Last night, via the magical new Google+ Hangout technology, which enables the previously simple act of watching two minutes of video to be upgraded into a totally immersive, half-hour-long Chatroulette-style cyber-orgy experience, DreamWorks debuted the first official trailer for Lincoln, the Steven Spielberg historical epic that's already being touted as the presumptive Best Picture winner. (At least in these parts, where, we must admit, we tend to get a little carried away.) As is our borderline insane wont, we must now scour this newly available footage, frame by meticulously chosen frame, to determine its inevitable impact on the Oscar race. Strap yourselves in, it's going to get intense in here.
0:08: The First Moving Image
In a perfectly composed shot, the 16th President is photographed from behind, flanked on both sides by small lamps, walking through what appears to be his study. The cinematography is sumptuous, a delicious meal for the eyes. In fact, if Janusz Kaminski isn't nominated for Best Cinematography, we will eat an entire can of 35mm film. (And if The Master's Mihai Malaimare Jr. is snubbed, we will upgrade our film consumption to 70mm. We are nothing if not voracious cineastes.) He is a mortal lock for a nod, at minimum. Kudos for starting to run up the nomination count so early in the trailer.
0:12: The First Battle Scene
A crucial turn, right at the start: Awards voters are being told, "This is not a stodgy, static biopic about presidents walking through dimly lit rooms. There will be action. Remember all the carnage in Saving Private Ryan? You will see countless arms hacked off with sabers, knives plunged into Confederate torsos, and possibly even an eyeball speared upon the end of a bayonet." In fact, we'd be surprised if DreamWorks didn't serve "olive-eyeballs on mini-bayonets" in the complimentary martinis at all Academy viewing functions, campaign rules permitting.
0:21: The First Shot of the Beard
The beard, as we've discussed at intimidating but wholly appropriate length, has been the unquestioned focus of Lincoln's two previous promotional splashes. The early reliance on this bit of Lincoln iconography could backfire; yes, people instantly recognize the beard as essentially Lincolnian. But where do you take it from there? To stovepipe hats? The mole? The former may strike voters as old-fashioned, the latter as a cheap attempt to enhance Daniel Day Lewis's Best Actor chances by giving him a low-grade physical disfigurement to overcome.
Even taking those concerns into account, the beard levels seem perfectly calibrated here; at no time does the facial hair dominate the frame. But the overall beardquilibrium bears monitoring throughout.
0:36: Hal Holbrook
The presence of the stage and film legend accomplishes two important goals: 1) exposition ("we can't tell people to vote yes on abolishing slavery unless, at the same time, we can tell them you're seeking a negotiated peace"), and 2) foreshadowing the utter onslaught of upper-top-shelf, Oscar-caliber character actors jammed into every supporting role. (David Strathairn! Tommy Lee Jones! John Hawkes! Jackie Earle Haley! Tim Blake Nelson! James Fucking Spader! S.! Epatha! Merkerson!) If Lincoln is to approach the historic records of Titanic, Ben Hur, and Avatar, it's going to need to dominate as many down-ballot categories as possible. Let's even throw in hair and makeup nominations for the fine mutton-chop work here. Could be a game-changer.
0:39 Lincoln Playing with a Necklace or Locket
Not sure what it means, but it seems very significant.
0:43: Full-Frontal Beard
But a tease; we're still safely in the beard sweet-spot, enticed, not overwhelmed.
0:48: Sally Field on a Balcony, Wearing a Bonnet
Excuse us; Two-time Academy Award–winning Best Actress Sally Field. And soon-to-be Best Supporting Actress nominee.
1:04: "Blood's Been Spilled to Afford Us This Moment, Now, Now, Now!" Plus Dramatic, Righteously Angered Finger-Pointing
This is where things start to get tricky. To this point, we've heard much smaller sound bites of Lincoln in voice-over. But now we're getting what seems to be an important chunk of a pivotal speech, and this is not the booming, if probably historically inaccurate, basso profundo we were expecting. No one doubts Daniel Day Lewis did the research and put in the work to get it absolutely pitch-perfect; at minimum, we'd guess he spent three months of total isolation in the Lincoln Bedroom, ensuring each line of the script, whether whispered, sung, or shouted, would resonate properly off of every surface. He knows no other way of working.
But will Academy voters appreciate that? Or will they ignorantly write off DDL's reedy timbre as a quirky, actorly self-indulgence? Is "What's up with the voice?" the new "too much beard"?
Yes. Everything could hinge on the voice.
1:23: War-Torn Battlefield, Tattered Flag, Lincoln on Horseback, Stovepipe Hat
1:25: A Steven Spielberg Film
Is an Oscar-winning film.
1:37: That Dude From Girls
Couldn't be hotter right now.
1:50: Jared Harris Appears
No one ever went home from an awards show empty-handed by hanging out with someone from Mad Men.
2:06: Final Beard
"Shall we stop this bleeding?" asks the Great Emancipator. And we answer, "You totally fucking nailed the beard-landing this time."
Now maybe we do something about the voice. It worked for Bane.