With the Oscar nominations announced, it’s time to look at what 2017 had to offer. First up is Steven Spielberg’s side project proceeding Ready Player One. Before Watergate, the Vietnam War’s classified documents were leaked to the press, and only Richard Nixon’s legal team stood in the way of the 1st amendment (not unlike today *sarcasm*). On the heels of taking her late husband’s newspaper company public, Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) struggles in choosing her friends in high places over her ambitious colleague, Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) who never say no to publishing stories.
Obviously the childish cheeto in office going to war with the press signals the motivation behind this. But the rushed production really shows in its lack of focus. Does it want to be an underdog tale like The King’s Speech? A political boxing match a la Frost/Nixon? Or a courtroom drama akin to Marshall? All the right ingredients are there, but there’s no clear location of ground zero. And where’s Nixon in all this? Inside the white house without a stand-out moment, so the first act drags like a ball and chain. Surely Frank Langella would have given it another go even after a decade since the Ron Howard’s attempt at replicating history. Which is ironic because the ending feels like where his begins. The music builds, the lighting gives off an intense foreshadowing and the final shot is straight out of a Netflix cliffhanger. Good thing the cast, particularly, Streep is able to carry most of the dead weight (and let’s not forget Hanks too). Her eyes give much gravitas to any situation whether the camera circles around her in the worst situations like a hungry crocodile. With that, the staging for each scene feels right out of a Broadway play: bright lights, cluttered items for the right reason and small moments in the background that you’ll miss but get a chuckle out of on second viewing. If only it was more interested in showing than talking about the situation that’s almost a mirror to the present day.
The Post redefines Oscar bait. It’s a noble effort on paper (no pun intended), but standard after Spotlight set a new bar a couple years ago by winning best picture. Will it still be remembered a decade down the line? Who knows? But for something that wants to be relevant in the current fear and paranoia, it has very little idea on how to blend everything seamlessly together. Spielberg fans, including myself, might find it a little hard to gel with as he’s one of the most powerful people in Hollywood and showing no signs of slowing down. But for what it is, it’s good for the few things going for it like the performances, scene staging and gripping second act. If anything to escape the “fake news” vomiting ogre for a few hours.