Like Lincoln (at least how he was portrayed by Daniel Day-Lewis with Tony Kushner’s words) I can tell you now that this post will be long winded. And like people who were ever an audience to Lincoln, you will either love or hate what I have to say.
FIRST THE MOVIE: (Skip down if you couldn’t care less about what I think about the movie)
I loved it.
I loved that it didn’t talk down to the audience. It wasn’t trying to force feed history to those who don’t know it well, and it was respectfully accurate to those who do. I really enjoyed Hal Holbrook as Blair. He was a non-politician, newspaper publisher, which just goes to show how long the media has influenced politics. His home (the Blair House) is currently used by the US Government as the state house for foreign dignitaries. My favorite story of Blair house is that during the Clinton years secret service found Boris Yeltsin coming out of the state house drunk in his underwear trying to hail a cab. Then the next day Yeltsin tried to escape Blair House through the basement. You don’t need to know this to enjoy LINCOLN, and they don’t even really tell you who Preston Blair is in the movie. You know his stance, and you know he has political influence of old. That’s it. And frankly, because everyone in the day already knew who he was, if there had been an introduction in the film it would have come off as obvious exposition. This is one TINY example. I only included it because … Well I liked seeing the character of a man I’d only read about, and because this happened through out the movie. You never see Jefferson Davis but you hear about him all the time. If you don’t know who he is, then for the first half of the movie or more you simply know he’s someone leading confederates. . . and I guess that’s all you really need to know. (For those of you thinking I’m wrong for assuming there are people who don’t know who Davis was, I ask you to take a poll of people who know their state’s senators and local representative.) With this and many other examples I’m trying to say two things: First, the movie didn’t talk down to the audience by explaining who everyone was or their back stories too illicitly, and second, the story wasn’t bogged down with so many little details that it took away from the story being told… Which was decidedly NOT a biopic, but the story of one portion of a great man’s life – The passing of the 13th amendment.
I loved how simple the filmmaking was. Speilberg heavily relied on the actors, the story, and the history. He knew his target audience and didn’t make any effort to try and please anyone else. I am that target audience. I love history. I love epics. I love politics. But I can also see why other people, not in the target demo, would think this movie was long and boring. I don’t blame them, because the movie was simply not made for them.
I loved the lighting, but do so with a understanding smirk. The team found out very quickly that if you backlit Daniel Day-Lewis, not only does he look more like Lincoln, but more reverential and respectful. This happened in almost every scene. In almost every scene you’ll think “that picture should be the poster.” I could see an audience member thinking they went to far here, but I don’t blame them because the filmmakers are in a lose lose battle. Look at the flack they are taking over Daniel’s voice in the film? Experts are saying it’s accurate now, but when doing a movie about a man so much bigger than life, what other option do you have, really?
Maybe most of all I loved Tony Kushner’s screenplay. I wonder if you ask him whether he’s a screenwriter or a playwright, what his answer would be. I assume playwright but then again there is the possibility he would not take either option and only say that he was a writer. I love when a talented writer, with a big enough reputation, throws away all the rules of thumb about screenwriting that beginners treat as gospel. There were so many long speeches… SO MANY, and I loved every one! Yes, this could be devastating to a script, but it can also really give the actors and crew (everyone from makeup to gaffers) a chance to show off the intricacies of their work. This also leads me to my opinion that he’s a playwright… Another aspect of his work that was done so brilliantly, in my opinion, was the weaving together of so many story lines. Of course that of the passing of the 13th amendment, but also: Robert Lincoln’s desire to join the army, Mary going insane over the loss of her sons, the three “lobbyists,” Stevens’ life long goal to abolish slavery and coming to terms with not being able to have it all at once, even a story as small as that of the butler and Lincoln’s gloves. The list is much longer than this, but somehow Kushner (and I assume the editors as well) managed to knit it together so that all stories were leading to the same endgame.
Lastly? What I loved was that it was not American propaganda. If you know me personally you know that I am not the greatest fan of America. I wish it wasn’t so, but it’s true. (And no it’s not lost on me that one of my American freedoms is the ability to admit so publicly) However this movie was NOT American propaganda. In fact it shows just how dirty American politics has been, and is still to this day. This story, is the story of a great man. A great man that stood against his most influential advisers, at times his family, the status quo, the House of Representatives, and a nation that had already lost hundreds of thousands of lives. He stood out in his time, made a true difference, and that should be human propaganda, not American.
here are a couple links I found you might find interesting.
NOW FOR SOME POLITICS
It is very easy to see a correlation to the Republican party of 1865 trying to get equal right for blacks and the Democratic party of 2012 trying to get equality for gays. It is also interesting to see that that the parties changed so drastically in the last 150 years. But what I want to highlight is how similar things were then to now.
We like to wax poetic about “the good ole days” and wonder why politics has gone to hell, etc, etc, etc. Well STOP! Because it’s always been this way in American politics. Political decisions have always been subject to individual’s beliefs, the economy, and/or looming reelection. Our nation being divided 50/50 is nothing new. Bipartisan slander and political equivocation are nothing even close to new. This country is doing it all exactly the same way. The differences now are the issues (sucks that equality isn’t totally taken care of at this point. Shame on us), and the technology that has given us the 24 hours news cycle. Game changers sure, but still the same game.
I love how this movie shows both sides of the argument. And although I don’t know anyone that would argue (I’m sure they’re out there) that the right decisions were made back then, we only feel that way because of the amount of time between now and then. Lincoln was hated by a LARGE portion of the American population, and whether you like it or not (sorry liberals) it doesn’t mean the other half were bigots. For my Republican friends, after 150 years it is quite possible that George Bush (either) could go down in history in a glorious and positive light. For my Democratic friends it could be that Obama goes down in history for much much more than just being the first black president. Here’s what I need you to understand: of the above two statements, half the country believes one and half the other. You can not, and should not, assume that people on the other side of the aisle are wrong. Or worse that they are some how deficient. If you do then you are thinking about HALF of the population. If you think that about HALF the population I personally believe that it is YOU who are deficient.
Does that mean you can’t believe what you believe and believe it with passion? NO! Fight the fight! Make the hard decisions! Grasp opportunities! And preach what you believe! But that doesn’t make your opinion or thoughts better than anyone else’s. My priorities are not your priorities and that doesn’t make either of us evil.
Lincoln did not govern in a time that was politically easier, giving him the ability to accomplish what he did. In fact, I believe he was in harder times, and he accomplished more. That should leave us all with a desire to do better. That’s the feeling I left the theater with, and as I said before, I’m not the biggest fan of America, but I am a huge fan of Lincoln. One man who made an incredible difference.
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