Steven Spielberg’s film The Post, review

This 27 January 2018 Dutch NOS TV video shows an interview with Steven Spielberg on his new film The Post

I saw this film on 18 February 2018.

The theme of the film is the United States war on Vietnam; more especially, the publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971.

Who were the heroes of the resistance against the Vietnam war in the USA? As this film review by David Swanson says, they were the peace demonstrators protesting in their millions, though government violence killed some of them, like at the Jackson State and Kent State universities massacres. However, in the film, anti-war demonstrators are hardly more than extras. Only once, a demonstrator says a few sentences:

There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part! You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels…upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop!

What that demonstrator says is part of this speech:

That video from the USA is called Mario Savio “The Machine Speech” on The Sproul Hall Steps, December 2, 1964. As the video says, that speech was in 1964 in California, not in 1971 in Washington what the film is about. That Savio speech was not about the Vietnam war, but about the students’ Free Speech Movement for the right to be in solidarity with the civil rights movement of African American people.

Who was the hero of the publication of the Pentagon Papers? It was Daniel Ellsberg. Ellsberg is not a main character in the film, though more than an extra. The film starts with Ellsberg as a government investigator with United States soldiers in a rainforest in Vietnam. Ever since the early 1950s, United States presidents had lied that the Vietnam war was going hunky dory. But Ellsberg sees how a firefight breaks out, and many US soldiers are injured or killed.

On the way back from Vietnam, Ellsberg is on the same plane as Pentagon Secretary Robert McNamara. A McNamara adviser tells his boss the same official lie about winning the war. Then, McNamara asks Ellsberg for his view, as he is the only person present who has actually seen fighting in Vietnam. Ellsberg says the war is not going well, and cannot be won. I think you are right, McNamara says. Then, the plane lands in the USA. Journalists ask: Mr Secretary of Defence, how is the war going? Very good progress on all fronts, McNamara replies. Ellsberg, just out of the plane, hears this lie; and becomes an anti-war activist. He decides that the secret Pentagon Papers, which expose the successive administrations’ untruths, should be published.

The film says the heroes were Washington Post publisher Katherine Graham and Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee. Though these two indeed made the correct decision to publish the Pentagon Papers, in spite of threats by the Nixon administration, as this review says, neither Graham nor Bradlee were overall unblemished characters.

The film also mentions there were connections between the Washington Post and the political elite: Katherine Graham was a personal friend of Robert McNamara, who advised her on appointing Post directors. Ben Bradlee had been a personal friend of President Kennedy. Connections, damaging the possibilities of criticizing government policies.

This Spielberg film correctly points out that all US presidents, from Truman to Nixon, lied about the Vietnam war. But there are limits to its political criticism. Because this film was produced by 20th Century Fox, owned by Rupert Murdoch?

The film has a happy end … well, a happy almost-end. The Supreme court of the USA decides that the Nixon administration is wrong to persecute the Washington Post and New York Times for espionage for publishing the Pentagon Papers, threatening their publishers and journalists with prison. The statement by Supreme Court judge Hugo Black, supporting press freedom, is read:

In the First Amendment the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.

However, that happy end is not really the end. As the final scene of the film is about the burglary scandal at the Watergate building, ordered by Richard Nixon.

Unfortunately, it is doubtful whether the Washington Post and similar media will have the same courage now on the many Pentagon wars as they had in 1971 on Vietnam. The Washington Post and similar media today are even more linked to the economic and political establishment than they already were at the time of Katherine Graham and Ben Bradlee. And the Supreme Court today, compared to 1971? President Trump has put a judge there, the founder and ex-president of an organisation calling itself ‘fascism forever’.

Philippine eagles, new film, trailer

This video says about itself:

7 February 2018

The trailer for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology‘s new film BIRD OF PREY. We invite you to learn more about the film at our website or like us on Facebook.

The film follows a nesting pair of Philippine Eagles in the wild and documents the ongoing conservation efforts of the Philippine Eagle Foundation.

Dutch new film on 1961

This Dutch video is the trailer of the new film Het Leven is Vurrukkulluk. Which means ‘Life is wonderful’, but with an unusual spelling for the Dutch word ‘verrukkelijk’. I went to see the film on 4 February 2018.

The film is about one day in the year 1961, in around the Vondelpark in Amsterdam city. In 1961, Remco Campert published his novel with the same title, on which the film is based.

Dutch director Frans Weisz, 23 years old in 1961, wanted to make Het Leven is Vurrukkulluk his first film. He wrote a script, jointly with Campert. But filming did not go ahead then: money problems. Instead, Weisz’ first film became Het Gangstermeisje (A Gangstergirl), in 1966, based on another novel by Campert.

The Internet Movie Database summary of Het Leven is Vurrukkulluk says:

Life Is Wonderful is a feel-good movie about love and longing. Best friends Mees and Boelie are spending a beautiful spring day in Amsterdam’s Vondelpark. It seems like just a normal day, until they meet the young and attractive Panda. While the heat rises in the park, it’s nowhere to be found between the long-married couple Etta and Ernst-Jan. Ernst-Jan suspects Etta of cheating and has his own ideas of how to catch her in the act. We also meet Rosa and Kees, old lovers whose paths cross after decades of not seeing each other. On this spring day in Amsterdam, their love starts blooming again.

A film review by Rob Lubbersen remarks that there are anachronisms in the film. Tattoos, mobile phones, Segway transporters: these did not exist in Amsterdam in 1961. Ring-necked parakeets did not live in the Vondelpark in 1961. They do now; one hears their calls in the film. Why the anachronisms? asks Lubbersen. Because Frans Weisz did not have the budget to transform the 2017 Vondelpark into the 1961 Vondelpark? Other reviewers say this expresses the idea that, while the main characters still live in 1961, their surroundings have become 2017. This, they say, is faithful to the poetic imagery in the book by Campert; who is not only a novelist but a poet as well.

In the film, teenage girl character Panda refers to the war for Algerian independence from France then. Though France like the Netherlands was a NATO member state, there was sympathy for Algerian independence among anti-colonialist people in the Netherlands. On 13 December 1959, the Dutch broadcasting organisation VPRO had a television charity marathon to help Algerian refugee children who had fled to Morocco. Right-wing Dutch Foreign Minister Joseph Luns, ex-member of the Dutch nazi party, and later NATO general secretary, opposed this: western new Guinea was then still a Dutch colony, and Luns wanted French support to keep it that way. Nevertheless, the pro-Algerian children show became the first Dutch TV charity marathon.

In the film. Panda says she will take the night train from Amsterdam to Paris, together with her lover, an Algerian independence fighter. From Paris, they plan to go further south, to Algeria, to join the freedom fight.

Frans Weisz is from a Jewish family. The nazis murdered his father at Auschwitz. His mother survived Auschwitz, because, she said ‘she so desperately wanted to see Frans again’. Frans survived the war in hiding.

Frans Weisz’ son Géza plays the 1961 twenty-something Boelie role in the film. Remco Campert plays Boelie later, in his eighties.

There are differences between the film and the book. Eg, in the novel, there are references to the World War II past of some characters; not so in the film. Also, in the book, Boelie, Mees and Panda beat and rob an old man; in the film just Panda throws him into the water. The name of the old man is Kees Bakels. He is the main character in the 1923 novel Kees de Jongen, by Dutch socialist author Theo Thijssen. Thijssen’s book describes Kees as an 1890s working class boy in his early teens, who falls in love with the girl Rosa Overbeek. Towards the end the film, Panda brings Kees and Rosa, now seniors, together again, after they had not seen each other for decades.

Mees in one of the final scenes, at a party, sees a stuntman jump off a balcony with an umbrella as parachute; and suddenly feels happy (wonderful).

Remco Campert last words in the film are that the two male main characters never saw Panda again. Her ‘Algerian freedom fighter’ lover turns out to be fake, neither Algerian nor freedom fighter.

Pauline Kleijer writes in a review that it is a pity that Panda in the book has interesting things to say; while as the film role she is a cliché pretty teenage girl. Weisz himself has a different view, considering Panda the real heroine of the story.

In the last images of the film, Remco Campert walks away from the Vondelpark bench where he had been sitting, telling about the past.

Painter Vermeer, film reviewed

This video says about itself:

Exhibition on Screen: Vermeer and Music. Cinema Trailer

The 3rd film in the EXHIBITION ON SCREEN series, Vermeer and Music: the Art of Love and Leisure at the National Gallery London, hit cinema screens worldwide on Thursday 10th October 2013.

On 28 January 2018, I went to see this film. The London exhibition which the film is about was unique, as Vermeer paintings depicting music were exhibited together for the first time. Vermeer depicted musical instruments and people playing them quite often: on one-third of the paintings known to be by him, 12 out of 36.

Vermeer made more paintings than 36: probably about 50. Not that many: he worked slowly and meticulously. And he lived 1632-1675, dying at only 43 years old.

What do we know about Vermeer‘s life? Not much. We don’t have writings by the painter on his works or other subjects. He did not give his paintings titles. Like older Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch. Like with Bosch, this means there are many hypotheses on his art of which we don’t know whether they are true or not.

Let us compare Vermeer to his older contemporaries Rubens and Rembrandt. All three lived in the Low Countries, ruled in the sixteenth century by the king of Spain. In 1568, the Low Countries revolted against excessive taxation of the urban bourgeoisie by the absolute monarchy, and the Spanish’s Inquisition’s persecution of Protestants. Spanish armed forces managed to crush the rebellion in the southern provinces (roughly, what is now Belgium). However, in 1648 Spain had to recognize the independence of the northern provinces (roughly, what is now the Netherlands).

The newly independent Dutch state was special for being a republic instead of a monarchy like other European countries. Its ruling class were, unlike elsewhere, not nobles with an emperor or king on top of a hierarchical pyramid, but mainly urban bourgeois. This social and political change also made for a change in art in the seventeenth century. In most European countries, artists were then still dependent on princes and other feudal aristocrats; and, where Roman Catholicism was the state religion, on the Roman Catholic hierarchy. That was also true for Rubens’ Spanish Netherlands (roughly: present Belgium).

In the European seventeenth century, the establishment view on art considered Christian religious, historical and ancient Roman mythological subjects to be the most noble ones for painting. Catholic church dignitaries commissioned religious work; secular aristocrats commissioned historical and mythological art which often made complimentary allusions to seventeenth century monarchs and nobles.

But the new Dutch republic was different. There, the new urban bourgeois rulers wanted art which they could relate to their own lives more. Money to buy art was more widespread than in other countries; seventeenth century Dutch artists made millions of paintings. Also, often on different subjects than traditionally or still customary abroad.

As this blog has mentioned before, Rembrandt in the northern independent republic made less religious art and far less historical and mythological art than Rubens in the southern Roman Catholic Spanish Netherlands.

How does Vermeer fit in this? Let us look at the Wikipedia list of 34 works ‘firmly attributed to Vermeer’. According to the London National Gallery and the film, two other works, including A Young Woman Seated at the Virginals, should be added to make 36.

Of these 36 works, only one depicts Roman mythology, Diana and her Companions, maybe Vermeer’s earliest painting. So, less than 3% of his oeuvre, even less than Rembrandt, far less than Rubens. Vermeer, a burgher of Delft city, fitted in the new art of the new republic.

How about Christian religious art? Only two of the 36 paintings, 5,5%. There used to be a third one, The Supper at Emmaus; however, it turned out to be a twentieth century forgery by Han van Meegeren.

So, considerable less religious art by Vermeer than by Rembrandt, let alone Rubens. Of these two religious paintings, one is an early work. The other one is The Allegory of Faith. It is special, at it was probably commissioned by the Roman Catholic Church which did not buy much art in the seventeenth century Dutch republic. Far less so than in Rubens’ Spanish Netherlands where it was the official church. Like Rubens, Vermeer had been born in a Protestant family, but converted to Roman Catholicism later. In Vermeer’s case, to be able to marry his wife.

Vermeer, The Allegory of the Faith

The Allegory of Faith is unlike most other Roman Catholic religious paintings. One might expect a depiction of Saint Peter’s Church in Rome, or some smaller but still big church. Instead, it depicts the interior of an urban house, like so many of Vermeer’s works. Roman Catholic services were only allowed in the Dutch republic in buildings which did not look like churches on the outside.

70% of Rembrandt’s work is portraits or self-portraits. 0% of Vermeer’s work is (a detail in one painting may be a self-portrait, but that is not certain).

The overwhelming majority of Vermeer’s work, over 90% is genre painting, plus a few in the cityscapes category. These two categories were not favourite subjects for Rubens: too ‘bourgeois’ for the Spanish Netherlands. Not favourite subjects for Rembrandt because of personal preference. However, Vermeer’s genre painting fitted in well with the Dutch Republic’s new urban upper class; like the portraits which Rembrandt preferred.

As the film notes, there are contradictions between Vermeer’s life and his work. His art usually has a peaceful, quiet atmosphere; but the painter lived in a probably noisy house with eleven children.

Vermeer also often depicted affluent persons at home, but he was not rich himself. In 1672, the Dutch republic was at war with France and other enemies. The art market collapsed and Vermeer became poor. The shock of poverty killed him in 1675.

Vermeer did not become famous initially. In the nineteenth century, French art critic Théophile Thoré-Bürger rescued him from undeserved oblivion. Thoré-Bürger was a radical democrat who praised the realism of his socialist contemporary Gustave Courbet. Though an opponent of French Roman Catholic clericalism, he appreciated Roman Catholic Vermeer for depicting mainly scenes from urban daily life, not religious or historical themes, still considered superior by the nineteenth century art establishment.

After this rediscovery, Vermeer’s paintings became dramatically more expensive, making lots of money more than the maker ever made; like happened to many other artists. 12 out of 36 paintings are now in the USA.

The film contains various interviews, including with Tracy Chevalier, author of the novel Girl with a Pearl Earring, inspired by the painting of the same name.

New research on Girl with the pearl earring: here.

Steven Spielberg’s The Post, film, media and wars

This video from the USA says about itself:

The Post | Behind-the-Scenes Interviews

15 December 2017

We talk with stars Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Matthew Rhys, Carrie Coon, Tracy Letts, writer/co-producer Liz Hannah, writer Josh Singer and director Steven Spielberg about their new film ‘The Post’ .

Katharine Graham is the first female publisher of a major American newspaper — The Washington Post. With help from editor Ben Bradlee, Graham races to catch up with The New York Times to expose a massive cover-up of government secrets that spans three decades and four U.S. presidents. Together, they must overcome their differences as they risk their careers — and very freedom — to help bring long-buried truths to light.

Directed by Steven Spielberg

In Theaters – January 12, 2018

By David Swanson in the USA:

1/28/2018 at 13:03:40

The Post should be viewed by current editors of The Post

I was afraid that The Post would give us a Hollywood film version of the publication of the Pentagon Papers and manage never to say what was in the Pentagon Papers. I was afraid it would be turned into a pro-war movie. I was afraid we’d be told that the Washington Post was a courageous institution while Daniel Ellsberg was a dirty traitor. I am pleased to have had no reason for such concerns.

The Post is not exactly an anti-war movie, Ellsberg is not a main character, the peace movement is just rabble scenery, and the major focus is split between journalism’s struggle against government and Katherine Graham’s struggle against sexism. But we are in fact told in this film that the Pentagon Papers documented decades of official war lies and the continuation of mass-slaughter year-after-year purely out of cowardly unwillingness to be the one to end it. The Post leaves Ellsberg looking like the hero he is and Robert McNamara looking like the Nazi he was. And I’m left to complain that I have nothing to complain about.

Well, except this: We’re supposed to believe that the fact that the U.S. government had been blatantly lying about its motivations, actions, and analyses of its warmaking for decades came as a shocking revelation to every intern, reporter, editor, and publisher at the Washington Post, that they all had simply had no idea, bless their hearts, and that they all immediately believed that this brand-new truth needed to be told (with the only hurdle being the willingness of the publisher to stick to the obvious course of action when faced with legal threats from the Justice Department).

This story obscures the fact that senators, Congress members, independent reporters like I.F. Stone, and many others had been exposing the lies in real time for years. And, of course, many statements appeared to be lies without the need for any exposure. We’re expected to overlook the willful suspension of disbelief required to believe, for example, that predicting imminent success in Vietnam over and over again for years was all driven by honest reflection on facts. The peace movement was the massive recognition of the lies. The peace movement persuaded Ellsberg to act. The people running the Washington Post cannot have been quite as oblivious as we’re led to believe.

The same tale of innocence also may leave the moviegoer with the entirely false impression that the Washington Post has instinctively challenged the most blatant war lies ever since the days of Tricky Dick. Nothing could be further from the truth. Ellsberg has said that Trump should see this movie. I’d rather Jeff Bezos

world’s richest man, owner of and presently also of the Washington Post

and each of his employees at the current Post see it.

Here are some of the wars that the Washington Post has helped to promote since the moment the credits rolled: Grenada, Panama, the Gulf War (the Post outdid itself promoting a fictional account of babies being taken out of incubators), Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya, and drone wars in general.

Here are the wars I am aware of the Washington Post having opposed: _______________.

The current U.S.-Saudi war on Yemen is unusual for the Post‘s pretense that the U.S. military isn’t actively engaged in it, even while admirably asking the U.S. to ask the Saudis to open the ports.

Here’s an excerpt from my book, War Is A Lie:

In May and June 2005, the most repeated excuse by U.S. media outlets, including the Washington Post, for not covering the Downing Street Minutes and related documents demonstrating the dishonesty of the planners of the War on Iraq, was that the documents told us nothing new, that they were old news. This conflicted, of course, with the second most common excuse, which was that they were false.

Those of us trumpeting the story as new and important scratched our heads. Of course we’d known the Bush-Cheney gang was lying, but did everyone know that? Had corporate media outlets reported it? Had they informed the public of confirmation of this fact in the form of memos from top government officials in the United Kingdom? And if so, when? When had this particular piece of news been new news?

At what point did it become stale and unnecessary to report that Bush had decided by the summer of 2002 to go to war and to use false justifications related to weapons of mass destruction and ties to terrorism? Judging by opinion polls in spring 2005, we hadn’t reached that point yet. Much of the public still believed the lies.

If you went back, as I did, and reviewed all the issues of the Washington Post that had come out in June, July, and August 2002, you found that, while what was happening behind closed doors in Washington and London may have been known to the Washington Post, it certainly never informed its readers. [i] In fact, during that three month period, I found a flood of pro-war articles, editorials, and columns, many of them promoting the lies the debunking of which was supposedly old news.

On August 18, 2002, for example, the Washington Post ran an editorial, an ombudsman column, and three op-eds about a potential U.S. attack on Iraq, as well as three related “news” articles. One article, placed on the top of the front page, reported on a memo that Secretary of “Defense” Donald Rumsfeld had sent to the White House and the media. “Defense” officials were worried that countries such as Iraq or Iran could use cruise missile technology to attack “U.S. installations or the American homeland”.

The article contained the admission that “no particular piece of new intelligence prompted the warning.” What prompted the reporting?

David Swanson is the author of “When the World Outlawed War”, “War Is A Lie” and “Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union”. He blogs at and and works for the online activist organization

Earth: One Amazing Day, wildlife film review

This video says about itself:

Earth: One Amazing Day, Official TrailerBBC Earth Documentary

24 September 2017

Narrated by Robert Redford comes the long-awaited sequelEarth: One Amazing Day, from BBC Earth Films, an astonishing journey revealing the awesome power of the natural world.

On 27 January 2018, I went to see the BBC wildlife film Earth: One Amazing Day.

The theme of this beautiful film is that Earth is a very special planet, being the only known planet in the universe, as far as is known, where there is life. Not just one species of life: millions of species of animals, plants, etc.

This life on earth became possible because Earth is neither so close to its star, the sun, that it is too hot for life, nor so far away from the sun that it is too cold for life.

Earth turns around its axis, making for relatively hot daytime and relatively cold nighttime. This change, day after day, helps biodiversity, as some wildlife prefers the day, and others prefer the night.

So, every day on Earth is an ‘Amazing Day’ as special wildlife things happen day after day.

The film begins with sunrise, and ends with nighttime. The rising sun causes a giant panda in China to wake up. Meanwhile, a serval, a mainly nocturnal cat, tries to catch a rodent just after dawn in Africa. The rodent sees the threat and escapes. The serval realizes that it is time to sleep.

There is much more fine footage in the film. On the Galapagos islands, newly hatched marine iguanas try, successfully or unsuccessfully, to escape from snakes. In Africa, a young zebra manages to cross a fast flowing river with crocodiles and hippos in it. Later, its mother saves the foal from a cheetah attack.

In the South American rainforest, a hummingbird has to compete for flowers’ nectar with bees, whose stings might kill it. However, interaction between the sun and the earth’s atmosphere causes rain clouds. When the rain starts, it hinders the bees much more than the hummingbird which can now feed peacefully.

AS the film progresses, it moves closer to sunset. Monkeys in China do dangerous rock climbing to be in caves before the night, dangerous for them, falls.

Though, according to the film, all days on earth are amazing, it says one day is extra special: the day when millions of mayflies hatch in the Tisza river in Hungary, to live for just one day as adults.

Finally, the film calls on humans to take good care of all the amazing wildlife on planet Earth.