ByPaul Donovan, writer at
A jerk with an opinion. An explorer of transgressive cinema. See more things about movies at
Paul Donovan

This Oscar-nominated movie has some problems with historical accuracy, but that doesn't change the point of the film.

1. There aren't very many Hollywood movies about screenwriters. For some reason they are mostly ignored. This movie is one you want to pay attention to.

2. This movie is about the infamous Hollywood blacklist. It's based on the real career of Dalton Trumbo, an extremely talented screenwriter who went to prison and was blocked from working in Hollywood because he became a Communist.

3. When Hollywood makes a political movie, you already know who the good guys and bad guys are. The same goes here. Trumbo is portrayed as an idealist, a man who wants equal pay for equal work for everyone. He's almost a martyr for having unpopular beliefs and joining a political party that was completely legal. I don't know Trumbo's biography, but I know enough about life (and Hollywood) that I don't think we're getting the full story.

4. To its credit, the movie does kind of call out Trumbo for wanting everyone to be treated equally, while still wanting his huge house with a lake on it.

The movie also does a decent job of explaining all the positions of this issue, and takes the stance that there were no good guys or bad guys here, just victims. You may or may not agree with that stance, though.

5. It is really interesting to see other Hollywood legends be personified in the movie, such as Edward G. Robinson, John Wayne, Otto Preminger and Kirk Douglas. It was more interesting to see the sides they took on the whole mess, and how classic movies such as Spartacus and Exodus helped undermine the blacklist.

6. The acting is wonderful. Bryan Cranston plays Trumbo with a cranky grace. Helen Mirren portrays the inimitable gossip columnist Hedda Hopper as an exquisite bitch. And John Goodman is always gold, even if he usually plays the same basic character. Here he's the head of King Brothers Productions, chewing his way through every scene he's in, like I imagine the real Frank King might have.

7. The movie is obviously over-simplified, especially to make such a complicated topic fit into two hours. But the advantage to that is that it is also understandable for anybody who didn't even know there was such a thing as a Communist blacklist in Hollywood. It's accurate enough to get a basic education on the topic.

8. It was directed by Jay Roach, who is famous for the Austin Powers movies and Meet the Parents. But he has also directed several political films, such as Recount and Game Change, for HBO. Political and social conservatives tend to not like his films very much, and Trumbo won't change their mind.

9. Like most Hollywood renditions of history, this one has some problems. But that's really not the point of this movie. The main idea behind this film is to remind us of the weakness of democracy, when a majority of people can gang up on a minority of people and cause a lot of suffering. It's a lesson that we need to always keep in front of us.

What did you think? Was it a good representation of this time period? Does Cranston deserve his nomination for Best Actor? Add some points below!


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