Thursday, March 7, 2013

JIMBO GOES TO THE MOVIES: “Lincoln” (2012) Review

SPOILER: He Dies at the End!

I’m not entirely sure how historically accurate “Lincoln” is -- I’m guessing it’s mildly more exact than some of the recent biopics that have been shat out by Hollywood as of late -- but at the end of the day? Who cares if Stevie Spielberg’s latest flick is mostly made up hooey wrapped around a wiener of truth like a nice, thick corndog coating, as long as the movie itself is, you know, good?

And “Lincoln,” I might add, is a mighty tasty corndog of a movie, at that. Daniel Day-Lewis, as we all know, is arguably the greatest thespian of the ever, and to say that his recent Oscar for best actor here is deserved is kind of like asking if Code Red Mountain Dew is delicious. Its inherent greatness is so visible that it bears no mention, and you should already be aware of such.

The film begins with Honest Abe talking to some Union troops and having really-green colored dreams about steering a battleship towards…something. After that, he and his wife -- played by Sally “I Wouldn’t Mind Plowing Her” Fields -- psycho-analyze his reverie, concluding that that the nocturnal vision is actually symbolic of Abraham’s desire to have the 13th Amendment passed. Not giving this archaic Adam Parfrey article suggesting that almost all of Steve’s filmography has some serious chi-mo subtext any merits whatsoever, the next scene sees Abe attempting to spoon with his son, in front of a fireplace, while he looks at commemorative plates of slave children.

From there, we encounter the crux of the film’s plotline. You see, Abe -- just re-elected and a couple of years deep into the Civil War -- is trying to get the idea of a constitutional amendment barring slavery and indentured servitude to fly with the Republican base. As we all know, you need at least a 2/3 vote in Congress to get an addendum to the Constitution tossed in there, and to do so, Lincoln’s cabinet is going to HAVE to recruit a few Democratic swing voters. As a plus for Team Lincoln, a lot of reps don’t mind the proposed amendment, since they see it as a means of ending the Civil War. As a negative, most of those same people really don’t like “the black folks,” and have serious qualms about giving them anything that even remotely resembles enfranchised rights, of any kind.

Perhaps you’re seeing some Obama parables going on here. A second-term president, trying to get sweeping, and highly contentious, legislation passed, while his political opponents endlessly refer to him as a tyrant and oppressor of liberty. That, I assure you, is mere coincidence, and absolutely nothing else at all to speak of.

In the film, Lincoln’s plan to sway swing voters to his cause is two-fold; first, he hires a ragtag group of dirty, smelling-looking campaigners to harass border state representatives into giving Abe their votes, and the other portion of the shtick involves Lincoln giving comedic monologues at every possible juncture to everyone within earshot. If I had to venture a guess, I’d say that roughly 95 percent of Abe’s dialogue in the film is him telling anecdotes about women running to Tennessee to get “good water” and avoid death sentences; at one point, he even breaks up the tension in the 1865 equivalent of the Pentagon war room by recounting an old chestnut about a picture of George Washington making Ethan Allen take a much quicker shit than usual.

There are some downright tremendous scenes in the film, which are suspenseful in that usually-irritating-but-here-actually-kind-of-captivating-Speilbergian manner. The scene where the 13th Amendment actually goes to a vote feels like a combination of “Les Miserables” and that one part in John Carpenter’s “The Thing” where Kurt Russell is poking everybody’s blood samples to make sure they aren’t Antarctic space zombies or anything. I also really liked the scene where Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee finally meet at Appomattox Courthouse, and literally nothing at all happens. As in, Lee doesn’t have ANY lines of dialogue in the picture, whatsoever, and the moment is still utterly entrancing.

I guess the ending of the flick is pretty obvious; if you don’t know how this one ends, that means you probably never completed the second grade and ergo, have much larger matters to worry about. Alas, for those of you WAYYYY late to the party -- let’s just say that for the April 14, 1865 showing of “Our American Cousin” at the Ford Theater, no, Mr. Lincoln will NOT be receiving a refund.

Really, any and all discussions about “Lincoln” HAVE to begin and end with Daniel Day-Lewis. By now, we all know that DDL is a keen method actor, so to put on a performance like this, I really wouldn’t be surprised if he spent an entire year pretending to be Lincoln before the first day of filming ever took place. Hell, he’s probably still wearing the top hat right now, having a glass of Tang and watching SportsCenter and trying to not be distracted by the glare of all those Oscars he’s won just by waking up in the morning. I could go on and on about how great of a job he does here, but really, it would be superfluous praise. Not only does Lewis deserve an Oscar for this one, he probably deserves the last four and next six “Best Actor” awards, for that matter.

And on that note: while it’s easy to find yourself wrapped up in Lewis’ mesmerizing performance as Mr. Five Dollar Penny hisself, you REALLY have to give the supporting players in the film some proper dap, too. I especially dug Tommy Lee Jones’ performance as Tad Stevens, the mocha-lovin’ “Radical Republican” that was doing the Roger Ebert Special a good 150 years before miscegenation was legal in most parts of the Deep South. I also really liked the muted performance of Rorschach/Shitty Version of Freddy Krueger as C.S.A. V.P. Alex Stephens, who brings a sinister, teeth-dripping-with-tobacco-and rancor presence without raising his voice or even standing up at any point in the picture. I wasn’t particularly moved by Robin’s performance as one of Abe Lincoln’s eight or six sons, however; outside of the part where his pencil-thin mustache kinda’ crinkled a little when he uncovered a mountain of severed legs about to get mass buried, there’s really nothing at all remarkable to say about his presence in the flick, in my humblest o’ opinions. I guess Jared Harris did a pretty good job or portraying Ulysses Grant, but I really couldn’t tell, because every time he was onscreen, all I could do was keep thinking “oh no, don’t you know just how shitty of a president he will end up becoming!” over and over again.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that there seems to be two very different people named “Steve Spielberg” making movies. One is the guy that gives us truly great, glowy-yet-still-complex adult dramas like “Schindler’s List,” and then, there’s the really artistic retard that gives us stuff like “A.I.” and “Minority Report.” Thankfully, the non-spectrum Stevie was the one that showed up to direct “Lincoln,” and the film truly is one of the absolute best flicks of 2012. Yeah, maybe not “Beasts of the Southern Wild” or “Zero Dark Thirty”-good, but definitely on par with stuff like “The Master” and “Les Mis.”

The film isn’t perfect, of course. For one, there’s those pesky afore-mentioned historical inaccuracies that pop up every now and then; while I guess there are some people out there that can live comfortably with the fact that a major, award-winning Hollywood motion picture intentionally misrepresented historical facts for the sake of creating dramatic atmosphere, if you are a true and blue stickler for historical actuality, this one might make you mighty angry. As expected, the film also looks at the Civil War through an incredibly simplified lens; and for those of you that think Honest Abe was  truly the staunch, principled protectorate of blacks that he’s depicted as in this film…well, here’s some supplemental info you may or may not want to take a quick glance at.

Alas, even with those slights against the film -- and the occasional saccharine “Spielbergian” creep that sops through the reels of the film -- “Lincoln” remains a downright terrific motion picture, and a riveting, captivating, somewhat cerebral drama that doesn’t even feel like it’s half as long as it actually is. It’s well-filmed, expertly paced, acted like a mofo, and teaches us that, at one point in time, there actually were people running around named “Bilbo,” and nobody thought it was weird or anything.

Simply put, this is a movie that ought to be required by LAW to be screened in every high school and middle school in America. Trust me; if you catch this flick, you’ll probably still be talking about it…four score, and seven years from now.


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