It looked as if our local multiplex wasn't going to show Lincoln, but it finally showed up. There were moments of true movie greatness in it, a rare thing that Spielberg hits sometimes, a thrill that only movies can deliver. As they say, I can't describe it but I know it when I see it.
We were subjected to several very unattractive coming attractions first, which were an ordeal to watch and thought provoking in the wrong way, as they were full of weapons and people threatening and shooting each other. You would think we'd be ashamed.
I think we, as a country, ought to solve the problems that Lincoln was grappling with so long ago. It's been a lot of years since the Civil War was over, but some citizens are still fighting it.
I want to see Lincoln again before it leaves town, because it was hard to follow everything that was going on in such a complex situation. Maybe then I can explain what it was that made Lincoln such a great movie.
More: Brilliant as this movie was, it still did not give Blacks agency (nor women, of course). Here is a critique:
Lincoln is an idealisic liberal fantasy film [and one might say, well every other group has its fantasies, so why not us?]In a critical online editorial, Matthew Rothschild, editor of the Progressive Magazine, asks, "Where oh where. was Frederick Douglass? noting that "Lincoln had an important friendship with the great black freedom fighter, an amazing figure unto himself, but there is no Frederick Douglass in this film--and for that matter no strong African American who is neither a soldier or a house servant, with all of them postitioned in subservience." Blacks are welcomed into the House gallery during the vote on the amendment that would ensure their freedom from enslavement, but they are passive witnesses..."
Yes. However, I think leaving Douglass out at least spared us a dramatization of the tiresome duo that Leslie Fiedler complained about, of the homoerotic bonding between a black man and a white man, in his classic work of criticism, Love and Death in the American Novel. Also, leaving his attachment to Douglass out of the film serves to emphasize Lincoln's isolation and centers him as the hero of the piece, probably a good thing from the dramatic standpoint. Fiedler also mentions domesticity as a burden on American men which they flee from for the great matters of the day, and that attitude is all over this film. Poor Mary Todd Lincoln! What a mess!
But what emerges as the depiction of Black men and women in the film is one of the subalterns who tug their forelocks and weep tears of gratitude at the benevolence of the white man and even a black women who offers a white man some no-strings attached bedly comfort. And that is a liberal (male) fantasy, all right.
But it is definitely a white man's world. In a way, I wonder if people don't like this depiction of a male dominated society where Blacks and women are kept in their place. Where you can load a film with white male character actors and have just a few roles for anyone else.
However, this is an American film with American themes, which can both be enjoyed and also be seriously critiqued. And it's really worth seeing for the pleasure of how well it is done. Getting inside people is very difficult in film, but Spielberg can do it with the great cast he has assembled here. Daniel Day Lewis and Sally Field were fantastic.