I, Tonya

There’s that old saying: If you can’t beat ’em, take ’em out at the knees. Right?

The 1994 conspiracy on ice that was so bizarre it seemed like it had to be a prank is now detailed in a motion picture that on its surface also seems like it must be farcical.

But even with all the bewilderment brought about by the Nancy Kerrigan assault and the tongue-in-cheek manner in which this flick has been marketed I can tell you with every degree of certainty that it’s no joke.

“I, Tonya” is 100 percent dysfunctional fun, starting off by announcing that it is (snicker) “…based on irony-free, wildly contradictory, totally true interviews…” and progressing to show us those direct statements, along with flashbacks to flesh out this timeline of twisted events.

Addressing the camera and describing things as they remember them are, among others: Jeff Gillooley (Sebastian Stan), Tonya’s first love and ex-husband; Jeff’s doughy and expressionless buddy Shawn (Paul Walter Hauser), a self-proclaimed “international counter-terrorism agent and professional bodyguard” (snicker, snicker); LaVona Golden (Allison Janney), Tonya’s unfeeling, foul-mouthed, and chain-smoking mother; and the woman herself, Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie – genius!)

We’re walked through the most significant events and incidents, competitions and experiences that molded the Tonya Harding we all saw in the public eye in 1994; it’s an attempt to help us understand the how that led to the why.

The skating sequences put us right there on the ice, the sweeping camera work expressing the exhilaration as well as the pressure – from the crowds, from the judges, from Tonya’s mother – of fulfilling expectations and executing precision routines.

And let’s not forget that 90s fashion – err, “fashion.”  There’s the big, big hair; the mock turtleneck shirts; the Girbaud jeans (why the hell did we pay $90 for a pair of jeans?!?!). While laughable, seeing all of this again was nevertheless nostalgic.

It’s no secret that the incident – “the f*cking incident” – is the big draw here, but “I, Tonya” is so much more; it goes beyond the figure skating feud that headlined every news station and newsstand and introduces the woman behind the man who had a friend who knew a guy who willfully turned Olympic safety on its head with that infamous “whack” heard ’round the world.

The movie exhibits a campy and spirited feel, with bits of humor and those out-of-the-ordinary instances of characters breaking through the fourth wall, helping to offset the heavy and jolting moments of verbal and emotional abuse that are so prevalent they almost require a mention in the cast list.

Be prepared for a litany of swearing. There’s so much, and I’m not sure if this was for real or simply a Hollywood embellishment to enhance the persona of “the girl from the wrong side of the tracks” that Harding clearly was suggested to possess.

Doesn’t matter. Robbie doesn’t miss a beat when slinging vulgarities, and Janney recites that sh*t like a f*ckin’ champ.

Never has the f-word sounded so poetic, complemented by Janney’s patented emphatic sighs and bothered gazes, during which her eyes are half-open yet still filled with overwhelming disapproval and condescension.

All of that accompanied by jaw-dropping blasphemy raises her character to next-level bitch status. She’s absolutely heartless yet so stealthily wicked that you are inexplicably fascinated and actually will beg for more.

It’s easy to see why Janney received an Oscar nod for this role (psst… she’s gonna win).

The playfulness with which “I, Tonya” is presented doesn’t take away from the gravity of the incident at its center but rather expresses the absurdity in its process and the disbelief that it ever was carried out “by two of the biggest boobs in a story populated solely by boobs.”

That it happened at all is a head scratcher, and I give credit to director Craig Gillespie for making this feel less like an episode of “20/20” and more of a quirky behind-the-scenes look at, well… how sh*t went down.

“I was loved for a minute. Then I was hated. It was like being abused all over again.”

“I, Tonya” is shocking and smart and sarcastic. It’s completely unfiltered and wholly entertaining. And I feel like this flick helps shed some light on the longing ambition of this skater who just wanted to make a name for herself.

It may not have been what she intended, but… mission accomplished.

You have just enjoyed the insights of Movie Addict Mel, a cinema dork and conversational writer. Follow her on Twitter @movieaddictmel, and “like” her Facebook page www.facebook.com/movieaddictmel.

The Post

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…”.

This (partial) amendment has been around for literally two hundred years.

And then some.

So, these words are far from new. They’ve been memorized in classrooms; they’ve been recited in courtrooms. And now, front and center his latest flick, Steven Spielberg shines a light on these words and the depth of everything for which they stand.

And then some.

This one isn’t prefaced with those four magical words – based on true events – but that’s because it doesn’t need to be.

The story in “The Post” is as familiar as the First Amendment and opens smack in the midst of the Vietnam War, 1966, when there were things going on about which the American public had no idea.

That is, until analyst Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys) – that purposeful slow zoom hinting that he understands what’s happening – decides to photocopy (lookit that copier!!) a whole gaggle of highly classified documents.

You’ve probably heard of them; they’re better known as the Pentagon Papers, and they threatened to reveal that the government had “deeply mislead the country on the Vietnam War” to the point that “they knew we couldn’t win, but they still sent boys off to die.”

Damning? Oh, for sure!

The New York Times publishes an expose on “the most highly classified papers on the Vietnam War,” only to be subsequently silenced by Richard Nixon’s administration. And basically, any newspaper that dares to print more from these papers faces similar consequences.

What’s a little newspaper like The Washington Post to do? Especially when it’s in the process of making big, public business decisions, and there are questions abound regarding its leadership?

Publisher Katherine “Kay” Graham (Meryl Streep, a likely Oscar nominee – duh!) and Editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) certainly have their work cut out.

“The way they lied. The way they lied… those days have to be over,” Bradlee insists. “We have to be the check on their actions.”

Because, I mean… that’s what newspapers do. And like it or not, that’s precisely why we need them.

The choice to publish or not ultimately will determine Kay’s reputation – and possibly her freedom; there’s understandable concern about The Post facing the same fate as the New York Times, about what the banks will do, about, y’know, treason.

And while Hanks’ character has some killer lines one of his most profound is also one of the film’s most legitimate arguments: “If we live in a world where the government tells us what we can and cannot print, then The Washington Post has already ceased to exist.”

Buckle up, kids.

Having worked at a newspaper for 15 years, I was fascinated to compare the newsroom and processes in this flick against what I had been around for a decade and a half.

It was impressive to see these old-school techniques in full swing: the constant clicking and drumming sounds of the typewriters (remember those??) being used by reporters, the communication between one department and another, the tediousness but nostalgia of the Linotype (ohmigod!); and the entire printing process, from the plates, to the reels of paper, to the rollers, to the conveyor belt, to the stacking and binding – and finally to the docks and out for delivery.

The costuming and fashion and props and background noises all are true to the time, and there’s even use of Nixon’s actual recorded conversations (the ones recorded by the man himself).

Let’s be honest, “The Post” isn’t a high-testosterone action flick. The set-up take a while; there are a lot of pieces that need to be put into place before this thing gets rolling. Once that happened, though, I was good; there are plenty of pulse-pounding moments to hold your attention, even if you know how this one ends.

This is exactly the type of high-stakes, big drama event about which movies are made; it just so happens that this one pretty much wrote itself.

These characters are smart and determined; they know what they have to do, but they also know what they’re up against.

And if you’ve ever had that feeling of having something so elusive actually within reach, but you need certain pieces to fall into place at specific moments in order to be successful, you will totally understand the heart-beating-out-of-your-chest mixture of excitement and anxiety in “The Post.”

Spielberg’s tight shots and jumpy camera help elevate that nervousness, especially during that sequence in Bradlee’s living room, with journalists and papers strewn about every surface and that looming deadline just a-tickin’ away.

“The Post” is an eye-opening look at the urgency of truth – and the importance of, logic behind and delicate nature inherent in those rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.

And if ever there was a time for this movie, it’s right now.

You have just enjoyed the insights of Movie Addict Mel, a cinema dork and conversational writer. Follow her on Twitter @movieaddictmel, and “like” her Facebook page www.facebook.com/movieaddictmel.