How do you know you’re up for Best Picture in 2012? A journalist at the New York Post so fears Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln winning Best Picture that he has to write an op-ed that smears President Lincoln 150 years after his assassination.  It’s really no wonder, though, since this is how he interprets the film:

Torture in the Civil War

Does “Zero Dark Thirty” condone torture? Some think it does, but the film is a queasy, disquieting experience. It’s anything but a whitewash. It invites adults to think for themselves. “Lincoln,” by contrast, paints its central character as a folksy but brilliant charmer who never did anything worse than cut a few patronage deals to get the 13th Amendment passed.

The Lincoln complainers have abounded for decades.  The Zero Dark Thirty controversy has only just recently hatched. We don’t even know the facts yet let alone whether the film is propaganda and a lie.  Yet Kyle Smith and his newly self-proclaimed cohort, Jeff Wells, have decided that this is the moment to take down President Lincoln, along with Spielberg’s great film — why? All because of a funny little game called the Oscar race.

In what seems like a personal attack on Lincoln, Smith glosses over what Zero Dark Thirty doesn’t show — and believe me, pal, that is a can of worms best left sealed.  But first, he must have missed the part where Lincoln had to convince not only his cabinet, his entire party and many of the voting members of the opposition party about the amendment to make slavery illegal.  You know, that little stain on American history when men, women and children were beaten, tortured, enslaved, raped, murdered and sold? Yeah, that one. Lincoln is not just about the president convincing them to pass the amendment, and all of the ways he does this, it’s about the people who didn’t want it to pass.  It’s about people who were afraid of freedom of slaves, and the way America was about to change, namely, that blacks (and eventually women) would get the right to vote.

It isn’t about slavery and it isn’t about Lincoln’s presidency. It is about the changes that had to take place, how insurmountable those changes seemed at the time, and how it took a truly special man to push those changes through.

Lincoln is not only about our dearly departed president but a moment in history that was THAT close to having a different outcome.  It is about then as much as it is about today. It is about the memory of Lincoln as much as it is about his legacy. It is, to that end, deliberately optimistic.

Smith calls it a whitewash — and remember, when the film critic for the NY Post takes it upon himself to crap over the memory of Abe Lincoln you can bet he is trying to do what Jeff Wells is trying to do: block a film from winning Best Picture.  Is it a whitewash or is it an interpretation to hopefully educate and inspire audiences?

You wouldn’t believe it if you weren’t seeing it play out before your very eyes.   He and Wells apparently think it WILL win because otherwise why would they spend so much of their time trying that hard to take it down?   Whether it WILL win or not is still a mystery. This is probably the most unpredictable, wide open race in recent memory. Because it is so wide open I’m afraid we’re really seeing a bloody fight to the finish.

The difference between Spielberg/Kushner’s Lincoln and Bigelow/Boal’s Zero Dark Thirty is that Kushner’s script was carefully culled over a six year period from a book that took ten years to write about a president who has been dead for 150 years.  The death of Bin Laden, the torture by the CIA and Obama’s own presidency are still wet as the blood that trickled out of Abe Lincoln’s head on April 14, 1865.

I would never want to turn it into a war between Zero Dark Thirty and Lincoln. I’m willing to judge Zero Dark Thirty on its own terms, as a film, as a work of art even though its makers say it’s “journalism” and that they are standing by their sources and that it’s “based on true events.” It is still art.  Spielberg’s Lincoln is also art. I’m embarrassed and ashamed to be part of an Oscar race where these types of things are used to judge films instead of what the films themselves are. This is the case with both Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty.

Can we stop this bleeding?

I care about the Oscars too.  I probably care about them too much. After 14 years of writing about them, and the filmmakers, films and talent that have come and gone since I’ve seen way too many terrible movies win Best Picture for all of the wrong reasons.  When you glance back at Oscar years past you see a lot of smoke and mirrors, a lot of misplaced hysteria and a desire to see successful people fail.  None of those reasons have anything to do with whether a film should be rewarded as the highest achievement of the year or not. They are probably the most petty and insignificant things human beings and journalists have to offer.  The artists make the movies and we are here to enjoy them, and if they’re good enough, reward them.

How disappointing to see it come down to something as personal as Jeff Wells’ own personal vendetta against Steven Spielberg.  When it comes to Lincoln’s history I’ll take Doris Kearns Goodwin and the many historians who’ve written on the subject and not on the hysterical rantings of the NY Post’s film critic, Kyle Smith.

If winning Best Picture means the memory of Lincoln is to be dragged through the mud, it isn’t worth it.  Wells and Smith can have Silver Linings Playbook as their winner.  If this is what is going to make them sleep well at night, by all means, throw the gold statues somewhere else.  The good ones, the best ones, rarely win anyway.  The greatest films shimmer behind the those that actually managed to capture the majority vote.

Most of the time the Oscar race leaves us wandering wide-eyed and aimless through the now-empty gymnasium. Deflated balloons and confetti litter the wood floor. Somewhere someone is throw away plastic cups full of punch and stale beer. Maybe you can look at yourself in the mirror, maybe you can’t.  Maybe you’re sore in places you can’t even say out loud.  But you’ll likely not remember much of what happened the night before.   I am suddenly disgusted by having anything to do with a race where people like this sink this low to win. It isn’t worth it.  Maybe it never was.

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  • “The Lincoln complainers have abounded for decades.”

    Just 15 or 16 decades, is all.

  • Jerry

    I know Jeff Wells is your friend Sasha but he is so immature that I doubt many people take him seriously. I’ve tried reading his opinions on films and the Oscar race but never get passed the first bratty paragraph. In regards to Kyle Smith, people have been trying to smear Abe Lincoln since his death but he has solidly remained the most popular U.S. President. The mud never sticks because we all can see the bigger picture of what he accomplished.
    I loved Zero Dark Thirty but I’m honest with myself that it’s a mixture of fact and fiction taking mainly the side of the CIA agents willing to talk to Boals and Bigelow. There are other sides to the story that were left out. We will find out more of the truth decades from now.

  • Bryce Forestieri

    LOL Jeff Wells is a hilarious mental case. Does anyone really take that lunatic seriously?

  • helios

    I really hope SLP wins because years from now (or the next morning) it will be seen as a complete joke.

    Google jeff wells and this is what you get:


  • Jesse Crall

    Wells is hilarious. He’s like Ned Merrill with a Macbook.

  • Sasha Stone

    Jerry, I feel conflicted about Zero Dark Thirty. I know where I stand on torture and I know where I stand on the film – I am just not sure yet about the bigger picture of it all. I’ll never see it as a bad film – it is just too good for that. I do acknowledge the conflict presenting the truth that way when whether it’s true or not justifies policy of the past and the present.

  • d2

    I’m not a complainer about Abraham Lincoln, the man, nor the book…just the movie. I just think there was a better movie in there somewhere. I responded similarly watching Oliver Stone’s Nixon. Is there a need to cast only famous (or semi-famous, like Gloria Reuben) actors in nearly every role?

  • Noah R.

    I don’t like Lincoln very much and I do think the man himself was more complex and interesting than the film allows him to be. He told racist jokes and used the N-word about as much as Calvin Candie. I know, I know–it was the context of the times. But if you want to tell the story right, you have a responsibility to shed some light on that. I don’t hate Abraham Lincoln, far from it, but what we’re left with in the film is stock inner conflict about family and war. If anything, to see him rise above that context would make me admire him even more. How is Lincoln any better than The Greatest Story Ever Told? It’s a ponderous guest list with a brilliant actor in the central role who does his best with an underwritten representation. DDL is good but I can think of at least eight performances he’s done better. It’s far from his best.

    But Kyle Smith and Jeff Wells? Man, they’re making me wish I loved it as much as Sasha. As Harding says in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, “Take it easy, and stay off my side.”

  • Sasha Stone

    That isn’t true, Kel. You were over there at HE applauding Kyle Smith’s post and Jeff Wells.

  • Pete

    I remain amazed at Repubs who embrace Lincoln because he ended slavery while simultaneously insist that the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery

  • I really hope SLP wins because years from now (or the next morning) it will be seen as a complete joke.

    Only it won’t, helios. If it wins, more and more people will be encouraged to see it, and many will like it a lot. It’s hard to get the average person to dislike a simple football comedy starring Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro and Jennifer Lawrence. Jacki Weaver = token older female. Chris Tucker = token black guy. All bases covered.

    Most people still think Crash is a great film. It’s the ‘Best Picture’ winner of 2006! It must be great! it has a higher fucking rating on IMDb than Brokeback Mountain, although it suffered from the homophobic vote with that crowd.

  • Sasha Stone

    The fact of it is, Noah, Lincoln winning BP seems like a long shot to me, because of people like you and Jeff and everyone else. THat is why it’s so repulsive to see them and everyone else hammer it so hard. Silver Linings and Argo both have better chances to win. Michael Haneke has a great chance to win Best Director and Lincoln, for all of the efforts put in by all involved, could go home empty handed. What makes me so mad about this whole thing is that yes, the numbers back up Lincoln but that is by far all that matters this time around. Stomping on a film that is a tough sell to begin with is just, to me, disgraceful.

  • Mel

    This is a bit dramatic. You are the only person I see who keeps beating this, “Lincoln is gonna lose b/c of assholes” drum. It is as though you are willing it to lose by focusing and making a big deal out of a couple of crackpots. And honestly, it is making you seem a little crackpot.

    When you glance back at Oscar years past you see a lot of smoke and mirrors, a lot of misplaced hysteria and a desire to see successful people fail.

    For crying out loud. Yes. If Lincoln doesn’t win, Spielberg, DDL, Sally Field, Kaminski….they will all just be FAILURES and remembered as such. Good lord.

  • Robert A.

    “Lincoln, for all of the efforts put in by all involved, could go home empty handed.”

    I was going to say there’s no way a movie with this many nominations goes home empty-handed…and then I remembered The Color Purple and The Turning Point.

    But Lincoln won’t go home empty-handed. I’m ready to bet the farm on that (easy bet for me because I don’t have a farm!). Lincoln will win Best Actor, at the very least. (Personally, I think it’s going to win more than that.) If DDL doesn’t win Best Actor, I’ll eat my non-existent farm!

  • daveinprogress

    I’m with you Robert A, I think Lincoln will net at least Daniel Day Lewis.

    I don’t think this latest attempt to bring down a movie’s Oscar chances will achieve that. The Hurt Locker survived scandal, smear etc. The King’s Speech also prevailed over some controversy around this time 2 years ago.

    For me it still feels premature to hazard a guess at how this bizarre year will eventuate Oscar wise. DGA and PGA will help, for the big prizes and SAG and BAFTA for acting. Lincoln still feels like a winner to me.

  • Bette

    Well, it is interesting that a film called “Lincoln” doesn’t show any of the horrors of slavery. Django shows more. “Lincoln” should have been called “The 13th Amendment”…but even then, shouldn’t a film with even that title show a bit of what that amendment abolishes?

    To say Lincoln the President was anything but great is just plain ignorant of American history. To say that “Lincoln” the film is a good one, but not quite a great one, is fair debate. I’m in the very good camp myself, but that’s neither here nor there (though I respect the BAFTAs for snubbing Spielberg and editor Michael Kahn, as that ending is just bad, the film should have ended with Lincoln entering the theater…such a restrained Spielberg throughout, yet he couldn’t help himself with his trademark sentimentality and excess at the very end, too bad).

    Beasts of the Southern Wild for the win! [though it won’t]

    BTW, Paddy, I don’t know how you know what “most people” think. Crash has a good score on imdb, but most people don’t vote on imdb. And as for what most critics think, most do NOT think it is a good film. That I know, I look at metacritic (69), rotten tomatoes, etc.

  • Jerry Grant

    Yeah I agree. It takes a real stretch to distort the story of Lincoln to be about “on the wrong side” or “not good enough” (see also the atrociously bad angry piece in Harper’s by Thomas Frank). But it does not take much of a stretch at all to be uncomfortable about the (a)morality of Zero Dark Thirty. Like Sasha, I am still conflicted on that movie. I think in terms of sheer film quality, it ranks only with Lincoln, but (unlike Lincoln) it is very far from one of my “favorite” movies of the year and I really don’t know how to place its overall significance. It was never odd or unpredictable that viewers would complain about the portrayal of the success of torture. It doesn’t feel like a movie to celebrate, because the movie does not call for celebration, even for celebration of its own cinematic achievement. I had a better sense of how I felt about even United 93 (another great film) than about Zero Dark Thirty.

    As for making Lincoln about bad politics, that’s reaching pretty low. It is very rare we see such a subtle portrayal of the realities of politics.

  • Yes. If Lincoln doesn’t win, Spielberg, DDL, Sally Field, Kaminski….they will all just be FAILURES and remembered as such. Good lord.

    I think you’re missing the point. Nobody is going to remember Spielberg, DDL, Sally Field, Kaminski and Lincoln as failing. Their success should be apparent. Nobody involved with Lincoln failed. If the Oscars fail to see that then it’s the Oscars that will have failed.

  • d2

    I’m sorry, Sasha…I’m living with my dad, who just got a new dog and all it does is crap and pee all over the floor. We got it as a 1-year-old, not trained dog and I have no idea what the heck to do. I’m going nuts and taking it out on random films. As if it really matters what I think about the movie. The movie has been made and there is nothing I can do about that. I can try and take it down, but what good would that do? Who cares what I think? Certainly not Spielberg and all his billions of dollars..

  • JJ

    Can people make a strong case that Field should win over Hot Meserables star Anne H.? Anyone? I would love to see her win.

  • evelyn garver

    It’s possible Wells’ madness has driven more people to see LINCOLN and away from SLP. I know I started the season anxious to see Jennifer Lawrence, whom I like. Now I dread sitting through it, having been told the film is one for the ages and Cooper is the new Olivier. I just saw ZD30. It’s a well made, well acted film. LINCOLN was much more entertaining throughout while ZD30 delivers in its last 30 minutes. For those who want to reduce LINCOLN to “boring history lesson” ,it is equally possible to reduce ZD30 to “HOMELAND with better production values.” Neither does justice to these important films. Remember, Sasha,Wells has to troll every media outlet to find the minority voices who hate LINCOLN.

  • Danemychal

    Sasha, you give Jeff Wells too much credit. He’s certainly not worth a headline on your website. I followed the guy on Twitter for a grand total of five days before I read him criticize the speakers and production values of the Newtown memorial service like it was some awards show meant to entertain. Immediately unfollowed. I occasionally see his idiotic remarks when you retweet him. The man is an aging buffoon, and it wouldn’t shock me to know that those in AMPAS who actually know him or know of him even read what he writes or honestly give him the time of day.

  • L.M. Jones

    “Stomping on a film that is a tough sell to begin with is just, to me, disgraceful.”

    All you need to do is promote it at awardsdaily and it will be just fine, trust me.

  • I used to follow Jeff at regular intervals just for the sheer pleasure of unfollowing him whenever he said something ridiculous. Had to stop as I was getting carpel tunnel.

  • I note that you say very little about the substance of my op-ed. “Hysterical rantings”? I would certainly hate to be guilty of those. So please quote back to me the hysterical and/or ranty portions of my piece as I would like to improve as a writer. While you’re at it, you can go back and tell the author of the 1992 Pulitzer Prize winner in history, “The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties,” which is widely considered the authoritative source for most of the facts I cite about Lincoln’s unconstitutional actions, that he, too, is hysterical or a ranter.

  • ramiro

    i enjoyed lincoln. but no more than SLP.
    actually, it is a Spielberg’s Tale. it does not have (maybe) almost anything similar to the real facts, and it’s based on a un-historical book. nevertheless, it is still a good movie with good characthers and acting. period.
    isn’t SLP an analogy? a tale, with good characthers and acting. period. it doesn’t rely on history and a legend (created by those who pervert the odious actions done by one of the most dictatorial presidents of the USA – that, anyway, have made this country). but, it rather have a stunning and charming performance by JLaw in a charming screenplay.

    is it 71th oscar time again?

  • I’m sure you know Lincoln much better than Kearns, Kushner and Spielberg, ramiro, simply because you say so on a messsage board.

  • Jerry Grant

    I just read the op-ed by Kyle Smith. It’s smart and raises good points, but is much better about characterizing Zero Dark Thirty than Lincoln. Lincoln the movie is not just “flattering” to audiences. Did Lincoln make deals under the table, try to sneak a legislation past Congress? Yes he did. Does the movie hide these unsavory moves? Not at all. (Maybe some of them of course.) Does the audience recognize that there was illegality? Yes, I think so. Do most of us still think Lincoln was a hero? Absolutely.

    The way in which Lincoln and the administration have to move around legality is one of the most provocative and interesting things about the film. The institutional realities of the system was rendering it impossible to do this thing. It is a fascinating moment in American history, and one we should be proud of.

  • Alex

    The trick is not minding.

  • Sasha Stone

    Yeah, Kyle, right. Timing is everything and your timing here is greatly suspect. There is plenty of history out there about Lincoln for anyone who wants to know about it but to drag his name through the mud like he’s some sort of war criminal and especially vis a vis Zero Dark Thirty and the awards race is, sorry to say, hysteria. Your reading of Lincoln is a complete misinterpretation and wholly irrelevant. Zero Dark Thirty’s filmmakers purport to be telling “the truth” about “what happened” in the hunt for Bin Laden. Those facts are under dispute. Spielberg was not making the story of Lincoln’s life – he was telling a specific moment in our history. It was not a whitewash and it wasn’t a lie. It is more along the lines of Argo, not Zero Dark Thirty.

  • Sasha Stone

    All you need to do is promote it at awardsdaily and it will be just fine, trust me.

    Oh if that were only true, alas, it isn’t. Social Network ring any bells?

  • Sasha Stone

    Kel, your opinion is your opinion – don’t even worry about it. 🙂

  • Sasha Stone

    Can people make a strong case that Field should win over Hot Meserables star Anne H.? Anyone? I would love to see her win.

    I think Hathaway will win…and I can’t even say she doesn’t deserve it. She was great. Sally field was amazing too.

  • AJ

    Ryan Adams / January 20, 2013
    Oscar’s fail if Lincoln didn’t win?
    So stupid.
    Your site campaign for Lincoln, That’s ok, but Lincoln is not the best movie.
    It’s an american and conventional story, it’s not to win the Oscar.
    It probably only will win because there is dirty campaign against better movies.
    Lincoln’s win will be a shame for Oscars.
    Nobody will remember Lincoln in 2014.

  • Pete


    In your self-righteous bleating about Lincoln, would your hypothetical improved movie also include the South’s stated desire to expand slavery to ALL US territory? The states rights crowd was all too happy to use the Federal government to force their “way of life” on everyone else and freaked out when they realized that they didn’t hold the cards anymore. The fact that Lincoln passed the thirteenth amendment is amazing.

    By the way Kyle, torture us a war crime according to every treaty the US ever signed, and it is disgraceful that people like YOU try to rationalize that.

    As for Wells, he is obsessed with SLP because he thinks that Lawrence will bang him?

  • AJ

    Sasha Stone / January 20, 2013
    I prefer a campaign against DDL. He is good, but two Oscars is enough.
    Let’s campaign to HJ. Much more difficult role. And I saw him in Broadway (I didn’t see Les Mis yet). Great actor, deserve to win awards.

  • Zach

    The sad thing here is that the NY Post is owned by News Corp, and according to Wikipedia, its sister company Fox actually did the non-USA, UK, and international distribution for Lincoln.

  • Mel

    I think you’re missing the point. Nobody is going to remember Spielberg, DDL, Sally Field, Kaminski and Lincoln. It’s the Oscars that will have failed.

    Why is it such a big deal? Do all of those legends need validation? The Oscars fail every year in a billion ways. It is a relatively small Academy of peers. They pick what they like. Someone is always going to be left out and pissed off. Lincoln is going to be a classic and remain no matter what……Sasha’s accusing others of being hysterical but she’s getting a bit hysterical herself and bringing attention to this nonsense. I really don’t get it.

    In my honest opinion, the best picture this year is Beasts of the Southern Wild. It stands apart and alone in my mind. Lincoln is good, but there is certainly nothing special or mind-blowing about it. It didn’t do anything particularly clever or thoughtful. It was pretty straight-forward and a good story, a true story. You could say it was well-times but any time would have been well-timed b/c Congress has always been a festering shit hole where nothing hardly ever gets done.

    I’m not gonna sit and blow gaskets b/c I know Beasts won’t win. We all know it won’t win. It is thrilling to see it nominated though, along with Wallis and Zeitlin. I really just hate it when Sasha looks as crazy as Jeff Wells blowing shit out of proportion. She’s better than that and she honestly is calling attention, with a megaphone, to Lincoln criticisms so I’m not sure what is the point of this.

    p.s. None of the ads on here are FYC any longer. They are all for things I have recently bought online. Not a single FYC. Has something changed? I always enjoyed the FYCs if I had to suffer ads.

  • AJ

    Sasha Stone / January 20, 2013
    Kyle is right.
    Lincoln (the movie) tries to make Lincoln (the politic) an hero.
    Politics never are heroes.
    There is a lot of dirty behind closing doors.

  • Pete

    Ryan, a more interesting film on Civil Liberties violations is Indiana governor Oliver Morton during the war.

  • PJ

    The problem with Lincoln is not the whitewashing of torture, but the whitewashing of African American contributions during that time. Where is Fredrick Douglas? Where is Harriet Tubman? No sheet of paper stopped slavery. That is mythmaking. People’s blood,s weat, and tears stopped slavery.

  • I think you’re missing the point. Nobody is going to remember Spielberg, DDL, Sally Field, Kaminski and Lincoln. It’s the Oscars that will have failed.

    I screwed up that comment, because we were starting to record the podcast and I posted that nonsensical fragment of what I was thinking. Here’s what I mean to say (missing part in bold):

    I think you’re missing the point. Nobody is going to remember Spielberg, DDL, Sally Field, Kaminski and Lincoln as failing. Their success should be apparent. Nobody involved with Lincoln failed. If the Oscars fail to see that then it’s the Oscars that will have failed.

    [I’m going to fix my earlier fumble above.]

  • ramiro

    gustavo, who says so is a harvard’s professor.
    i don’t think kushner and spielberg has anything to do with the history but with the story. even so, i don’t think that they know better than you and me just because a studio pays them to crowd-please.

  • Yvette

    I googled Spielberg-Lincoln this morning or last night just to check on the gross…and this article popped up. Curious, I clicked on the site and lo and behold – it The New York Post!
    Didn’t even bother reading it….just skimmed. It’s not worthy of your time Sasha.

  • The problem with Lincoln is not the whitewashing of torture, but the whitewashing of African American contributions during that time. Where is Fredrick Douglas? Where is Harriet Tubman?

    I hope they’re in movies we’ll someday see called ‘Douglas’ and ‘Tubman’ — or else they’re in the 12-hour film “Lincoln, Tubman, Douglas and All the Other People Who Fought for the Abolition of Slavery” that Spielberg and Kushner decided would difficult to book in theaters.

  • ramiro

    he’s a neo-confederate and sh*t, but he has good arguments. mainly against the writer of “team of rivals”.

    i don’t really care if Z30/lincoln was based on truth. but it is undeniable that both have points of view. anyone who denies that doesn’t understand the power of media. and i don’t care about what hollywood thinks about both things. i care about the film.

    i enjoyed lincoln and i don’t think it will be a mistake. nor that it will be a movie that “belongs to the ages”.
    same thing with SLP. i really enjoyed SLP. and if it wins, i don’t think will be a flaw.

    i agree with the guy who said beasts of s.w. is the best film of the year. i didn’t enjoy it that much, but i realize it is true. same for the tree of life last year, but that one will surely belong to the ages.

  • kasper

    If Lincoln loses to SLP please don’t shut down the site a la Fennecus. But my god I hope SLP doesn’t win.

  • david

    I usually dont comment here but I just have to say something. I’m 17 years old and an aspiring screenwriter. I personally thought Lincoln was brilliant, SLP was brilliant, and ZDT was brilliant. They were all great in different ways. I personally dont like people bashing films that they could never have made. The craftsmenship of both Lincoln and ZDT is incredible. Sasha I think you write a great blog and I have learned so much from you. I just think people are prone to hysteria and want to be seen as experts of a field that they cannot partake in.

  • Jack

    I agree completely with Bette’s assessment of Lincoln.

    I also think that both Sasha and Ryan have become so consumed by it that I’m worried about what they’re going to do if it loses, especially if it’s to SLP…
    Anyway at this point my money is on Argo.
    Sasha you say the trick is not minding and yet you’ve seemed to let a harmless critic and blogger that aren’t even AMPAS members get under your skin?

    Your guys’ loathing of Les Mis hasn’t stopped me from loving it…

  • Bob Burns

    The book about the torture regime misdepicted in ZD30 has been written… by Jane Mayer, who is, by herself, far more credible than everyone defending the film’s torture depiction combined. I’m interested in knowing how it is they blew off her research and reporting.

    This isn’t about parsing out the bits and pieces of the plot, whether one or two bits of information came out as the result of trickery or torture. It’s about the film’s gross misportrayal of the overall story.

    Polling indicates that public support for torture has been growing rapidly in the US. Now many more support it than opoe it. It goes without saying that rise in support for torture is not due to ZD30, yet, but it is likely that the film will harden that support, and increase it.

    Remember your initial reaction to the film, Sasha? And you are a sophisticated film viewer. What lesson do you think audiences are taking from ZD30? I’d say they saw a bunch of Arabs tortured, a white woman work real hard figuring things out and Bin Laden getting killed. Woohoo!

    If the film was truthful it would show that the torture, conducted by neo-con stooges, was almost entirely a waste and that the professional interrogators got the facts quickly without torture. The torturers were viewed with horror and contempt by the pro’s… like Maya.

  • Jerry Grant

    Well said. There should be less hating of such accomplished films. All three of these–Lincoln, ZDT, and SLP, my top 3 for the year–are the kinds of things that would have inspired me to make movies at a young age.

  • Sasha Stone

    I also think that both Sasha and Ryan have become so consumed by it that I’m worried about what they’re going to do if it loses, especially if it’s to SLP…

    Well, you have nothing to worry about. I don’t think Lincoln is going to win. I would love to see it win and would be really happy to see a deserving movie win but it’s been a while since the movie I loved won BP. It’s been since 2009 actually. So please put your concern elsewhere. Advocating for great films doesn’t mean we’re emotionally wrapped up in that win. After all of the disappointments I’ve been dealing with going back to Brokeback I could hardly keep this going for 14 years if it would destroy me.

  • Sasha Stone

    If Lincoln loses to SLP please don’t shut down the site a la Fennecus. But my god I hope SLP doesn’t win.

    You guys are out of your minds. How could it possibly get any worse than 2010? The Oscar race for me will never be that bad.

  • Sasha Stone

    he’s a neo-confederate

    Right that’s just a sentence starter you don’t come back from.

  • Sasha Stone

    Where is Fredrick Douglas?

    Frederick Douglass was an abolitionist, one of the most interesting ones. It would have been interesting, albeit token, to put Douglass in there. But Spielberg puts Elizabeth Keckley in there instead. Of course, our sexist culture doesn’t even SEE Keckley or remember her but in case you know nothing about her:

    “Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley February 1818 – May 1907 was a former slave who became a successful seamstress, civic activist and author in Washington, DC. She was best known as the personal modiste and confidante of Mary Todd Lincoln, the First Lady. Keckley had moved to Washington in 1860 after buying her freedom and that of her son in St. Louis. She created an independent business in the capital based on clients who were the wives of the government elite. Among them were Varina Davis, wife of Jefferson Davis; and Mary Anna Custis Lee, wife of Robert E. Lee.

    After the American Civil War, Keckley wrote and published an autobiography, Behind the Scenes Or, Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House (1868). It was both a slave narrative and a portrait of the First Family, especially Mary Todd Lincoln, and considered controversial for breaking privacy about them. It was also her claim as a businesswoman to be part of the new mixed-race, educated middle-class that were visible among the leadership of the black community.

    Keckly’s relationship with Mary Todd Lincoln, the President’s wife, was notable for its personal quality and intimacy, as well as its endurance over time.”

    Spielberg gets NO credit for putting Keckley in the film – and I agree, I would love to have seen Douglass and ALL of the abolitionists in this film. But Lincoln is not about the rightness or wrongness of slavery. It is about passing the 13th amendment to OUTLAW slavery. If it were a film about slavery itself I feel quite sure there would be a long list of complaints even still.

  • Sasha Stone

    Sasha Stone / January 20, 2013
    Kyle is right.
    Lincoln (the movie) tries to make Lincoln (the politic) an hero.
    Politics never are heroes.
    There is a lot of dirty behind closing doors.

    This is a comment about a script you didn’t pay attention to. Many times in the film, specifically by Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens they allude to the controversial things Lincoln did and how you can’t trust politicians no matter what. Listen carefully to what the script really says rather than making sweeping judgments. Or, as Bob Dylan would say, know your song well before you start singing – something Kyle Smith nor you AJ have done.

  • Jack

    “How could it get any worse than 2010?”

    I was thrilled when The King’s Speech and Tom Hooper beat The Social Network and David Fincher.

  • ramiro: so, you say you are a Harvard professor. I will choose to believe you. What I think you still haven’t realized is that bragging about your profession doesn’t help your case. It’s the hard work of Kearns (author), Kushner (screenwriter) and Spielberg (filmmaker) against an unsubstanciated slam by some dude on the Internet.

    If you want credibility, please start making your case — but I’m afraid it is going to take years.

  • Melanie

    The film was only a small part of Lincoln’s life. I think it was appropriate to not include Frederick Douglas, who was an epic figure really on a par with Lincoln himself. It just wouldn’t be appropriate for him to be a bit player in this movie and I can’t offhand imagine who could be cast as Douglas and do him justice.

  • rufussondheim

    The problem with Spielberg putting Keckley in the film is that none of her life story is present.

    In reading Team of Rivals, thus far I’m kinda surprised how much Goodwin ignores major abolitionists of the day and the role they played. Maybe she will get to that, I don’t know.

    But it’s clear Lincoln wasn’t that gung-ho about ending slavery. As of early 1861 he still seems content in leaving it with the slave states and only cares about it not spreading to the western territories and states. His opinion of the black race is deplorable.

    He seems to have ridden a wave of anti-slavery that was created by abolitionists and the political events of the time (like the Dred Scott decision.) Lincoln took the position that slavery should die a natural death, as he eventually thought it would as people’s opinions slowly changed.

    As of right now (now=early 1861) he comes off more as a political opportunist than a civil rights hero.


    On a side note, I’m wondering what would have happened if we would just let the south secede and we could have amicably divided up the resources. I have an inkling that the surviving states of the union would have been just fine and as a country we might be better off. Who knows? I’m sure most historians disagree but, damn, those southern politicians are such a drag on our country right now. I’d love to give the Deep South the boot.

  • Sasha Stone

    The problem with Spielberg putting Keckley in the film is that none of her life story is present.

    Now we have to tell Keckley’s life story? See the problem with putting Frederick Douglass in? People would want to know his whole life story. I would like to have seen him in the film, personally, but leaving him out does not make Spielberg someone who whitewashed history.

  • Sasha Stone

    I was thrilled when The King’s Speech and Tom Hooper beat The Social Network and David Fincher.

    Why? You like shitty films over masterpieces? Yikes.

  • rufussondheim

    No, we don’t need Keckley’s life story. But, as it stands, she’s just a random black person. She’s an interesting character, and I like what Spielberg did with the character, but when you read about her, I wish he could have put some of her life in there. Her life is just that interesting.

    An interesting tidbit I found out when reading Thaddeus Stephens entry on Wikipedia (I wanted to know what part of Pennsylvania he represented) it turns out his “maid” he was sleeping with, well history has never showed they did sleep together, so that’s Spielberg playing a little loose with the facts. But anyway, I digress, it turns out this “maid” – sorry, I can’t recall her name – was friends with Keckley and by extension Mary Todd Lincoln.

    Somehow, I think a sister-film that concentrated on the lives of these three women would be fascinating and one I’d probably like more than the Spielberg movie.

  • Well, Kyle Smith did love LES MISERABLES, but I think it’s nearly the first time I ever agreed with him.

    To get to his rants and his endless negative reviews for films everyone else seem to love you have to get past the right wing editorial pages. It’s a shameless newspaper, and Smith’s timing here is hugely suspect. LINCOLN is one of my absolute favorite films of the year, and what a travesty if it were to lose to a film like SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK.

    Jeff Wells? Ha! I won’t even go there!

    As far as Sasha and Ryan hating LES MISERABLES (a film I adore) I think this is completely false. Sasha has endlessly praised the performances, has offered a number of ‘case posts’ for the film, and has even admitted that a repeat review improved her overall opinion.

    Several of the people on this thread are major imbeciles. This late hour charge to slam LINCOLN and Spielberg is quite obviously politically motivated.


  • The Japanese Viewer

    I started visiting Wells’ blog following that one last podcast you both were doing together. He wrote some fun threads as far as fun goes. But when it comes to Spielberg, Wells apparently has his own agenda somehow and from what he’d been writing about him and/or his films and movies, this took place relatively long before the Spielberg-directed Lincoln days.

    The kind of feelings about Spielberg he had was such an intrigue, matter-of-factly.



    I am hoping Jeff Wells and you, if you like, would get together for the podcast once again, and more. You both really had good chemistry on the ’cast; it would be fun and semi-educative to listen, I think. [Preferably, on face-to-face basis despite the long distance; you’ve got beautiful speaking voice so the telephone conversation won’t do justice.]

  • Forget about Wells. He’s got a hard on against Spielberg that taints everything he writes. You can argue the good and the bad of Lincoln, but you’re not going to find it at Hollywood Elsewhere. Kyle Smith’s problem is that he’s condemning Lincoln because of how it’s being perceived in relation to Zero Dark Thirty. What was brilliant to me about Lincoln was it showed the unpleasant sausage making of government. George W. Bush acted from Lincoln’s playbook. If you accept one and not the other, you have to ask why. That’s the audience’s responsibility and not the film’s. Surely I’m not the only one who thought of Bush’s War on Terror watching Lincoln.

  • jack

    If you want to ask it that way that’s fine…

    The social network just didn’t hit my cinematic Gspot like it obviously does yours sasha…
    what can I say?

    The King’s Speech was anything but a shitty movie and I don’t think you would bash it or Hooper as much as you do had your precious Social Network won…

    I think 2010 was a very weak year and neither film blew me away but between the two I enjoyed the King’s Speech better for its stronger acting performances.

  • The best scene in Lincoln is a long monologue by Daniel Day-Lewis where he lays out the reasons for wanting the 13th Amendment and he acknowledges that what he’s done as per the Emancipation might not be legal, but he believes the Constitution gave him the power to do it. He understand he’s on shaky legal ground, but he’s absolutely convinced of the moral ground, especially as it relates to the Declaration of Independence, a document of principles that came BEFORE the Constitution. All men are created equal. End of story.

  • Sasha Stone

    The King’s Speech was anything but a shitty movie and I don’t think you would bash it or Hooper as much as you do had your precious Social Network won…

    Whenever anyone says “your precious (fill in the blank)” it tells me way too much about that person. Some people like to disagree to be haters for the cause. That is equally irritating. Choosing the King’s Speech out of the available films because you “liked” it better is fine and all but let’s not pretend, by any stretch, that was the best film of 2010.

  • Marie

    I didn’t read the NY Post article, but if Mark E. Neely read it (the writer of Fate of Liberty), he’d be pissed. Its sounds like a misrepresentation of that book. I have read Fate of Liberty, and Fate of Liberty actually was written to defend Lincoln and rebunk the rumors that Lincoln just shit all other constitution without any regard for it (rumors that popped in pro-lost cause books like “American Bastille’) Fate of Liberty actually makes the point that most of the questionable war measures actually existed within at least a loose interpretation of the Constitution.. and were indeed war measures in a time in which there were no precedents for dealing with insurrection. The arrests were mostly used in order to put down violent insurrection or secession…They had little to do with just tossing people in jail for disliking the war or disagreeing with the president…The craziness that Lincoln had to deal with from secessionists was eye-opening (riots, sabotage, spies, guerilla warfare, extreme race baiting, state politicans blocking troops attempting to protect Washington Dc. ) Not to give the impression that most NOrtherners were pro-secession…they were not. But the secessionists in places like Missouri and Maryland were pretty extreme (Hell, look who eventually killed Lincoln.) ..
    As for torture, yes, he mentions it briefly, but only states that Lincoln probably knew about it and possibly after the fact. But he reiterates several times during the book that Lincoln was not omnipresent and that the Union was not some well-oiled machine…bad behavior fell through the cracks, and accountability was hard to come by due to communication problems and a complicated Civil War bureacracy. Lincoln actually comes off as one of the more sensible leaders of the time in the Union…reversing some of the more severe sentences and reopening newspapers when over-zealous officers shut them down. For a newspaper to be shut down, Lincoln believed that you had to do more than just criticize the war or government, you had to directly advocate for insurrection, secession or breaking the law (through desertion, riots etc). Unfortunately, some people in the Union took it too far and Lincoln had to re-open newspapers after they were shut down for statements of loyal opposition.

    NOt so ironically, people don’t mention Neely’s other book “Southern Rights: Political Prisoners and the myth of Confederate Constitutionalism”.. The South restricted liberties just as often (percentage-wise and this doesn’t count the obvious civil rights abuses of black people), but according to Neely the Confederates were much less justified in their civil liberties restrictions..(no border states, pro-Union Southerners isolated from one another so therefore rendered ineffective–making their arrests unjustified ). they basically did the same things.

  • Ah yes Craig, that’s a truly great scene and my favorite as well.

  • KT

    It’s a funny thing, the Oscar race. For those who follow the awards, once one film starts to win and gain momentum you can’t help but start to cheer for another, to keep things exciting. It happens every year–and now even more clearly in this Internet age we live in with everything magnified, so in your face all of the time. When a frontrunner emerges, it gets boring; we get bored. And then, as the race shifts, and another movie takes its place–Social Network or King’s Speech, Zero Dark Thirty or Lincoln–we’re ultimately not happy with that either. So in the end, it’s no longer the work we are judging but our own perceptions at a given time.

    I enjoyed so many movies this year. I can’t imagine the process of voting…and as I kept track of my own list, once I saw too many it was impossible to keep everything straight in order to judge what really was in my opinion “the best.” I find myself getting very frustrated by the incessant campaigning, even more so than ever before–maybe since this year is so close and we don’t know how it will go. I think the smear campaigns have been especially vicious…and assuredly much money is being spent by the top dogs on all sides. It’s funny how we think we can influence the outcome, as if that outcome really matters. It’s not about how successful a director was in achieving his or her vision; how tremendous a 10-year hunt culminated in a thrillingly executed action sequence; how incredible an “unfilmable” story was brought to the screen in a bravura visual spectacle; how a portrait of one of our most beloved and tested figures was so imbued with love and respect; or how simply great entertainment delighted millions of people and reminded them of the sheer joy of cinema. It’s about what film was the right film at the right moment, all yet to be revealed.

  • Jack

    I didn’t say I thought Kings Speech was the best of 2010, I said I thought it was better than the Social Network and that I was glad that it beat the Social Network.

    My personal picks for best of 2010 were True Grit and The Fighter, but again a weak year overall.

    I stand by calling it “your precious Social Network” because let’s face it you’re never going to give that up and it looks like it might happen again this year with Lincoln.

  • rufussondheim

    But, objectively speaking, Sasha has a case with the Social Network, it was, by any measure, the best movie of that year. That fact simply can’t be denied. Yes, individual opinions vary, but collectively, it was easily the year’s best.

    That’s not the case with Lincoln, which ranks #5, give or take a spot or two. This year, the film that’s going to get the shaft is Zero Dark Thirty, which is by and large an easy #1 if you take the collective opinions of critics.

    And let Sasha be Sasha. So what if she likes to belabor points that do get a little tiresome. There’s not a person here that contributes regularly that doesn’t belabor a point into the ground. She’s no different.

    And while I don’t agree with her much of the time, she provides us a spot to discuss films, and there is often a great discussion here, some of the best discussions since Salon Table Talk’s heydey in the late 90’s. And Hooray for that!

  • CB

    my problem with lincoln was that it was boring and uninteresting.

  • Here’s the thing: it’s not about whether Lincoln is your favorite movie or not. The fact remains Kyle Smith is a righty stooge whose beef is that Hollywood is giving Lincoln a pass while putting the screws to George W. Bush. Any moron who can’t see the dramatic difference between what Lincoln faced and 9/11 doesn’t deserve a public forum.

    The fact Jeff Wells would latch onto Smith because he also hates Lincoln says it all.

  • Marie

    to Russondheim,
    Keep reading Team of Rivals. Lincoln evolves. But even Goodwin doesn’t reveal all of Lincoln’s complexities when it came to race… Look up the following people…William DeFleurville and Willaim Johnson (especially DeFleurville). Also read Lincoln’s 1855 private letter to Joshua Speed…(its on the internet.) Also play attention to the two pro-slavery clauses in the Constitution… Also look up a woman named Nancy Bushroot (a black woman who talked to Lincoln on the last day of his life.) Goodwin does talk about Frederick Douglas, but she leaves out other black people he knew or met like Martin Delany, John Menard, Nancy Bushroot,William DeFleurville, and William Johnson. He was on better terms with black people than you might think..(not saying he wasn’t guilty of typical 19th century racism.)

    Ironically, Mark Neely’s book ‘Fate of Liberty’ actually describes an incident at the end of the war when Lincoln reversed the death sentence of a slave who killed his master with an axe (and then he pardoned him.). The slave had been arrested by the Union army for murder.. and confessed to the crime. (Virginia was under martial law at the time because it was being recaptured.) Lincoln reversed the sentence. Lincoln’s reversal was not a publicity stunt. Neely found the papers in the government archives.

    As for whether we’d be better off had LIncoln just allowed unilateral secession of the south…I think you are missing the biggest problem with allowing that. It sets precedents. It makes it acceptable to unravel a social contract (the social contract that southern states agreed to when they ratified the Constitution). This precedent would destroy the notion of majority rule and living with the results of elections; our democracy could have imploded over it. Lincoln once said that unilateral secession was the essense of anarchy. The south didn’t appeal to congress to negotiate for their independence..they took it by force. Anarchy is never good for the oppressed or vulnerable. Anarchy can lead to social Darwanism…and in those situations, the people with the most numbers or power are not limited or restricted in their oppression of others. Slavery still exists today in our world (sex slave trade) (its not state-sanctioned, but its still here.) Today, it prospers in countries with lousy, corrupt, dysfunctional governments.

    Ending slavery in this country while still preserving the Union was extremely difficult in 1861. Without a war and an amendment, it was impossible… And since no one wanted a war and amendments weren’t going to be easy to pass, some anti-slavery folks took a gradual approach. Stopping the spread was also about squeezing it out economically and politically by suffocating it. Cotton wasn’t going to be king forever. The more free states in western territories the less power the slaveocracy held. there is an interesting part of Team of Rivals in which Seward and his wife debate this issue. Her stance was that a union with slavery was a hypocrisy and not worth preserving. His belief was that slavery was wrong and needed to end, but that it would eventually end in this country if it were limited, but that a collapsed Union would be irreversible. Remember our democracy was the only one that hadn’t successfully imploded yet. All this sucks for slaves though..because they were like the pawns on a chessboard. We (and especially slaves) might have been better off had the Constitution been written and ratified by just the Northern free states in the first place. (but it is important to release that one of the reasons James Madision so wanted a constitution that binded the states together more tightly was because they wanted to avoid the constant warring that occurred in Europe between nation-states.) But once the south ratified the constitution, a president allowing them to secede unilaterally (without the consent of the other states and after they had taken forts by force) could have set a horrible precedent.

    Lincoln’s letter to Joshua Speed…

  • CB, which movies did you prefer? Before I dismantle you, I’ll at least ask that.

  • Marie, I think equally importantly, Lincoln was defending the very idea that a nation could govern itself through Democracy. To let the south split off would be to admit that the experiment did not work. He rightly understood that the principles underpinning the United States were far to important to let go. Not just for this country, but for the whole world. We were an example and to let it crumble would’ve meant people really couldn’t govern themselves.

  • Jack

    I can deny it rufussondheim. Just not as blown away by the film as everyone else…

  • Here’s the other thing, and this relates to what Jack just said: It’s cool if you don’t dig Lincoln. There are plenty of rational reasons not to like it, but Kyle Smith and Jeff Wells have brought NOTHING to the table, they’ve only humiliated themselves by revealing what vacant assholes they really are.

    Sure, Lincoln is not everyone’s cup of tea. Many people have an issue with the ending. Fine. Those are all points for discussion, but Smith is just pulling his righty pud and Wells is looking for 5 people who agree with him even if they’re Satan.

  • Chris138

    Unless you are Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, who cares what a group of mostly 60 year-old white men think is the best movie of 2012?

  • Marie

    Thanks, Craig.

    I agree entirely. Sorry, i was so long-winded. But I have been debating Lincoln since they started shooting the film. I worried from the beginning that this seemingly-safe film would be far from safe, that people with agendas would rip it to shreads for everything they wanted it to be (as if it can include every abolitionist or every view Lincoln might have held throughout the course of his complicated life.) This film because of its limits due to running time has to be vague on some things and some people. It just can’t fit everything in..and some things are way too complicated to even mention without spending 3 hours elaborating on them..(otherwise knee-jerk reaction and misunderstanding would occur). Mentioning Frederick Douglass in this film would just be a token gesture unfortunately due to the fact that Douglass wasn’t in Lincoln’s life much in the last two months. I think they missed an opportunity at the beginning to mention him however…Douglass’ son fought in the war. Why couldn’t they have had David Oweloyo’s character being Douglass’ son. His son would have had more access to Lincoln, I would think.

    Historians can’t even agree on Lincoln; why should a film about someone as enigmatic and secretative as LIncoln be anyone’s interpretation but Kushner’s?. He’s as entitled to it as anyone else. the Civil War was a complicated war…and 19th century politics and attitudes were far from simple (convoluted, complicated and conflicted). But films, by definition, have to be simplier.

  • No need to apologize for being long-winded Marie. This is a film that can’t be easily summed up in a simple paragraph and that’s why it’s great. There are a lot of things it could’ve done including a hat tip to Frederick Douglass but a smart filmmaker looks for ways to narrow down his story. Spielberg wasn’t telling the story of the black experience… he tried that with The Color Purple and had the piss taken out of him… he was telling the story of Lincoln, the right man in the right place at the right time.

  • The one who should be apologizing is Kyle Smith. He felt strong enough to respond to Sasha’s original post, but I think it’s time he admitted he’s a sad fraud. He’s not a film critic. He’s a political hack. He’d fit in at Big Hollywood, but the position is filled because it takes no talent or intelligence. Any dumb asshole can do that job.

  • JonnyVancouver

    I learned long ago not to let opinion pieces from journalists, especially film critics, that seriously. Anyone with half a brain in their head knows that most journalism is ego tripping. Especially entertainment journalism. And this guy lets his writing abilities inflate his skull about the average of your typical writer. So I wouldn’t take it that seriously.

  • Kyle Smith is neither a journalist nor a critic. He’s a rlghty stooge who will spin everything to fit his audience’s politics. He’s a weasel and I can’t believe he’s being debated.

  • Aaron A

    I’m new to this site and thought I’d give my two cents to this discussion. Personally, I absolutely loved Lincoln. It’s my favorite movie of the year by far. It’s the only movie I’ve seen 3 times in theaters and I could sit and watch it 30 more times and I would be absolutely elated to see Lincoln win BP. I seriously cannot understand the people who find it boring or uninteresting. If you think Lincoln is a just a movie of people talking to each other, then you clearly are thinking about something else, like what you’re going to eat for supper and not paying attention to the substance of the film. It’s gotten to the point where I have an irrational hatred of anyone who actively hates Lincoln, like Jeff Wells. That’s not to say that I hate anyone that simply didn’t find it the Best Picture of the year. As Craig Kennedy said above, it’s cool if you like another film more. That said, of the BP Nominees this year, I’ve only seen Lincoln, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, and Zero Dark Thirty. I find it unlikely, but it’s possible that I might like one of the other nominees more than Lincoln, I just haven’t seen them.

    I just wish the Academy voters would vote their choice for best film, not what film had the best campaigning or what film earned the most at the Box Office. If that means that more people thought ZDT or SLP is better than Lincoln, so be it. Still, I sort of hate Harvey Weinstein for whoring for his movies to get the Oscar as if the only thing that matters is the amount of Oscars on his shelf. If SLP wins, I’d like it to be because it’s what the most people thought was BP of the year, not because of Harvey Weinstein.

    As much as I’d like to see Lincoln win, I’m afraid it won’t. Yes, it had the most nominations and highest box office, but it’s taken home only a couple of critics awards, which usually seem to mean something. I agree with Sasha, it seems that Lincoln might lose not because people think it’s not as good as another, but because of the politics of the race.

    I mentioned earlier that I had seen Django Unchained and ZDT. I loved DU and would like to see it win some awards. Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing Christoph Waltz win Best Supporting Actor again. He was terrific. As far as ZDT, I wouldn’t go as far to say it was a bad film, because it certainly wasn’t. I was just disappointed. It just didn’t grasp me as much as Lincoln.

    I’d be surprised if Lincoln won at the PGAs. I think it has a shot at the DGAs and WGAs though. I have a feeling SLP will take the SAGs, but I could be wrong.

  • Aaron, you know what? Who cares if Lincoln wins the Oscar? It’s got a solid critical reputation and it has amazing box office. It’s a wonderful film and it’s beloved by critics and audiences. Who cares what AMPAS voters think? They’re not exactly renowned for making the smartest choices. If they want to cave in to simpletons like Wells or Smith, who cares?

  • rufussondheim

    Thanks, Marie, for your detailed response. Overall, I’m enjoying Goodwin’s book, even though she has a tendency to get bogged down in details that are wildly uninteresting. She wrote way too many paragraphs on the social abilities of Salmon Chase’s teen daughter. I always get the sense here that she uncovered a letter or a diary entry that had largely been forgotten and that those passages are her contribution to academic studies. Fine, I get it, but learn to edit, I say.

    What I fine more interesting about Salmon Chase was his legal activities. JUst finished 12 Years a Slave and was fascinated to learn that Chase represented Northup in his legal proceedings after he was rescued by Brad Pitt, oops, I mean Henry Northrup. It’s those details I find define the man rather than the social standing of his daughter and I wish Goodwin would have included such stuff more frequently.

    And that leads to what I find so disturbing about Lincoln’s pre-Presidential life. He doesn’t have those stories that Chase and other politicians have. In the Joshua Speed letter he talks about his horrors and seeing blacks in chains, but he doesn’t do anything about it. He appears to be a man of talk and not of action.

    It’s impossible for me to know precisely how influential political speeches are at that time, but my limited knowledge of the time suggests that what swayed political opinion was not speechifying but actual contact by Northerners with Southern Culture. Goodwin spent a WHOLE paragraph on this topic, how technology was allowing more contact. I suspect whole books have been written on the topic and she spends a paragraph. I guess it was more important to discuss Salmon Chase’s daughter.

    Goodwin indeed spends some time discussing Fredrick Douglass, and she makes much of the impression Lincoln made on Douglass, specifically Douglass saying that he felt absolutely no prejudice from Lincoln when they met, something Douglass could not say of various renowned abolitionists. This is an interesting detail, one, again, I wish she would spend more time on. Maybe later in the book, I can hope.

    But that detail sticks with me and suggests that Lincoln was holding back on his true views in favor of political expediency. Perhaps Lincoln kept those views quiet because he knew they would place him outside of the political mainstream and they would doom his political prospects. Perhaps, perhaps not. If that was Lincoln’t plan, it’s not one I respect. Sure he became President, but that was way more a distant dream than a concrete plan.

    Yes, Lincoln redeems himself in the end, but I’m one to think redemption is overrated, a topic that’s great for a movie, but not so great for real life. I much prefer people like Salmon Chase who succeeded while acting on thier beliefs. History may judge Lincoln well, but, at this point, I think Salmon Chase and others are the real heroes, as they did the hard work along the way.

    Ultimately, I’m not going to be moved very much by a movie such as Lincoln, this has nothing to do with Spielberg, it’s just my own preference. History is made by straight white men of high social standing. I find their lives boring. I much prefer the lives of women, of minorities, of homosexuals, of people of limited financial means. To me, their stories are the fascinating ones. Because it is with those people I would have spent my time, made my life. They are me.

  • jack

    It’s your job to care Craig…

  • Terometer

    “Who cares if Lincoln wins the Oscar? ”
    Don’t lie. You know you care. Can you tolerate SLP winning the whole thing and the screenplay award. Don’t lie. You know you care. ha ha.

  • “The fact remains Kyle Smith is a righty stooge…..”

    Indeed Craig. That and every other assertion you make. His position at the New York Post has been sustained for that reason, certainly not for his ‘taste’ and writing ability. It’s all right wing pro-Republican politics, and the arts and sports sections are in full collaboration. New Yorkers apparently aren’t listening one iota as you can see from the election day numbers.

  • Byron gray

    As a former film critic of thirty years, I found Lincoln turgid, often listless. And I will never understand why the filmmakers didn’t adapt the book, not just one sentence from it. The story of how Lincoln won respect from his cabinet members (all of them former rivals for the 1860 Republican presidential nomination who thought Lincoln a rube) is a compelling tale. That’s the Lincoln I wanted to see. And what’s all the fuss over the performance of Tommy Lee Jones? To me he was playing Tommy Lee Jones wearing a 19th century hair piece. There are parts of the film I liked very much but this is not Spielberg’ s best effort.

  • Paul

    Oh, dear, it just wouldn’t be right to criticize Daniel Day Lewis’ interpretive “dance” as Lincoln portrayed as a pillhead from Queens. Spielberg and Kushner sanctioned it, as well as a host of critics. Whine on, Mr. Lewis. A very tall thin man sounds like that? Oh, yes, your “interpreation” is the accurate one. What a tour de force even though we have no recordings to verify. Would anyone listen to the nasal, high pitched whine for long? We just accept it like the sheeple we now are.

  • Montfort


  • Marie

    Oh. paul…
    A tall man can have a high pitched voice.

    We don’t have recordings, but we have these….
    Lincoln’s voice was, when he first began speaking, shrill, squeaking, piping, unpleasant; his general look, his form, his pose, the color of his flesh, wrinkled and dry, his sensitiveness, and his momentary diffidence, everything seemed to be against him, but he soon recovered.
    –William H. Herndon letter, July 19, 1887
    But whenever he began to talk his eyes flashed and every facial movement helped express his idea and feeling. Then involuntarily vanished all thought or consciousness of his uncouth appearance, or awkward manner, or even his high keyed, unpleasant voice.
    –Abram Bergen in Intimate Memories of Lincoln

    The [second] inaugural address was received in most profound silence. Every word was clear and audible as the ringing and somewhat shrill tones of Lincoln’s voice sounded over the vast concourse.
    –Noah Brooks in Washington in Lincoln’s Time

    —another witness said the following…”He had a thin tenor, or rather falsetto voice, almost as high-pitched as a boatswain’s whistle.” (That’s pretty high.)

    Lincoln’s voice, when he put effort into it, could be heard over a crowd, but that was because of its high pitch, which rose above the deep grumblings of the crowd.

  • Of course Paul, all the critics, audiences, acting professionals and historians all missed the boat by praising Day-Lewis’ towering performance.

    Only YOU got it.

    Who’s doing the whining, dimwit? Have you ever heard of dramatic license?

  • steve50

    “Who cares if Lincoln wins the Oscar?”

    You said it all, Craig. By this stage of the race, I’m pretty well burned-out by the mud slinging and heavy campaigning. Having decided a month ago who and what are among the best of the year, I find the remainder of the season is just a spectator sport, with no personal investment, whatsoever.

    It just gets ugly from here on.

  • Unlikely hood

    I’m so sick of this “why didn’t he include?” argument. If Lincoln had to include more abolitionists, then I guess you also hate every American and British film ever made about World War II, because I don’t see much about the Russians defeating Hitler.

    I say this exactly because it may sound hypocritical coming from me who has been criticizing ZDT more than anyone on this site. ZDT is a great film but also a bit of a whitewash because torture is presented the way forensics on CSI is presented – a useful tool beyond good and evil. But it’s not, and 2 ambiguous shoulder shakes at the end do not count as moral inquiry. Lincoln never suggests that abolitionists weren’t working, never suggests that Lincoln himself deserves sole credit for ending slavery. The film is deliberately vague, nuanced, suggestive of scenes beyond the few scenes we’re seeing.

    I hate that Life of Pi is out of it – well, according to Sasha.

  • Marie


    You are a good person. And I do see your point. The numerous people doing great deeds don’t get the credit they deserve. I am glad that 12 years a slave is getting turned into a movie.

    But consider a few things about Lincoln–he’s cinematic because he was the president and because he had an unique personality and brilliant way with words. He wasn’t from a minority group and had his preconceived notions about other groups. But he was initially a poor, self-educated man who was ugly and possibly homosexual himself. In his own way, he too was an underdog (or at least started that way). Chase, for all his admirable qualities, came from a much more respectable background than Lincoln did (Chase was raised by his uncle, a very influential episcopal bishop. Chase went to all the best schools. Part of his abolitionism came from his religious upbringing and his elite education. ) Not to diminish Chase’s admirable qualities or the risks he took as a politican and activist (which I think Goodwin does a little too often in Team of Rivals). But he is the classic example of a privileged white man.

    I do agree that Lincoln’s past is very mixed when it comes to racial issues. Unfortunately, both he and Thaddeus stevens share something in common–they each took one case in which they took the side of a slave owner who was attempting to re-attain his runaway slave. Stevens won his case and the guilt of that immediately turned him into an abolitionist. Lincoln lost his case (in the 1840’s) but not too long afterwards was talking about stopping the spread of slavery and supporting the Wilmot Proviso. That 1850’s Speed letter might be a reflection of his own guilt about not only seeing slaves on a boat, but about taking an immoral case.. Lincoln did take one case in which he prosecuted a man who was trying to claim a free black Illinois citizen named Nance as a slave. Lincoln won that case and Nance remained free. Lincoln’s junior law partner, William Herndon, defended slaves as much he could and had more than a few slave cases. So, maybe Lincoln thought his conscience was somewhat clear because his junior partner was defending slaves. Also, there is Owen Lovejoy, Lincoln’s Illinois republican friend who was an abolitionist and involved in the underground railroad. When Owen Lovejoy was in congress, he was one of Lincoln’s biggest defenders. Lovejoy’s brother in the 1840’s or 50’s was actually murdered by a mob because of his involvement in the Underground railroad. Lincoln knew about Lovejoy’s involvement in the Underground Railroad from the beginning.

    Lincoln’s chosen town, Springfield, had a population of about 5000 people (about 20 of whom were black and all of whom lived within 2 miles of his house). Its doubtful, he ran into black people too often despite that close proximity (due to the small numbers and Lincoln’s many years as a circuit court lawyer). He mostly saw blacks and slaves from a distance (presumably). But his 25 year friendship with DeFleurville was odd considering how few black people there were in Springfield and considering that they met in another town. I don’t think DeFluerville was just Lincoln’s barber. You don’t normally get clients for your barber, serve as his lawyer on 3 land transactions, and pay the taxes on his land for him.

    Of course, this stuff doesn’t hold a candle against the work of real abolitionists. But I think it indicates a blossoming conscience on Lincoln’s part.

  • Jack, how is it my job to care?

    Terometer, it’s true I have a preference, but when Silver Linings Playbook wins the Oscar, I’m not going to lose any sleep over it nor will it make Lincoln less of a movie.

  • Jake

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t Wells’s original line on “Lincoln” that it was too boring to succeed with audiences or AMPAS? Now he’s allying himself with Smith’s whitewash argument. I don’t really see how anyone who has been paying attention to what Wells says (God help us all) or anyone who has actually seen the film can respect these arguments.

  • The problem with the whitewash argument is that it makes it appear they didn’t watch the film in the first place. Lincoln was a deconstruction of a myth.

    Wells and Smith either didn’t catch it, or were writing their pans in their head as it was happening.

  • rufussondheim

    Thanks, Marie for the discussion. You should write a book about Lincoln, you are more interesting than that Doris Kearns Goodwin (who I watched on Morning Joe this morning and was so disappointed that she spends so much time reciting conventional wisdom rather than actual wisdom).

    Just curious, is Lincoln a hobby or is this your profession?

  • marlonbrando020

    Craig, just curious…

    let’s say Lincoln wins Best Picture. (Approximately) where would you place it in the list of the 86 (2 winners that first year) total winners?

  • ramiro

    gustavo, i didn’t say that i am a harvard professor. i said i based my argument on the work of one of them, as did the neo-confederate guy.

    but i don’t know why we are arguing, if we both liked lincoln. iam just saying that it could be far worst than what the film shows.

  • ramiro

    “Armies of scholars, meticulously investigating every aspect of [Lincoln’s] life, have failed to find a single act of racial bigotry on his part.”

    ~ Doris Kearns-Goodwin, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, p. 207.

    “I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way 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 . . . . I as much as any man am in favor of the superior position assigned to the white race.”

    ~ Abraham Lincoln, First Lincoln-Douglas Debate, Ottawa, Illinois, Sept. 18, 1858, in The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln vol.3, pp. 145-146.

    this is just not free. this is the construction of a american myth.

  • marlonbrando020,

    I’d rank SLP somewhere in the bottom 10. In the Driving Miss Daisy Going My Way range. Several rungs below Terms of Endearment.

  • rufussondheim

    ramiro, I never quite understood Doris Kearns Goodwin’s first quote when I read that in her book. I wonder how Goodwin would define “act of racial bigotry” because he has a ton of quotes that actively incorporate racial bigotry in them.

  • Marlon, I’d rank Lincoln in the top tier. I’m not sure how high. I like to take a longer view of movies and it’s still too soon to do that with Lincoln. It feels like one we’ll still be talking about in 20 years though.

  • marlonbrando020

    The bottom 10? My bottom 10 (in no particular order) are:

    The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), Going My Way (1944), Cavalcade (1933), Crash (2005), Gladiator (2000), Braveheart (1995), The Last Emperor (1987), Gigi (1958), Rocky (1976) and Forrest Gump (1994)

    My Top 10 tier (in no particular order): The Silence of the Lambs (1991), On the Waterfront (1954), Midnight Cowboy (1969), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), The Deer Hunt (1978), Casablanca (1943), Annie Hall (1977), Platoon (1986), All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), Amadeus (1984)…

  • marlonbrando020

    Craig, I would include Lincoln, if it’s lucky enough to win, would rank it somewhere in the middle….maybe somewhere in the low 40s/late 30s??? Certainly below Schindler’s List, which is at #12 for me right now..

  • Jack

    Isn’t it your blogging and reporting about the oscars that earns you your living, so in that sense is it not your job to care about them?

  • Karl

    Lincoln is boring!!!

  • CB

    Craig, I loved SLP and really enjoyed Amour and Coud Atlas. Loved Indie Game: the Movie and Queen of Versailles as well. Flight and Django were okay. This has been an incredible year for me because I disliked or hated almost everything everyone loves.

    Life of Pi is a boring, empty bullshit 2-hour screensaver.

    Lincoln is a snooze.

    ZD30 is a competently directed but unstylish pro-torture, poorly written and extremely historically inaccurate b-minus with no characters.

    beasts of the southern wild is the emperor’s new clothes and phony instagram nonsense that uses ‘magical realism’ as a cover for its fake representation of poverty. it’s a patronizing look at poverty, especially african-american poverty at that. garbage.

    as i’ve said before, argo is an b+ that aimed for a b+ and gets an a+. it’s fine, nothing more, nothing less.

    dark knight rises is one of the worst movies i’ve ever seen. plot holes to end all plot holes, convenience when needed, obstacles when needed, a complete self-indulgent turgid poorly-written mess.

    the master was a fake masterpiece masquerading as a masterpiece. thrilled it was shut out of all the major categories.

    this was a weak year. a very weak year.

  • Marie

    to Ramiro and Russondheim,

    Considering how many words Lincoln used in those Lincoln- douglass debates (Damn, they are long) and in all his speeches, discussions of race are less frequent than you might think. But you should read the other side’s quotes (Stephen Douglass’) and the audience apparently shouted quite a few unpleasant racial slurs as well–let’s just say Lincoln barely won those debates to the pro-slavery Douglass.. (and its only after Lincoln tripped him up on inconsistencies in his own opinions).

    As for Goodwin’s quotes…I think she meant ‘act’s’ not words. I get what you guys mean because speaking those words is an act of bigotry (and of course people like Frederick Douglass could read those words–and of course, Lincoln sometimes did watch ministrel shows and like somewhat-mildly (for its time) racist humor. I think she just means Lincoln never beat, whipped, imprisoned, yelled at directly, verbally taunted, or brutalized a black person out of hatred or to their face. In that respect, she’s right. There is no proof of that at all.

  • Robert A.

    My nominee for Worst. Film. Critic. Ever.?


    And The Master got shut out of all the major categories? Acting categories are no longer considered major?

  • CB

    I meant Picture, Director, and Screenplay – you’re right on that. Whatever. None of them are gonna win.

    I’m actually a perfectly critic of film. I have good taste. Good enough that I don’t need to convince myself something is good just because it should be or I want it to be. I don’t go to all these movies in New York City – and pay the prices that entails, financial and idiots sitting around me – because I don’t love film.

    But seriously, all you Lincoln/ZD30/Life of Pi/Argo fanatics? Do you *really* think those movies are so good? Do you find yourself thinking about them, having scenes pop into your head? Are you really moved by any of them, the way you are by The Shining, There Will Be Blood, The Dark Knight, or Annie Hall? Or perhaps Avatar, Serious Man, or Inglorious Basterds, to name 3 astonishing films from just one year?

    Look, I *hated* Juno. I hated everything about it. But I can understand why someone who’d claim to love it would actually love it. But for Lincoln, come on now. It’s a limp noodle of a movie. And Argo? Really – what is so special about it?

    You all know I’m right.

  • CB

    *perfectly good critic of film.

    NOT perfectly good editor of my posts 😛

  • Poor CB.

    Life of Pi is a boring, empty bullshit 2-hour screensaver.

    That was funny though. 🙂

  • Marie

    Clarification to Russondheim and ramiro

    I don’t know if mildy-racist was the best way to put it…I just mean the jokes I read that Lincoln sometimes told didn’t depict black people as evil, threatening or immoral…They were Uncle Tom types or like n-word Jim (in Huck finn). That’s what I mean by ‘mild’. And sometimes the black characters had common sense. Today, those jokes wouldn’t be mild. But back then, they were, I guess…considering how some people consider black people to be the equivalent of chattle back then.

    As for no act of bigotry, I am not talking about legal cases or presidental action which lincoln could say were justified through political necessity or whatever. Goodwin is talking about personal acts of direct bigotry provoked by emotion toward black people he knew…

  • steve50

    “Do you *really* think those movies are so good?”


    “Do you find yourself thinking about them, having scenes pop into your head?”


    “Are you really moved by any of them, the way you are by The Shining, There Will Be Blood, The Dark Knight, or Annie Hall?”

    Are you kidding me? Except for Annie Hall, of course.

    “You all know I’m right.”


  • CB

    Well then you can’t distinguish real art from movies doing impressions of movies, Steve.

  • rufussondheim

    You’re a chucklehead.

  • Yvette

    ‘The problem with the whitewash argument is that it makes it appear they didn’t watch the film in the first place. Lincoln was a deconstruction of a myth.

    Wells and Smith either didn’t catch it, or were writing their pans in their head as it was happening….’

    that is what is so maddening about the Lincoln detractors. Thier criticisms consist of either a generic ‘boring’ or something so far removed from what we see on screen that it indicates these critics have not even seen it. Or they fell asleep.

  • CB

    Yvette, Lincoln is the most useless movie of the year. It’s about literally the last thing anyone would want a Lincoln movie about. I think Kushner and Spielberg deliberately aimed small. Instead of doing the hard work of a ‘Malcolm X’ or an ‘Ali’, really show someone’s life evolve, they picked the last few weeks, and instead of really doing a study just had him be virtuous and exemplify all these great things. It was a snooze, and wasn’t interesting on any level.

  • steve50

    “distinguish real art from movies doing impressions of movies”

    CB – I’m very curious as to what this concept means (I’m not goading, I’m serious). I can understand why Argo can be dismissed as commercial moviemaking, but please explain what factors that constitute real art are missing – or merely imitated – in ZDT, Pi, and Lincoln.

  • that is what is so maddening about the Lincoln detractors. Their criticisms consist of either a generic ‘boring’ or something so far removed from what we see on screen that it indicates these critics have not even seen it.

    Ok, here’s why I didn’t like LINCOLN.

    It’s a well made film. I think DDL should definitely win best actor. However, there are things that are just bad in it. I’m one of those who dislikes the way it ended. The kid screaming, on top of being an odd choice, was some really bad kid-acting. Also laughingly bad was the “8 to win” silliness where everyone was writing down the exact same phrase on chalkboards, notebooks, etc. No one would ever do that. It takes you out of the film because you realize that the only reason it exists is to remind a movie audience of how many votes were needed. If people were really gonna mark something like that down in real life, they’d do something like this. The wheelbarrow of limbs was also hilarious. I guess it was supposed to be shocking, and I realize that’s a great way to get people to keep thinking of your film, to shock them, but I thought it was funny. It kinda flopped out like a rubber chicken. And it’s not the first time Spielberg went with the gross out of the severed limb. In SAVING PRIVATE RYAN he had a guy walk away with his own arm which was just mean.

    The trio of Hawkes, Spader, and that other dude, was actually the best part of the movie for me. They need a spin-off. Tommy Lee Jones, I thought nearly stole the movie from DDL, which in a way was a bad thing. Because the film is called LINCOLN not LINCOLN & STEVENS. So I thought there were too many hero shots of TLJ. At one point I thought ‘Hey, who is this movie about anyway?’

    Now this could have been historically accurate. I do not know, but I could not buy that the movie character named Abraham Lincoln as played by DDL would be married to the movie character Mary Todd Lincoln as played by Sally Field. They were an absolute mismatch. There was no chemistry between them. They certainly didn’t seem like people who “knew each other” Biblically speaking. For most of the film it seemed like she was just someone who hung around his house to give him shit. Like a Dobby the House Elf you couldn’t get rid of. I don’t think age had anything to do with it either. There was a scene where they were sort of embracing but really he was grasping her by the arms and I swore I could hear him thinking ‘Get off me!’

    So on the whole the film was just okay. When it was over and the people in my theater were sniffling and like 3 of them clapped, I thought-bubbled ‘Oh, you just like Abraham Lincoln.’ LINCOLN, the movie, was ho-hum, imo, with several bad points. I think the film gets loads of brownie points just because it’s about someone people like. So they automatically have a fondness for the film based on their fondness for the man and don’t judge it as a movie. That’s my theory anyway.

  • Ah CB, a real classy film lover who is here to tell all of us the error of our ways. A purveyor of negative energy and the anti-Christ of film criticism.

    Soon he will be conducting a seminar on how classic film lovers need to get over their enthusiasm for such overrated hokum like:

    The Passion of Joan of Arc
    Grand Illusion
    Au Hasard Balthazar
    Sunset Boulevard
    Singin in the Rain

    And this pompous fool finishes his hatchet diatribe with the pompous “You all know I’m right.”

    He says FLIGHT is OK, and hates LINCOLN and LIFE OF PI. And he loves SLP.

    Yeah isn’t it “incredible” that he hates all the movies that everyone else loves? The right words is ‘bizarre’ or maybe ‘laughable.’

  • CB

    Sure thing, Steve, I appreciate your asking.

    ZD30 – There is nothing distinctive, interesting, or even (for me) memorable about the way the film is directed. It is as competent and professional as any episode of 24. I think Bigelow has an average talent but isn’t talented, and ZD30 is the perfect example. If it weren’t about bin Laden – if it were some Tom Clancy adaptation – no one would be praising it or paying attention. And yes, to be that guy, if it weren’t a woman-directed movie without a trace of feminine flourish, or even basic humanity, this would not be a notable film. She does tough guy movies and is praised for them. That’s a nice niche, but there’s nothing truly moving or thought-provoking about her work, except that it promulgates the erroneous idea that torture works. The script, otherwise, is an empty vacuum of non-ideas. There are no characters and the acting is Law & Order level, which again is to say professional but not distinguished.

    ‘Life of Pi’ is the most vapid movie of the year. It’s a WHIMSICAL story told in a monotone, with 2 characters who both have kooky names. Oh joy. It’s boring, if visually pretty, and bookended with the ‘Here’s a story that will make you believe in God’. Maybe that’s in the book, but judging the movie in itself, what the hell happens to make me believe in God? You can put that bookend on any movie and have it work. I love Ang Lee – I’m a Hulk apologist – but damn was that an empty movie.

    ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ is the most annoyingly awful movie of the year. It plays fast and loose with the idea verisimilitude except when magical realism is necessary – then it’s all ‘beauty for beauty’s sake’. (Dark Knight Rises is the same – it’s GRITTY and REAL except for logical fallacies that can be explained away with ‘it’s a comic book movie’). Beasts however is offensive. It makes black poverty and off-the-grid cultures into this adorable little indie fairy tale. She feeds her father some fried fish as he dies – how quaint, because it’s a delicacy to him! Her ‘mom’ is a tattered basketball jersey – what a fascinating culture! But worst of all is that it adopts every possible cliche in twee indie filmmaking but applies it to a story of abject poverty. An insufferable movie.

    Lincoln. As I’ve said before, it’s boring. But mostly what annoys me is what a waste it was. It’s not called ’13th Amendment’ – it’s called ‘Lincoln’ which is a way of saying THIS IS THE DEFINITIVE LINCOLN MOVIE. It has all the ingredients and none of the ambition to use them. I was upset by ‘Troy’ because this is the Trojan War movie I’m stuck with for at least 20 years. What a waste. Even if Lincoln were fun (which it’s not – it’s boring) it’d still be a waste because this is it – this is the big Lincoln movie for the next 30 years. ‘Malcolm X’ is a biopic done right. Smart, well-written and directed, and mostly *ambitious*. Was ‘Lincoln’ ambitious? Not in the least.

    Argo is fine. It’s not that it’s Hollywood product – I love a lot of Hollywood product. Argo just wasn’t really a ‘great’ film. It was okay.

    So that’s all – I’m just underwhelmed by this year. Last year was really something – We Need to Talk About Kevin, Melancholia, Tree of Life, Midnight in Paris, War Horse, Mission Impossible 4, and Rise of the Planet of the Apes – they all just come to mind! This year just really wasn’t so good.

  • CB

    I like all those films, Sam!

  • Right. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 4, WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN, and RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES achieved the grade with you, but LINCOLN, THE LIFE OF PI, BEASTS and ZERO DARK THIRTY are summarily dismissed as “boring and a waste,” “vapid,” “annoyingly awful” and “nothing distinctive.” And Bigelow is an “average” talent. The manner in which you present your laughable case is condescending and aimed to demean the people who do like this films, like the overwhelming majority of the critics and audiences.

    If you showed just an ounce of humility, maybe you would get a little respect. As it is you deserve none.

  • I like all those films, Sam!

    OK, we have a start then! Ha!

  • CB

    Wait – how did you show me any humility? You said “Ah CB, a real classy film lover who is here to tell all of us the error of our ways. A purveyor of negative energy and the anti-Christ of film criticism.” And you also called me a “pompous fool”.

    I never called you anything – I simply explained why I didn’t like certain films and did my best to explain why, never insulting anyone. I repeatedly have said on other boards here that I don’t mean to diminish other peoples’ enjoyment of film, and that in fact I envy it, because why would I spend lots of time and money on something I didn’t hope to enjoy? It would be like dating someone if you already knew you didn’t like them?

    Know why I don’t mention Moonrise Kingdom? Because I hate Wes Anderson. So I didn’t see it, and won’t see anything else by him. Why be unhappy and then complain?

    Anyway, Sam, I’m sorry if I offended you. I invite you to offer counter-arguments to what I’ve said about the films I don’t like. Tell me how I’m wrong and what I’m missing.

  • rufussondheim

    Antoinette, you are so dead on about Lincoln. Well, except maybe for the Mary and Abe Love Affair. On that I can’t judge. Heterosexuality perplexes me.

  • smith

    The trashing of certain films on this site is very disconcerting.

    I liked SLP a lot. Was it my favorite of the year? No. Does it deserve Best Picture? No.

    But the revulsion Sasha and others on this site have shown SLP is grotesque and childish. It’s not like the Academy nominated an Adam Sandler movie for fuck’s sake. Grow up people.

    As for Jeff Wells, less said about this dog turd with legs, the better. He’s a hack who makes outrageous statements for attention.

  • rufussondheim

    Actually, I would probably prefer some Adam Sandler movies over SLP. SLP really is that bad, any film that could be classified as “offensive” is pretty bad in my mind.

    What makes it so awful is that it’s so calculated and manipulative, it’s insincere and it’s completely unrealistic. There is a lot of talent involved in making this film, and that just makes the awful aspects exponentially worse.

    At least with Adam Sandler movies you know it’s going to be shit and you can forget about it the minute you stop watching it. SLP, on the other hand, is almost cancerous in how it festers in your brain and the more you toss it around the more you hate it. The movie is an affront to anyone who cares about quality storytelling.

    I tend bar. And there was a nice young couple, rather attractive, eating a fine meal, enjoying their wine and they were discussing what movie to see, they were leaning towards Silver Linings Playbook. Because I didn’t know them, I kept my mouth shut, but refused to lie when they probed. “I liked the first half” is all I could say but then pointed out that I was in the small minority. Oh how I hated myself. The film is a scourge on my life.

    Last Thursday, I was waiting on a group of co-workers out to celebrate someone’s birthday, and soon their conversation turns to how the one woman was married to a featured extra in the film. He apparently was in the scene that took place outside the movie theater showing the vastly superior Midnight Meat Train. When it became clear I had seen the film, they of course asked me my thoughts on the film. How can I tell them the truth as I don’t know how these people are going to pay the bill? Will this woman decide my tip? I just said I didn’t enjoy it as much as other people did. But oh how I wanted to go on an on about how insipid the entire film was.

    You see, I have all this hatred and vile stored inside me and it has to come out somewhere, so it comes out on the internet. The film sucks. I will say it again and again and again. It sucks so bad I’d rather be waterboarded than sit through that shit again. At least that’s over in 60 seconds. I’d rather sat in a big green trash dumpster filled with discarded food for two hours than sit through this shit-ass film again. At least I can vomit freely in the dumpster.

    The film is garbage, plain and simple. I hate it!

  • CB—
    You threw the first salvo here and I answered in kind. You keep mentioning that you spend money seeing movies, as if everyone else is getting free passes. Like you I spend way too much weekly seeing films all over NYC, but I’m not ABOUT to complain about it, at least not in the context of whether I like or don’t like a specific film. You came on here like gangbusters with an insulting, condescending tone. To dislike all those films is practically a stand alone position, and it comes off as distinctly contrarian. I think this site has amply presented it’s cases for the films you tore down, so I won’t beat a dead horse.

    If you have used the “envy” tact in your first submissions rather than the most recent one, I would would not have lashed out at you. Anyway, fair enough. I offer the peace branch to you.

  • “The film sucks. I will say it again and again and again. It sucks so bad I’d rather be waterboarded than sit through that shit again. At least that’s over in 60 seconds. I’d rather sat in a big green trash dumpster filled with discarded food for two hours than sit through this shit-ass film again. At least I can vomit freely in the dumpster.”

    Rufus: Tell us what you REALLY think!!!!!!


  • Yvette

    Do you know a Ignatius J. Reilly? Do you by any chance wear a ‘green hunting cap’?

  • Yvette

    So you were that one person in a crowded theater laughing in all the wrong parts..which always takes me out a movie.
    Every movie experience has one.
    And yes, the dynamic in the Lincoln relationship was historically accurate..
    Maybe you should just experience the film and stop trying to play the jaded critic.
    Sasha’s article, Selling a True Hero in the Age of Snark, was more prophetic than I imagined.

  • justin

    Long time reader, rare-time commenter.

    I’m aware it is their site, but when did the hosts/bloggers of this site turn into people who comment bitchy, sarcastic remarks? It is so disappointing.

    Back in 2004/5 (I think that is right, it was a while back) I came to this site to enjoy reading the great variety of coverage, and more importantly share the joy and fun of Oscar night with randoms across the globe.

    Now? Well, I still enjoy it, but I find myself daring less and less to delve into the comments sections due to someone rubbishing another person due to their opposing taste.

    I am aware this is the internet, but come on. You are people I share a passion with and it is a shame that this kind of attitude is sucking the life out of it.

    I hope this makes sense and I look forward to the coming weeks, it is an interesting season! 🙂

  • No, Yvette. I can laugh internally without disturbing other people. You wanted reasons why people don’t like the film and I gave them to you. *sigh*

    If the CG on the limb collection looked silly and therefore laughable that’s not my fault, it’s the film. *sigh*

    You might want to look up “snark” in the dictionary to see if you still look the same as your ID photo. *sigh*

    You’re the one trying to set yourself apart as better than others because your opinion is “the right one”. I never do that. When are we ever going to get rid of those people who think they are superior to everyone else? *sigh*

    Maybe you should stop telling other people what to do. *sigh*

    Here’s the deal. I know LINCOLN is Sasha’s favorite film. I saw it on opening day here. I said I didn’t like it and that was it. I kept my mouth shut and didn’t tear into it. I left it alone. I left most movies alone, save Les Mis, and just championed the ones I liked unless someone asked specifically for reasons why people didn’t like a film like you just did. The only reason I pointed out what was wrong with LINCOLN imo, was because you insisted that people who said they didn’t like it either could only come up with the word “boring” or didn’t see it. I saw it. Didn’t like it and explained myself to you. And what do I get but a condescending response back? I would have never posted those gripes about the movie were it not for you. You wanted a critique and then you accuse me of trying to play a critic. While you’re looking up “snark” try “self-awareness” too.

  • …when did the hosts/bloggers of this site turn into people who comment bitchy, sarcastic remarks? It is so disappointing.

    [Ryan’s reply deleted. Don’t be a bitch, Ryan. — Ryan]

  • CB

    Yvette, I’m entitled to my opinions. Frankly, no one seems to point out why they may be wrong, just that I’m an idiot for not liking what you consider to be worthwhile filmmaking. No one has ever countered anything I’ve said, just said that I’m an idiot.

    Tell me what’s so special about Lincoln as a film.

  • CB—

    Since when is there a “right” or “wrong” when it comes to personal opinion or an expression of taste? Do you feel somehow that a “minority” opinion has more worth than a “majority” opinion. Explain this to me, as I’m in the dark.

    You talk about opinions in your first sentence, then you move on to what is “right” and what is “wrong.”

  • Yvette

    I can snark with the best of them…that’s why I recognize it in others.
    But I didn’t mean to sinle you out – I was just responding to the points you made.
    You are correct – you’ve only stated that you didn’t like it and have never went on a rampage to condemn it. You were not one of the commentators I was referring initially. You have your opinion, I have mine and that’s cool.
    I was ranting unfairly in your direction, but it was really a reaction to some of the others who seem to have an agenda…
    Say, they’re pissed that The Master did not get nominated, or they’re bitter that Les Mis was a turkey.
    You are not one of those, so I apologize.
    When people are passionate about things – its can get nasty, and often misdirected.

  • Reno

    Why fret over a film featuring Lincoln bearing the title Lincoln. I’d be bothered if it were titled Roosevelt.

  • rufussondheim

    Yvette, if you want to call someone out for behavior you find unbecoming, then maybe you should direct your comments to that person personally, Yvette, rather than including everyone in a blanket, generalized statement, Yvette.

    If you haven’t noticed, Yvette, that’s a very passive aggressive tactic and one that’s not very attractive, Yvette.

    So, Yvette, you might want to be a little more specific, Yvette, next time you want to feel self-righteous, Yvette.

    Oh, Yvette, I’m talking to you, Yvette, in case you haven’t noticed.

    Because I like Antoinette, Yvette, and I don’t like you very much since you seem to denigrate anyone who doesn’t like Lincoln, Yvette.

    Because, Yvette, people can dislike Lincoln all on their own. If you haven’t noticed, Yvette, people are pretty smart around here and are able to take on a lightweight like yourself.

    I find it kind of funny, Yvette, that one person finally had enough of your feckless behavior, Yvette, that you withered like a scared dog in a lightning storm. “Oh, I didn’t mean you” you say, Yvette.

    Well, I mean you, Yvette, and I don’t want anyone else to get confused along the way.

  • CB keeps asking everyone to elaborate on their love for LINCOLN. As I have not opted to write a full review of the film, I will offer up two of the responses I posted to the various on-line reviews shortly after it released in late November, one to a favorable review by a blogger friend from Chicago named Patricia Perry, and another by a blogger friend named Jason Bellamy that was largely critical:

    1.) “It’s actually none of those things, but rather a highly literate, and meticulously atmospheric portrait of a complex man and the rancorous political climate in which the final months of his presidency played out.” -Pat Perry

    Indeed Pat, and you provide a splendid lead-in for this dense capsule assessment that I must second enthusiastically. In fact, by pulling back from the sentimental immersion that has won him some dissenters over the years, Spielberg has crafted one of the finest films of his career, and a film that 11 months into 2012 stands as the best American film of the year. It’s interesting that a vociferous minority are complaining that the film is didactic, when in fact these very same people have always complained that the iconic director has never failed to open the flood gates. By allowing Tony Kushner and the great Day-Lewis to take charge he has allowed this seminal event in U.S. history coverage from all angles, and there are even some political machinations here that are new even to the ardent Lincoln and Civil War buff. Abe is my favorite President and political figure, and it seems Day-Lewis has stepped into his skin to quote a line from Harper Lee’s TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD in what immediately takes it’s place among the most legendary performances of all time. While I don’t doubt what you say about Field being 20 years too old, I must say you really do not notice it at all as he holds her age extraordinarily well, and she’s absolutely luminous. Word out of Hollywood is that Lewis will win his third Oscar and Field could do the same thing as well, though LES MIZ’ Anne Hathaway looms as her only competition. In any case LINCOLN is likely to win some of the film critics’ awards groups as well in the coming weeks.

    John Williams’ score is lovely but more restrained than any other he’s done, and it seems almost every artistic decision the director makes strikes gold. Pat, I know you had said at another blog that you were not thrilled with how Spielberg handled the assassination sequence, and may have even had issue with it being used at all. I must disagree on both points as it was extraordinarily tasteful to show the young boy’s grief from another theater, and that Lincoln’s life four month’s from his death needed closure, something that Lee’s surrender and the final deathbed scene achieved. There are a few bloggers out there who predictably are saying that ‘Spielberg again doesn’t know how to end a film.’ Ha! These are people who haven’t directed a single 10 second segment in their lives. The ending was beautifully wrought, and what better finale than have Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address? No, he got it right, and he has contributed to the Lincoln literature mightily with an epic film where he connects the intellectual and the emotional in a film of quiet power, anchored by one of those rare performances when the lead actors becomes the character being played.


    2.) Wow, quite a takedown here Jason. I do not agree with it one iota, especially that final (scathing paragraph). Spielberg was correct in giving this study some emotional closure in the final ten minutes with the soft peddling on the assassination and the the re-enactment of the southern surrender. At any event, to assert that Day-Lewis’ extraordinary and yes intimate two hours plus performance was remotely compromised by a conclusion that was both earned and fitting (but even if it were not as you assert)………well I just don’t know what to say. The contention that the film is plodding of course comes down to personal taste. I didn’t find it that way at all and was fascinated with the various political machinations and domestic turbulence, helped by a plethora of outstanding supporting performances (Field and Jones especially) and Kushner’s studied and engrossing screenplay. I’m not so sure either that Lincoln needed to be painted as an underdog, and in the end he came off as a noble-minded politician. Spielberg rightly averted the oratories that could have furnished cheap sentiment, and rightly pulled back, only intruding near the end and in some of the vital moments to gives the acting and writing some cinematic heft. Ron Howard? Spielberg and that “hack” are not ever in the same room. I believe Spielberg was right to ring every bit of drama out of the courtroom scene, as it not only stirred his viewers with one of the most crucial congressional votes in the nation’s history, but it allowed the film to connect the intellectual and emotional dots. If the movie is indeed “dialogue-driven” as you rightly contend, what is the problem with trying to dramatically heighten the film’s most immercive and entertaining segment? Why is this purposeful decision wrong? It seems Spielberg will be damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t though the film’s superlative reviews (a good number from people who in the past have been highly critical) would seem to imply that his approach here was successful. I did not to be sure find the charismatic performance by Tommy Lee Jones to be ridiculous, though yeah the wig was silly-looking. I also do not at all see this film as tonally divided, and summarily reject your paragraph that begins with “To be fair…,” though your astute observations do support your summary opinion…….-Sam

    My apologies for this long post. I don’t expect the vast majority to even bother with it, but I wanted to complete the requested ‘elaboration.’

  • Yvette

    That may have been the best post you’ve ever posted…..
    Glad to inspire you….

  • ramiro

    marie, if the author’s quote meaning has this context as you showed, it may be plausible.
    nevertheless, so far as i am aware, there were political decisions by lincoln that were very pro-slavery. i don’t see substancial historical aproximation to what spielberg depicts. although it is a good movie.
    and i don’t think it matters. but how would he be able to treat slaves? he didn’t have a great property, and he became a lawyer afterwards, and a politician.

    sasha says he died and we will never know who he really were. so does spielberg and kushner and whoever studies him. it is a good story, but no one can argue that his qualities stand in historical matters. but this is a challenge to every biopic. so lincoln was a MARTYR? he was a great administrator and protect the US. i don’t think we can go further than that (and that’s a lot).

    i still believe Lincoln has the same “realness” as SLP and any hollywood movie since hollywood exists: none.

  • ramirodri

    and i don’t if they spent 15 years to do Lincoln. so did James Cameron with avatar.
    ‘Marty’ was made in a month. so what? it is as real as lincoln – an interpretation of life. lincoln defenders may defend it by this way. but to the way “historical-achievement-hero” it is as false as the sick people in SLP becoming healthy.

    but oh, wasn’t little miss sunshine something like that? i didn’t see anyone complaing about it. or saying it is a truthful picture of the american way of life or what-so-ever. please, just enjot the movie, the story, the acting, without “history revisited” argument to inflate the film’s importance beyond of what it is: just a spielberg movie, and not even his best.

  • Greg

    You can’t really call it “smearing,” if it is well-documented that Lincoln suspended some civil liberties for the sake of freedom. Pointing out the movie left out the dark edges to Honest Abe is called journalism. However, “Lincoln” was not about the dark edges of Lincoln and his administration, it was about how the 13th amendment got passed and presenting Lincoln as a great man. If Wells and Smith want to write a script about Lincoln relaxing constitutional rights for the sake of freedom, then by all means do that.

  • Nik

    Sigh… Wells, Smith, CB, AJ and a handfull of others… Trolls who get off on provoking or spewing venom. One of the side effects of the internet.

    Idiots who only say: Lincoln is boring? Well… I can do the same: Lincoln is brilliant.

    Who cares who wins? I do. And I hope everyone else that takes the time to read and/or write on this site. Cause that’s kind of what it’s about.

    And f@#$ off with you second guessing how film makers “should have made the film”. Feel free to share your personal views on the result. But if you have better ways of making the film than any of those select few nominated, than get of your lazy behinds and make a better film than they did. If you’re ignorant enough to think they haven’t considered your stupid little idea and discarded it for whatever good reason, then shut up! Like/dislike, love/hate the films = Fine. Secondguess the choices and spew out “they should have done it the way I would have done it” = Shut up!!!!

  • Bravo Nik!

    Almost always when someone takes down a film with glee and bragadoccio it almost always tells us more about the person than the film in question.

    A little John Simon anyone?

  • Lady Val

    Lincoln has been raised to godhood. All the other American Founders and statesmen have MONUMENTS. Lincoln has a temple. Well, if you worship at old Abe’s temple, you worship treason for he made war upon sovereign states – the only definition OF “treason” in the Constitution; you worship TOTAL WAR – including the torture and murder of countless civilians, white AND black; you worship government of, for and by POLITICIANS – it was the South who was fighting for government of, for and by THE PEOPLE; you worship the vision of Hobbes and Marx – government POWER is needed to COERCE citizens to be submissive to the government – and so forth.

    All of this information is available, but nobody wants to look at it. EVERYBODY prefers Father Abraham (who had no use for blacks and worked to deport – colonize – free blacks during and after the war). The problem is, Lincoln is not only a lie and a myth, but he is being used to bring forth ACTUAL Marxism in the country. You can indeed say that Obama is RIGHT to assume the mantle of Lincoln because he is merely bringing to fruition that which Lincoln sought: total control of the nation residing in the central government and a population of sheep to do its bidding.

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