Wednesday, January 16, 2013

I'm keenly aware of my aloneness.

I am not a great man.

Shit, on a good day I'd settle for being called either great or man, let alone both. I get rattled at work. By twelve-year olds. I lose my temper and yell at my son, who means the absolute world to me. And my wife, wait, my pregnant wife!, I mock her like a child (when she's not looking, of course) for even suggesting I'm not keeping up my end of things. And sometimes, I even complain about things. Ugh. It's pathetic.

Now, up until last Thursday, I honestly thought I was getting by, you know, actually contributing to humanity. But after walking out of Spielberg's Lincoln I realized that I was entirely mistaken. I don't know conflict. Hell, I've never even met turmoil. And strife? I'm not even sure that's a word.

I'm a teacher (average, at best), but my knowledge of American history is passable, as it's not my content area. That said, seeing the inner-workings of the American government in the mid-1800's fascinated me. What I thought may have been a bit on the tedious side at 150 minutes, Lincoln turned out to be anything but. Turns out the passing of the 13th Amendment makes for very compelling viewing, even for someone like me (that initially thought otherwise). And while the story is told by a master director in Spielberg, most of the credit is justifiably aimed at the peerless Daniel Day-Lewis. The whole cast is first-rate (well, there's an occasional misstep), but Day-Lewis is undeniably majestic as President Lincoln. I'm still not sure what intrigues me more, the performance as Lincoln, or simply getting to see what Lincoln faced. Either way, I'm chalking it up as a win.

Where things went awry, for me, was any minute of runtime not dedicated to politics. I realize that Lincoln's personal issues make him more human and add to the weight of the burden he carried, but it didn't make them any more interesting to watch. Even with fine actors involved, it all came off a bit schmaltzy. Maybe it was just me, but the sub-plot concerning his wife and eldest son seemed forced. And I'm not even asking for twenty fewer minutes, that's not the issue. Just more politics, maybe even more battlefield action. And more Spader. Definitely.

Apparently no one else in York, Pennsylvania was too interested in epic biographies last Thursday night, as I was alone, again, in the theater. Well, I guess wasn't totally solo. The Yays and Boos were there too, eating nachos and texting each other. Turncoats.

And the Oscar goes to...?
  • We didn't get too much battlefield footage, but what we got was solid.
  • Imagine getting the chance to recite the emancipation proclamation to President Lincoln himself. That was absurd on so many levels.
  • Don't know how accurate their depiction was, but the trio of gents lobbying on behalf of the president were very cool. You also won't find a finer trio of actors in such minor roles. I'm convinced John Hawkes should be in everything.
  • Lee Pace as Fernando Wood was another inspired, yet small performance. He was a dick, but a charming and handsome, um, dick.
  • Sure, Tommy Lee Jones can play an old, stubborn son of a bitch in his sleep. But that doesn't take anything away from how badass he is as Thaddeus Stevens. This guy catches Dr. Richard Kimble.
  • The story was too long and I could never do it justice, but the one about a picture of George Washington making an Englishman shit quicker was a personal favorite.
  • Almost every knock on any given door is met with an emphatic GO AWAY!
  • As much as I enjoyed the ceaseless calm that Lincoln exuded, I loved when he finally exploded. And by exploded, obviously I mean slapped a table and exclaimed Buzzard guts, man! And by that, obviously Abe meant, c'mon, you pussies!
  • The final vote, though 900% obvious, is such a great scene. How something can be tense and predictable is impressive. I also loved all the different ways to say yes. Yeaman's was a personal fave.
  • And finally, dramatized or not, I honestly reveled in the way that President Lincoln masterfully juggled all the chaos that surrounded him. I know I'm a rather cynical prick, but I found it inspirational.
Don't tell me my business, Devil Woman!
  • Sweet Jesus, the other Lincolns were dreadul. Mom's batshit crazy, Robert's a brooding a-hole and the little one is incessantly annoying. Give Pops a break, huh? He's only dealing with this little skirmish called the Civil F--king War.
  • Speaking of the family, I really hated Marry Todd. Yes, the role is thankless, but Sally Field was laughable at times. I swear her performance was lifted from a fan-fiction Lincoln movie called Curse You, Abraham!
  • I guess a trip to the all-too public limb pit will dampen anyone's enlistment enthusiasm, huh?
  • The last two times I've seen Jackie Earle Haley in a flick, he gets less than three minutes of screentime. Wasted awesomeness, that.
  • Did regular people really get to call on the President? Really? I wanted to punch Toll Booth Hillbilly Couple in the collective mouth. They didn't get the parrot story. Clearly.
  • And finally, the ending. Should have ended at the hooray! The bill passed! goodness. Instead, it takes an awkward turn at the Stevens residence. And then the very end also infuriated me. We know what happens, let us leave the theater uplifted, even if momentarily. I mean, if we're going to leave out all the vampire hunting...
I want to end this post with one of my favorite Lincoln quotes:

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.

Remember. He said speak out, not blog. It's different.


  1. OH MY GOD you made a Yay about Lee! This is beyond awesome!

    I completely agree with everything - when the film dealt with politics it was fantastic, but the family stuff was so boring. I laughed out loud at "the other Lincolns" part - so true, especially Joseph Gordon Levitt's character, JGL really had nothing to do there except for making WTF faces when crazy mama rambled.

    Sally Field was so awful in this, I think Spielberg should have ended the movie when Lincoln leaves for the theater, I think he only included that next scenes so that Field could have her big Oscar "I'm devastated and I'm crying" moment, never mind it's pretty much what she did the whole movie.

    And yes, Hawkes should be in everything! :)

    1. Yeah.I knew you'd get a kick out of that. I missed his majestic Elk in this one, though. Boo on that.

      Honestly, JGL is kinda bad here, likely cause the character is so one note. But, I always love a good WTF face. Especially those aimed at crazy mama. Awesome.

      I was so pissed by that point, I didn't even care about her. Another awful character to play, I suppose.


    2. Had he rode in on his elk to House of Representatives I'm sure people would pay more attention to him :)

      I'm baffled by all the nominations Field is getting, I mean it is the most overacting I've seen in any 2012 movie. She just yells and cries, except for her giving shit to TLJ during reception, which I'm sure will be her Oscar clip since it's the only time when she comes off as a human being and not a caricature.

    3. Yeah, the history of America could be drastically different had the elk made been a part of things.

      I swear we share a brain sometimes. That scene will 900% be the scene they show at the Oscars. I knew it as it was happening. Because, EXACTLY as you said, she had actually become a person for a second.


  2. Nice review. It's a great movie, but one that didn't captivate me as much as it may have to others. Still, the ensemble cast is just about perfect with everything that they get to do.

    1. i was surprised by how much it grabbed me. Loved it. Well, most of it.

  3. Don't be hard on yourself ... teaching a classroom full of 12-year-olds would be enough to drive The Great Emancipator into an asylum. ;-)

    This is a fantastic review -- one of your best yet. I've always liked Sally Field. It's a shame her performance in this wasn't better.

  4. Thanks, Steph. I had a good time writing this one.

    Don't be too down on Gidget. She's an incredibly likable lady, who is typically good in everything she does. I really think the character of Mary Todd, when directly compared to frickin' ABRAHAM LINCOLN!, comes off as rather annoying, even though she's simply cracking under an unhealthy mix of grief and stress.

    Or, more likely, I'm just an a-hole.