Movie 'The Post' stands out as U.S. free press faces confidence crisis

2018-01-21 16:59Xinhua Editor: Mo Hong'e ECNS App Download

Steven Spielberg's "The Post" is making headlines as it garnered a slew of nominations and awards during Hollywood's glittering award season.

While it has made only 36 million U.S. dollars in the box office as of Friday, critics and judges are raving, giving it an 88 percent metacritic score on Rotten Tomatoes and enabling it to snag 73 nominations and wins to date.

Its nominations include six Golden Globe nods for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Screenplay, Best Original Score; a Producer's Guild of America's Best Producer; National Society of Film Critics' Best Supporting Actor and so on.

It has won the National Board of Review's Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Film; the New York Film Critics' Top Films of the Year award; and the American Film Institute's prestigious Movie of the Year Award, among others.

Directed by Spielberg, a two-time Best Director Oscar winner for his "Schindler's List" and "Saving Private Ryan," his most recent "The Post" chronicles the tense backroom drama behind the Washington's Post's controversial decision to publish the U.S. government's Top Secret Pentagon Papers in 1971.

Uniting Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks for the first time on screen, Spielberg's drama recounts the transformation of the Washington Post from a local paper into a national institution that exposed government lies during the Vietnam War.

"Has a mainstream movie ever been more timely than 'The Post'? At a moment in American history when our free press is besieged and truth itself is under unprecedented assault," said the Wall Street Journal's review.

The Pentagon's Top Secret Report revealed that consecutive White House administrations and Congressional Committees had lied to the public for decades about the Vietnam War, in which 58,220 young American men and women were sent to die and millions of Vietnamese were killed.

The report was released to the New York Times and the Washington Post in a cloak and dagger fashion by Daniel Ellsberg, a U.S. military analyst at the RAND Corporation who had worked under Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara during the war.

Ellsberg's qualms of conscience forced him to take the dramatic and unlawful step of leaking the report to the press and facing arrest.

Spielberg told Xinhua, "It's a feminist story about an amazing woman who found her voice and a political story about the courage it takes to preserve our First Amendment rights."

Twenty-time Oscar nominee and three-time winner Streep played the newspaper's publisher, Katharine Graham, a well-connected but rather timid socialite who inherited the Washington Post after her husband's suicide, but was routinely marginalized by the powerful men surrounding her.

"I was never supposed to be in this job," she reveals during the film and says sadly of her male colleagues, "they don't just look past you, they don't even see you."

Yet, in this feminist film, it is on Graham's slim shoulders that the make-or-break decision falls when The Post is thrown into the epicenter of a historic battle that would affect one of the cornerstones of American democracy: freedom of the press.

When the U.S. government slapped an injunction on the New York Times to stop publishing the Top Secret Pentagon papers, the Washington Post must decide whether to pick up their mantle and continue publishing -- in clear violation of the federal injunction -- or sit out the epic battle in safety on the sidelines.

Since the future of her business is also on the line and some of her close personal friends are caught up in the scandal, the temptation is great for her to get out of the sandbox and let the big boys duke it out on their own.

But Graham is stirred to action by her editor-in-chief, Ben Bradlee, played by A-lister Tom Hanks, and by his rousing argument, "To the public, they lied. To Congress, they lied. If we don't hold them accountable, who will?"

Galvanized, she published the documents and made history.

Streep was moved by the courage Graham displayed during the crisis. Streep told Xinhua, "Kay (Katharine) had the same insecurities of many women of her era of whom little was expected outside the home. But she found something great within herself when circumstances demanded it."

In recognition of her courage-under-fire and multiple accomplishments, Graham received the Freedom Medal in 1997, the Pulitzer Prize in 1998, and the Presidential Medal of Honor in 2002, and was named as a World Press Freedom Hero by the International Press Institute and inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.

"There are some stories that just don't leave your consciousness, and this was one of them," Spielberg told Vogue magazine.

"By becoming the first female publisher of a major newspaper, Graham set a new bar for women everywhere, and she was the first of her generation to show people that in the face of enormous pressure, being a bystander was not an option -- and it still isn't."


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