Tag Archives: Steven Spielberg

Why I am disappointed Argo won Best Picture

Argo Oscars

I was not surprised last night that Argo won the Best Picture Oscar, just disappointed because I did not think it was the best movie of five of the nine nominees that I had seen.  The five I have seen are Lincoln, Argo, Zero Dark Thirty, Django Unchained and Silver Linings Playbook. For me I would have been happy if Lincoln or Zero Dark Thirty had won Best Picture from the five I had seen.

I am not saying that Argo is a bad movie, but like I said not the best of the nominees. In my opinion the problem with Argo was that I did not feel much tension at the end of the movie, in the final road block that the characters were facing.  Given the movie is based on a true story and has at least some basis in fact, we already knew the outcome of the movie before going into it.  In the case of Argo, the movie did not give me enough story or gripping characters to make me forget that I already knew the ending to this movie given its ground in real life. Overall it is a good movie and worth seeing once, but it is not one that I am going to go out and purchase for my movie collection.

Lincoln PosterIn contrast to Argo both Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty, while based on real life events like Argo, gave me enough in terms of story and character development/investigation. For Lincoln, the movie gave me a great character study of one our great presidents, Abraham Lincoln, to help set off the fact that you already knew that he died and that the amendment would pass. Daniel Day Lewis performed amazingly as Lincoln and made you feel like you were getting a real glimpse at what Lincoln was like. Steven Spielberg and the entire production did a great job at pulling you into the past with how faithfully they created the world of the 1860’s Civil War era.

For Zero Dark Thirty given that it is a military story enough details have been shrouded in secrecy that it is great for the movie to lift the veil on what happened in the search for Osama Bin Laden. The movie also gave us a great performance by Jessica Chastain and her character of Maya showing the very determined CIA officer who relentlessly tracked down Bin Laden and did not give up.

ZeroDarkThirty_v2

In the end we are still left with two great films in Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty and just because they did not win the Oscar for Best Picture does not take away from the fact that they are great films.

Why Spielberg does not view ‘Lincoln’ as a biopic

I read a good interview with Steven Spielberg about his latest film ‘Lincoln’ that provided good information about the making of the film. This section of the interview from Deadline.com struck me the most because this answer really showed to me what Spielberg did with the film. How he made it more successful having a tighter focus on what areas of Lincoln to show.

DEADLINE: This is just my opinion, but I felt that you and Tony Kushner kept Lincoln from being a succession of scenes of backroom politics and blustery speeches by making it a caper movie, where the heist was basically all the maneuvering that went into passing the 13th Amendment that abolished slavery, before accepting the South’s surrender. As you were putting this together did you approach it as a biopic?

SPIELBERG: I never saw it as a biopic. I sometimes refer to it as a Lincoln portrait, meaning that it was one painting out of many that could have been drawn over the years of the president’s life. Had I done the entire presidency, or his entire life, that would have qualified as biopic.

via Steven Spielberg On Making ‘Lincoln’ — Interview.

In another interesting part in the interview Spielberg relays from a historian how even for a figure as large as Lincoln one could get lost if you tried to tell a story about the Civil War, because of the war itself being so vast.

Steven Spielberg the historian with his movie Lincoln?

Lincoln PosterThe New York Times has an interesting piece on how Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” actually might be advancing the way the historians look at Lincoln with what the movie speculates about why Lincoln’s reasoning was on two different subjects.  One of those being why Lincoln pushed so hard to get the 13th Amendment passed before the new Congress came in later that year.  Here is an excerpt from the post about one of the ways the movie could be advancing the way we look at Lincoln.

The movie, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Daniel Day-Lewis as the 16th president, makes two especially interesting historical arguments.

The first is to explain why the passage of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, was overwhelmingly important to Lincoln in January 1865. The issue is not why passage was important; the movie explains that clearly enough. Instead, the problem is to explain the frenzied work to pass it in that month. As the historian Michael Vorenberg has observed, “No piece of legislation during Lincoln’s presidency received more of his attention.” Why the all-out effort in January, in a lame-duck session before a newly empowered pro-Lincoln Congress began? If Lincoln had waited until March, he could have called a special session of the new Congress, confident of having enough votes for House passage.

The question has long vexed historians. The movie’s answer is that Lincoln and his right-hand man in this work, Secretary of State William H. Seward, realized that the war might end at any time and that, when it did, any prospect for passing the amendment as a means to win the war would end with it.

This is an intriguing argument. But the book the movie cites as its main evidentiary source, Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals,” does not make it. 

via Steven Spielberg, Historian – NYTimes.com.

The second argument is about the connection between the peace talks and getting the votes Lincoln needed for the 13th amendment.  The full article is a great piece to read and I would recommend reading it if you like Lincoln or history.

Why you should see the movie “Lincoln”

Two weeks ago I was lucky enough to see a preview screening of the new Steven Spielberg film “Lincoln”.  Possibly because I have an interest in politics and history (my two majors in college) I was already predisposed to like this movie, but I greatly enjoyed the film.  While I have not seen every recent Spielberg film, I think this is one of his better films in a while. Though the movie is not fast paced or action packed, it had enough movement to not make it seem slow to me.

The basic setting of the movie is from January to April of 1865, when Lincoln was trying to pass the thirteenth amendment to the constitution abolishing slavery and the U.S. Civil War was coming to an end. It worked out well that Spielberg chose a small part of Lincoln’s life to make into a movie. If he had not I do not think he would have been as successful as he was with this film.  The time frame that they ended up choosing for the film I think worked well.  They picked a period where there was a lot going on for Lincoln not just with the war exclusively, but also the hard fought battle of one of Lincoln’s bigger legislative fights that he faced with the thirteenth amendment. The time they picked helped to show the continuing cost the Civil War was having not just on Lincoln but the country as well.

For me the cast led by Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln did a great job all around.  Lewis portrayed Lincoln excellently and very convincingly brought him to life I thought, showing the conflict and great stress that the war and the amendment fight brought to Lincoln, along with his family issues he faced. Tommy Lee Jones also did a great job as one of the politicians working for passage of the amendment.  If Daniel Day-Lewis does not get Oscar nomination I would be shocked.

The issue of equality was the great issue that was at stake during the discussion of the thirteenth amendment. I think it is still very relevant to our country today in a different way  at least to me.  Today we are fighting about whether people can marry whom ever they want to marry legally. Having just gone through a tough constitutional amendment fight here in  Minnesota about whether we should ban gay marriage it is a very divisive issue still and bet it will be for a while.  While that connection may not come up for every one who watches this movie, but since I saw this movie before the 2012 election that issue was certainly on my mind.

Overall I think you have a lover of history or Lincoln himself I recommend seeing this film.

The movie is based on Doris Kearns Goodwin‘s biography of Lincoln, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.  Trailer for the film below: