Film Review: THE POST (USA 2017) ****

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The Post Poster
Trailer

A cover-up that spanned four U.S. Presidents pushed the country’s first female newspaper publisher and a hard-driving editor to join an unprecedented battle between journalist and government.

Director:

Steven Spielberg

An ideal time for a picture such as THE POST to be released is this day and time when the majority of Americans are dissatisfied with the Trump Presidency.  No matter how much President Trump tries to make it right or criticize media, he is still made fun of every night on the talk shows, and especially on SNL by Alec Baldwin.  

The timing is also relevant for two reasons.  The film is Meryl Streep’s comeback at Trump after he made the remark of her being the most over-rated actress.  he demonstrates her acting prowess at taking down the Nixon Presidency or any other Presidency for that matter.  The second is the banding of critics and other publications to take down Disney when the studio decided to ban the L.A. Times in retaliation for a scathing article written against them. 

Spielberg, director of 50 or so films as of date, goes for theatrics, clearly from the start of the film to the end.  Meryl Streep is given the grand theatrical entrance in the bedroom scene where she coughs and papers get thrown on the floor.  The camera concentrates on the performances on both Hanks and Streep, as if it were begging them to be noticed for Oscar nods.  The actual crime, the incidents of the coverups of the four governments are only briefly mentioned, with hardly any details.  The opening sequence of one failure attack in Vietnam is supposed to do the trick.  

THE POST is the drama about the unlikely partnership between The Washington Post’s Katharine Graham (Streep), the first female publisher of a major American newspaper, and editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks), as they race to catch up with The New York Times to expose a massive cover-up of government secrets that spanned three decades and four U.S. Presidents.

The script goes on to push all the right buttons to give the audience a feel-good feeling of elation.  “The Government has lied about the Vietnam War for 30 years.  The way they lied has tone brought out into the open.” says  Bradley. The government is then pursuing the security breach.  The announcement of the result of the court as to whether the Washington Post would be acquitted is grandly staged.  Even the words of the judge are quoted as coming from there American fore-fathers.

It is interesting to compare Spielberg’s other political entry on American Presidents – LINCOLN.  In that film, President Abraham Lincoln was treated with respect and grandeur while in THE POST Nixon is considered nothing more than two-faced rat.  Nixon invites no Washington Post press for his daughter’s wedding as a result apart incident and later bans the Post from the White House showing him not only guilty of being a sore-loser but one craving for revenge.  His revenge is shown at the closing of the film as he Watergate scandal begins, as everyone knows.  But the scene is still a satisfying one.

THE POST and the upcoming THE GREATEST SHOWMAN are 20th Century Fox’s Oscar hopefuls, both opening at Christmas.  Both are crowd pleasers and it will be interesting to see what happens.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrXlY6gzTTM

 

 

 

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Film Review: REBEL IN THE RYE (USA 2017)

 

Rebel in the Rye Poster
Trailer

The life of celebrated but reclusive author, J.D. Salinger, who gained worldwide fame with the publication of his novel, “The Catcher in the Rye”.

Director:

Danny Strong

Writers:

Danny StrongKenneth Slawenski (biography “J.D. Salinger: A Life”)

REBEL IN THE EYE is an American biographical drama film based on the author of the famous ‘The Catcher in the Rye’.  It is directed and written by Danny Strong, who adapted the book J. D. Salinger: A Life by Kenneth Slawenski.  Director Strong bought the book rights with his own money which must mean that the book really fascinated him.

A film about successful creative writing appeals to many particularly film reviewers who could learn a thing or two about their writing.  The spill on voice in writing illustrated by a passage read by Whit Burnett (Kevin Spacey) in a William Faulkner novel is especially engaging.  He reads a passage in a monotonous tone to illustrate the fact that it is the incidents will make the writing and not the tone.  But if the author’s voice or impression is added, that would be inspiring.  Unless the voice comes across as pompous instead of sincere.

The film follows the life of Jerome Salinger (Nicholas Hoult).  He attends writing at Columbia University where Professor White Burnett grinds him to be a successful writer.  His devastating experiences during the War watching many die during the D-Day beach landing earn him the maturity that finally gets the fame he seeks with ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ but not after suffering mentally.  He is aided by an Indian Swami (Bernard White).

The message in the film is quite obvious – the importance of truth in writing.  Salinger refuses to compromise changing his story to the notes of the New York Times in order to be published.

Besides the story of J.D. Salinger as a writer from budding writer to published author, the film has several major subplots that undermine the film’s goal.  One is the relationship between Salinger and his mentor Whit Burnett.  The second is the failed love affair between Salinger and Oona (Zooey Deutch).   All the action takes place during World War 2 with Salinger himself going off to fight in the war.  The segments with the Indian Swami are more laughable than credible,

In Strong’s attempt to put his voice into his film, he gets too obvious.  One example (too in-your-face metaphor) is the blurred image of Salinger’s face as seen through the glass of his mother in the homecoming dinner.  This also comes across as an attempt to be too pompous instead of sincere – advice that he should have taken himself from the film.

For a film that stresses about voice in a story, Strong falls again into the trap of not following his own advice.  He resorts in too many familiar filming formats.  One is the over-use of voiceover.  Another is obvious at the start of the film when a scene is shown and then the film flashes back to years earlier (in this case 6 years) to the events that precede the scene.  The over use of music, as if to force the audience to feel a certain way (Indian music during the Swami advice segments and a musical interlude when Salinger gets published) is yet another.  Every character in the film speaks the same way – with sarcasm and with anger. 

REBEL IN THE EYE ends up a flawed biography in which director Strong commits all the mistakes the writing professor Burnett in the script warns Salinger never to make.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWRhXMMb7CY

rebel in the rye