Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Post and Short Takes on I, Tonya

Remembering The Good Old Days When Justice Actually Prevailed (sometimes ... maybe ...)

                                                        Reviews by Ken Burke

                                 The Post (Steven Spielberg)

“Executive Summary” (no spoilers): Everything you see in this film is based on historical records (although fictionalization certainly enters the picture with private conversations among the various characters) so it’s a bit difficult to determine what a spoiler might be here (but I’ll try to stay aware of possibilities).  This story’s about the leaking by Daniel Ellsberg of the massive Pentagon Papers internal study of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, especially our reported battlefield successes, from the Truman through the Johnson administrations, with the bottom line being years of lies about progress and possibilities despite no hope existing for either one.  When the pilfered Papers begin to be printed in The New York Times in early summer 1971 the Nixon team gets an immediate injunction to prevent further publication, leading The Washington Post, under Executive Editor Ben Bradlee, to locate Ellsberg, then prepare their own Papers publication, much to the discomfort of owner Katharine Graham who’s caught between her support for freedom of the press vs. the financial reality of her struggling newspaper possibly being in severe legal/financial/ethical trouble if she’s guilty of defying the courts.  I won’t say anything further about the plot here, if you don’t already know the outcome, but I will highly recommend The Post, marvelously written and produced when it’s highly relevant in this atmosphere of contempt for the press by our current President (a lapel button a friend recently gave me: “I Never Thought I’d Miss Nixon”) with excellent direction by Steven Spielberg, Oscar-nomination-worthy-acting from Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks.

Here’s the trailer:  (Use the full screen button in the image’s lower right to enlarge it; activate that same button on the full screen’s lower right or your “esc” keyboard key to return to normal size.)

If you can abide plot spoilers read on, but as this blog’s intended for those who’ve seen the film—or want to save some bucks—to help any of you who’d like to learn more details yet avoid important plot-reveals I’ll identify such give-away sentences/sentence-clusters thusly: 
⇒The first and last words will be noted with arrows and red.⇐ OK, now continue on if you prefer.

What Happens: In 1966 we see State Dept. military analyst Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys) embedded with U.S. troops in the Vietnam War, gauging the progress of American involvement in that bitter, bloody conflict, followed by a quick cut (lots of them in this high-energy-structure, the pace propelled by much scene-shifting among various locations and characters) to an airplane ride where Ellsberg’s analysis leads Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood) to admit to President Lyndon Johnson the war’s unwinnable, although Ellsberg’s later angered by McNamara’s public statements saying just the opposite.  Next is a quick summary of a lengthy (47 volumes, 7,000 pages) report commissioned by McNamara—later known as the Pentagon Papers—about the secret activities overseen by Presidents Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, and Johnson regarding U.S. involvement in the affairs of/combat in Vietnam, all counter to the misleading statements about why American support was used to aid the South Vietnamese government, even with the escalating number of our soldiers’ deaths (main real reason: to avoid admitting the humiliation of our defeat).  By 1971 Ellsberg’s working at the Rand Corporation where he secretly copies this massive document, then leaks it to Neil Sheehan (Justin Swain) at The New York Times where some initial publication (June 13, 1971) draws a rapid response from President Richard Nixon (always shown through a window into the Oval Office with his back to us, played by Curzon Dobell with voiceover of Nixon.  [From his infamous tapes?  I don’t know.]), demanding his minions prevent further publication so a court-ordered-injunction’s quickly put in place on June 14.

 In response to all this, along with an initial public offering to take The Washington Post out of family control by Katharine (Kay) Graham (Meryl Streep)a move to increase the presence (as well as financial support) of the paper (somewhat in dire straits because she insists on paying top salaries, assuming excellent journalism leads to increased readership—but not yet)Executive Editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) is hot to scoop the rival … Times by publishing this very scandalous material.

 However, not only is Graham (supported by … Post board chair Fritz Beebe [Tracy Letts]), opposed to Bradlee’s crusade—assuming the injunction against the … Times applies to the … Post as well, plus the grave financial concern on the part of her legal team that such a controversial, if not outright illegal, move would jeopardize the IPO (the banks have an option of withdrawing funding for various reasons, including extreme controversy)—Bradlee also faces the formidable obstacle of not having access to the Ellsberg material (Graham’s also concerned about his personal motives concerning continuance of the war, given he pulled some journalistic punches to protect President/close friend JFK).  However, part of the problem’s solved when Bradlee reporter Ben Bagdikian (Ben Odenkirk)—I’ve never met him but am aware of his influential book, The Media Monopoly (1983), and how his role as teacher in (1976-1990)/Dean of (1985-1988) the U.C. Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism was influential on journalist colleagues of mine—finally manages to track down Ellsberg in hiding, receives his own batch of 4,000 of the Pentagon pages, then heads back to D.C. to argue for their publication, injunction or not.  ⇒Despite heated arguments from her lawyers not to move ahead with his dangerous enterprise, Graham finally makes an 11th-hour-decision (more like 11:59:59) for the presses to roll with the story on June 18, 1971, followed, of course, by Attorney General William Rehnquist asking first for the … Post to desist, then (with request ignored) going to a U.S. District Court for another injunction, but this time it's denied so upon an immediate appeal the Supreme Court agrees to convene on June 26, 1971 to resolve the combined … Times… Post cases with their June 30, 1971 decision publication may resume.⇐

 ⇒As this story winds down, we see Graham and Bradlee, relieved all’s been resolved in their favor as well as confident they won’t have to deal with a crisis like the Pentagon Papers-free press vs. government-executive-privlige clash again, only for The Post to end on a night scene (June 17, 1972) at the Watergate complex where a security guard calls in the police because he’s discovered a break-in at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee (consult the multi-award-winning All the President’s Men [Alan J. Pakula, 1976] if you wish to continue this even-more-multi-award-winning-newspaper’s crusade against government obstructionism, the later with the focus completely on Nixon’s crew).⇐  Given The Post ends on a clever note as is, there’s also no follow-up on how Ellsberg was charged with theft and conspiracy under the 1917 Espionage Act but due to various governmental misconduct (including illegal wiretapping) all charges were dismissed on May 11, 1973.  While these “based on fact” stories were quite popular as part of Hollywood’s 2017 contributions to world cinema (as evidenced by 4 of the 7 last-year-leftovers I’ve reviewed in 2018 fitting this description), for me The Post is clearly the best of the bunch, a moviehouse visit well worth your time and money for its high production values, impactful acting, ability to build/maintain tension even though the story’s outcome is easily researched (even if you’re not a septuagenarian like me who already remembers it well).  Another item this triumphant film carefully avoids, though, is that even with the Pentagon Papers' revelations (which also appeared in many other newspapers around the U.S. in support of the … Times/… Post bravery) there still wasn’t enough public outcry nor Congressional action to end U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War until the Paris Peace Accords were signed, also in 1973 (January 27), but that simply led to imposed unification under the government of North Vietnam in 1975 instead of Nixon’s hollow boast about "peace with honor."

So What? I’m not faulting The Post for avoiding these other Pentagon Papers follow-ups (because what’s presented is extremely effective as produced and delivered), but it’s still a bit of a shame such a triumphant victory for America’s free-press-heritage wasn’t enough to bring about the abandonment of that atrocious war any sooner than actually happened, allowing even more carnage of dead Americans and South Vietnamese in jungle warfare as well as scores of North Vietnamese slaughtered by tons of bombs dropped on Hanoi and Haiphong in December 1972.  Admittedly, there was wholesale slaughter of many South Vietnamese as well after their 1975 defeat by the North, but that was likely inevitable from decades before, no matter what any Western forces might have desired, at least the way I see it.  I have nothing but sympathy for anyone who died there after so many years of vicious fighting, but as depicted in Apocalypse Now Redux (Francis Ford Coppola, 2001 [an extended version of his 1979 original]) the ongoing warfare ever since Ho Chi Minh began guerrilla actions against the French in 1946 just spiraled into never-ending chaos, truly "the horror, the horror," (although that specific utterance is in a later scene where Willard kills Kurtz [warning: this clip's quite violent]) despite everything Ellsberg, Sheehan, Bagdikian, Bradlee, Graham, and others tried to do to prevent it from further metastasizing.  At least in the process the unassailable rights of the press in the U.S. were asserted, with hopes it can continue to withstand the assault it currently faces from the Trump perpetrators of “alternative facts,” just as I’m sure The Post will withstand whatever other cinematic contenders that might come my way as I try to compile my Top 10 of 2017 in the near future after I’ve viewed a couple more strong possibilities.

 Spielberg admits he gathered a group of seasoned filmmakers and actors to work with him on the quick accomplishment of getting The Post on screen before 2017 was gone (see the interview with principals of this film’s team as the 2nd entry for The Post in the Related Links section much farther below)—with pre-production beginning in early 2017, shooting in late May, even though the debut was scheduled for roughly the end of last year (it’s almost unheard of for a major motion picture to go through such a fast gestation period, especially becoming as effective as this one is, but it helped that Liz Hannah’s script had been completed in 2016)—simply because he was so dismayed at the constant atrocities of the Trump administration (at least for those, like me, who see these actions in such a light; if not, read on anyway, if you will).  This story had everything the director needed for his response (as well as being an easy-appeal for audiences [again, such as me] ready to embrace a story about the need for truth to be revealed by dedicated journalists and clear-thinking government leaders [in that case, 6 of the 9 Supreme Court justices]) to our current administration attempting to steamroll those determined to value public information over political expediency, even where some beloved former Presidents were concerned.  (Ironically, the Pentagon Papers were about leadership lies concerning the circumstances in [South] Vietnam from 1945-1968, so Nixon wasn’t even included in this lengthy analysis, despite his vehement attempts to suppress publication of the report, yet you can understand his rigid stance not only in light of how he’d later try to cover up his own—equally illegal—actions during the Watergate scandal but also because of his continuance of the sham-battlefield-policies of his predecessors [his “secret plan” to end the war, proffered during the 1968 Presidential campaign, never seemed to come forth, except for that negotiated “peace settlement”—after the death toll of American soldiers got too high for even the “Silent Majority” to bear—that eventually doomed the continuance of South Vietnam, as American public support for the endless, wasteful war completely eroded after Nixon’s resignation].)

 Given all the confused misdirection (“fake news” if there ever was such a thing) created by the Trumpsters (with clear parallels to those official statements that for so long misled the public about the Vietnam War, McNamara a chief architect of that deception from 1961 to 1968, although he finally admits at least some of this in the Oscar-winning documentary The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara [Errol Morris, 2003]), you can easily see why Spielberg wanted to use an acclaimed history lesson about opposition by the press to Presidential malfeasance (without attempting to remake All the President’s Men, with its Oscars for Adapted Screenplay, Art Direction, Sound, Supporting Actor [Jason Robards]) to take issue with Trump’s disregard for truth, global standing of the United States, environmental safety, and just about anything else he comes in contact with.  The Post answers that need quite well by pitting crusading journalists (Bradlee, Bagdikian) against lawyers concerned for propriety under the Constitution and nervous stockholders not willing to put principle over profit.  When you add to this stirring-drama by also focusing on the strengthened-spine-emergence of publisher Graham, which plays into current concerns about the indignities and inequalities* foisted for so long upon females of any age in our (and all) societies until women’s recent, vocal rejection of such disgraceful behavior by powerful men in all segments of our nation (not just in politics, entertainment, business, etc. but also in the less-reported-but-consistently-found households [planet-wide] where verbal, physical, emotional abuse constantly keeps females of all ages in a stage of siege).  Some might be irritated Graham’s portrayed for so much of the film as timid, unsure, allowing herself to be silenced in board meetings even though she’d been publisher of the The Washington Post since her husband's suicide in 1963, but she admits when her father, Eugene Meyer, turned leadership of the paper over to Philip in 1946 it presented no problem: “Far from troubling me that my father thought of my husband and not me, it pleased me.  In fact, it never crossed my mind that he might have viewed me as someone to take on an important job at the paper” (a citation taken from her autobiography, Personal History [1997]).

*As just one example of such absurdities, see this story about vastly unequal pay for Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams for their hastily-arranged All the Money in the World (Ridley Scott, 2017; review in our January 11, 2018 posting) reshoots, with after-the-fact-restitution by Wahlberg.

 Streep does a marvelous job of portraying this inbred-hesitation on Graham’s part (just as she showed how difficult Margaret Thatcher’s struggles were [even though I have little sympathy for Thatcher's policies] within another male-dominated-political-culture in The Iron Lady [Phyllida Lloyd, 2011; review in our February 5, 2012 posting]) with her slowly coming to the decision, despite consistent advice from her lawyers—as well as long-time-good-friend McNamara—that publishing the Pentagon Papers in defiance of the restraining order on the … Times (thereby risking legal proceedings against the … Post, the financial failure of the publication and its affiliated enterprises of TV stations and Newsweek, as well as possible jail time for herself) was the right decision, necessary in a society where (according to the June 30, 1971 statement by Justice Hugo Black) upholding the right of the press to publish information vital to the public is a fundamental obligation.  According to Black: […] every moment’s continuance of the injunctions against these newspapers amounts to a flagrant, indefensible, and continuing violation of the First Amendment. […] the Executive Branch seems to have forgotten the essential purpose and history of the First Amendment. [… supporting] the view that the press must be left free to publish news, whatever the source, without censorship, injunctions, or prior restraints. […] The press was to serve the governed, not the governors.”   (Sadly, this strong voice on the court would be silenced just a few months later with Black’s death.)  Hanks’ Bradlee makes it clear he shares those views as well, in a performance worthy of Oscar consideration (as is Streep’s although I’ll tentatively predict both will have a hard time adding to their previous trophies given the momentum building collectively toward actors Frances McDormand for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri [Martin McDonagh, 2017; review in our December 7, 2017 posting] and Gary Oldman for Darkest Hour [Joe Wright, 2017; review in our December 14, 2017 posting]), but I must admit it’s still hard to focus on Hanks as Ben Bradlee having re-watched All the President’s Men recently, making Robard’s characterization of the chief editor of the Post all the more-indelibly-etched on my awareness of that performance, with Hanks—much as I admire him—not quite the equal of Streep in this crisis of Constitutional values.

Bottom Line Final Comments: As you might expect, a film with the attractive-combination of the prestigious accomplishments of Spielberg (along with Streep and Hanks) plus the timely topic of mainstream media taking on an antagonistic President over revelations of government-kept-secrets from the public has gotten a lot of supportive response: Rotten Tomatoes reviews are 88% positive with the usually-lower-numbers at Metacritic at an 83% average (more details on both in Related Links); audience response is building with about $27.9 million at the domestic (U.S.-Canada) box-office (needs a lot more to offset the $50 million production budget plus costs at least that much for marketing and distribution, but despite being in release for a month rollout’s been extremely slow with theater count now up to 2,819 from a mere 36 just a week ago); the Golden Globe journalists were delighted with this film, giving it 6 nominations (Best Motion Picture-Drama, Best Director, Best Actress-Drama [Streep], Best Actor-Drama [Hanks], Best Screenplay [Hannah, Josh Singer], Best Original Score [John Williams], although it didn’t win in any of those categories [see those Links down below for the GG results]plus Streep’s nom for Best Actress from the Screen Actors Guild (winners to be cablecast on TNT/TBS Sunday, January 21, 2018) and wins for Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Film from the National Board of Review (along with dozens of other nominations), maybe Oscar possibilities in various categories to be announced on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018.  Whether the seriousness of this film will be able to keep competing with more escapist-entertainment will just have to be seen (The Post was #2 last weekend, but Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle [Jake Kasdan, 2017] has already hit a worldwide level of $674.5 million after its similar month in release [$291.5 of that domestically] while Star Wars: The Last Jedi [Rian Johnson, 2017; review in our December 22, 2017 posting] is up to $1,269 billion total [$596 million domestically], making it #6 on the All-Time Domestic list, #10 of All-Time Worldwide toppers), but if “shithole” comments (and likewise policies) keep manifesting from Washington, D.C. I’ll have to hope our citizenry is interested in embracing this dynamic, fact-based, response of truth to power.

 As usual, I’ll round off this review with my next choice of a Musical Metaphor that approaches what’s just been discussed from one last perspective but with the use of my beloved aural arts.  After lengthy consideration, for an appropriate companion to The Post I decided to use “Long Time Gone” (from the 1969 Crosby, Stills & Nash album), not only for its proximity to the time setting of this film but also for the relevance in the lyrics about “You know there’s something that’s goin’ on around here That surely, surely, surely won’t stand the light of day” (even though David Crosby wrote this song in the wake of the 1968 assassination of then-Presidential-candidate Robert Kennedy, but it all ties into the Vietnam War as RFK—along with Eugene McCarthy—was taking a stand against his own Democratic Party’s involvement in that conflict, although what part he may have played in the horrid suppression of the truth about un-winability for the U.S. during JFK’s administration isn’t clear to me, as I’ve never read details of the Pentagon Papers).  This song’s also relevant in its plea for everyone to “speak out against the madness You got to speak your mind if you dare But don’t, no don’t, no, try 
to get yourself elected If you do you had better cut your hair,” which conjures up an apt metaphor to me for the established authority of the NY Times, the Washington Post, and many other publications that followed their bold lead in revealing the awful lies the American public had been led to believe about that pitiful, deadly quagmire of superpower-by-proxy-conflict, how an intended impact by these time-honored-sources on the American public when divulging the truth was so powerfully effective, even beyond what the millions of us long-haired-“freaks” accomplished in our various protest marches during that era.  For further connotative implications for this Metaphor, I’ll use this video at* which joins the original recording with footage from the famous (Oscar, Best Documentary Feature) Woodstock (Michael Wadleigh, 1970) film about such counterculture revelry.

*Just to follow through with C,S & N (plus Neil Young), you might also be interested in seeing how they performed "Long Time Gone" at Woodstock (not included in the documentary nor is Young acknowledged because he didn’t want to be filmed [however, he’s credited with being part of their performance on the 1970 Woodstock: Music from the Original Soundtrack and More 3-LP album]).

 This linked-section of the Woodstock doc noted just above (showing the preparation of building an enormous concert venue in a pasture) was intended to juxtapose the anguish of those counter-culturalists over the Vietnam War, the 1960s political killings, the general rift from Nixon’s “Silent Majority” to the celebratory creation of this massive festival that would become the famed celebration of 3 days of peace and music.  Essentially, these images show the calm before the “anti-storm” storm of the festival—referring to both the rain that turned some of that weekend into a mud bath and the awareness of this event as a “thunderclap statement” against everything the Pentagon Papers would come to represent as the corruption of big government, the loss of faith in institutional leaders, the cultural divide continuing to widen some 50 years later as many of us who hoped for a new direction for our society back then reel now from the daily horrors of the Trump administration, still acknowledging “The darkest hour Is always, always just before the dawn [… but it] Appears to be a long time Such a long, long, long, long time before the [long-hoped-for] dawn,” even as we’re given periodic reminders such as The Post that even entrenched malice and idiocy (especially from “shithole” politicians) will be challenged as long as we do “speak out against the madness,” along with supporting others who do as well, especially the brave bearers of “true news” in our free press along with those who continue to remind us of the crucial value of that aspect of our society such as what’s been accomplished here by Spielberg and company in this current film.
SHORT TAKES (spoilers also appear here)
                                  I, Tonya (Craig Gillespie)
Based in fact (as so many films are now) but with a witty take on the truth, this is a biography of Tonya Harding from childhood to present day with the emphasis on her at-time-spectacular/at-other-times-scandal-ridden skating career, focused largely on how she went from being a respected champion to condemnation for her part (?) in the attack on Nancy Kerrigan.

Here’s the trailer:

However, please be aware this is a Red Band trailer with the R-rated language intact; if you’d prefer to observe the same preview material in a bit-less-explicitly-rough-manner here’s an option for you:

       Before reading any further, I’ll ask you to refer to the plot spoilers warning far above.

 (This time I truly had to confine myself to an abbreviated-length of my Short Takes intentions because the logistics of seeing this movie have me up against my own self-imposed-deadline to get this whole thing posted.)  We’re once again in the realm of “Based on Real Events” in the story of the figure-skating-rivalry between Tonya Harding (Margo Robbie [Maizie Smith, Mckenna Grace for the younger scenes]) and Nancy Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver), resulting in the 1994 attack on U.S. Olympic-team-member Kerrigan plotted by Harding’s ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan), with Harding's ongoing denial she helped plan the knee-bashing that almost eliminated Kerrigan from the competition.  I noted this scandal at the time, although it had none of the staying power of the Pentagon Papers-Constitutional-conflict.  However, given the Reality-TV nature of the Harding event, with a supposed-antagonist straight out of the Fargo (Joel Coen, 1996) woodwork—an attitude played to useful effect in I, Tonya’s satirical-mockumentary-style—there’s no surprise it’s capturing some attention: 89% positive RT reviews, a more-usual (still supportive)-lower-average-score of 77% at MC, along with awards considerations (Golden Globe noms for Best Motion Picture-Musical or Comedy, lost to Lady Bird [Greta Gerwig, 2017; review in our November 23, 2017 posting] and Robbie as Best Motion Picture Actress-Musical or Comedy, lost to Saoise Ronan [Lady Bird], along with a win for Allison Janney [playing Tonya’s horrid mother, LaVona Golden] as Best Supporting Actress [my Oscar frontrunner], plus many other awards or nominations [including SAG nods for Robbie and Janney respectively for Female Actor in a Leading/Supporting Role]; Writers Guild of America nom for Original Screenplay [Steven Rogers], even a Best Actress win [Robbie] from my local San Francisco Film Critics Circle), although the domestic box-office is weak for 6 weeks in release ($10.9 million), due to a very slow rollout with the movie now in just 517 theaters so an uptick may still be on the way (except for Nancy Kerrigan, who’s expressed no interest in I, Tonya [or, probably Ms. Harding—now Price—either]).  I highly recommend it as one of 2017’s best.

 You can get plenty of Harding’s bio from the 1st link just above (and other sites), but, in brief, redneck “Trashy Tonya” of Portland, OR had excellent skating skills but lacked what judges also look for in presentation (appearance, costumes, makeup, attitude) compared to the more-usual-porcelain-doll-types common to this sport, while Tonya’s grown up under the shadow of a verbally-abusive mother (although when LaVona throws a knife into her daughter’s arm Tonya finally moves out), then finds herself in a physically-abusive-marriage to Jeff so, despite her 1991 U.S. Championship (in which she became the 1st American woman to hit the extremely-difficult triple axel), when her skates aren’t properly fitted for the 1992 Winter Olympics she stumbles a bit, comes in 4th, then it’s back to what she assumes is deadend-waitressing until coach Diane Rawlinson (Julianne Nicholson) encourages her to train again for the (surprisingly-scheduled) 1994 Winter games in Norway; however, Jeff gets an idea to send threatening letters to chief rival Kerrigan as a mental distraction but his deluded friend (Tonya’s bodyguard) Shawn Eckhardt (Paul Walter Hauser) hires thugs Derrick Smith (Anthony Reynolds) and Shane Slant (Ricky Russert)—the actual assailant—to attack Kerrigan’s kneecap at a practice session in Detroit.  ⇒Although Harding got lots of negative press, assuming her participation in this plot, both she and Kerrigan skated in those Olympics where Nancy won silver (she’s shown pouting about not getting gold) but Tonya (who had infamous-shoelace-trouble during her final routine) came in 8th.  Prior to the competition, the FBI rounded up all involved in the assault, with the guys getting jail time yet Harding (turned against by Gillooly) received lighter penalties that included forced resignation from the U.S. Figure Skating Association, tearfully ending her career on ice (even with a plea to the judge to jail her rather than give up the sport she’d devoted her life to [23 at the time], the only thing she really cared about).⇐

 With intercutting frequently among the main characters, some use of direct address to us, frequent humor despite the misery characterizing Harding’s life, superb skating scenes (many of which actually done by Robbie* after intense training), and constant energy from a pop-tunes-soundtrack, I, Tonya’s a lot of fun to watch with no attempt to resolve the conflicting testimonies about what really happened, who did what to whom, nor whether we’re being led toward sympathy for the devil or if she’s really as innocent as she claims to be although it’s clear that at least at one point in her life she could truly claim to be the best female skater in the world no matter how out of place she was in those more-sophisticated-surroundings.  For a Musical Metaphor, I’ll take 2 songs directly from the soundtrack to illustrate the conflicting points of view we’re presented with in this intriguing film: the Bee Gee’s “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” (from their 1971 Trafalgar album) at in honor of Tonya’s perspective of being the ongoing-victim of all that’s whirled around her (including Mom coming to offer comfort in a time of media frenzy, only for her daughter to discover a cassette tape recorder with which LaVona hoped to sneak away with a valuable confession about Tonya’s involvement in “The Incident”) so the lyrics “How can you mend this broken [woman]? How can a loser ever win? Please help me mend my broken heart and let me live again” seem to be Tonya’s underlying plea throughout her on-screen-pseudo-documentary-testimony to us.  However, Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” (from their 1977 Rumours album) found at (including Japanese subtitles) with its condemnation-stance ofRunning in the shadows, damn your love, damn your lies Break the silence, damn the dark, damn the light” would seem to be the chant from practically all of the other characters (especially Kerrigan) responding to Tonya’s claim of innocence (except for not coming forward with her awareness of Jeff’s involvement in the assault, even if she only found out after the fact), a rejection of her attempt to reinvent herself after so many years of public shame.

*Watch this 2:16 video narrated by director Gillespie about how the skating imagery was shot.

 As I leave you I’ll note I’m still celebrating the ongoing rise in readership for Film Reviews from Two Guys in the Dark with today’s report from Google about last month’s level now at 68,753, although I’ve been checking on a daily basis recently (just to curiously-monitor this sudden rise in worldwide-connections, especially France) when I found on January 14, 2018 the past-monthly-total was at yet-another-all-time-high of 69,503 so I'll continue to thank all of you for your interest and support.
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*A Google software glitch causes every Two Guys posting prior to August 26, 2016 to have an inaccurate (dead) link to this Summary page; from then forward, though, this link is accurate.

AND … at least until the Oscars for 2017’s releases have been awarded on Sunday, March 4, 2018 we’re also going to include reminders in each posting of very informative links where you can get updated tallies of which 2017 films have been nominated for and/or received various awards and which ones made various individual critic’s Top 10 lists.  You may find the diversity among the various awards competitions and the various critics hard to reconcile at times—not to mention the often-significant-gap between critics’ choices and competitive-award-winners (which pales when compared to the even-more-noticeable-gap between specific award winners and big box-office-grosses you might want to monitor here)—but as that less-than-enthusiastic-patron-of-the-arts, Plato, noted in The Symposium (385-380 BC)—roughly translated, depending on how accurate you wish the actual quote to be—“Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder,” so your choices for success are as valid as any of these others, especially if you offer some rationale for your decisions (unlike many of the awards voters who simply fill out ballots, sometimes for films they’ve never seen).

To save you a little time scrolling through the “various awards” list above, here are the Golden Globe nominees and winners for films and TV from 2017.

Here’s more information about The Post: (32:33 press conference with director Steven Spielberg, actors Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, screenwriters Liz Hannah and Josh Singer, cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, production designer Rick Carter)

Here’s more information about I, Tonya: (5:37 exploration of 5 facts you should know about the 1994 scandal regarding Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan) and (7:17 footage of some of Harding’s performance at the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympic Games)

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If you’d rather contact Ken directly rather than leaving a comment here please use my new email at  (But if you truly have too much time on your hands you might want to explore some even-longer-and-more-obtuse-than-my-film-reviews—if that even seems possible—academic articles about various cinematic topics at my website,, which could really give you something to talk to me about.)

By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California  knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile. Ken

P.S.  Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.  But wherever the rest of my body may be my heart’s always with my longtime-companion, lover, and wife, Nina Kindblad, so here’s our favorite shared song—Neil Young’s "Harvest Moon"
—from the performance we saw at the Desert Trip concerts in Indio, CA on October 15, 2016 (as a full moon was rising over the stadium) because “I’m still in love with you,” my dearest, a never-changing-reality even as the moon waxes and wanes over the months/years to come.


Finally, for the data-oriented among you, Google stats say over the past month (which they seem to measure from right now back 30 days) the total unique hits at this site were 68,753; below is a snapshot of where and by what means those responses have come from within the previous week (again with 5 of my hoped-for-6-continents represented, but still no Africa yet, darn it):


  1. I really enjoy "The post" movie. I watch full movie with my friends last week in cinema. Whole story of the movie is based on Katharine Graham's life. All of my friend and me not a big fan of biographical movie but we all enjoy story of movie.

    1. Hi Deepak, Thanks for your comment, glad you liked The Post. Ken