Life and 100 Films – Charlie’s Film Review of Lincoln

lincolnLincoln was a film I had anticipated for a long, long time. In the mid to late 2000’s it was said that Steven Spielberg was working on a film about Abraham Lincoln, with Liam Neeson playing the titular character. That just sounded like pure gold to me. After numerous delays, script changes, actor departures, etc., we are finally seeing this movie.

In my opinion, it’s the best possible version we could have asked for, so it was well worth the wait. The best thing about it (besides the fact that Spielberg was obviously still directing despite all the changes), is that Neeson dropped out and the one and only Daniel Day-Lewis took his place. He may just be the greatest actor of his generation, as everything he touches is perfection. He is extremely particular in the roles he plays, as he has only been in five films, including Lincoln, in the new Millennium. So far, he has been nominated for Best Actor at the Academy Awards two times, and Lincoln will undoubtedly be his third. He is so good, especially as Lincoln, that you have no doubt in your mind that what you are watching is real footage, and that he is actually the real Honest Abe in the flesh. He may have been put on this Earth to specifically play this role.  Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln, Tommy Lee Jones as Radical Republican Congressional leader Thaddeus Stevens, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Robert Todd Lincoln, and James Spader as Republican Party operative William N. Bilbo all give outstanding performances as the ensemble cast.

Lincoln_One of the great things about this film, which at first I wasn’t sure about, is that it’s only based on a certain period of Lincoln’s life. It’s actually based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography of Lincoln, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, and covers the final four months of his life. It focuses on Lincoln’s efforts in January 1865 to have the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution passed by the United States House of Representatives. Even though we all know the outcome, the movie still has you on the edge of your seat wondering who is going to vote which way. There is no doubt in my mind that this movie is going to bring home some gold men at the Oscars, and in my eyes, Daniel Day-Lewis is a guaranteed lock!

YOU NEED TO SEE THIS FILM. Everything about it is brilliant, and it’s definitely on my list of top films of 2012! It may be a little slow for some, but if you enjoy history, want to learn a little more about the greatest president to ever live, or just see a great film that everyone is talking about, go check it out. It’s some of Spielberg’s best work, and unlike anything he has done before. You mark my words: the success of this film is going to open up many doors for other films about Lincoln. Not only do I recommend the film, but I highly recommend checking out the book as well.  Both offer great insight into the fascinating life of Lincoln.

5 out of 5 Stars

Adam’s Film Friday – A Review of Lincoln

lincolnWhat makes people consider a film to be an epic? Who decided one day that The Godfather was an epic? Did a reviewer label the film an epic and his reviewer friends decided to copy him? Very rarely do films come out and scream “epic” like the biopic Lincoln did. From the day that this picture was released to the time I finally saw the film, everything about this film seemed so epic and larger than life. Maybe it was the amount of preparation the cast went through or the fact that the crew was required to dress in period costume, but this film seemed destined to be different than anything I had seen in films since The Artist.  My biggest question before seeing it however was whether or not it would live up to the title of “epic.”

Lincoln follows the President during the last five months of his life, a time he was seemingly defeated by the events of the past four years. Having just been re-elected to a second term, we see Lincoln attempting to keep his country together by trying to mend the part that attempted to break away. The story depicts Lincoln’s fight to pass the 13th amendment, which would outlaw slavery in the United States. You are introduced to Lincoln as a man who seems exhausted from the tasks he has had to deal with, but is dedicated to seeing them all the way through. Working with some allies in the House of Representatives and his cabinet, while working against some more formidable enemies, will Lincoln see the bill pass, the war end, and the country reunite?

First let me start off with the good: there were some PHENOMENAL performances in this film. If Daniel Day-Lewis does not win an Oscar for his portrayal of Lincoln, the Academy Awards are a sham and I will not watch them for the next five years. Okay, that is a lie, but still he embodied everything I imagined Lincoln to be. Unfortunately there are no sound bites of Lincoln, but I imagined Lincoln sounding like Day-Lewis made him sound. Since the film takes place during the last five months of his life, which coincided with the end of the Civil War, you can only imagine how exhausted Lincoln was.  Day-Lewis was able to get Lincoln’s mannerisms down pat, and you can even hear the tremble in his voice. It was mind-boggling how good he was, and I would love to pick his brain to see what sort of work went into preparing for the role.


Also, there were a very solid group of performances with Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln and Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens. Both had limited screen time, as the majority of the film was rightfully focused on Lincoln, but both really lit up during their allotted screen time. This was the first time I got to see the rumored crazy side of Mary Todd, and Field was able to capture that perfectly. It easily could have been overdramatic and frankly campy, but she balanced it out perfectly. Jones as Stevens, an abolitionist senator fighting for the passage of the 13th amendment, was another understated performance, but nonetheless great in its own right. He was not as flashy as Field or Day-Lewis, but really strong nonetheless. I predict Oscar nominations for Field and Jones, but not quite sure about their victories yet.

Fun Fact: Steven Spielberg called Day-Lewis Mr. President and Sally Field Molly or Mrs. Lincoln throughout the entire three and a half month shooting of the film to keep them in character. This practice definitely paid off because both performances were fantastic.


Now to the downside of the film. From the time the film started, it suffered from serious pacing issues. I thought the story was really interesting and an important one to tell, but there were certain scenes which I felt were never going to end. It seemed that the story (and the director) focused on trivial points rather than pushing the story forward. During some scenes, I couldn’t wait for the story to move forward because I was losing interest due to the stretching out of unnecessary points. Also the sound seemed very off in the film; I almost wished there were sub-titles because during some of the scenes, I was unable to hear some of the dialogue which was whispered or spoken in a lower tone. Although there were some beautifully wistful parts to the film and some equally beautifully filmed scenes (my particular favorite was their son at the theater), something prevented me from fully connecting to this film. I truly struggled to get past the pacing problems.

With everything being said, I think Lincoln has the components to be an epic, especially considering its outstanding director, incredible performances, and gripping story. Even with those strengths, however, there was something missing which made this epic film fall semi-flat in my opinion. I think all of the actors involved in this film should be given a standing ovation because they were brilliant, and their performances should be used to teach future generations of actors what a good performance is. Unfortunately, you can’t depend on strong performance to hold a film together. Eventually a story must be told and if the backing isn’t there, the film can never fully take off.

3 out of 5 Stars

The November Round Up!


First snow of the season!

11 months down, 1 to go! 177 books down, 23 to go to meet my third reading goal of 200 books for the year!  I have to tell you that I’m shocked at how fast this year has gone.  This past month our days were filled either being with/helping family or beginning to prepare for the holidays. (We also got hit with our first snowstorm!)

As many of you are already aware, Hurricane Sandy came rip-roaring through NY, NJ, and CT earlier in November.  The amount of damage and destruction left behind was absolutely shocking.  Mother nature’s power is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.  I’ve got family in NY and NJ so it was interesting to see and hear the stories of how the same storm hit all of us yet did different things to our states.  Being where we are in CT, Todd and I were fortunate to have minimal damage.  Downed power lines and trees scattered our town, but that was the extent of our damage.  Closer to the shoreline there was a ton of flooding, fires, weeks without power, etc.  My parents in NJ lost their power for several hours but were lucky to get it back so quickly. My sister and brother-in-law live in Manhattan and had no power for 5 days.  They and their menagerie of animals wound up going to my parent’s house to stay so that they could have access to heat and water.  My aunt on Staten Island unfortunately fared the worst.  Her home was evacuated at the beginning of the storm, and upon her return found water in her basement up to the ceiling. The several feet of water took a few days to drain and that’s when we got to work.  We began tearing her basement apart, bringing up all the furniture, appliances, and other odds and ends that were down there as it all needed to be trashed.  We then proceeded to gut the entire basement literally down to the studs.  Framing, molding, heating baseboards, dry wall, etc.  It all came down.  At this point construction workers were able to come back in and begin working, beginning with putting up the drywall for all the new walls.  My aunt has a new ceiling, new framing for closets, and has picked out new appliances and cabinets.  Cable, internet, and power have all been restored as well.  Thankfully things are looking up for her personally, but the island is still an absolute mess.  I urge all of you to participate in any clothing, supply, or food drives taking place near you for Sandy victims.  There are still homes with no power, people with no food, and construction going on everywhere.  The cars that were flooded and totaled by the insurance companies are still being towed away.  It’s truly a very sad sight and any and all help is truly appreciated.


Thanksgiving with my in-laws!

Not all of November was a downer, though. Todd and I spent Thanksgiving with both of our families where lots of good food was consumed.  My mother-in-law makes this fantastic jello dish that comes from a recipe from her grandmother.  It has celery and apples in it and a great sauce on the side (it truly is fabulous!)  My grandmother makes my other favorite Thanksgiving dish, rice and sausage stuffing.  She throws in craisins and it is just a heavenly dish!  There is almost never any left (of either dish) once Thanksgiving dinner is over.  I think in 2013 I’ll have to fight for these dishes to get made more often, and not just at Thanksgiving.

To recap my reading in November, I completed another 10 books.  My favorite of the ten was a historical fiction novel called In A Treacherous Court by Michelle Diener.  That novel has quickly restarted my love of reading about the Tudor period of British history all over again.  I’ve found myself gearing up to read a good amount of historical fiction novels in December.

Looking forward, December will be a lot of catching up for me.  I’m working on getting all the reviews I have to finish by year-end up, along with what challenges I’ll be participating in for 2013!  Todd’s working on his review of Targets of Deception and has some author interviews in store! Adam’s working on a review of the film Lincoln and a review of the historical fiction novel Tragedy and Triumph (he’s excited about December since both of his review items relate to the Civil War!)  Sam’s in the process of reading an illustrated sci-fi/fantasy novel Elfhunter, and Charlie has film reviews of The Hobbit and Lincoln coming as well.

It looks like we’re going to have a busy and productive month!  Until next time, happy reading!