Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Lincoln, The Movie



I thought Daniel Day Lewis was truly scary in Gangs Of New York. And I did not think Steven Spielberg capable of something this good. I mean, he has always been great. But Abraham Lincoln is not sci-fi exactly. And I almost did not go to the movie. Everyone knows every detail there is to know about Lincoln. Is that not so? And movies have a reputation of being less good than books. But this movie is well done. I read some reviews and decided to go.

This is first and foremost a movie about the craft of politics. I regret not having gone to see Avatar in the theater. I did not want to miss out on Lincoln. Because this, of all movies, is not about the storyline.

I guess I needed to see this movie to be able to better visualize the Lincoln I have met in books for decades. This is holography attempted in the time dimension. This movie is Gandhi.

Spielberg has shown he is capable of exploring the human, not just the extraterrestrial. Salute. The movie feels like getting to meet the 16th president in person. That's not something a book can do.



Movie Review: The Lincoln Movie is Propaganda
a 2.5 hour courtroom drama about slavery that never happened. .... The film focuses entirely on the final years of Lincoln’s life, from the tail end of the war to his inevitable assassination (spoiler alert). .... Sort of how “Passion of the Christ” allowed Mel Gibson to ignore anything Jesus actually taught. ..... Before the movie began Lincoln imposed a blockade on Southern ports with no declaration of war from Congress. He suspended habeas corpus, which is the protection against unlawful imprisonment. When a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court called this unconstitutional Lincoln signed his own arrest warrant for the Justice. He arrested an Ohio congressman for “disloyal sentiments and speeches” and imprisoned an estimated 13,000 Northern (not Southern) citizens, including hundreds of journalists, for opposing the war. No evidence. No trials. ..... The Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves in the 10 Confederate states, but not in any of the Union states. ..... Most Northerners did not oppose slavery, in fact Lincoln explicitly supported slavery in his first inaugural address. ..... The fact of the matter is that it was disagreement over economic policy, not slavery, that was the motivation for secession and Northern aggression. ...... Lincoln was a political novice whose campaign was bankrolled by Northern industrialists. They aimed to hike taxes on the South to fund welfare for corporations in the North. Southern states felt bullied by the Northern majority, and preferred a policy of free trade ...... Lincoln wanted high import tariffs and high taxes to subsidize wealthy corporate campaign donors. The Confederacy wanted to create a free trade zone with no tariffs, low taxes and no corporate subsidies. ....... the South withdrew from the Union democratically ..... Every other country in the New World ended slavery without violence, with the exception of the Haitian Revolution, which was a slave revolt, not a civil war. The Civil War was essentially a very bloody tax revolt followed by a successful propaganda campaign.
Spielberg’s Lincoln: A Historian’s Review
Daniel Day Lewis is Abraham Lincoln. Having supposedly read over 100 books on Lincoln in preparation for the role, he manages to convincingly replicate many aspects of Lincoln’s persona and physical aura: Lincoln’s purportedly high voice, his wry sense of humor and knack for storytelling, his slouched posture and awkward gait, and the overwhelming weariness incurred by the “fiery trial” of war all ring true. ...... the stress of a wartime presidential marriage ..... her social training as a daughter of the Kentucky elite ..... Seward cuts patronage deals with lame duck Democratic Congressmen in order to help secure the passage of the 13th Amendment and acts as a sort of political muse to Lincoln. Seward harangues and cajoles Lincoln on policy and political strategy but ultimately serves as a loyal ally in carrying out Lincoln’s intent ...... the film is at times a taut political thriller and at times the inspirational story of the final abolition of American slavery. ..... Lincoln’s famously ambiguous views on slavery and racial equality. .... Spielberg risks reviving the Great Emancipator myth. The best evidence suggests that Abraham Lincoln personally abhorred slavery as an institution while simultaneously denying the concept of racial equality. ...... Lincoln viewed the Emancipation Proclamation and the enlistment of black troops as a wartime expedient to preserve the Union. ..... Lincoln’s personal beliefs underwent a significant change during the last year of the Civil War, and Lincoln did in fact suggest to the reconstructed government of Louisiana in 1864 that “very intelligent” black men and “those who have fought gallantly in our ranks” might be given access to the ballot box. ...... never became a radical abolitionist .... Lincoln continued to put forth plans for the resettlement of freedmen to the Caribbean even after issuing the Emancipation Proclamation and possibly even after the passage of the 13th Amendment. .... The one-dimensional black characters in Lincoln are unrecognizable as depictions of African Americans during the Civil War. ..... While Lincoln continued to insist that the war was a struggle to preserve the Union, African Americans did not wait for the Emancipation Proclamation to turn the war into much more than a sectional conflict. Slavery was destroyed as much by their individual actions as by the political workings of white politicians...... the movie does a poor job of identifying the various cabinet officials and Congressmen central to the plot .... On the whole, Spielberg’s Lincoln is a masterful politician and a dynamic character, able to carefully mediate between his own evolving beliefs and the political realities of his age. This interpretation falls solidly in line with the mainstream of Lincoln scholarship. For an incredibly complex, sphinxlike figure such as Abraham Lincoln, perhaps we shouldn’t expect a more thorough interpretation from Hollywood.
Spielberg's Lincoln is a blockbuster for the people – and for the Oscars
it has taken $62m, almost its entire production budget, in just two weeks..... It may be the year's most unlikely blockbuster. Of the three passes Spielberg has made at the subject of slavery – The Color Purple in 1982 and Amistad in 1997 – Lincoln is by far the least Spielbergian. .... 149 minutes of dense political maneuvering in dark smoke-filled rooms, as Lincoln hunts down the votes necessary to pass the 13th amendment. It's a film about process, a political procedural. ..... turned Jaws and ET into national events, and Saving Private Ryan into a generational salute ..... Not until Forrest Gump in 1993 could the academy bring itself to reward a film that made over $100m, thus opening up the way for Titanic and Lord of the Rings. .....The Hurt Locker, the lowest-grossing film ever to win the Academy Award for best picture


What’s True and False in “Lincoln” Movie
When the House of Representatives finally, dramatically votes to approve the 13th Amendment to the Constitution abolishing slavery, Washington erupts in celebration. Members of Congress weep, throw themselves into each other’s arms, and begin singing “Battle Cry of Freedom.” Men parade through the streets and church bells chime...... From time to time, even “Honest Abe” himself exaggerated or dissembled in pursuit of a great cause. ..... Lincoln may have given short, unmemorable speeches at countless flag-raising ceremonies in Washington ..... In one of the movie’s most riveting scenes, a trio of smarmy political operatives tells Lincoln they are having a hard time bribing undecided Congressmen to vote “yes” on the amendment because so many 50-cent pieces of the day bear the president’s unpopular likeness. ..... the Gettysburg Address .. did not achieve any semblance of a national reputation until the 20th century ..... Steven Spielberg provided the eloquent answer. “It’s a betrayal of the job of the historian,” he asserted, to explore the unknown. But it is the job of the filmmaker to use creative “imagination” to recover what is lost to memory. Unavoidably, even at its very best, “this resurrection is a fantasy ... a dream.” As Spielberg neatly put it, “one of the jobs of art is to go to the impossible places that history must avoid.” There is no doubt that Spielberg has traveled toward an understanding of Abraham Lincoln more boldly than any other filmmaker before him. ........ Lincoln had made corrupt bargains to win passage of the 13th Amendment. ...... Sometimes real history is as dramatic as great fiction. And when they converge at the highest levels, the combination is unbeatable.
A President Engaged in a Great Civil War
The legislative process — the linchpin of our system of checks and balances — is often treated with lofty contempt masquerading as populist indignation, an attitude typified by the aw-shucks antipolitics of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” Hollywood dreams of consensus, of happy endings and box office unity, but democratic government can present an interminable tale of gridlock, compromise and division. The squalor and vigor, the glory and corruption of the Republic in action have all too rarely made it onto the big screen. ..... about a president trying to scare up votes to get a bill passed in Congress. .... among the finest films ever made about American politics .... is pleased to present himself as a simple backwoods lawyer, even as his folksy mannerisms mask a formidable and cunning political mind. ..... His Lincoln speaks in a reedy drawl that provides a notable counterpoint to the bombastic bellowing of some of his allies and adversaries. ..... Lincoln is eloquent in the manner of the self-taught provincial prodigy he was, his speech informed by voracious reading and also by the tall tales and dirty jokes he heard growing up in the frontier country of Kentucky and Illinois. He uses words like “shindee” and “flib-flub” and likes to regale (and exasperate) his cabinet with homespun parables, shaggy dog stories and bits of outhouse humor. His salty native wit is complemented by the clear and lofty lyricism that has come down to us in his great speeches. ..... the human particularity and the greatness of a man who is among the most familiar and the most enigmatic of American leaders. We carry him around in our pockets every day, and yet we still argue and wonder about who he was. ...... Lincoln the man is, for all his playfulness, prone to melancholy and attracted to solitude. He has a tender rapport with his young son Tad (Gulliver McGrath), and a difficult relationship with the boy’s older brother, Robert (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who is furious that his parents have forbidden him to fight for the Union cause. ..... private troubles combine with the strains of a wartime presidency to produce a portrait that is intimate but also decorous, drawn with extraordinary sensitivity and insight and focused, above all, on Lincoln’s character as a politician. ..... a deep, factional split within the Republican Party. .... (spoiler alert for those who slept through high school history) ..... he has to hold his party together and also pick up a handful of votes from lame-duck Democratic congressmen. .... the genius of “Lincoln,” finally, lies in its vision of politics as a noble, sometimes clumsy dialectic of the exalted and the mundane. Our habit of argument, someone said recently, is a mark of our liberty ..... The film places slavery at the center of the story, emphatically countering the revisionist tendency to see some other, more abstract thing — states’ rights, Southern culture, industrial capitalism — as the real cause of the Civil War. ..... a movie about how difficult and costly it has been for the United States to recognize the full and equal humanity of black people. .... D. W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation,” which glorified the violent disenfranchisement of African-Americans as a heroic second founding, and “Gone With the Wind,” with its romantic view of the old South. To paraphrase what Woodrow Wilson said of Griffith, Mr. Spielberg writes history with lightning. .... Boredom and confusion are also part of democracy, after all. “Lincoln” is a rough and noble democratic masterpiece — an omen, perhaps, that movies for the people shall not perish from the earth.
The Trouble With Steven Spielberg’s 'Lincoln'
Movie review: Daniel Day-Lewis and Spielberg offer a "Lincoln" both moving and monumental
Movie review: Lincoln film humanizes the legendary president
'Lincoln' review: Daniel Day-Lewis brilliant
It's the voice. The voice is everything. ... History tells us that Abraham Lincoln had a high voice, sometimes described as a silver trumpet, sometimes described as piping, but notably high, enough to be mentioned. And yet the Lincoln of legend, the Lincoln of movies, has been either deep-voiced or Henry Fonda (who was in his own vocal category). Lincoln has been an oracle, and now, in Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln," as portrayed by Daniel Day-Lewis, he is a man..... Suddenly, we see the small-town tale spinner, the backwoods politician, someone who might easily be underestimated. He seems ungainly - not quaintly awkward but raw and slightly foreign to modern eyes. So that when we're reminded that he is, in fact, a political and moral genius, truly one of the great visionaries of history, it's almost a surprise....... This is Lincoln. No need for a time machine, there he is. There are entire stretches in "Lincoln," especially in the Cabinet scenes, as you hear the complexity of his legal and strategic thinking, that you might very well forget you're seeing acting - even forget you're in a movie theater - and instead believe that you're sitting in a room with the 16th president. To be on the receiving end of that is more than entertainment. It feels like a gift..... the intense congressional battle over the 13th Amendment. ..... The Congress of Lincoln is a Congress you might recognize, a body containing a mix of big and shockingly small-minded people, some pushing against the tides of history, some complaining that the president is not ideologically pure enough or committed enough to be trusted....... the more you've read and the more daguerreotypes you've seen, the more you'll appreciate the film's astonishing re-creation of historical tableaux, such as Lincoln's visit to the battlefield or the scene outside the Capitol on the occasion of his second inaugural........ a Lincoln whose patience derives from a lifetime of being smarter than everyone, of knowing that he is 10 steps ahead of even his fastest colleagues. But even Lincoln's patience has limits, and the moment when he reaches it - when he slams his hand down on the desk, asserts his power and insists that he will see his vision made real - is breathtaking. ..... Even better, it really happened.
‘Lincoln’ carries the weight of history
House Divided
Democrats such as Fernando Wood (Lee Pace), a former mayor of New York, who wanted the city to secede from the Union and reap a continuing profit from its cotton trade with the Confederacy ..... The title suggests a monolith, as if going to this movie were tantamount to visiting Mt. Rushmore, and the running time, of two and a half hours, prepares you for an epic. Yet the film is a cramped and ornery affair, with Spielberg going into lockdown mode even more thoroughly than he did in “The Terminal.” As befits a chamber piece, we pass from one chamber to the next: from the crowded floor of the House to the Lincolns’ bedroom, a hospital ward, and the study where Stevens likes to browbeat lesser men. Then, there is the carriage with curtained windows, in which a Southern delegation, led by Alexander Stephens (Jackie Earle Haley), Vice-President of the Confederate States, travels north in secret (and in vain), to discuss a peace deal—peace being the first thing that Lincoln prays for and the last thing he needs right now, before the amendment is passed...... shenanigans in smoke-filled rooms, with most of the smoke emerging from the cigar of Secretary of State William Seward ..... our first sight of Lincoln is from behind, the radiance of his fame being too much to contemplate head on, and we even get a foolish coda, with our hero manifested like an angel through a flickering candle flame, as if the film were unable to leave him be. ....... Resplendent in whiskers and purple waistcoat, Spader enjoys every minute, haring to the White House mid-debate to beg a note from the President, and greeting the great man, as he pays a visit to the enforcers’ hideaway, with the cheery words “Well, I’ll be fucked!” ... Lincoln is undeterred. “I wouldn’t bet against it,” he replies, with a knowing grin....... The voice, too, is pitched a good octave above Fonda’s, yet how swiftly we are lulled into its anecdotal ease. “I heard tell once,” he begins, and the roomful of listeners is hushed in expectation. In a way, that is not far from Ford, although he would not have countenanced the superb moment when Spielberg, eager to crack the spell, has Edwin Stanton (Bruce McGill), the Secretary of War, peel away in exasperation as Lincoln halts a busy night—they are waiting for news, by wire, from the shelling outside Wilmington—to launch into yet another fondly polished tale......... Liam Neeson, a gruffer presence, who for a long while was Spielberg’s choice of leading man ..... the mysterious—and accurate—sense of a man who by instinct and by expertise reaches out to the people he leads while seeming lost in himself. ..... the President’s harshest quarrel is not with her but with his conscience, and with his mortal thoughts ..... Through sickness, infant fatality, and military service, these folk lived more closely with death than we can ever know........ To her, reĆ«lection means “four more years in this terrible house.” ..... a Lincoln film that paid inadequate heed to the forces of rhetoric would be like a porno film that stopped at the bedroom door .... As Tolstoy said of Lincoln, in 1908, “We are still too near to his greatness.” Ain’t that so?
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