You might have ended a decade of MCU movies, but Detective Pikachu played to my 20-years of investment in the subjectively best video game series of all time.
My development as a person and writer was kick-started by Mom teaching me to read with the text in Pokémon Crystal. I’ve been waiting for this movie ever since.
So, the objective side of my cinephilia can critique a few key issues. But that doesn’t take away from Rob Letterman giving me the breathing Pokémon society — focusing on more than just prodigal, battling children — that I’ve always wanted.
Detective Pikachu follows accountant Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) as he confronts the death of his mother and resulting alienation of his father after the man goes missing in a utopian city designed for Pokémon to coincide with humans.
He does so with the help of a talking Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds — clearly channeling Deadpool while still grounded in this source material) and aspiring investigative reporter Lucy Stevens (Kathryn Newton).
To be blunt, Detective Pikachu is bloated with clichés.
It mimics film noir and buddy cop tropes, such as a boy who needs to learn to love again and his amnesiac animal partner. There are also multiple plot points throughout the movie’s two-hour run you’ve seen before:
The shady, experimenting corporation.
The blossoming love between main (human) characters.
The incidents with a substance that causes loss of control (ala Zootopia).
Besides a surprise twist in the third act, the overall situations are well-worn. Yet the actors keep them from feeling stale.
Reynolds made me love the overplayed series mascot I usually scoff at. He’s snarky, heartfelt and delivers some solid (seemingly improvised) jokes.
Reynolds and Smith sell the buddy cop bit, and I liked Smith and Newton’s chemistry as well — especially since their burgeoning romance ended without a dramatic kiss.
Smith carried the movie handily, surprisingly so given my lukewarm reception to Fallen Kingdom. I really enjoyed his character arc and relationship with Pikachu that shined during a heart-to-heart mid-way through the film.
That scene in particular also has a gorgeous shot where Smith’s stoic face during a sad story is betrayed by a tear that makes the neon city lights outline his cheek.
Detective Pikachu had surprisingly pretty cinematography in my opinion, outside of some shots that relied too heavily on shaky dissolves and off-center angles for my taste.
On top of that, I never once felt like the CGI Pokémon were out of place. They always seemed believably real in the living people’s arms.
Granted I might be predisposed to believing in real-life Pokémon because of my history and encyclopedic knowledge with the series. But my sister (who saw the movie with me) is less of a hardcore fan and didn’t report any concerns.
Ironically, I felt like the Pokémon CGI was masterful in-part because a lot of the practical effects were… Real bad? Most of the actors looked like they were slipping around on wires during action scenes.
But for me, that was barely a concern in light of the respect Detective Pikachu shows fans of the series in its overt and subtle references.
Alongside the anime’s theme song, most of the music throughout the film sounded like it could have come from the Sinnoh or Unova region games.
There are dozens of the 800+ Pokémon appearing as live models (both the recognizable Pikachu and less conventional Treeckos or Purrloins) and set-pieces (some favorites being the Latios and Latias stickers in Tom’s room, and a store named after Whismur).
Their appearances are true to established lore as well, with Charizard weakened as someone stomps on its tail flame and Slaking almost exclusively loafing around.
Mewtwo‘s powers are a less traditional example that sticks out, but even that strange treatment plays into an unexpected plot point that I enjoyed. Plus, they nailed the legendary Pokémon’s origin with an interesting new angle.
People who are not a fan of the games or anime may be somewhat lost. It immediately drops audiences in and lets most references quickly fly by. Yet enough is explained for the public to follow its plot, and the movie is funny regardless of pre-existing knowledge.
You might get more out of some jokes if you know Mr. Mime, for instance, but even if you don’t his scenes have some great slapstick with effective sound effects.
Frankly, I’m not sure what else I can say.
I’m obviously biased, but the movie is just as obviously tailored toward fans like me. From that perspective, I wholeheartedly recommend Detective Pikachu from my three-year-old heart and from the highly knowledgeable dork I am today.
But the movie also has enough family-friendly elements and appeal for non-super-fans. Some of the effects aren’t perfect, and the overall package leans on clichés, but the cast and world-building do more than enough to make up for it.
I had a blast seeing this movie with my sister. It’s a master class in video game adaptations — One that’s very much needed in the face of Sonic the Hedgehog and Angry Birds 2.
Go see it, so we can get more live action Pokémon movies. And cards to go with them:
So I just flew in from Fullerton, and boy are my arms tired!
Does that joke work over text?
I guess the more important question is whether that joke works considering I drove to-and-from Fullerton instead of flying, but nobody knows that.
And if I have my way, they never will.
Anyway, today was the first day of the spring 2019 semester for me. If it’s not already obvious, the whole affair has me a bit exhausted and delirious.
That being said I can’t complain about the contents of my day as much as the fact that it was required in the first place. I enjoyed my first two classes and found out that my class tomorrow was canceled, meaning I get an extra day off.
But I want to save a week-in-review post for the end — Thursday or Friday.
Thus today I’m going to go in a completely different direction and talk about something I discovered which helped keep me sane during the return to form.
While listening to the recent Split episode of Nando V. Movies‘ podcast, “Mostly Nitpicking” (which sounds like a paid plug but comes solely out of a fan’s love), I was recommended a different YouTube channel’s video series.
Now I know what you’re thinking. “50 Shades of Grey? That series of mommy porn books from the early 2010s? That stuff was trash, why should I care?”
Trust me. I was the same way.
I’ve actually seen this video series floating around in my recommended feed considering I spend a lot of time watching similar analysis channels [Examples one and two] to both help my own writing and laugh at bad writing.
I just never cared because 50 Shades wasn’t a series I got into.
But I happen to trust Nando’s opinions because I enjoy his content, and because I am succepible to media influencers apparently.
Now I’m here to pass on that recommendation to all of you because this Lukewarm Defense trilogy is wonderful.
For the most part, especially in videos two and three, the guy is more than eager to lampoon the terrible, awful writing of the books and how they translate into terrible, awful writing in the movies.
Except it goes so much deeper than that.
The video on the first book goes in-depth on the history of translations from the fan fiction to book to movie, and offers a wealth of positives about the first book’s movie adaptation to contend with all the obvious negatives.
It succeeded in making me appreciate the filmmaker’s zeal adapting what must have been a garbage fire into something more palatable and well-crafted.
A lot of his points about things like the removal of the main heroine’s inner-dialogue making her a more self-driven and competent player in the plot are really successfully delivered thanks to an editing style that presents evidence from both mediums simultaneously.
Of course most of the positives are confined to the first book’s adaptation, considering he also goes into why the other books are worse and had worse movie making conditions.
But I never thought I would appreciate 50 Shades of Grey — the movie — near as much as I did while watching this.
That’s not even to mention how funny the guy’s content is in its own right, and how successfully he tangles brief jokes or asides into relevant points multiple videos down the line.
It’s just excellent content. Enough so that I’ll go back and watch more.
To be fair, I am somewhat more open to narrative analysis content at the moment considering I’m swinging back into more focused work on my own novel.
However Folding Ideas presents some serious, evergreen writing advice. If nothing else I’m going to think way harder about paying off plot points in my own writing because I watched this guy destroy 50 Shades for dropping the ball so often due to the original nature of its production as a serialized fanfiction.
If you have about three hours to kill, check out this mini-series. I promise it’s worth your time whether you’re into script doctoring or just laughing at terrible content.
It certainly kept me sane on day one of the semester, and for that I owe Folding Ideas a lot.
When I watched Sony Picture’s “Venom,” my major take-away was that the post-credits preview scene from “Into the Spider-Verse” was the best part.
Little did I know how right I was when I said my time could have been far better spent.
I just walked out of this Spider-Man adventure, having seen it with my friend Juan. Frankly I regret every single day that it took me to see this movie.
Firstly because it’s an absolute joy visually and from a narrative standpoint. It hits things out of the park in every category. That’s also from someone who isn’t very knowledgable about Spider-Man lore, so there are whole other categories I can’t appreciate as well as others!
But I also regret not seeing it sooner because holding off has left me in a very enigmatic place as far as what to say.
It took me 20 minutes of staring at a blank screen to figure out where to start because despite the unadulterated passion I had walking out of it, just what can I add to the conversation at this point in the film’s life cycle?
Yeah I know what you’re going to say, “Jason this is the Internet, it’s the place where opinions thrive.”
I get that. I probably wouldn’t have bothered writing anything if I didn’t feel like I should at least spread my opinion that “Into the Spider-Verse” is a film everyone should see, regardless of their feelings on comic book blockbusters.
The only problem is… I know for a fact I’m not the only person who has that opinion.
For weeks, all I’ve heard about this movie is that it’s phenomenal. The best comic book movie in years, if not ever.
I knew they couldn’t be lying, because the trailers did look great. Though I expected to walk out feeling like hype drove my expectations too high.
Yet… That’s not at all the case.
If anything I walked out of the theatre floored at how much this movie ruled IN SPITE of the over-hyped praise.
Not only does “Into the Spider-Verse” balance six different art styles at once with various Spider-people, it does so after proving itself with a masterful blend of comic book aesthetics so engrained in the narrative that not a single flashy effect feels superfluous.
Take notes Ang Lee, this is the movie you wanted to make with “Hulk” back in 2003.
But even with such a complex dance of art styles and truly fluid, engaging action , somehow the story doesn’t falter. Any joke or meme you could make about previous Spider-Man movies are addressed in the first few seconds, leaving audience members open for something completely novel.
From there, every single character is given a perfect amount of exposition.
There wasn’t a single person in this film that was not relatable or well-developed in some way. Other than some brief cameos who didn’t need anything to appear and be awesome.
It’s not a joke to say that “Into the Spider-Verse” crams in seven or eight origin stories and tells you just enough with each to feel invested better than some movies handle an entire 2-hour origin story.
Plus most of it is so comedic that barely any part of the film is dull. The sensory overload is welcomed.
The only moments that could be described as ‘duller’ in terms of that overloaded sensory splendor are poignant, emotional character-building scenes that all seem to appear exactly when they need to.
But with all that film fellating, the thing that truly astounded me about this Spider-Verse film was how little got spoiled for me.
If this were “Infinity War,” it would have been dangerous to go anywhere online because people like to slip spoilers into unexpected places. For this movie, I’ve seen nothing but praise and still got a ton of surprises.
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say this movie has one of the best “secret villain” reveals I’ve seen in ever. I won’t say anything more.
The problem, however, is just that. I don’t know that there’s anything I can say that wouldn’t spoil a thing, or that you wouldn’t get out of some big media site review.
Especially since you should just see the damn movie!
After three Sam Raimi movies, two Amazing Spider-Men, a number of Marvel Cinematic Universe appearances and enough cartoons to choke a small village, the biggest piece of praise I can give “Into the Spider-Verse” is that it is truly fresh and original and an absolute joy to behold.
If you’re writing your list of New Year’s resolutions, be sure to add ‘watch this movie’ onto it if you haven’t already. Or even if you have already seen it, go see it again!
Just give this movie all the money, people. What more can I say?
Now that I’ve finally registered for my spring 2019 classes, I can relax and focus on the important things.
Like stressing about all the loose ends and hectic maneuvering in the classes I’m planning on taking.
Yeah, things went a bit worse than I had expected them to. That kept me busy this morning. Busy enough to push off the Gladeo meeting I was going to run.
Part of that came as a result of the classes that I know I’m taking but can’t sign up for just yet. Mostly pertaining to my Comm internship class, which I won’t have an invite code for until Monday, and my Honors Project independent study class that I can’t actually sign up for until I have my proposal signed by the Honors Program Director.
But at least those two are essentially both on a limitless availability. They’re independent study courses and won’t be filling up anytime soon. A fact which is particularly helpful in regards to the honors class because I still need one more detail to complete my proposal:
I have no idea what to call my project.
Yeah, I know it’s just a “working title” and the decision shouldn’t matter in the long-run because it can change at any time.
But being presented with the opportunity to provide even a preliminary name made me realize that I have no idea what I want to call my book. Guess I might just call it “fantasy novel” or something just to have what I need, but I appreciate having a couple extra days to think it over.
Those soon-to-be-fixed issues aren’t the only things that made registration complicated this morning.
I had been interested in taking a film criticism class with my current Visual Communications professor. It sounded really fun when he pitched it in-class earlier this semester.
But then I tried to sign up for it and found out he neglected to tell us that a prerequisite course was required. A course that is not being offered next semester.
So it seemed like that was a bust, though I emailed him asking about it just in case. Figured it was worth a shot, I’m just not holding my breath.
Instead I decided to sign up for a vaguely similar Honors World Cinema class.
Nothing wrong with finding out a bit more about foreign films, right? It was early enough in the morning that I was able to slip right in too, as there were only eight seats in the class.
But then… Things changed. Again.
My friend Mimi pointed out that there’s a video games in American culture class being offered next semester.
That’s literally right up my alley.
So I dropped world cinema and picked up a 400-level American Studies course instead. Don’t know if that’s going to be a mistake, but if it is it’ll at least be a mistake I’m jumping into with someone I know.
Plus it’s a video game-related class, so it definitely won’t be a mistake either way.
While that essentially sums up my drama this morning, I’m going to hold off on doing a full schedule examination post until later. I at least want to make sure my whole workload is worked out explicitly before I talk about it in detail.
At this point I just know that my overall schedule is going to be pretty bizarre. So look forward to hearing some more about that down the line!
Rarely is there ever a more poignant metaphor for how a day is going to go than waking up to a cloudy, rainy morning. Especially in Southern California, where rainy days are a dime a dozen at best.
The second day of my Associated Collegiate Press convention experience carried that unfortunate hurdle to overcome. Waking up was less than desirable with water drizzling down onto the windows, but there were early sessions I was interested in attending, so I dragged myself out of bed all the same.
Of course, Long Beach was not much sunnier than Redondo this morning. If anything, it was actually worse:
Luckily the conference is in a fancy hotel, so being out in the rain was not exactly a concern. Or that was the hope anyway.
My convention experience actually started out being more hectic than I had intended it to be. There was a 10:30 p.m. session I was interested in attending about covering geek culture, but as soon as I arrived that plan was subverted.
First, she handed out this semester’s business cards, which were delivered at the oh-so-inconvenient timing of late yesterday afternoon.
Seriously, these couldn’t have arrived when we were first starting the conference?
Whatever. I figured at least I would have the opportunity to hand them out at the geek session I was going to join in a few minutes late.
Instead Bonnie asked me to help out with picking our Best of Show submissions, which were due at 4 p.m. this afternoon. That task first entailed me having to circle back around to the parking lot where she wanted me to rummage through her trunk to find a specific copy of the paper we wanted to submit.
Long story short, that paper was not there. But there were a couple of others that I grabbed for her. Frankly the strangest thing about that was just getting a brief glimpse into the strange world of ‘how other people organize their car trunks,’ in this case with one of my mentors. It was actually about as messy as my trunk is, so I’m going to take that as a positive.
I brought those issues back to the main foyer, where Bonnie was sitting down to do paper critiques with other schools. I (somewhat awkwardly) joined them at that table because she asked me to pick out the best paper to turn in.
Here’s just a few of the papers I was deciding between. Ironically enough, none of them pictured above were the ones we decided to turn in. Guess that speaks wonders of my ability to plan ahead.
With the Best of Show paper chosen and a number of my friends at the Titan trickling in, it was time for the day’s keynote.
The Middle Keynote: Covering the Nassar Scandal
Two students from Michigan State University who run their school’s newspaper were the big speakers of the afternoon. They began simply localizing stories from the Indianapolis Star regarding the huge movement of women coming out against Larry Nassar, the former US Gymnastics physician who also worked at MSU, for his string of sexual assaults.
Then their coverage blossomed into a much larger ordeal.
The two student journalists, Rachel Fradette and McKenna Ross, went through the timeline of their year and a half covering the scandal. Everything from talking to the students Nassar abused to dealing with a stonewalling administration to eventually coming out for the University President’s resignation – which came a week after their editorial, the same day Nassar was convicted.
An element of dealing with a national controversy also permeated throughout their talk. One of the more striking details they discussed was being asked how they felt about the situation as two women on their campus. Not as journalists, not as students, but as women.
Rachel’s comment to that was reminding them that she had no biases as a journalist.
Their story did not end with Nassar’s conviction however. It continued on when an interim President was hired and they began dealing with a reigning in of the message coming from the overall university to try and recover from their PR nightmare.
In the end, one message in particular stuck with me from the keynote as a whole. It was the very end (fittingly), where Rachel commented on the fact that their 2017 Yearbook featured no reference to Nassar in the slightest despite it being the largest sports scandal story in decades.
The blame was placed on the fact that the Yearbook has closer connections to the school than their independent newspaper. “I’m glad every day that we only answer to the students,” she ended on.
Doesn’t seem like I’ve gone over enough for there to be a break in the action, does it?
Well, once the keynote was over the convention schedule had an hour’s worth of a break for lunch.
Everyone who was at the event from the Daily Titan had come to the keynote speech, which is where I got the picture I used as the featured image from.
With that hour break, a couple of us decided to go out and get some food together. It was still a little drizzly out, but it was much more fun to put up with that alongside friends.
The Islands in the shopping center nearby had a very long wait, so instead we wound up going to a Chili’s nearby. That visit was, of course, predicated on the fact that we all lost it remembering a meme from some years ago.
Anyway yeah, I don’t have a good transition, so here’s the picture we took:
All we had was fries, but it was super fun to just get to sit around and talk. We even finished with just enough time to get back to the convention so we could deal with our newspaper and website critiques.
Those critiques were an adventure in their own right, but I don’t know that I want to share a lot of it here. It’s mostly personal stuff to work on among our newsroom staff.
I will, however, share that the man critiquing our online presence was wearing a scarlet tuxedo jacket adorned with negative newsy terms like ‘libel,’ and when he read our stuff he always put on a monocle.
So that was a thing that happened.
Translating Print for Social Media Engagement
After we got through our critiques, everyone else decided to head home. But there were a few more sessions I was interested in attending, so I hung around.
The first one I went to revolved around social media. Admittedly, not the best thing to go to after feeling a little bit off following the online paper critique, but I managed to take some interesting stuff out of it all the same.
Granted I wasn’t able to get a lot because I didn’t feel like Jay Hartwell was a fantastic presenter, at least for how I enjoy to learn, but I did pull some things out of it. For instance, he talked about cropping photos in interesting and novel ways to make sure they catch the interest of people looking on their phone.
I frankly did not agree at all with some of the things he was pushing. Like more ‘clickbait-y’ headlines. I’m of the opinion that we need less of that sort of thing, but I suppose I am also somewhat in the minority of people willing to put up with text longer than 300 words in a shot.
If that wasn’t obvious enough.
I think the best part about this presentation was the fact that he sped through it so the latter half could be spent going through the social media accounts of different groups in attendance to judge how good their presence was.
My favorite part of that was an exchange that wound up happening between the presenter and a newspaper who only used their Instagram account to post memes as a way of drudging up more attention and interest. He was arguing that there were issues of fair use, they were arguing that memes are just memes…
It was kind of an unintentionally fascinating look into the difference between the mindsets of millennial versus the older generations.
Melding Artistic and Journalistic Skill Sets
I didn’t have to move very far to start my last session of the day, since it was literally in the same room as the social media one.
This session, hosted by Andrea Heiss, admittedly caught me off guard. See, from all of the promotional material in the conference’s schedule, I was under the impression that her talk was going to be about the ways covering music, theatre and movies helped to bolster a reporter’s skills when it comes to covering… Well everything else.
Instead, I got a much more interestingly philosophical conversation.
The talk was not about a case of artistic review skills leading to better general reporting, rather it was about the deeper structural connections between skills it takes to be an artist and skills it takes to be a journalist. In essence, the similarities between reporters relying on language in the same way artists rely on their craft to express themselves.
Relating journalism to theatre, she discussed how news stories should construct a scene and embrace the two-way nature of working with your sources while you draft the piece.
Relating journalism to music, she talked about how music is its own language that creates immense emotion without words to implore that our writing should do the same thing in a duet with the people we talk to.
Relating journalism to film, she recommended we adopt the language of film into our work to establish scenes in more detail without breaking into stereotyping our subjects.
There were more points than that, but those were probably the main things in my recollection. However, I also appreciated the way she pointed out that our work as journalists allows us to help readers take scary new steps into novel realities that are being created every day. She also talked about how we, the newest journalists, do that work by melding a classical focus on logic and order with a more modern focus on romanticism, emotional and local story telling.
I honestly really like the way she described us blending those traditions, so I’ll probably hang onto that.
Once that last session ended, I quickly made my way our and headed back to Redondo, tired and ready to collapse… And start writing this post. A real exciting life I’m living, I know.
While the sessions and critiques I attended weren’t the most uplifting things compared to all the fun I had yesterday, I still appreciated the chance to learn a lot.
Though honestly, I think I appreciated the chance to spend time with my friends on the paper more. Pretty sure I was the only person besides Briggetta at the convention yesterday, so having everyone together today was super cool!
With that said, tomorrow should be even more interesting from that point of view. Not only am I going to be giving my Milo Yiannopoulos presentation at 3:30 p.m., but I should be receiving an award at the ceremony that’s going to be closing out the conference.
Whatever I write for tomorrow should be much more fun and excitable as a result, so stay tuned for that!
Editor’s Note: For anyone who may be confused seeing this style of review show up here, let me explain. This article was one I had originally written for the Daily Titan’s first spring 2018 issue. Though the movie had its official wide release on Jan. 12 and we find ourselves in the midst of Oscar season, it was decided a review of this particular flick wouldn’t be timely enough to go in print by the time we hit production.
But of course, as luck would have it, I had finished writing the article before finding out it wasn’t running.
So I decided to cannibalize my own work and put it out on my personal blog with some additional bits added on. After all, what would be the point of having a blog for my writing if I didn’t do that sort of thing, and what better time is there to share something like this than the day Oscar nominations have been announced? It is a best picture nominee after all, amongst other things.
Plus I figured this movie in particular fit the theme of my blog given that it surrounds an important part of journalism history.
That said, I’ll stop blabbing and let you get to my opinions. If you enjoy this sort of thing let me know, since I have been considering doing this kind of personal publishing more often.
In 1971, a series of classified documents known as The Pentagon Papers were leaked to and published by The New York Times, revealing multiple presidential opinions on the futility of the Vietnam War despite its escalation.
When the government attempted to censor this sensitive information publishing, other papers like The Washington Post stepped in to continue the job.
Steven Spielberg’s latest movie “The Post” captures this important period in American and journalistic history that brought The Washington Post to mainstream popularity while offering viewers a more intimate, behind-the-scenes glimpse at the paper’s struggle with deciding whether or not to publish The Pentagon Papers.
This struggle is chiefly characterized by the film’s two lead characters, The Washington Post’s publisher Katherine “Kay” Graham (Meryl Streep) and editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks).
Throughout the movie Graham must come to terms with being the first female publisher of a major newspaper after she inherits the business from her deceased husband.
Her inner turmoil comes from having to make the decision to potentially betray old family friends in the White House’s previous administrations so the public can learn the truth, while subsequently dealing with the “boy’s club” of publishers and investors who don’t believe a woman has what it takes to handle the job.
Meanwhile, Bradlee has to deal with the humiliation of losing such a huge scoop to The New York Times despite being the editor of Washington D.C.’s local paper, as well as the immense amount of work it takes for his team to secure a copy of the documents and go to print in a limited timeframe.
Eventually Bradlee also must come to terms with the fact that the potential illegality of publishing classified government documents may backfire on his longtime ally and friend Graham, who has much more at stake and much more to lose.
One of the standout means of building tension in the film comes from the way it showcases the more limited technologies available in the 1970s that led to more of an involved newsprint production process.
For example, one scene that comes to mind has a copy editor asked to do all of his red pen corrections on a physical printout of the major article in 30 minutes before sending it off in a pneumatic tube to be laid out on a more traditional printing press.
However, Hank’s performance is clearly overshadowed by Streep, who does an incredible job capturing the internal debate and eventual paradigm shift of Graham to support her staff and the First Amendment in spite of what the government would prefer.
Her arc is also given some clear signposts throughout the movie to show her role as a historically significant feminine figure, which Streep nails in facial expressions alone in scenes like her emergence from the Supreme Court toward the end of the story. In that moment she seems to ignore the primarily male-dominated crowd of journalists to instead focus on the passing businesswomen who have stopped to watch the commotion.
Unfortunately, performances are really the only place that “The Post” stands out. Despite having the legendary team of Spielberg as director and John Williams as composer, nothing about the presentation is necessarily exceptional.
The movie looks nice and sounds nice, is well-cast and well-written, but one would be hard pressed to walk out of the theatre after watching it and remember a particular image or score from the experience as something special that stays with them.
Even with this caveat, the performances and socio-historical importance backing up the movie make it undoubtedly worth seeing.
In an era begot by cries of “fake news” and the divisive presidency of Donald Trump, it is especially important to see this story come to the table in such a high-profile form to remind the world about the importance both of newspapers as a government watchdog and of the public staying informed with a higher degree of news literacy.
On top of that, “The Post” also fits in wonderfully with the strong legacy of journalism-based films.
Because of the way Spielberg uses the same Washington Post office set piece and ends the movie on a sort of cliffhanger teasing the start of the Watergate scandal, “The Post” and “All the President’s Men” could literally be watched in seamless succession to give anyone who did or did not live through the 1970s a clear understanding of the importance of newspapers, particularly The Washington Post, in American history.
Somehow the historical side of my blog for my Honors World Civilizations course has almost become more of a platform for me to talk about films. In the first two posts I did (Post 1 and 2), I talked about Chantal Akerman’s documentaries in various degrees around the times that I watched them.
So, I figure why not take this last post for the class to talk about the relationship between movies and history as a whole?
The way history is depicted in media often has a large impact on how that history is addressed and thought about in our everyday lives. Whether this is a good or a bad thing is generally debatable.
The fact that events in our past are recorded and repeated through films and TV programs is a great reflection that we as a species are continuing the legacy of those involved in various historical periods and moment. As one of my favorite clichéd phrases goes, “Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” If stories from, say, the Holocaust are consistently depicted in films, we’re more likely to keep the Holocaust in our collective consciousness as a reminder that we can’t let it happen again.
In his book Visions of the Past: The Challenge of Film to our Idea of History, Robert Rosenstone talks about film as a tool which can alter our perception of history by saying, “In privileging visual and emotional data and simultaneously downplaying the analytic, the motion picture is subtly […] altering our very sense of the past.” (32) Rosenstone ponders the differences between written and visual representations of history, wondering whether or not film can hold the same weight as history books or novelizations of events.
In this same vein, there are questions beyond the general strength of film as a medium. Are films accurate in their approach to dramatizing history? What additional issues can we cultivate in portraying historical recreations? Yes, it’s great that movies like Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List” help to draw large-scale attention to the Holocaust so we can remember it. However, to what extent is it irresponsible to make those who watch the film believe that Schindler was the same man who trained Obi-Wan Kenobi, who is also the same man who saved his family with “a particular set of skills”?
There are other potential issues with how we depict historical moments in our filmography beyond this name or face association. Of course, I’m referring specifically to entertainment, fictionalized or blockbuster films and shows rather than documentaries. There’s a very common complaint that Hollywood is too “whitewashed”, hiring caucasian actors in roles which are better suited for or meant to be people of color. There’s also the possibility that the very desire to create a film, which by convention tends to be restricted in view time and the perspectives shown on-screen at a time, results in certain editing or removal of pieces from a history.
Now, whether or not I’m qualified to judge if a movie is historically accurate is a different story entirely. I’m not planning on tearing apart or championing any particular film for how it addresses the history it desires to address. I just figure this is a good place to talk about why I believe it’s important to try to be as accurate as possible when showcasing history in a film.
Part of why I say I’m not necessarily qualified to judge historical accuracy is because I’m not a history major. I enjoy learning about history, but I’m not an expert in any time period by any means. One of the ways I enjoy learning about history is through movies, as it’s much easier to understand or appreciate something that happened when it’s shown in a recognizable way.
Gillo Pontecorvo‘s 1966 film “The Battle of Algiers” is an excellent example of this. I knew next to nothing about the Algerian War for Independance before watching that movie. The struggle between the National Liberation Front (FLN) and the French Government, the escalating animosity of the two parties from the means of warfare that was used, the large-scale bombings and attacks that devastated the common people, the use of women and their perceived gender roles to sneak things through French boundaries… All of these ideas and more were represented in the film, and therefore all of them were things I learned about the Battle of Algiers from watching it.
Wars and revolutions as a whole are complex, that’s a given just in the nature of building up to such events. It’s hard to totally understand everything that happens to both parties that physically and psychologically drives them to any sort of conflict.
That’s where I think “The Battle of Algiers” succeeds. In my opinion, it teaches the history of an event that seems a little less well-known in a way that you get an idea of how both sides are thinking and responding to things throughout the film. As far as I’m aware, the movie does a great job of teaching someone who knows nothing about the Algerian War (like me, as I’ve said) what they need to know to understand the struggle.
Bear in mind, filmmakers take creative liberties in their art, and what you see in film isn’t always exactly what transpired in history. To some extent, it’s realistically impossible to recreate history exactly as it happened. For an audience, there should be a balance between suspending your disbelief when you go to a movie and understanding that life is too complex to represent in an hour and a half to a two-hour celluloid format. For a filmmaker, there’s nothing wrong with taking creative liberties or trying to show history in an entertaining way, but we should keep in mind that the movie being created could become someone’s only connection to that period of history.