“I did not have sex with that woman.” -- President Bill Clinton
“Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.” -- Vice President Dick Cheney
“Number One… I could be the most presidential person […] other than Abe Lincoln. He was pretty good…” -- Presidential candidate Donald Trump
“100% Real Parmesan Cheese” – Castle Cheese’s packaging label
#48 – All The President’s Men
The Pope has a long history with this film and its subject matter, going all the way back to when I was a little Pope in the fourth grade and my homeroom teacher wheeled a television monitor into the lunch room so that all of us kids could watch the Watergate hearings live. “Watch this carefully,” he said, “You are going to want to remember this.” He was right.
I can remember all the way back to first grade when Nixon ran for President against Hubert Humphrey. I was six. Humphrey seemed like a kindly uncle; Nixon scared the shit out of me. I can only conclude that I was either preternaturally ahead of the curve on this one or that in 1968, even a child could have told you that Nixon was a scary, evil felon. Hunter S. Thompson famously said that Nixon was so evil that even his funeral was illegal. I once took this to be a pithy one-liner, but it turns out that it is true. Nixon is buried in his own backyard at his estate in Yorba Linda, California. I am assuming that his family did not want to risk burying him in a public cemetery.
Spotlight, when viewed today All the President’s Men forces us to mourn the lack of real investigative journalism in the 21st century.
Let’s go back again to April, 1976: I am now fourteen and about to see All the President’s Men at the Woodfield 1 & 2 theaters, where the screens were HUGE. I foolishly stop for popcorn before going into the theater. The movie is popular, my screening sells out, and I must sit in the first row. This is another measure of a great film. Even when watched in this vertebrae-punishing posture—staring straight up, as if the film is being projected onto the side of a high-rise building and I am a squirrel on the ground—the film works as an engaging narrative and as a meditation on dishonesty.
All the President’s Men’s Three Miracles: The verisimilitude of the Washington Post newsroom—a movie set built in Burbank, California that was so authentic, the production designers brought in real trash from the Post to fill the on-set wastebaskets; the filmmakers’ artful use of narrative and expository tools to make sure the audience is never confused (I believe their use of the teletype machine and its amplified cacophony for both prologue and epilogue is what won the film its “Best Sound” Oscar); and Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman’s career-best performances. No slouches they.
I now headily anticipate the revelation of even bigger secrets in the coming years. Who really killed Kennedy? Who is the subject of Carly Simon’s song “You’re So Vain?” Sure, she’s “admitted” it was Warren Beatty—but she also once joked it was Mark Felt! What exactly IS IT in Castle Cheese Company’s Parmesan Cheese that the Food and Drug Administration found NOT TO BE CHEESE? Actually, I know that one: it’s cellulose derived from wood pulp. But wood pulp does not taste like cheese, not even remotely. Only cheese tastes like cheese. Why is there so much wood pulp in the cheese? Is the government working on secret “cheese trees”? We need more investigative journalists in this country, and we need to put those journalists on this cheese story! As the Pope of Film, I so proclaim it worthy. Watch All the President’s Men at your earliest possible convenience and accompany the screening with some nice, smoked, pulp-free Gouda.
"In nomine Patrici, et Scorsese, qui mecum est Jai Beaie, Amen."