Sunday, November 25, 2012
photo: Movie poster, from its Wikipedia page
A few comments about Steven Spielberg's Lincoln, which you should go see:
--I was pleasantly surprised to find myself sitting in the second row from the front for this film. Spielberg film or not, historical films or biopics do not draw huge crowds. I got to this one twenty minutes early (pretty amazing for me) and almost had to see the next one, half an hour later. The crowd, at a quick glance, was about 28 and older. No teens; no kids. (This will make for a better film experience.)
--Spielberg is usually the star of a Spielberg film. This time he shared the billing with Daniel Day-Lewis, who was amazing. But the film was so well-directed, with obvious Spielberg/Wellesian flourishes, that he doesn't let you forget who's sitting in the director's chair.
--This movie could've been a bore without Spielberg and Day-Lewis, as historical films and/or biopics can be. Over 95% of the film is interiors and dialogue. Day-Lewis and Tommy Lee Jones often hold forth.
--This apparently isn't just movie theatrics, either, as characters throughout both cringe and anticipate Lincoln's long-ish stories. Jones's character was also known to fillibuster, too, apparently.
--I'm betting $20 that most of the fires in the fireplaces were CGI. I guarantee you the heat made by them would screw with the cameras, the lights, and who knows what else. And it looked CGI most of the time to me. If someone reading this happens to know whether this is so, please let me know.
--Who knew that Lincoln had a sense of humor?
--In case you're reading this: Uh-kay.
--The film (actually, Sally Fields' Mary Todd Lincoln herself) often mentions the First Lady's struggles with depression (she'd be classified bi-polar today, I'll bet), but the film does not mention Lincoln's own well-documented melancholia. (Both had a lot to be depressed about.)
--One of the film's strongest moments is when Lincoln mentions her depression. Her sadness. Her anger. The point being that she was so worried about her feelings that she ignored those of her husband and her other two sons. From what I've read of her (and her sadness-drawn love of seances), this smacked of truth.
--Both Lincolns seemed like people you would not want to mess with--Lincoln on the political battlefront, Mary Todd at home.
--Speaking of home, the White House was apparently a pigsty when the Lincolns got there. I'd known about this--the White House famously was ill-designed for heating and ventilation, and it was often in ruin because the Presidents then were, well, ill-kept themselves--but I had no idea it had gotten that bad.
--Obama and Lincoln are often compared, but I'll throw out another one: they were both either extremely well-loved, or extremely despised, with nothing in between. Few people would think of either with a shrug of the shoulders.
--Someone mentioned that Bush Junior was the same way, but I was quick to point out that, though he was very heavily despised, he was not very well-loved, even by the dumbies who voted for him. (I had to go back and delete a stronger word there.)
--Speaking of Dubya, make it a point to notice, in a VERY heavily researched and historically accurate film, that every table was filled with books, piled high. Lincoln was mostly home-schooled and self-taught, and Bush went to Yale, but one has a Presidential Library that's known as a good place to research, with lotsa books. The other hasn't opened yet, but when it does, to the tune of $250 million, the sound you'll hear is one hand clapping.
--And both Obama and Lincoln had a country at war with itself, socially. Then and now, it is very evenly divided. The south has not, apparently, changed all that much. Perhaps we are two separate countries after all.
--David Strathairn is in a ton of films, and always does a quietly great job, and never gets any recognition at all for his work. He's been doing this since the 80s. For example, how many of you know who in the film I'm talking about?
--Daniel Day-Lewis will get the recognition he deserves (he already is), but the greatest thing about his work is that he made a revered American icon surprisingly and appreciably human. Lincoln is almost as revered in the U.S. as many religious figures, then and now, and think for a moment if someone were to try to humanize one of them. (::cough:: Martin Scorsese, 1988 ::cough::)
--Day-Lewis almost made me not wonder when Lincoln would pick up an axe and start swingin'. Almost. Two Lincolns at opposite ends of the spectrum in the same film year. Weird.
--Back to the fireplaces again: Everyone's cold. Sure, it's winter in D.C., which can be worse than winter in New England, but the White House seemed like nothing more than a big barn with one big fireplace in each room. As I can assure you, one fireplace is not enough to warm a big room. Everyone's wearing shawls, even the manly, well-dressed and -suited politicians. Nice historical touch.
--Notice also that everyone wrote on small, wooden portable desks, sort of a take-it-with-you tiny podium. I've got to get myself one of those. What're they called?
--Spielberg said he didn't want to release this film until after the election because he didn't want to influence any votes. You'll see why when you see it, but that tells you another very obvious comparison between Obama and Lincoln--in many ways, they're fighting the same issues.
--The same issues, about 147 years later.
--Thank goodness Lincoln was president during the Civil War. Can you imagine Dubya or Mitt as President during the Civil War? We'd still have slavery--and women still wouldn't be able to vote.