THE POST: There’s a mistaken idea that period films need only get the costumes and set design right to merit favor. But the far better works in that genre accurately reflect the attitudes of people in its era toward prevailing institutions. Don’t get me wrong here because Ann Roth’s early ‘70s attire for the movie’s characters reflects the poor fashion sense possessed by persons in that decade. What is spotlighted in Liz Hannah and Josh Singer’s intelligent screenplay about “The Washington Post’s” release of the Pentagon Papers in 1971 is how that seminal event led the media to have a more adversarial relationship with the highest level of federal government by demanding accountability from it. That uneasy evolution is parallel with the plot about the equally complicated and often combative professional relationship between the newspaper’s socialite owner (Meryl Streep) and its hard-nosed executive editor (Tom Hanks). It’s fair to say that the narrative is a homage to investigative journalism and definitely positions itself as a prequel to ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN (1976) since director Steven Spielberg (See CLOSING CREDITS.) knows to combine the best elements of newspaper pictures, detective stories and drama which made that film about the Watergate break-in and cover-up so masterful. There are the occasional self-conscious when one gets the impression that we’re not hearing dialogue as much as we are a speech from someone standing on an imaginary soap box. But an A-list cast like this one almost has to try to foul this story up and they more than avoid doing that. In fact, by the time you read this I’m pretty certain that this movie will have a well-deserved Best Picture nomination for an Academy Award in hand. It’s certainly the beneficiary of timeliness when charges of “fake news” are being manufactured by the White House to divert attention away from the actual news. But the film’s principle that a free press and truth are the axis upon which a democracy revolves is one that’s timeless. CRITIC’S GRADE: B+

CLOSING CREDITS: Here are some other excellent movies directed by Steven Spielberg - THE SUGARLAND EXPRESS (1974), JAWS (1975), CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977)*, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981)*, E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (1982)**, THE COLOR PURPLE (1985)***, JURASSIC PARK (1993), SCHINDLER’S LIST (1993)****, AMISTAD (1997), SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (1998)*****, CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (2002), THE TERMINAL (2004), MUNICH (2005)**, INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKILL (2008), LINCOLN (2012)**, BRIDGE OF SPIES (2015)***

*Academy Award Nomination for Best Director

**Academy Award Nomination for Best Director and Best Picture

***Academy Award Nomination for Best Picture

****Academy Award Winner for Best Director and Best Picture

*****Academy Award Nomination for Best Picture and Winner for Best Director