He’s on deep background. I call him deep… throat.

Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman

All the President’s Men (1976)

AFI 100 Years… 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) Ranking: #77

It’s like watching Titanic… yeah, I know how it’s going to end, but I still enjoy the story.

The Watergate break-in occurred over 40 years ago. For younger generations, the unraveling of this unique bit of history could hardly be labeled a thriller. However, the movie, starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman and scripted by William Goldman, is fast-paced, incredibly well-written and well-acted, and kept me enthralled at every scene. Definitely worth a watch.

This film is a fantastic look at the journalism process and the power of the press. Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, the Washington Post reporters who were key players in uncovering the scandal, had to jump through so many hoops and perform so many little tricks to get the story to where it needed to be. They were certainly determined when it came to interviewing people who had been frightened into silence and didn’t want to be interviewed, working off of barely-there hints like initials rather than full names, picking at tiny details and pulling at small threads until they finally unraveled into a larger story. Impressive, especially when the freakin’ WHITE HOUSE is denying everything you write, your editor is about to fire your ass, and all the other papers are covering other stories because they think you’re crazy. Personally, I would make a horrendous reporter – it requires a particular tenacity and a dogged spirit that is unaffected by multiple doors slamming in your face.

Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman

I’m fascinated at how close we (as a nation) came to almost not uncovering the whole scandal… so many non-denial denials and subtleties that might have gone unnoticed, so many conversations that could have easily been interpreted the wrong way, so many major breakthroughs that hinge on just one or two little words – or even complete silence! For example, Bernstein’s phone conversation with his Justice source:

“Look, I’m gonna count to ten, all right? If there’s any reason we should hold on the story, hang up the phone before I get to ten. If the story’s all right, you’ll just be on the phone after I get to ten, all right?

Ha! If someone said that to me I would just hang up out of pure confusion πŸ™‚

Although I suppose someone would have leaked the tapes eventually; it just might not have happened while Nixon was still in office. The anonymous sources definitely helped; it was almost as if certain insiders wanted the story to blow wide open. Really riveting stuff.

The cinematography is particularly noteworthy: from the opening scene with a typewriter, each typed letter punctuated by the sound of a gun firing, we are reminded that words are weapons and can be incredibly powerful. This is then poetically bookended by the closing shot of Woodward and Bernstein typing away furiously while Nixon’s re-inauguration and accompanying 21-gun salute play on a small TV… now this is a beautiful shot. The TV’s not in the background, but is propped up on a desk so that it perfectly balances the reporters on the other side of the screen – a final look at these two forceful opponents squaring off: the presidency versus the press. And there are a number of lovely shots of Woodward and Bernstein doing mundane things like looking through library records, where the camera pulls up and away slowly until we can’t see individual faces anymore, underlining the feeling that the reporters are hopelessly outnumbered, lost in a sea of lies, and searching for a needle in a haystack.

I also enjoyed the garage scenes with Deep Throat – great use of the cloak and dagger trope that is copied so often, but this time it actually feels real! And not overly contrived in any way… Deep Throat had very valid reasons to meet under such shady conditions, and Woodward had equally valid reasons to be paranoid and fearful for his life.

The only thing I didn’t really care for in this movie was the ending, showing major headlines being typed up as the Nixon administration’s cover up eventually fell apart. It felt a bit abrupt, especially after the rollercoaster ride of “Woodstein’s” crazy adventures, to just end like that? But I guess it makes sense because audiences at the time knew the full story already, this was more about the behind-the-scenes work that went on at the Washington Post and everything the main characters had to go through. In fact, if you do end up watching this movie, do yourself a favor (as recommended by my awesome bf, who watched it a day or so before I got around to it) and brush up on the actual history of the Watergate scandal – it’ll make following the storyline that much easier, with all the names and acronyms like CREEP (or Committee to Re-elect the President).

Finally (and how strong must this movie be that this is almost an afterthought!), Redford and Hoffman play wonderfully off of each other. Their relationship is a bit strained at first but it doesn’t come off as a “frenemies-turned-besties” ploy, instead, it’s just two very solid performances by actors that aren’t trying to outshine each other but rather bring out the best in each other. Does that sound cheesy? I’m feeling a bit patriotic after all this πŸ™‚ Anyways, rumor has it that the actors even went so far as to memorize each others’ lines as well as their own, so that they would know when to interrupt each other, and make the dialogue feel that much more realistic and natural.

Cocktail #1: Follow the Money

So sue me, I renamed this cocktail for my own nefarious purposes πŸ™‚

Originally “Wet Money” from theΒ Torani website, this drink is wonderfully bright and floral from the orgeat and lime, with a depth of flavor from the green chartreuse. And hopefully it tastes a lot better than actual wet money does.

  • 1 & 1/2 oz white rum
  • 3/4 oz orgeat syrup*
  • 1/2 oz green chartreuse
  • 1/2 oz fresh lime juice
  • garnish: lime peel

Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into an old fashioned glass with ice and add garnish.

* Orgeat syrup is made from almonds and orange blossom water (among other ingredients) and is frequently used in tropical drinks such as Mai Tais. If you can’t find it in stores, or don’t use enough of it to justify buying a whole bottle, you can make your own with these helpful recipes from Serious Eats or Imbibe, or a simplified version that uses almond milk from Craft Cocktails at Home, or take the easy route and whip up a mixture of 2 tablespoons of simple syrup plus 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract. I also had orange blossom water on hand, so I added about 2-3 drops. Less is more!

Cocktail #2: Deep Throat

A riff on the “Deep Throat” shooter recipe, which is equal parts Kahlua and Bailey’s, topped with whipped cream. If it’s anything like the “Blow Job” shot, I assume you’re supposed to avoid the use of your hands, wrap your lips around the shot glass and simply slide the entire concoction down your throat. Since I was looking for something a little classier, I went through multiple variations before landing on something that didn’t taste like a frat girl’s 21st birthday celebration… or maybe this one just tasted so good because I was already three drinks in haha. Garnished with chocolate-covered acai berries cuz I’m fancy like that πŸ™‚ Enjoy!

  • 1 & 1/2 oz cognac
  • 1/2 oz Kahlua
  • 1/2 oz Amaro Nonino
  • 3/4 creme de cacao
  • 1/4 oz milk
  • 10 drops Bittermens Xocolatl Mole bitters

Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a coupe glass.

Here are Take #1 and Take #2 – just for future reference πŸ˜€

Take #1 (delicious but uber creamy, not unlike a White Russian)

  • 1 & 1/2 oz milk
  • 3/4 oz Kahlua
  • 3/4 Bailey’s
  • 1/2 Drambuie
  • 10 drops Bittermens Xocolatl Mole bitters

Take #2 (better but still quaffable by the aforementioned frat girl and her ilk)

  • 1 & 1/2 oz cognac
  • 1 oz Bailey’s
  • 1/2 oz Drambiue
  • 1/2 oz creme de cacao
  • 10 drops Bittermens Xocolatl Mole bitters
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