Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Lincoln ain't stinkoln!

  As a man who is neither a student of history or a follower of politics, you would think that Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" would be the last film I would want to see. Although it IS a very political film, and very much a "talking heads" film, I have to say- I enjoyed it immensely. This is to be a spoiler-free review, so don't worry if you haven't seen it yet.
  For one thing, acclaimed director of photography Janusz Kaminski makes this film's visuals absolutely soar. The photography, lighting, composition is nothing short of brilliant. If he doesn't win the Oscar, I'll eat my hat. I don't often wear a hat, but I'll make an exception in this case. Kaminski has worked with Spielberg many times, including on "Munich," "Saving Private Ryan," and "Schindler's List," all of which were equally beautifully photographed.
  While we're talking about brilliance, let me also praise Daniel Day Lewis, who I think is one of the best actors working today. His Lincoln is absolutely incredible. There's been talk in some circles about the voice being odd, but if you look beyond the modern Lincoln stereotype with the deep voice, and go back to the actual man, you'll find that Lewis absolutely nailed it. He spent an entire year finding this character and perfecting Lincoln's "thousand yard stare" and his regional dialect. He speaks like Lincoln, looks like Lincoln, and moves with Lincoln's tall, stooping gait. Again- Oscar. Nobody else stands a chance.
  The supporting players are fine, too, including Tommy Lee Jones as a biting Thaddeus Stevens, and Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln. Joseph Gordon Levitt is great as always as Lincoln's eldest son, Robert. James Spader and his band of miscreants are hilarious, and David Strathairn turns in a solid performance as William Seward.
  As far as historical accuracy goes, I can't say. Often, filmmakers will alter dates or combine several real life characters into one amalgamation in the interests of brevity. There are conspiracy theorists who claim Lincoln didn't really give a damn about slavery, and only wanted to reunite the country because the government was losing money due to most of the nation's seaports (and taxable trade) being in the south. I prefer to go with the version of history that I learned, and the one that's on display here.
  If you are easily bored, or only like movies where lotsa stuff blows up real good, don't go see this film. If you want to get an amazing insight into one of the most volatile periods of our nation's history, and an intimate look at one of our greatest presidents- or you just want to see a very well made film- do go see Lincoln.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Chapters and Destiny

  I like to read every night before I go to sleep. It's a great way to wind down and escape the banalities of real life. Typically, I'm deep into some Stephen King novel, but in between those, I read a variety of things- from nonfiction to movie novelizations to scientific studies. Lately, I've been reading old Star Trek books. There was one in particular, called "Log One," that I had purchased sometime back in the mid 80's. I remember seeing it on the shelf at the bookstore, because these "log books" went all the way up to nine or ten. To my knowledge, I never actually read it. Well, I ran across it again recently and decided to give it a go. I was surprised to find that the original copyright of the book was back in the 70's and that this was a third printing.
  After finishing (and thoroughly enjoying) Log One, I decided to go online and see if the other logs were still in print. I found Log Two online and bought it for the hefty sum of one cent plus $3.00 s/h. What a deal!
  It came in the mail yesterday, and I was happy to see that it was a first print, copyright 1974. This book was printed the year I was born.
  As I looked over the artfully camp cover, I thought about the life of this book. We were born in the same year. I went about the business of growing up, and the book was printed and shipped off to some bookstore somewhere. Somebody bought it, eventually, and had it in their own book collection. Somewhere down the line, it was either sold, or given away, maybe lost somewhere and found by somebody else. Down through thirty eight years, my life went on as the book journeyed to who-knows-where. Ultimately, it ended up in some warehouse where it waited for me to buy it, using a technology that hadn't even been invented when the book was printed. It's just incredible sometimes to think about how things end up in our hands. It's astronomical, all the things that had to line up to make that happen.
  Granted, I have much older books in my collection. I have an Edgar Allen Poe book from the turn of the 20th century. I found it in a very old bookstore in Scotland. Think about where THAT book came from, and how it ended up in my hands. It was printed a couple of decades before the Titanic sailed. I love that.
  Our lives are like that, aren't they? Novels. Stories filled with characters, broken into chapters. Good times and bad. Tragedy and triumph. I saw a great quote on a friend's Facebook page recently that shared that sentiment:

"When people walk away from you, let them go. Your destiny is never tied to anybody who leaves you, and it doesn't mean that they are bad people. It just means that their part in your story is over."

  I believe that quote applies to anything in life, really, not just people. Places we love, experiences we never want to end. Hell, there was once a chocolate mousse in Paris that I didn't ever want to be done with.
  I don't know what really prompted me to write this entry. Just expounding on the intricacies of life, I suppose. They're pretty amazing when you stop to think about them. Just the sheer fact that you're alive- YOU, right now- is a greater odd than any lottery that can ever be drawn.
Enjoy it.