Why yes, I am currently reading Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, thank you for asking…
The brisk momentum of The Post mirrors the breakneck pace in which the film, director Steven Spielberg’s latest (written by Elizabeth Hannah and Josh Singer), was produced. The movie Spielberg had finished production on prior to starting The Post, Ready Player One, isn’t even in theaters yet. The film, depicting the then-fledgling Washington Post’s reporting on the Pentagon Papers, is made of momentum and motivation. It is very intently put together with a purpose, to tell a story Spielberg wanted told right this second.
In a time in which the U.S. Presidency and the press are constantly under scrutiny by the public and each other, The Post demands we question the nature of those institutions, how they interact with one another and how they interact with and are controlled by individuals.
True to life or not, the 1970’s Washington presented in Spielberg’s film is one coming out of a golden age of sorts, a city in which the press and the Presidency hang out at dinner parties and display photographs of each other on their respective mantles. And it was good. Good for the Presidency. Good for the press. The pubic? What public?
But with the discovery of the Pentagon Papers, a classified Department of Defense study on the involvement of the United States in Vietnam, that golden age is not only shattered, but retroactively tainted all together. The veil is lifted and over the course of the film both institutions are indicted for abusing their powers, for allowing the institutions they represent to become all too synonymous with their own person.
The Washington Post is the press, it’s a newspaper, but it’s also publisher Katherine Graham (Meryl Streep), whose family has run the paper for decades.
The Presidency is an executive office, the Commander in Chief, but it’s also Richard Nixon (some guy).
The Post sees the Presidency and the press at war with one another even as their respective figureheads are at warring with the traditional notions of the concepts they embody. Where does the human stop and the institution begin? When do relationships across those institutions stop being fodder for conversations at dinner parties and start actively disadvantaging the public those institutions are put in power to serve?
This is film as a weapon, or at least film as a tool. Spielberg has created something with purpose, something lean and efficient, largely free of the excessive drama or frills one might embellish when parodying the director. This is a movie aimed at here and now and you can feel that vitality in its camerawork, in its dialogue, in the performances of Streep, Tom Hanks, Bob Odenkirk and the rest of the robust cast. The energy and momentum of the film’s production is mirrored time and time again in many facets of the film as it chugs along at a clip, decisive, emboldened, destination determined. You. It’s come for you. It’s made for you. You right now. It’s made to tell you that when institutions go to war it’s not a matter of taking sides and it’s not a matter of observing the barrages and salvos with a grain of salt. When institutions go to war you have to ask yourself why. What is to be gained, what is to be lost, and what do those institutions seek to get from you? Money? Ignorance? Complacency? Outrage?
The Post will undoubtedly be dismissed by some as partisan propaganda. While it examines the institutions of the Presidency and the press, it pretty definitively takes the side of the press, but questioning the motivations of the establishments we imbue with power is important regardless of affiliations, particularly in an age where the idea of what those establishments are is in flux.
Spielberg’s sense of purpose with The Post has yielded perhaps his greatest film since Saving Private Ryan.
No, you’ve been misspelling it “Stephen” for literally the entire time you’ve had a blog and so you had to go back and correct the spelling in all of your blog posts since 2013 (four).