“Dr. Mindy, can I be vulnerable in your car?” | Don’t Look Up

Washington (GGM) Analysis | December 20, 2021, by Noreen Wise, Founder & CEO of Gallant Gold Media, and author 

All true things said in jest, right? That was certainly my impression when I checked out Don’t Look Up on December 10, 2021. This timely film is an ink blot test, which becomes abundantly clear when scrolling through the majority of mainstream media reviews. You’ll quickly discover that most are nothing more than defensive ambushes against Adam McKay, (writer, producer and director of Don’t Look Up), and his star-studded cast, with the trademark fossil fuel maniacal thumbprint.

The truth hurts. 

As a climate activist, my impression of McKay’s intrepid work was that it was masterfully written. A satirical mask covering the faces and behaviors of very real people. Picking up on the legitimacy behind each raw jab, I felt grateful to hear the facts spoken this way. It disarms and makes us much more open-minded to the next painful truth. It’s as though the script was written in code, and whoever can decipher will know how to proceed with climate action.

Heart of the matter. Don’t Look Up is a multi-dimensional, emotional roller-coaster filled with nuances. In addition to his unchained smack down of politicians and their short-term priorities, self-serving tech giants, and the soulless media, Adam McCay skillfully weaves in valuable advice throughout the film that we’d otherwise have to pay a lot of money when we visited a crisis manager or therapist.

Timothée Chalamet’s character, Yule, portrayed this aspect of the parody so admirably. The best line in Don’t Look UP wasn’t a slick diss, but rather  Chalamet’s, “Dr. Mindy, can I be vulnerable in your car?”

In my humble opinion, allowing ourselves to admit to our vulnerability is the key takeaway.  “Can I be vulnerable” is a pivotal question in this transformational film, and becomes Don’t Look Up’s valuable contribution to our global society. It’s the question that will lead to the majority of effective solutions required to successfully solve the climate crisis. Until we’re willing to expose ourselves to risks and rejections, making mistakes through trial and error, and taking big leaps, we won’t be able to stay below 1.5ºC. 

Chalamet also models the benefit of having a personal spiritual substratum to help us deal with all the harsh unknowns.

Thankfully, Chalamet nails both of these critical concepts. We now have a mental image to work off of that reinforces how cool it is to be vulnerable and deep.

Adam McKay was first in line to expose his own vulnerability in taking the big leap of faith to create Don’t Look Up. As if on cue, the mainstream media’s shallow and acidic reaction to Don’t Look Up is WHY so many innovators with new ideas remain silent and refuse to act. By putting his own neck on the line, McKay has not only exposed, but he’s ruptured the barriers that restrain many innovators.  What a brilliant and daring legacy McKay has bestowed on humanity at this critical juncture in our timeline, creating a path in the tangled wilderness for others to follow. Hopefully many of us will take the necessary risks after watching Don’t Look Up when it’s released on Netflix, December 24, 2021.

The remarkable cast of stars, promoting a powerful message to the public, urging us to open our eyes, “JUST LOOK UP,” and do the right thing to end global warming for humanity’s sake, is the equivalent of the music industry banding together and creating “We Are the World” to provide relief during the 1985 African famine. 

Jennifer Lawrence’s flawless depiction of PhD candidate Kate Dibiasky embodies the classic hit-job women often experience when they have discoveries and make valuable contributions that organizational psychologist and Wharton professor Adam Grant posts about regularly on social media. “When men get mad, they’re commended as strong leaders. When women get angry, they’re condemned as aggressive bitches.” Or how about, “When men raise ideas, they’re respected as leaders. When women voice ideas, they’re often ignored.”

As thrilled as we are to have a female president, Janie Orlean, played by Meryl Streep, represents how a crisis would unfold under the leadership of a female Donald Trump (Marjorie Taylor Greene?!). LOL. All joking aside, the unfortunate reality is that power tends to warp good judgement, no matter what the gender. Nobel laureate Daniel Khaneman explains this ruinous flaw in his book Noise, A Flaw in Human Judgement.

On the other end of the spectrum is Dr. Teddy Oglethorpe, Rob Morgan, NASA’s head of the Planetary Defense Coordination Office. Teddy models excellent leadership behavior in the film, providing viewers with a baseline of what real leadership looks like, which helps to underscore the deficiencies of President Orlean, ridiculous Peter Isherwell played by Mark Rylance,  (I kept wondering if he was a heartless hologram), and General Themes, Paul Guilfoyle, who was apparently trying to make up for all the grifter defense contractors who deceptively invoice the military with padded bills like the $435 hammer. (Kate couldn’t get over that the General had charged them for what were supposed to be free snacks and water.) 

As always, Jonah Hill was amazing. I wouldn’t have wanted him to play the President’s son, a male Ivanka, I mean Jason Orlean, any other way. I can’t help but wonder if Peter Brand in Moneyball, played by Johah Hill, and Peter’s genius idea, is the type of solution we need to uncover to solve the climate crisis. (Make sure to keep watching beyond the credits to see Jason’s P.S. to the world. Haha.)

I found that I was the one who laughed the most in the theater. I’m sure I was the one who cried the most, too. The majority in my millennial and Gen-Z audience seemed to be processing the significance of what the film was conveying and appeared too stunned to know what to do. We all seemed to be connecting with what Greta had warned us about. “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic.” And there Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) was, panicking. And suddenly, so were we. (I had to look this up, because I was so curious about how a star’s acting could actually make me feel an extreme emotion like panic. It’s called the chameleon effect. But seriously, see if you don’t physically feel “pit in your stomach” panicked when you watch Randall panic. Trust me, you will.)

I have to admit that I too was glad they cut Randall’s beard when they were preparing him for his whirlwind media blitz.

Sadly, the double ending (plus Jason’s P.S.) made sense. Most of us speculated as much on social media when Jeff Bezos lifted-off for his test flight to outer space this past summer while in the middle of unprecedented heatwaves and out of control wildfires. 

As I exited the theater, and in the days that have followed, I couldn’t help but imagine a different kind of outcome for our real climate crisis. The kind of ending that becomes a new beginning with millions, and billions of us following the lead of Leonardo DiCaprio in the Revenant, clawing our way back to our original paradisiacal earth, this after being left for dead along the edge of a cliff by the extreme capitalists and billionaires who are busy trying to profit off our planet’s death spiral just the way Mark Rylance did in Don’t Look Up.  

Leonardo DiCaprio has been a global leader and environmentalist supporting biodiversity and rewilding the world since 1998, particularly for marginalized groups, such as the Waorani People of the Amazon and the ICCN in Virunga National Park. DiCaprio’s philanthropy aligns with Sir David AttenboroughJohan RockströmJane Goodall and multiple others who are urgently promoting rewilding. 

So yes, imagining the better conclusion that Sir David Attenborough spoke of at COP26 in November 2021 when he said, “If working apart we are a force powerful enough to destabilize our planet, surely working together we are powerful enough to save it.” Attenborough went on to assure his audience in Glasgow, “In my lifetime, I’ve witnessed a terrible decline. In yours, you could and should witness a wonderful recovery.”

That’s the brilliance of Don’t Look Up. The craftsmanship of subliminally showing us what we don’t want to have happen within the next decade, which opens our eyes to the natural path leading in the opposite direction.

Whether it’s Dr. Randall Mindy, Hugh Glass from the Revenant, or the real Leonardo DiCaprio of Appian Way Productions and the Leonardo DiCaprio FoundationDon’t Look Up adeptly inspires viewers to reach for a better path forward. (Note to self, it’s rather extraordinary that one actor can play the two dissimilar roles of Dr. Randall Mindy and Hugh Glass to such excellence. Looking forward to seeing what DiCaprio does with Jim Jones.) 

And although we may have panicked when Randall panicked, we don’t have to calmly accept annihilation the way Randall, Kate, Teddy, Yule and Randall’s wife and two sons did. Rather, let’s Hugh Glass ourselves and reach and stretch and claw our way back to civilization by rewilding our local communities so that we can have the happily ever after outcome the majority of us want so desperately. 

“We really did have everything, didn’t we? I mean when you think about it…”

Yes, Dr. Mindy, we really did. Let’s get it back while we still have time.

Don’t Look Up is the entertainment world’s Code Red for Humanity. An urgent warning for those who may have missed the 2021 IPCC Report Report, or forgot to read the Paris Agreement. We only have a few short years to stay below 1.5ºC. We must return to the Garden of Eden. Let’s reach this blissful destination within the next ten years, rather than 22,740 years.❃

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The Post | DoubleTake by REGGIE WOLTZ

Mrs. Streep Goes to Washington

by REGGIE WOLTZ

In this era of movie making, with expansive franchises and retreads running amok as studios increasingly prefer sure things over more risky investments, a crucial step in getting an original film greenlit is the opening pitch. How good does a movie sound when you boil it down to one sentence? Some of the most recent Hollywood favorites have excellent pitches. Want Emma Stone to sing and dance her way to the Oscar’s podium? Sounds good. Can I interest you in Jordan Peele directing a horror movie about a black guy visiting his white girlfriend’s family? Sure, why not. How about an animated film that follows the daily lives of those little pictograms that you use in texts? Sign me up!

The Post has an inarguably better pitch than any of those. It’s a Steven Spielberg-directed drama about the Washington Post’s printing of the Pentagon Papers. The timing couldn’t be better as it arrives while the country’s political and social climates are not all that dissimilar to those of the Nixon-era United States. Oh, and it stars Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, the king and queen of Hollywood. It’s almost like this movie was created in a lab to dominate the film awards circuit.

The thing about The Post that stands out the most is its incredible ensemble cast. Yes, the film centers around its binary star system, but the orbiting planets shine in their own way as well. Bob Odenkirk nails his role as lead journalist Ben Bagdikian–at times seeming like he is the real protagonist of this story. Bruce Greenwood does a tremendous job of emulating Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara without vilifying his character or creating undue sympathy for the man that had as much to do with the Vietnam War as any of the Presidents that he served. Matthew Rhys, Sarah Paulson, Carrie Coons, Bradley Whitford, and Jesse Plemons give noticeable performances in their limited screen time. But the real unsung hero of the film, Michael Cyril Creighton, gives us the film’s best thirty seconds in his one scene as the junior reporter who gets several pages of the Pentagon Papers mysteriously dropped on his desk.

Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep earn their top billings in this one. They make the most of their massive portions of The Post’s runtime and the scenes they share buzz with the chemistry of two professionals at the top of their games. The problem is that they aren’t given much to work with.

Hanks’ Ben Bradlee isn’t a human so much as he is the imagining of what a pirate running a newspaper would be like. He bursts with personality and swagger but doesn’t appear in three dimensions. For being just as vital to the plot as Streep’s Kay Graham, Bradlee is never exposed or shown in his weak moments the way that she is. And boy, do we get a lot of weak moments from Graham.

Streep’s character is the thematic linchpin of the movie, drowning the audience in her internal conflict and cultivation of an authoritative presence.  Many of her scenes amount to her pondering the same thing, over and over again. There are two concurrent conflicts in the movie, both having to do with Graham. The first is her questioning “Should I print the story even though it would hurt my relationship with McNamara?” The second is her questioning “Should I print the story even though it would possibly result in my newspaper dying and me going to jail?” If it seems like these are effectively the same question, it’s because they are. This makes it tedious for the movie to answer them one after another for the better part of two hours and makes Streep’s scenes frustrating to watch.

This weakness in storytelling is endemic to the true failure of The Post, its try-hard feminism. This movie was clearly designed to be a celebration of women, a distinction that it fails to earn the more the viewer thinks about it.

Spielberg is deft with the camera, using his frames efficiently, but the times that he does get fancy are used to accentuate the presence of a woman. Some examples include tracking shots that follow Bradlee’s daughter counting her lemonade stand proceeds, Graham moving past a picture of her father in the newsroom, and Graham moving through crowds of admiring women (one outside a room of the New York Stock Exchange, one outside the Supreme Court). Scenes centered on Streep hit us over the head with her point of view, which makes her unimpressive character all the more encumbering.

The story of The Post could be great, but the movie gets too caught up in trying to tell us that “Women are awesome!!” for that to actually happen. Instead of focusing on the courage of those who actually worked to bring the Pentagon Papers to light, it focuses on the courage of one person making a relatively easy decision. As such, it loses the dramatic appeal of having people sacrifice their lives in order to create an opportunity for the greater good to prevail (an appeal that Spotlight rode to win Best Picture at the Oscars just two years ago), in favor of telling the story of the woman who is only tasked with giving the okay to execute on that opportunity. This misappropriation not only engenders the aforementioned redundant double conflict that bogs the movie down, it creates a load of forced themes and hypocrisy.

Who is it that risked being convicted of treason to steal the original documents? Who called the shots for the team that was responsible for bringing the Pentagon Papers to light? Who did the digging in order to find the leak and gather the resources that allowed the news story to be printed? Who made the final call for all of their hard work to pay off?

I’m not saying that Kay Graham wasn’t brave in making her decision or that women don’t add much to this story. I just want to make it clear that it is a reach for a film about the printing of the Pentagon Papers to congratulate a woman as if she made it all happen. That is just not the truth of the reality and, as a result, The Post takes a great pitch and throws it in the dirt.

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