Tag Archives: Meryl Streep

The Post

Movie:  The Post

Rating:  5 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:   By 1968 the United States was heavily committed to keeping a large military force in Vietnam to prop up the corrupt South Vietnamese government, and ostensibly to defeat the North Vietnamese insurgents.  Despite optimistic reports to the press of American progress towards victory, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood) commissioned a detailed study by the Rand Corp. to assess the true picture of the war in Vietnam.  One of the people working on the document was a former marine officer and special assistant in the Defense Department Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys), who had spent two years in Vietnam and was very familiar with how the war was proceeding.  In short, Ellsberg advised his bosses that the war was at best a stalemate.

By 1971 Ellsberg has had an epiphany;  his conscience dictated that he needed to take action to bring the war to a close, or at least let the public know the real truth of American involvement in Vietnam.  With access to the Top Secret 7000 page document that came to be known as the Pentagon Papers, Ellsberg made copies.  Going underground and staying on the lam to avoid arrest, Ellsberg managed to get a portion of the Pentagon Papers to NY Times reporter Neil Sheehan (Justin Swain).  Rumors of this explosive story carried its way to Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), executive editor of the Washington Post, and Bradlee was determined to get the story as well.  Despite words of caution from Post owner and publisher Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep), Bradlee’s reporters got themselves into the game with the rival NY Times, and stories about the truth of America’s involvement were published in newspapers for all the world to see.  Naturally the Nixon White House was enraged, and triggered the most important discussion and legal battles in history concerning the freedom of the press as defined in the First Amendment.

This is a milestone film.  It is a taunt, well constructed narrative depicting real events that are critical to American history.  It is both a suspenseful film, and an inspirational story without being preachy or heavy-handed.  The acting is top notch with an all star cast.  Besides Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, both likely candidates for Best Actor and Best Actress Oscar nominations, Bob Odenkirk and Matthew Rhys are major assets that upped the level of talent in this production.  The film is not only hugely entertaining to watch, it is a riveting story that needed to be told.  And yes, it has the additional merit of being timely, as once again government forces are assaulting the press with accusations of “fake news”.  Go see this movie.  For my money, it deserves to win the Best Picture Oscar.

Mini Trailers:  JFK Speech – “The United States, as the world knows, will never start a war.”

Bradlee – “Tell the other papers that the only way to protect the right to publish is to publish.”

Kate Graham – “The Nixon White House is nothing if not vindictive.”

Bradlee – “We are sucking hind tit in our own back yard.  Let’s do our job.  Find those pages.”

Nixon – “As far as the Times goes, hell, they’re our enemies.”

Graham – “If a federal judge stops the Times, I don’t see how we could publish, even if we get a copy.”

Post Reporter – “They’re going to lock you up, Dan!”  Ellsberg – “Wouldn’t you go to prison to stop this war?”

Bradlee – “If we don’t hold them accountable, then my God, who will?”  Graham – “We can’t hold them accountable if we don’t have a newspaper!”

Graham – “How could you do all these things and lie to us all?”  McNamara – “We were trying to drive Ho Chi Minh to the bargaining table.  Our decision making process was…”  Graham – “Flawed.”

Bradlee – “If we don’t publish we lose, the country will lose.  If we don’t publish Nixon will win, and he’ll win the next one and the next one.”

Graham – “This is no longer my father’s company, it is no longer my husband’s company, it is my company.  Anyone who doesn’t understand that probably shouldn’t serve on the board.”

Nixon – “I want it understood that no reporter from the Washington Post will ever be in the White House again.”

The Defense of the First Amendment:  Justice Black of the Supreme Court wrote the decision that vindicated the Post and the Times to print their stories:

In the First Amendment the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. }The Government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell. … [W]e are asked to hold that … the Executive Branch, the Congress, and the Judiciary can make laws … abridging freedom of the press in the name of ‘national security.’ … To find that the President has ‘inherent power’ to halt the publication of news … would wipe out the First Amendment and destroy the fundamental liberty and security of the very people the Government hopes to make ‘secure.’ … The word ‘security’ is a broad, vague generality whose contours should not be invoked to abrogate the fundamental law embodied in the First Amendment.

The Post Movie Poster

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Florence Foster Jenkins

Movie:  Florence Foster Jenkins

Rating:  4 1/2 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:    In 1944 Manhattan, the citizens were starved for diversion as WW II raged on.  At the swank Verdi Club, Florence Foster Jenkins (Meryl Streep) and husband St. Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant) did their best to provide entertainment for the patrons of the arts.  Whether putting on operatic skits requiring Jenkins to be hoisted in the air by unseen  stage hands straining to hoist the weight, or Bayfield hamming it up with monologues from Shakespeare, the couple were well known and influential patrons of the arts in New York City.

Had Florence Foster Jenkins sole interest remained as a benefactor to artists, she would have been universally hailed for her work.  Bur Ms. Jenkins yearned to sing in public; she had the soul of an artist, but alas, not the voice.  She took daily voice lessons from a renowned maestro, and gave performances at the Verdi Club to enthusiastic supporters, who chose to ignore her inability to stay on key for most of the songs.  Finally, Florence made the decision that she was ready to give the performance of her life, and fulfill her dream of singing at Carnegie Hall.  To prepare for this ultimate test, a pianist was hired to accompany Ms. Jenkins, one Cosme McMoon (Simon Helberg).  On October 24, 1944, Florence Foster Jenkins stepped out on the stage of Carnegie Hall, and fulfilled that dream

This is a wonderful story of true life individuals who capture our imagination.   They are flawed and fallible people, like all of us, and we find ourselves rooting for them to succeed.   The acting is certainly top drawer; Meryl Streep is virtually a lock to get her 20th Oscar nomination for this part.  And who knows, Hugh Grant may have found the elusive role to secure his first Oscar bid.  This is a fun movie that makes you laugh, then tugs at your heart strings.  One of the best films of 2016.

Dialogue Nuggets:  Florence – “With our brave boys fighting, music matters more than ever.”

Florence – “It is true a lot of singers my age are in decline, but I seem to get better and better.”

Cosme to Bayfield – “I think Ms. Jenkins may need a little more preparation before we give a concert.  She’s a little…flat.”  Bayfield (Incredulous) – “Flat?”

Florence – “I played for the president when I was 8 years old.  I had high hopes of becoming a concert pianist.” 

Bayfield – “I was a good actor, but I was never going to be a great actor.”

NY Post Critic – “Music is important, and should not be mocked!”

Bayfield to Cosme – “You’re going to play at Carnegie Hall.  How many people can say that?”  Cosme – “Oh boy, we’re going to die out there!”

Florence to Bayfield – “I’m afraid.”  Bayfield – “Don’t be.  They love you.”

Best Scene:  Watch for Hugh Grant to cut loose and dance to a rousing version of “Sing, Sing, Sing.”

In Case You Wonder:  Yes, that is Meryl Streep doing all her singing.  It takes a very good singer to pretend to sing that badly.  As for Simon Helberg of Big Bang Theory fame, he really is playing that piano.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot:   WTF was going on in that party scene where they had a bath tub full of potato salad?  Were potatoes considered a treat during war time rationing?  The mind boggles….

Ricki And The Flash (100th Movie Review!)

Movie:  Ricki And The Flash

Rating:  3 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:  Linda Rendazzo (Meryl Streep) doesn’t like to go by her given name.  She goes by Ricki, because in her heart she’s a rock and roll singer, and in fact she’s the lead singer for a local Los Angeles bar band Ricki and the Flash.  She has given her all to follow her dream of becoming a rock star, and recorded one album early in her career called Silk Nights.  But chasing that dream had a high cost.  She basically abandoned her husband Pete (Kevin Kline), as well as her daughter Julie (Mamie Gummer) and two sons, Adam and Josh.  Her family is back in Indianapolis living their lives, and Pete long ago got remarried to Maureen (Audra McDonald), and Ricki is grubbing out a life working by day as a grocery clerk, and at night rocking with her band and her boyfriend, bandmate Greg (Rick Springfield) at the Salt Well bar.

Ricki’s routine gets interrupted one day by an urgent phone call from the ex-hubby.  It seems daughter Julie’s world has come crashing down when her d-bag husband decided to dump her for a newer model.  So Ricki heeds the call for help, and trucks back to Indianapolis to save the day.  But life isn’t usually easy, or forgiving.   The only one that really seems happy to see Ricki is the family dog.  But for better or worse, Ricki is there to do her best for her family.

This is a tough sell for a film in the summer season.  It is a relationship movie, with a storyline dealing with a failed marriage, adult children full of resentment, and a middle aged woman dealing with a fading dream of becoming a rock star.  There are a few light moments that will let you laugh, and many more poignant scenes that are true to life where we look back and remember our failures and regrets in life.  And there are some uplifting moments where characters discover family ties can be surprisingly strong, no matter how long they have been dormant.  There is certainly chemistry between Meryl Streep and real life daughter Mamie Gummer.  Rick Springfield does a credible acting job as Meryl’s love interest, as well as bringing some street cred to the band.  Pretty decent sound track to boot.

Dialogue Nuggets:   Julie to Ricki – “Couldn’t make it for the wedding, but you’re right on time for the divorce.”

Ricki – “It’s hard to find a good cruller in California.”

Pete to Ricki – “Historically, you don’t give a damn.”

Julie to parents – “Hey, you guys are fighting like the 80s all over again.”

Adam – “Oh my God, she’s parenting!  Someone get a camera.”

Ricki to son – “I thought you were bi-sexual.”  Adam – “That was my cover story in college ten years ago.”

Bar Guy – “Even I need my Mommy sometimes, and she’s literally Satan!”

Sound Track:  Definitely some rocking songs in this movie.  But seriously, Paint It Black being performed by The Feelies?  The producers couldn’t spring for a few more bucks to get the Rolling Stones version?

 

 

 

Into The Woods

 

Movie:  Into The Woods

Rating:  3 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:   Movies adapted from Broadway plays are always a risky endeavor, especially musicals.  This one succeeds, for the most part, on its star power and whimsical tongue-in-cheek handling of the story lines.  Basically, there are four classic fairy tales interwoven throughout the movie.  There is Cinderella, played by Anna Kendrick.  Her handsome prince, played by the studly Chris Pine.  There is the Jack and the Beanstalk tale with Daniel Huttlestone as the clueless Jack.  There is beautiful Mackenzie Mauzy as Rapunzel with the long golden hair, pursued by Billy Magnussen as the other charming prince.  And lastly, Little Red Riding Hood, played by young Lilla Crawford, who leads the Big Bad Wolf (Johnny Depp) on a merry chase through the woods to Grandmother’s house.  The straw that stirs the drink, so to speak, is Meryl Streep as the witch who engages with all the characters.

The witch used to be a beautiful woman who was hoodwinked by the father of the town’s baker (James Corden), and cursed to be ugly.  The witch can regain her beauty if the baker and his wife (Emily Blunt) can accrue four items by midnight of the third day.  And of course during these three days, the fancy ball is taking place, and beanstalks are sprouting into the sky, and all characters  keep bumping into each other as they all have their various schemes and desires to pursue.  There is not a lot of straight dialogue in this movie, as with Broadway musicals, most of the dialogue gets sung.  The songs are better than average, as they come from the talented Stephen Sondheim.  Is this a great movie?  No, but it is harmless fun, and not a bad way to spend two hours.

Actress To Watch:  Lilla Crawford caught my attention as a young actress (14 years old) who may do big things in the future.  This is her first movie; previously she played Annie on Broadway.

Best Scene:  For the ladies, the two hunky princes, Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen, bare their souls (as well as their chests) in a hilarious duet about the perils of love.