Old Geezers Out to Lunch

Old Geezers Out to Lunch
The Geezers Emeritus through history: The Mathematician™, Dr. Golf™, The Professor™, and Mercurious™

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Movies by Mercurious: Week of November 18, 2012

One thing that happens as you pass the 55-year mark is that time passage takes on  a different perspective. When I was a little fellow around five years of age, I remember my parents and grandparents talking about WWII, and it seemed like medieval history to me. Actually though, at the time that epic war was only 15 years in the past. As I write now, the war of my own youth, Vietnam, is approaching 50 years in distance from today.

Similarly, the American Civil War can seem like ancient history as it now approaches the 150 year anniversary. But with Vietnam seeming like yesterday, you recognize that in the greater scheme of things, the Civil War is relatively fresh cultural history. In fact, I remember a human interest story when I was a boy about the last living Civil War widow dying. She had been a very young bride who had married a rather old veteran well after the war, but still the point is valid. On the old "I've got a Secret" television program in the early 50s, I saw a very old gentlemen speak of seeing Lincoln's assassination when he was a wee boy.

America is a very young country by world standards, and this signature event is still being digested in our cultural conscience. To have gone from the end of slavery to an African American as president in a mere 150 years is a profound statement on the wonder of democratic government.

We’ve all been raised to believe that Abraham Lincoln is our greatest president, but when a figure reaches that kind of heroic status, it becomes hard to separate the truth from the mythological archetype.

Steven Spielberg’s new film, Lincoln, humanizes this American legend in a remarkable way. It is almost certainly headed for nomination as best picture of the year, and it’s likely that Daniel-Day Lewis and Tommy Lee Jones will receive accolades for best actor and supporting actor; Sally Fields as Mary Lincoln stands a good chance as well.

Focusing on the relatively brief stretch of Lincoln’s presidency near the end of the civil war as he tried to get the 13th Amendment passed, this film is a sublime dramatization of arduous politics of getting slavery banished once and for all. School kids are raised to believe this was accomplished by Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, but that act was actually child’s play compared to effort require to pass the amendment that put this policy into the constitution itself.

I’ve not been all that huge a fan of Steven Spielberg’s of late. His films are always well crafted and epic in nature, but War Horse was only that, not a artistic film, really. Even the Color Purple, widely acclaimed by most, seemed a little manipulative to me. The only truly great Spielberg film for me was Schindler’s List, in which we saw evidence that Spielberg could be truly masterful. But I had come to see it as the exception proving the rule that Spielberg was an artist for the masses, not necessarily a genius.

Lincoln is not Schindler’s List, but it comes very, very close. Daniel-Day Lewis’ performance as Lincoln is a thing to behold, and I’ll be seeing this film several times just to enjoy him, and the performance of Tommy Lee Jones as Representative Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania— a crucial figure in the passing of the amendment.

It will take a pretty darned fine movie in the closing month of the 2012 season to upset this for best picture of the year.