It’s reel life, after all

“I have a theory that movies operate on the level of dreams, where you dream yourself.” ― Meryl Streep


Karen and I went to see The Post last night. At my suggestion. Which might seem odd, because it had a couple of things going against it, which I’ll go into in a minute. What it had going for it is that I’d met – and spoken briefly with – the real-life version of one of the movie’s main characters.

Cue the Meryl Streep quote above. Because her character, Katherine Graham, is the person I’d met before, although it was roughly six years later than the events of the movie, which revolved around the publication of the Pentagon Papers. I wrote about it here.

Anyway, Karen and I – both of us have journalism backgrounds – loved the movie. And I found Streep’s performance as Mrs. G, as they called her at the time of my visit to the actual Washington Post, to be pretty spot on – particularly in the charm category. The reel Mrs. Graham wasn’t as self-assured as the real Mrs. G, but I met her later than the events of The Post and I have a feeling the decision to continue publication of the Pentagon Papers forged a much more steely demeanor within her.

All in all, it was the second-best journalism movie filmed in color (so as to take His Girl Friday out of the mix) of all time, behind Spotlight, which Karen and I really, really loved.

As for the things The Post had going against it, here’s a list:

  • I don’t like Tom Hanks.
  • I don’t like Steven Spielberg.
  • My preconceived notion that it made no sense for a movie about the Pentagon Papers to be told from the perspective of the Washington Post instead of the New York Times.

Turns out I was – what’s the word? – wrong about two of those three concerns:

  • Hanks made a pretty good Ben Bradlee – or at least a pretty good Jason Robards. He wasn’t over-the-top, my usual complaint about him, and he wasn’t whiny.
  • And the movie definitely made the case that the Times was the firstest with the mostest when it came to the Pentagon Papers.

As for that other concern, Spielberg, there’s definitely some heavy-handed Spielberg nonsense. Bradlee sending the intern to the Times to spy – made up; the little lemonade girl had all the makings of made-up Spielberg forcing a kid into the action-ness in it (though for all I know it might have been true). There were a couple of other things I had issues with but don’t want to spoil.

Again, all that said, it was a terrific movie. I loved the hot type stuff. I came in at the very end of that era, and it brought back memories. I loved seeing the presses run. I loved seeing newspapers taking on the Establishment.

And that last one made me sad, too. I love the ideals of journalist, but I don’t love the news biz anymore. It’s as though we’ve resigned ourselves to the inherent biases, and I feel like the business in general is too close to the Powers-That-Be, at least at the top levels. Like it was then, too, for that matter.

I walked out of Spotlight feeling exhilarated about how journalism had done its job. I walked out of The Post glad that Nixon and the Nixonites had gotten their just desserts, but wondering why Trump hasn’t gotten his.


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