Buffalo Trace

Buffalo Trace
From a few years ago, me mugging with the bronze buffalo sculpture at Buffalo Trace Distillery in Kentucky.

Monday, May 13, 2013

If Done Properly, Even Abe Lincoln Can Be Made to Seem Boring

I have a bunch of blog topics piling up. Sadly, I've had so much going on the past three or four weeks that I am struggling to keep up, and failing miserably.

Here's one of those moldering topics…



One of my Red Box rentals a few -- I can't even estimate exactly how many -- Saturdays ago was Spielberg's "Lincoln."

Going in, I didn't know anything about this movie other than it was about Lincoln and had been nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. If you held a gun to my head, I may have been able to dredge up the name of Daniel Day-Lewis as the star, but maybe not.

From the moment of announcing the concept, it took less time for General Motors to get its Saturn brand off the ground than it took Spielberg, who was apparently channeling Francis Ford Coppola, to finally get "Lincoln" into theaters.  

I'm a history buff and really like the history of the War of Northern Aggression -- the Civil War to you Yankees. As with most people my age, Lincoln was held up as the greatest president behind Washington in school history lessons. Both of their birthdays were holidays before being consolidated into today's nondescript "Presidents' Day."



"You're gonna need a bigger boat."
I also am a big fan of Spielberg. I've admired his movies beginning with "Jaws."

I just didn't see a downside to ponying up $1.50 to rent the Blu Ray of "Lincoln."

Silly me. Just about anything I could buy would have been a better use of my buck and a half.

To be honest, this turkey lost me in the opening minutes. Here we find Lincoln sitting on some bales of hay or cotton or some such thing talking to some rank-and-file Union soldiers. They tell him that the reason they joined the army was because of his Gettysburg Address and then begin reciting it. Suddenly a black Union soldier cuts in and finishes reciting it. What?

I'm all for using a little creative license to push a film along, but this is like tossing a Hail Mary in the opening minute of the first quarter. The entire scene is ludicrous. Did Lincoln hang around in the dark and chat up army privates in the field in his spare time? I have no clue, but there is no evidence of it. Moreover, although his Gettysburg Address was reprinted in many newspapers at the time, it didn't gain the reverence and greatness with which we view it today until decades later.


"Four score and seven years ago...." Are you kidding me?
The idea that these three soldiers could read it, let alone find it so inspiring they memorized it, is pure fantasy.

The movie itself is a plodding, ponderous, boring account of Lincoln twisting arms to pass the Thirteenth Amendment that would make permanent the Emancipation Proclamation. It needed to be accomplished before the slave states began sending representatives to congress with the war's approaching end.

Perhaps some suspense could have been cooked into the script, but it certainly wasn't. Watching this was like submitting to Chinese water torture: drip, drip, drip, drip… It's the cinematic equivalent of C-SPAN.

As a kid, having skimmed more impressive film from a cup of hot chocolate, I just couldn’t get through this thing. I have no idea how it ended. I mean, I know the Thirteenth Amendment passed, but I don't know how Spielberg's movie ends. About an hour and 20 minutes into this exercise in tediousness, glassy-eyed and thoroughly bored, I put an end to my misery: I shut the damn thing off.

It's not often I feel fleeced from the uber-low cost of a Red Box movie, but I certainly did this time.

I can hardly wait for Spielberg to take another decade to tackle a bio of Millard Fillmore.

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