Thursday, January 11, 2018

"Picking At 'The Post'"

The Short Version For People In A Hurry, Immune To The Joyful Pleasures of Artistic Filigree:

As a tale of a coddled, middle-aged “Brahmina” who steps up at “Crunch Time” and rises boldly to the occasion, The Post is a highly admirable motion picture.

See yuh.

Now, for people with time on their hands and no aversion to meandering…

Experiencing The Post “screener” with a delightful visiting couple from Berkeley California, it was mentioned after the viewing that, although the film displayed sufficient merit and entertainment value, there was an anachronistic overlay of “feminist uplift” the depicted occurrence did not originally represent. 

An insightful rebuttal to that observation reminded the previous speaker that “dramatic representation”, in all its variety, traditionally infuses historic events with contemporary significance.

So there.

Another comment, from an observer steeped in a postgraduate understanding of the cinematic process, decried a detectable sloppiness of execution, both in the directing and in the editing.

She was then reminded that The Post was a recognized “rush job”, driven precipitously to completion in time for “Oscars Season” consideration.

This is fun.  I can almost write this whole thing without saying anything myself. 

But I won’t.  Risking an almost certain lowering of the discourse.  But whattaya gonna do?  As Popeye proclaimed, “I yam what I yam.”  As also, yam I.

My reaction watching The Post emerges in fragments.

Fragment Number One:

“Think fast, Earlo.  When I say “Director Steven Spielberg”, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind?”

Comic books. 

(He can’t help himself.  It’s his natural storytelling proclivity.  And it has made him a comfortable living.)

Fragment Number Two:

“When you consider your personal evaluation of The Post, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind?”

All The Presidents Men was better.

I move quickly when making critical pronouncements, avoiding looking excessively stupid, opining on specialized matters I know nothing about.

I know nothing about directing.  I have no idea why The Post has a minimum number of close-ups, why the characters appear substantially in shadows even when they are inside and there’s lights, why the obscuring overlapping dialogue (burying my second favorite line in the movie), or why, when a character stands alone in a vestibule, the camera invariably hovers above them from a perspective seemingly two floors over their heads.  

I do not know what any of this is trying to convey.  Except, maybe, “Highly paid director, making ‘creative’ choices so audiences will remember they’re there.”  Does “snark” replace insight?  I doubt it.  But that is, unfortunately, all I’ve got.

Why do I assert, “comic book”? 

Because I read the script.

An entire screenplay, written in giant block capital letters, the targeted audience, apparently, eight.  Every story point is hammered so “right on the nail”, even the nail is starting to complain.

“You made the point!  Stop hitting me!”

Regular readers know I am an unwavering enthusiast of assiduously “setting things up.”  But not so dogmatically that I find myself repeatedly screaming, “I get it, already!” at the screen.

Why did Daniel Ellsberg steal and seek publication of the Pentagon Papers?

He heard Secretary of Defense McNamara say the Viet Nam war was going badly in private conversation and then say things were going wonderfully at a press conference.

“All right, then.  Let’s defy the “Espionage Act’!”

Page 26 of the transcribed screenplay, concerning a precarious public offering of the family company:

“In the unlikely instance of disaster or catastrophic event in the week following the initial public offering, ‘Lazard Freres & Company’ retains full right to cancel the issue…”

And wouldn’t you know it, guess what ultimately transpires?

A classy enterprise would, at best, suggest a foreshadowing allusion to “Watergate.”   The Post offers not one but two “Watergate” allusions. 

And then shows us the actual break-in!

Please.  A little respect for a Jewish man who’s actually been to a couple of movies.

And other film patrons of his illustrious ilk.
First of all, it is not smart to allude to a superior picture.

Secondly, compare the two stories.

At its core, The Post is essentially a film about a “family business”. jeopardized by a principled decision.  All the President’s Men… well, let’s just say they have exponentially larger fish to fry.


I shall return to this subject tomorrow.

Reminding me of the First Act “Curtain Line” from A Funny Thing Happens On the Way To The Forum:

“I have just one more thing to say.”

“What’s that?”

(TURNING TO THE AUDIENCE)  “Intermission.”

1 comment:

Ali Semchuck said...

Wow. I was looking forward to seeing this movie. Now I'm not so sure. Maybe I will still go. I promised a friend and I hate to renege when I agreed.But I enjoyed your take on the film. Based on TV commercials, I did get a sense that the movie focused more on the fact that The Post had a female publisher.