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The Audacity of a Film About Ideas: the Case for Lincoln

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“I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong.” — Abraham Lincoln

I was ten years old when Jaws was released in theaters. It’s hard to believe that was 37 years ago. Director David Fincher calls that moment in time the “Summer of the Shark” and indeed it was. In California there was life before Jaws and life after Jaws. Even though great whites weren’t really so much of a threat, and even though Jaws took place on Amity Island (“it’s only an island if you look at it from the water”), the ocean that we’d plunged in for much of our young lives was no longer a safe place to be — it still isn’t.

Tight cotton pants, halter tops, shag haircuts, Bonne Bell lip gloss — the 1970s in Southern California never saw anything like Steven Spielberg. I don’t remember the first time I saw Jaws but I remember loving it so much that I went back to see it fourteen times, waiting in line sometimes for two hours, paying for a ticket. We liked it so much that my mom would drop us off there and we’d watch it all day long in the summertime. It wasn’t just a thrilling film about a shark attacking people in the summer — it was a character study of three distinct types of people banding together to find him for three but to catch him and kill him for ten.

Steven Spielberg changed the way we see movies, pay for them, make them and consume them. That seismic shift was almost accidental — Jaws’ production woes were the stuff of legends. Richard Dreyfus trying to distance himself from the film indicates that many of them believed Jaws would flop. Jaws’ success, though, wasn’t in its box office take — this is the thing that’s easy to miss about Spielberg’s enduring influence on modern American cinema. True, if you are inclined towards size you will always look at bigger as being better. Spielberg would have no trouble generating blockbusters after Jaws. But what keeps his cinema alive is his enthusiasm for his subject, and endless curiosity — something unmatched by most of his peers.

Jaws is about a shark. But it is also about Amity island. It is about chum. It is about a rich kid on a floating asylum. It is about rubes who think they know more than Hooper. It is about a power hungry mayor (of Shark City) who wants to keep the beaches open. It’s about a chief of police who sticks by the rules because he doesn’t yet know, nor care, about the “way of the island.” Jaws is about a guy who does the right thing no matter what the eventual cost.

E.T. and Raiders of the Lost Ark are also about a character who sacrifices what he wants most in order to do the right thing. Perhaps it seems silly to think of it like that, but when you drill down into those stories that’s what you see. The movie that stands out most among his early films, the one which doesn’t focus on doing the right thing, is Close Encounters of the Third Kind. In that film, the main character is compelled to follow his passion and leave his family behind. It is a film that would never be made today.  Fathers don’t leave their families now and remain “sympathetic.” But that was the ’70s. Back then, audiences weren’t so quick to judge.

After that, things got a little murky for Spielberg. He seemed to be divided in his heart of the kinds of films he wanted to make. Although the easy way to think about it is to say he wanted “to be taken seriously.” But I think that is not only a cynical way of looking at a complicated man but it misses the why of it.

Spielberg is one of those people who devours subjects that spark his curiosity. He dives into moments in history, studying every tiny detail and wanting to share that enthusiasm with audiences. His audience, though, never really wanted that from him. They never wanted him to change. They want Martin Scorsese to always make Goodfellas, and they want Fincher to always make Fight Club, Tarantino to always make Pulp Fiction, Woody Allen to always make Annie Hall and no one wanted to let go of Spielberg and the blockbuster. It was too lucrative, audiences loved it too much. But Spielberg has chafed a little bit against the manchild his fans needed him to be and the seasoned vet who wanted to try telling different stories.

In the case of Lincoln, he got so deep down that rabbit hole he couldn’t let go of the president. He even found himself forming an extraordinary bond with Daniel Day-Lewis because it was the kind of performance that erases the boundaries between real and imaginary. Many Americans have made a special effort to do what they never do anymore: drive to the multiplex and buy a ticket. So many love the film, in fact, that it will be a cakewalk getting them to watch the Oscars this year. And yet, where the Greek chorus whispers and chuckles, they still see the kid with the baseball cap forever changing the future of Hollywood with his nasty blockbusters. He can’t have both. He’ll never be great AND that a visual effects pusher.

No other mainstream white Hollywood director has tried harder to blend the African American voice into his films like Spielberg has. No one wanted him to go down that road either. The Color Purple, for instance, a film that featured an all-black cast, was mostly shunned by the Academy after rumblings that Spielberg really had no business making a film about black characters. No other film with an all-black cast would ever make it into the Best Picture race until 2009’s Precious. This is how oppression works, you see. If enough people complain, the status quo remains intact. The same thing, or thereabouts, happened when Spielberg made Amistad, a film about slavery — one that showed the brutality of it.

Everyone in Hollywood knew Spielberg wanted to make Lincoln ten years ago. He’d wanted to make Lincoln the minute he heard Doris Kearns Goodwin was going to write the biography. Goodwin is a presidential historian with a gift for storytelling, took a decade to write her opus, a book many Lincoln enthusiasts devoured. Tony Kushner was given the daunting task of adapting it. It was a monster script, at one point 300 pages. Many directors will talk about the Lincoln screenplay and the film that would maybe never get made. Somehow, though, everything came together and, by god, that movie got made. It chose to focus on a very specific point in Lincoln’s presidency — evidence of a shrewd politician working the system to do the right thing, even if it wasn’t the popular thing. President Obama is facing something similar right now with the NRA, guns and the Constitution.

The Oscar bloggers are down on Lincoln. It can’t win, they say. It’s too boring. People have begrudging respect for it. They don’t love it. No one really even likes it. The HFPA didn’t like it. The Critics Choice, New York Film Critics, National Society of Film Critics nor Southeastern Film Critics. The Los Angeles Film Critics shut it out completely. They have “issues” with the ending because everyone thinks it should have ended ten minutes before it did. But those people, to my mind, are missing why Spielberg chose to include those final minutes. Maybe you have to be a President Lincoln fan to really get why. Lincoln’s sudden death was a jarring thing to America then, and when you watch the film you see what a jarring thing it is — it interrupts the story, the memory, the legacy — that’s what crazy people with guns can do. You can’t tell Lincoln’s story without telling that story — without pointing out what an ordinary citizen was willing to do to protect white rights. Killing the president shows just what an uphill battle Lincoln faced with ending slavery in America.

Finishing the film on Lincoln’s inaugural throws the ball back in our court. The story of the 13th Amendment and the abolishment of slavery reminds us, emphatically, that the work is far from over. You don’t even have to look very far — only at the film industry, public education, health care, gun violence, and even the Oscar race to see how much farther we have to go.  The film isn’t about the 13th Amendment; the film is about the people who fought so hard against it and about how close we came to not ending slavery for all time.

Lincoln is a subtle, quiet, subdued, meditative masterpiece. What drives it are the performances, first and foremost. The best actors in Hollywood fill even the smallest parts, familiar faces even if their names aren’t. The audacity of casting Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln at a time when fanboys control the box office and casting decisions of major studios. “She was miscast,” one early voice said. “They should have cast Reese Witherspoon,” another said. Perhaps you would have had to live a few more decades before you can appreciate just how great Field is in this part. She carries all of Mary’s madness, passion and love for her husband in every word that comes out of her mouth. The opening scene of the two of them has Mary looking at her husband in the mirror, three layers deep, as he tells her of his dream. Lincoln, in fact, had been haunted by death for most of his life and that included his dreams. A formidable woman, Field captures Mary’s buried ambition as she stands up to Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones). Mary was eventually put in a mental hospital by her son, so Field plays her with madness always just seconds away from consuming her completely.

While Lincoln represents just a small part of the book Team of Rivals, Kushner has filled the film with tiny details about who Lincoln was. He was the president who drove his staff crazy by letting his children run about the White House unchecked. This is illustrated beautifully in the scene with Tad driving a carriage through the hallway and a voice shouting behind him, “Don’t encourage him!” Lincoln was kind towards animals and children and couldn’t bear to scold his own.

Lincoln is a film about ideas. If you don’t stop to pay attention to the tiny details in Lincoln, you will never be moved by it. It is a meditative procedural that celebrates the greatest president the US ever had, and how minds were ever so slightly cranked open. The abolitionists pressured Lincoln to make slavery illegal but Lincoln himself evolved while in office from someone who was mildly against slavery to someone completely opposed to it.

But to care about Lincoln, to be moved it is to ultimately care about those shifting ideas, what they meant then and what they mean now. If the evolution of African Americans in this country isn’t something you think about or care about, the origins of freedom aren’t going to matter to you.

There is a reason why prime time television in America is mostly white (such is not the case in England, it’s worth noting). Racism in America doesn’t just mean outright hatred as we saw during the election — it is more subtle than that. It is allegiance to the stories that only matter to the white narrative. I was especially horrified to find so many women critics “not liking” Lincoln either. I am baffled by my sex as much over this as I am over their interest in 50 Shades of Grey.

The Oscar race, though, is about the anonymous passionate vote. It isn’t about doing what you SHOULD do, it’s about doing what you WANT to do. I have been at this for 14 years and believe me, there is no stemming the tide. There is no ad or essay that can make people do what they don’t want to do. Hell, if that were the case someone would have cancelled The Bachelor by now.

Lincoln may have to end the year as the most nominated film that never won. It will join the ranks of those films with 12 that never did win Best Picture, like A Streetcar Named Desire, and Reds. I often wonder what the Oscar race would look like if films were really rewarded on high achievement and not on personal passion. I wonder if the word “best” could still be used with a straight face. I have spent 14 years watching and studying the Oscar race and I know that most of the time the best films don’t win. So much goes into the vote that has nothing to do with a film’s worth: resentments, associations, baggage, likability, a desire to stand apart from the consensus. In the end, the most votes across the board decide.

But all of that aside, all of the reasons why Lincoln can’t and won’t win aside, there is something unforgettable about this odd, talky movie that took so long to make and is barreling its way, astonishingly, towards $200 million. It is the best film of 2012, with Zero Dark Thirty, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild and Amour giving it some serious heat. Why Lincoln wins out, though, is that it is about the film, yes. But it is also about our country, about the future and the past. It’s about the horrible things we’ve done, the inexcusable things we are still doing, and a voice from the past to make us change.

Lincoln wins out because it has no weak link. Kushner’s script is full of dense vitality, even if you don’t catch it all the first time through. Daniel Day-Lewis disappears into Lincoln, creates a half-irritating voice that makes us stop and pay attention to the man and forget the man we thought we knew. The supporting cast, starting with Tommy Lee Jones but also Sally Field, James Spader, David Strathairn, Hal Holbrook, Gloria Reuben, Jackie Earle Haley, Joseph Gordon Levitt — an ensemble that defines what the craft of acting looks like. And finally, the starman himself, Mr. Spielberg, fighting every urge to ruin this beautifully delicate story with overbearing direction has pulled out the stops with the kind of shot setups I haven’t seen in any of his films since Jaws, or Schindler’s List. The slippers in the doorway, the foggy dream sequence, the frothy light through the curtain, the painterly wide shots of Congress — they took my breath away.

I guess, in the end, what makes Lincoln so great is the same thing that made Jaws great. Spielberg thinks young. He rescued me when I couldn’t bear to face another day of a hard childhood. He rescued me when I couldn’t make my life what I wanted it to be. And he’s rescuing me now when I thought the very notion of a film about ideas was gone. I have grown up Spielberg. Every thumbprint in his films, good ones and bad ones, has a place in my own DNA. If this is to be his last moment in the spotlight, his last chance to be given a statue for his work, let me be the first one to say that it was well earned, both in earnest ambition and in final execution. Well earned.

Growing up Spielberg means you know everything about his beginnings — the quirky outsider Jew boy who started making movies with a Super-8 camera, a product of divorce, a gaping need for a father figure, a lifelong devotion to female figures, the boy wonder in a baseball cap haunting the backlots of movie studios. It was my curse to be one of those Spielberg wannabes. Girls just didn’t think that way. That was a guy thing. It still is. Sure, I fumbled towards film school like everyone else. Failed, like most everyone else. Became a writer about film, like everyone else.

Buried inside of me, though, there is still the young girl who remembers going to sleep at night thinking, “someday I’m going to marry Steven Spielberg,” and then waking up a few years later and thinking, “someday I’m going to BE Steven Spielberg.” Well, needless to say, neither of those things ever happened.

We have both left behind the suburban daydreams of escaping our mundane lives. He has gone on to achieve and I have been there to watch. His achievements will always come with an asterisk. And this year that asterisk will explain in a footnote why Lincoln didn’t win Best Picture. And none of those reasons will have been good enough.

His characters live inside me still — Brody, Hooper and Quint, Indy and Marion, Eliot and E.T., Oskar Schindler, and, now, Abraham Lincoln. I have been there, where the wild things are, to catch his falling stars — each one of them alive with so much brilliant light I can still see them when I close my eyes. And I really can’t see anything else.

 

167 Comments on this Post

  1. dinasztie

    Beautiful piece that will make me dissapointed if the movie loses despite not being my favorite. Great job!

    AND SALLY FIELD IS INDEED FANTASTIC. The scene about her headache…brilliant.

  2. Gorgeous and persuasive. Both the film and this argument.

  3. Great piece! Lincoln adds itself to the indelible characters Steven Spielberg has created for us. I’m still impressed with his approach, producing something unlike any of his other films, focusing on interiors and intimacy.

  4. why is being given up on already? just because of the golden globes? the industry hasn’t even voted yet. i’m not thinking at all that it’s not going to win, it’s still a traditional, oscar friendly movie. you can’t predict argo without that director nom, i’m sorry but that does affect how the voting works.

  5. When I saw Spielberg and Kushner interviewed at NYFF, Kushner said his first draft was more than 500 pages. He fully credited Spielberg with bracketing the section about the passage of the amendment and saying, This is the movie. It is one of the most readable scripts I’ve ever encountered, just as engrossing as “Angels in America.”

  6. Christophe

    I agree Jaws was a good flick…

  7. REIChdome BACK with Avengeance

    SAsha what a tribute u best reflective piece to date. Oscar Are pure folly if they will not embrace a film not only popular but by easily most respected of all Oscar nominated directors and producers. It high time Oscar reward Spielberg as director who commiment to film go far beyond what any other contender has achieved. Affleck is young his recognition should be delayed just like Spielberg was once. and picture not just for this film, but as an I owe you. And frankly Lincoln is the first Oscar nominated film in a long time to be as strong in it acting noms across the board as it is it technical brilliance.

    I not calling it against Lincoln- yet cos I think the things u point out only strengthen it case to win the big ones. But also cos Oscar carry a heck of a lot of guilt for snubbing spielbergs saving private Ryan which revolutionized the way realism is cast in films and continues to inspire realism in action films to this day.

    Are Oscar prepared to snuff their own legacy? The most nominated film combined with hollywoids and the world’s most iconic accomplished director and support team behind the scenes, as well as the fact that historically the film with most noms and most acting noms wins?

    It.a different context but same dilemma and massive problem a increasing cynical global public have of the once revered Oscar: once upon a time they celebrated and embraced groundbreaking generation inspired filmmaking. West side story, gone with the wind, Ben hur, Gandhi, bridge over river nasi, sound of music, godfather.

    Now Oscar selfishly seek to tear their own credibility to pieces. Aviator not winning was a shocker that year to many, a so called ‘ driving miss daisy ‘ style upset does not justify snubbing Hollywood and indeed Oscars own deeply respected director.

    Lincoln is nostalgia of the classic style Oscar love and find hard to deny. There is no smear against it, thefilm stands above Argo and dark thirty as purely campaigning on merit it story time effort and energy to bring it to life combined with need for precision acting demands nothing less than a Oscar win. If Oscar look to a lesser film like Argo. They are dismissing the legacy through their films of accurate and deeply careful historic drama of the pinnical and source of the current presidents cultural and social transformation. Will Oscar renounce a cultural transformation to date comparable to the era of Lincoln? Will they renounce Spielberg films cos they dare to tackle subjectsof historic and indeed global importance with minimal detractors something neither dark thirty or Argo can pull off ?.

    At a base level it irrefutablefor Oscar to snub the MOST ACTORbased nominated film and relegate it win just for acting.

    It unjustified in their minds to gve Spielberg one or the other but to embrace his film totally.

    If Oscar go against the grain this year they be playing the public viewers globally as gullible fools. It spks volumes that Lincoln captivated a nation and the world. Thisfar and away surpasses appeal that any other contender this year would have.

    Oscar want pple to’ think’ Lincoln most nominated will win, most successful, ambitious , acting oriented, flawless film wil win using the audience for sake if ratings then embracing a lesser celebrated film as best pic this year

    The issue is not how unjust this outcome is on the director that contenporaeised Hollywood at it core, but just how low are Oscar prepared to go? Will they really snub Spielberg again andanother iconic film achievement that pple will remember long after any lesser alternative winner at this years Oscar’s?, have Oscar lost touch that badly? Or is it us the public that need to embrace Oscars madness and total betrayal of their own logic and principles they supposed to stand for?

  8. Great article, Sasha.
    Steve is great.
    And wow… He’s doing this for 40 years…
    Jaws, Raiders, ET were made before I was born…
    I think Schindler’s List is one of strongest movies ever.
    Some my favorite Spielberg’s movies were snubbed by Academy : Always, AI, above all Empire of the Sun.
    Anyway, I don’t see Lincoln winning…
    And I don’t it as a great absurd. Steve has 2 Best Director Oscars. Coppola, Scorcese and Allen have only 1. So…

  9. Jerry Grant

    Great piece all across the board, and I couldn’t agree more.

    “If you don’t stop to pay attention to the tiny details in Lincoln, you will never be moved by it.”
    ^This is very astute and very very true.

    The most accomplished and (to me) the most moving picture of the year.

  10. it seems nuts to me that they would deny a movie that’s made so much money and is ALSO the traditional, oscar friendly movie that usually wins. i think it would be very unlike them, honestly

  11. Great essay. It captures everything I loved about Lincoln. When my friend and I saw it, she said afterwards, I can’t believe it, a movie about ideas. The richness of the language, the acting, the design, and the directing combined to create an unforgettable experience. I’ve seen it three times and will probably see it a couple of times more before it’s released on DVD. It deserves the Oscar for best picture, and even if it doesn’t win, it was the best picture of 2012.

  12. In the sea of cheap, exploitary, dehumanizing garbAge – Lincoln is a shining beacon of hope.

    What a treat to have a movie that’s about solutions and healing playing in theaters.

    And what a beautiful shot from the film.

  13. (Well, I never thought I’d use my grandpa’s old Dick Tracy decoder ring, but it got me through REICHdome’s post, above. I can’t figure out what “bridge over the river nasi” was, though – did Alec Guiness star in that one, too?)

    Good and passionate essay for both Spielberg and the film, Sasha. I’m glad for his success with Lincoln, critical and box office, and hope he continues to move forward to new passion projects that have weight and importance. Produce Jurassic Park 4 if you like, Mr S, but keep your directing on this track, for which you have already won two Oscars.

    There are still naysayers out there, obviously, but that goes with the kind of massive success Speilberg has had. There are others who were pleased with Lincoln, but remain guarded for the next one, as if we need some kind of proof that a new, more serious Spielberg has arrived. If it appears that he’s trapped in a box, it’s a box he has meticuously built. On the flip side, there aren’t many – if any – directors out there who have the power or the bucks to do whatever the hell they want to do, no permission or backing needed.

    Lincoln is a gorgeous and thoughtful film about a historical milestone. It is probably Spielberg’s best and most successful “serious” film and is worthy of praise. For those reasons, it is in my top ten this year. It appears to be the one to beat for the Oscar, but that shouldn’t matter to anybody, at this point, especially to the man who has been both snubbed and rewarded by them.

  14. Trucker13

    Sasha, this may be the most insightful piece you have ever written. Well done!

  15. Ugh. Argo fuck yourself!

  16. Mohammed

    Lincoln will win. The Academy is a second home to Spielberg. If War Horse made it into nomination, being as sh**** as it was, then there is no doubt in my mind that Lincoln will clean.

    From an outsiders point of view it did nothing for me. Amistad was more emotionaly resonent with me.

    As a film adressing a haunting subject in american history I’d compare it with The White Ribbon. Lincoln will not come out looking good in that competition. It’s far too polished for that.

    But I do love Sally Field. If Lincoln wins as is expected it will be one in the long line of Oscar-baits to win. No more or less deserving of a win than The King’s Speech, The Artist or Crash.

    As good as Spielberg is I don’t think many accuse him of making films about ideas when you compare him to international filmmakers. I hope that changes.

  17. I respect the passion of this piece, and I agree with much of it.

    I do have a problem with the discussion of “The Color Purple.” Weren’t many of those who criticized Spielberg, the white director, African-Americans? Yes, the film went 0 for 11 at the Oscars. Due to racism? Was the Academy racist when double-digit nominees “The Turning Point” and “The Little Foxes” were shut out? Whoopi Goldberg lost to the legendary Geraldine Page, who had gone 0 for 7 beforehand. Cher (“Mask”) and Norma Aleandro (“The Official Story”) were co-winners at Cannes and didn’t even get nominated. Unlike Oprah Winfrey, Anjelica Huston didn’t have a co-star to contend with, let alone one who was campaigning aggressively (Margaret Avery).

    One last thing: Lincoln dealing with slavery and Obama dealing with guns aren’t even remotely comparable. It is amazing that 50% of both the perpetrators and the victims of murders are African-American. Perhaps the real problem is a liberal culture that says it’s OK to have children born out of wedlock (not at 75% for African-AMericans), even if you can’t afford to try to make up for the absence of fathers with money spent on nannies and private schools.

  18. “now at 75%” in lieu of “not at 75%

  19. Thank you for this. After I saw Lincoln, I wanted to turn around and see it over again. That rarely happens for me.

    I found the film so moving – and I agree, Sally Field’s performance was magnificent.

    I am now past caring what happens at the Oscars. What really counts is that so many Americans have seen this film and understood it. In my circles, it is the only film that folks are talking about.

    At the Golden Globes, we were forced to watch an overlong Will Farrell schtick (which, for me, became embarrassing) while they cut short what was promising to be one of the awards season’s most uplifting acceptance speeches (DDL). That’s the culture we live in.

    Thank God for movies like Lincoln.

  20. This might be your best piece about 2012 films, forced insert of President Obama’s own actions aside. I don’t adore the film with the same level of passion as you do(the film’s transition from the 13th amendment to biopic sucks all the energy out of the film, although you make a solid argument for it’s inclusion, and the personal Lincoln scenes with Field/JGL fall flat), but I’m rooting for it to win nonetheless. It’s not like Django has a shot, anyway.

  21. representDLV

    For me, Lincoln is just like almost all of Spielberg’s movies. It’s good. Not great.

  22. We all have to accept that those people in life we either love or admire or both are not the same person they were years (or even decades) earlier. People tend to “slip” as they get older. They care more about engaging in positive emotions before their life takes a turn for the worse (see: “Amour”). Lincoln is an example that Spielberg is not the same filmmaker he was 20, 30, heck even 40 years ago…

    He began his illustrious career directing for television, including episodes of Marcus Welby, M.D. and Columbo, amongst others, as well the daring (GG-nominated) TV Movie Duel, his first feature. Along with Jaws and Close Encounters, he showed his flare for genre work. Each film had kind of grit feeling to it, and it actively worked up our emotions, from fear (Duel and Jaws), to wonder and awe (Close Encounters of the Third Kind). Then came 1941 (1979), his first (and to date, only) comedy. Well, the jokes fell flat, despite a preeminent cast in John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Ned Beatty, Toshiro Mifune, Robert Stack and the up-and-coming Treat Williams and John Candy. Spielberg, I’m sure, has a sense of humor, he just does not know to express it on screen as a director. His next film was the game-changing Raiders of the Lost Ark, which more than made up for 1941. It took him to a whole new level of superstardom, a rare feat for any filmmaker, save for maybe Alfred Hitchcock.

    Then came E.T., my personal favorite Spielberg film. It was the first Spielberg film to emote an almost-melancholic vibe. Here was a single-mother doing what she could to raise her children. As we all now know, Spielberg had (and maybe still has?) daddy issues. There is such genuine sincerity in this film that it almost hurts. But it is all rooted in the fantastic. That despite any hardness, there is something out there that can change all this.

    Since the days of E.T., no melancholic Spielberg film, in my estimation, has worked this well, save for Schindler’s List, which is as important as any other major film on Spielberg’s resume. But that was an anomaly.

    The film Always (1989), which featured Oscar-winner Audrey Hepburn in her final film, is considered a financial and critical flop. Similarly, critics have not been kind to Hook (1991) – one of my personal favorite Spielberg films. Saving Private Ryan (1998) came close to winning Spielberg a 2nd Oscar, but failed to nab the top prize. Personally, I think there is a great film in there somewhere. You just have to trim around the edges and get rid of that god-awful framing device where Spielberg shoves the importance of remembering our veterans in our faces. As if we didn’t already know.

    Since then, Amistad and Lincoln have fallen flat. And have no life to them. They are stiff and don’t trust their viewers to understand the importance of the events depicted in the films.

    I hate to agree with Jeff Wells, especially as I view Silver Linings Playbook as little more than a “good” film. Not Oscar-worthy, but “good enough.” But for this, I will make an exception. I watched the film in the mid-afternoon, after a good night’s rest and eating a moderately sized lunch, as to avoid falling asleep. The opening scene rang as false as that scene in SLP where J.Law rambles off all those random football stats. It would have been a more interesting film had it just been about the decision from the P.O.V. of the members of Congress. They could have used Lincoln as a bit of a mysterious character, kind of like what Jaws was until the big reveal. Also, I don’t they should have included any scenes where they feature the assassination (on-screen or off). I understand that this emphasizes the “What if…?” factor of the film, but I think this theoretical concept would be a given even if they did not have that scene where Lincoln is lying dead on the bed. To me, that image represented this film…lifeless and a bit stiff.

    One thing to note, as Jeff Wells has, didn’t Lincoln lie sideways on the bed, as he couldn’t fit on it? I’m not normally someone to point out inaccuracies (this is a movie, after all), but that seemed to be a big one.

    Also, that scene where TLJ’s Douglas MacArthur goes home, kisses his black wife, takes off his wig/hairpiece and gets into bed with her is highly manipulative, and this I did not appreciate. It was a “!!!!!!!!!!!!” moment that was not necessary. The very signing of this legislation and the importance of such event would have been a great ending that would have left its audiences speechless and in complete awe.

    As I was leaving the theatre, all I could hear people say is “Did you know he had a black wife?” Not once did I hear anyone bring up the 13th Amendment. Maybe it’s because we do not care about our own history as much as we should. Maybe it’s because we are given a spark-notes version of history while in school and we are too focused on the years we have left on Earth to be bothered by events of the past. I do not know. But the contents/impact of the 13th Amendment was expertly and adequately discussed, leaving that final moment completely unncessary.

    Anywhoo, those are my 2 cents, for what it’s worth.

  23. unlikely hood

    Love it.

    Also thanks for fixing the 30-year issue.

    I don’t think you would have applied all of this last year to Tintin and War Horse, but that’s ok, I’m with you anyway. Lincoln is kinda awesome.

    representDLV: For me, Lincoln is just like almost all of Spielberg’s movies. It’s good. Not great.

    I absolutely get that. For so long – basically since the debacle of “Hook” – I think Spielberg has been like a winning team playing not to lose. He’s careful to avoid obvious mistakes. And yes, sometimes that results in conservative filmmaking. Not in a political sense, but in a vanilla sense – no risk-taking in camera-work, editing, acting, what have you. I totally get that. And I can see why Lincoln seems at first gloss to be more of the same.

    But there’s an inner kernel of blazing integrity to Lincoln that just overcomes that. This relatively sedate, stately style was THE way to tell this story. And this story was right to tell. These partisan days, we just need some reminders about the quiet dignity of Congressional sausage-making.

    I hope it wins Best Picture.

  24. Amazing piece and I agreed with every beautiful word of it, except that I still choose to believe that Lincoln will prevail with the Academy. I mean, how dare they not. Two years ago an inferior version of this film beat several superior, more challenging, more rich, more entertaining films because it had Weinstein behind it. Yet this year, other than lacking Weinstein, the film that’s tailor-made for the Academy truly is the best film of the year. And the movies with the best chances of spoiling aren’t even close in quality. Argo is good but not great, and they may reward it now because Affleck was snubbed? As if Ben Affleck has yet to reach the heights of Steven Spielberg?! If anything, Affleck would have been a sensible Director winner, with the actors’ vote behind him and the fact that Argo, like Reds, was an enormous undertaking, whereas Lincoln is seen as more of an actors’ film and a writer’s film. But now that Affleck can’t win on his own, that shouldn’t be enough motivation to vote for it as the Best Picture of the Year.

    Meanwhile, Life of Pi has key nominations but won’t win. Zero Dark Thirty had all the makings of another triumph or worthy runner-up, but the controversy seems to have snuffed it. And Silver Linings Playbook, the one I suspect is neck and neck with Lincoln and Argo, is so trite, so undeserving, so overhyped and overrated. David O. Russell brought us greatness with the performances in The Fighter. But Silver Linings is a forced, contrived film that topples from within. Like all romantic dramedies that make it to Best Picture, it has its enamored supporters, but its misses with DGA and BAFTA are no flukes, either.

    I understand that it’s a good year for studio films and even indie films. These movies, despite their flaws, got good reviews and are making good money. It’s a strong year for acting and a year when several high-profile, beloved directors are sharing kudos with at least one breakthrough independent filmmaker. And yet you would think that the Academy would have it in their hearts to give Steven Spielberg one or two more Oscars. You would think that in a seemingly open-ended field, he’s built up enough respect and goodwill to leap ahead of the pack. You would think he’s paid his dues. You would think a film that snooty critics and fanboy audiences alike love, a film that’s old-fashioned enough for the older audiences and compelling enough for the younger ones, you would think the rare Oscar-bait film that’s actually the true Best Picture would win out in the end.

  25. Don’t hate on me — I enjoyed “Lincoln” and certainly won’t be upset if it wins BP and a bunch of other Oscars.

    As it turns out, I just came across an SFGate blurb (from WENN) which reads:
    “Oscars-favorite ‘Lincoln’ may receive another, less-prestigious honor as the historical drama is already lining up to be one of the most error-filled movies of 2013.
    The Abraham Lincoln biopic opened in North America in 2012 but gets its main worldwide release in January and February.
    Eagle-eyed viewers have already spotted almost 30 gaffes in the film, eclipsing the 26 errors that landed the James Bond blockbuster “Skyfall” second place in the 2012 list.
    Mistakes detailed on movie website IMDB.com include a vanishing cigarette, a torrential downpour which suddenly becomes a light drizzle, a scene featuring a bust of President Woodrow Wilson, who was only a child during the years in which the movie is set, bright daylight outside the White House at 5 p.m. in November, and a disappearing American flag.
    Many other mistakes are factual errors such as Lincoln’s secretary speaking without his German accent, the president’s son Tad – who had a cleft palate – talking perfectly, and an official missing out California during a Congressional roll call of the states.”

  26. @d2, you’re so wrong. If anything, Tommy Lee Jones’s last scene is what should cinch him the Oscar. That’s the moment that drove it home — that it would be too easy to call these people heroes and not realize that some of them were deeply invested for a reason. To tell such a rich, detailed, talky story and return to the WHY of it all, without resorting to easy semantics or an obvious postscript — that is pure genius. It’s the most beautiful moment in the film.

    People who hate the fact that the movie ends with Lincoln’s assassination really annoy me. Hello? It REALLY happened, and it was DIRECTLY related to freeing the slaves! It’s like the hoopla over COMPLIANCE. “I couldn’t get through it because it’s so unbelievable it made me sick! Only in America…” What a load of bullshit. Only in this day and age is the truth no longer believable.

  27. rufussondheim

    Once again I have to say how disappointed I am. The title claims that Lincoln is a film about ideas. And then it proceeds to concentrate on the performances or the technical prowess or some other aspect. Yet it conveniently skirts any substantive discussion of these “ideas”

    I, for one, have no idea what these “ideas” are. And I would love it if someone could make a serious attempt at convincing me what these ideas are. And then, once they do that, discuss how these ideas elevate Lincoln over films such as Zero Dark Thirty and Argo, which are two historically based films about ideas (and I will gladly write a peace discussing the ideas in either film.

    Heck, I’m no fan of Django Unchained, but I think that film has meatier “ideas” than Lincoln does. I just don’t see the “ideas” in Lincoln at all. And I don’t see any parallels with today’s governing either.

    I wish I did, I wish I could understand why this film is so great. But I don’t. I wish someone were able to explain why it was so great.

  28. representDLV

    Idea #1: Slavery is bad
    Idea #2: Abraham Lincoln was good
    Idea #3: Passing the 13th amendment was hard

  29. As a huge fan of Spielberg, I’ve seen all his films and loved a lot of them (even controversial ones like “AI” and “War of the Worlds”, both of which I own on DVD). But “Lincoln”, while I respect the film for its technical achievements – and there are a lot of them – bored me. It’s as simple as that for me. I’m not saying it’s a boring film – that’s different from saying it bored ME. Just as “War Horse” disappointed me with it’s saccharin tone, “Lincoln” disappointed me as well.

  30. Fun, let’s do Argo!
    Idea #1: The hostage crisis is bad
    Idea #2: Ben Affleck and movies are good
    Idea #3: Making a movie is hard work

    Silver Linings Playbook:
    Idea #1: Bradley Cooper is fucked up
    Idea #2: Jennifer Lawrence is fucked up
    Idea #3: Together, they dance

    Amour:
    Idea #1: Life is hard
    Idea #2: Dying is hard
    Idea #3: Letting go is hard

    Django Unchained:
    Idea #1: Slavery is bad
    Idea #2: Christoph Waltz is good
    Idea #3: Leo DiCaprio is an idiot and Sam Jackson really runs the show

    By these standards, Life of Pi should win as it’s the mos complex.

  31. Les Mis
    Idea #1: Poverty is hard
    Idea #2: Singing is hard
    Idea #3: Watching people die is hard

  32. Beautiful piece, Sasha, really. I got goosebumps reading the line near the end about all the characters living on with you. I don’t quite share your passion for Lincoln, but this article was fantastic, and if it does win, I can’t say that I would complain.

  33. unlikely hood

    Four or five times a season, Sasha keys herself to a film she loves – she digs as deep within herself as she imagines the filmmakers had to do. This was one of those times. That’s as nice to see as a chrysalis unveiling a butterfly.

    Tony the errors don’t matter. Every film has those. Do I wish there were fewer? Yes, but we forgive gaffes when the story and the acting are humming.

    Rufus I think you’re applying a Manichean view to the 19th century. You know, one side is good and one side is bad. The whole point of Lincoln is that – unlike a LOT of Civil War films – they complicate that. What other film has shown (1860s) Radical Republicans and more centrist Republicans squabbling? How often do we see a scene like that Cabinet meeting 30 minutes into the film? I mean, these men all represent different approaches to mending the union. These men, in short, symbolize ideas. And these ideas were vital strains that continued to weave their way through the quilt of American life – it wasn’t just, oh, slavery ended, problem solved.

    I don’t say Argo and ZDT didn’t have nuance – they did. But I don’t see your case that Lincoln didn’t.

  34. Great piece and I really wish Lincoln wins. For me it is the best film of the year.

  35. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    Slavery is bad

    The only reason that 3-word idea sounds obvious today is because 600,000 men died fighting about the idea Lincoln stood for, so that one day the idea would sound so obvious people might sneer and snicker about it. Laugh it up, ungrateful shits.

  36. I have yet to see Amour, but at the moment, I can’t be disappointed by any of the nominated best pictures winning. I would honestly be satisfied by any of them. I ended up liking Lincoln even more and was more moved by the work that the actors and script and direction captured. 2012 did good.

  37. candyjesus

    [3 sniper comments using 3 different IDs in 3 days got my attention. If you expect any more of your remarks to show up on site, choose one ID. Stop being a coward. - Ryan]

  38. You really are bias. It’s just 150 minutes of Spielberg trying to win another Oscar. I kinda want Lincoln to win just so you don’t go flipping out in case of an upset. It’s an undeserving nominee, same goes for Beasts of the Southern Wild.
    Awards or not, you’re still going to feel the same about it, so why go playing favorites and just do your “job”?

  39. The only film this year that deserve the title of Best Picture is The Master.

    Zero Dark Thirty and Argo are also great choices.

  40. As far as ideas in Lincoln go, isn’t there also a subtle plea by Kushner for the same-sex marriage without ever distracting from the formidable history lesson? Honestly I find that aspect of the screenplay simply admirable with all those discussions in the House about what is natural and unnatural.

  41. unlikely hood

    Zach: hysterical

  42. representDLV

    Oh please. Just because Lincoln is about an important subject doesn’t give it a free pass to greatness. Red Tails was about important things but it was a terrible movie.

    Sasha claimed that Lincoln was a film about “ideas” and I honestly don’t see that. Life of Pi is about “ideas”. Cloud Atlas is even about “ideas”. Lincoln is a fine movie, I just wouldn’t say it’s a film about “ideas”. Its themes are pretty obvious and straight forward. It’s a “black and white”, obvious story about a subject that everyone (even crazy racists) knows is wrong.

    I found Lincoln to be a solid film, but nothing special. I felt that Django Unchained had more to “say” about slavery than Lincoln.

  43. Jack Traven II

    Well, basically we’re “just” talking about a film, right? BUT. In a fucked up time like this it’s no wonder there are people who don’t like one good thing about whatever – even a film that deals with human dignity. They always seem to miss the forest for the trees. And ironically those are certainly the ones who are mostly responsible for the very fucked up world we are living in in the first place. And unfortunately nothing will (probably) ever change them respectively that. It seems to be in our genes, this “against one another” – whether it’s about a film or even about a skin color. I mean, not even the Bible – the most sold book ever – has forever changed the world for the better. There’s still blood and thunder all over, as well as egoism, greed – and hate. BUT. There cannot be enough books, films – and news articles for that matter – bringing up a painful subject or revealing injustices – because if this was not done, we would’ve already had failed – as humans. So, could there still be hope? Well, for our future’s sake I do hope so. … So, thanks, Sasha, for once again calling to mind (the film about) a great president who had such mighty ideas.

  44. Slavery is bad

    The only reason that 3-word idea sounds obvious today is because 600,000 men died fighting about the idea Lincoln stood for, so that one day the idea would sound so obvious people might sneer and snicker about it.

    I dunno. If it was that obvious to people, maybe there wouldn’t be as much slavery as there is today. It’s not gone, just different.

    What I got from LINCOLN that was similar to our world today was the politics. It was so bad I might have been watching CSPAN. The whole movie was about him getting the required votes to pass this admendment. We’re constantly going through that crap today with all the wheeling and dealing that must be done just to get common sense legislation passed. People are no better now than they were then and vice versa. That’s the timelessness of it, imo.

    Apart from that I thought the film had flaws on top of not being terribly engaging if you’re not a politics junkie. I don’t get why women should like it. But then again I didn’t enjoy any of the political movies this year, LINCOLN, ARGO, or ZERO DARK THIRTY which I finally saw today. There are people, like myself, who just don’t go for those kinds of films automatically but I will if they’re extraordinary. I usually enjoy espionage films but ARGO didn’t do it for me. I thought THREE KINGS and REDACTED were great and even kinda liked RENDITION, but ZERO DARK THIRTY seemed a little underdone and a lot boring. I think JFK is one of the classics but LINCOLN was just alright, imo. So given the right movie even me, hater of politics and history class, can love a film like these. Just not this year apparently.

    But for people who already love that stuff, I can see how they would think it was the best movie of the year.

  45. rufussondheim

    unlikely hood, I understand your points, but I don’t think the film spent as much time on those ideas to merit that this is a film about “ideas”. I think the film spent far more time and effort in other areas, such as process, home life, Lincoln’s habits and personality and such. These are all interesting topics, don’t get me wrong. But they aren’t ideas.

    One area I thought was interesting was when it was asked of Tommy Lee Jones to tone down his belief that blacks and whites were equal in his rhetoric. That stuff fascinated me. I just wish there was more of that.

    To me, Lincoln was a bit all over the place, not terribly focused. As I’ve said before, I wish the film spent more times on some stuff and less on other. It just focused on the stuff that was less interesting (although all parts were interesting to some degree, I was never bored)

    Ultimately there are just better films this year. I would be disappointed with a Lincoln win only because Zero Dark Thirty is an amazing film. If the best films of the were Argo, Beasts or Life of Pi, all films I enjoyed more than Lincoln, I would be less disappointed if Lincoln won simply because the gap between them is smaller.

    But ZDT is such a crowning achievement, I think I will be disappointed if anythign else wins.

  46. rufussondheim

    I dunno. If it was that obvious to people, maybe there wouldn’t be as much slavery as there is today. It’s not gone, just different.

    Well said, Antoinette.

  47. Bryce Forestieri

    To celebtrate LINCONL’s Best Picture win ima get me the SCHINDLER’S LIST blu-ray which finally comes out on March 5! Stokedddddddd!!!!!!

  48. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    Slavery is not gone, just different.

    Yeah, I’ll say different. Quite different. One the one hand, being owned as property from birth to death. On the other hand, existing in your own human body, a body and life that’s not the property of an owner. That’s about as different as you can get.

    Should we postpone this year’s lessons about terrorism, gun violence and bipolar romance until everybody here catches up and gets our heads screwed on right about the slavery question? (Slavery: Bad? Obvious? Boring? “Just different”?)

  49. The Dude

    Life of Pi:

    1- Shipwrecks are bad;
    2- Be with a tiger on your boat is very, very bad, but kind of good;
    3- #2 is an allegory.

    This is fun!

  50. The Dude

    “Slavery is not gone, just different.

    Yeah, I’ll say different. Quite different. One the one hand, being owned as property from birth to death. On the other hand, existing in your own human body, a body and life that’s not the property of an owner. That’s about as different as you can get.”

    Slavery is far from gone worldwide, and pretty much everywhere, USA included, has people living in conditions similar to it, even if their owners don’t have an official title of property.

    That doesn’t take anything away from Lincoln, of course.

  51. Danemychal

    Whether people are in love with it or not, no one really seems to hate it. And no one can deny that it’s a memorable movie. It wouldn’t be an easily forgotten BP winner like The King’s Speech. And it will be revisited more over the years than films like that and Shakespeare in Love. People would definitely remember it fondly. Things like the topic and the talent involved will ensure it is long-remembered whether it wins BP or not.

  52. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    I like that the stupid joke format started by representDLV sticks out like repetitive childish wankery on the page. So it’s easy to scan past some of the dumbest comments I’ve seen around here for weeks, in reply to one of the smartest posts.

    Some of you guys are making the “OMFG JODIE WTF ARE YOU DRUNK LOL!?” comments look brainy.

  53. representDLV

    I don’t deny that there are forms of slavery being practiced in the world today, but people living in terrible poverty and institutional slavery are very different things. I would like to know where in the United States there are people living in conditions similar to slavery. I don’t know what you are referring to.

  54. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    the USA has people living in conditions similar to slavery

    please stop embarrassing yourself.

  55. The Master

    Idea #1: Power is bad
    Idea #2: Greed is bad
    Idea #3: Untamed hearts can’t be controlled

  56. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

    Idea #1: Youth is hard
    Idea #2: Be nice and special is good, but also very hard
    Idea #3: If you resist, you can be a hero and infinite

  57. Bryce Forestieri

    LOL Let’s just state which of us are living under conditions similar to slavery. Shall we? I’ll start: I’m not.

  58. A great piece of writing. I’ve said enough about Lincoln. We all come to love films for different reasons. To me Lincoln was like watching a great painter scrawl his love for his work across a canvas. There are those who will never get it because they simply choose not to get it and there are those who will not get it because they are part of the entitled and it would be uncomfortable for them to get it.

  59. unlikely hood

    Rufus – I see that. I thought those bits of puffery were the inevitable color around 1865 life – the spittoons and snuff tins and crinaline bunting (we didn’t see those specifics so much, but what I’m saying is the wandering scenes stood in for those things) that would have been the background to heated negotiations and heady diatribes (they liked their speechifying back then). I’d say it was a calculated decision on Kushner’s part to “pad” it with 1865 Life with a capital L. For me it worked, but I see what you’re saying.

    Antoinette is absolutely right, as is Ryan. If slavery = bad is so obvious, what’s up with the worldwide sex slave trade?

  60. representDLV

    And there are those who don’t get it because there is nothing to get.

  61. The only reason that 3-word idea sounds obvious today is because 600,000 men died fighting about the idea Lincoln stood for

    Absolutely. There are a lot of people out there who take several of the amendments of the Constitution for granted. For that reason alone I’m happy this movie exists.

    Now, as for MY opinion of the movie. As much as I like and admire War Horse, Lincoln is such a superior movie. Spielberg did such a wonderful job of stripping the story of its grandiosity and focusing on the little moments, the characters. The scene where Congress is voting on the 13th Amendment was fantastic. Daniel Day-Lewis was INCREDIBLE, and Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones deserve their nominations in their roles as well.

    But, I do have my quibbles. The first half hour of the film is VERY slow. Even though this is one of Spielberg’s least sentimental films in a while, I feel like that hurts and helps the film at the same time. It allows you to focus on the plot, but there are fewer moments when you feel anything for any of the characters. The King’s Speech did not have this problem, which is why I think it is a better film.

    Lincoln is a fantastic movie, but I think Looper, Skyfall, Silver Linings Playbook, and Beasts of the Southern Wild are just as fantastic, if not better. I think it would be a very good choice for Best Picture, though.

  62. I’m jumping off here, to not hijack the thread. But this is what I meant: http://www.freedomcenter.org/slavery-today/ Just to clarify. Go back to talking about the movie.

  63. Just for a different point of view, there was a guy on Martin Bashir who was pretty much the first guy since Jeff Wells to take down Lincoln. He wrote an article calling it out for compromising since, one of the negative things of President Obama’s first term was his dogged comprising his strong positions to the right wing whackos. But it was not ‘compromise in the pleasant sense of the term, it was more like selling out.

    And that compromise does not even really exist in this day and age, as it turns out that President Obama invited Republicans to see Lincoln with Spielberg and Day Lewis in attendance and they declined. The republicans also declined going down to state dinners in the white house.

    So the compromise shown in Lincoln is nothing but shallow ideal. It is a cliche on top of a cliche. It does not really exist in this day and age and no one really acts that way either. As evidenced by republicans threatening to take our country into default. Here is link to the guy’s article.

    http://harpers.org/archive/2013/02/team-america/

  64. I think Time magazine called it Summer of the Shark

  65. I miss Michelle

  66. I saw Jaws in NZ where I was studying when it opened. Haven’t been in the ocean since.

  67. Jerry Grant

    ^That Harper’s article you just posted is a horrible piece of filth. It’s fraught with jealousy at the well-earned success of Goodwin, Kushner, and Spielberg, and claims their products “suck” only by being glib and condescending. All this anger at “compromise” and the messy pragmatism that is necessarily a part of being an American political leader comes from figures who think they’re so much “holier” than this mess we’re in and can offer easy scathing critiques from on high. The power of Goodwin’s book and Kushner’s screenplay is its ability to show the complexity of even the most principled, the most idealist, issue in American history. The story that’s told in this movie is not exemplary of “trite” heroic Spielberg narratives–at all. Thomas Frank is full of it and trying to get his names in the headlines by being an inferior thinker, but just a more sensational writer.

  68. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    PJ that would all be incredibly relevant if Spielberg had made a movie this year about the debt ceiling. He didn’t.

    So you’re incorrect to say “the compromise shown in Lincoln is nothing but shallow ideal” — because that compromise shown in Lincoln WORKED! (sorry to shout) . And because the compromise Lincoln orchestrated worked, millions of African Americans became instantly free and hundreds of millions of their ancestors were born as free babies instead of generation after generation of hundreds of millions of babies born as property.

    So if that compromise show in Lincoln to you looks ‘shallow,’ then I pity you, I worry about your sanity, and I’m not even sure if I like you very much.

  69. ’Lincoln,’ ’Life of Pi’ top Oscar nominations http://on.today.com/XSQNef via @TODAY_Ent… This link was provided by http://www.theMovieFrog.com

    Go to http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Movie-Frog/314447351965892 … … … … … and please like my new Fan Book Page. . Please let us know what we can do to make your experience better.

  70. LOL Let’s just state which of us are living under conditions similar to slavery. Shall we? I’ll start: I’m not.

    You’re so insensitive…you think people living under conditions similar to slavery have the internet?!?

    Seriously though, The Dude, you’re giving Big Lebowski a bad rep. Don’t say shit like that, it makes no sense.

    Lincoln is absolutely an important film. As a lover of history, I was glued to the screen from start to finish the first time I saw it because the film is like literally flipping through the chapters of a dusty history book. Technical prowess, including the acting that punches you like a punching bag with its quiet brilliance, off the charts. The composition of the shots, the cinematography; even saying that these are outstanding feels like an understatement. What carries the film and elevates it among the greats of the year is Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance and Kushner’s screenplay. Absolutely deserving of the Oscar those two, (in a perfect world, DDL would tie with Phoenix for Best Actor..)

    I even wrote a review for it if you’d care to see why I think it’s 1 star shy of a masterpiece (http://grapevinepics.com/review-lincoln/) – [Ryan, hope it's cool that I plug my blog here once in a while]

    But.

    After seeing it again a second time, and after seeing films like Zero Dark Thirty, Life of Pi, Killing Them Softly, The Master (again), The Imposter and some others, it’s very hard for me to put it in my top 10 of the year. It’s in my top 20 most definitely, maybe even top 15 (haven’t done THAT list quiet yet). And that’s only because, it lost some of its gravitas on second viewing. I can definitely see that the lengthy discussions, the Levitt scenes which feel like they’re missing meat, and just the general idea of a film that moves from room to room – as brilliant as it is technically and as important as it is with the story it’s telling – are all indications of a film that isn’t very cinematic in nature, it’s certainly the most “stage”-iest film Spielberg has ever done (think I read him confirming that somewhere) I just find that other films this year provided the “ideas” part that Sasha is talking about (Holy Motors, The Master, Life of Pi, Zero Dark Thirty etc.) with the added bonus of being just more engaging than Lincoln on a cinematic level: use of music (I can’t stand John Williams’s score, sorry, but it’s always the same and full of airs that suffocate me), visually bewitching, and so forth.

    Having said all that, with someone as passionate as Sasha is for the politics of her country and Steven Spielberg’s filmmography, it’s more than understandable why Lincoln is her favorite film of the year and why she will push for it with more strength than for anything else this year. Do I wish she talked about other films that did so well with just as much passion? Of course I do, but that’s like telling me to stop telling people that Holy Motors is an outright masterpiece that blows every other film released in the fantastic 2012 completely out of the water.

    Do it to it Sasha, and shout it out. Lincoln still has a very strong chance at Best Picture. We’ll wait and see what the DGA does.

  71. Beasts of the Southern Wild:

    1. Childhood is rough.
    2. Be brave in the face of devastation.
    3. It’s dangerous to live in the Bathtub.

  72. Whoa, guys. I have a problem with anyone comparing the admittedly horrid situation of today’s abused with the slavery in the 19th century.

    By 1860, here were four MILLION people in chains in the US, openly mistreated and considered property. And this issue was debated…and debated..and debated.

    I’m sorry, but nothing compares to that.

  73. You got me so rattled I forgot to add the link:
    http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/wahl.slavery.us

  74. ‘….Lincoln’s sudden death was a jarring thing to America then, and when you watch the film you see what a jarring thing it is — it interrupts the story, the memory, the legacy — that’s what crazy people with guns can do….’

    Send this baby to Samuel L. Jackson.

  75. unlikely hood

    QT says modern prison = slavery. Anyone here who’s spent time in correctional is free to disagree:

    http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/golden-globes-2013-quentin-tarantino-411977

  76. NOT speaking from experience, unlikely hood, but slavery was from birth to death. There are plenty of abuses in prison despite rules and controls, but nothing like what was openly and freely practiced on the plantation. QT is just blowing hot air.

  77. I didn’t like the film, so forgive me…

    I suppose an idea the film has it to suggest, that in the world today, what is the equivalent of slavery? What wrongs need to be put right? And if they are to put right, it will take more than strong leadership and popularity and even will to achieve. Maybe is asking our leaders to have a pair?

  78. I like that you brought up talking about race is more than just the big obvious stuff. Talking about race can’t be limited to just dudes in white robes burning crosses or racial profiling. It’s the little things. The every day things that people do or say because it’s just the way it’s always been. The “That’s so ghetto” things, or the “Don’t go to jail unless you want to be Tyrone’s wife!” things.

    Regardless, I’m glad we got some damn good movies in Django and Lincoln that tackle head on these things, where you can see how far we’ve come, and the uncomfortable truth of how looooong we still have to go.

  79. “Maybe is asking our leaders to have a pair?”

    Ha! I guess the point is that democracy is a stubborn bitch. If it took that long to right that wrong, is there no hope for the rest?

  80. In fact, I’d say racism, as far as I’m concerned, is a small and probably the least interesting part of talking about race.

  81. Damn Sasha,
    That was the most soulful piece I’ve ever read about a passionate, personal connection to one film…
    That was Kael-esque. I will have to send this to my cousin, an ER nurse who happens to be a hawk-eyed history/Lincoln buff with a sneering contempt for Hollywood’s attempts at historical drama….and not given to hyperbole. Her verdict on Lincoln: ‘Perfect in every way – down to the smallest details.’ She has seen it three times – something she’s never done, ever.
    Sasha, you speak for people like her, and me, who already have that connection to Lincoln and everything he stood for and was. This film exceeds so many expectations. This is simply one of the the best pieces of film commentary I’ve ever read. It was your prose and passion in “The Age of Snark” piece before its release that brought me to this site – and I will look to you’re words for clarity when the detractors still don’t get it or if the Oscars bypass it. I honestly don’t think that will happen, but I’m prepared.
    Just a thought: one of the more poignant aspects of this film is the bonding experience you mentioned between DDL and Spielberg.
    Could we be in for the next Spielberg chapter? Where Kushner is his collaborator and DDL is his muse?
    That would be transcendent.

  82. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    QT says modern prison = slavery.

    QT probably just means if he ever writes a movie set in a prison it will look and sound exactly the same as = Django = Basterds = Grindhorse = everything else he writes.

    aside from that, yes, I disagree. unjust imprisonment and slavery are both horrible but they’re not equal.

  83. Moviescale

    Can we read something about Zero dark thirty? it’s the movie of the year or Sasha doesn’t care about this movie? BTW, Lincoln was a piece of crap movie.

  84. rufussondheim

    Formalized slavery is definitely worse than anything today, at least on average. But I’d rather be William Ford’s slave than be a sex slave born into an Indian Brothel.

    But then, heck, I’d probably rather be William Ford’s slave than be a resident of a Mumbai Slum as described in Katharine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers.

    Of course this is a ridiculous distinction, life would be impossibly hard in both circumstances. But I say it just because conditions in the world today are hardly easy for billions of people. And for many, having the technical distinction of being free rather than being a slave is insignificant.

  85. While I come at Lincoln from a different angle than Sasha, on the larger points I agree. Spielberg’s voice is distinct, and in Lincoln he found an avenue unlike any other. What he accomplished, what most everyone in that film accomplished was remarkable. I had quibbles, I always have quibbles, but the film reminded me why I love movies and Spielberg and Spielberg movies. You can say a film is better than Lincoln, you can argue for other Best Picture nominees, I could do it as well (though my heart would probably only be in the Amour campaign). But 2012, for me, belongs to the 16th president, and the people who breathed life into him body and soul (Spielberg and Lewis, Goodwin and Kushner).

  86. Grindhorse? Is that a mash-up of Grindhouse and War Horse?

  87. unlikely hood

    Ehh, I guess you got me Steve.

    When Sasha says Lincoln is a film about ideas, I don’t really think she’s talking about slavery anyway, although that’s not nothing. Lincoln is about:

    compromise, including sausage-making
    idealism v. realism in your life and with others
    when and why to end a war
    pondering posterity
    the meaning of freedom (freedom from? freedom to?)
    if great men really do drive history, or not
    good for country v. good for your family
    what is worth sacrificing one’s life for
    racism – inherent? ineradicable?
    the meaning of America and the value of the Constitution
    …and more I’m sure.

    Sorry Spielberg and Kushner didn’t put it in index cards. Neither did Kubrick, but 45 years after 2001, we’ve realized its list is even longer than that one.

    Lincoln lets these issues simmer on a very slow roast. Some people prefer a dish that arrives at your table on fire. That’s fine, but I’m going to sit and enjoy my roast thanks.

  88. Jerry Grant

    @Ryan That’s not what QT means at all. He has a serious point to make there. Of course he’s overstating it when he calls it slavery “through and through,” but it’s not some simple off-the-cuff comment he’s making. A serious attention to incarceration practices and the modes of imprisonment and their demographic effects and functions reveals some horrifying truths. No, prison doesn’t = slavery. But if you’re going to start a sentence, “QT probably just means…” you should do him some credit and try and think about what he’s getting at.

  89. jess4Linc

    Jamie K. Wilson authored this words …””Today, at any given time, tens of thousands of people are working as slaves in America: cleaning houses, working on farms, or, most commonly, prostituting themselves for the profit of their owners. They are bought and sold, just like they used to be in the American South, and few of those who engage in slave trafficking are ever brought to justice.”””

  90. @rufus – you would rather be William Ford’s slave NOW rather than win the lottery. Am I wrong?

    So, I ask, what is the equivalence of slavery today?

    What do some people say ‘maybe it’s wrong’ on an issue and others don’t even see a problem? Apart from Anne Hathaway’s hairstyle.

  91. jess4Linc

    “Lincoln” is a beautifully written film, beautifully acted, beautifully directed and beautifully flows excellence at every level of craftmanship in film. A worthy film if it wins and the same if it loses. IMHO.

  92. I think Sasha meant that Lincoln is a film that takes ideas as its subject matter and main theme, not simply that it’s a film which has some ideas, like so many films out there.

    So the ideas that are tossed around by Abe in that film, the discussions they have in the film…this is what the film is about. And yeah, if you think about it that way, it’s very audacious for a film to come out in 2012 and have ideas as a subject matter (The Master is another one I’d argue)

    The fact that it’s coming close to 200M for what it is, is remarkable. Then again, Spielberg + DDL at his finest + Abraham Lincoln = $

  93. rufussondheim

    Benedict Cumberbatch is so dreamy that I would be his slave, as long as it involved red wine and hot tubs. Because I know if I chose “Win the Lottery” it’d be a one off rub off worth 2 bucks.

  94. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    Grindhorse? Is that a mash-up of Grindhouse and War Horse?

    !! sounds awesome, doesn’t it?

  95. rufussondheim

    Only if you have a glue fetish.

  96. Yes, I like Grindhorse. This time, they’ve fucked with the wrong Horse.

  97. “Benedict Cumberbatch is so dreamy that I would be his slave”

    Nah, I’ll take a whoopin’ from Fassbender any day.

    (Not really the thread for this. Now I feel bad. g’nite)

  98. rufussondheim

    kinky!

  99. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    But I say it just because conditions in the world today are hardly easy for billions of people.

    Not to belabor the point or, god forbid, try to steer us back on topic, but it’s interesting that so many people have brought up abject conditions and thriving slavery around the world in contrast to the relatively slave-free, starvation-free United States.

    Because it turns out Lincoln was from the United States and the movie about him takes place in the very same United States that he helped make nicer for everybody. (that is, everyone who’s American).

    We here in the US live in a place where we don’t buy and sell humans anymore. Unlike, as others have pointed out, lots of places in the world where they weren’t lucky enough to have Lincoln as president.

  100. Sasha Your piece reminded me of Pauline Kael defending and advocating for Bonnie and Clyde, way back in the Jurassic era of film criticism. It began, ” How do you make a good movie in this country without being jumped on”. It rings truer even now in this era of fan boys and weekend bloggers.Job well done, and as Spielberg was one of her pet directors, Pauline is applauding from the grave.

  101. Well it seems “scientifically speaking,” according to HuffintonPosts’s new Oscar dashboard, Lincoln has a 89.7% chance of winning best picture. I don’t know their methodology on how they figure out these percentages, supposedly based on Oscar winners of the past 30 years, but am very suspicious of this type of prognostication, even if I like their results:

    http://data.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/oscar-predictions

    Everyone says it’s a sure thing Daniel Day-Lewis will win best actor, but I hope Tommy Lee Jones gets in. He was so great in that role. His final scene with the always wonderful S. Epatha Merkerson was my favorite moment in a movie with lots of great moments.

  102. I saw E. T. when I was 11 years old. One of the most wonderful and memorable moments I remember, along with Raiders of the Ark, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Jaws and The Color Purple. I still treasure these experiences.

    For me, Lincoln is by far the best film of 2012, a crowded year.

    I really enjoyed Argo and liked that the film tells how an unpopular president chose to support a rescue operation without taking benefit from it. I feel a lot of empaty for that movie since I remember hearing and watching on TV about the hostage situation in Iran; however, I do not like that anything-but-Argo-and-Affleck heaters only talk all the time about Affleck exclusión and not about Bigelow exclusión, or Haneke inclusión, or Zeitlin inclusion or the well deserved recognition to Lee and Spielberg. It was a year with a best-director race very crowded so that someone is left out as it has happened for, at least, the last 2 years (Nolan, Boyle, Fincher, Miller).

    To be honest, the academy showed class with its best-director selection and it is, so far, the only group with the guts to recognize Haneke and Zeitlin and to nominate two vets like Spielberg or Lee who are not noticed by some people just because we are used to see them reinventing themselves and being consistent or because it is believed that these directors do not top previous works, like if it were a punishment or a curse.

  103. Wonderful post, Sasha. I love your passion for Lincoln, and like you, I wish it will be this year’s winner for best picture.

    Whatever the outcome though, it is already one of my favorite films. I was floored by its detailed approach. As a foreigner, to experience the movie to me was to be a part of that history. The cadence of those words moved me completely and made me want to learn and understand more about this democracy of yours.

    It was a great year in film though. There are too many great movies to choose from and it feels completely unfair to relegate some to the side lines. But I cannot help it, Lincoln is my pick and I hope it will be AMPAS also. We’ll see.

    (Although, if DDL is the only winner, I will be just as satisfied. So I hope they won’t mess this one up, because this year anything can happen).

    …But is comforting to know that outside AMPAS people are already casting their votes. :)

    “Americans favors Lincoln for the Oscars”

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/15/entertainment-us-oscars-poll-idUSBRE90E14Q20130115?feedType=RSS&feedName=entertainmentNews&rpc=76

    http://pdf.reuters.com/pdfnews/pdfnews.asp?i=43059c3bf0e37541&u=2013_01_15_06_41_7ffda7dedd0147f3969511d108535ee6_PRIMARY.gif

  104. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    ””Today, at any given time, tens of thousands of people are working as slaves in America: cleaning houses, working on farms, or, most commonly, prostituting themselves for the profit of their owners.

    by that standard, workers at WalMart and Papa John’s Pizza occupy a level of slavery one rung up.

    we all get the cute shocking little comparison, and I would agree that migrant farm workers or prostitutes under the thumb of pimps probably occupy the closest modern day situation comparable to genuine old-time slavery. But there’s still one big difference — and it’s a very big difference.

    Aside from relatively rare nightmarish exceptions, most prostitutes and migrant workers decided at some point in their lives that they were going to try out prostituting or tomato-farming for a few weeks to see if they could handle it. They made a choice to take that bad path in their lives, of their own free will. They wanted to go do it. (unless they were kidnapped, sure). They might regret it, and might wish it was easier to find other options, but at some point it was their choice to do what they’re doing.

    Nobody in West Africa in the 1800s decided they wanted to cross the Atlantic, deliberately cross the border into America and see how life would work out as a hooker in Nevada. None of the 12 million people who came to America to work their entire lives with no pay ever decided of their own free will to do so.

    Somebody should tell this Jamie K. Wilson fellow that the typical house-cleaner “slave” in Los Angeles can decide at any moment to throw down the Swiffer Dustmop and walk the fuck out the beach-house and never come back. And furthermore, modern “slaves” can do that — just up and quit — without getting shot in the back or strung up by their necks on tree branches.

  105. Beautiful personal article Sasha! Even if I’m not rooting for Lincoln, I thank you for letting us witness your love for movies in general!!!

    One of the best you’ve written here at awardsdaily!

  106. Robert A.

    “Sasha Your piece reminded me of Pauline Kael defending and advocating for Bonnie and Clyde, way back in the Jurassic era of film criticism. It began, ” How do you make a good movie in this country without being jumped on”. It rings truer even now in this era of fan boys and weekend bloggers.Job well done, and as Spielberg was one of her pet directors, Pauline is applauding from the grave.”

    Ironically, I’m not sure Pauline Kael would have liked Lincoln all that much. Kael tended to respond more to Spielberg’s earlier work, his “boy wonder” movies such as Jaws and Close Encounters and E.T., their energy and cinematic verve and sense of playfulness. When Spielberg got “serious,” such as with The Color Purple, she wasn’t as enthusiastic. But I think, in general, Kael had an aversion to The Very Important Movie.

  107. SeattleMoviegoer

    @ Robert A.
    Kael was quirky. yes, she put herself at odds with a lot of Hollywood blockbusters and those with certain pretense, but then she’d champion a big epic anyway and often be the lone voice of support…see George Roy Hill’s HAWAII and John Huston’s THE BIBLE.

  108. Bob Burns

    excellent essay. a gift to your readers. thank you.

  109. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    About Bertolucci’s ambitious historical recreation, 1900, Kael said, “Next to it, all the other new movies are like something you hold up at the end of a toothpick.”

  110. Time to lighten the mood…

    Let’s do Lincoln!
    Lincoln, Lincoln, bo-bincoln, bonanafana fo-fincoln, fi, fy, mo, m-incoln, Lincoln.

  111. Robert A.

    @SeattleMoviegoer

    You’re right, but a big epic is not automatically A Very Important Movie. Hawaii, I would argue, was not A Very Important Movie (it was based on a James Michener novel, for God’s sake). The Bible…well, okay, the Bible is Important, but the movie was so lambasted that it hardly rose to the heights of a Very Important Movie. I think she responded to the craziness, the “sinfully extravagant” film-making that John Huston gave to The Bible.

    She tended to not like the Very Important Movie that others fawned over but that she viewed as made with such “goddamn good taste,” where it’s all so “ploddingly intelligent and controlled, so distinguished.” She wrote about Gandhi: “Gandhi makes me feel that I’ve been on a state visit.”

  112. To Robert A. – read Kael on Visconti’s The Leopard, she had a soft spot not for the epic but the political. Speilberg’s boy wonder curiosity paired with Tony Kushner’s script would have her typewriter in overdrive.

  113. Sasha:
    I have been reading your musings since you started blogging; I almost gave up when you went ga-ga over The Social Network (but I respected your passion for that film even though I could not share it). Now we land on the same page with Lincoln and I hold up your splendid essay to my friends (and students) who don’t much care for Spielberg’s great film. And yes, I call it great, like I call Jaws and Munich great. Although I fear it is now an unlikely prospect, I would love to see a major sweep for Lincoln on Oscar night. But what do I know? I also liked Anna Karenina.

  114. The Japanese Viewer

    ‘…“someday I’m going to marry Steven Spielberg,” and then waking up a few years later and thinking, “someday I’m going to BE Steven Spielberg.” Well, needless to say, neither of those things ever happened.’

    Well, it’s his loss (and possibly also the Tinseltown’s), our gains – meesa couldn’t complain. All the more, not to mention things seemingly are running smooth as you’re continually penning your articles — for us readers — from the top-floor deluxe penthouse in one of those skyscrapers somewhere in Tribeca in your New York state of mind, Uptown Girl and Just the Way You Are played behind in backgrounds…. [Just my imagination running wild….]

    Blabbing aside thanks for another great read, as well as some nice screencaps, Sasha.

    For now my gut says (predicts), Lincoln. But my heart says, Pi and the uber-Zenlike Master Lee. And I wish both JLaw and Madame (Riva) would get a tie for their Best Actress win despite my recognition for Jessica Chastain as one of today’s talented thesps; (JLaw tie with Riva, both go hand in hand grabbing the Oscar dude statuette) that for sure will Harry me.

    Go ahead, make my day…. XD

  115. Kael could be a contrarian, but usually when she perceived a certain pretense or artifice…and she despised sentimentality (Sound of Music)
    But she also recognized true passion in a filmmaker.
    I want to believe she would have championed the ‘audacity’ of a film about ideas in an era of anti-intellectualism, and fallen in love with a film unapologetic about its heart on its sleeve.
    She loved ballsy films and yes….Lincoln is a ballsy undertaking in this age of snark.

  116. The Dude

    For the people too ignorant to try to do some research and instead whine about me:

    https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/books-and-monographs/trafficking.pdf

    http://gvnet.com/humantrafficking/USA-2.htm

    And those are just two examples of a long list of sources.

    And yes, be bought and sold to be used for forced labor, sexual or not, qualifies as slavery or conditions similar to it, dumbasses.

  117. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    didn’t Kael take a leave of absence from the New Yorker specifically to trek to Hollywood to help advise Beatty on Reds — a lengthy literate historical/political film if there ever was one.

  118. Great post Sasha.

    I saw Lincoln again yesterday at The Grove and was once again impressed by Sally Field (Daniel Day-Lewis of course is god). Her interpretation of Mary Lincoln is complex and nuanced and showcases the formidable skills Sally Field has an actress. I don’t care what Anne Hathaway says or how many times she shows her snatch and acts like it’s an accident and even if she wins SAG I think Sally should win the supporting Oscar. Period. Simply in terms of definition she is what an Pscar winning supporting role is all about.

  119. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    And yes, be bought and sold to be used for forced labor, sexual or not, qualifies as slavery or conditions similar to it, dumbasses.

    Do you think 12 million slaves paraded around in high society in vast regions of the country sanctioned by states with laws condoning slavery and laws requiring dire penalties for people who tried to escape slavery is any different at all from underground crimes that are now prosecuted to the full extent of the law whenever such crimes are uncovered?

    Do you not see the difference between once having 20 states with laws that once proudly encouraged slavery while we now have all 50 states that now have laws condemning and forbidding it?

    yes, we all realize The Ten Commandments was a worthless effort for Moses to carve out — because people still lie, right? Stupid Moses and God were just wasting their time. Nothing every changes.

    An entire society once based on slavery and a country that now considers slavery a heinous crime are pretty much the opposite thing, sillyass.

    One day when the last kidnap victim on Earth is rescued from a pervert’s basement, maybe then you’ll agree slavery has finally been abolished.

    Until then, how about let the rest of us be grateful that the whole slavery thing is HUGELY better now that it was 150 years ago.

  120. Ryan – Kael took a leave of absence from the New Yorker in 1980 to work as producer on a James Toback project called Love and Money that for a lot of reasons never saw the light of day. Warren Beatty was her benefactor but it was said Kael tried to talk Beatty out of his enthusiasm for Reds and accused him of trying to be David Lean. She could be wrong at times.

  121. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    ah, ok … thanks Rob.
    So in other words, everything I thought I knew was all wrong wrong wrong.

    Humiliated.

  122. Ryan – sorry, was not trying to be sneering but those facts came from reading Brian Kellows bio of Kael. All I intended to compare was Sasha’s passion for Lincoln reminded me of Kael’s for Bonnie and Clyde in a similar climate, oh so long ago. Sasha’s feelings about Lincoln mirrored my own regardless, and as Yvette put it so smashing well,” a ballsy undertaking in this age of snark” Kael would have respected that. Sasha mining her own life and current political climate in her review was a hallmark of the way Kael use to review.

  123. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    Only teasing, Rob. I’ve had mistaken ideas about Kael’s Hollywood sojourn in my head for a decade, and nobody ever set me straight before.

    I don’t mind being told I’m wrong. Truly. (Just try not to make a habit of it).

    Very glad to know the actual story now.

  124. CitizenMcmurphy

    Sasha,
    i disagree with your opinion (which I definitely respect)frequently, that’s for sure.

    But this was one of the best articles about a film I have recently read . This beautiful piece reminds me why I loved the movie “Lincoln” and basically why I love movies!

    Awesome!

  125. “” How do you make a good movie in this country without being jumped on”…. Pauline is applauding from the grave.”

    I love this, Rob! (except for the Jurassic reference, maybe) Thanks for posting it.

    I think Kael would probably be energized by the critical environment these days, particularly sites like this.

  126. Robert A.

    “I want to believe she would have championed the ‘audacity’ of a film about ideas in an era of anti-intellectualism, and fallen in love with a film unapologetic about its heart on its sleeve.
    She loved ballsy films and yes….Lincoln is a ballsy undertaking in this age of snark.”

    The irony, of course, is that Kael herself was often accused in her day of being brash, contrarion, and “snarky” simply when she offered a counterpoint view to movies most others rather blindly and reflexively embraced.

  127. Alright, I’m saying this here. I love this film, but Spielberg/Dreamworks is really going overboard with the Oscar campaign. Now there will be ANOTHER 60 Minutes piece on Lincoln, this time during the Academy voting period. Meanwhile, Zero Dark Thirty was rejected. What a shame! How they could not put together a program on Kathryn Bigelow’s film, one of the true masterpieces of filmmaking craft and a director’s vision released this year, is appalling! I said it before on this site, but I worry about Lincoln’s fate at the Oscars, if Spielberg is making it so obvious that he wants to win another Oscar, rather than just doing private campaigning behind the scenes. People WERE turned off by his getting President Clinton to present Lincoln at the Golden Globes. And more overt, aggressive campaigning will turn off more voters.

  128. The Dude

    Ryan- of course I see a difference, but to say slavery is gone completely is plain wrong, let alone mock anyone telling you otherwise. I apologize if I was somewhat of an asshole in my previous post, but I got angry with some equally assholerish replies to an earlier one.

  129. George D.

    Wow!! Enough with the pushing of Lincoln. Great movie I know but Sasha you are like a Harvey Weinstein this Oscar race. If it’s going to loose it’s going to loose.

  130. Robert A.

    “…if Spielberg is making it so obvious that he wants to win another Oscar, rather than just doing private campaigning behind the scenes. People WERE turned off by his getting President Clinton to present Lincoln at the Golden Globes. And more overt, aggressive campaigning will turn off more voters.”

    Do we know for sure that Spielberg was the one who convinced Bill Clinton to present Lincoln at the Golden Globes? I’m just curious. I know that EXTRA said so, but I don’t exactly consider EXTRA the most reliable of sources.

  131. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    but to say slavery is gone completely is plain wrong

    The Duke, here’s the simplest way I know how to say it,

    ‘Lincoln’ takes place at a time when the enslavement of an entire race of people in 15 different states was a wide-open legally sanctioned part of the society of those states. 600,000 men fought and died so that situation would end. Lincoln, the man, fought and died so that situation would end.

    To me, anyone who comes along trying to say, “nothing is very different nowadays” is utterly wacko. That, to me, is like saying, “If WWII was supposed to save Jewish people from being exterminated then how come Jewish people are murdered every day? Nothing is very different now! And by the way, Germans still murder people all the time and I have these linked articles to prove it!”

    Massive nationwide institutionalized slavery and modern criminal human trafficking are not comparable, and it’s infuriating for me to see people bring it up as if Lincoln only got the job half done.

  132. Robert A.: Do we know for sure that Spielberg was the one who convinced Bill Clinton to present Lincoln at the Golden Globes? I’m just curious. I know that EXTRA said so, but I don’t exactly consider EXTRA the most reliable of sources.
    —-

    Yup, it was reported. They even saluted each other in the telecast. http://www.deadline.com/2013/01/bill-clinton-golden-globes-surprise-steven-spielberg-lincoln/

  133. The Dude: since I was one of those assholes I feel compelled to reply very quickly.

    You said there are people who live in similar conditions to slavery today. When you say slavery, considering the post we’re replying to, we assume you mean the type of slavery that was in Lincoln’s era.

    And if you really believe that, you’re wrong. Because back in those days, you were spat on, beaten, had to go to different bathrooms, ridiculed, made to work, raped etc. etc. all because of the color of your skin. You were considered less than human. And this was across the board, across the whole country, states having laws, people in government saying that God made these people inferior.

    If you honestly think that conditions are similar today, to THAT? Don’t be surprised if you get a few “WTF are you talking about” responses.

  134. Houstonrufus

    Bravo, Sasha. Beautiful piece and it represents the best about your writing on the site–it demonstrates how the movies we love and champion touch very deep places. I, too, grew up watching Spielberg movies. I’ve both criticized him and loved him. There are directors I love equally, but Spielberg holds a particular place of devotion for me. There is something uniquely American about his voice. Maybe because no matter the circumstance or cruel the story, he is always hopeful and searching and yearning. He is maybe more hopeful than I am, but that is why his voice is so dear to me. Spielberg believes, so maybe it can happen. Maybe it’ll come true.

    I love Lincoln the movie for all the reasons you state here and more. I want it to win. I’m passionate about the film. But I am also a realist and can feel where this is headed. I will be disappointed, but no matter. Whatever happens on Oscar night, Spielberg has given us a film the American people have taken to their hearts, a lenghty, wordy film of ideas, honest in its depiction of politics, full of beautiful images. No matter what the hollywood crowd says on Oscar night, that is a very rare triumph.

  135. Great article, Sasha! I always love your articles where your passion comes through, even when I disagree with you.

    I’m on the same page as you with Lincoln. It is a breathtaking and remarkable film for all the reasons you so eloquently listed.

    If I were the One Who Selected the Oscars, Spielberg would be receiving his 6th Best Picture Oscar, following Jaws, ET, The Color Purple, Schindler’s List, and Saving Private Ryan. I’d have also nominated him for Close Encounters, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Empire of the Sun, and Minority Report. The only reason I would not have Jurassic Park on this list is because it came out the same year as Schindler. And I have lots of good feelings towards Always, Hook, Amistad, The Terminal, and Catch Me if You Can.

    Yes, I’m a unabashed Spielberg-phile. He has an understanding of his audience that is unparalleled by any other working director. He has great visual and storytelling sensibilities, and more often than not, he has a great feel for character. No other director has made more films that I could watch over and over and over again.

    I find his choice of subject matter to be diverse. What does connect a lot of them is that undeniable streak of sentimentality. I think he handles sentimentality well, though — as did Frank Capra. Interestingly enough, Capra won 3 directing Oscars despite being derided by his detractors for creating “Capra-corn”.

    Anytime a director makes a great movie, I get a desire to visit, or re-visit, his earlier work. I’ve been wanting a good reason to re-watch Empire of the Sun and The Terminal for awhile now, but the film that I’ve become most curious to see again is Munich. I didn’t really care much about Munich when I originally saw it, and was surprised at its Best Picture and Best Director Oscar nominations. But maybe I missed something, maybe I wasn’t in a the right frame of mind when I saw it. In hindsight, it seems to be the most atypical of all Spielberg’s films. Sometimes I can change my mind about a movie. As I age, my perspectives change. Considering all the pleasure Spielberg has given me for decades, I think he has earned the right for me to give Munich another shot.

    I remain optimistic about Lincoln’s Oscar chances. In a world where the Academy can reward The King’s Speech, The Artist, and heck, even Slumdog Millionaire, I would hope that Lincoln could reign supreme.

  136. Antoinette

    To me, anyone who comes along trying to say, “nothing is very different nowadays” is utterly wacko.

    Who said that? I think I read the whole thread. No one said anything like that. I only saw people saying that slavery still exists, which is true.

    Massive nationwide institutionalized slavery and modern criminal human trafficking are not comparable, and it’s infuriating for me to see people bring it up as if Lincoln only got the job half done.

    Nobody said Lincoln got the job half done either.

    Hey, I tried to get you guys to go back to talking about the movie. Speaking of movies, Jennifer Lawrence was hilarious on Letterman last night. And she’s supposed to be hosting SNL I think, so she’s in it to win it fo sho.

  137. KT, I know you don’t want Lincoln to win since you always post anti-Lincoln posts here but there is Weinstein in the race just like in 1998 and Spielberg doesn’t want another mediocre film to win over his film. And is it Spielberg’s fault that 60 minutes didn’t let ZD30 interview?

  138. Brilliant, wonderful, poetic post Sasha. Great job once again!

    Lincoln is a masterpiece! One for the ages and easily 2012’s best film.

  139. Unlikely hood

    I love that people are talking about Pauline Kael. We still miss you, great lady.

  140. Jaws was a great movie.

    Lincoln is . . . . well, everybody knows how I feel about this movie already. Snooze time. It’s not a really bad movie (it’s just not that good).

    The direction is uninspired. The title is misleading (it’s not really about Lincoln). The acting is good – I’ll admit that much.

    I simply didn’t care for it overall. I was expecting more. For a movie taking place during the civil war, you would think there would be a few battle scenes depicting what civilians thought about the struggle. It’s all about boring congressman arguing and fuming (sound familiar?)

  141. Mecid: I have never posted an anti-Lincoln “the film” post here. I’m only drawing attention to the over-zealous campaigning which is really putting me off. The Oscar race is all about PERCEPTION, and I want to point out that a move like ANOTHER 60 Minutes piece, which you get bet Spielberg pushed for, could cause backlash.

  142. No one can stop anyone to campaign openly like Spielberg does. Lawrence is everywhere this weekend. Can we say something? No.

  143. Can’t wait to see and review this film.

    The Movie Frog: Fantasy Casting – The Justice League,Part One: He… http://themoviefrog.blogspot.com/2012/08/fantasy-casting-justice-leaguepart-one.html?spref=tw … Today we fantasy cast the upcoming JLA adaptation.

    Thank you Awards Daily!!!

  144. Evelyn Garver

    Sorry, if everyone is bored with the discussion, but for me the most wonderful elements of LINCOLN are the performances and glorious script by Kushner. The language was so beautiful and Tommy Lee’s insults were worth the price of admission. I must admit that I’m an academic and a writing teacher for 33 years. I also enjoy action films {LOOPER] and quirky comedies[MOONRISE KINGDOM]. For me LINCOLN says a film can be literate and entertaining. We get some of those every year,of course, but this one stood out for me. [have yet to see ZD30, just opened here]

    Is the film truly focused on ideas? Rufus and others, great question that I really have to think about.

  145. Glenn UK

    A great piece of writing and Sasha’s passion is there for all to see.

    Lincoln has not opened in the UK yet but here is what I feel. It’s a critical and US box office success but still to score any big awards in the picture and director area.

    Will AMPAS members be prepared to give Spielberg a third ….. DDL a third ….. Sally a third …… or will they think, “let’s share the wealth”?

    Will the foreign members of AMPAS go with Lincoln …. a very historical and VERY American film? Outside of the States I really cannot see Lincoln having that much passion. We don’t go to the cinema to see something which we don’t have much passion for. Lincoln is a film I can wait to see on DVD, it’s that simple. It’s not Life of Pi – a must see on the big screen.

    It’s a stunning year in film. Awards are all over the place and Argo and ZDT are gaining momentum with recent wins and controvesy.

    I see a split year with the potential for Lincoln and Spielberg to miss out on one or both. It’s often been said Lincoln is an actors film …. a writers film.

    We have an interesting few weeks ahead of us.

  146. I wish I could write like you, Sasha. Great argument! I may have not loved the film but I liked it.

  147. Reds…
    What a great movie!!!!
    One of best mobies I’ve ever seen.
    Beatty is a real legend, brilliant!
    And Reds won 3 Oscars. Only 3, while deserves 8 or 9.
    Oh dear Oscar… Sometimes you are so dumb.

  148. Apocalypse Pooh

    Allison Anders said a date took her to see Schindler’s List, and she sat through the whole film with a sneer on her face. She thought Spielberg was desperate to win an Oscar, so he made the film to achieve that.

    This pervasive bitterness, envy, and condescension towards Steven Spielberg is nothing new, but I remember seeing Amadeus when I was 16, and learning from it. All the Salieris in the world can’t stop a voice of light and love. They can try, and briefly succeed, but I’d argue Allison Anders is already laregly forgotten from her early 90’s heyday, while Spielberg’s body of work belongs to the ages.

  149. You are right;it may work very well with Americans but that´s it. That´s the reason why this film won´t win ate the end, and it´s more than fair

  150. rufussondheim

    You do realize, Apocolypse Pooh, that Spielberg is the Salieri in your analogy.

  151. Apocalypse Pooh

    No, Rufus, I don’t realize that. Spielberg is Mozart with a film camera. He shot Schindler’s List in 72 days. He’s not a Salieri – but you might be.

  152. The way that Oscar noms turned out, poor Ben Affleck ended up being the Farinelli.

  153. Jerry Grant

    In my view, Spielberg is the best there is. He re-defined cinema several different times. Even when watching “The Adventures of Tintin,” I am enraptured with his cinematic ingenuity. “E.T.” is one of my ten favorite movies, and “Saving Private Ryan” and “Jaws” are probably top 25. No other American filmmaker can make claims to having six films that are squarely in every Top 100 greatest American films list. I agree with Apocalypse Pooh–everyone else is a Salieri.

  154. ‘Apocalypse Pooh / January 16, 2013
    Allison Anders said a date took her to see Schindler’s List, and she sat through the whole film with a sneer on her face. She thought Spielberg was desperate to win an Oscar, so he made the film to achieve that..’

    I had never read that. I just lost respect for AA. She’s made some interesting little movies. But the ‘sneer’ – that’s what we’re seeing with the generation post-Spielberg. It’s anti-big. As if her little films mean more than a Schindler’s List because it’s little. Nonsense. It’s a reverse snobbery and small-mindedness. I recently watched Grace of My Heart – and its nice…but so full of YV movies sentimentality and over-emotionalism…..
    Maybe someone like AA can’t make a sweeping film and that’s fine. But the resistence to Spielberg is like those people who remind you of how much they hate The Beatles. Its the same sneering contempt for what is successful or accepted.
    Sometimes greatness is just great. And those who reject it…..don’t think big enough or look deep enough.

  155. Robert
    ‘The irony, of course, is that Kael herself was often accused in her day of being brash, contrarion, and “snarky” simply when she offered a counterpoint view to movies most others rather blindly and reflexively embraced.’

    She could be a bitch and held grudges too; and she could piss me off when I disagreed with her – like her dismissal of West Side Story.
    But remember, Spielberg was a pet – the very things his detractors demean him for – she championed. And Lincoln is unlike anything he has ever done and I would like to think that she would be proud. And look at this way Robert: she mistrusted easy, gullible mainstream acceptance as much as she despised hipster group-think…. And much of the anti-Spielberg nonsense is just that. It’s like saying ‘John Mayer is a douche’ or Michael Phelps is ‘fugly’….’Lindsey Lohan is a whore’, Richard Gere shoved a****** etc… They become accepted, knee-jerk catch phrases for lazy observers….except in Spielberg’s case, it’s more like a hipster version of that. It makes them seem iconoclastic.
    It’s not. You could argue that Spielberg is so popular and mainstream that he is the underdog. And Kael loved rooting for the underdog.

    Randy,
    Give Munich another try. I think it’s one of the best films of the 2000s, followed closely by Minority Report, which I think was criminally underrated.
    And I’m not even a Spielberg apologist. I’m not a fan of the Jurassaic Park, Indy films – not at all. I could live without his mid to late 80s output.
    But since SL and then AI, I think he entered another chapter of moody and provacative filmmaking.
    And I was about 9 when Jaws came out. My older cousins took my sisters and I to see it – the first movie I stood in line for….all around the block.

  156. Guys,

    Tell me honestly..is Lincoln for that matter any movie released in 2012 better movie than Life of Pi? Forget the box office, likeliness to win, star power etc etc..which movie was made from heart? which movie made you think, laugh, cry? For me its definately Life of Pi. Though it might not win, it is my Best movie for 2012 for that matter in the past few years.

  157. That Lincoln quote is a fake, he never said it:

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125169095

  158. Bravo! You summed up perfectly why SS always has been and always will be, the greatest. At least in many people’s opinions. But if Lincoln has to lose, please let it lose to Argo.

  159. I’ve been following you for close to a decade now, Sasha. That might have been one of the best things you’ve ever written. I didn’t grow up on Spielberg, except for Jurassic Park, and didn’t get involved with his earlier work until recently as sad as that sounds. When I finally got into movies a little over 10 years ago as a freshman in high school I was more keen on Danny Boyle, Darren Aronofsky, Christopher Nolan, a bit of David Fincher, and definitely Oliver Stone, Stanley Kubrick and Paul Thomas Anderson. So while I didn’t have that childhood-like wonder you may have had these filmmakers all taught me that there’s more to our lives than our own problems and they’re all so scary and fantastic. Your final few paragraphs basically summed up why I root for those directors so much and when they get snubbed it burns me so bad. It’s hard for me to get why these great thinkers, who literally helped shape the way I think, feel and view the world, would be left off lists. Thank you for this article. As a failed film graduate selling adhesives and sealants I’d certainly like to reach for the stars again, no matter how far apart they are in space. If I get there I’ll send you a postcard. Bravo!

  160. Wow…typos galore! Scarey* and plenty of commas…

  161. “Lincoln” wasn’t my favorite movie of the year, but of the nominees… it is!! (“Silver Lingins Playbook” is right behind).

    The acting was the BEST thing of “Lincoln”, a miracle… and what has made the movie what it is: a very good one (not exceptional). The actor trio needs to sweep at the Oscars, honestly.

  162. Tero Heikkinen

    Well, I think Life of Pi is better than Lincoln and would really love it if it won. Amour is probably even better than Life of Pi, but it has no chance winning BP. Still have not seen Zero Dark Thirty, I missed that screening.

  163. Byron gray

    I think this year is a no- brainer. Argo will win because it depicts filmmaking in a heroic light. This is one industry that loves to kiss its own ass. By selecting Argo, voters can feel noble about their industry, conveniently forgetting they produce schlock ninety per cent of the year…and violent schlock at that.

  164. knee_play

    I walked out of Lincoln about an hour in to go catch a drag show. More entertaining, better wigs.

    That being said, I love your passion, Sasha. Great post.

  165. Lincoln plays like a film from the sixties. A Man For All Seasons comes to mind. Literary. Subtle and with many layers and makes you stop to think about things. In this fast pace world, with everyone being told to try to do everything at once, it’s no wonder this reception is what has befallen this film.

    I think it’s an achievement in itself that we actually have a film of this nature being made in this day and age. Bravo Steven. Although I think Ang had the more difficult assignment with PI, it would be great to see this move in the same direction as A Man For All Seasons, and come away with Picture, Director, and a few more.

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