Screening Room: ‘The Post’

The year’s big political movie comes with an unlikely cast and director: Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep in Steven Spielberg’s The Post. An all-too-timely thriller about the cacophonous showdown over the publishing of the Pentagon Papers in 1971, it opens in limited release on December 22.

My review is at Film Journal International:

For his most taut and dashing movie since Munich, Steven Spielberg chose an unlikely subject: the publishing of the so-called Pentagon Papers in 1971. It’s not history that Spielberg tends to favor. There are no great battles or monumental court cases; well, there is the latter, but Spielberg whips right past it without pausing for gassy Amistad oratory. The heroes are neither grand orators nor men of action. Instead, they’re mostly disputatious ink-stained wretches in off-the-rack suits…

Weekend Reading: January 6, 2017

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Screening Room: ‘Best of Enemies’

William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal think of new insults for each other. (Magnolia)
William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal think of new insults for each other. (Magnolia)
In 1968, the third-place network ABC wasn’t sure how to make a splash with its presidential convention coverage. Since they didn’t have much money, they went for a gimmick. Over the course of ten nights, Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley would debate the issues of the conventions. Or just throw insults at each other.

Best of Enemies is playing now in limited release. My review is at PopMatters:

Best of Enemies is a fascinating film about brilliant people behaving stupidly. It would be reassuring in a way to think that in the distant past, there was a time when American intellectuals could duke it out on the public stage before a mass audience held rapt by the sight and sound of ideas being wrestled into coherent form. We know such things don’t happen anymore. How many Americans can even name two intellectuals to have such a debate?…

Here’s the trailer:

New in Theaters: ‘Our Nixon’

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Ournixon-posterEvery now and again, you’ll hear something about how a certain politician couldn’t make it if they ran today. Venal, conspiratorial, and far too fond of late-night drunk dials, Richard Nixon was one of those never-again guys.

The fascinating new documentary Our Nixon, constructed out of hundreds of hours of home movies shot by Nixon staffers, aired earlier this month on CNN and opens Friday in limited release. My review is at Film Racket:

For those raised on The West Wing and stories about the Cuban Missile Crisis, the most surprising thing about President-focused documentary footage is always how good-natured everybody seems to be. That’s because, while the White House might be the most singularly powerful political office in the world, it’s still an office like any other. You can’t deal with issues of detente and Congressional brinkmanship 24 hours a day; occasionally even the most dedicated wonks need to gossip, play pranks, and complain about coworkers. This workaday domesticity is one of the reasons Penny Lane’s absorbing home-movie documentary Our Nixon so inexplicably fascinating…

You can watch the trailer here: