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Posts Tagged ‘Bradley Whitford’

Meryl Streep, Tracy Letts, Tom Hanks

“THE POST” My rating: B+ 

115 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Steven Spielberg’s powers as a storyteller are so secure that not even the miscasting of one of “The Post’s” two leads can do much damage to the narrative.

This sprawling effort — it begins with a firefight in Vietnam and winds down with a firestorm over the Second Amendment — hits the ground running and rarely slows down for a breath. It’s like a Spielberg master class in taking a complicated story and telling it cleanly and efficiently.

And like other major movies about real-world journalism — “All the President’s Men” and “Spotlight” especially — “The Post” could hardly be more timely.  With a president who shows every indication that he’d love to roll back freedom of the press, this film is so relevant it hurts.

The subject, of course, is the 1971 scandal over the Pentagon Papers.  That massive study, commissioned by LBJ’s Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, looked at American involvement in Vietnam going back to the Truman administration. It revealed that the experts had always known a land war in Vietnam was unwinnable — but had plowed ahead anyway, sacrificing billions of dollars and countless lives on what amounted to political face-saving.

The papers showed that the Johnson administration had systematically lied to the public and to Congress so as to continue the war.

McNamara suppressed the study; the public only learned of its existence when one of its authors, Rand Corporation analyst Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys), made an illegal copy of the top secret document and passed it on to The New York Times.

Today  The Washington Post sits at or near the top of American newspapers (thanks to its reporting on the Watergate Scandal in 1972-’73).  But in 1971 The Post was at best a regional paper…and not a very good one.

Its new editor, Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), was pushing it toward greatness, but still felt himself outclassed by the journalistic aces at The Times. He was particularly concerned about rumors that The Times was about to scoop The Post (and every other news outlet) with a major story.

That big story was the Pentagon Papers. No sooner had the first in a series of articles been published than a federal judge — at the behest of the Nixon administration — enjoined The Times from printing additional material.

Bradley’s Post, however, was under no gag order. Working back channels Bradley got his hands on another copy of the papers and prepared to publish even more revelations on the pages of The Post.

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Tom Hanks as Walt Disney, Emma Thompson as P.L. Travers

Tom Hanks as Walt Disney, Emma Thompson as P.L. Travers

“SAVING MR. BANKS” My rating: B+ (Opening wide on Dec. 20)

125 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

“Saving Mr. Banks” — a serio-comic look at Walt Disney’s tireless courtship of “Mary Poppins” author C. L. Travers — can be viewed either as a charming explanation of how one of the best family films of all time came to be made, or as an infuriating example of corporate self aggrandizement.

While cognizant of the latter, I’ll go with the former.

The latest  from director John Lee Hancock (“The Rookie,” “The Blind Side”) is set during Travers’ two-week visit to L.A.  in the early 1960s, arranged so that Disney — who more than two decades before had sworn to his wife and daughters that he would bring their favorite heroine of children’s literature to the screen — could coax, canjole and charm the dubious author into signing over the movie rights to her books.

Disney was nothing if not determined. Without authorization he had been working for years on the a screenplay and his in-house tunesmiths — brothers Robert and Richard Sherman —  already had written the songs for what would be one of the greatest movie soundtracks of all time.

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