‘The Post’ is the perfect Best Picture Oscar contender

At this point last year, there were only two viable Best Picture winners; this year, we have eight:  “Call Me By Your Name,” “Darkest Hour,” “Dunkirk,” “Get Out,” “Lady Bird,” “The Post,” “The Shape of Water” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” One of those films stands out as the most obvious, natural Best Picture material – on paper, at least.

Steven Spielberg‘s “The Post” is an acclaimed docudrama, which chronicles the fight by the Washington Post to publish papers related to the Vietnam War. It reaped Golden Globe nominations for Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks who portray publisher Katharine Graham and editor Ben Bradlee respectively.

Graham, who took over the paper after her husband committee suicide, has her mettle tested when Bradlee pushes her to print the Pentagon Papers in 1971. These were classified documents that had been leaked by military analyst Daniel Ellsberg. Collectively, they exposed the secret machinations of the White House and the lies that had been told to the American people about the controversial conflict.

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The academy loves to honor a real-life story and this one features journalists exposing the truth, much as they did in the 2015 Best Picture winner “Spotlight.” And it is eerily timely, given the current strained relationship between the Trump administration and the fourth estate.

Spielberg has reaped a whopping 16 Oscar bids (nine for producing, seven for directing) and has won three: for producing and directing the 1993 Best Picture “Schindler’s List” and helming 1998’s “Saving Private Ryan.”

Streep is an academy treasure, winning three of her record 20 Academy Awards bids: the Best Actress Oscar twice for “Sophie’s Choice” (1983) and “The Iron Lady” (2011) and Best Supporting Actress for “Kramer vs Kramer” (1979). She’s already earned five nominations (and that win for “The Iron Lady”) in this decade alone.

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Hanks won back-to-back Best Actor wins for “Philadelphia” and “Forrest Gump” beginning in 1993, thereby equaling the achievement of Spencer Tracy (“Captains Courageous, 1937; “Boys Town,” 1938). Hanks has also been nominated an additional three times for Best Actor: “Big,” “Saving Private Ryan” and “Cast Away.” However, he’s not been so lucky of late; he was snubbed for “Captain Phillips” despite earning SAG, Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations.

The supporting cast of “The Post” are terrific and include television acting royalty Sarah Paulson and Bob Odenkirk. Matthew Rhys, Alison Brie, Carrie Coon, Jesse Plemons,Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood, and David Cross round out the top-notch talent.

The screenplay for “The Post” was crafted by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer. While Hannah is a newcomer, Singer won an Oscar for co-writing another film depicting journalists as heroes as they bring to light a  scandal about a corrupt organization: “Spotlight.”

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Spielberg, Streep, Hanks. An excellent supporting cast. A true-life story with themes relevant to today. And an Oscar-winning screenwriter. “The Post” may not inspire passion among academy members to earn the most number one votes. However, in this age of the preferential ballot (which asks voters to rank the Best Picture nominees instead of just picking one), that won’t matter. Enough people will like it, admire it and respect it enough to give rank it second or third on their ballots, just as they did with “Spotlight” two years ago.

Be sure to make your Oscar nomination predictions so that Hollywood studio executives can see how their films are faring in our Academy Awards odds. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominees are announced on January 23.

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