Monday, January 15, 2018

The Post, I, Tonya; musings on the internet, twitter and freedom/responsibility of speech

Hello readers, after a few days of from the site, I'm back. My friend John and I took a road trip to Montgomery, AL, and I intentionally left my MacBook at home. That didn't stop me from constantly checking twitter, however, and one thing is for certain. The internet is a very, very strange and nasty beast. 

Free speech is one of the most beautiful things we have in this country. Along with freedom of the press. I believe that with those two freedoms comes responsibility. Twitter seems to be the place where responsibility most goes out the window. I couldn't even begin to delve into one, or even two of the exchanges, posts, etc. that I witnessed over the past few days, but they have affected me. I don't think that I'm alone, either. In the past 24 hours I have begun to second guess emails that I've sent to friends, tweets that I've posted, and pieces that I've published. 

What right do I have to talk about race? The #metoo movement? As a gay, white man should I stick to discussing homophobia and nothing else? Am I even qualified to discuss the merits of film? I'm an actor who loves movies, but my only experience in film criticism is years of reading reviews and writing my own, almost always through the lens of the Academy Awards. 

Luckily, I have every right to say/publish what I want while I try to navigate the daily changing landscape. 

I do know that I have never been controversial on the internet. Well, that isn't exactly the case. Things were different before I stopped drinking. That's not something I usually discuss here, but alas, when you don't get loaded every day, you're less likely to say something along the lines of "Gary Oldman's performance can't touch what Timothee Chalamet does and HOW CAN Y'ALL NOT SEE THAT. What is wrong with you, people!!!!" Don't get me wrong? That thought has entered my mind--last Thursday night watching the Critics Choice Awards, for instance. For a moment, it did. 

But today I have a choice not to post that and within a few seconds I remember that Gary Oldman is great. I've always loved him as an actor. And it's ok if he wins. It's ok that other people want him to win. And in the end I haven't said something I really didn't mean, embarrassed myself, or attacked a peer. 

What it also means is that I will always have less followers and less readership because I choose not to be an ass hole. That's a sacrifice I will accept today.

While I was in Montgomery, I saw "The Post" and when I got home I watched "I, Tonya." Those two films make things so much clearer in my mind in regard to Best Actress, but also make my Top 10 a bit more difficult. Well, "The Post" isn't making my Top 10 any more difficult.

"I, Tonya" on the other hand is exactly the type of film I love. This film has been labeled a dark comedy...and that's exactly what it is. It is certainly laughable, the stupidity that went into the attack on Nancy Kerrigan, but the way Harding was treated by the figure skating judges, the press, her husband and most importantly in terms of her own development of character, her mother, (played by Allison Janney) is certainly dark. 

The film never, in my opinion, makes a blatant attempt to redeem Harding or vilify Kerrigan, but it helps us understand how these sorts of things can happen. It is a film about class and the effects it has on success. We hear so much about the American Dream, particularly during political campaigns. Well, even with a triple axel, the American Dream was always just beyond Harding's reach and well beyond it today. It was great to see her at the Golden Globes, but she already seems to have blown her 3rd chance at fame and her first shot at some sort of public forgiveness with her supposed demands of "no questions about her past" of the press. For the lower classes, in today's climate, its seems the American Dream might be dead. 

In terms of Oscar, Margot Robbie is phenomenal. I wondered if she was a lock for a Best Actress nomination, and now I know she is. Should be. It's so hard to make definitive statements in this crazy Oscar year. 

Allison Janney has created a vicious mother of a character, and seems more than likely to win the Academy Award for Supporting Actress. I've seen some debate online about her characterization v/s that of Laurie Metcalf in "Lady Bird." To me, they rank side by side. Both actresses have created remarkable, set in their ways, characters. Metcalf does have the scene in the car on the way home from the airport, a turn we absolutely don't see from Janney. Will that make any difference with the Academy? Probably not. 

I've made no secret here that Steven Spielberg films are not my thing. Not counting his earlier works, his recent films are well acted, well crafted, perfectly oiled machines that at best give us "Lincoln" and at worst give us "War Horse." What's strange about "The Post" is that it kind of lives in the middle of those two films.

It's baffling that the man who gave us the opening of "Saving Private Ryan" gave us the opening war scene in "The Post." I honestly think I could have shot that scene myself. OK, maybe not me, but you know what I'm saying, right?  

Meryl Streep is very good. Tom Hanks is as good as he has been in recent years, but the scene where Graham asks Bradlee if he has the papers, plays exactly as it does in the trailer. Poor ADR (additional dialogue recording) and over the top, on the edge of camp performances. 

It's almost impossible not to compare the film to "Spotlight," in explaining my issues with the film. In both "The Post" and "Spotlight" we knew the outcome going in, but in "Spotlight" we are in suspense the entire way. We see the damage caused by the priests which informs the fact that the stakes are unbelievably high for the reporters. In "The Post," that is not the case. 

Yes, the opposite Supreme Court verdict would have changed the world, particularly of press, as we know it. And yes, Katherine Graham would've lost her fortune. But the screenplay by Josh Singer and Elizabeth Hannah along with Spielberg never really shows us the true responsibility of publishing the Pentagon Papers. Instead of showing us the real cost of not publishing the papers--freedom of press, a continuing war, a dictatorship in lieu of democracy, Spielberg focuses on the surface cost, Graham and Bradlee going to jail and the Washington Post folding due to the collapse of going public days before.

That being said, there are good moments, particularly a later scene in which Graham confronts McNamara (played by Bruce Greenwood) in his home as well as the scene in which Graham decides to publish as well as as another where she finally enforces her power over her male colleagues--although a scene near the end when Graham exists the Supreme Court through a crowd of obviously staged women almost diminishes what comes before it. So unnecessary. One of my biggest issues with Spielberg is his seeming insistence that the audience is too stupid to understand the subtext of his films without hitting us over the head with it. AKA: the ending of "Munich" and even "Schindler's List."

Meryl Streep gives a performance that certainly surpasses her most recent nominated performance in "Florence Foster Jenkins." She is the standout in "The Post." It's hard to imagine her not being nominated for this role. I would love to see either Michelle Williams or Jessica Chastain get in instead, particularly Michelle Williams, who in my opinion deserves the 5th spot, but you cannot discount Streep. You just can't. Until she isn't nominated, she will be nominated.

Moving forward, I do plan to do my 27 Days of Oscar series, beginning on February 6th...if you don't know what it is, you will.

Between January 23rd (nominations day) and February 6th I will dedicate my time to watching a few films I think might play a part in my Top 10 and the nominated films in the Independent Spirit Awards race. 

Tomorrow I will be on 93.7 "North Mississippi Spotlight with Gary Darby" discussing addiction (my day job!) as well as the Oscar race. Check it out if you can. Starts at 9:20AM CST.

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