Monday, November 26, 2012
I have to say, I didn't watch a lot of the trailers for Lincoln. I heard they were cheesy, though, and I think I expected as much. Abraham Lincoln is considered one of the greatest/most important figures in American history, so of course Steven Spielberg's film was going to be heavily romanticized.
Do we build Abe up too much? Yes and no. Is he the white savior who worked tirelessly to end slavery and to ensure black equality? Absolutely not. Anyone who goes into the film thinking that is either a child, ill-informed, or incredibly stupid. The film is not a history lesson...it's a film. And really, I'm a little surprised, although I know I shouldn't be, that there are people out there who are criticizing the historical accuracy of the film. Does that mean that there's nothing else to criticize? Spielberg made a film that was interesting, entertaining, and extremely tight and brilliantly paced - nothing bad to report there. Wait, it isn't 100% accurate?? What a piece of shit. That's more of my response to the first link you gave us, Ben. Again, I didn't read the entire thing, but that was the sense that I got from it and I probably won't revisit that blog post.
The second link, I'm sure, is more respectable. I haven't had the chance to look it over more carefully yet, but I will soon and will have a post up on it. I just wanted to address the argument that is certainly floating out in cyberspace that the film blows because it isn't an accurate portrayal.
But while Lincoln wasn't the white savior, he was certainly a guiding force for the Thirteenth Amendment. The film gives us a little bit of that, but in my opinion it gives more of an overall feel of the man. The Doris Kearnes Goodwin interview with the Boston Globe shows that she was very satisfied with the work done by Daniel Day-Lewis, Steven Spielberg, and Tony Kushner. Goodwin's work gives us a sense that Abe was a folksy guy who was always telling stories and anecdotes. That's exactly what we're given in Lincoln and it's very well done. It's a great script and Daniel Day-Lewis is phenomenal (as always, I know). Not only does the script call for someone that audience can immediately indentify with and root for, it calls for a man we can't take our eyes off of. DDL is perfect for this film, and I imagine Spielberg and Kushner would not have been as enthusiastic about the project without him playing Abe.
But Brandon's right, there's more than Daniel Day-Lewis to admire about this film. The tone is right, something Spielberg is very familiar with (at times I thought of Amistad). The secondary characters (which offers plenty of great cameos) were all great. I'm not a big James Spader fan (not that I hate him or anything), but he's a lot of fun in this one. The scene where one of the Democrats is trying to shoot him is funnier than anything that Kevin James has ever done in his entire career (sorry that's not saying much, John).
The message of Lincoln is very clear, without being too obvious or annoying. Kushner channeled the side of Abraham Lincoln that Barack Obama admittedly imitates and channels: a man who believed in compromise and "baby steps," if you will. And we are also shown a man who admits to not being able to fully accept blacks as equals. At one point in, Lincoln tells his maid that he would try and "tolerate" a post-13th Amendment America. So while the 13th Amendment wasn't good enough and didn't go far enough, it absolutely set the wheels in motion. We needed the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and other bills to do more to ensure equality, but even that wasn't enough. Even in 2012 Republicans are trying whatever they can to block minorities from voting.
Anyway, I'm getting off topic here. Spielberg and Kushner chip away at the theme even further with the Thaddeus Stevens storyline. If you care about something as passionately as Stevens did for black equality and an end to slavery, it's easy to understand the importance of patience and cautiousness. It was an intricate process that, had one false move been made, the entire Amendment would have been scraped. Dramas thrive on that concept, and the film does a great job setting it up and delivering.
So while all this doesn't necessarily compliment an accurate account of American history, it does compliment and drive the film wonderfully.
And sure, the film isn't without fault. I wasn't crazy about the Robert Lincoln storyline either, Brandon (even though I'm a big JGL fan). During one of Lincoln's speeches, I felt Spielberg used too many cuts/angles and it threw me off a bit - that probably sounds stupid, but it's true. And while the trailers are largely misleading, there are few cheesy moments in the film. Again, it isn't perfect, but what it does, it does extremely well.
I'm really rushing these thoughts right now. I want to post more tomorrow and hopefully I will. I want to address that second article. Nighty night.