Goodwinned at the Cineplex

Have you seen “Lincoln” yet? Well, why not?

I saw it with my teenage daughter this week, and we both thought it was excellent. Daniel Day Lewis was fantastic as the tortured, humorous and scheming Mr. Lincoln. Sally Field was twitchy, brittle, sad and marvelous as Mary Todd Lincoln.

If the set accurately portrayed the White House circa 1865, it was a drafty, chilly, besieged place with few creature comforts (though surely a damn sight more luxurious than the average citizen had at the time, even in non-war-torn sections of the country).

The most affecting image from the film for me was Mr. Lincoln padding through the White House in his slippers, bundled up in a throw. This image recurred a couple of times if I recall correctly: It seemed to be filmed from the vantage point of Lincoln’s son Tad watching his father walk away in the gloom after fondly tucking the boy in for the night. It’s actually a pretty good visual metaphor for what our greatest president meant to us as a nation.

The only presidents my 14-year-old personally remembers are George W. Bush and Barack Obama. So it was kind of a shock for her to see Republicans in the role of the good guys.

Please feel free to discuss the movie or whatever…

[X-posted at Rumproast]

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207 replies
  1. 1
    R-Jud says:

    Your review lacks love for Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens– or just for Thaddeus Stevens, the Great Commoner, generally. The oratory throughout was terrific– the arm-twisting and kabuki theater, on which the rights and lives of fellow humans depended, all too familiar and enraging.

    David Strathairn as Sewell, also too.

  2. 2
    Napoleon says:

    So how long to the first post from someone who does not understand that the movie 1) is a movie made for commercial release and how that effects how it is done and 2) it is a movie about Lincoln, not the civil war, not abolitionist. Speilberg licensed a book about Lincoln to make the film. Speilberg tasked Tony Kushner to write a story about Lincoln, and in fact he wrote several scripts, the last of which happen to involve the 13th amendment, but all of them about Lincoln, Speilberg’s focus.

  3. 3

    Going to see it this afternoon, so don’t spoil it for me, but what happens when they take the night off and go to the theatre?

  4. 4
    Napoleon says:

    PS, I was history major in college and still read history extensively and hands down that was the best commercial film I have seen involving history.

  5. 5
    jayjaybear says:

    @Mustang Bobby:

    The first act of the play they go to see ends with a bang.

  6. 6
    piratedan says:

    @Mustang Bobby: I understand that it involves “something something 2nd amendment remedies”

  7. 7
    JasonF says:

    If it makes you feel any better, I’m quite a bit older than your son and it would be a shock to me to see Republicans in the role of good guys. Who was the last good guy Republican, anyway — Ike?

  8. 8
    Betty Cracker says:

    @R-Jud: Agreed. They were both excellent too. I was kind of pissed at Tommy Lee for his “Ameriprise Financial” ads, but this performance redeemed him in my eyes. Strathairn is always wonderful.

  9. 9
    Cassidy says:

    Sally Field was also amazing as Aunt May.

  10. 10
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Napoleon: What’s the worst, in your estimation? I nominate Oliver Stone’s “JFK.”

  11. 11
    the Conster says:

    My favorite part was the Obot v. firebagger Lincoln v. Stevens exchange about following one’s principles on a straight true north path. Doesn’t help much if while heading true north you end up in a swamp.

    Also, the opening scene with Lincoln talking about his barbers.

  12. 12
    Hill Dweller says:

    I haven’t seen Lincoln, but everyone I know that saw it loved it.

    That said, I’m eagerly awaiting Zero Dark Thirty, which has already been named best film(over Lincoln) by the New York Film Critics and The National Board of Review.

  13. 13

    Sorry. I’m off to Bemidji to watch the undefeated Gophers hit the ice against the Beavers this evening.

    I haven’t been to a movie since summer. I’ve missed Skyfall, too, so far.

  14. 14
    peach flavored shampoo says:

    Whoa….

    British nurse who was tricked by DJ hoax yesterday found dead today

  15. 15
    Enhanced Mooching Techniques says:

    @Betty Cracker: The competition is intense. Hollywood has the amazing ability of taking compelling RL stories and twisting them into some kind of mess. However JFK ranks right up there with telling outright lies about still living people and then trying to hand wave it off as “just a movie”.

  16. 16
    Anon4 says:

    Our best president? Really? The Emancipation Proclamation notwithstanding (obviously the greatest thing he did), the civil war has been a disaster that we’ve never recovered from and African Americans spent another century as second class citizens. I wish he let the treasonous states secede — we’re still burdened with their medieval mindset. He could have still issued an Emancipation Proclamation and supported an insurrection by the slaves.

  17. 17
    schrodinger's cat says:

    Thanks for the thread Betty, me and several others have been asking for one, since forever.

    I saw Lincoln on the Thanksgiving weekend. The show we wanted to go to was sold out, when we were in line for the tickets, so we got the tickets for the next show, the cashier told us to come at least 45 minutes early to get good seats. When we came back to the theater 45 min early as admonished, A line had already begin to form. The show was packed. There were people of all ages. There was a standing ovation at the end of the movie. The damn Yankees surely loved seeing the Confederate asses kicked!

    As for the movie, before going to the movie, I knew but the most general outline of Lincoln’s life and the Civil War and the Reconstruction period. Now I am hooked, and I want to know more, I have checked out the Battle Cry of Freedom recommended by many BJers from my local library.

    The movie is good about bringing out the man behind the historical figure, seeing him as a father, and a husband and dealing with his family makes him more real, rather than the distant personage on a penny or on Mt Rushmore.

    Also too, Thaddeus Stevens is full of win and awesome. That man would not be welcome in the Republican party today and would be dismissed as unserious by most of our media personages.

  18. 18
  19. 19
    Face says:

    @peach flavored shampoo: They take that Royal shit waaaaaaaaaayyy too seriously. I wonder if she offed herself out of extreme embarrassment or due to ridicule from, basically, the entire world.

  20. 20
    Amir Khalid says:

    So I take it that this movie is more historically accurate than the one with the vampires?

  21. 21
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @jeffreyw: You is getting new kittehs?

  22. 22
  23. 23
    BGK says:

    @JasonF:

    Who was the last good guy Republican, anyway—Ike?

    I think the late Louis Armstrong would’ve disagreed with you.

  24. 24
    jeffreyw says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: No Ma’am, those reside at the shelter still…

  25. 25
    Linda Featheringill says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    So I take it that this movie is more historically accurate than the one with the vampires?

    :-)

  26. 26
    Mr. Peabody says:

    I have a pet peeve: When any current, very conservative Republican refers to his/her party as “The Party of Lincoln.” They haven’t been “The Party of Lincoln” since the Civil Rights Act of the 1960s.

  27. 27
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Enhanced Mooching Techniques: It was splicing the iconic Zapruder film images throughout that crossed the line for me. That lent unwarranted weight to the bullshit yarn. I guess those who took it as gospel (and I know a few folks who did) have only their own ignorance to blame, but jay-zus…

  28. 28
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @jeffreyw: But there is a possibility that they could join Homer, Bitsy and the gang?

  29. 29
    Linda Featheringill says:

    Betty,

    About your daughter and good Republicans: Things change. Internationally, things change too. At one time, A is an ally and B is an enemy but then later it is all switched around. It’s all ephemeral.

    By the way, I watched an Agatha Christie movie and the Chief of Police of Baghdad was an Englishman. Hmmmmm.

  30. 30
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @JasonF:

    The last good guy Republican was either Tom McCall or Mark Hatfield.

    Both would be drummed out of today’s GOP on a rail for having values other than rabid Mammon worship.

  31. 31
    Ben Franklin says:

    I totally bought that Lewis was Lincoln, and suspending my disbelief is not easy.

    The prescience of Lincoln in pushing for the 13th before his 1st term ended was the big lever for me.

  32. 32
    gwangung says:

    As usual, Coates has a huge amount of commentary about the film.

    A couple of nuggets of interest:

    Radicalism got short shrift when compared to compromising. He pointed out that the so-called pragmatic part wouldn’t get where they were without the radicals. (On the other, the radicals sometimes fail to realize the “compromisers” get to where they get by ruthlessly taking every pragmatic step they can to get to that radical goal).

    Second, there’s a real contradiction in Lincoln in that the no-compromise (heh) stand on the 13th Amendment is an endpoint (or is it?) in Lincoln’s personal evolution from a colonization/segregationist viewpoint of blacks, but there’s no hint of this in the movie.

    Despite that, I think this is a real gem of a movie, and well worth the money to see in prime time hours.

  33. 33
    Cassidy says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: If you haven’t read The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, then you’ll love it. It really brings the people to life. Not being a historian, I can’t vouch for its total accuracy, but the impression I have been under is that his research consisted of journals, letters, etc.

    The prequel and sequel by his son aren’t bad either.

  34. 34
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @gwangung: Its a movie trying to tell a story about the 13th amendment, to address all the issues TNC mentions, you need a Ken Burns style documentary which stretches over many many hours. As it is the movie was quite long at 2.30 hours.

  35. 35
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Linda Featheringill: True. It’s the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, which kind of illustrates your point. My kiddo is subjected to enough history lectures to know that Democrats hereabouts used to be segregationists, etc. But I think seeing their villainy on the big screen brought it home for her in a new way.

  36. 36
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    @JasonF: Oh, there’s one I can answer. Yes, it was Ike.

  37. 37
    Schlemizel says:

    @Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN):

    We won’t be making the trip – I am coming down with a cold something awful & we have a dieing cat that needs tending in her last days. We’ll be listening for you guys to sing the rouser though.

    Anyone who has not read TNC this week has missed a good discussion on the movie.
    http://ta-nehisicoates.theatlantic.com/

    And shame on you for not regularly reading one of the best pieces of the internet!

  38. 38
    jeffreyw says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: Mrs J seems enamored of one of the new kittens but she has strong defenses. Meanwhile, she has her hands full with Homer-kitty.

  39. 39
    joes527 says:

    @Amir Khalid: I watched the Vampire movie on a plane recently. All I was looking for was a way to pass the time as the miles ticked by.

    Unfortunately, it didn’t work (even as escapist fluff).

    For some strange reason, using the civil war and slavery as the backdrop for a silly slasher flick was just too jarring.

    (though Mary Elizabeth Winstead was as cute as ever)

  40. 40
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @Linda Featheringill: Why is that surprising Iraq was under British rule after WWI, so was Palestine. As was Pakistan, in fact go to almost any hotspot today, and you will find the British Empire’s footprints there.

  41. 41
    gwangung says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: No doubt. People are complex, and nothing makes than more complex than huge issues like the 13th Amendment was in its day.

    On the other hand, the perfect time to have dealt with this was in one of the confrontations with Stevens (an all round brilliant performance by Jones). Throwing up the contradictions in Lincoln’s face would have been a welcomed, more nuanced scene that wouldn’t have add much to the running time (though, admittedly, may have made some viewers’ head explode).

  42. 42

    @Schlemizel: My sympathies for the cat. I’ll look forward to seeing you in January.

  43. 43
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @gwangung:

    Throwing up the contradictions in Lincoln’s face would have been a welcomed, more nuanced scene that wouldn’t have add much to the running time (though, admittedly, may have made some viewers’ head explode).

    There’s your real problem right there. Viewers whose heads explode will hurt DVD sales. Can’t have that!

  44. 44
    Schlemizel says:

    @Cassidy:

    I like ‘Angles’ really hated his kid’s book though. Felt like he was trying too hard.

    Also, I am not thrilled that the actions of the 1st MN got short shrift – but that is parochial of me I know. Either the middle or the Round Tops fall on day 2 & things turn to shit pretty fast for the Union. Very little is written about the effort on the North end but things must have been hot there also, just not as bad as the middle & the South end

  45. 45
    Bobby Thomson says:

    @BGK: Great story. Thanks.

  46. 46
    Elie says:

    I loved every aspect of this movie. One of my favorite parts was the actual roll call to pass the amendment — the suspense building up — the viewer not knowing how the different legislators would ultimately vote. It was so wonderful that many of them voted to support the amendment — almost as a surprise to themselves — to their own courage and nobility…

    I think that we Americans LIKE that — to be positive and to do the right thing — even when its hard. Maybe not every single person, but enough of us to keep things moving forward… I cried with joy in recognizing that truth. We need to believe in ourselves more. Not sure where so many of the current Republicans got lost but they are suffering and not liking themselves — and it shows.

  47. 47
    Amir Khalid says:

    @joes527:
    I’m still waiting for the movie of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I really like the book.

  48. 48
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @gwangung: But what makes anyone so sure that Steven’s approach was the best? Stevens got his way with the Reconstruction after Lincoln’s death which was by and large unsuccessful in the long run, and we had to wait for the Civil Rights movement to right those wrongs. So I wouldn’t dismiss out of hand what Lincoln had to say at their secret meeting in the kitchen.

  49. 49
    shortstop says:

    Ike wasn’t exactly a good guy. He was just a less bad guy. Ask any black American of the time.

  50. 50
    gwangung says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: I don’t think I’m saying that his way was best; I’m referring more towards Lincon’s motivations and past history, which was considerably more complex than what was shown in the film. His position was shown as sort of divine revelation, a given that drove his actions The reality of Lincoln’s previous stands, and the change (quite possibly motivated by Steven’s own work) would have been welcomed nuance.

  51. 51
    Montysano says:

    At its best, cinema is less like watching a film and more like looking through a window to another world, or into the past. “Apocalypto” comes to mind (YMMV).

    “Lincoln” achieves this at times, especially (as Betty C. notes) during the scenes inside the dark, gloomy White House. Also, I can’t remember a movie that makes you work as hard as it does. Lincoln’s thinking on the 13th amendment was complex and lawyerly. I had to go home and read up on it to make sure I understood what I’d just seen.

  52. 52
    shortstop says:

    @Linda Featheringill: Because Iraq was under English rule at the time.

  53. 53
    hitchhiker says:

    I laughed out loud when the lobbyists appeared — knew immediately who they were.

  54. 54
    flukebucket says:

    @Napoleon:

    PS, I was history major in college and still read history extensively and hands down that was the best commercial film I have seen involving history.

    That is great to hear. I have not yet seen it but I read a comment somewhere that there were so many factual errors in the trailer alone that the person that made the comment was not going to bother to see the movie. I want to see it but I would sure like to know that it was somewhat accurate at least.

  55. 55
    sherparick says:

    Although the names of the parties use then are still the same ones as used today, the coalitions and make up of two parties are completely different. The factions that were in the Republican Party in the 1850s and 60s that are now Democrats are:

    1. What we would call “liberals” are progressives. The noun “Liberal” to represent a reformist, non-socialist, and regulator of business operation was just coming into use in the 1860s, replacing older terms such as “whig.”

    2. Even more radicals, individuals who identified with the then growing socialist movements of Europe, a political identity that was particularly strong in the large German immigrant community at that time (and ironically, many of their descendants are not right wing trolls see Rohrbacher, Dana).

    4. And of course Blacks

    5. The big business community was split. Some were Republicans, some were Democrats. But with the Republicans becoming the predominant party in the North for the next generation, particularly industrialists who preferred protectionism, they drifted more and more to Republicans and took over the party apparatus.

    Then the elections of 1896 and 1912. Until 1896 the Democrats were the party of Wall Street swells, southern bourbons, small farmers, and a large fraction of the white urban working class that resented Blacks and Asians competing for their jobs. The depression of 1893-96, particularly its effect on agriculture, racdicalized a good portion of the Democratic base, generated the Populist movement, and led liberals and radicals like Clarence Darrow and John Altgeld to beomce Democrats. But there were still a lot of liberals and progressives in the Republican coalition, and they became surprisingly dominate under TR. When TR left, business influence made a come back, which caused TR to split off and form the Progressive Party. Wilson also ran as a Progressive reformist as a Democrat. When Wilson won, and then the Progressive Party disintegrated, some of these folks became Democrats.

    Then came 1932 and FDR and the New Deal and 1964 and 1968, LBJ, George Wallace, and Richard Nixon. The New Deal cemented the shift of the reactionary, lord of the manor, Galtian in spirt business community as Republicans. However, FDR, although moderating the Democratic party and extending sotto vocce New Deal programs to non-whites, still left the basic social structures of the South unchanged and maintained an uneasy alliance with the Neo-Confederate Party. But with WWII, rising dominance of northern liberals and unions in the Democratic Party, and the pressures of the Cold War, the Democrats assumed the mantle of the Old Republican Party and launched the “second reconstruction,” starting with Harry Truman’s desegregation of the Armed Forces, and of course JFK-LBJ’s civil rights legislation. The reaction to this set the neo-confederates on their long march out of the party, led by George Wallace in 1964 and 68, and then into the Republican Party, welcomed by Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

    Hard as it is to believe, but some of the best politicians in America in the 1960s and early 70s were Republicans. Wayne Morse (who would switch between the parties), Mark Hatfield (both of Oregon), John Cooper (believe it or not of Kentucky), Edward Brooke of Massachussetts, Charles Goodell of New York in the Senate, Governors like Dick Olgive in Illinois (and though very flawed) Nelson Rockerfeller. They would all be Democrats now.

  56. 56
    Schlemizel says:

    @shortstop:

    I’m too young to have a real memory of Ike but didn’t he send the Army in to Little Rock to enforce desegregation at Central High He could have been a lot worse.

  57. 57
    Cassidy says:

    @Schlemizel: Again not a historian, but I wonder how accessible the journals and letters of commanders on that end were? At some point, Shaara decided to make Chamberlain his most prominent character and I’m guessing a lot of that had to do with accessability of documents.

    I liked them. They weren’t as good as TKA, but they were enjoyable in their own way. He did well enough I think to maintain the tone of the story and Gone for Soldiers was enjoyable.

  58. 58
    Schlemizel says:

    @Montysano:

    I don’t think people today have a real understanding of what life was like before central heating & electric lights. I lived 18 months with relatives who did not have electricity and only a wood burning furnace in the basement with a grate that allowed hot air to rise.

    We used oil lamps & you went to bed early cuz it was DARK & in the winter first person up stoked the furnace but I remember a layer of ice on the toilet. Dark and cold!

  59. 59
    shortstop says:

    @shortstop: I’m oversimplifying here — Ike did a number of things for which we can still be grateful, and he was quite clear-eyed about the ludicrousness of spiraling defense spending, in a way that particularly contrasts with Republicans today. But he was socially quite conservative and even when he officially supported civil rights advances — demonstrating an understanding that prevents us from saying he was simply a product of his race, class and time — he generally did pretty much nothing and sometimes even actively blocked progress. Compared to today’s Republicans, he’s a fucking saint, but he wasn’t a man of unchecked courage and principle.

  60. 60
    shortstop says:

    @Schlemizel: I think the majority of folks here, including me, are too young to remember Eisenhower. That’s why we read. Anyway, I amended my comment above.

  61. 61
    Brachiator says:

    @Napoleon:

    So how long to the first post from someone who does not understand that the movie 1) is a movie made for commercial release and how that effects how it is done and 2) it is a movie about Lincoln, not the civil war, not abolitionist

    I’m not sure how any of this is supposed to be important.

    I am surprised that more of the political savvy Balloon Juice crowd has not see the movie already. It would seem to be right up many folk’s alley.

    That said, the film is less a standard biography of Lincoln than it is a compelling political biography that focuses on several months in a critical year of Lincoln’s presidency. Because of the narrow focus, I understand why some who do not like the film compare it to an episode of The West Wing.

    Without spoiling narrative details, I tremendously liked how Lincoln spanks absolutists in our own day who endlessly prattle about how Obama failed them with respect to health care reform in not pushing for single payer or some other progressive wet dream. The equivalent in Lincoln would be the radical Republicans who wanted everything fixed with one single bit of over-arching legislation. But the film excellently lays out how narrow and insufficient the Emancipation Proclamation was, and how difficult it was going to be to get anything more substantial done.

    The movie, helped by some excellent comic performances by James Spader and Tim Blake Nelson, also demonstrates how Lincoln was willing to get down and dirty and make some serious compromises to get things down.

    And for those who like 11 dimension chess, the film lays out in a strong narrative cinema, how Lincoln’s actions killed the very idea of the Confederacy as a legitimate nation founded on slavery.

  62. 62
    Schlemizel says:

    @sherparick:

    Actually Georgie didn’t start the march – that would have been Stromie in 1948 during HHH’s impassioned plea for the civil rights plank

    “To those who say, my friends, to those who say, that we are rushing this issue of civil rights, I say to them we are 172 years (too) late! To those who say, this civil rights program is an infringement on states’ rights, I say this: the time has arrived in America for the Democratic Party to get out of the shadow of states’ rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights!”

  63. 63
    shortstop says:

    @Schlemizel:

    I remember a layer of ice on the toilet

    Horrifying. The ability to hover without touching, maintaining balance even on planes and ships, is a skill that has served me well.

  64. 64
    NotMax says:

    Who was the last good guy Republican, anyway—Ike?

    Jacob Javits.

  65. 65
    Schlemizel says:

    @shortstop:

    Oh I was not objecting to what you said, just looking for more input to fill out my meager knowledge.

    AS to your amended comments – one of the great shames of Ike’s legacy is that he was not a man of courage and conviction as President. SO many of the aches and pains of America – Viet Nam, Cuba, Iraq can be laid right at his door because he caved to his SoS. His willfully ignoring the evil of McCarthy is also emblematic of his cowardice in place of leadership.

  66. 66
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN):
    If you’ve seen Johnny English Reborn (Rowan Atkinson’s second Mr. Bean/James Bond mashup) and then you see Skyfall, you’ll notice that they have more or less the same plot.

  67. 67
    Napoleon says:

    @gwangung:

    Second, there’s a real contradiction in Lincoln in that the no-compromise (heh) stand on the 13th Amendment is an endpoint (or is it?) in Lincoln’s personal evolution from a colonization/segregationist viewpoint of blacks, but there’s no hint of this in the movie.

    We have a winner to my post at 2.

  68. 68
    Alex says:

    I was sure the title of this post was “Godwinned at the Cineplex” and was reading for the part where Lincoln had a knife fight with Hitler.

  69. 69
    Schlemizel says:

    @shortstop:

    AS a teen the ice made a nice challenge! How fast could I “saw” through it. Of course the fact that I was hanging out at a temp less than 32F made speed an important factor!

  70. 70
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @sherparick:

    Wayne Morse (who would switch between the parties), Mark Hatfield (both of Oregon)

    Oregon when I was growing up was a pretty reliable R state. Morse was removed from his Senate seat by Bob Packwood in ’68, in part because some Oregonians were just not comfortable with Morse’s active opposition to the Vietnam mess.

    However, when the Rethugs started to go wingtard, Oregon (well, at least Oregon west of the Cascades, where the vast majority of the population is) said “no thanks”. Two senate seats that were R through much of the 80’s and 90’s became solid D, and Oregon went from purple to deep, deep blue.

  71. 71
    geg6 says:

    @gwangung:

    It’s covered quite extensively in the actual book, though. This movie is only concerned with the last few chapters. The book is worth a read, even if I have my problems with Doris Kearns Goodwin. Probably her best book.

    I wanted to go for my birthday (just after Thanksgiving) and again last weekend. For many reasons, it never worked out. But my sister and I are going to the very early matinee tomorrow (11am, I think) and then having lunch together. I’m excited. And I’m rarely excited to go to the movies. I prefer to watch them at home, but this one has me written all over it.

    Next up…The Hobbit.

  72. 72
    Napoleon says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    Its a movie trying to tell a story about the 13th amendment, to address all the issues TNC mentions, you need a Ken Burns style documentary which stretches over many many hours. As it is the movie was quite long at 2.30 hours.

    Bingo – It is a commercial movie that tells the story of Lincoln, hence the movies name, and not of the abolishist movement, which likely has something to do with why it is not calle “Fredrick Douglass.”

    TNC’s comments on the movie are totally unconnected to what it is.

  73. 73
    GregB says:

    Larry the Cable Guy delivered an impressive performance as Senator Duggan McChesterfield,

  74. 74
    Capt. Seaweed says:

    @JasonF:

    Who was the last good guy Republican, anyway—Ike?

    Mark Hatfield.

  75. 75
    shortstop says:

    @Schlemizel: Yeah, I was going to mention McCarthyism as another example of his just looking the other way. He let so many things just drift or waited until things were blowing up to act, leaving him with a decidedly mixed record, not just on civil rights.

  76. 76
    NotMax says:

    Wonder if any enterprising soul (right up Nate Silver’s alley) has done a comparative breakdown of Lincoln ticket sales in the states of the Confederacy?

  77. 77
    Napoleon says:

    @gwangung:

    . . .wouldn’t have add much to the running time (though, admittedly, may have made some viewers’ head explode).

    You apparently do not understand the concept of a movie that is made for commercial release.

  78. 78
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @gwangung: I did not see it that way, Lincoln comes across as all too human in this movie, his difficult dealings with his wife and older son, his being an indulgent father to the youngest son show don’t portray him as God at all.
    Even regarding the 13th amendment he is not above arm twisting, using rhetoric and lawyerly language, whatever works.
    About his evolution regarding slavery, basically we are all trying to guess how it happened, whether it was one moment or over a span of time, what matters is what he did do. What he did accomplish makes him one of the great Presidents, flaws and all.

  79. 79
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @NotMax:

    Oh, there are plenty of Southron types who would never set foot inside a cinema showing a film about the hated tyrant who crushed the noble lost cause.

    I’m becoming more and more convinced that Sherman was too humane in his treatment of Georgia and South Carolina.

  80. 80
    Brachiator says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    So I take it that this movie is more historically accurate than the one with the vampires?

    Wait a minute. You mean that vampires did not fight for the Confederacy?

    I saw the vampire version as a favor to my sister, and for the early stretches of this film kept thinking “this shit is ridiculous.” But the film actually won me over, and I gave it credit for actually weaving a bit of history into the vampire lore story.

    The actor who played Lincoln in this film, Benjamin Walker, was actually pretty good, and slightly resembles Liam Neesom, who was considered for the Spielberg movie.

  81. 81
    Napoleon says:

    @flukebucket:

    That is great to hear. I have not yet seen it but I read a comment somewhere that there were so many factual errors in the trailer alone that the person that made the comment was not going to bother to see the movie. I want to see it but I would sure like to know that it was somewhat accurate at least.

    You know, so what if there are some factual errors. You know this is a movie made for commercial release, so to further telling the story in an appealing way in a 2 hourish slot I kind of expect some short cuts to be made, but this doesn’t make the film into some kind of Oliver Stone production. By the way, get a book of photos of the civil war and it is amazing how many of the characters look like who the portray and the scenes of some of the places look like the places they are suppose to be.

  82. 82
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @Brachiator:

    Wait a minute. You mean that vampires did not fight for the Confederacy?

    They totally did, they are now serving in Congress as Republicans right now.

  83. 83
    Chris says:

    @shortstop:

    He also rode the Red Scare into power, and benefited from the God bothering revival that led to, among other things, the current Pledge of Allegiance (“under God”) and the “In God We Trust” national motto.

    Liberals today remember him for helping gut McCarthy, but he didn’t do that until after he’d ridden his hysterics into the White House. We remember him for saying people who wanted to gut the New Deal were stupid, but that wasn’t a public statement, it was a private letter to his brother. We remember him for his military industrial complex speech, but he didn’t give it until the very end of his presidency, after he’d spent eight years being resolutely part of the problem.

    Ike was VASTLY better than Taft would’ve been, but he did plenty to indulge the right wing fringe. If by “good Republican” people mean “he would have been better than his Democratic rival,” I don’t think that’s happened at the presidential level since before FDR at least.

  84. 84
    Elie says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    Amen.

    I am wary of judgements on historical figures who we assess “should have done, should have known or been” x.
    As in our own lives — and only the least honest among us will deny this — we do not meet our own expectations and dreams. Why? As many reasons as there are humans. Does that result in opportunities lost or goals unwon — yep it does. One of the many tasks of my impending old age is to look back at my life without regreting all the things I did not do — the mortifications of things I said or people that I let down. My own small life.

    Beware of judgement. Strive more for understanding the factors that may have led to an imperfection, or a road not taken…

  85. 85
    Culture of Truth says:

    I am surprised that more of the political savvy Balloon Juice crowd has not see the movie already. It would seem to be right up many folk’s alley.

    I’ve looking forward to it for a year. But what can I say, I’ve been busy!

  86. 86
    handsmile says:

    At last, a Lincoln thread! Thanks, Betty!
    (two weeks ago, I suggested/hoped one would appear as so many commenters were posting their enthusiastic reviews on open threads.)

    An extraordinary film, with a screenplay that will become legendary. Foremost among its remarkable aspects was the film’s refusal to spoon-feed exposition to the audience on the historical personages and issues. It actually made demands of the audience, complimenting it by assuming either some familiarity with the subject or the ability to follow the rapidly-paced action and dialogue. The full-house audience, wide-ranging in age, with which we saw it over the Thanksgiving weekend repaid that trust by its rapt attention, breaking out in ovation at the film’s conclusion.

    Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field have been unanimously and exuberantly praised for their inhabitations, more than portrayals, of President and Mrs. Lincoln; both will almost certainly add a third Best Actor/Actress Oscar to their trophy cabinet. (In fact, perhaps the film’s one drawback is that it will likely result in a rather dull Academy Award evening. Yes, as Hill Dweller #12 noted above, there have been rapturous early reviews of Zero Dark Thirty, but I’d be astounded if Lincoln did not sweep the major Academy prizes.)

    No less deserving of acclaim is Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens. Two scenes alone, polar opposites in emotional range, demonstrate this remarkable performance: stoically enduring Mrs. Lincoln’s scorn in a White House receiving line; his spirited browbeating of a quavering Democratic congressman whose vote was needed to pass the legislation.

    Carping about elisions and inaccuracies seems to misunderstand badly the capacity of any film to depict the complexity of a historical event or action. By focusing narrowly on the passage of a single piece of legislation in the final months of Lincoln’s presidency, the creators of the movie seem to acknowledge this dilemma. Their execution is brilliant, perhaps unprecedented for a work in this genre.

    Lincoln is a masterpiece that should be required viewing for every high-school student in this country and most every adult. Like any great work of art, it inspires one to think more, to learn more.

  87. 87
    Ben Franklin says:

    They need to get the fuck out of the way

    WASHINGTON — Senior White House and Justice Department officials are considering plans for legal action against Colorado and Washington that could undermine voter-approved initiatives to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in those states, according to several people familiar with the deliberations.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12.....&_r=0

  88. 88
    Schlemizel says:

    @shortstop:

    I have a cousin who was in the Marines in 1957 & was sent to Viet Nam to stop fair & free elections because Ho would have won. How’d that turn out for us? (BTW – despite combat in Viet Nam this cousin is not considered a ‘viet nam vet’ simply because his service dates are not ‘correct’!

    Ike also oversaw the overthrow of the Democratically elected government in Iraq that installed the Shah – I forget, how’d that work out? He also propped BAtista in Cuba against decent groups so that Castro was the only alternative.

    Marc Antony was right – the evil men do lives after them

  89. 89
    HinTN says:

    First, the conversations as imagined are wonderful. Second, Lincoln’s explication of the rationale for the necessity of the thirteenth amendment is the greatest moment (IMHO) of the movie. Third, wow, just WOW.

  90. 90
    Chris says:

    @shortstop:

    This, again.

    Ike’s deal is that he inherited a government machinery well oiled and fully upgraded by twenty years of Democratic rule, and mostly had enough sense to let it run and not go pushing any of the buttons. Which makes him smarter than many Republicans, but fairly unremarkable as a president.

  91. 91
    NotMax says:

    Shame they cut the scene of a young Bob Schieffer obtaining White House press access.

    /snark

  92. 92
    NotMax says:

    @Schlemizel

    That would be Iran, not Iraq.

  93. 93
    Schlemizel says:

    @NotMax:

    my mistake – of course its Iran. thanks

  94. 94
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @NotMax: But they did show Jim Lehrer in the gallery, covering the debate for the Snooze Hour.

  95. 95
    gwangung says:

    @Napoleon: Oh, come on. You don’t understand the criticism? Which goes to the heart of Lincoln the man? As a matter of characterization? Pshaw.

  96. 96
    Schlemizel says:

    BTW – not sure but I believe both the head of the CIA and Ike’s SoS were brothers – Dulles. Allen at CIA & John F at State

    Talk about an f’ed up foreign policy

  97. 97
    Brachiator says:

    @geg6:

    Next up…The Hobbit.

    You’re going to watch The Hobbit at home?

    Of course, with this film there will be a confusing multitude of viewing choices. Some places will be projecting it at 48fps (also known as high frame rate). Then there is IMAX and/or 3D and various high quality audio choices.

    A summary of the locations and choices here:

    Theatres showing The Hobbit in HFR 3D, IMAX 3D, IMAX, Dolby Atmos

    Or go see Lincoln, for the first or second time. The Hobbit will still be there, and since it is opening on 4,000 screens, it will be almost the only movie in town.

  98. 98
    gwangung says:

    @geg6: I think of it as a forgiveable flaw, though a flaw nonetheless. Chalk it up to my preference to making characters complex and as nuanced as possible.

  99. 99

    @Alex: I was sure the title of this post was “Godwinned at the Cineplex” and was reading for the part where Lincoln had a knife fight with Hitler.

    I made that same error. I didn’t even realize my error until I saw your comment.

  100. 100
    Napoleon says:

    @gwangung:

    Dude, it is a 2 hourish movie not a Ken Burns documentary. Speilberg decided, after tossing out several of Tony K’s scripts that covered a lot more of Lincoln’s life to cut what they would cover back to 4 months, the last 4 of his life and the primary focus was the passage of the 13th amendment. What you wish was in the movie IS SQUARELY OUTSIDE OF WHAT THE MOVIE WAS DOING. Your critizism is just as invalid as to the movie Lincoln as it would have been had you been making it about Speilberg’s movie 1941. Neither movie was telling the story of the abolishist movement. Neither movie was telling the story of Lincoln’s lifelong journey on race.

  101. 101
    gwangung says:

    @Napoleon: Actually, no. The criticism fits neatly within the scope of the movie as it pertains precisely to his actions, specifically, his pressure on Stevens.

  102. 102

    We saw Lincoln right after it came out. I thought it needed more zombies.

  103. 103
    Brachiator says:

    @Alex:

    I was sure the title of this post was “Godwinned at the Cineplex” and was reading for the part where Lincoln had a knife fight with Hitler.

    That’s in Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, Part 2

    Because, you know what other historical figure was really a vampire?

  104. 104
    shortstop says:

    @Schlemizel: Semi OT, this. Yeah, I’m not sure what to say either.

  105. 105
    shortstop says:

    @Brachiator:

    You’re going to watch The Hobbit at home?

    Not sure where geg lives, but in Chicago it costs $22 for mi esposo and me to go to the movies. We pick and choose what to see on the big screen.

    ETA: Anticipating the argument, matinees are like two bucks cheaper, and dollar theaters are no more here…sniff.

  106. 106
    Schlemizel says:

    @shortstop:

    $16 a pair here in MN or $24 if you can stomach 3D. We don’t go to many movies. Its not that we can’t afford $16 but too often the movie is not worth it or the audience has a couple of jerks/children/fools that diminish the experience. I think we may see the end of movie theaters as we have known them (they are already a shadow of what they were). Just don’t know how Hollywood will replace that 30-40 million dollars a film. Sure won’t be from home rentals

  107. 107
    DFH no.6 says:

    Excellent movie all around, Lincoln, with important themes of course very applicable to our own time even nearly 150 years after the events portrayed (we are, as most of us know, in many ways still fighting the Civil War).

    In regards to the 180-degree flip between the Democrats and Republicans then and now, I saw Lincoln recently with a pretty big crowd here in Scottsdale.

    There were a lot of chuckles from the (mostly, I presume) Teabagger crowd whenever there were disparaging remarks made in the movie about the Democrats.

    I wanted to shout, “Hey, assholes, you are the party that the Democrats were then, not Lincoln Republicans! You are the fucking neo-Confederates who we are still fighting 150 goddamn years later!”. But I didn’t, because propriety.

  108. 108
    VincentN says:

    @Napoleon:

    I agree with your overall point that commercial historical movies are primarily about entertainment first with historical accuracy thrown in where it fits with the story being told. But I don’t have a problem with gwangung’s desire of wanting a more complex and nuanced Lincoln if it can done in a way that doesn’t, as you say, go outside the scope of the last 4 months of Lincoln’s life.

    And gwangung pointed out how it could be done in one scene that doesn’t go beyond the ‘scope of the movie’ and would make the movie stronger by showing that the Lincoln we see in the movie was a product of growth and reflection. Or are we not allowed to suggest improvements for movies anymore?

  109. 109

    @Brachiator: You’re going to watch The Hobbit at home?

    The Rankin-Bass version, sure.

  110. 110
    Brachiator says:

    @gwangung:

    I don’t think I’m saying that his way was best; I’m referring more towards Lincon’s motivations and past history, which was considerably more complex than what was shown in the film. His position was shown as sort of divine revelation, a given that drove his actions The reality of Lincoln’s previous stands, and the change (quite possibly motivated by Steven’s own work) would have been welcomed nuance.

    Totally disagree. The film focused more on the Lincoln’s political motivations, not the personal reasons for his actions or false issues such as his supposed “contradictions.” Shit, the entire nation was full of contradictions. Dealing with this would not necessarily have provided any nuance; it just would have been a different (and not better) movie.

    @HinTN:

    Lincoln’s explication of the rationale for the necessity of the thirteenth amendment is the greatest moment (IMHO) of the movie.

    Yep. I also like that the film clearly shows how the thirteenth amendment was too much for conservative Republicans, but not enough for radical Republicans, but it was exactly the right thing, at the right time. Here, for whatever reason, and however it really happened, Lincoln saw further than his contemporaries.

  111. 111
    shortstop says:

    @DFH no.6: They wouldn’t have believed you anyway. “Democrats were totes the opponents of civil rights and nothing has changed since the 1960s-1970s! Really!” has been too deeply ingrained in their Foxy little brains.

  112. 112
    Chris says:

    @Schlemizel:

    Yeah, they were. Eisenhower pretty much allowed them free rein over foreign policy, and they ran at least three coups against democratic governments that I’m aware of, one against Mossadegh in Iran, one against Arbenz in Guatemala and one against Lumumba in the Congo, with calamitous long-term consequences for all three countries.

    They were also both sitting on the board of directors of the United Fruit Company, which Arbenz was expropriating, before the Guatemala coup. No conflict of interest there at all.

    Yeah… I actually blame the Eisenhower administration for pretty much destroying any goodwill we had in the third world. (In case you couldn’t tell from the previous two posts that I’m kind of a non-fan of his).

  113. 113
    Schlemizel says:

    @Cris (without an H):

    I’d rather have my eyes gouged out with a dull spork than to have to view any Rankin-Bass POS

  114. 114
    Just One More Canuck says:

    @Alex: I’d see that movie

  115. 115

    Speaking of the Hobbit, my local theater is running an all-day marathon of the LOTR trilogy tomorrow. Director’s cuts, they claim. Counting the breaks, that’s something like a 13-hour commitment. It’s like the Iron Man triathlon of film.

  116. 116

    @Schlemizel: I’d rather have my eyes gouged out with a dull spork than to have to view any Rankin-Bass POS

    If you can filter out the songs and overlook the goofy character aesthetic, it’s a pretty faithful adaptation.

  117. 117
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @Cris (without an H): I am not a fan of the second movie with the trees, it was boring.

  118. 118
    geg6 says:

    @shortstop:

    Yeah, it’s over $20 just to see a movie here unless you go to the matinee, which is a bit more than half price.

    But it’s not price that kills any pleasure in going to a movie theater for me, at least not price alone. It’s the other assholes you have to deal with in the multiplex. I hate them. So I generally wait to see most films at home. The last one I saw in a theater was the Hunger Games. I plan to see The Hobbit in the theater, too. I really want to see Argo and the new Bond, too, but those can wait because I don’t think I need the big screen to see them.

  119. 119
    Elie says:

    @DFH no.6:

    But they were there — seeing the movie. A movie about Lincoln working to pass the amendment that permanently liberated blacks from slavery. After an election in this time, that the current Republicans sought to distance the interests of white people from those of blacks and others… They came to see it. They paid money to see it – That’s something.

    Celebrate that.

  120. 120
    shortstop says:

    @Chris: Say on, brother or sister.

    @geg6: Oh, I really think you need to see Daniel Craig on the big screen. Yes, I really, really do. Oh, and the movie was good, too! ;)

  121. 121
    VincentN says:

    @Brachiator:

    And what would be bad about focusing just a tiny bit on Lincoln’s personal reasons as well as his political motivations? It’s a movie about Lincoln after all. The movie looked at both the political and personal motivations of Thaddeus Stevens and I thought that worked really well. A president is not just a politician. He’s a person as well and the movie showed him as a person with his troubled marriage and his fondness for telling stories so why not also show him as a wiser man changed by war and the abolition movement as everyone was at the time?

    With that said, I still greatly enjoyed the movie as it was. But just because I like something doesn’t mean I have to accept it uncritically. There’s always room for improvement.

  122. 122
    Chris says:

    @Brachiator:

    Yep. I also like that the film clearly shows how the thirteenth amendment was too much for conservative Republicans, but not enough for radical Republicans, but it was exactly the right thing, at the right time. Here, for whatever reason, and however it really happened, Lincoln saw further than his contemporaries.

    It reminded me a lot of the HCR debate. Intentionally, I suspect. The Blue Dog faction just looking to jump ship for any reason especially.

    I agree with others that Thaddeus Stevens stole the show (partly due to being played by Tommy Lee Jones, and partly due to the fact that the real character was fucking awesome). My favorite part of the movie is when one of the teabaggers pro-slavery faction tries to bait him into saying all men are equal in fact as well as law, and he weasels out of it by going “how can I say all of us are equal with a retarded ape like you sitting in front of me?” I really wish I had the text, can’t find it anywhere.

  123. 123
    NobodySpecial says:

    @flukebucket: Yeah, that was me. Still not going to see it. I’d rather pull out my copy of the Centennial History of the Civil War by Bruce Catton and remember that actual history doesn’t need Hollywood to make it interesting.

  124. 124
    Betty Cracker says:

    @VincentN:

    “…so why not also show him as a wiser man changed by war and the abolition movement as everyone was at the time?”

    You don’t think the movie conveyed that? I thought it did, but I guess that’s arguable.

  125. 125
    VincentN says:

    Or let me put it another way. Let’s say we did a movie in the year 2100 about Obama signing a constitutional amendment legalizing gay marriage nationwide in the year 20-whatever. It wouldn’t be necessary to show his personal motivations or his evolution on this issue in a film about political maneuverings but it would be more interesting and show a more complete picture of the man if there was a reference or two to past feelings on the issue. Or if you believe Obama never wavered on his views and was just being politically expedient one way or the other… well, that would also be an interesting thing to see.

  126. 126
    shortstop says:

    @NobodySpecial:

    actual history doesn’t need Hollywood to make it interesting

    That’s true. Similarly, my ass doesn’t “need” a piece of mince pie, but I’m going to have one at Christmas. Sometimes we do things just because they’re enjoyable.

  127. 127
    Brachiator says:

    @shortstop:

    Anticipating the argument, matinees are like two bucks cheaper, and dollar theaters are no more here…sniff.

    I sympathize big time. I’ve participated in conversations about this on a local public radio program, and argued that the movie studios stupidly are pricing people out of regular movie going. Some theaters near me have shut down, and two that remain are super premium. The Arclight charges a higher price for the ability to reserve seats, and a couple of other amenities. There is still an art house and a discount movie house, but for first run mainstream films at reasonable prices, I go to a couple of nearby cities.

    The other super premium theatre charged $40, but offered food and drinks, super comfortable seats and smaller, more intimate screens. Too stupid and too rich for my blood.

    The bottom line for me is that for some films, I want to see it with a crowd, even a rambunctious one. I want that group experience. At Skyfall, some in the crowd giggled nervously when the villain appeared, because he was so deliciously creepy.

    At Lincoln, you could feel people leaning forward at bit to hear Abe talk, cheer when a crucial vote was reached and when some key legislators made their hard decisions.

  128. 128
    Elie says:

    @Chris:

    I agree that Tommy Lee Jones was extremely effective in his role as Thadeus Stephens. That said, he could openly show the true values of his character — openly and powerfully express his unconflicted point of view and virtue. I found equally effective some of the lesser roles of the legislators who votes “yea” but whose faces betrayed their fear and conflict while doing so…What challenges did Tommy Lee face in presenting Stephens? Lincoln showed his immense kindness — but also his rage and impatience and willingness to use whatever means necessary. He lied. He manipulated his opponents and some of his allies as well such as Blair. He feared also. He feared the danger of extending the war as a consequence of setting the vote up by waylaying the negotiators from the south. Particularly since his son was now serving and his wife literally said she would have his head on a platter should anything happen to him.

    There was a lot of complexity in this movie.. a lot of wrinkles. I can understand that there are some who would want more still — There always are.

  129. 129
    VincentN says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    No, I agree that it did show that in terms of weariness about lives lost and all that. But in terms of his view on slavery, the movie made it seem like that Lincoln was always gung-ho about ending slavery and was just being a pragmatist about the pace at which it could be done. I actually didn’t know much about Lincoln’s involvement in the 13th Amendment until after seeing the movie and that was the impression I got. When I think of Lincoln, I think Emancipation Proclaimation, Civil War, Gettysburg, shot at Ford Theater, etc. I didn’t know until after digging around afterward about his views on colonization and that he really didn’t push for freeing slaves until he absolutely had to do it. And frankly, this knowledge makes me admire him more for being willing to change his beliefs and act on them. We’re flawed human beings but we can progress to the better side of our natures. So it would have been cool for the movie to reference that Lincoln the savior grew into that role.

    And yes, actual history doesn’t need Hollywood to explain it but many people post-high school get their history from movies and shows like Rome so it’s nice that historical movies these days are more accurate than ones made a few decades ago.

  130. 130
    Betty Cracker says:

    @VincentN: That would be interesting. Also, as a viewer, we bring our own baggage to the theater, so I might have inferred things I already thought or knew about Lincoln.

    @shortstop: LMAO! I’ve never had mince pie (it just looks weird!), but that’s a great point.

  131. 131
    Schlemizel says:

    The big thing about the movie I thought was that it showed Lincoln as a politician interested in the politics of the possible. He might have wanted something different in some way but he got what he could.

    I think a careful reading of his career shows that Lincoln’s administration was all about the politics of the possible. Had the South not started shooting he might have left office with slavery still intact. Had the war ended quickly he might have not be able to get emancipation. But by 1863 it was obvious that slavery had to end for the war to be over. the 13th became possible.

    One of the saddest things to me is that it is almost impossible to know what Lincoln really wanted. He only took what he could get and a lot of that was forced on him by the treasonous bastards of the CSA. That does not make him a lesser man – it makes him a genius who held this country together when a lesser man might have let it fall apart or even driven it apart by doing too much or too little.

  132. 132
    Elie says:

    @NobodySpecial:

    Well aren’t you special…

    The rest of us rubes like talkies with color and such…

    Sheesh.

    Do you use warm water and soap when you bathe or are corn husks and cold water just fine?

  133. 133
    shortstop says:

    @Betty Cracker: Well, I don’t eat meat, but I like the fruit-and-nut kind. Purists scoff! Scoff!

  134. 134
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @VincentN:

    But in terms of his view on slavery, the movie made it seem like that Lincoln was always gung-ho about ending slavery

    I don’t think the movie does that at all, all it shows that towards the end of the war, ending slavery once and for all is what he hopes that the 13th amendment will accomplish. In the movie nowhere are Lincoln’s prior views about slavery mentioned.

  135. 135
    Schlemizel says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    I think it would be great to have a movie showing Lincoln’s changing positions and contradictory statements on human bondage in America. But I don’t think anyone would pay $8 for that & those fine Sons Of Treason In Defense Of Human Misery would be foaming at them mouth over the film

  136. 136
    shortstop says:

    @Brachiator: I don’t want to give the impression that I’m playing the world’s tiniest violin. I love movies and would see them five times a week at the theater if I had the time and unlimited funds, but travel is our real passion and we reserve most of our disposable income for that. Priorities.

    We are very lucky. For us, it’s a question of how to use our entertainment/play $, but for many families, movies are just priced out of the game. This has not always been true: my parents were Depression kids from poor families, and even they were able to go to the Saturday show most weeks. I’m a baseball fanatic and it kills me to see how much it costs a family of four to go to a major-league game, even without hot dogs or peanuts or beer. They go once a summer. When I was a kid in the 1970s and 1980s, most people could afford to go to the ballpark–even often–and there were all sorts of promotions like free ladies’ days on Thursdays (so moms who didn’t work outside the home would take their kids those days).

    Not trying to be Aging Person Experiencing Sticker Shock, just hate to see basic entertainment priced out of so many people’s reach. And also, these onions on my belt weigh a ton.

  137. 137
    VincentN says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    (quote): I don’t think the movie does that at all, all it shows that towards the end of the war, ending slavery once and for all is what he hopes that the 13th amendment will accomplish. In the movie nowhere are Lincoln’s prior views about slavery mentioned. (end quote)

    ETA: Sorry, but I can’t get the blockquotes to work on my work computer for some reason.

    You’re probably right about that. That might be something I inferred since like I said I didn’t know much about Lincoln besides the mythical image we learn about in grade school as the Great White Man so I just assumed the views he was mentioning in the movie were ones he’d always held. I’m actually going to start reading more books about Linoln and the era he lived in because it seems pretty interesting. I was never that interested in the Civil War era because I’m not interested in reading about wars but the political maneuverings and the people involved in such seems intriguing.

  138. 138
    shortstop says:

    @Brachiator: Oh, also wanted to add that I get the attraction of the communal experience in movie-going: I dig it also.

  139. 139
    NobodySpecial says:

    @Elie: Sorry, I like my history straight, no chaser. The other way lies the War of Northern Aggression.

  140. 140
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @Schlemizel: That would make a great play, I am not so sure about a movie though.@VincentN: I thought his answer to Keckley brought out some of the ambiguity he probably felt.

  141. 141
    shortstop says:

    @NobodySpecial: Because nothing you ever read in a book could be biased, skewed or shaded, or you’ve found the magic historical narrative in which complete objectivity reigns, right?

    We don’t mind you thinking of yourself as a purist, but we are chuckling at you for your imperfect grasp of historiography.

  142. 142
    Betty Cracker says:

    @shortstop:

    Not trying to be Aging Person Experiencing Sticker Shock, just hate to see basic entertainment priced out of so many people’s reach.

    True. For professional sports, I blame the luxury box phenomenon. When everyone had to sit on uncomfortable concrete seats, a working class family could actually go see a game. Once the fat cats started enclosing huge swathes to build new gated communities within stadiums, it was game over…

  143. 143
    NobodySpecial says:

    @shortstop: You must think everyone who disagrees with you is twelve. Or something.

    And, yeah, when you start researching something 100-150 years after it happened without an axe to grind, generally you get okay at filtering out the obvious propaganda, and it’s even better when you read things like eyewitness accounts from people who were there or read things like letters that people wrote themselves to figure out what they were talking about.

    And I’ve never put myself on any pedestal here – I gave my objection to the movie, my opinion. I didn’t slam anyone for going to see it, didn’t even comment on anything until I started getting attacked.

    If you want my full objection to the Hollywoodization of Lincoln, it’s that it’s going to be every bit as bad as the job done on the Founding Fathers, where for many many years any questioning of their actions or motives was considered damn near treasonous and they were treated as Jesus’s Diciples 2.0.

  144. 144
    Napoleon says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    I thought his answer to Keckley brought out some of the ambiguity he probably felt.

    Ah, one of those things they use in movies produced for commercial release. Instead of a back flash or streaching the script out over 12 years or having a character dryly describe something that happened years ago they put a little semi-confrentation in the film that has no historical basis to flesh out the themes they wanted to introduce.

    BTW I thought the opening scene with Lincoln was a great example of that and was simply a brilliant way to place the time and the place of the film in the context of what had happened and what was to come over the next 100 years. But of course no basis in historical fact (like the scene where Lincoln rides through the battle field, something there is no record of him doing but helps convey graphically how aware he was of the great cost of the war).

  145. 145
    DFH no.6 says:

    @Elie:

    But they were there—seeing the movie.

    You are right.

    And this crowd of (mostly) older, white, upper middle class Scottsdalians (and thus my fair assumption, mostly Republican) actually applauded when Lincoln ended. Pretty rare, that.

    So of course they recognized what Lincoln (and the 1860s Republicans, and the Union in general) accomplished was good and right and necessary. One of our nation’s shining moments, in fact.

    And obviously they believe themselves to be on the side of good and right and necessary today.

    But the cognitive dissonance – no, the sheer blindness needed to not see the complete reversal of the Republican Party from then till now – as evidenced by the chuckles from the audience whenever “Democrats” were disparaged in the movie still drives me nuts.

    Not many Southerners around these parts, so the local Republicans most definitely think of themselves as the Party of Lincoln, though they couldn’t be more wrong.

    It’s like my teatard brother who realizes (like almost everyone does) who the good guys and bad guys are supposed to be in the many, many stories our culture tells like, say, Robin Hood, or A Christmas Carol.

    But I grab him and shake him (he’s younger and I can probably still take him, so I use the privilege) and say, ”Yes, of course Robin and the Merry Men are the good guys, it’s fucking obvious and everyone knows that, but that’s not who you and your ilk are! You’re Prince Fucking John and the goddamn Sheriff of Nottingham! You’re Jacob Marley and Scrooge before he changes! How the hell do you not see that!?”

    We have lively family get-togethers.

    After nearly six decades I still do not grok conservatives. Never will, I don’t think.

  146. 146
    Chris says:

    @VincentN:

    When I think of Lincoln, I think Emancipation Proclaimation, Civil War, Gettysburg, shot at Ford Theater, etc. I didn’t know until after digging around afterward about his views on colonization and that he really didn’t push for freeing slaves until he absolutely had to do it.

    That makes him pretty much exactly like Lyndon Johnson. He waited a hell of a long time to hop off the Dixiecrat bandwagon and come to the light side. But when he did, he brought the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act with him.

  147. 147
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @Napoleon: Yes the first scene with the two black soldiers would have never happened in IRL, I cannot imagine any soldier black or white giving lip to the C-in-C. That was definitely a case of dramatic license.

    It was meant to show us, I guess that there were a lot of folks who were cynical of Lincoln’s intentions and most certainly did not think of him as God.

  148. 148
    shortstop says:

    @NobodySpecial:

    You must think everyone who disagrees with you is twelve.

    Not at all. But when I read this…

    And, yeah, when you start researching something 100-150 years after it happened without an axe to grind, generally you get okay at filtering out the obvious propaganda

    …it pretty much confirmed that you haven’t read much history and are inordinately proud of what you have consumed, if “I like my history straight, no chasers” hadn’t already done that.

  149. 149
    Brachiator says:

    @VincentN:

    And what would be bad about focusing just a tiny bit on Lincoln’s personal reasons as well as his political motivations?

    I didn’t say that this would be bad, or that you don’t have a right to be critical of this aspect of the film.

    I found that grinding the film on the political aspects more compelling. And some posters here wanted the film to focus more on the contradictions of some of Lincoln’s earlier actions. This I find boring and not nearly as meaningful as others think. But that’s just me.

    On the other hand, I don’t think the film was perfect by any means. By deciding not to show much action, for example more Civil War battles or even the background of the conspiracy to kill Lincoln, the film almost becomes too stagey, to devoted to almost static tableaux.

    I would have liked to have seen more of other cabinet members or more of the relationship between Lincoln and Seward.

    I greatly was relieved that the film did not include some stupid text crawl telling us what happened to everyone after the events of the film, but people who don’t know the history of the time as well missed this.

    @Chris:

    It reminded me a lot of the HCR debate. Intentionally, I suspect. The Blue Dog faction just looking to jump ship for any reason especially.

    Yes, yes, yes!

    But also, critically in the case of Thaddeus Stevens, the film shows that radical Republicans falling in line to support a compromise. This is unlike idiot progessives in our own day who continue to bleat that the health care bill is worst than useless because it did not immediately give them everything they wanted.

    The film also clearly lays out how questions relating to the president’s War Powers have been with us a long time; they didn’t just crop up with LBJ or Nixon or Clinton or Obama, and that anyone who insists that there are easy answers here are fooling themselves.

  150. 150
    handsmile says:

    For those who might truly be interested in learning more about Lincoln’s moral, intellectual, and legislative evolution on the issues of slavery, the currently definitive book on the subject is Eric Foner’s The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery. Published last year, it was awarded the Lincoln, Bancroft, and Pulitzer Prizes.

    Foner, one of the leading contemporary American historians, is the author of numerous works on the Civil War period. His Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution (1989) remains the standard work on the subject.

    Also to those here who have complained that the figure of Lincoln as presented in the Spielberg/Kushner film is insufficiently complex in personal/political terms or is historically attenuated, I must ask: compared to what?

    Do you have examples from other historical films in which you found the principal character(s) to be represented in a richer, more rounded or nuanced manner? If the issue is one that film is an inadequate medium in which to present such qualities or characteristics, that is an entirely different debate.

  151. 151
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @Brachiator: I would not compare Stevens and other radicals in the Congress to Firebaggers, they achieved a lot more than writing blog posts of overwhelming outrage, which in their case would have probably meant standing on a soapbox and ranting.

  152. 152
    Mnemosyne says:

    @gwangung:

    I think you forgot to tell people that you were wearing your playwright’s hat when you made the comment about Lincoln’s motivations, not your historian’s hat.

  153. 153
    shortstop says:

    @handsmile: Seconding the recommendation of both Foner books.

  154. 154
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @handsmile: I think that was the thrust of TNC in his blog posts about Lincoln.

  155. 155
    Chris says:

    @DFH no.6:

    There entire worldview is based around a rather simple binary equation; good guys, us. Bad guys, them. You start there and reason your way backwards, filling in the blanks as needed to explain why that’s true.

    (As for “A Christmas Carol” specifically, I’d say the fact that it centers around a religious holiday appeals to their worldview, but they see it as a celebration of Christian charity rather than eebil socialist FORCED charity. Same for Les Miserables, which many fundiegelicals adore).

  156. 156
    shortstop says:

    @Chris:

    Same for Les Miserables, which many fundiegelicals adore

    And which was wildly popular with Confederate soldiers, actually.

    good guys, us. Bad guys, them. You start there and reason your way backwards, filling in the blanks as needed to explain why that’s true.

    Exactly! And ain’t it even better when it’s translated into foreign policy!?

  157. 157
    Chris says:

    @Brachiator:

    This is unlike idiot progessives in our own day who continue to bleat that the health care bill is worst than useless because it did not immediately give them everything they wanted.

    Well, what idiot progressives are we talking about? Bloggers and activists may have flipped a shit (and I’m sure many abolitionists did too), but I think most of our politicians, like Stevens and his people, fell in line.

  158. 158
    NobodySpecial says:

    @shortstop: Then how can you recommend any history book? What makes (for example) Foner special and recommended in your eyes over other historians of the period? Which way does he skew in your eyes? Serious questions.

  159. 159
    Chris says:

    @shortstop:

    And which was wildly popular with Confederate soldiers, actually.

    I have read that somewhere. “Lee’s Miserables.” Talk about a total lack of self awareness.

  160. 160
    Mnemosyne says:

    @NobodySpecial:

    Well, I guess it’s good to know that you think that America has not changed a bit since 1965 so there’s no need for you to update your understanding of our history.

  161. 161
    shortstop says:

    @NobodySpecial: I recommend reading many history books, allowing for the fact that while quality of scholarship varies significantly, absolute objectivity doesn’t exist in any of them–even “after 150 years have passed.” Foner’s far from the only great Civil War/Reconstruction historian.

    I really wasn’t objecting to you preferring books over movies. I just think you wrongly expect them to achieve the same things and are a little naive about the human frailties and limits involved in historical writing.

  162. 162
    shortstop says:

    @Chris: Uh huh. Thank dog the red states down south got over that.

  163. 163
    Napoleon says:

    @VincentN:

    I didn’t know until after digging around afterward about his views on colonization and that he really didn’t push for freeing slaves until he absolutely had to do it. And frankly, this knowledge makes me admire him more for being willing to change his beliefs and act on them.

    Why do people think he changed his beliefs instead of simply what he was willing to publically advocate? Ask yourself this, if he was as radical at=s Stevens was in his personal beliefs, yet wanted to be president and was practical enough to understand that no matter what his personal beleifs there was only a limited range of things he may be able to achieve in a position of power, like the presidency, depending on other political actors and the political lay of the land at any one time, do you really think he would have done anything differant? Do you think he would have advocated freeing slaves and letting them stay in the US if he thought such an idea was politically DOA?

    As close as you can ever come to getting a slight look behind the public positions of Lincoln is through thinks like his private letters to Joshua Speed (the person some think was his one time lover) in which he makes it clear as to his hate of slavery, which, if my memory is clear, he never qualifies with stuff like a scheme to colonize blacks. Ordinarily I would consider a politicians public positions as basically what they in fact think, but when you get off into something like racial equality in 1860 I really don’t see any politician with any common sense doing anything other then lying about there beleifs if they think they are way out in front of the public on it.

  164. 164
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @Napoleon: According to TNC’s blog Lincoln changed his mind after meeting with Douglass. How does he know that I have no idea. I think Lincoln was a canny politician, you don’t get to be President if you are a purity troll. What was in his heart, I don’t know and I doubt if anyone else does for that matter. Lincoln did not behave like a guest on the Oprah Show, he kept his thougts to himself and played his with cards close to his chest and kept various factions in his party guessing.

  165. 165
    Mnemosyne says:

    @VincentN:

    But in terms of his view on slavery, the movie made it seem like that Lincoln was always gung-ho about ending slavery and was just being a pragmatist about the pace at which it could be done.

    IIRC, Lincoln always wanted to end slavery, but went through several sets of ideas about how and when it should be done throughout his life.

    Part of the issue is that Lincoln felt that slavery was morally wrong, but he also shared many of the prejudices of his time and did not necessarily think of black people as his equals. So he’s a more complicated figure for us in the post-Civil Rights days.

  166. 166
    Mnemosyne says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    I don’t think that meeting changed Lincoln’s mind about slavery because (as I linked to above), all evidence shows that he always thought it was evil. The meeting with Douglass was probably what changed his mind about the ability of former slaves to become participating (and eventually equal) members of American society, rather than the perpetual children that most white people viewed them as.

  167. 167
    VincentN says:

    @Napoleon:

    You raise good points that we don’t know what was in Lincoln’s heart. People make similar points when they discuss what Obama’s “true” stance on gay marrige is. I’m not a Lincoln historian so I don’t know how strong the evidence is one way or the other.

    I guess one could arguably make a movie showing how Lincoln’s public persona is at odds with his private feelings but that would still be a choice of a director or scriptwriter. Spielberg and company apparently avoided the issue altogether by making no reference at all to the fact that Lincoln had previously taken different public positions. There were many references in the movie that Lincoln moved at a snail’s pace and that he only did things that were politically beneficial and that was why the radicals distrusted him. I didn’t realize that they might have had another reason to distrust him.

    Again, this omission doesn’t lessen my enjoyment of the movie. It just makes me realize that there was more going on behind the scenes than I had imagined. Obviously, one 2 hour film can’t capture all the complexity of any given event but it’s interesting to ponder the choices about what parts of history gets included and what doesn’t in this type of movie.

  168. 168
    mattH says:

    @Napoleon: Not to pick onyou (there’s plenty of other people who are saying the same thing), but Coates’ point is perfectly right. It’s not like the movie was titled 13th Amendment or Lincoln’s Last Year, it was titled Lincoln, and if the writer, director and producer decided to make it about something more specific than his life, you’d think they’d make some effort to show the full context of Lincoln’s relationship with what they decided to focus on.

    And before you get too defensive about this, don’t you think it’s an even more amazing thing that Lincoln probably changed his mind? An extra 5 min of non-hagiography might have given an even more impressive picture of a very complex person.

  169. 169
    NobodySpecial says:

    @Mnemosyne: Okay, that’s just one dumb objection. What’s changed since 1965 that would invalidate the scholarship of the books is a question I’d love for you to answer.

  170. 170
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @mattH: How does TNC know definitively how Lincoln’s views evolved, if indeed they did. Is he a mind reader in possession of a time machine? It did not come across as a hagiography to me, at all. YMMV.

  171. 171
    Brachiator says:

    @VincentN:

    But in terms of his view on slavery, the movie made it seem like that Lincoln was always gung-ho about ending slavery and was just being a pragmatist about the pace at which it could be done.

    I think you misread the film. The film has Lincoln admit that the Emancipation Proclamation decided nothing about slavery, and even intimates that his decision to go with it was a military decision, not a moral one. The movie also makes clear, in ways I have not seen done as well in either movies or conventional history, that the 13th amendment was itself only a step in a larger progression.

    And so, when people get hung up on the fact that the movie did not spend time dealing with Lincoln’s evolving views about slavery miss a critical artistic point. The complexity of the issue is not bound up in a single character in the film, but in the views of various characters. And the film suggests, in the way that good art does, that Lincoln’s personal views took a back seat to what he thought his duty as a president was. You also see this in the decisions made by Thaddeus Stevens and by any number of other characters in the film.

  172. 172
    Napoleon says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    According to TNC’s blog Lincoln changed his mind after meeting with Douglass. How does he know that I have no idea

    As much as I like TNC and think he should be at the NY Times I think he gets a lot of things wrong about Lincoln, and his original sin with Lincoln is that he seems to take everything at face value. I mean of course if he always personally though the slaves should be free and full citizens like any white, but was already on record as supporting schemes like colonization and blocking abolitionist moves he is going to have to have some kind of reason why he flips on the issues suddenly at the end of the war and “man that Fredrick Douglass is so persuasive I changed my mind” works as good as anything else (By the way, a great current example of this is Obama’s shiftiness on gay marriage – I don’t for a second believe he has never been against it but thinking it was fatal to embrace it he managed to back himself into a corner on the issue).

    And your right, he played his cards close to his vest and there is smoking gun record showing what he thought privately on these issues (other than the general hate of slavery), but there is one thing that should make people think twice when they do things like, say like TNC calling Lincoln a racist (which he has) and that is that as the war rolled on politically the ground got more and more favorable such that the views of blacks and abolition by whites had considerably softened, that when the ground seemed most favorable suddenly Lincoln pushed for it like no other piece of legislation during his presidency (that is a historical fact) when he could have simply done nothing. There really are only 2 explanations for that (I happen to think he did it for both) that he really believed in it, and he believed that if it wasn’t done the Union would be back to war a dozen years or so later over the same issues unless it was finally resolved right then an there.

  173. 173
    NobodySpecial says:

    @shortstop: I try to read as widely as possible – having a good public library helps. Nor do I disagree that written accounts have just as much potential bad screwing with the narrative as movies do. My thing is that I’ve seen too many times where the visual medium outright strips out or changes history to get a good shot, and it’s much harder to dismiss it as bad scholarship once it becomes a visual.

    I’d guess my ideal would be a interactive visual format where one could access historical documents as one wanted to to see where the visual came from; I’d love to be able to see copies of things like Lincoln’s letters to Speed, or Greeley, or any number of others just to satisfy myself ‘yeah, that’s what he said.’ And if I didn’t care to go that deeply, just let it run.

  174. 174
    Barry says:

    @Schlemizel: “Just don’t know how Hollywood will replace that 30-40 million dollars a film. Sure won’t be from home rentals”

    It could be. After all, how much is Netflix and Hulu paying Hollywood right now? Ten years ago or so, they didn’t exist.

  175. 175
    Mnemosyne says:

    @NobodySpecial:

    One question in my mind would be to wonder how much influence the Dunning school of thought about the Civil War influenced Catton’s work in either direction. But I guess in your mind all historical scholarship is fixed and unchanging and never influenced by events going on at the time the work is written, so to even ask what Catton’s influences were is heresy.

  176. 176
    mattH says:

    There’s some pretty good historical evidence (aka written info) that Lincoln was pretty much a bog standard Republican about both business and slavery. But if someone here is dead sure that he was anti-slavery well before the last half of the war.

  177. 177
    Cassidy says:

    @NobodySpecial: They will miss your $10.

  178. 178
    Sly says:

    @JasonF:

    Who was the last good guy Republican, anyway—Ike?

    Who didn’t drop the affiliation or become a Democrat? Probably Sen. Edward Brooke. He’s in his early 90s now, and is probably the last living liberal Republican to hold Federal office who is still a Republican after Mark Hatfield died last year.

    If you count Republicans who dropped the affiliation, probably Gov. Lincoln Chafee.

  179. 179
    Napoleon says:

    But if someone here is dead sure that he was anti-slavery well before the last half of the war.

    Then try this on for size, and I suggest everyone with even an passing interest to Lincoln to read it since it is as close as it is now possible to read Lincoln’s private thoughts on slavery. It was a private letter in 1855 to what is generally thought of as his closest friend (and for those who think that Lincoln was gay his earlier lover):

    http://showcase.netins.net/web...../speed.htm

  180. 180
    Brachiator says:

    @mattH:

    but Coates’ point is perfectly right. It’s not like the movie was titled 13th Amendment or Lincoln’s Last Year, it was titled Lincoln, and if the writer, director and producer decided to make it about something more specific than his life, you’d think they’d make some effort to show the full context of Lincoln’s relationship with what they decided to focus on.

    Uh, no. A film’s creators can make a film about whatever they choose. If you have expectations based on just the title, that’s your issue, not the film makers. Ultimately, any fair criticism has to deal with the film as presented, not the film Coates’ wanted or expected. The next step if anyone is still unhappy is to make your own Lincoln movie.

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    @Chris:

    I would not compare Stevens and other radicals in the Congress to Firebaggers, they achieved a lot more than writing blog posts of overwhelming outrage, which in their case would have probably meant standing on a soapbox and ranting.

    But I am talking more here about lessons that can be learned from the film, lessons which are directly applicable to many Balloon Juice conversations. There have been interminable 200 plus post threads here about whether Obama should have pushed for the version of health care reform that he wanted, and that he somehow failed progressives, six cats, and the nation by not pushing for single payer or the public option.

    The false assumption, which some still can’t let go of, is the ridiculous idea that if you cannot get the perfect law right now, it is not worth getting anything at all, or that it will be impossible to improve on anything in the future.

    The other, infantile assumption, is that good law or good intention never comes with any costs.

    But it could be worse: one of the stupidest reviews I have seen about Lincoln is that the film does not do a good job in presenting the Confederate’s case. The reviewer even had the gall to contrast this with Schindler’s List. I have seen that film a number of times, and confess that I still have not been able to determine which scenes sought to justify the German’s war aims.

  181. 181
    Napoleon says:

    PS, by the way, the positions Lincoln took earlier in his career, particulary his opposition to the Mexican War, just happened to line up with anti-slavery thinking (if you were anti-slavery you did not want to see the south have an opening to spread slavery to Mexican territory which could then be admitted as a state which would vote yes on issues in favor of slavery). There were also explicit votes taken on some slavery issues when he was in congress and he voted on the anti-slavery end of the issues.

  182. 182
    Seth Owen says:

    @handsmile: Seconded!

    I think the key to the movie’s success is its focus on the 13th Amendment. Avoiding the temptation to cover Lincoln’s entire term in office was wise.

  183. 183
    Mnemosyne says:

    @mattH:

    But if someone here is dead sure that he was anti-slavery well before the last half of the war.

    There is no question whatsoever that Lincoln was anti-slavery throughout his entire career. It is very well-documented through Lincoln’s own letters and statements that he is reliably reported to have made, not to mention the political stances he took (such as, as Napoleon points out, his stance against the Mexican-American War, which was very much concerned with the expansion of slavery to new territories). He was not a fiery abolitionist like John Brown, but he was always against slavery.

    What Lincoln had to be brought around to was how slavery should be ended and whether it was best to integrate former slaves into American society or to repatriate them back to Africa.

    ETA: A lot of people seem to use “anti-slavery” as a synonym for “pro-civil rights for African-Americans,” but at that point in history, they were two very different things and the Venn diagram between the two did not have as many overlaps as you might think.

    ETA #2: At that time period, “bog-standard Republican” = anti-slavery. Just FYI. So, yes, for his time period, Lincoln was very much a bog-standard Republican.

  184. 184
    Napoleon says:

    Another PS, this is implicit in what I said but just to make it explicit. Lincoln was against the Mexican War, but stated reasons other then anti-slavery as what motivate him, even though it is crystal clear that he personaly has very strong anti-slavery views by that time. He already appears at that point willing to shroud his anti-slavery motivations for the political positions he would take.

  185. 185
    TerryC says:

    @Face: I’ve seen comments on wingnut sites that the Queen had it done.

  186. 186
    Napoleon says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    At that time period, “bog-standard Republican” = anti-slavery. Just FYI. So, yes, for his time period, Lincoln was very much a bog-standard Republican.

    At that time through Lincolns election pretty much the entirety of the Rep platform was opposition to slavery and mormons (that is often forgotten today).

  187. 187
    Brachiator says:

    A negative view of Lincoln, by Richard Brody

    Spielberg gives Lincoln the kind of idée fixe that motivates most of his protagonists. For all the division that Kushner’s script inscribes in the character—including his conflict with his wife, Mary (Sally Field), over the military service of their son Robert (Joseph Gordon-Levitt)—and for all the preternatural grandeur that Day-Lewis brings to the performance, Spielberg’s Lincoln is a fleshed-out cartoon, an Indiana Jones from the history books. Kushner’s script (which, at its best, is formidable indeed) yields up its surprises and its insights early on, but its ideas are ultimately overwhelmed by Spielberg’s sentimentalizing and reductive vision.

    And a far better (to my eyes) positive one, by David Denby Six Footnotes to the Greatness of “Lincoln”:

    In other words, they did not make a bio-pic; they made a movie about a political actor at a specific time of crisis: January, 1865, when the war was coming to an end, and Lincoln wanted to push through the House of Representatives the Thirteenth Amendment, which made slavery unconstitutional. (The earlier Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln figured, was vulnerable and insufficient. See note five below to hear why.) Spielberg and Kushner placed their hero, then, in the middle of political struggle for the soul of the country. All the issues of the war, were encapsulated in that moment, but the movie, despite many moments one can only call noble, is not some elevated wheeze. On the contrary, “Lincoln”—I can’t believe I’m writing these words—is a legislative thriller. It’s an exciting, suspenseful movie about cajolery, persuasion, ideology. It’s a great movie about…counting votes. And into this framework, the filmmakers folded a portrait of an unhappy, torn-apart family, a kind of metaphor for the nation caught up in civil war.

  188. 188
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Brachiator:

    Meh. A lot of movie critics still cannot admit that Spielberg has grown as a filmmaker since E.T. and insist that all of his films are only suitable for children because, well, he’s Steven Spielberg.

    ETA: Heh. And I wrote that even before I clicked through and saw that the headline was “Spielberg’s ‘Lincoln’: A Civics Lesson for Children.”

  189. 189
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @Napoleon: I didn’t know about Mormons. Why were they against Mormons?

  190. 190
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @Mnemosyne: Well its the oh so sophisticated New Yorker, of course they don’t like movies that Spielberg makes for mere plebeians.

  191. 191
    Napoleon says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    Polygamy – they still practiced it at the time. During the Civil War the first anti-polygamy law was passed by the Republicans.

  192. 192
    Brachiator says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    Well its the oh so sophisticated New Yorker, of course they don’t like movies that Spielberg makes for mere plebeians.

    The negative and positive assessments I posted are both from the New Yorker.

    @Mnemosyne:

    Meh. A lot of movie critics still cannot admit that Spielberg has grown as a filmmaker since E.T. and insist that all of his films are only suitable for children because, well, he’s Steven Spielberg.

    True enough. Or they rag on him for making movies with “happy” endings. But I’ve noted in many film discussion groups that a phony “downer” ending is just as bad as a phony “happy ending.”

    And for my money, Spielberg was at the top of his game in a way that few film makers ever have been when Catch Me If You Can and Minority Report were released close together. The scenes with Christopher Walken as a father proud that his son might be sticking it to the man in Catch Me … are reminiscent of Billy Wilder’s deft, curdled wit.

    And Billy Wilder is about as good as it will ever get.

  193. 193
    Mnemosyne says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    I think Brody is a little misinformed about what Lincoln’s true personality was if he’s convinced that Lincoln was some kind of solemn, constantly depressed figure:

    Wherever a group of people were gathered, Abe would be there telling stories and striking up conversations. He was a persuasive, empowering storyteller and conversationalist and wrote deep poems and parodies that he performed at all kinds of social gatherings.

    I remember reading stories about Lincoln driving his wife and the White House staff crazy by playing raucous games in the White House with his sons, but I don’t have time to Google them at the moment.

  194. 194
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Brachiator:

    People who think Minority Report had a happy ending needed to pay more attention to Gideon’s little soliloquy about what he thinks his prisoners dream about as he takes custody of the haloed Anderton. It puts the entire “happy ending” of the film in question, to say the least.

  195. 195
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Brachiator: Glad you posted those reviews. I liked what the second commenter said in response to Brody’s take:

    And the choice to focus on Lincoln’s child at the moment of the assassination isn’t lacking in profundity at all, if we choose (as I do) to grant it a certain symbolic weight: the nation, outgrowing its moral childhood, is suddenly deprived of its guiding soul. It suggests that we were stunted by Lincoln’s untimely death, and the record of reconstruction and the bitter imperfection that followed the Civil War and Emancipation attest to that, profoundly.

    That’s the same impression I got from the visual image of Lincoln wandering around the White House.

  196. 196
    zacsmith says:

    @Schlemizel: It would be sad to see the theaters go away, as some films just need to be seen on the big screen. We avoid the unruly (mostly) by going to earl afternoon shows during weekdays. Being self-employed, we just declare a need for a “bored meeting.”

  197. 197
    Brachiator says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    Glad you posted those reviews.

    My pleasure. Glad that they contribute to the discussion. And you are spot on in pointing out that second commenter’s response to Brody.

    @Mnemosyne:

    People who think Minority Report had a happy ending needed to pay more attention to Gideon’s little soliloquy about what he thinks his prisoners dream about as he takes custody of the haloed Anderton. It puts the entire “happy ending” of the film in question, to say the least.

    And the ending of the film, and what happens to Anderton, is the least interesting part of the film.

    What I most enjoyed about Minority Report is the narrative complexity of its universe. Unlike a lot of SF films, in this future people are lied to about how the psychics are treated by the government. And, as would likely happen in the real world, the psychics are treated by people as though they are deities. Details like this elevate the film beyond the simplistic paranoia that is part of Philip K. Dick’s work, and that often keeps adaptations from soaring (such as the craptastic remake of Total Recall).

    In an obliquely related way, Spielberg strips Lincoln down to its essence, bypassing traditional bio pic stuff, avoiding getting too mired in speculations about Lincoln’s psyche or personal motivations (and clearly disappointing some viewers) in order to dig deeper into not just history but into the politics of a small period of time in order to reveal the wider implications of what was done, and what was left to be accomplished later, during those few months of 1865.

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    Mnemosyne says:

    @Brachiator:

    And the ending of the film, and what happens to Anderton, is the least interesting part of the film.

    Assuming it actually happened, of course, and wasn’t all Anderton’s dream while haloed. I’m always suspicious when a director of a “is it real or isn’t it?” movie fades to white instead of black at the end.

  199. 199
    Brachiator says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    RE: And the ending of the film, and what happens to Anderton, is the least interesting part of the film.

    Assuming it actually happened, of course, and wasn’t all Anderton’s dream while haloed. I’m always suspicious when a director of a “is it real or isn’t it?” movie fades to white instead of black at the end.

    But the film is also about the fate of the psychics and the future society. If the “end” of the film is just about Anderton, then other aspects of the film become, for me, a hell of a lot less interesting.

    But then again, I tend not to like films that are all about too-cutesy “what is real” and “what is a dream” stuff. Of course, this is a huge part of what Philip K. Dick’s work is all about, so what can you do when this is the source material?

  200. 200
    VincentN says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Assuming it actually happened, of course, and wasn’t all Anderton’s dream while haloed. I’m always suspicious when a director of a “is it real or isn’t it?” movie fades to white instead of black at the end.

    So you’re basically saying that Minority Report pulled an Inception before there was an Inception. :)

    And, yeah, I’m aware that ‘it’s all a dream’ type endings have been around forever but I had never considered the possibility that the ending of Minority Report might be one of those. Interesting.

    @Brachiator:

    In an obliquely related way, Spielberg strips Lincoln down to its essence, bypassing traditional bio pic stuff, avoiding getting too mired in speculations about Lincoln’s psyche or personal motivations (and clearly disappointing some viewers) in order to dig deeper into not just history but into the politics of a small period of time in order to reveal the wider implications of what was done, and what was left to be accomplished later, during those few months of 1865.

    I don’t see why it’s an either-or. I greatly enjoyed the focus on a particular historical event rather than the traditional biopic. Some tweaks to characterization and dialogue are all anyone is asking for. One can play Lincoln any number of ways (and Lewis did a fantastic job) and you’d have pretty much the exact same movie but possibly a different emphasis in certain moments depending on what backstory you’re using. That’s why you can have so many different versions of Hamlet depending on whether you play him as an indecisive ditherer or a careful strategist.

  201. 201
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Brachiator:

    But the film is also about the fate of the psychics and the future society. If the “end” of the film is just about Anderton, then other aspects of the film become, for me, a hell of a lot less interesting.

    IMO, it’s only less interesting (or at least less dark) if you don’t think it through.

    (Yes, the movie is over 5 years old, but I’ll still say SPOILERS.)
    If everything that happens after Anderton is haloed is his dream of being exonerated, that means that Burgess gets away with murder, Agatha is returned to slavery, and the pre-crime test program is expanded out to the rest of the country (and possibly to other countries around the world.

    @VincentN:

    I will freely confess that I didn’t pick up on it, but my husband did. He’s much more attuned to pure visuals than I am, and there apparently are quite a few visual clues that this may all be Anderton’s fantasy.

  202. 202
    Brachiator says:

    Another Lincoln book recommendation:

    Drawn with the Sword: Reflections on the American Civil War, by James M. McPherson (Battle Cry of Freedom)

    McPherson’s scholarly breadth and intellectual depth place him in the front rank of Civil War historians. All but one of the 15 pieces in this anthology have appeared elsewhere, but in a spectrum of publications so wide that their appearance between one set of covers is especially welcome. They cover four themes: the war’s origins, its social consequences, the reasons for its outcome and Abraham Lincoln’s central role. Topics range from an analysis of Uncle Tom’s Cabin to an argument that the Confederacy almost won. The essays are, however, connected by McPherson’s conviction that the Civil War’s origins and outcome were in no way predetermined: the campaigns, battles and elections that determined the war’s course were shaped by specific contingencies. The final piece, provocatively dissecting the failure of contemporary academic historians to reach general audiences, is by itself worth the price of a book that belongs in all Civil War collections.
    __
    Historian McPherson (Battle Cry of Freedom, LJ 3/1/88) has compiled a series of thoughtful essays on some of the most thought-provoking questions of the Civil War. All of the essays were published earlier but have been updated and revised for this compilation. The topics deal with such subjects as the origins of the Civil War, the slavery question in both North and South, why the North won the war and why the South lost, President Abraham Lincoln, and the change in historical writing. In these essays the author has proven that history can be accurate, informative, and interesting.

    Available on Amazon and elsewhere, and as an ebook on Amazon and eslewhere.

  203. 203
    Brachiator says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    If everything that happens after Anderton is haloed is his dream of being exonerated, that means that Burgess gets away with murder, Agatha is returned to slavery, and the pre-crime test program is expanded out to the rest of the country (and possibly to other countries around the world.

    Yeah, I’ve seen this offered as the “real” ending. I don’t find anything about this version, in which ordinary (if malign) humans “win” to be remotely interesting in any way.

    The version in which pre-cogs are free, and perhaps able to wreak temporal havoc, is much more evocative.

    As always, your mileage may vary.

    @VincentN:

    I don’t see why it’s an either-or. I greatly enjoyed the focus on a particular historical event rather than the traditional biopic. Some tweaks to characterization and dialogue are all anyone is asking for.

    It’s an either/or because the version you are asking for is not what was filmed, edited and distributed. And it is extremely unlikely that Spielberg is going to go back and add anything resembling these scenes.

    I don’t see that the “tweaks” you want add anything to the story, but I can understand it if you say that the film does not satisfy you because these elements are not present.

    Still, it’s like people who wanted more Seward or more Grant or more Thaddeus Stevens. These are not wrong. But it is not the same thing as evaluating what is actually in the movie.

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    Mnemosyne says:

    @Brachiator:

    Well, that’s part of the cleverness of the movie — you can read the ending either way, depending on your preference. I actually don’t mind an ending like that. I only get annoyed with ambiguous endings that seem like the filmmaker couldn’t make up his/her mind and decided to leave it ambiguous out of laziness.

  205. 205
    Nick says:

    I would’ve seen Lincoln already, but for some reason it doesn’t come out in Australia for another month. Because distributors now apparently hate us. I don’t know, maybe it’s payback for getting all those superhero movies early.

  206. 206
    VincentN says:

    @Brachiator:

    Still, it’s like people who wanted more Seward or more Grant or more Thaddeus Stevens. These are not wrong. But it is not the same thing as evaluating what is actually in the movie.

    And like I said before, evaluating what’s actually in the movie, it’s a great film with great acting and an intriguing plot. But evaluating what’s in the movie sometimes requires evaluating what’s not there and wondering what are the reasons for why it’s not there.

    You seem to be saying that we should only discuss or criticize what is actually on the screen. Okay, how am I not doing that? I’m discussing the character of Lincoln and how he’s portrayed and he most definitely was on the screen. That’s no different than saying that I think Chris Pine should have played Jim Kirk slightly differently in the recent Star Trek movie. Critiquing acting and scriptwriting choices is done with sci-fi movies, dramas, thrillers, etc. Historical films don’t get to be treated differently in this regard.

    When I say “red matter is a ridiculous plot point!” nobody goes, “the version you are asking for is not what was filmed, edited and distributed” with the implication that it’s silly to even bring the issue up.

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    AHH onna Droid says:

    @joes527: I loved that movie even though it’s cheap Northern tribalistic trash. Even my Southron wife was cheering at the end. Not a perfect movie, but lots of belly laugh s violence one can enjoy without shame, like watching Nazis lose. Cheap, yes. Trashy, sure. But i loved it.

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