Saturday, October 13, 2012
Chat: All the President's Men
Tracy: So--ready to discuss non-denial denials and Deep Throat?
Natalie: Absolutely! I've heard a lot about this movie--basically just that it's excellent--and, while I didn't dislike it, I was a tad underwhelmed.
Tracy: Really? I was interested to hear what you thought coming to it the first time. I don't remember a time when I hadn't seen this movie, so I don't think I'm really objective. Did you think it was boring? Paced weird?
Natalie: I guess part of it was that it felt more like a documentary in that I knew what was going to happen but it wasn't as revelatory as really good docs can be--with those gasp moments where you think "I didn't know that" or at least "I didn't think of that in that way." Maybe because everything was played at the same tone? I didn't dislike it but I wish I'd come away from it with something more than I knew/felt before--even if just about the actor's performances (I already knew those guys were great).
Tracy: Yeah, I can see that. I wonder what it was like to watch it when it first came out--if there were those kind of revelations. I think I'm really in love with the idea of it. It seems to me like the perfect movie to watch on the Fourth. Like, these two dudes brought down a corrupt president, in a completely bloodless way, just by being curious and determined. And I LOVE Ben Bradlee/Jason Robards, who I'm convinced is the same person. "We stand by our story." I don't know--there's something about the actual history that is so moving to me that I love the movie just because it reminds me of it, I guess.
Natalie: Yeah, I think that part you love the idea of is part of why it didn't quite work for me in reality. I, too, love the idea of taking down a powerful guy whose done serious wrong just because he's done wrong, not because of a political affiliation or vendetta. But I guess I didn't quite feel the passion--even if it were just for reporting--or the urgency of the situation that I like in other news-y movies/shows. And I know the passion/urgency was there--otherwise there would be no visiting people repeatedly when they couldn't get the whole story or freaking out about bugs in that great scene with the typewriter. I don't know. I think it's a great story to tell and one that needs to be told but it didn't quite catch me.
Tracy: It is really subdued--even in palate, soundtrack, etc.. Did you see Zodiac? And if so, did you get the same sort of sense that it was lacking in passion/urgency? For some reason, I think of these two movies as being similar (though one group was successful and the other not), in that they're really dramatic stories told in a subdued way, where the focus is more on the workaday sort of process of doing this exciting thing.
Natalie: Hmmm. I did see Zodiac. I guess I felt more urgency there because people were dying. I don't know. It's strange--on paper, this is a movie I like a LOT. Maybe if Paul Newman had been in it.
Tracy: Hah! That helps with most any situation. Even though it wasn't a favorite, do you still think it should be in the book?
Natalie: I would keep it because it seems important in the newsroom genre and while I know what happened, we're getting so far past the situation that people younger than us are getting a little vague on the facts. And, I do like that this version made it about the reporters, made those guys the focus and the heroes, as opposed to focusing on the villainy of the situation alone. And, it was well-made and acted and etc.
Tracy: That's true--I love the way the news footage and stuff is marginalized by the constant typing of the dudes churning out the stories. On a non-movie note, I was really glad a) to have finally found out who Deep Throat was (not Hal Holbrook!) and b) that he got to be recognized for what he did before he died.
Natalie: Ha! He wasn't Hal Holbrook?! I liked that aspect, too. It is a really nuanced film when I think about it. Anyway, the book is vague only giving some summary info and this: "The ultimate in investigative journalism pictures…continually pleases for the entertaining intelligence at work. It is among the most gripping, deft, and utterly compelling of thrillers, and this despite being based on well-known facts whose conclusion is never in doubt."
Tracy: That is a non-review review!
Natalie: I know!
Tracy: What is "entertaining intelligence"?
Natalie: I don't know. It took me reading that three times to figure out they meant work as a verb not a noun. Strangely written sentence.
Tracy: Do you think the movie would be as lauded if it were about something not real? Same actors, cinematic choices, everything, but about a fake scandal? Something in me says no.
Natalie: Hmmm. Yeah, I'd bet no. It seems an artsy choice when it's about something we already know about, and a folk-hero lauding choice when we already knows tons about the bad guy(s). Without the real-life widely-known info . . . it probably gets a little vague.
Tracy: Yeah--then I think all the stuff you mention about the lack of urgency would become more pronounced. We the audience bring a lot of urgency with us simply because we know (hopefully!) what was at stake. Makes me want to ask my students to summarize Watergate for me tomorrow, just so I can be really depressed.
Natalie: HA! While you're at it, toss in some 80s and 90s trivia so you can feel really depressed. They're super young.
They were playing NIN at IHop the other day. I guess it's "retro" and safe the play in public now?
Tracy: Oh, that's just too upsetting. I heard Nirvana on the oldies station the other day.
Natalie:: HAHAHAHA! That's really terrible. But, true. Sigh.
Tracy: So yeah--I guess we're both on board with keeping AtPM. Wonder if there are any other newsroom flicks it influenced. I mean, this was certainly not at all like His Girl Friday.
Natalie: Yep, on board. That's an interesting question. It's not at all like His Girl Friday or anything from that period, I'd imagine. And everything that I know of that's contemporaneous or newer seems to operate on a faster pace and the urgency of the immediate story rather than the slow hard work of research without immediate gratification.
Tracy: It seems almost anomalous as a newsroom movie, and it's not quite a political thriller either. Documentary-esque is probably the best way to describe it.
Natalie: Yeah. It's strange that no one has copied it that we can think of. You'd think someone would.
Tracy: Yeah, especially since it's so acclaimed. So we've got the Brokeback vs. Gangs of NY face-off next, yes?
Natalie:: Not quite. Senso is up first.
Tracy: Oh, right! My version of Ambien! Have you watched it yet?
Natalie:: I have not. Maybe I will tonight and I'll get a good night's sleep
Tracy: Hah! Will be anxious to discuss it with you.
Natalie: We'll have to see how long it takes me to watch it depending on how many naps I have to take in the middle.
Tracy: I'm telling you, it took me the better part of a day. But that was a no-coffee day, so maybe that was part of the problem!
Natalie: AH. I'll make sure to load up on caffeine and sugar then.
Tracy: Yes. It's a must.