With less than a month before the Oscars winners are announced, it was great to see if one of the films in the running for Best Picture, Steven Spielberg’s The Post, was deserving of the prestigious nomination.
The Post tells the story of how America’s first female newspaper publisher (Meryl Streep) and her determined editor (Tom Hanks) navigated uncharted territory as their paper, The Washington Post, gets embroiled in an unprecedented battle with the government after uncovering secrets that reveal the U.S government knew of the futility of the Vietnam war, in a cover-up that spanned four U.S presidential terms.
Spielberg certainly spared no expense when it came to authenticity. The President in office at the time the scandal was exposed was Richard Nixon, who is mainly portrayed facing away from the camera, which films through The Oval Office window depicting Nixon on the phone. It’s a nice touch that Nixons’ real voice from The White House tapes was used. Similarly, the original documents serve as genuine props for the documents that military analyst Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys) copies and shares with the press that reveal the Vietnam War cover-up and later become the famous Pentagon Papers. It’s details like these that showcase Spielberg’s keen eye and subtle attention to detail that make up a scene, that always gives his films that extra edge.
Spielberg also showed, once again, his unique approach to film in his ambition to get the film made in record time so it could be released while the current ‘fake news’ climate in America was still ongoing. It’s a sense of social commentary in a powerful film about freedom of the press and holding those in power to account – a topical and relevant message that modern-day journalists and politicians could heed. According to Streep, the cast and crew began filming in May 2017 and wrapped at the end of July 2017, with the legendary director having the film cut a mere fortnight later, an achievement hailed as a never-before-seen feat.
Streep stands out in the role as publisher Kay Graham, and as a strong female character that really grows into her own. The accomplished actress seems to flawlessly fuse the intellect and unapologetic steely and glassy stare of her The Devil Wears Prada character, editor-in-chief Miranda Priestley, whilst also channelling the maternal vulnerability of her endearing character in Mamma Mia!. Streep’s style and mannerisms also echo her performance as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady as she shows her determination, not just to navigate the male-dominated world of business and media, but to adjust to doing a job she never wanted or planned on having (her father left the then family paper to Kay Graham’s husband, which then, in turn, fell under Kay’s leadership when her husband passed away).
Every woman who has ever found herself feeling overwhelmed, or as if their every move was scrutinised as if they don’t deserve the role they have found themselves in or have had to work doubly as hard to prove themselves can relate to Streep’s character, who does an excellent job as a publisher. Meanwhile, Kay Graham serves as a fine role model for female audiences, a fact we get a perfect glimpse of in a prominent scene in which many women applaud and cheer Graham in admiration for the bold risks she’s taken in order to protect the democratic right of freedom of the press as she triumphantly leaves the supreme court. By all means, it is absolutely no surprise that Streep has been nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role category at The Oscars.
The Post is the first time Streep and Hanks, two actors of very high calibre – have starred together as leading roles. Both collaborate well in this film which is made up of fierce and formidable phones calls portraying the ‘should we/shouldn’t we’ publish debate, a fantastic true story and emotive acting, as a driven and determined editor and strong-willed publisher take risks to shake the status quo. Their work breaks the tradition of politicians and editors being loyal bedfellows – when, in reality, the media professionals weren’t much more than the politicians’ puppets, so they could heavily influence the swing of the press – not a great situation for democracy’s reputation.
The film is a little slice of history on an event that has since had a huge impact on the relationship between the government and journalists. Does it deserve to win The Best Picture Oscar? Well, that remains to be seen, but it certainly deserves its nomination and a watch.