FILMS: The Post & Phantom Thread

 “Welcome to Katz Reviews. This is Ed Katz of Katnip Marketing- marketing consultant by day; theater and film critic by night- bringing my weekly review segment, Katz Reviews, here for you on WICC 600.

This week is a “twofer”- I review two films today!

I’ve been catching the Oscar Best Picture nominees – today’s two are both nominees: ‘The Post’ and ‘Phantom Thread.’

‘The Post’ has been a pretty big hit and gotten favorable reviews. Directed by Steven Spielberg, it stars Meryl Streep as Washington Post publisher Katherine Graham, whom I had the pleasure to meet several years ago.

She is an inspiring figure- inheriting the Washington Post from her late husband and almost immediately being thrust into the spotlight having to decide whether to risk jail time- and possibly the future of the Post– on publishing the Pentagon Papers.

 Image: Meryl Streep,

And, as Spielberg and screenwriters Liz Hannah and Josh Singer show, she has a lot to overcome: inexperience, indecision and the conventions of an all male business environment- where only her advisor Fritz Beebe, played by Tracy Letts, and her editor, Ben Bradlee, played by Tom Hanks, show her respect and provide trusted counsel.

 Image: Streep, Letts, Hanks;

But they don’t agree on whether she should publish the stolen documents, which reveal how every president, from Truman to Eisenhower to Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon, all lied and covered up information about Vietnam. So Nixon sought an injunction to prevent The New York Times from publishing the Pentagon Papers. He won that- but then he lost to the Post and it was all up to Graham to decide.

There are several side stories that show other characters’ roles in the story- including a nice turn by Bob Odenkirk as intrepid reporter Ben Bagdikian, who got the documents for the Post from Daniel Ellsberg, played by Matthew Rhys.

Spielberg- being Spielberg- makes it suspenseful and enjoyable to watch. The talented cast doesn’t hurt, either. This is one of several very good films this year and I give ‘The Post’ 4 stars out of 5.

Another nominated film is ‘Phantom Thread,’ most notable for starring Daniel Day Lewis, who has stated this is his final film performance. Lewis has been one of the finest actors of this generation and, as usual, was nominated for Best Actor. Paul Thomas Anderson was nominated for Best Director.

How to succinctly describe ‘Phantom Thread?’ It’s like a Masterpiece Theater episode, set in post-World War II England, about an intense designer of women’s dresses.

But not just any dress designer- this guy (played by Lewis) designs wedding dresses for royalty, some which require a dozen seamstresses to assist him.

 Image: Lesley Manville;

His intensity cuts both ways as he is obsessed with perfection in his work and, when he’s concentrating on that, best not to disturb him- or face his wrath. Only his sister, smartly played by Lesley Manville, and- like Lewis’ character, also not married- seems to know how to deal with him.

Certainly his lovers don’t, as we see when they make the mistake of disturbing his concentration during breakfast- and he dumps them like the leftovers of last night’s dinner.

 Image: Lewis, Krieps;

That is until Vicky Krieps, as a young waitress, catches his fancy- and challenges him. The unique ways she forces his attention on her reminded the friend with whom I saw ‘Phantom Thread’ of a ‘Fifty Shades’-like relationship, though just a few shades, as- thankfully- this isn’t a trashy film like that.

But it does focus on obsessions- mostly dressmaking, but also food. And the detail which the film focuses on the dressmaking- was too much.

I got impatient and thought, “Enough already. We get it!” So take that as a caution. Cinematography is great and Lewis is excellent- though I still feel Gary Oldman will win Best Actor for ‘Darkest Hour’ and, no, this is NOT Best Picture. I give ‘Phantom Thread’ 3 stars out of 5.

Catch my reviews right here this time each week and on my Facebook page and website, Katz Reviews dot com, where you will find all my WICC 600 reviews.

This is Ed Katz talking movies for WICC 600!”