Thursday, December 27, 2012

Movie Review: Lincoln

Daniel Day-Lewis portrays Abraham Lincoln.
It has taken me weeks to write this review because I was profoundly impacted by this film, (went to see it twice to get it right), and needed to process the experience.

I consider 'Lincoln' to be a sequel to Ken Burns' melancholy mini-series 'The Civil War.' Here in the United States we are required to study American History Junior year of high school and usually Grade 4 of elementary school (nine and ten year-olds.) Abraham Lincoln is the only president with a separate national holiday on his birthday, February 12th. We all know he is the 16th president. His image is on the one cent coin (penny) and the five dollar bill. Some Americans dislike him for 'the War of Northern Aggression.' Most Americans pretty much canonize him. So much scholarship concerning Lincoln, including in film and on television, is wonderfully now available to folks in general that Spielberg's film is simply scheduling a personal appointment for each of us to meet Abraham Lincoln. We know so much about him and his times. Now we feel so much about him.

I have always deeply appreciated Daniel Day-Lewis' ability to morph into other persons and characters. He was Christy Brown ('My Left Foot); he brought one of my favorite heroic characters to a wider audience (Nattie Bumppo, Last of the Mohicans.) I had complete confidence the uniquely talented team Steven Spielberg brought to this project would manifest Abraham Lincoln and his experience. 

I was unprepared for my personal response to this movie. I met Lincoln, like a much beloved member of my family. I listened to his chuckles, funny stories. I watched as he enjoyed a word and a joke with his soldiers. I saw his brilliant lawyer's mind work. I walked with him to see his little boy and his distraught wife, and heard his reasons for pardoning 16-year-olds in the Civil War. I heard his complete moral conviction bellow at his cabinet. And then I lost him to a bullet.

Not enough praise can describe the accomplishment of the writers, designers, actors and director. As Abraham Lincoln 'now belongs to the ages,' now Steven Spielberg's film also belongs to the ages..  

This may be helpful, a previous blog: Teachable Moment: Lincoln.

It is always an important moment to learn about Abraham Lincoln. But Steven Spielberg has brought him to current prominence in a huge manner, much like Ken Burns did in the 90's with 'The Civil War' documentary.

These are incontrovertible facts about Lincoln: he was born into extreme poverty in Kentucky during the formative years of the US; he was a pioneer boy, self-taught--reading, too-- in Indiana.  He lost his mother at an early age, and revered her input into his life. He was highly intelligent and motivated, becoming a successful pioneer lawyer in the early days of Illinois. He could read people. He had a conscience based on his morality. He was courageous. Did he have flaws? Of course. He retained a bias against Native Americans but continued to be willing to risk everything due to his belief that all men are created equal. 

What a time to be a hero! An American period raw with passion, polarization, and violence. Kind of sounds like now.

Here are links that will help teachers put together pertinent information on Lincoln.

I love American Rhetoric. Of course, there is not a recording of his voice, but you can find excellent actors reading his eternal speeches. Then you could compare them to Daniel Day-Lewis' interpretation. And you know I'll be reminding you to listen to FDR's 'Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself' speech on Dec. 7.

1.  American Rhetoric: The Power of Oratory in the United States
I'm thinking you can find these in the library, but don't tell I said so,


  Doris Kearns Goodwin is the author of Team of Rivals, the basis of Spielburg's film and Barrack Obama's cabinet (he says the book inspired him.) Henry Louis Gates is a highly respected author and filmmaker who recently has specialized in helping folks find their genetic roots and family history and making documentaries, such as African American Lives. I can't imagine a better team for this assignment. Check it out.

Carl Sandburg
Carl Sandburg, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his Lincoln books. It is great history with a poetic flair every so often.

 Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years and The War Years: Carl ...

For the upper grades:

Abraham Lincoln 

Thank you, Poetry Foundation, again, for having such wonders convenient and waiting.

Walt Whitman

Here are only two poems about Lincoln, both by Walt Whitman.

O Captain! My Captain!

By Walt Whitman 

When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d
By Walt Whitman 
Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation.

Lincoln freed all Americans, including the poor whites in the South who could now attend school and become literate (like some of my father's family.) He freed citizens in the future. A free and appropriate education for all, including the handicapped. Voting rights, even for women. Equal pay for equal work. Freedom to be who you are, and the right to say it.

The Civil Rights Movement is still moving because of Lincoln; let's keep in step. 






No comments:

Post a Comment