On Sunday, I saw The Post, which stars Meryl Streep as Katherine Graham and Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee, and tells the story of the Washington Post facing the challenge of whether or not to publish the Pentagon Papers. The film is directed by Steven Spielberg and is absolutely wonderful. It may not sound "gripping" from the description, but (much in the same way that All the President's Men was, despite knowing the ending) it is indeed gripping. And quite moving at times -- the Writers Guild audience broke into applause 3-4 times during the movie, not only it's so good, but also because certain moments resonate so strongly with the news today. And those moments aren't just about the conflict between a president and the news media, but also on women in the business world. And it got cheers at the end. Oddly, my only "quibble" is with Tom Hanks. Not that he isn't good -- in fact, he's excellent, and delivers a terrific, well-rounded characterization. The problem is that Jason Robards was so amazing as Ben Bradlee in All the President's Man (and even looked a bit like him) that the memory of his performance is so utterly indelible, and a bit hard to erase. Very good supporting performances, notably by Bob Odenkirk and Bradley Whitford, as well as Tracy Letts (who has won a Tony for his acting, but also for writing August: Osage County). And very good, understated performances by Alison Brie as Katherine Graham's daughter and Sarah Paulson as Ben Bradlee's wife. And a heads-up that the oft-mentioned here Tony-winning Broadway actress Jessie Mueller (who I wrote about seeing in the musical She Loves Me back in Glencoe, Illinois at the Writers Theatre before she made it to Broadway) makes her movie debut as the Post's society page editor.
By the way, this would be a wonderful companion piece to the aforementioned All the President's Men. It would be a great double-feature. In fact, there'are some very fun suggestions of that woven into the story, though I shall say no more. And huge credit has to go to the screenwriters, Liz Hannah and Josh Singer -- he has a chance to win a second screenwriting Oscar, I think, having co-written another newspaper-based movie, the Oscar-winning Spotlight. They did a Q&A after the screening, and Hannah mentioned how she was inspired to write the first draft after reading Katherine Graham's tremendous, Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir, Personal History. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it, which many may want to do after seeing this film. You can get it here.
This is the trailer. Just know that while it gives a very good sense of the style and craft of the film, it doesn't come close to showing how dramatic, tense at times and emotional the movie is. That comes with the structure and building pace, along with quite a few, great scenes of confrontations.
It was actually a double-audience day on Sunday. Before seeing the movie, I went to a matinee of the musical Something Rotten. It was a huge amount of fun. Not a Great Show, but often very funny with a very good and extremely witty score, written by brothers Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrck. It about a couple of brothers competing with the massive success of William Shakespeare who is a preening rock-star celebrity. A couple of fun songs right at the top -- the first two, in fact, are "Welcome to the Renaissance" and "I Hate Shakespeare."
This here is the biggest show-stopping number that they did on the Tony Awards. The brothers are told by their patron that their recent shows have been flat, and he'll only put up money if they write something new and fresh. One of the brothers, Nick Bottom, who most-hates Shakespeare (the other brother actually admires him), is stumped what to do, so he goes to a soothsayer, the nephew of Nostradamus, who looks far ahead and tells the playwright that the future of the theater is some odd thing called "a musical." Where people actually sing in the middle of the play. And for some reason no one can figure out why, also break into dance. This is that song, "It's a Musical" -- made all the more fun with about two dozen quick references to musicals. (See how many you can pick out.) In this song below, Brian D'Arcy James (a fine Northwestern grad...) plays Nick Bottom and Brad Oscar (who was 'Franz Liebkind in the original Broadway production of The Producers) is Nostradamus. Unfortunately the video and audio quality is just fair (someone recorded the broadcast off their TV) -- but if you turn the volume all the way up, it should be fine.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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