Thursday, November 29, 2012

My review of LINCOLN

Director Steven Spielberg was very disappointed in the outcome of his movie last year, WAR HORSE. Not because it bombed at the boxoffice but because it didn’t win any awards. When a Steven Spielberg movie comes out in the Fall it’s all about Oscars. And if millions of theatergoers happen to like it, well that’s just a plus. When he wants big boxoffice numbers he goes off and makes JURASSIC PARK 7 or RAIDERS OF THE LOST AARP. Now you may be saying, “Yeah, but he’s already won a bunch of Oscars. What about SCHINDLER’S LIST?” Very true but it's sort of a gimme.  Can he do it without the subject matter being Jews?

His latest effort, LINCOLN, clearly is another shot at the brass ring. While watching the movie you can almost see a running banner at the bottom of the screen saying: FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION… REMEMBER, I’M ALSO A SERIOUS ARTIST… I GOT JOBBED ON ‘SAVING PRIVATE RYAN’, YOU OWE ME…”

I wanted to love LINCOLN. I was certainly told to love LINCOLN. But I didn’t. I’m sorry, Steven. It was okay. Certain things I liked very much (more on that later). But on the whole, the message it conveyed (to me at least) was…

This movie is IMPORTANT. That’s a lot different from “this movie is totally engrossing and resonates so much that it happens to stay with you.”

LINCOLN is very manipulative. You start with the most sympathetic character in American history, center on a feel-good social story, add the usual John Williams soaring score, cast big name actors, compose each shot beautifully and artistically so that every frame looks like a painting, hire a Tony Award winning writer, show the obligatory carnage, and of course – have the cutest little boy you’ve ever seen play Lincoln’s son and establish a warm fuzzy father-son relationship that would bring a tear to a glass eye. Without spoiling the moment, there’s a key shot near the end where I wanted to yell, “Jesus, Steven, why not just splice in 5,000 frames from ET?”

The movie opens with black soldiers reciting back the Gettysburg Address to Lincoln. One of those Hollywood moments designed to make you sigh “Awwww,” or in my case: “I'm being played!”

I attended a screening of the movie and was handed a handsome program that featured credits of the filmmakers (i.e. all their awards and nominations – nowhere did it mention Spielberg directed THE TERMINAL, CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, HOOK, or 1941), stunning photos, a history lesson, and pictures of the 35 actors in the movie. IM-POR-TANT.

There was a lot of acting in this film. And posturing. Daniel Day-Lewis was magnificent as Lincoln and will probably win Best Actor. (I mean, he was the best actor in a movie with every other good actor.) Tommy Lee Jones will definitely win Best Supporting Actor. Everyone else was fine except for Sally Field. GIDGET GOES NUTS. Does borderline crazy mean shrill, annoying, and over-the-top? Sally is a much better actress than that. It felt like she was pushing for Oscar number three.

The screenplay by playwright supreme, Tony Kushner was lyrical and verbose and there were some great lines along the way. But it was showy – in that way that you’re supposed to take notice and vote for it. IM-POR-TANT.

The film runs about two-and-a-half hours. IM-POR-TANT. They could easily cut a half hour.

Without a doubt LINCOLN will be nominated for a ton of Oscars. And it even might win the big ones. Let’s see how LES MISERABLES is along with a few other late contenders. And LINCOLN wouldn’t be the worst picture to win Best Picture. But just because a film is crowned Best Picture doesn’t necessarily make it a Great Picture. And if told his movie could be deemed one or the other, which do you think Steven Spielberg would pick?

70 comments:

RJ Hope said...

It will probably win Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actor. It one of those movies where it is made just for the sake of awards. I mean, it worked, I only saw it because of Spielberg and Day-Lewis. Good but not great.

Roger Owen Green said...

I thought the reciting of the Gettysburg Address was very Spielberg, and didn't much care for it. I think too that the movie probably should have been named Lincoln: 1865, because the simpler title suggests an expanse the movie does not take. Still, I liked it a lot.

Michael Stoffel said...

The NY Times had an excellent article on how poorly African Americans are portrayed in Lincoln.
Frankly, this time of year, I want to see something funny, not important.

Cleveland said...

No interest in seeing this since I read Daniel Day Lewis kept in character throughout the shooting. Even Spielberg dressed in a suit on set and addressed Mr. Lewis and Sally Fields by their characters' names.

Pretentious or what? Come on, folks. It's a job. Just do it and get on with the next scene.



Brian O. said...

James Spader do anything for you in the movie or too ham-fisted?

frederick curtis said...

Sally Fields was awful. Didn't pull me into her character at all. But i agree with best actor,even his lanky walk was excellent.

Anonymous said...

Lincoln is sympathetic? Ha, shows how much history has warped the truth. The one with Lincoln being a vampire had more realism that this marytr manipulative-fest.

Lincoln was a racist and a tyrant.

Jonathan Ernst said...

Lincoln's a bore. Ken nails it that its trying way too hard. I think some much smaller movies are going to win the big awards over this film and Les Miz. My small movie underdog pick for best pic or at least best original screenplay, Moonrise Kingdom. For the acting awards, I see some nods at least for Beast of the Southern Wilds. Hey remember The Artist did it.

Mac said...

It sounds like it's collapsing under the weight of its won worthiness. Daniel Day-Lewis should have a go at something like the Farelly Bros. sequel to Dumb and Dumber. Just to lighten up for a bit. Although he'd probably have half his brain removed to get that authentic 'method' dumbness.

Richard J. Marcej said...

Thought this was an excellent film. Besides the acting and directing, it's the subject matter that makes this film thought provoking and yes, important. What's so wrong about a film discussing IMPORTANT subjects?

I read the book that this is based off of ("Team of Rivals") tough, it's only a small part of the book. I really wish that Speilberg could have made a film on the ENTIRE book (though that film would probably run 48 hours long) because what the book covers is something every American should know. Every American today should realize what the people before us had to do, had to go through in order for us to be here now.

@Michael You said you want to see something funny? Great, there are plenty of (somewhat) funny films out there. NO ONE is forcing you to see this movie.

@Cleveland Pretentious? Why, because some actors feel they have to "live" the role in order to get it right. If that's what it takes to play the part, and looking at DDLs body of work, along with Lincoln, then he's doing something right.

@Anonymous I shouldn't bother to react to your comment, but you're exactly the kind of person, ignorant of history, are why the book and the movie based on it need to be accessible to the public.


slgc said...

Thank you! I feel validated.

I had been thinking that I was the only one who was missing something about this film.

Day-Lewis was fabulous, but other than that it was a yawnfest.

Bryan L said...

I liked 1941.To be fair, though, I was 16.

Dr. Vergerus said...

"LINCOLN is very manipulative."

Well, SPIELBERG is very manipulative, so I can't say I'm surprised.

Eduardo Jencarelli said...

After her ER guest appearances as a bipolar mother, Sally Field has become a poster actress for overdoing it with crazy characters.

I haven't seen Lincoln, but I can already imagine how it'll turn out.

bettyd said...

I lean towards you, but not all the way. I think David Straitham should get a nomination. I loved Spader, but maybe over the top for some. I thought there were a few laughs - meant to be laughs - that I enjoyed.

I also got a sense that some scenes were there for Oscar-bait. All beautiful, but not adding much to the plot. It could have been shorter, but I didn't check the time once during the 2.5 hours, so what do I know.

DDL was spectacular. However, I am really looking forward to Les Miz.

Tim W. said...

I enjoyed Lincoln, although I didn't think it was a great movie. I liked Skyfall and Dark Knight Rises much better, quite frankly. What do you think the chances are of those movies getting nominated?

Chris said...

Tons of nominations, yes, but maybe not so many awards. Other than Golden Globes, but do count an award you can buy? And yeah, I guess you can sort of buy an Oscar, but it's tougher. I'll see "Lincoln," but I'm already resisting it based on the gushing on Facebook etc. of people who's opinions I don't really respect. Am I the only one who cringes every time Sally Field does the whole Southern accent thing? She doesn't sound like anyone I know--other than Carol Burnett in "Mama's Family."

Jonathan Ernst said...

@Tim W. - If you want to see Dark Knight or Skyfall win watch the MTV Movie Awards, they'll never make it to Oscars.

Johnny Walker said...

Something tells me that Spielberg's Lincoln didn't say the following during the course of the movie:

"I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races - that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. I say upon this occasion I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the negro should be denied everything."
- Abraham Lincoln, 1865

Johnny Walker said...

(My bad. That Lincoln quote was actually from 1858, fact fans.)

cadavra said...

For the record, WAR HORSE did $80 million domestic and $180 worldwide. Disappointment? Absolutely. Bomb? No way.

John said...

Can he do it without the subject matter being Jews?

Hey, the title character's first name here is Abe, isn't it?

mark said...

I enjoyed it. My biggest quibble was with the ending, which I thought was oddly executed. The 'fade' into the flickering candle? Too much like a Lifetime movie. And I can't quite imagine why they didn't end with at least a parting glance at the well documented and dramatic funeral, or some part of that. I mean, I understand why he did what he did, but I thought it a bit of a let-down.

A little long? Yes. But I wasn't particularly bored. But as with most SS films, he really piles on the pathos and drags the tears out. Without DDL's performance it would have been difficult to watch.

James said...

I haven't seen Lincoln. But while watching Gladiator (particularly the panoramic, moving-camera views of the landscape) I got the same, "Look at me, gimme an Oscar!" vibe

Michael said...

Johnny, I get to drop in as the author of some books on the Civil War era to say that a finer historian than I, Allen Guelzo, once described that statement as something every Lincoln scholar and admirer wishes he had never said. The interesting thing is WHY he said it. He was running for the Senate against Stephen Douglas, who was accusing him of believing in black equality in a state that had BANNED blacks from moving there, and was trying to win over fellow former Whigs who had refused to join the new Republican party because they believed what Douglas was saying. That doesn't excuse it, but it makes Lincoln look like a ... politician. Gee, I'm glad Spielberg was able to show us that Lincoln was a politician, or we never would have known.

Anonymous said...

He won a Best Director Oscar for Saving Private Ryan...

Beef Supreme said...

Haven't seen it, and I really would like to because I love the subject matter, but I honestly probably won't.

Like Ken, I think Spielberg just tries a little too hard with his serious movies. I always seem to skip them and instead go for his entertainment fare - I went and saw "War of the worlds", "Indy 4" and "Tintin" (which is criminally underseen and underappreciated - what a GREAT adventure movie and adaptation!), but skipped "Munich", "War horse" and probably this as well.

I wish him luck though, I think he's a consistently enjoyable filmmaker when he doesn't take himself too seriously. Even lesser successes like "The Terminal" are really good movies.

Anonymous said...

We must have seen a different movie, Ken, because I thought it was one of Spielberg's most restrained, intellectual films, from the score, to the cinematography on down the line. A bit too limited in focus to achieve any greatness, but a good film, with great performances in it. I think you were too affected by the hype to give the film an honest appraisal.

Wallis Lane said...

I quite liked the movie, especially because the decision was made to limit it to only about 4 months of Lincoln's life, so we got more everyday life and less of the usual brief-and-adoring-glimpse-of-all-the-great-moments hagiography of, say "Gandhi."

It was also unexpectedly very funny at many points, and the framing around the passage of the 13th Amendment was a suspenseful and exciting cliffhanger (even given we knew the outcome), though I'm a sucker for a good political vote movie (i.e. "1776" or "Advise and Consent") This led to terrific set pieces like Stevens muscling the vote of a very diffident Congressman whose election was in dispute, and the enjoyable debates between Stevens and his nemesis Wood in a very grandiose and caustic version of the "dozens."

Also, DDL and Tommy Lee Jones were excellent, as were Strathairn and an almost unrecognizable Michael Stuhlbarg in a small part. And, as a bonus, Edwin Stanton was played by D-Day from Animal House!

One telling and rather darkly humorous scene: When one Congressman raises the possibility of "Negro voting" about half of the House starts loudly booing and shouting no. But when he says "and women voting as well" the entire place just explodes with disgust and disapprobation, like they'd just witnessed some unspeakable atrocity.

404 said...

I've been wanting to see it, but am afraid of exactly what you described here--manipulation. That feeling of self-aggrandizing importance just drives me nuts. SAVING PRIVATE RYAN is so thick with self-congratulating that it's almost impossible to find an actual movie in there. The whole movie is more like a "Why I Deserve an Oscar for This Movie" docudrama than an actual story. (Except for the first thirty minutes or so. That shit is awesome).

LINCOLN comes across as very much the same sort of vibe. Which really makes me leery of seeing it.

Oddly enough? SCHINDLER'S LIST doesn't seem to give off that vibe at all to me. It's awesome. It is definitely important. And yes, there's some manipulation in there as well. But it doesn't come across as Spelberg trying to win anything. but you can tell he put all of his heart and soul and talent into telling a story he desperately wanted people to know, and the result is amazing.

Johnny Walker said...

Michael, I'm not sure where you're getting the idea that this was an isolated incident. Lincoln was a major advocate for the "colonization" of African Americans to other countries, and said many dubious things over the years.

Consider the following, spoken in Washington to an audience of free blacks in 1862, four years after the last quote:

"For the sake of your race, you should sacrifice something of your present comfort for the purpose of being as grand in that respect as the white people", before going on to tell them they should move to Central America, saying it was great, "because of the similarity of climate with your native land — thus being suited to your physical condition."

Furthermore, documents were discovered a few years back that showed he continued his pursuit of colonization for up to a year after he made the Emancipation Proclamation.

He was more complex than the fairy-tale version suggests. I hope Spielberg addresses some of that, because I'm not sure of the value of perpetuating a myth is doing anyone any good.

404 said...

I think we need to be careful of judging historical figures completely by modern day standards of ethics, morality, race, etc. Many things that are considered old-fashioned or even backwards thinking today were at some point progressive, radical, or even downright revolutionary, and it's easy for us to look backwards and say "they should have known better," but I don't think that's always the case.

It's like trying to figure out how my parents could stand doo-wop music back in the day, because it's so old. To them, it was as crazy and radical as heavy metal was to me in the 80s. Without that context, it's a judgement that isn't really fair.

(sorry, terrible analogy, I know).

XJill said...

For those speculating on noms, here's a good list of the state of things right now: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/race/les-miserables-zero-dark-thirty-392127

@Cleveland - DDL is always method with his characters and it results in amazing performances so don't knock it!

Chris said...

Regarding some of Abraham Lincoln's less than admirable quotes about race relations, I am reminded of something Robertson Davies once wrote: You can't paint yesterday's history in today's colors. Of course we view things differently today in light of 100 plus years of progress. But I think of how some AIDS patients were treated not too long ago--or people who were thought to be particularly susceptible to AIDS. Some awfully nice people were pretty ignorant and hurtful back then and wouldn't dream of acting that way now. I have every confidence that Abraham Lincoln's views on race relations would be quite different today. I, for one, will continue to believe the best of him.

RCP said...

I haven't seen Lincoln yet - but was hoping for a "great" film that would do him justice.

A number of comments about Lincoln's racist comments - again, I'm not a scholar, but I have read enough about him to know he was quite complex and extremely intelligent - not the characteristics of your average racist. He was assassinated, you know, by a racist Southern sympathizer - who obviously didn't regard Lincoln as a kindred spirit.

After reading her biography, I found Mary Lincoln to also be complex and for the most part sympathetic, though unfortunately she's traditionally been portrayed as an airhead or nut.

Steve said...

Johnny Walker: Lincoln's views on the issue of race EVOLVED. Dramatically. And that's part of the greatness of the man. He listened and learned (including from former slaves) and thought through the logical as well as practical ramifications of these issues. At first he thought colonization would be something blacks (and whites) would be happier with, and when he realized that was not true, he backed away from it. In his last speech before his murder he was calling for blacks to be full citizens and have the right to vote.

synonymicious said...

If you are leery of manipulation, you'd best avoid movies altogetther, Also plays, TV shows, music both live and recorded and throw in museums. I am at a loss to think of a work of art in which the creator is not trying to persuade you to one point of view or another.
For me, part of the fun of movies IS the manipulation, sort of in the way one watches an illusionist and tries to figure out how the trick is done. Mr Spielberg's team of illusionists are adroit and offer good value for the money, I think. Judging from film history, every generation needs a Lincoln biopic, and this one ain't bad. Also, Johnny Williams's score is a lot less obstreperous than it coulda been...

Mike said...

Opening scene:
Hollywood Movies Present: A Film Based on True Events.
1885. Washington DC. The newly-completed Washington Monument.
Elderly man in wheelchair: It's been one score years since we abolished slavery. Do you think future generations will respect our achievement?
Nurse: I'm sure they'll build you a fine memorial too, Mr Lincoln.

Do you know how close you came?

Julie Kistler said...

Manipulation and persuasion are not the same things. In general, I am not crazy about Stephen Spielberg's movies, and no, I didn't really get into either ET or Private Ryan. So far this year, the things I would give my own personal awards to were Moonrise Kingdom and Argo. Argo, too, is manipulative and ham-handed in some ways. But at least the suspense worked for me and kept me in the movie.

Johnny Walker said...

Steve, I'm fully aware that it *appears* Lincoln's views evolved (nobody knows for sure what he thought in private), but I don't think it does anyone good to pretend he never thought otherwise.

To those who think Lincoln should be given a pass simply because he lived in the past, you should be aware that his views on "colonization" were very unpopular by his contemporaries who sympathised with his attempts at ending slavery. So even for the time his opinions weren't seen as progressive.

So unpopular were his pro-colonization views, that he eventually stopped talking about the matter in public entirely.

As I previous said, though, documents were uncovered a few years ago that show he continued to pursue colonization behind closed doors with other politicians up until 1864 -- a full year after the Emancipation Proclamation.

He was assassinated in 1865, of course, so that's pretty late in his life.

He did eventually give up on that idea before his death, but we will never know exactly what his thoughts were, or his reasons why.

As I said before, he was a complex man, I don't think it's doing anyone any favours perpetuating myths that he was flawless. He did some great things, but he wasn't perfect, even in the eyes of some of his contemporaries.

Anonymous said...

Its 1940 again: Raymond Massey IS Abraham Lincoln! He captures every nuance. Gets Best Actor Oscar Nominee. And as Mary Todd Lincoln, famous stage star in her screen debut: Ruth Gordon!

Michael said...

Johnny, you are welcome to make an argument for yourself, but please do not make one for me. Do not say that I was proposing that as an isolated incident; I did not. Steven answered, and quite well, that Lincoln evolved. Many people do; some of them manage to do so without then devolving so that they can get the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, but I digress. I would suggest, if you haven't already done so, reading The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, by Eric Foner, winner of the Pulitzer, Bancroft, and Lincoln Prizes. It explains how and where Lincoln changed and stayed the same without engaging in hero worship or an attempt to make Lincoln look more racist than he was.

404 said...

I just realized that I inadvertently disparaged a whole group of people who might like doo-wop music. I humbly and sincerely apologize. In these troubled times of strife and national discord, I am ashamed to find myself part of the problem, and not the solution!

Pat Reeder said...

I thought it was a bit slow, overlong and manipulative, like most "serious" Spielberg movies. But I liked it well enough, particularly DDL's performance and the way it showed all the arm-twisting, compromises, bribes, threats and general sausage-making that went into passing the Emancipation Proclamation. I think it's unfair the way many modern people condemn leaders of the past for not doing what they think is obvious, after decades or centuries of social change. They don't cut their ancestors any slack for the compromises they had to make just to move the ball one step closer to the goal, even if they personally believed they should have gone much farther.

That said, there's no way this movie is going to win a lot of awards in Hollywood. The hero was a Republican.

Brandon said...

John Williams' scores were more fun and bored me a hell of a lot less back when he was Johnny Williams and was writing for LOST IN SPACE and GILLIGAN'S ISLAND. Wanna end a conversation with him fast? Try to get him to discuss scoring those shows. Sort of like when my grandfather interviewed actor Basil Rathbone in the late '60s and found him to have no memories whatsoever regarding the Sherlock Holmes pictures or movies like "Son of Frankenstein." Nope. Too long ago. Can't remember a thing about them. The things he wanted to be remembered for, though, like "The Adventures of Robin Hood," he would yap about all day. Williams is like that. But then, IMDB does rank him alongside Sousa, Aaron Copeland and Leonard Bernstein.

Jon Deutschman said...

I didn't even know James Spader was in the movie, what a nice surprise he was. Always was one of the better actors around. The beginning and end of this movie were a bit silly, but the two hours in between I found pretty spellbinding. I don't know how Day-Lewis made himself seem taller and lankier than he is in reality but the man is a magician. The Williams score was as distracting as it always is. The man has written the same song 500 times.

Phillip B said...


From Twitter:

Alan Zweibel ‏@AlanZweibel
Just saw "Lincoln" - great movie but as a New Yorker I'm offended that there wasn't one mention about his tunnel.

Jim Pope said...

Hi Ken,

I know you write mainly contextual, story/character based humor, but do you guys ever wonder when you come up with a great line, comeback or joke if it's been written before? (Apologies if this question's already been asked.)

Johnny Walker said...

Michael, your focus on explaining away that incident, ("something every Lincoln scholar and admirer wishes he had never said" -- as if everything else he ever said was commendable), made me think you saw it was an isolated incident.

Lincoln made many unfortunate quotes in his time, as I'm sure you're aware. This is another infamous doozy from 1862:

"My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views."

The Fiery Trial seems like it does a great job of balancing the myth of the man, though. Thanks for the recommendation, I'll check it out. Its author was on CNN (in a horribly truncated puff piece) describing how Spielberg's film is historically "inadequate", too. Shame.

http://edition.cnn.com/video/#/video/showbiz/2012/11/14/pkg-wynter-lincoln-historian.cnn

Johnny Walker said...

Can any Cheers fans help me? I've just finished watching the entire run and I didn't see a story I seem to remember from my childhood. Did I just make it up? The way I remember it is that a tortured Cliff suddenly confesses that he's not been delivering the mail, that his apartment is filled with stacks of undelivered letters, and he's likely to get fired soon if he doesn't fix things. The Cheers gang end up helping him fulfil his sacred duty as a mailman. Did I just make that up? Was it in an episode I skipped by accident?

Thanks!

Cleveland said...

@xJill
...DDL has become a specialist at overacting. I just can't watch him anymore.

Michael said...

Johnny, you probably know that the "doozy" from 1862 was written in response to an editorial by Horace Greeley demanding emancipation and that by then, Lincoln had had it up to here with Greeley hectoring him and, between hectorings, writing him a simpering letter about how he felt responsible for the deaths in the war. I don't know whether you know that at the time Lincoln wrote this letter, it was more than a month after he had told two Cabinet members and his vice president that he wanted to issue an emancipation order, and a month after he brought the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation to the Cabinet and was talked out of issuing it until the Union had won a military victory. In other words, in this letter, he wasn't being entirely honest about what he planned at that moment, but he was being ... political.

cadavra said...

404: No apology necessary. I always say that we boomers knew we were getting old when we had to stop explaining James Brown to our parents and start explaining him to our children.

Brian said...

I liked the SNL Lincoln skit by Louis CK
http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/lincoln/1422756/

Stephen Robinson said...

I confess a bias against bio-pics*. I thought IF THERE BE BLOOD was a more compelling showcase of Day Lewis's talent because he created an original character.

Narratively, the story is about the passage of the 13th amendment and the ending of the Civil War, so is it necessary to end with Lincoln's death? Would a film about the Cuban Missile have to end in Dallas in 1963? Some do argue, though, that Lincoln is the "final" casualty of the Civil War so there is a poetry to that but I don't think the film conveyed that necessity.

I agree with Ken about Sally Fields. I thought she was miscast in general given that Mrs. Lincoln was in her mid 40s during the events of the film and I don't think her performance made up for it. Meryl Streep is usually so great, she could play Lincoln but Sally Fields's Mary Todd wasn't quite at that level.

*Technically, CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, which is one of my favorite films by Spielberg, Hanks, and DiCaprio, is a bio-pic, so I think my issue is more films about major public figures like Lincoln or Hitchcock.

chalmers said...

I had the same reaction as you, Ken, but it also reminded me of a similar movie that I grew to love.

"Eight Men Out" also came from a top filmmaker (John Sayles), strove hard to maintain historical accuracy, and abounded with excellent character actors.

When you're watching an ensemble of ethnically homogeneous men in period clothes, they tend to blend in, at least for me.

After I read Eliot Asinof's book and had more background on the distinctions between the people portrayed, I enjoyed the movie much more.

These days, I'll watch it any time it's on now that I know my Hap Felsch from my Chick Gandil. I no longer have to wonder "Which one is Charlie Sheen again?"

So I might try to do the same thing with "Team of Rivals."

Matt Patton said...

Lincoln is a classic Oscar-Bait movie, it's Big, it's Important, it will earn everyone involved RESPECT.

And in the background, you can hear the sound of the bicycle pump being wielded to make sure all of these things happen. A bicycle in the hands of Tony Kushner, whose play Angels in America apparently began life as sort of an East-Cast Tales of The City wannabe until he stapled on the angels and Mormons and Roy Cohn to make is Significant. At least Ben-Hur had Hugh Griffith and a chariot race . . .

By the way, Gidget Goes Nuts has already been made. It's called Psycho Beach Party and Lauren Ambrose is great in it. Maybe she should have played Lincoln . . .

Cody said...

Ken nailed it square on the head. This movie's only message throughout its entire run is, 'Hey, this is IM-POR-TANT.' It has absolutely no arc. Lincoln's character doesn't change one iota from beginning to end. He was resolute in the beginning to end slavery, he was resolute all through the middle to end slavery and he was resolute right up till the amendment passed. I would venture to say that LINCOLN was not actually a movie about Abraham Lincoln; but a movie about the 13th Amendment that simply uses Lincoln as a framing device with a structure held together by grand speeches. It was a 65 million dollar history lesson. A fascinating one, sure (30 min less would also have been better), but it neither moved me, excited me, challenged me or endeared me. Plus Spielberg continues to bookend his films with pointlessly stupid and patronizing scenes that only cause ruination to an otherwise good show. That last scene of Lincoln giving his Inaugural almost made me walk out of the damn theater. People clapped afterwards. I could only assume they were on drugs.

flurb said...

I found the movie enthralling. I find it interesting that folks who are or want to be comedy writers have problems with supposed "manipulation" - as if getting people to laugh isn't as manipulative an enterprise as eliciting tears.

Anonymous said...

@JohnnyWalker "The way I remember it is that a tortured Cliff suddenly confesses that he's not been delivering the mail, that his apartment is filled with stacks of undelivered letters, and he's likely to get fired soon if he doesn't fix things"

Don't know about Cheers, but it was a Seinfeld episode at least. Newman was the postman.

heathcliff said...

God, what utter crap. One is perfectly welcome to an opinion about LINCOLN. But reviewing a movie and reviewing the director's motives for making it are two completely different things. The former constitutes honest opinion. The latter? Arrogant mind-reading with no basis in fact. The notion that Spielberg makes certain movies in order to win Oscars is too easy, too trite, and suggests an almost complete lack of familiarity with the man himself.

Also, it's a lazy lob into the cheap seats. So yeah, I guess some applause will be forthcoming. Which, come to think of it, is more than likely why it was written in the first place.

cadavra said...

"Hey, Daniel, how's that Lincoln movie going?"
"Great! Though they lose me after the theatre scene."
(semi-h/t Mel Brooks)

Jerry Modjeski said...

Native Americans did not, and still do not admire Lincoln. Something to digest along with Lincoln's troubling attitudes already discussed.

Bob Foster said...

Ken - I totally agree with your analysis of Lincoln but if you think Daniel Day-Lewis is a shoe-in for best actor then you haven't seen Bill Murray in Hyde Park on Hudson.

Johnny Walker said...

Thanks for that. I've not seen that Seinfeld, it was definitely Cheers in my memory.

chuckcd said...

I liked "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hubter" better...

chuckcd said...

"Hunter" obviously.

chuckcd said...

"The way I remember it is that a tortured Cliff suddenly confesses that he's not been delivering the mail, that his apartment is filled with stacks of undelivered letters, and he's likely to get fired soon if he doesn't fix things"

Johnny, that was also a story line in "Weeds". Richard Dreyfuss was the mailman.

Jennifer said...

This movie was too heavy on dialogue. It made it seem monotonous and taxing at times. I don't like movies with excessive or gratuitous violence, nor do I like non-stop action movies without a plot. But this movie needed some more action scenes to break up the monotony. Too bad it didn't have them because there could have been some great war scenes if done well.

And Sally Field was just awful. To say that he overacted is an understatement.

Not a bad film...better than most...but not great.

Jennifer said...

Woops! Regarding my first post, I meant to say:

Sally Field was just awful. To say the SHE overacted is an understatement.