Monday, April 01, 2013

Lincoln again

The movie Lincoln should have won the Academy Award - that it didn't was one more travesty in the crass Seth MacFarlane-headed presentation.

It's such a rich movie, it bears repeated viewing, and I did just that - it's finally available on iTunes. Only on the second viewing did I truly appreciate the way the entire plot was masterfully worked out - I was just trying to keep up with everything the first time around. And I think the Academy viewers penalized it for that. Argo was much easier to follow.

One of the reasons Lincoln works is because Steven Spielberg's visual craftsmanship reigned in Tony Kushner's natural wordiness. When there is nobody to stop him, you end up with the kind of logorrhea that completely torpedoed his latest full-length play, which I wrote about a couple of years ago: The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to STFU!!!

There was one moment when you could see Spielberg allow Kushner free reign - it happens at minute 27 of the movie, where Lincoln explains to his cabinet why it's so important to make the abolition of slavery an amendment to the Constitution. He goes on about the complexities of the legalities involving war powers, the freeing of slaves based on the concept of seizure of property of belligerent nations - although the North defined the South as rebels not a separate nation... and yadda yadda... he delivers a monologue on the subject for two and a half minutes - which is nothing for a stage production but it is a huge chunk of time for a movie. And unless you're a legal scholar or historian, this means almost nothing to you in terms of the plot of the movie.Since the 13th Amendment is a done deal, few people are interested in the nuts and bolts of the legal issues of the time period. And I didn't even remember this part from the first time around, although in my defense that was on Thanksgiving day and here it is Easter.

In any case, I had to watch the monologue twice, this time, to get all the legal conflicts presented by the monologue.

When I saw the movie in the theater the first time around I didn't realize that U.S. Grant was portrayed by Jared Harris - the guy who played Lane Pryce the very British character on Mad Men. Grant looks nothing like the Lane Pryce character but somehow I recognized it was the same actor.

Which means that not only was Lincoln played by a British guy, which some people complained about, it means that both of the American presidents portrayed in the movie are played by British guys.