'The Post' explores role of the press


By Shirrel Rhoades
At the Movies

Saturday, December 23, 2017

I’ve noticed that CNN refers to The Washington Post as WaPo, a useful shorthand for those bottom-of-the-screen crawls. But back when I was a young newspapermen we respectfully referred to it as The Post.

The New York Times was The Times. The Miami Herald was The Herald. And I worked for The Times-Union, as we called The Florida Times-Union.

There was a pride in being a journalist. We understood our role in reporting the facts and keeping government accountable.

The Fourth Estate is a term sometimes used for the press, signifying its influence on society -- even though it’s not a part of the political system.

Freedom of the Press is a right established through Constitutional and other legal protections, assuring “the absence of interference from an overreaching state.”

This role of the press was never better exemplified than in 1972-1974 during what we’ve come to call the Watergate Era. It was the fearless reporting of The Washington Post that exposed the scandal that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

Another momentous event was the publication of the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret study prepared by the Department of Defense that was released to The Post and The Times by Daniel Ellsberg. For his actions, Ellsberg was charged under the Espionage Act (but the charges were later dismissed after prosecutors investigating Watergate discovered that the White House had engaged in unlawful efforts to discredit Ellsberg).

You can see how the decision to publish The Pentagon Papers was a difficult one for a newspaper like The Post.

A sidelight of that story is that The Washington Post was helmed by Katherine Graham, the first woman publisher of a major newspaper. She, along with her editor Ben Bradlee, wrestled with idea of joining an unprecedented battle between journalist and government.

That in fact is the plot of “The Post,” a new movie from Steven Spielberg.

Meryl Streep takes on the role of Kay Graham, the woman who took control of the family’s newspaper after her husband’s death.

Tom Hanks comfortably fits the shoes of Ben Bradlee, the executive editor who challenged the government over the right to publish the Pentagon Papers.

And Matthew Rhys is cast as Daniel Ellsberg, the rogue analyst who turned the documents over to the newspapers.

“I read the script without any intention of telling the story myself,” says Spielberg. “But I was really curious about the subject matter. Ben Bradlee was my neighbor for years in East Hampton ... When I finished reading Liz Hannah’s script, I thought this was an idea that felt more like 2017 than 1971 -- I could not believe the similarities between today and what happened with the Nixon administration against their avowed enemies The New York Times and The Washington Post. I realized this was the only year to make this film.”

And this is the year to see it.

New “Jumanji”

is family-friendly

In 1995 Robin Williams starred “Jumanji,” a fantastical movie about a magical board game that had trapped him inside it for decades.

Now nearly two-and-a-half decades later, Dwayne Johnson stars in a standalone sequel called “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.” 

In this one, four teens in detention hall discover an old game console that contains a video version of Jumanji, the game that sucks its players into another dimension.

The kids are:

Spencer Gilpin, a nerdy gamer (played by Alex Wolf).

Bethany Walker, the prettiest girl in school (played by Madison Iseman).

Anthony “Fridge” Johnson, a football jock (played by Ser’Darius Blain).

Martha Kaply, a shy bookworm (played by Morgan Turner).

The game requires them to choose an avatar, the likes of which they become inside the world of Jumanji.

Spencer becomes Dr. Smolder Bravestone, a muscular tough-guy explorer (played by Dwayne Johnson).

Bethany turns into Professor Sheldon “Shelly” Oberon, an overweight archaeologist (played by Jack Black).

Fridge is now Franklin “Moose” Finbar, a short zoologist and weapons specialist (played by Kevin Hart).

And Martha blossoms into Ruby Roundhouse , a beautiful athletic commando (played by Karen Gillan).

Yep. Pretty much the opposites of their real-life selves.

Finding themselves in a jungle (reference: the film’s subtitle) they set about trying to complete the game in order to return home. The goal is to return a legendary gemstone called the Jaguar’s Eye to a large cat statue and yell “Jumanji” -- a task easier said than done.

The quartet encounter stampeding hippos, are attacked by marauders on motorcycles, open a basket of snakes, get pushed off a cliff, face a rampaging herd of white rhinoceros, and take on jaguars guarding the statue.

Fortunately, this being a video game, the players have multiple lives to sacrifice in their quest.

Dwayne Johnson is at his best with that arched eyebrow and Rock-hard muscles. Jack Black is very funny. Kevin Hart is Kevin Hart. And Karen Gillan is perfect in her transformation.

“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” doesn’t pretend to be an Oscar contender, but instead contents itself to be a fun romp.

As Robin Williams said in the first movie, “I’ve seen things you’ve only seen in your nightmares,” but this jungle is safe enough for a family-friendly comedy adventure film that will entertain the kids (and maybe you too) for the holidays.

Top Ten movies

with elf varieties

Every Christmas we reflect on movies about Santa Claus, while ignoring those unsung minions who make the toys for him. Elves, we’re speaking about. No, not those ephemeral beings found in “The Lord of the Rings” or “Hobbit” films, but those cute rapscallions found at the North Pole.

So here is my list of the Top Ten Christmas movies about elves:

10. “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” (1970) -- Based on the popular song, this old chestnut features Santa and his elves.

9. “The Year Without a Santa Claus” (1974) -- Yes, we pick the original version with Shirley Booth and Mickey Rooney over the 2006 version. In this one, Mrs. Claus takes over the route with the help of the elves.

8. “Elves” (1989) -- A Christmas horror film, of all things. Here a young woman trapped in a department store must rely on the store’s Santa (Dan Haggerty) to save her from demonic elves.

7. “Fred Claus” (2007) -- Santa’s grouchy older brother (Vince Vaughn) is hired to help the elves make toys.

6. “Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer” (1964, 1998) -- You know the song about the reindeer who had a very shiny nose. These two versions help engender the Christmas spirit, complete with elves.

5. “Arthur Christmas” (2011) -- Santa’s son Arthur (voiced by James McAvoy) sets out to deliver a misplaced present to a young girl. In this animated telling, Santa has a high-tech distribution system hindden beneath the North Pole.

4. “The Polar Express” (2004) -- A young boy learns about the spirit of Christmas when he embarks on a magical trip to the North Pole aboard the Polar Express. Tom Hanks contributes half-a-dozen voices (from Santa to train conductor) to this animated fantasy.

3. “The Santa Clause” (1994) -- Tim Allen plays a man who accidentally kills Santa on Christmas Eve and must take his place. The first of three comedies in this series.

2. “Bad Santa” (2003) -- A con man (Billy Bob Thornton) and his dwarf sidekick (Tony Cox) pose as Santa and elf in order to rob a department store. First of two foul-mouthed but very funny Christmas movies.

1. “Elf” (2003) -- The funniest movie about elves ever. Will Ferrell is an oversized elf sent to America to discover his true identity.

You’ll find more elves in “Santa Claus: The Movie” (1985) and “The Happy Elf” (2005). And “A Christmas Story” -- perhaps my favorite Christmas movie -- has a cameo by a malevolent elf.