Friday, February 08, 2013

Lincoln Walks Off With It

February 8, 2013
   I went to see Steven Spielberg's Lincoln last December but didn't post anything about it for a couple reasons. The first being I didn't want to ruin it for my friends here who hadn't seen it yet, and, two, I wanted to mull it a bit until I spouted off about it. I think enough time has passed so here goes the spouting:

   The ad campaign and poster is absolutely brilliant and iconic.

This is from a booklet on the production that was inserted into The Hollywood Reporter (and all of these photos are from the booklet). I wouldn't be surprised that in a 100 years, this photo of Daniel Day-Lewis isn't used with attribution as being a "real" photo of Big L. It's that good and the design and starkness is just the best. When we get in arguments about house ads here at the magazine I often resort to the comparison: "Give me more Lincoln and less Dairy Queen" as in, a local Dairy Queen ad with all the specials of the day, the phone number, website address and the owner's bio.

The costuming in Lincoln is absolutely rich and authentic. Great hats in all the crowd scenes:

Not to mention all the fine acting. That's James Spader (Sex, Lies & Videotape) at left, Tim Blake Nelson ("Oh, no, not the livestock" from Oh, Brother Where Art Thou), and John Hawkes (Cy from Deadwood and Winter's Bone). Everyone is at the top of their game. Sally Field is flat out great.

The set pieces are also first rate, like this interior of Lincoln's office:

Check out this close-up of the same scene:

Great attention to detail and I have a hunch, Spielberg himself put the small toys in the scene from his own collection! That is my guess, but it's so cool. Just lovingly done with obvious great admiration.

Of course, the history isn't perfect. My neighbor, Tom Augherton, who is from DC, and worked at the White House, said the Capitol dome was under construction during the Civil War and not completed until after Lincoln's death:

If true, I'm not sure why they wouldn't portray this cool little detail. Perhaps they thought it would take us out of the story? Not sure, but to have gone to such effort everywhere else to get it right and then not do a big thing like this, is kind of crazy, at least to me.

My biggest complaint, though, is that it's too long. Steven had us with the scene of Lincoln walking down the corridor on his way to a certain theater:

Lincoln says he "doesn't want to go," and we know exactly where he's off to and so as the camera stays on him and he walks off into immortality, that is where the movie wants to end. But no, we get a couple more extended scenes, one of a play going on, but it ain't THAT ONE, it's a twist and it's too clever by half and it drains the climax we just saw. Then another speech! Enough. You had us at the walk.

Still, I'm proud of Steven and all the people who lovingly put this up on the big screen. I think the film will almost match ol' Edwin's quote:

"Now he belongs to the ages."
—Edwin Stanton