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Five Cent Cine At Home: The Post

A woman transformed

“The Post,” directed by veteran Steven Spielberg and starring veteran actors Meryl Streep, as Washington Post publisher Katherine Graham, and Tom Hanks as Managing Editor Ben Bradlee, is solid, old-fashioned movie-making.

It’s also movie-making that engages two hot topics. The first is the Trump Administration’s effort to diminish the press. President Richard Nixon, with his Assistant Attorney General William Rehnquist (later chief justice of the Supreme Court), tries to prevent publication of the Pentagon Papers, documents spirited out of the RAND Corporation think tank by Daniel Ellsberg because they revealed the Nixon Administration was lying about the progress of the Vietnam War. Nixon is heard ordering Washington Post reporters and photographers banned from White House press briefings, a not so subtle reminder of the sitting president’s banning of mainstream reporters and photographers from the White House press pool whenever he chooses.

The second hot topic and the film’s main story line is the transformation of a woman, who took over as publisher when her husband committed suicide, and who even then saw herself mainly as a party-giving D.C. hostess. Graham moves in short fashion from a timid, voiceless presence in an all-white male boardroom, to an assertive CEO willing to take on her white male advisors and to risk her new career — and the venerable Post itself — by publishing the Pentagon Papers.

Despite touching on contemporary issues, everything about ‘The Post’ is bathed in nostalgia.

Despite touching on contemporary issues, everything about “The Post” is bathed in nostalgia. The plot never strays from its chronological arc, eschewing even flashbacks. After Graham makes her fateful decision, the presses literally roll, papers are bound in string and thrown off delivery trucks at dawn for vendors to pick up and start hawking, a classic montage designed to remind film-goers of mid-20th century movies — and values.

This is an entertaining film, competently constructed. But unlike Graham and Bradlee, Spielberg takes no chances, content to remind us that freedom of the press may be a relic of a bygone era.

Date: 2017

Director: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts.

Oscars: Nominated: Best Picture (Amy Pascal, Steven Spielberg, Kristie Macosko Krieger); Best Actress (Meryl Streep).

Other Awards: 20 wins and 114 nominations.

The Post ★★★ (out of 4 stars)

Runtime:116 minutes.

Our review originally published on 2.11.18

Availability: Streaming fubo, Fxnow, DirectTV and Sling; for rent or purchase Redbox, Amazon and elsewhere.  See JustWatch here.

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Written by 2 Film Critics

2 Film Critics

William Graebner is Emeritus Professor of History, State University of New York, Fredonia, where he taught courses on film and American culture. He is the author or co-author of 11 books and more than 50 scholarly articles, including essays on “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” “McCabe and Mrs. Miller,” “The Poseidon Adventure,” and zombie films as they relate to the Holocaust. Dianne Bennett, the first woman to head a large U.S. law firm, is a retired U.S. tax lawyer.

Dianne and Bill were early and passionate attendees at the Toronto Film Festival, and today enjoy the film scenes of Los Angeles, Rome, London, and Buffalo, New York. They began reviewing films for the Rome-based website “TheAmerican/inItalia” in 2016, have maintained a blog on Rome for a decade, and published two alternative guidebooks to the Eternal City. They still can’t resist going to the movies, not to mention the ensuing discussions, sometimes heated, over a bottle of Arneis at the nearest wine bar.

​And that's just the beginning of our reviewing process. For one or two hours we discuss the film, as one of us takes notes. The notetaker transcribes the notes and prints two copies. Dianne or Bill (usually depending on who had the most compelling understanding of the film, or who was most taken with it) writes the first draft of the review--supposedly taking into account the views of the other--which is followed by 3, 4, or even 7 more drafts. At some point, sometimes days later, when we're both comfortable with the result (or accepting of it, anyway), it's done.

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