Presidents' Day is soon upon us, and while the Feb. 20 holiday was initially created to honor the birthday of America's first president, George Washington, it has since become a day to honor all of our commanders in chief throughout history. This Presidents' Day, however, many of us are unhappy with the actions and policies of our new administration, and in these troubled political times, it's comforting to turn to cinematic presidents that have given us a little more confidence in the noble office.
Watching Michael Douglas and Annette Bening fall in love in The American President might remind you of better days, while marathoning The West Wing may make you nostalgic for governments of the past. Heck, even Bill Pullman's action star hunk president in Independence Day might feel more comforting than what we've got going on now, and that's with the threat of alien annihilation. But if there's any presidential film that you should revisit this Presidents' Day, it's the 1976 drama thriller All the President's Men. Not only is the movie frighteningly relevant today, but it's also an important reminder for all of us to stay vigilant during this administration.
Directed by Alan J. Paula, All the President's Men stars Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as famed journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, who broke the news of the Nixon administration's Watergate scandal through their tireless reporting and investigating efforts in The Washington Post. The film recreates how the two secretly met with the informant known as "Deep Throat," communicated via codes and hidden messages, and evaded danger all in the name of getting to the bottom of the story and exposing the truth behind the Watergate plot. It's a suspenseful film that is wonderfully acted and, much like 2016's Best Picture winner Spotlight, an artful representation of the diligence involved in investigative journalism.
And though All the President's Men tells a story that took place over 40 years ago, the film feels incredibly relevant today. Not only do journalists currently face threats all around the world, but America's new administration hasn't exactly made itself welcoming to the media, either. Whether Trump is ignoring journalists' questions, claiming that the media is untrustworthy, favoring specific outlets, verbally attacking reporters, or feeding anti-media conspiracy theories, he isn't exactly cooperating with the freedom of the press mandate outlined in the American constitution. And that means the public has to be extra vigilant about how he and his administration use the media and journalists to advance certain narratives or ignore things altogether.
A revisit to All the President's Men is a good reminder that even the small, seemingly insignificant details of this presidency need to be scrutinized. Bernstein discovered the lead to the Watergate scandal by attending what seemed like a simple courthouse hearing for those arrested for a break-in at a hotel. But more details led to more questions and the duo ended up uncovering a scandal that led to the downfall of a president. Not only should journalists remain persistent in their work like the reporters in the film, but those who aren't familiar with how journalists do their work might benefit from understanding the intricacies of the system. And what better way to do that than through the suspenseful and entertaining All the President's Men?
And who knows, maybe one day soon, a movie will be made about the journalists, protesters, activists, or even staffers who discovered something important and dug a way out of this troubling administration.