It’s a Banner Year for Abraham Lincoln!
By Ellis Nassour
Honest Abe is one popular Republican president! He’s been generating a plethora of attention in books and onscreen (big and little). And we just had a legal holiday which celebrated his birthday – a.k.a. President’s Day, an occasion of huge sales events. If we could somehow bring him back, he could easily unite today’s GOP and even run for office again – and win. The dream he worked so hard to achieve is most often alive: the U.S. is not a divided nation. If you are a history or presidential buff, you’re going to have a field day. Abe’s everywhere, even being impersonated singing the phrases of an automobile in a TV commercial.
After being depicted onscreen as a vampire killer, Abe’s nominated for a slew of Oscars – well, Steven Spielberg’s critically-acclaimed quasi-bio historical drama, Lincoln (Dreamworks/Disney), that is.
Major praise has also been heaped on Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis for his incredibly personal impersonation of the late President. "This has been one of the great privileges of my life," says Day-Lewis. "I don’t expect to have a greater one than exploring the life of this man I grew to love very dearly."
Day-Lewis brings Lincoln to life and audiences feel the struggles with his crisis of conscience [end the war or end slavery]; and what weighed so heavily on him: the carnage on the battlefields of the Civil War with often brother fighting brother; his fight with many in his own party and those inside his cabinet on the decision to emancipate the slaves. One of Lincoln’s famous quotes to them was: "Blood’s been spilled to afford us this moment now!"
Among its 12 nominations, which will be decided this Sunday on ABC in a live three-hour telecast, are Best Picture, Director, Actor [Day-Lewis], Supporting Actress [Sally Field who plays a feisty Mary Todd Lincoln], Supporting Actor [Tommy Lee Jones as Secretary of State William Seward], Score [John Williams], and Screenplay adaption [Tony-winner Tony Kushner from the book by Doris Kearns Goodwin]. It was nominated for seven Golden Globes, including Best Picture, with Day-Lewis winning as Best Actor.
The film also stars David Strathairn as Secretary of State William Seward and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the President’s son Robert; as well as Oscar winner Jackie Earle Haley, Jarred Harris, Oscar nominee John Hawkes (The Sessions), Hal Holbrook, Tim Blake Nelson, and James Spader.
Currently, also in theatres, is Saving Lincoln, from Chilean director Salvador Litvak, which recounts the true story of President Lincoln (Tom Amandes; Everwood) as Lincoln and his friend Ward Hill Lamon (Lea Coco, J.Edgar), a banjo-playing Southern lawyer who was Lincoln’s partner for five years. Lamon was a pistol-packing jokester who appointed himself Lincoln’s bodyguard after the first assassination attempt in 1861, and who foiled repeated attempts on the President’s life throughout their four years in Washington. He backed Lincoln on the need to end slavery. It’s filmed in an innovative technique with actors on a green screen sound stage against actual backdrops of environments composited from Civil War and archival photographs that inform the story as much as house it. Penelope Ann Miller co-stars as Mary Todd Lincoln, with Bruce Davison portraying Secretary of State Seward.
There’s more Lincoln, accessible on the National Geographic Channel and its website with Killing Lincoln, with Billy Campbell in the mindset of our 16th president. The docudrama, based on Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard’s best-seller, explores the conspiracy behind his assassination by John Wilkes Booth (Jesse Johnson), a mad-as-hell actor hell-bent on killing a man he considered a tyrant. It was a deed that changed our nation forever. Hollywood A-listers Ridley Scott and the late Tony Scott [numerous film blockbusters; TV’s The Good Wife] executive produced and Tom Hanks narrates.
In the Never-Too-Late and What-Took-You-So-Long, the state of Mississippi legislature, after 148 and after three-quarters of the states voted to approve the amendment, this week finally took steps to fix the glaring oversight of never ratifying the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which banned slavery – the amendment Lincoln struggled so hard to get passed (which is the major focus of the Spielberg film. The legislature after years and years of delay voted to approve the amendment in 1995. The measure cleared both legislative chambers, but was never sent to the Office of the Federal Register and therefore never made official.
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