Last week's big On Demand release was the controversial Zero Dark Thirty, which found itself in the middle of the debate about "enhanced interrogation techniques." This week's is the controversial Lincoln, which found itself in the middle of a debate about its accuracy, and about the way its story sidelined the African Americans it was ostensibly about to tell yet another story about a white messiah.
My pros and cons about the movie have nothing to do with these issues; I am not a historical scholar, nor did I read Team of Rivals (the Doris Kearns Goodwin book on which the film is loosely based). The pros: Daniel Day-Lewis's performance in the title role, which joins his Daniel Plainview and Bill the Butcher to make a hat trick of classic American historical characters; the bevy of beloved character actors who dot the film that will have you yelling, "What the hell, HIM TOO?" in just about every other scene; the delightfully baroque insults politicians hurl at each other in the halls of power. The cons: Tommy Lee Jones's ratty wig; the oppressively dim lighting; the comically long running time. On balance, it's worth seeing — but maybe break up your viewing with a nap or two.
You can be honest. When Seth MacFarlane and Emma Stone announced the Oscar nominations this morning, you were nervous they were going to go all Baseball Writers' Association of America and say, "This year there are no nominees." Of course, if you're Ben Affleck or Kathryn Bigelow or even Tom Hooper and Quentin Tarantino, isn't that kind of what happened? 2012 was a strong movie year, and that's pretty much demonstrated by the dozen or so legitimate candidates for the five directing slots, two of which, at least, seemed preordained for Affleck, who made Argo, and Bigelow, who made Zero Dark Thirty. But when the names of Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild) and Michael Haneke (Amour) and David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook) were called alongside Steven Spielberg (Lincoln) and Ang Lee (Life of Pi), somebody in my one-person living room turned into the Retta Twitter feed and said, "Oh, no they didn't!" But they did. And what did they do?
Nov. 15, 2012
"We had just watched the movie 'Lincoln' in the White House theatre with the director, screenwriter and many of the actors attending. Later, the President invited Daniel Day-Lewis upstairs to see the Lincoln Bedroom in the private residence. Here is Day-Lewis, who had just come to life as Abraham Lincoln, viewing the Gettysburg Address." — The White House Flickr page
Let's first focus on the important thing: As result of factors in no way related to their nominees, announced earlier this morning, the 2013 Golden Globes have a really good chance of being great. And that's because of the "Weekend Update" reunion that'll be going down in front of the hosts' podium. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, in their first Golden Globes spot!
The events of Sunday's penultimate episode of Homeland (1:45) were too nuts to leave unexamined, so Chris Ryan and I hopped on our Skyping BlackBerrys early to discuss it. Yes, we addressed the myriad ways the show has gone loco and how it seems like there are only two possible outcomes for this weekend's finale, one good and one definitely less so. But mostly we wanted to talk about how society — and the online gaming community of "Kuma Wars" — just won't let Chris Brody live! After we tired ourselves out talking conspiracy theories and spilled milk, we moved to the cineplex, where we had a spirited congressional debate about Lincoln (24:45). We both loved Daniel Day-Lewis, but it seems like I was more Copperhead than Radical Republican.
Yesterday the Internet was blessed with our first photographic evidence that Ashton "Kelso" Kutcher is indeed playing the late Steve Jobs in that other biopic about the Apple CEO that is currently in the works. But no matter how disastrously the 501s fit Kutcher, it won't be the first time Hollywood has fallen victim to some shockingly bad casting. Here are our picks for worst-cast real-life characters.
This holiday weekend in sunny Los Angeles, no one fought over the cranberry sauce, no one overcooked the turkey, nobody's uncle got drunk and groped everybody, and [insert other cliches suggesting a soothingly peaceful Thanksgiving]. That's because Hollywood just had its best! Thanksgiving weekend box office haul! Ever! With the latest and last Twilight leading the way, this weekend's movies topped out at $290 million on Wednesday through Sunday, crushing the previous best for the same stretch, 2009's $270.5 million. Congratulations, Hollywood!
Some might say that we have been a little obsessed with Lincoln, Steven Spielberg's latest cinematic jaunt into American history, for months now. Before we had glimpsed even a millisecond of actual footage from the film, we were convinced that the very first promotional image had begun and ended the Oscar race with the terrifying efficacy of a bloody head on a pike outside a cannibal village, warning us to proceed no deeper into the jungle lest an angry tribe of awards consultants eat our still-pulsing hearts whole and work off the meal by jumping rope with our glistening entrails. Then came our possibly reactionary concerns about the official poster, followed closely by a totally reasonable, frame-by-frame dissection of the trailer and its inevitable impact on Academy voters. Doubts crept in. Beards were feared. But then Abraham Lincoln himself, perhaps sensing, as great leaders do, that it was time to end our petty squabbling about trivial matters, brought down a thundering fist and bellowed, "I am the President of the United States of America, clothed in immense power, and I am tired of you nattering idiots carrying on about a movie you have not seen!"
So that was that. There was nothing left to do but wait. And then, finally, Lincoln debuted on a handful of screens in Los Angeles, and we were there to extinguish our ignorance. Today, it opens wider, and so it's time to answer, once and for all, the only remaining question that truly matters: Should you see it? Read on, and let's try to make your ticket-buying decision a well-informed one. We wouldn't want to turn you loose on the Fandangos without all the information you require.
Editor's note: Steven Spielberg's Lincoln gets its wide theatrical release this weekend, so the rest of the country can see what we coastal elites have been ooh-ing and ahh-ing about. Fun fact about Lincoln: Everyone is in it. And sure, everyone will be talking up Daniel Day-Lewis's no-brainer Oscar nomination as the titular president, but we thought the rest of its all-star ensemble should get their moments in the sun as well.
Silver:Die Hard is the Joan Rivers of film franchises. It’s had so much work done to it that 1988’s taut, straightforward, hardcore cat-and-mouse action thriller would gasp in horror if it ever saw what it would become in 2013. With each passing film, Die Hard’s kernels of plausibility and decorum seem to shrivel away. It’s ironic, because there was a time when action films were maligned for being too Die Hard (Speed = Die Hard on a bus; Cliffhanger = Die Hard on a mountain), yet now it appears that for Bruce Willis to top-line an action film solo it needs to be connected in some way to Die Hard (and if the third and fourth installments are any indication, all a film needs to be called Die Hard is Willis playing someone called John McClane, a grandiose situation McClane is unwillingly shoved into, and a moment where he can shoot the bad guy and say “yippee ki-yay, motherfucker”). And speaking as someone who views the original Die Hard as one of the greatest action films ever made, don’t think any of this is a good thing. Labeling a film Die Hard brings too many expectations with it, and the more the title is used, the more it’s going to become diluted. As a summer action film, I did not dislike Live Free or Die Hard. But as a Die Hard film, I hated it, and I’m shocked that 20th Century Fox still feels there’s equity left in the Die Hard brand. This film looks ridiculous and makes me sad. What’s sadder is that, regardless of all this, I’ll be first in line on opening day to see it.
Not three weeks after the debut of the first official trailer for Steven Spielberg's Lincoln, a Best Picture play so ingeniously conceived that Clint Eastwood immediately took a sledgehammer to the typewriter upon which he was outlining the unannounced third installment of his Flags of Our Fathers/Letters From Iwo Jima franchise while rasping with anguish, "Why did I have to pick that bullshit, used-up war?," DreamWorks released a newer, better, more exciting effort after last night's presidential debates.
Silver: Stories about struggles of enduring love have been so thoroughly explored in both comedic and dramatic films that sitting through one is more comforting in its familiarity than it is challenging. What you don’t see a lot of, and it’s the reason why I’m excited for Smashed, are stories about late 20s, early 30s couples who are dealing with not only the loss of youth, but the overwhelming pressures of real life. It’s the grayish middle between "Zac Efron prom date gone awry" and "Meryl Streep dancing with Tommy Lee Jones on a beach." And it's harder to truthfully capture on film because a couple, much less a married couple, in their late 20s or early 30s are in a constant state of transition. And much like Celeste and Jesse Forever dealt with a young couple’s divorce, Smashed ups the drama by throwing in some “real-life shit” like the combined act of getting sober. So even if Smashed didn’t star two of my biggest crushes — Ramona Flowers ... err ... Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron “Bitch” Paul — based on all this I know it’s a film I’d still want to see.
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.
Scoff if you will at the release of a poster — a piece of advertising, even if it's an exquisite piece of advertising — being treated as news in certain parts of the kudosphere, but know this: Every golden bread crumb dropped between now and the close of Oscar balloting has been meticulously placed on the virtual red carpet that terminates at the Dolby (née Kodak) Theatre by expert awards consultants, people who would shiv you in the kidney with a stale shard of Wolfgang Puck crostino if it meant picking up a single extra nomination in a technical category. And so we must take today's debut of the one-sheet for Lincoln, Steven Spielberg's presumptive Best Picture favorite, very, very seriously. Two weeks ago, Team Lincoln fired the starter's pistol on Oscar season with the release of the first photo of Daniel Day-Lewis, an image so expertly composed it virtually assured DDL would be taking home his third Best Actor trophy come February, evoking as it did the chameleon craftsman's borderline insane dedication to total character immersion. The first poster, however, is another story. No more free passes. The Game has begun in earnest, and if you take it hard to the rack with your head down, know that you're going to take the occasional elbow to the temple. And so we must pause from the initial rush of excitement — Wow, they did this for us? They love us! This is amazing! — and take a moment to raise some concerns about how this one-sheet affects Lincoln’s Oscar chances right now, in this moment.