Lincoln reviews

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Re: Lincoln reviews

Postby Sabin » Fri Oct 19, 2012 8:26 pm

My friend A.A. Dowd, my former writing partner and current critic for Time Out Chicago, just saw Lincoln and liked it quite a bit. He says that Sally Field is pretty awful, that JGL has very little to do, but the entire cast is uniformly fantastic. Tommy Lee Jones is only modestly a standout. He says that it feels very much like a mid-19th century depiction of The West Wing, with Lincoln as a figure teetering between idiosyncratic and mythic, apparently he always tells stories much to the occasional chagrin of everyone around him. He says that Daniel Day-Lewis is actually quite good, not an Oscar-winning role but the film is stronger because of it. He says that its' not likely to win anything and that there are a few too many Spielbergian touches: too much post-production tinkering, a better score than War Horse but pretty anonymous, and some things he didn't care to mention. But he says that Spielberg definitely showed up for work this time, and that his style is both unassuming and yet very lively. Better than he expected.
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Re: Lincoln reviews

Postby Big Magilla » Tue Oct 09, 2012 10:26 am

Lou Lomenick, N.Y. Post:

Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln'' showed as a (not-so) "secret screening'' as a work-in-progress Monday night at the New York Film Festival. While there are many things to like about this bio-pic covering the last three months of Lincoln's life -- including a wonderful lead performance by Daniel Day-Lewis and an even better one by Tommy Lee Jones as a sarcastic abolitionist congressman -- my initial impession is that I'm not so sure it "turns [the] Oscar race upside down,'' as a traffic-seeking headline writer at the Hollywood Reporter claims.

Certainly the odds are excellent that "Lincoln'' -- which Spielberg said was "incomplete'' but which looked like a finished product to me and others and will be shown to invited student audiences in 10 cities Wednesday night in advance of its "world premiere'' at the AFI festival on Nov. 8, a day before it opens in wide release -- will get a Best Picture nomination.

Day-Lewis will certainly get a nod for his excellent performance as Lincoln. He portrays the Great Emancipator as a consummate politician trying to push the 13th amendment (banning slavery) through the House of Representatives while simultaneously conducting secret peace negotiations with the Confederacy. Day-Lewis' is a spiritually weary Lincoln who also has to cope with a mentally ill wife (a glowering, one-note Sally Field), still mourning the death of one son. She's determined to keep their older son (Joseph Gordon-Levitt in an underwritten part) out of the war, which results in clashes with Abe.

Tony Kushner's cerebral script, based partly on a book by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, is as you might expect stronger on the political than the personal side. An army of character actors (always a plus in awards season voting) dons beards and wigs for an extended series of speeches and back-room deals (including bribery and patronage) as Lincoln relentlessly pursues his political goals, frequently offering long, folksy stories to illustrate his points. This threatens to become somewhat eyeball-glazing during the first hour, but the very deliberately paced 145-minute film gradually picks up momentum and I eventually got caught up in it.

Even with an array of such talents as Hal Holbrook, John Hawkes and David Straithairn, the only cast member who breaks out besides Day-Lewis is Jones, who steals the picture as the grumpy Thaddeus Stevens, pressured by Lincoln to compromise his "radical'' beliefs to help push the 30th amendment forward. I was disappointed, though, that none of the film's black characters were given an opportunity to make much of an impression.

"Lincoln'' is in some ways a 180-degree turnabout from Spielberg's "War Horse,'' another historical opus that was nominated for Oscar's Best Picture last year. Spielberg eschews the industrial-strength schmaltz, over-the-top visual pyrotechnics and overly manipulative John Williams score that made that film such an ordeal for some of us (and delighted others, including a lot of Oscar voters).

"Lincoln'' will surely receive a raft of Oscar nominations, especially in the technical categories, but it seems to me this is a deeply-felt passion project (Spielberg's wanted to make it for years) that ends up engages the mind more than the emotions. Whether it can actually win as Best Picture depends on a lot of factors in a year where most of the contenders unveiled so far have their offputting aspects

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Re: Lincoln reviews

Postby rolotomasi99 » Tue Oct 09, 2012 10:25 am

Big Magilla wrote:Gloria Reuben, plays Elizabeth Keckley, a civic activist and confidante of Mary Todd Lincoln, but her role unfortunately is summed up as token African-American figure used to represent the painful emotional struggle while watching the House bicker and squabble.

So they are using a woman to represent the African viewpoint...except African women were not giving their freedom. Their ownership was simply transferred from one male to another. I guess the plight of women and their struggles for freedom and full citizenship are going to be completely ignored in this film.
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Lincoln reviews

Postby Big Magilla » Mon Oct 08, 2012 10:07 pm

NYFF: Steven Spielberg Unveils His Slow-Moving History Lesson 'Lincoln' In Surprise Screening
By Rodrigo Perez, Indiewire

Characterized by its restraint, passionate convictions and patience, if Steven Spielberg’s worst tendencies are his propensity for the sentimental and overwrought (as evinced recently in much of “War Horse”), his latest, “Lincoln,” thankfully possesses almost none of those unfortunate traits. However, as a two hour procedural about the ratification of an amendment in the House Of Representatives (does anything sound more appealing as a premise to you?), "Lincoln" is also not exactly the most engaging nor well-paced picture either.

Pitched somewhere between the staid nature of “Amistad,” “Schindler's List” and the far less treacly and inspiring latter half of “War Horse,” Spielberg himself unveiled an “unfinished” screening of “Lincoln” at the New York Film Festival. But to the untrained eye, it would be difficult to discern what exactly was incomplete other than a minutely-detailed framework that could use a much tighter pace and rhythm.

Marked by a forceful, but nicely muted performance by Daniel Day-Lewis as the 16th President of the United States, perhaps the film’s greatest asset is the consummate scene stealer Tommy Lee Jones as Radical Republican Congressional leader Thaddeus Stevens. A fervent abolitionist, while Stevens and Lincoln are ostensibly on the same side of aiming to end slavery, their methods are thoroughly different; Stevens charging ahead while Lincoln offering the composure of a cool tactician.

Beginning in the fall of 1864, in the midst of Lincoln’s second term as President, while the bloody Civil War is still raging, it looks like it has an end in sight. However, Lincoln’s primary concern before it closes is abolishing slavery beyond the Emancipation Proclamation (an executive order only good during war time) and delivering a lasting and honorable freedom.

Adapted by Tony Kushner (who penned Spielberg’s last great film “Munich”) and based on the book “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” the film centers on the quiet genius of the nation’s leader who has to reconcile conflicting personalities, warring political factions and a treacherous political climate on the rocky path to abolition and victory in the U.S. Civil War.

And so while not attempting to become an over-reaching greatest hits biopic, “Lincoln” zeroes in on these last few months before the 13th Amendment was ratified with Fincher-like precision and committment. As such, “Lincoln” is heavy on the politics to a fault, and the dramatic speeches and the charged atmospheres of opposing forces in the House of Representatives. But at times, this procedural nature of the film -- Lincoln and his Secretary of State worrying about the 20 votes they need to uphold the proposed alteration of the law -- can be tedious and trying. Surprisingly though, “Lincoln” does have a hearty sense of humor and Kushner cracks out some witty bon mots, but perhaps in the editing process the film can be tightened to discard its lullingly dull agendum moments and focus on the moments that engage.

Co-starring a myriad cadre of supporting actors -- Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Lincoln’s son Robert who must fight in the war despite his parents wishes, Jared Harris as Ulysses E. Grant, Lee Pace as former Mayor of New York City Fernando Wood, Jackie Earle Haley as Vice President of the Confederate States of America Alexander H. Stephens, and various congressman, senators, low-level operatives and politicians played by Walton Goggins, Bruce McGill, Wayne Duvall, Michael Stuhlbarg, James Spader, John Hawkes, Hal Holbrook and more -- all of these actors do fine work, but none get a lot of screen time to really resonate. Faring far better is Sally Field as Lincoln’s dutiful, but intractable wife Mary Todd Lincoln and David Strathairn as Secretary of State William Seward (David Warshofsky, Tim Blake Nelson, David Oyelowo and Adam Driver also have small parts and cameos). Gloria Reuben, plays Elizabeth Keckley, a civic activist and confidante of Mary Todd Lincoln, but her role unfortunately is summed up as token African-American figure used to represent the painful emotional struggle while watching the House bicker and squabble.

Painted in a musty brown and blue, cinematographer Janusz Kamiński does a commendable job of making an inherently unattractive palette look borderline beautiful, especially when dealing with the tonalities of chiaroscuro, but a mostly ugly palette it ultimately is. Thankfully, John Williams' score, easily the worst offender in Spielberg’s “War Horse” is, like the picture, solemn, well-controlled and moving with a dignified air of grace.

While admirable in its unwavering and committed portrait of an inherently mostly undramatic subject (the approbation of a constitutional amendment, albeit, perhaps the most important one in history), ultimately, “Lincoln” reads like a semi-compelling history lesson; the type teachers showed to you in school when they saw your eyes glazing over prerequisite text (one you need to know, but not one you're likely going to seek out on your own). With 10 Best Picture nominations available, it seems “Lincoln” should easily procure one of the ten slots, but it would be a surprise to see the film become a threat beyond the actors. Even then Daniel Day-Lewis is perhaps a little too subtle and in-the-pocket for a win and if there’s a stand-out, it’s likely Tommy Lee Jones who should be a sure-fire nominee in the Best Supporting category. “Lincoln” isn’t all slow and dull. It has occasional sparks, some tremendous actors doing estimable work and its “climax” is perhaps the most dynamic and thrilling representation of a body of people voting on any law in the history of film. But it’s also, at least in this “unfinished” form, not especially remarkable, enjoyable or wholly compelling. “Lincoln” has its moments and is replete with talent, but in its current state, it could use a lot more finessing before its delivered to the screen in full.

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