Movie Review : The Post (2017)
I try not to use the word pretentious when I'm writing a review. Nothing against it or what it signifies, but it's an easy qualifier to give a movie that takes itself seriously and does things in a way that doesn't necessarily entertains you. But it applies sometimes. I can tell you that Steven Spielberg's latest movie The Post, the same movie that was supposed to make this year's Oscars ceremonies irrelevant, is pretty fucking pretentious. It's not a bad movie per se, but it's a movie that loves itself way more than I (or any self-respecting audience member) ever will.
The Post is a political thriller based on the true story of Katharine Graham (played by Meryl Streep), heiress of the titular Washington Post. While she's preparing the newspaper to go public and enter stock market, her team stumbles upon top secret Vietnam war documents while editor-in-chief Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) was trying to scoop the New York Times. The material is undoubtedly explosive and the decision to publish it immediately prompts the White House to take both the Washington Post and the New York Times to court to stop publications of the documents.
This movie is trying so hard to win the Oscar for Best Picture, it overshadows pretty much everything good about it. Let's keep count:
- It's a journalistic investigation movie, just like Spotlight, the winner from two years ago. It's like Spotlight got a runway makeover and tried to enter the Oscars ceremony again wearing these:
- It's about the freedom of press, an issue that becomes increasingly more problematic every minute Donald Trump spends in the White House.
- The movie is featuring old friends of Steven Spielberg, like Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep and composer John Williams, who all have lifetime tickets to the Oscars. Why would you need John Williams to score an office movie is beyond me. I barely heard a soundtrack.
- It hits all the stupid, cliché beats you'd expect an "Oscarized aesthetic" and a journalism movie to hit: the "strong" female character asserting herself in a world of men (even if it's implied she owes everything to her father and husband), the Vietnam war scene with a fucking CCR song playing, the gruff editor-in-chief yelling journalistic clichés like: "get the storeeh, I want a storeeeh."
I'm being dismissive here. Sure, Steven Spielberg phoned this one in and created The Post because he wanted to win the Oscar for Best Picture more than anything. But it's a competent movie. It both looks good and delivers a message people need to hear in 2018: the purpose of the press is to keep you informed. Whatever is the story you choose to believe it up to you, but it's paramount to democracy that it keeps operating under complete freedom. Has this point ever been done before in movies? Sure, about a thousand times and it's sometimes been done better. But what makes The Post efficient and accessible is that it uses information we all know to be true to explain the struggle of the press.
So, The Post is a competently crafted movie, but it's so self-satisfied that it was blissfully ignored by audiences and had trouble making its production budget back in theaters. It would've definitely not made it without the Oscar nomination. It's the perfect movie to win the Academy Award in 2003, but after the historic win of Moonlight last year, I fail to see how the Academy can possibly reward it. Oh, and I almost forgot. There's a guy named Ben Bagdikian in it. I know he's a real person and all, but isn't it the most tragic name ever? It sounds like you would call your Armenian friend after a couple beers too many. Anyway, if The Post wins the Oscar for Best Picture on Sunday, you'll know Steven Spielberg called in a favor because it's one of the weakest films in competition this year.