We finally made it out of the house to see Spielberg’s “Lincoln” today. The Academy Award nominations came out this week and it received a total of 12 nominations, including one for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Given how few of the Best Picture movies we had seen this year, we figured we had better get to work at viewing some before the awards show so that we would at least know what they were all talking about!
It is quite a heavy and complex movie about a dark topic in our history – slavery, and Lincoln’s quest to end it for good by getting the 13th amendment passed and the political work it took to make that actually happen.
The plot goes something like this:
Lincoln very much wants the amendment to pass and needs a 2/3 majority in Congress. He very much wants to ensure slavery is abolished for good and fears that his Emancipation Proclamation may not survive a court challenge. While he can count on votes from the Republican wing, it is in part only based on their presumption that an end to the Civil War will come only if the amendment is passed. Additionally, Lincoln had immense popularity after being newly re-elected, and the people, wanting a fast end to the Civil War as well, also seemed behind him in supporting the amendment for largely the same reason. It seems that very few actually believed what the amendment indicated in its “subtext”: that all men are actually created equally and should be seen as equals under the law. Lincoln also needs about another 20 Democratic votes to get it through, and he works with Secretary of State Seward to figure out ways to convert Dems to their side, despite the Congress being fiercely divided. He does all this as a Confederate delegation approaches to attempt to negotiate a peace and end the Civil War. Lincoln stalls the delegation to finish getting the amendment passed, which he needs to hide from the Republicans so they won’t desert him at the time of the vote.
The writing for the movie was brilliant (Tony Kushner’s adaptation of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book “Team of Rivals”). Thaddeus Stevens (played by Tommy Lee Jones) was my favorite character and had my favorite dialogue. Stevens is a staunch abolitionist who also has to compromise to ultimately get the amendment passed. The witty insults he hurls at his rivals in the House of Reps had me laughing out loud. Jones’ performance was simply outstanding. Of course, I would also echo everyone’s sentiments that Daniel Day Lewis gave the performance of a lifetime in the title role of Lincoln. I forgot that he actually wasn’t Lincoln in real life.
Now, all the political pundit shows I watch seem to indicate that this film was shown to our current leaders in Congress to inspire a spirit of compromise and reaching across the aisle. The pundits claim that Obama should learn from Lincoln, one of his own heroes, in the art of cajoling and real politicking.
I do love our President, and I do believe he is one of the greats that will go down in history. I don’t consider myself in the Obama cult category, but I do think he is “the bigger man” with a great character who will do what he thinks is right for the country’s best interest over preserving self-interest and pride. But how could anyone expect President Obama to grovel or curry favor with any of those evil treasonous GOP Congressmen who showed him such disdain and hatred starting on the day of his inauguration? Reminder: these are the same group of racist bullies that actually had the poor judgment to publicly come out as saying their primary objective was to make Obama a one term president (yes Mitch McConnell, I am talking about you among others). They have no interest in doing what’s right for the people, only in strolling down along Obstruction Junction on our dime. They are lucky because if they actually had to depend on a job in the real world with their records, they would be quickly fired.
The only problem is that at the end it is always the American people who pay they price for the impasse of our elected leaders….
I cried to myself at the end of the film, because as we all know Lincoln gets assassinated. The actor who plays Lincoln’s young son Tad (Gulliver McGrath) has an amazing brief moment at the end as he screams and clings to a rail on hearing that his father was shot. Why do radical’s always find ways of killing the most gifted and beloved among us? Why are we cursed thus as a human society, as an American society? And I think back again to our violent cycle, the continuous shootings, the NRA, the gun money, the unquenchable blood lust of the American people. I am usually an optimist but, despite the step forward of the thirteenth amendment, I fear we are still quite a way off from having formed “a perfect union”.