do not care for “The Post”—AT ALL!

It gives a jaded “Hollywood” view of history—all “raw raw” for The Washington Post and its publication of these secret documents and only give “lip service” to the fact that the nation was at war with North Vietnam as well as considering the real world and political ramification printing the “Pentagon Papers” would cause.

The publication of these top secret papers inflamed and then later galvanized the nacient anti-war factions in America to a fever pitch which in turn most probably caused the death of hundreds if not thousands of US soldiers on the battlefield.

For you see, the Vietnamese can also ready English and all of the American battle plans and directives unveiled in the “Pentagon Papers” during this pre Internet age were most likely available (within a few days) to all of the Viet Cong generals and senior staff who were fighting these same Americans.

Steep’s performance of Graham is a true yawner and simply “phoned in.” Her performance, such as it is, is as boring as watching paint dry and Hanks’
historical re-enactment is only marginally better.

And that’s being generous.

In truth both Hanks and Streep offer “tight as starch” presentations, soulless and without passion.

This is not Streep’s best work and I absolutely would not give her the Oscar. Her Katherine Graham is shown as a true liberal elitist; a lonely, sagging
middle aged white pig and only at the last moment of the final reel, when “push comes to shove,” is she shown with any steel in her spine.

Otherwise the aging Meryl Streep, well past her prime at 68, presents the audience with a Katherine Graham who is made of Jell-O.
Strawberry, that is.

Tom Hanks portraying a “hard charging Ben Bradlee” may be one thing—but this is really is only effective when you are surrounded by a horde of zombies and have limited ammunition for your shotgun.

Is this Spielberg’s best work?

I think not as the direction of “The Post” borderlines on the amateur—something you might expect from a UCLA film school graduate.

Did Steven Spielberg, 71, really direct this movie or was he medicated and asleep in his lavish trailer … instead giving one of his unpaid interns a crack at the director’s chair while he snored away?

Besides the sleepwalking direction by Spielberg, the story by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer is truly limp and dull … only nominally interesting.

“The Post” is nothing in comparison to 1976’s “All the President’s Men” which presents a superb historical presentation of two Washington Post reporters (Dustin Hoffman as Carl Bernstein and Robert Redford as Bob Woodward) and their tireless tenacity in finding and uncovering the truth about the Watergate break-in which led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation.

“All the President’s Men” is far superior to the “The Post’s” underlying message of a successful IPO’s and one woman’s desire to continue living the high life among Washington’s rich and famous.

Jason Robards’ Ben Bradlee in “All the President’s Men” was a rich and full-bodied role—1,000 times better than Hanks’ mind-numbing offering in “The Post”—and it earned him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

Here at Cebu Daily News, reporters work as tirelessly as Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of The Washington Post to uncover and reveal the news to you, Dear Reader, however long it takes and wherever the story will lead.

Something Mr. Spielberg, Mr. Hanks and certainly Ms. Streep should take note of.

IPO, be damned!

Questions, comments or travel suggestions, write me at [email protected]

TAGS: history, Hollywood, Jaded, THE POST, view
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