Skip to main content

Lincoln

In a movie with as many moving parts and grand, powerful sweeps of emotion, it is difficult to sum up one's overall impressions. The only thing tougher would be creating a movie that summed up Abraham Lincoln. 



I do not for an instant think that is what Steven Speilberg's "Lincoln" has done. It does not, for all time, set down what Lincoln meant as a human being, president, or cultural touchstone. It simply tells a story. In general, that's enough for me.

Lincoln is the kind of movie that should seen a lot longer than it actually does. It's about IMPORTANT WEIGHTY HISTORICAL moments. The cast list is filled with names like Ulysseus S. Grant, and Thaddeus Stevens you probably dimly remember from high school history class. It has costumes. My wife entered the theater with a quick warning, "don't get angry at me if I fall asleep." Nary a nudge was needed. The film whips by in two and a half hours and manages somehow to encompass just about every conceivable human emotion, love, fear, wrath, desperation, madness and hope without ever losing its focus on Lincoln and his struggles immediately after reelection in 1865 to enact the thirteenth amendment granting citizenship to all people born in the United States, in effect ending slavery.

Lincoln is Spielberg's best movies since Munich and another successful collaboration with the gifted playwright Tony Kushner. The cascade of redundant endings complicates labeling it the 'best' movie of 2012. It's very, very good. It is certainly one of Spielberg's most successful attempts to fuse his themes of war, justice, politics, and the repercussions of slavery. 

Spielberg is able, when he allows himself, to construct very disturbing set-pieces. I'm not the only movie fan to notice this, but it's the one bracing quality that prevents him from trailing off into mawkish obscurity. The casual execution of Jewish concentration workers in Schinlder's List. The inhuman slaughter at the beaches of Normandy. The vaporization of an entire New Jersey city by fog horn wielding tripods. Spielberg had never escaped the clutches of a particular story he's been telling since the beginning: the chase. The glassy eyed 'it,' (shark, demon truck, spider robots) versus the fragile, flawed family man. In Lincoln, the 'it' is slavery. And it's not something that is ever really seen, as such in the movie. Tad, Lincoln's youngest son, is mesmerized by a collection of slave photographs. Mary Lincoln's servant casually remarks she was "beaten by a shovel when he was younger than (Tad Lincoln). The President himself compares slavery to a whale (Melville's perhaps) that he's harpooned but hasn't yet dispatched.

Set against the dismal implacable foe of ancient human fears and hatreds is hope. Lincoln knows that he has used trickery and conveniences to end slavery through the Emancipation Proclamation. He words carry war-time weight, and with the war nearing its inevitable end, he knows that a stronger measure is required or the Union would slip once more into slavery. Hence the amendment. He marshals his forces much, in a later scene, as he confers with his Secretaries of War. A trio of ethically untroubled bribery experts sets upon the twenty or so Democratic representatives the president needs for the amendment to pass. Some of the best scenes of the movie revolve around these three approaching, coaxing, and fleeing prospective marks. If this sounds close to a description of the at time tawdry and discouraging debates of the past four years, I leave you to decide.

But where the movie really soars is with Lincoln. Daniel Day Lewis is one of my favorite all-time actors and the quavering, mid-west tenor of his voice he summons for the folksy philosopher that was our 16th president is mesmerizing. The only thing I've seen comparable to it is the joy I got watching the West Wing and seeing Martin Sheen's Bartlett leave a room after leveling some hapless demagogue. 

So, see this movie. If you have kids, take them to the movie. There are scenes of gory battle and a few colorful oaths. If you have a significant other who hates historicals, take them too. Go see this movie if you hate politics, hate war and hate talk about either. This is a movie about this country; what we are about - both what we aspire to be and what we are.
Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Solemn Treasures

In Gilead, the transcendent novel by Marilynn Robinson, a 76 year old man confronts his impending mortality and the sense he cannot provide for his young son after he is gone. He had not expected to meet his son's mother in the twilight of his life, not expected to have a son. If he had, he tells his son in a lengthy letter forming the substance of Robinson's novel, he might have set something by for him. Some sort of savings or investment. It pains him to think that when he is gone, all that he can leave are a few words.

What words.

As mentioned in a previous post, I set myself on the task (is that really the right word here? maybe endeavor would be better) to read as many of the 'great novels' of this young century as I could. After reading Hillary Mantel's "Wolf Hall-" which was also fantastic by the way - I made my way to Gilead. One of the many quietly strange things about this novel is that it's actually the second novel from Robinson. Her first…

New Story Acceptance!

As mentioned last week, I do have a bit of happy news to share. I am excited to announce that my story, "The Yuru-chara of Hector, NY," will appear in the next issue of the Electric Spec Magazine at the end of the month. I am tremendously excited about this for a few reasons:
Electric Spec is simply awesome. I've been reading this magazine for awhile and never been disappointed by a single story. To have one of my stories selected is beyond humbling. I can only give an earnest thank you to Lesley L. Smith for choosing the story.I love this story dearly. It has one of my favorite protagonists and shows in the clearest way I've managed where I'd like to go with my fiction. Electric Spec also gave me the chance to reflect on this story and its meaning in a guest blog which I am sharing below. Without being spoilery, this blog expresses some of what resonates about "The Yuru-chara of Hector, NY," with me. Guest Blog at Electric SpecAt the moment, I think the…

"The Yuru-chara of Hector, NY" is now available!

My new story, "The Yuru-chara of Hector, NY," is now available in the current issue of the Electric Spec magazine. I'm very proud that this story is getting published at Electic Spec for the simple reason I've been reading the magazine for years, dreaming of the day I might get a story published there. Well, it's finally happened.

The story of "Yuru-chara" is pretty simple: a young girl wakes up to discover that her old virtual friend, a seven-foot-tall yellow monster named Tama Bell, has come to life. While navigating through waves of other virtual creatures released through a world-wide hack, the young heroine tries to come to grips with her responsibility to her forgotten friend and the losses inherent to growing up.

I hope that you enjoy my story and that you give the other stories a try. They're awesome!

Thank you for your continued support.