Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 12/04/18: Christy's Tired, *The Post*, Enhancing my Soup

1. I don't have much to report about how Christy is doing. I know that she was up and down a lot Monday night into Tuesday morning; I know that she spent a lot of time in bed on Tuesday; I know her home nurse made her first visit on Tuesday. I concluded from our text messages that the combination of a fitful night, the strength of her medication, and just being tired after a full day Monday when she came home from the hospital left her tired and in need of a lot of rest on Tuesday.

2. After I got some medical business taken care of and called about a furnace tune up and an oil change in the Sube, I settled into spending about half the afternoon watching The Post, a fictional account of the decision by Katharine Graham, publisher of The Washington Post, to publish what came to be known as the Pentagon papers.

I kept finding pleasure in the experience of thinking throughout the movie that I was watching a film made seventy years ago by a director like Frank Capra.  It was melodramatic with clear lines of conflict between the moneyed interests of the banks and the paper's board of directors and the bulldog editor, Ben Bradlee, played by Tom Hanks, and his wealthy publisher, Katharine Graham, played by Meryl Streep, who both were determined to protect and enact the ideals of free speech and the interests of the governed over those governing and not give in to the profit-minded bankers and the board members.

I thought about how Steven Spielberg paid homage to matinee cliffhangers in the Indiana Jones franchise, and how in this movie he grounded the story in another kind of melodrama that pitted freedom against money and governmental power. Much like Jimmy Stewart invigorates the ideals of Frank Capra's stories, Tom Hanks animates the urgency of not bending to the will of the powerful by advocating for the publishing of the sensitive material in the Pentagon papers.

Meryl Streep portrays Katharine Graham as simultaneously strong and tentative. She's mindful of being dismissed, despite her power and position, by the powerful men around her -- talked over, interrupted, looked through, ignored, condescended to, not taken seriously. She's also mindful of her enormous responsibilities and her inexperience in such a position of power. As the story develops, I could see, in Streep's portrayal of Graham, a growing sense of Graham shedding her familiar role as a socialite and embracing the responsibilities inherent in owning The Post.

When Spielberg plays up the melodrama of the moment when Graham decides to publish the Pentagon papers, the melodrama isn't cheap. It's a powerful moment climaxing not only a crucial moment in the history of journalism, but also climaxing Katharine Graham's steady embrace of her position and her defiance of the male dominated pressures around her to cave in.

Watching Meryl Streep's physical, vocal, and emotional investment in bringing this movie's portrayal of Katharine Graham to life made me think of the staggering number of roles I've seen Meryl Streep play over the years, the staggering variety of these roles, and the staggering skill Meryl Streep brings to her work.

I also thought today about the young actors I performed with in a handful of plays at Lane Community College who were often snide and snarky when they talked about Meryl Streep's work. I'm not much of an arguer and I just listened to these comments and tried to understand them. Again, today, some of those comments rose up while I watched The Post and I thought about how fully the Meryl Streep I've heard interviewed and seen on awards shows disappeared in this movie and, in her place, was this multi-dimensional, complicated, tough, tender, intelligent, occasionally stumbling, publicly self-assured, grieving, courageous character, Katharine Graham. Her work in this movie moved me to tears, something I've experienced several times watching Meryl Streep perform.

Whatever it is about me that enjoys so much of what I see and whatever it is about me that is so eager to be moved by stories, movies, plays, music, and acting, I'm glad it's the way I am. I realize it would make me a lousy movie critic for any publication. After a while, readers would just say, "How can you trust him? He enjoys almost everything!" I think it's because when I watch movies I believe the story, I believe in the characters, I do not ever assess a movie by my own experience -- so I never say, "That could never happen" -- because it just did -- in the movie, and I readily surrender myself to what I'm watching. I don't assess the reality of movies, I enter into the movie's reality.

It's fun.

3. After the movie ended, I thought to myself that maybe the sweet potato cauliflower soup I made on Monday would taste good with red rice and black beans. I made a small pot of red rice and, as I heated up a can of black beans, I seasoned them with cumin. Ah! Cumin! It was exactly what my soup needed and I loved how much heartier my pureed soup felt with the addition of beans and rice. Now it's creamy, sweet, earthy, a little nutty, and deeply satisfying. And, and, I still have some left and, when I finish it tomorrow, I can contemplate what warming, more than likely vegetarian, soup or dish I'll make next.

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