Phew - the Oscar nominations are out, and the movie The Post is included, with two nominations, one for Meryl Streep, her 15th nomination as Best Actress, (she's won it twice), and for Best Picture. I was distinctly worried that this magnificent movie might have been excluded, either because it's too late for inclusion (only just in cinemas in the UK); or because of its controversy. But it is there. It was quite a rush to completion, the rights of production having been acquired by Steven Spielberg only after the Trump inauguration - a phenomenally short space of time for the making of a major film.
It records a little known - or perhaps little remembered - event; when a whistle-blower stole papers which demonstrated that US Administrations, from Ike to Nixon - so that's 20 years - knew that the Vietnam war was completely unwinnable. Yet rather than risk humiliation from pulling out, they continued to fight the war, sending thousands of young Americans to their deaths and condemning millions of Vietnamese to death and destruction of their beautiful land. A memory of the Watergate scandal is valuable - and it completely overshadowed this event; this film shows the courage of the Editor, Publisher, and news teams of The Washington Post over this event, which perhaps empowered them to pursue their investigations into Watergate, leading to the downfall of the crooked President Nixon.
The film is rightly praised for its amazing scenes of how a newspaper got to print in the early '70s, the subeditor reading and striking out the first line of the story, the typesetters, the hot metal, the machinery; this must have been heaven for the typewriter geek Tom Hanks, who plays the bullish and legendary Ben Bradlee. The bullish side of his character shows up in a scene when he narrowly avoids missing the whole story waving away a junior reporter bringing the package of sample pages to the door of his office where they're in conference; the package had been delivered by a hippie, a woman who just wandered into and around the office, looking for someone to give it to! Fortunately, the junior reporter gave the package to Bradlee's sidekick, who was able to push through and present it to his boss. We've probably forgotten the days of long-haired, kaftan-, beads- and sandal-wearing young people, demonstrating against the Draft. And the days of incredibly lax security or so it appears in our hyper-secure environment now.
We've probably also forgotten those days when very few women were in positions of power, and at the end of a meal, left the dinner table to the men to discuss affairs of the day, "retiring" to the (with)drawing room, where they would enjoy talking about babies, hair-dos, fashion and gossip. They even pity Katherine Graham, who has the job of owning The Post, which means she's hasn't got much time for such matters. Meryl Streep, as Katharine Graham, utterly inhabits that time, with her big hair and her glorious gold-encrusted kaftan, and her nervousness at putting herself forward in a male context (her Boardroom); and then she discovers her own inner strength and the whole film turns on the moment when she announces that it will be her decision - against all the odds - to publish the papers in the teeth of legal injunctions, threats of financial backers pulling out and even prison.
The only way to defend the free press is to publish - and at this time of Fox News and fake news, the good newspapers must continue to speak out and speak truth to power.
Go see the movie, it's enjoyable and thought-provoking - and fingers crossed for a third Best Actress win for Meryl Streep, and another win for Spielberg to add to his two for Best Picture, among 9 nominations. It would send such a strong message in defence of a free press.
See the official trailer: www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrXlY6gzTTM
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