Lincoln

I almost never see modern movies. So this will probably never happen again, but… Let’s talk about Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln.

Despite Lincoln’s success, none of my friends had mentioned it to me. The theater I saw it in was filled with old people. I myself wouldn’t have gone if my father hadn’t. Why wouldn’t people my age (almost 20) be interested? They rushed to see ‘The Artist’ and ‘Cloud Atlas’, so why not Lincoln?

"Darling, I feel all tingly for some reason..."

“Nonsense dear! We’re staying for the whole production, and nothing bad will happen…”

Perhaps because nothing about Lincoln can be called “innovative” or “exhilarating”. Nothing like the trendy, “mind-expanding” Cloud Atlas. For all it’s praise, Lincoln really is just a conventional movie. So, no one cares that it’s a good conventional movie? A movie whos intelligence comes through in the script and the acting, not “concept” or “controversy”? Lincoln’s quality does not come from its ideas or pretentions, it comes from the work of a few very talented men, and a lot of common-sense moviemaking.

Lincoln and Friends

Our greatest president knew the importance of making eye-contact.

It avoids trap #1 of the historical drama, by not spanning a ridiculously long amount of time. Instead we focus on the passing of the 13th amendment, an event famous only to history buffs and middle-school students forced to memorize constitutional amendments. It also does away with the cackling, caricatured confederates, and we don’t see many token historical events. There’s some sentimentality, but not as much as there usually is with historical things. The actors avoid the words “emancipation proclamation” like profanity, and one of the congressman even says “Fuck”, a wonderful word which  most historical drama scripts have been desperately in need of.

The famous hat, absent throughout most of the movie, makes a brief appearance here.

The famous hat, absent throughout most of the movie, makes a brief appearance here.

When Steven Spielberg was a young man who had just made ‘Jaws’, an older film director admired his camerawork by saying; “He must’ve never have seen a play… With him, there’s nothing but the camera lens.” Thirty years later, Spielberg might still never have seen a play, but he’s somehow managed to make friends with a playwright: Tony Kushner had written the screenplay for Spielberg’s Munich in 2005, a movie which I unfortunately have to watch now. They got back together for ‘Lincoln’, and in my opinion Mr. Kushner deserves as much attention for it as Spielberg or Daniel Day-Lewis.

Tony Kushner smiles, thinking of the Oscar he will undoubtedly win.

Mr. Day-Lewis is certainly a force to be reckoned with, though! I once said to a friend “modern audiences wouldn’t like 12 Angry Men; they hate movies about old men arguing in a small room.” Well, these actors have done the movie equivalent of selling vegetables to children; This movie is all about old men arguing in rooms of varying sizes. And they’re not just thrown in to please the smart-asses, these are the best scenes. The movie revels in each small room and each old man, and though the swooping ooh-look-at-this cinematography helps, most of the success of these scenes goes to the actors and writer.

And when old men sit in a room and talk for long enough... that's how change happens.

And when old men sit in a room and argue for long enough… change happens!

But the better the raw material is, the worse the decorations are going to look. I wanted to appreciate Daniel Day-Lewis’s acting like I would appreciate it in a bare-bones theater set, with none of the conventional studio Artifice associated with modern film. The artificial lighting was well done, but I wished I had seen these performances in a more natural light. It would’ve given them a more lifelike quality. I also would’ve cut the music in most scenes. Once again, it’s not bad, but it’s a typical Hollywood score that we’ve all heard before, and forget once we leave the theater. They’re cheap studio effects meant to manipulate your emotions, and they feel even cheaper when they’re next to such great performances. But in my first review, I said you can’t blame a movie for doing something that every movie at the time is doing. And most movies made today have committed much greater sins then Lincoln.

Glorifying?? We're not glorifying!

Glorifying? We’re not glorifying!

It’s worth mentioning that there aren’t many black people. There is the minimum required amount, of course, but this movie is really about white people talking about black people. Now let me say; I didn’t mind. In 12 Angry Men, characters debated for the life of a man who only appears on screen once. There doesn’t have to be more. If Spielberg had tried to squeeze in more black characters, he probably would have screwed them up anyway: Slavery is almost never depicted rationally or honestly on film. All in all, I think Spielberg shows incredible restraint for staying away from that topic.

"I coulda' at least gotten a speaking line in 'Django Unchained'"

There are no small parts… only very brief ones with no speaking lines.

Truffaut once criticized Bridge on the River Kwai by calling it an “Oscar Machine”. You could definitely describe Lincoln that way. It’s the sort of thing critics like. It’s smart but easily digestable. It purposefully doesn’t bring  up anything that a critic will object to. this makes me distrust it for some scenes, specifically the beginning and ending sequences, which seem pandering and glorifying. Like Bridge on the River Kwai, its politics are simple to a fault. Its characters are vividly depicted, but unambiguous. But here’s the turn-around: I liked Bridge on the River Kwai anyway, just like i like Lincoln anyway. Both movies have a sense of tension and sensitivity that elevate the conflict above the politics that surround it. It doesn’t matter that Lincoln is debating something that we already believe. It doesn’t matter that the movie’s not convincing us of anything. It’s just good to see each argument unfold, and appreciate the nuances of each arguer. Just… Pretend that annoying last scene doesn’t exist.

I'm Tommy Lee Jones and I don't enjoy anything.

I’m Tommy Lee Jones and I don’t enjoy anything.

CONCLUSION:

Perhaps the depiction of Lincoln is too old-fashioned for people my age. I like to be iconoclastic, as all young trendy hipsters do. Maybe we would prefer a dark, brooding, morally ambiguous Lincoln? We don’t really want to see a pure-hearted, father-like president. It makes us suspicious. It makes us suspect brain-washing. And of course, the other icon we want to tear down is Steven Spielberg himself.  Spielberg the crowd-pleaser! Spielberg the blockbuster! Spielberg’s name has become a double-edged sword recently. After a line of relatively shallow, commercial pictures (‘Tin Tin’ and ‘War Horse’), who with a brain can say he likes Spielberg?

But Spielberg isn’t brain-washing. The younger, ‘sensational’ directors like Wachowski or Sofia Coppola are more guilty of that then Spielberg is now. Lincoln is excellent acting and writing, and it appears that old Mr. ‘Jaws’ is finally calming down and maturing in his later years. I certainly hope he is.

Lincoln-Movie-Review

EPISODE PREVIEW:

Lincoln on film was not born in 2012! How will our youngest Lincoln stand up to black-and-white Lincolns of the past?? The Lincoln Saga continues, next time on the blog…

“YOUR GRANDMA’S LINCOLN”

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2 Responses to “Lincoln”

  1. ——BEWARE Speilber’s ‘on cue’ —8th? –9th? –10th?
    Hollywood Lincoln. It’s weaponized disinfo.

    Putting aside the –YET AGAIN– Sally Field, or the –FACT–
    that a foreigner, in 2012, was preferred in the title role- – –

    FACT IS –Sepilberg, and Godwin, and Kushner one and
    all —-‘mysteriously overlook’—- what is SURELY, in 2012,
    the most urgantly relevat aspewct of his entire legacy
    —ie his quite possibly ———-FATAL———– diss of the
    Global bank monopoly over finance of the war.

    SEE: ‘Lincoln Assassination
    Gerald McGear
    Vancouver SUN Newspaper
    May 2 1932

    Then SEE: ‘Money Masters’ documentary online

    Then see —if you can stomach Spielberg’s latest piece
    of ‘on board’ predictive programming meets cultural incest
    meets PC moral alibi for capstone things ‘unfolding’.

    YOU STAND ALERTED

    • Thank you for ‘alerting’ me, sir. However, I’m not sure how “relevant” banking policies would be, from a narrative perspective. It’s a movie, not a history book…

      Truffaut said to judge every movie by how much it does: Any movie can be criticized for what it fails to do. Lincoln fails to give us the ‘whole picture’, but it does quite a bit as a work of fiction.

      I said already that the politics of the film are trite. You can call it propaganda if you want. But I regard some propaganda highly as art. (‘Introspection Tower’, my first review.)

      P.S.: Your comment about a certain “Foreigner” was in quite bad taste… An Englishman can pass for an American easily. We’re a nation made of foreigners, so why are they unworthy of portraying a president!?

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