Saturday, January 19, 2013

G.E. THE GREAT EMANCIPATOR.

Abraham Lincoln is an American saint -- well, for most of us anyway -- so there's not much you can do with him dramatically; either make him the absurd premise of a schoolboy joke (as in The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer or Hard Drinkin' Lincoln), or put him in the Disney Hall of Presidents. Even John Ford's Young Mr. Lincoln isn't really an exception; I love it, but it's a great film about a myth, not a man.

I didn't expect much when I heard Spielberg was having a go at Lincoln, so I can't say the film he made about him is a disappointment. In fact it's very enjoyable in a nostalgic way -- like all those high-toned historical-biographical epics on which Hollywood used to thrive before audiences began to lose interest in history unless it flattered their self-image very specifically, as Gandhi and Braveheart did, instead of trying to elevate them as movies like Wilson and The Life of Emile Zola had.

If you thought Tony Kushner's involvement might make Lincoln an elevating experience, well, it certainly elevates the tone. Kushner's a serious writer, but so was William Faulkner and I don't see the Library of America publishing a handsome edition of the screenplays he worked on. (Kushner did write Munich, which was a little more grown-up than what we're used to from Spielberg. But as I said when it came out, while Munich has some existential-thriller trappings, it's existentialism for dummies -- compare it to a story about wet work like Army of Shadows and you can see how sentimental it really is.)

Here's something Spielberg said about Kushner to Deadline Hollywood:
SPIELBERG: It wasn’t anything that he did on Munich that convinced me. I knew he was the right guy for the job when I saw Angels In America for the first time on Broadway.
DEADLINE: What specifically about Angels In America swayed you?
SPIELBERG: It showed me that Tony has a vivid introspective knowledge of what makes people tick. And he expresses his thoughts in words, in sentences and ideas, and the silences between the words in a way that reminded me of Paddy Chayefsky in his heyday.   
Paddy Chayefsky! I guess it's possible Spielberg was making a mean joke. But I think he sincerely admired Kushner's dramaturgy, and also that, like Chayefsky, Kushner can make sententiousness go down easy; the audience wouldn't question that something important was being discussed, but they also wouldn't be bored. Look at the first scene of Lincoln, after a vicious, muddy skirmish between black Union soldiers and Confederates: A pair of black soldiers stand in the rain and describe the battle; one is slightly more aggressive in complaining about his regiment's privations than the other; Lincoln -- revealed only gradually to be the man they're talking to, and sitting under a canopy -- seems interested, even slightly amused, says little, reveals nothing. White soldiers come in; they recite the Gettysburg Address till they get stuck on the ending. When they have gone, the quarrelsome black soldier finishes it.

Okay, so it makes Chayefsky look like Friedrich Durrenmatt. It plays well, though, and is just Spielberg's speed -- uplift with class.  

The plot centers on the fight to pass the 13th Amendment, in the course of which Lincoln is revealed to be a consummate wheeler-dealer -- but that has always been part of the Lincoln legend; as Tad Gallagher observes about Ford's Lincoln, he's "not above a bit of dissimulation, cheating or force to get things done." Maybe this is part of why we love Lincoln -- he shows that even when your ambition is a little engine that knows no rest, you may still do great things that can justify it. That Lincoln's ambition was turned toward ending slavery makes it easier to believe; you probably couldn't get the same kind of drama out of a battle to pass the Revenue Act.

Munich was about idealists who wade in blood but somehow keep their souls clean, and Lincoln is about a man to whom the muck of politics does not adhere even as he clambers through the filthy roominghouse attic of his political fixers. Abe is practically magical; at one point he suddenly appears in Edwin Stanton's war room, unobserved till he breaks his silence. Several times (or maybe it just seemed like several times) his cabinet is near rebellion, and Abe defuses the situation with some cornpone humor (which, frankly, must be magic as the jokes aren't that good). Much of William Seward's dialogue could be boiled down to "Ooooh, you'll be the death of me yet, Abraham Lincoln!" Lincoln confounds friend and enemy alike, and finally gets the big job done.

There's also some Lincoln family drama in there, but rather than "humanizing" Lincoln it adds to his mysterious quality. Political talk frequently creeps into Abe's discussions with his wife Mary. She is shown more than once to use politics to communicate her feelings to him. Abe accepts and takes part in this mode of discourse. (In one scene, when she tongue-lashes Thaddeus Stevens within his hearing, Abe takes it with the same mysterious amusement he shows in his first scene; no "It's bad enough when you act like that in the privacy of our own home" for this Lincoln.) In another scene Mary has sunk again into her recurring depression over their dead son Willie, and Lincoln goes to comfort her; though his impatience flashes, he recovers and explains that he couldn't allow himself to be taken over by grief as she is; he explains this as his personal weakness, but it is evident that it also involves his duty, from which he must not waver. Thus he gently filibusters her into submission.

Americans have a nose for hypocrisy (and a distrust of ambiguity) and like to think their heroes are the same people at home as they are in the arena. This Lincoln meets that test to such an extent that the restless mind may wonder over it; when he is not engaged in politics, where dissimulation is taken for granted, what is he really thinking and feeling?

Gentle as he goes, Lincoln is shown to have a capacity for wrath, and at one point he slaps his son Robert for suggesting he's afraid of his wife. This moment stands out emotionally; for once Lincoln's reaction suggests actual self-doubt, rather than the ruminative self-debate he displays elsewhere ("Do you think we choose to be born? Or are we fitted to the times we're born into?"). We keep up our wondering about Lincoln in the actual political sphere: When he appears to get fed up with the cabinet and rails that he is "clothed with immense power," is this feeling overtaking him, or just a trick to sway minds weaker than his?

Simultaneous with this portraiture -- which is after all the come-on; there's a reason the movie is not called Team of Rivals after the book -- there's the Congressional fight over the 13th Amendment and various related intrigues; these are handled ably (even amusingly, as when W.N. Bilbo proposes a skeezy deal to the wrong Congressman, who is armed with a front-loading pistol), and achieve the necessary interest in how the thing was done. In this are some grace notes that are emotionally satisfying, none more so than Thaddeus Stevens bringing home the House Bill of the 13th Amendment and presenting it to a woman who appears to be his housekeeper. But by an large it's all just an excuse to bring back Lincoln, a reliable act on the circuit. The filmmakers even tack on a death scene and part of the Second Inaugural at the end, in case you feel you haven't gotten your money's worth.

Though I wonder what about John Williams' modest score rates an Oscar nomination, every craft aspect of the movie is very well done. The acting's a feast. Daniel Day-Lewis' approach is just right for the otherworldly Lincoln; he rarely meets anyone's eye, yet he seems sociable; his conversation is discursive, but you would never imagine that he isn't paying attention. Sally Field finds a way to make poor Mary Todd's neurosis interesting: She at least begins each outburst in the direction of her subject, and lets its energy build until it is clearly a little larger than the conversation. Tommy Lee Jones was clever to make Stevens so good at his job that he hardly has to think about the sequence of insults he's about to unleash.

I especially admired some short performances that haven't gotten much attention.  There are the Kushner stalwarts Bill Camp and Elizabeth Marvel as a regular, down-home, all-American pair of bigots, and Stephen Spinella as Stevens' purist associate Litton.  Jackie Earle Haley as the Confederate Vice-President, Alexander Stephens, figures in an interesting sequence. In a doomed negotiation with Lincoln, while his fellow Rebs bluster, Stephens (previously shown in a meeting with black Union officers to be smarter than his comrades) tells the President that the war will end not only slavery but the South's way of life. Stephens shows no obvious outrage over this, nor regret, though we may assume he has felt both. Here Spielberg does something that struck me as significant; he photographs the already strange-looking Haley in an unflattering light that makes him seem slightly deformed. I imagine the idea was not to dehumanize him in the usual sense of undercutting his argument by making him look bad, but to suggest that he represents a literally alien species, and that he is aware that it is passing from existence. Maybe there's just something in Spielberg that always makes me think of extra-terrestrials.


65 comments:

  1. John E. Williams4:43 PM

    Hard Drinkin' Lincoln! Now that should be Spielberg's next project.

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  2. Tehanu5:00 PM

    I haven't seen the movie yet but my husband, who's generally more interested in American history than I am, really liked it. I will keep your viewpoint in mind when I get around to seeing it. Not so seriously, I'm probably the only surviving person in the country who actually LIKED "The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer." I still chuckle when I recall the episode with General Grant, portrayed as the most hilarious drunk you've ever seen -- even though Grant is a hero of mine and I know he wasn't anything like the "Grant" in the show.

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  3. Susan of Texas5:09 PM

    RoboLincolnpocalypse. Animatronic Abe goes rogue at Disneyland, slaughtering thousands.

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  4. nice review, thank you roy.

    i'm interested in the contrast with the other big release of the fall, django unchained, some examples here and here and here. i have come to loathe tarantino, but i wonder if there is a case that despite its "ahistoricity" and obvious grindhouse trappings, it may be a richer experience for audiences, because it appears to allow blacks of the era a kind of agency that kearns/kushner/spielberg have otherwise denied (though that's not the case everywhere).

    corey robin has written some about the agency thing, and there was an excellent round up a few days ago in salon about the actual political and cultural climate the film purports to describe. any thoughts about this, or the contrasts?

    in the meantime, i'll wait for the porn parody, which i understand will be called lincoln: great emancifucker.

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  5. jmags6:11 PM

    Don't shit on Faulkner's screenplays. The script for "To Have and Have Not" alone is better than Kushner's entire oeuvre.

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  6. DocAmazing7:14 PM

    I await the next Kushner-Spielberg project: Coolidge.

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  7. M. Krebs7:16 PM

    I second dex's thanks, Roy. Your film reviews are too few and far between.

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  8. coozledad7:17 PM

    Notorious Lincoln:
    http://achewood.com/index.php?date=01272003

    Spielberg should have tried harder to get Jeff Sessions to play Alexander Stephens. He's a natural.

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  9. Halloween_Jack9:51 PM

    I saw Lincoln, and generally agree with you. Although I sometimes wondered if the private Lincoln's speech was as mannered as it sometimes seemed here; I mean, I could sort of understand why he'd pick even his candid words with some care during moments of high emotion, rather than just going full prairie shitkicker, but it still took me out of the film a bit at moments. I had less of a problem with the jokes and anecdotes, as even though, as you say, they weren't that great, they both were part of his prairie lawyer shtick and also helped defuse tense situations, even if people were either laughing at Lincoln or tricked into being pissed off at him personally instead of at the situation at hand. (I think that it was Edwin Stanton who flipped out at the beginning of one of his stories. And, doing a bit of intra-comment googling, I just found out that Stanton was played by Bruce McGill, aka D-Day from Animal House. Holy shit!)

    In terms of general performance, I think that Day-Lewis nailed it, both in terms of accuracy, as far as we know, of how Lincoln actually behaved and sounded (sometimes it just kills me that Lincoln was killed only twelve years before the phonograph was invented), and also in just how worn out he was for a fifty-six-year-old man. In terms of really knowing the man, though, I don't know if we ever could, not despite the thousands of books written about him (he's supposedly the second-most-written-about historical character, after Jesus), but because of them. Alan Moore, the comics writer, in the second appendix to his Jack the Ripper graphic novel From Hell, compares the ever-growing field of Ripperology to a Koch snowflake(no relation), which has an infinitely long boundary but a finite area; the more detail that is researched and the more theories that are proposed, the fuzzier the object of inquiry becomes. Spielberg and Kushner may be reticent to probe too much into Lincoln's inner life simply because there's been so much already done in that area.

    A few other things: I was a little tickled by the anecdote set in Metamora, Illinois, because I'm somewhat acquainted with the town; it's a little astonishing how open and accessible both Lincoln himself and the White House were then, although of course Lincoln's assassination would be the beginning of the end of that; and Jackie Earle Haley does come off as a little unworldly, but that seems appropriate to
    the historical figure that he's playing, and Haley does have a bit of that built-in--he was IMO easily the best thing about the film adaptation of Watchmen.

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  10. Halloween_Jack9:57 PM

    You jest, but I'd love to see an uncensored biopic of Warren Harding, who made Bill Clinton look like Coolidge by comparison.

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  11. GeorgeMokray10:24 PM

    Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea [from the U. S. Constitution]; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery - subordination to the superior race - is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.
    Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the Confederacy, March 21, 1861

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  12. Derelict10:34 PM

    I haven't seen the movie, but I do want to thank Roy for taking the time to write his review. Well written, as usual. And a nice break from pointing at all the rightwing pinheads.

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  13. DocAmazing10:43 PM

    The Groove Tub.

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  14. Leeds man11:03 PM

    "i have come to loathe tarantino"


    Cartoon characters, indiscriminate graphic butchery interspersed with snappy patter, and 90% homage content. What's not to love? The sociopathic sensibility does have a certain charm.

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  15. Jay B.11:28 PM

    I respected the movie, but that was kind of the extent of it. It was a kind of a spinach movie. A civics lesson, very well crafted. It was created almost literally for Oscar. On the other hand, I thought Argo was crackerjack filmmaking and incredibly engrossing, the kind of adult film that had the kind of actual satisfying storytelling and humanity that reminded me more of The Great Escape or one of the better 70's spy films. It somehow stands opposite of Spielberg's health food and Tarantino's double cheeseburger.

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  16. chuckling11:37 PM

    I, too, am happy to see a film or any type of cultural review, something you always do very well. Unfortunately, on the day I was scheduled to see Lincoln I was offered the opportunity to voluntarily have some healthy teeth pulled by a crazy red haired guy with a rusty pair of pliers. When I weighed sitting through a three hour Steven Spielberg movie about politics versus a painful teeth extraction that would no doubt lead to infection and possibly the need to have my mouth amputated, I chose the dental procedure, figuring it was a no brainer as the least bad choice. Fortunately, I had plenty of whiskey and somehow managed to survive the excruciating pain. I probably would have survived Lincoln as well, but I think I made the right choice. Your review mostly confirms that.

    I saw very few new movies last year but somehow managed to see several of the Oscar contenders. I think the fact that Django Unchained is nominated demonstrates the whole process is ridiculous. It's entertaining enough as an action/adventure, but ultimately it's just a glorified B movie, as advertised, and there must be at least 50 movies with more artistic merit that could have been nominated in its place. Certainly The Master, Moonrise Kingdom and Red Hook Summer, just to name three that I saw. I would, however, consider Samuel L. Jackson's for Best Supporting Actor, one of the rare movies in which he didn't play Samuel L. Jackson, but of course that went to the white guy. And though I trust Daniel Day Lewis is good, I don't think it's possible for anyone to top Joachim Phoenix in The Master. I'd say a tie goes to Joachim since he hasn't won before. That, and how he was so unfairly overlooked for his work in I'm Still Here.



    Anyhoo, I guess I'll watch the Oscars to find out. Unless, that is, someone bum on the subway offers to repeatedly poke me in the eye with a stick during the six or eight hours of the broadcast.

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  17. edroso11:53 PM

    I think a lot of that was Jules Furthman.

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  18. edroso11:53 PM

    I'll see if I can't change that.

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  19. edroso12:08 AM

    Gotta see that.

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  20. edroso12:08 AM

    It's entertaining enough as an action/adventure, but ultimately it's just a glorified B movie...


    And what's wrong with that? I'll write about Django Unchained soon.

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  21. chuckling12:10 AM

    Nothing wrong with that in general, but think top awards should go to A movies.

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  23. The_Kenosha_Kid1:53 AM

    And and and Jonah Goldberg.. he sure is dumb! Right? And Ann Althouse.. what a maroon? Amiright?



    (rocking self in corner waiting for next Alicublog fix)

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  24. Big_Bad_Bald_Bastard3:25 AM

    Father Abraham was a statist pig and got what he deserved.
    Yeah, Father Abraham was heavily involved in promoting the Smurfs, and the Smurfs were heavily involved in promoting communism.

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  25. Big_Bad_Bald_Bastard3:27 AM

    I prefer Sexy Abe Lincoln

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  26. Good review. Day-Lewis is always worth watching for me, and he was superb as usual. Because Spielberg can get pretty much any actor he wants, the supporting cast is stacked, with Tommy Lee Jones a particular standout. I did wonder where Frederick Douglass was (Corey Robin's covered most of that angle well). But as historical/biopics go, it's quite well done.

    compare [Munich] to a story about wet work like Army of Shadows and you can see how sentimental it really is.

    Yes, great comparison. Spielberg has his unsentimental moments, but his worldview tends toward the sentimental. His craftsmanship is superb and occasionally inspired, but there are philosophical places he won't go and probably can't. I don't really fault him for that; he is who he is, and while it's fashionable in some circles to view him with snobbery, I've grown to appreciate his work more over the years, actually. (I go elsewhere for other itches.)

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  29. Big_Bad_Bald_Bastard7:08 AM

    "i have come to loathe tarantino"
    Say... like me, do you have a smartass friend who went around telling everybody that Reservoir Dogs was "a great date movie"?

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  30. Big_Bad_Bald_Bastard7:10 AM

    Sweet, the world needs a big budget Rita Coolidge biopic.

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  32. Big_Bad_Bald_Bastard7:17 AM

    You sure that's not William F. Buckley?

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  33. Big_Bad_Bald_Bastard7:25 AM

    I haven't seen Lincoln yet, but I did watch this, though this version is better.

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  34. waldo7:37 AM

    Ta Roy, Django it is.

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  35. mortimer9:07 AM

    I agree about Argo. I think Affleck is an unquestionably skilled director, considering the films he's turned in (I thought Gone Baby Gone was even better than Clint's prequel, Mystic River). As the film proceeds, Argo becomes more and more heavily, um, "dramatized" in the Hollywood sense of the word, at least comparing it to what actually happened. But it's a tautly executed piece, and you don't have a chance to think about any of that until much later.

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  36. mortimer10:03 AM

    Great review. Sounds as expected. Lincoln is on my Netflix list for the acting, but I'll go see something else at theater.

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  37. I've generally heard the "second-most written about historical personage after Jesus" applied to Napoleon, not Lincoln. Though who knows, really?

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  38. The Dark Avenger12:57 PM

    There's enough action in Lincoln's life to make an interesting biographical film:

    When Lincoln was a teenager, he moved with his family to New Salem, Illinois, a town that was unofficially run by an unruly gang, called "the Clary Grove's Boys," whose only common bond was "physical strength and prowess." That's it. They were only friends because one of them noticed "Hey, we're all good at beating hell out of shit; let's make that 'our thing.' " They would routinely get drunk and beat people up at random and reportedly called themselves "regulators" and "were the terror of all who did not acknowledge their rule." Jack Armstrong, the leader of the
    Clary Grove's Boys, was the biggest in the gang and the toughest fighter in the area, and he wasn't shy about either fact. Lincoln (still brand new in town) was sick of hearing about how good of a fighter Armstrong was and bet Armstrong $10 that he could find someone who could beat him.

    Armstrong accepted but, when fight day arrived, Lincoln's man never showed up. They waited and waited and, when Armstrong demanded that Lincoln forfeit and pay up, Lincoln decided that, rather than lose $10, he would fight the bastard himself. While Lincoln did have an advantage in both the height and giant-freak-arms departments, Armstrong had a lot more fighting
    experience under his belt and was the odds-on favorite.

    The story of how the actual fight went down varies. According to New Salem resident Daniel Burner, Lincoln spent the fight tiring Armstrong out and then, when the moment was right, "swung his long leg over Armstrong's neck and made Armstrong run around holding him up in that position," which, yes, is pretty ideal placement for farting right into your opponent's mouth. Another source claims Lincoln simply grabbed Armstrong by the throat, lifted him right into the air and "shook him like a child" until he surrendered. Some even say that Lincoln was beating Armstrong so bad that the rest of the Clary Grove's Boys joined in, and Lincoln just laughed and laughed. And then beat their asses.

    http://www.cracked.com/blog/abraham-lincoln-portrait-crazy-badass/#ixzz2IXWBIIDs

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  39. DocAmazing1:05 PM

    I used to enjoy the homage content, but then I just started re-watching old Melvin van Peebles and Shaw Brothers films and I'm much happier.

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  40. GeorgeMokray2:13 PM

    Yeah. Buckley would have used more five dollar words and at least one ten dollar one to prove how much smarter he is than anybody else.

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  42. chuckling2:52 PM

    I'm pretty sure it's Lindsey Lohan.

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  44. Bill listened carefully, brows lifted, as if at any moment he might interrupt with an objection or a more congenial topic, then hoisted himself from the deep armchair and ambled to the bookcase, where he stood a full shelf higher than Smiley. Fishing out a volume with his long fingers, he peered into it, grinning.

    "Percy Alleline won't do," he announced, turning a page. "Is that the premise?"

    "Pretty well."

    "Which means that Merlin won't do, either."

    ReplyDelete
  45. I've heard it about Wagner. Depends on the country and language, I'm guessing.

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  46. and here's the story of "a melancholic young lincoln," by denver's best comic artist and writer, noah van sciver, published by none other than fantagraphics. he works part time at a used bookstore just around the corner from me, and i plan on getting filthy rich collecting his stuff.

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  47. Another Kiwi4:25 PM

    It somehow stands opposite of Spielberg's health food and Tarantino's double cheeseburger.
    That's perfect

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  48. Another Kiwi4:28 PM

    Also U.S.Grant.

    ReplyDelete
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  50. Leeds man4:40 PM

    I don't care for most of his films, but Empire of the Sun makes up for the other stuff, sentimentality and all.

    ReplyDelete
  51. Leeds man5:16 PM

    "the kind of adult film that had the kind of actual satisfying storytelling and humanity..."

    Well at least you didn't say "historical accuracy", which ranks at about the level of 300. OK, a bit higher.

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  52. Despite its ahistoricity? No one goes to the movies thinking like this. Or makes them, for that matter.

    Tarantino held up a mirror to the fantasy life of the masses in Django and attempted an exorcism, IMHO. I think he had the highest, most noble artistic aspirations for it.

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  53. mortimer7:34 PM

    I'm waiting for the Quentin Tarentino / David Attenborough collaboration on the ultimate species revenge fantasy: Inglorious Bustards.


    (Sorry. Really I am.)

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  54. pukebot7:59 PM

    i assume there is a similarly thoughtful, rich movie review over at red state.

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  55. Halloween_Jack8:29 PM

    Hmmm... Any relation to Ethan?

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  56. brothers!

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  57. that's a curious statement, and i'm not sure how to respond to it. the idea of history and film is something that film and culture writers are continuously exploring. i would refer to the links in my comment for more.

    but - just to take the above piece as an example, the sound engineers on lincoln got access to a number of period items - everyday items - in order to reproduce the sounds that they made, so that audiences would be immersed in that world.
    certainly, our distance from a particular period, and our own living history, influences what it is and why we reach for certain historical figures or stories. i think what remains most problematic for tarantino's historical journeys is that little in his mise en scene conforms at all to historical fact - the language, symbols, imagery - nothing.

    it's a political stance, but unlike cinema history, the convenience by which it is possible to rearrange these things make arriving at a truth or a statement a tricky one, and i'm not sure that he possesses the depth as a writer and a filmmaker to carry that weight. i suppose you can make the argument that dispensing with the sheen of history in a technologically progressive medium like film is a more honest one than mixing in abe's pocketwatch. fine. but stanley kubrick at least attempted to reproduce period paintings in barry lyndon.

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  58. i adore jackie brown. but after that bombed, it's like he stopped trying.



    it's curious, because both tarantino and spielberg are kind of paralleled in that way: for me spielberg's best stuff, his most energetic, nuanced and intelligent stuff, is all the early pulp, that has its lineage in his childhood and teens. for me the only thing that's touched on that has been the first two acts of minority report. tarantino on the other hand really seemed like he was moving into new territory with jb, but the move to his roots is, like doc sez, derivative and boring.

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  59. whetstone12:17 PM

    Seconded on Jackie Brown: oddly enough, I think it's very good at something Hollywood is very bad at, which is to portray both late-middle-age romance and interracial romance without making it a thing. I did not go in expecting a romantic dramadey, which was the part I liked most about it.

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  60. whetstone12:19 PM

    "The Big Sleep" is pretty great, even if turning Chandler into a script is insanely fertile field to be working.

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  61. whetstone12:40 PM

    Saw Lincoln yesterday. Kushner was a great choice by Spielberg, because he gives the movie some lilt that Spielberg doesn't inherently bring to his projects. Case in point: at the end, when Mary Todd Lincoln tells her husband that "people will only remember me as a crazy woman who took away your happiness." It steps out of the movie for a moment, but it's a nice little "fuck you, patriarchal history" moment, and it's also funny. Only Kushner, or maybe a couple other writers, could pull that off, and those other writers probably couldn't also write a Spielberg movie.

    I love, love, love how Day-Lewis did Lincoln's accent and bearing. My internal portrait of Lincoln is my grandfather, a funny, slow-speaking, tall, thin Appalachian; so insofar as Day-Lewis reminded me of the older Appalachians I know--not entirely, but Lincoln was more of a mutt, having grown up in Indiana and Illinois--he nailed it. The reaction that Day-Lewis's voice was insufficiently basso profundo, i.e. ACTING, was contemptible; Lincoln was a hick, and America can deal with that. Plus, as a friend pointed out, pols with higher-pitched voices had an advantage in the time before amplification--a high nasal voice carries better.

    Maybe I'm reading into it too much because of Kushner's sexual orientation, but did anyone else think "this is sort of, just a little bit but not trivially, about gay marriage"? There were a couple moments--I wish I had the screenplay handy--where I thought Kushner was giving the audience a bit of a nudge.

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  62. edroso8:58 PM

    Very nice... and nicer still in the full version: http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/The-312/January-2013/Barack-Obamas-Progressive-Inaugural-Speech-and-the-Timing-of-Justice/

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