Lincoln – Deliver Me From Worthy Films!

Deliver Me From Worthy Films!



There’s an entire day gone out of my life that I’ll never get back again.

What’s that you say?  Stephen Spielberg’s Lincoln was only two and a half hours long?  Good heavens, I must have taken an accidental hit of slo-mo, the drug from Dredd (a far better movie and I’m not kidding!) that makes everything seem to crawl along at a snail’s pace;  because I felt as if I was watching Lincoln forever.

That is the kind of opinion that is likely to have you taken out and shot by the Movie Police.  This seems to be a film that we are almost obliged to like, under pain of death.  It is so reverential and just plain damned worthy that I actually feel guilty in wondering what the hell all the fuss is about?  And twelve Oscar nominations?  Why, for pity’s sake?

It focuses on the last few months of Abraham Lincoln’s life as he sought to bring the American Civil War to an end and to push through the 13th amendment, which would abolish slavery.

I really thought that I could watch Daniel Day-Lewis in anything.  He is one of those actors who simply inhabits a role.  He’s no different here either.  But unlike, for example, There Will Be Blood in which it impossible to take your eyes off him, here you can admire him without becoming particularly involved.  Sure, I couldn’t have picked two more opposite characters but I thought that Abraham Lincoln was supposed to have been this totally charismatic leader.  With his reedy voice I felt like screaming every time he broke into one of his folksy homilies.  When Secretary of State Edward Stanton (Bruce McGill) stormed off, yelling that he couldn’t bear to listen to any more, I was in full agreement.  I’ve actually heard Joan Burton being more interesting.

It’s nice to see actors like James Spader and Hal Holbrook, who seem to have been missing from the big screen for a while;  but far too many of the other supports—and let’s be honest, next to Day-Lewis everyone is a support—seemed to think that they had to deliver each line as if they are on stage.  Even normal conversation is delivered with sombre importance.  In fact a great many scenes look as if they are from a stage play, so static does everyone appear, as if afraid that they might put the Great Man off if they burst into life.  There are exceptions, none more so than David Strathairn as William Seward.  But then Strathairn is brilliant in anything he does.  Unfortunately he is so good that he draws even more attention to the stiffness of everyone else.  And I rather liked Jared Harris’s bluff portrayal of Ulysses S.  Grant.

On top of all that this is likely to be the most dimly-lit film you will see this year.  Seriously, compared to this Fincher’s Se7en is a blaze of colour!

One of the things that I did like, however, was the understated way in which Spielberg showed the horrors of war.  Like the scene in Saving Private Ryan where the soldiers are passing dead cows in a field this seems to be much more effective.  I’m thinking here of the huge hole into which the amputated limbs are being dumped, or when Lincoln rides through the corpses at Petersburg.

Best of all, thanks a lot for Tommy Lee Jones and his wig.  I broke into a smile every time that they appeared on the screen together.  This is the dodgy wig to end all dodgy wigs!  Do you remember Joe Pesci’s truly appalling wig from JFK?  Well, this one is even better.  It deserves its own screen credit and if it hasn’t been signed up by an agent at this point there is no justice.  None.

Sorry about that.  I was making jokes there and that is something that should not be done.  Lincoln should be muttered in the most respectful terms at all times.  And in case you forget you will always have John Williams’ soundtrack to remind you of just how important this film is.

You’ll notice that I haven’t mentioned Sally Field as Mrs.  Lincoln.  There’s a reason for that; I don’t want to.  In fact, I got so depressed every time she was on the screen emoting like mad that I guess she’ll probably get the Best Actress Oscar. That’s not a compliment by the way.

This episode of The Lives of the Saints was brought to you by Stephen Spielberg and the screenplay was by Tony Kushner.  Now please, let us all bow our heads.


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Author: Charley Brady

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  1. “Best of all, thanks a lot for Tommy Lee Jones and his wig. I broke into a smile every time that they appeared on the screen together. This is the dodgy wig to end all dodgy wigs! Do you remember Joe Pesci’s truly appalling wig from JFK? Well, this one is even better. It deserves its own screen credit and if it hasn’t been signed up by an agent at this point there is no justice. None.”

    I’m still laughing as I type, wasn’t it at the academy awards that host Michael Keaton cracked a joke about Tommys wig?, if looks could kill?, he had a scowl on his face that would’ve made a Grizzly Bear run for the hills.

    Back to the movie in question, why was this called Lincoln?, considering it only revolved around a minute portion of his life, getting the 13th amendment passed, which was more a political tool than any real bleeding heart for the slaves.

    They could’ve just called this movie simply “The 13th Amendment”, what did we learn about Lincoln and his life?, he was already in his 50’s for heavens sake!.

    I was very nearly going to turn it off after a half hour or so, but somehow I stuck it out till the bitter end, the only thing I found interesting was the political shennanigans that went on to get the amendment passed, the ending was typical Spielberg, high fives all round, but as you know Charley he knows exactly what his core audience wants, not one to overdo the melodrama our Steven?.

    Day Lewis done an excellent job as Lincoln, I agree as regards Sally Field, everytime she appeared on screen it felt like somebody was pulling my finger nails out with a pliers.

    Anyboy who watched this would think that Lincoln loved black people?, far from it, in fact he was one of the biggest driving forces behind the plans to ship all blacks out of the country and relocating them to new colonies, prefarably Africa where they could live with their own kind, before he was elected president of course!.

    Lincoln wasn’t a fan of slavery but neither did he feel comfortable with blacks and whites living side by side, he was not a bad man, he was a product of his time, but far from the saint he’s portrayed in this movie.
    History has been kind to Lincoln, his assassination helped enormously in sugar coating the myth.

    Not the worse movie I’ve ever seen, but don’t believe the hype.

    Sally Field nominated for best supporting actress, really?.
    I suppose when you consider that Jessica Chastain won a Golden Globe for playing the part of a wind up toy, anything is possible?.

  2. Did Lee Jones wear a wig at an Oscar ceremony? Now I’M laughing! Not being an Oscars watcher I missed that. I can imagine the scowl though. I mean, I’m cracking a joke from miles away where he can’t get me and I’m safe, but that guy has the scariest face I’ve ever seen, even when he’s being a good guy. It looks like God stretched parchment over dead skin and then looked down and said: “You will never be a romantic lead”.

    I love Tommy Lee Jones in anything and he and the wig kept me awake through a true snorefest if ever there was one. Come to think of it, and I’m thinking on the hoof now, didn’t he wear a wig to rival Joe Pesci in “JFK”? Some kind of blonde concoction.

    Maybe there’s an article here somewhere. Good wigs: Mad Mel in “Braveheart”, along with a great Scottish accent. De Niro in “Angel Heart”. Satanic accent.

    Bad Rugs: A guy who used to work in my local in Dublin. Like Jones in “Lincoln” it looked as if someone had squashed a dead furry animal on top of his head and then it died and couldn’t be removed. And it had this horrifying effect on you that when you were ordering a pint you were trying to NOT notice it.

    It wouldn’t be unlike having Raquel Welch behind the counter in the full furry regalia from “BC” and you are trying your damned best to be a gentleman and not notice that she has breasts. And bloody large ones at that.

    OK, now that I have lost my few female followers due to my unapologetic sexism I’ll move on.

    Why was it called “Lincoln” when it only dealt with the last months of his life? Seriously, would you have wanted it to be longer? If Spielberg had dealt with his early years with the same reverence that he dealt with the later then we would have had some kid with a little goatee beard raising animals from the dead. And instead of what felt like a five hour film we’d have had a fifteen hour one. I mean, this guy was a saint!

    Why didn’t they call it “The 13th Amendment”? Again, come on. We live in a world where a perfectly good title for a Bond movie had to be changed from “License Revoked” to “License to Kill” because half of the dimwits tested didn’t know what ‘revoked’ meant. That’s the age we live in. Morons–and there are a lot out there–would have thought that it was a sequel to “The Sixth Sense” or a prequel to “The Fifth Element” and then complained because there was this old geezer called Lincoln in it and what was he doing there?

    Don’t forget that one idiot some months ago (and his nationality I will keep silent on ) was very disappointed when he saw “Abraham Lincoln–Vampire Hunter” and complained that Day-Lewis wasn’t as good as he expected him to be.

    As to the fact that it contained a lot of historical stuff that simply wasn’t true; well, I just stayed away from that since it should really just be judged as a film. Otherwise I would have been into the whole thing of mentioning Robert E. Howard’s letters concerning the way in which black African-Americans committed some really dreadful atrocities against even INNOCENT (are we allowed to say that?) plantation owners even before the war was over. It is harrowing stuff and to be honest, to give Spielberg his due it belongs in another film.

    And that film, believe it or not, is probably “Django Unchained”, which doesn’t even pretend to be a serious look at history. Yet in its way it is far more real than a reverential, solemn film like “Lincoln” can ever be.

  3. Thanks for the review Charley, you just saved me a few bucks, I’ll wait for Lincoln to be on HBO and not have to pay to see it. This just reinforces my thinking that the Acadamy Awards are more about what we should like than what we really like.

  4. I know what you mean Charley, but the title is deceptive, its not about Lincoln alone there’s any amount of different characters in the film, and these people are hardly fictional, they’re real people that have a major say in how the plot unfolds.

    Anybody going in blind would be forgiven for thinking they’re walking into a biography of America’s greatest ever president?, sorry, if you want to know how the 13th amendment was passed this is your movie, don’t expect to learn an awful lot about Abraham Lincoln, only that he likes to tell a few yarns.

  5. Calm down Patrick, I’ve got the perfect title: “Abraham Lincoln–13th Amendment Hunter”! Well, it is late at night, what do you expect, humour?

    Then again Spielberg has done other one word titles about the last days of a character’s life. Come on, are you going to tell me that big shark wasn’t a great character?

    I’m just not as well up on the history behind this thing as you are. I did like the guy that James Spader played but I was put off by the fact that he was called Bilbo. And I liked Jared Harris as Grant. And Strathairn is an unacknowledged god among actors. As for them being real people, what irritated me was that you would never have known it from the way in which Spielberg approached them all as if they were just satellites moving around the great man himself.

    Spielberg set out to do a film–you see, it’s so solemn I can’t even call it a movie–about an American icon and that was it.

    Ooohh, wait a minute, that’s kind of proving your point isn’t it?

    Look, I’ve always loved the essays of Gore Vidal even though I haven’t ever been able to read one of his fiction books. The essays, yes! The novels, zzzzzz. He even did one on Lincoln that I made a serious attempt to read until I realised that life was too short; but I do recall that Vidal always referred to his own country of America as the United States of Amnesia. And I guess that this is what Spielberg achieved with this film: he presented a cardboard cut-out that there is no way of ever getting to know. I mean, come on, those ‘interesting’ anecdotes that he was always coming out with?

    Remember the one about the parrot that he just launched into? That didn’t come across to me as folksy wisdom towards people who had come to him with a legitemate reason, it just came across as yet another politician talking down and condescending to people.

    And that was another thing about his portrayal of the arguing and schoolboy bitching that they all did. Did it remind you of our own Dail or Seanad by any chance?

    What the hell, I’ve spent too much time on this. We’ll see how it does at the Oscars and if it walks away with even two then it just confirms everything you already know about the Oscars, I guess.

    Hold on, I feel a homily a-coming on here: ya see, when I was just a little shaver there was this parrot and he cried ‘doom’ all the live-long day…

  6. I wasn’t even angry to calm down Cha.

  7. Sorry Patrick, that’s what happens when men try to multi-task. I’ve been answering a few comments on other subjects on this side as well as doing an article on how much I can’t stand Rosanna Davison and also doing what I hope is an affectionate remembrance of Michael Winner.

    That’s where the “Calm down” bit came from. You know, calm down it’s only a commercial. Ah, just me. But anyway: Michael Winner RIP, one of the last of the great characters (hopeless director, mind.)

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