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Lincoln & Silver Linings Playbook

Lincoln

Lincoln

Lincoln (2012)

****1/2

Cast: Daniel Day Lewis (Abraham Lincoln), Sally Field (Mary Todd Lincoln), John Hawkes (Robert Latham), Jackie Earle Haley (Alexander Stephens), Tommy Lee Jones (Thaddeus Stephens), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Robert Todd Lincoln), Michael Stanton Kennedy (Hiram Price), Jared Harris (Ulysses Grant), Hal Holbrook (Francis Preston Blair), John Hutton (Senator Charles Summer), Gloria Reuben (Elizabeth Keckley). (PG-13) Running time: 150 minutes. Director: Steven Spielberg. Writer: Tony Kushner. 

There’s something special about “Lincoln” even though it’s been done in film before, Spielberg’s Daniel Day Lewis swallows the Lincoln character whole like nobody’s business.

In the advent of Spielberg’s “Lincoln”, Daniel Day Lewis’ Lincoln has a conversation with two Black Union soldiers; one of the men complains about the lower pay for Black soldiers compared to white, absence of Black commanding officers and often overall mistreatment by white officers. Once the two Black soldiers walk away, Lincoln still sitting on a chair one of the soldiers disappearing into the darkness starts reciting from one of Lincoln’s speeches. If there is a scene to be included in the etching of film history that is the one.

As the Civil War nears its end, Lincoln methodically studies the Thirteenth Amendment for passing in his Congress as well as his unsteady hand on abolishing slavery and ending the war. Between the States once and for all. Lincoln takes on extraordinary wartime powers, as in one scene he wonders whether or not his Emancipation Proclamation will survive beyond the war.

Spielberg and Tony Kushner’s Lincoln is much more than just reminding us of a great speech or two by Lincoln but we see him as human (not only as a mountainous icon) in his wife and First Lady, Mary Todd Lincoln (par excellence performance by Sally Field) and fatherly nurture of his young son (Gulliver McGrath) and his older, more combative son, 21 year-old Robert (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who wants to join the war effort in spite of his parents.

There are lively senators such as antislavery support Thaddeus Stephens (Tommy Lee Jones) of Pennsylvania, W.N. Bilbo (James Spader) seek support for the Thirteenth Amendment in a chamber of naysayers. The scenes of Democrats and the newly established Republicans having heated debates is indicative of what happens to this day.

The 16th president of the United States–Abraham Lincoln–as it is presented under DreamWorks–focuses on the final months of his life. Seldom is a film refined with the details of a monumental figure such as Spielberg/Kushner’s Lincoln.

As engrossing as I find “Lincoln”, an acute element unfortunately is missing from Spielberg’s period piece: no mention (much less a character) of Sojourner Truth or Frederick Douglass. Truth and Douglass, both contemporaries of Lincoln, if nothing else are the moral compass to Lincoln who vacillates over freeing all the slaves, freeing some of the slaves or freeing none of the slaves in order to reunite a divided country during the Civil War, in the end 600,000 died. If one myth about him over other myths about him it is Lincoln loves (or loved) Black people. Nothing is further from the truth. Neither the movie “Lincoln” nor the last 152 plus years of the Lincoln race myth perpetrated by white “scholars” to this day has the myth been dispelled.

Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

****

Cast: Brad Cooper (Pat, Pat Solitano), Robert De Niro (Pat Sr.), Jennifer Lawrence (Tiffany), Jacki Weaver (Dolores), Chris Tucker (Danny), Anupam Kher (Dr. Cliff Patel). (R) Running time:120 minutes. Director: David O. Russell. Written by Matthew M. Quck. 

For a change, though, a comedy has my “blessing”, a silver lining, mind you, in David O. Russell’s little gem of a movie walking on a thin line about mental illness by eliciting humor in not necessarily on the level of David O. Russell’s “The Fighter”(2010), it’s a joy to applaud “Playbook” not only because it’s David O. Russell’s but because it’s one of those handful of intelligent comedies today.

Pat Solitano (Brad Cooper) is a bipolar substitute history teacher and former athlete, returns to his hometown Philadelphia, after his mother Delores (Jacki Weaver) convinces the courts to release him from a mental hospital in Baltimore. Danny (Chris Tucker) befriended Pat while both men are at the mental hospital. Pat’s coming home to eager parents as his father Pat Sr.(Robert De Niro), wants to re-bond with son by sitting with him and watching the Philadelphia Eagles games. Pat Sr. is a rabid Eagles fan always challenging his buddy–a Dallas Cowboys fan–on whose team will win. (Pat Sr. certainly wouldn’t be happy with his 2012 Philadelphia Eagles; neither would his buddy be sure about his 2012 Dallas Cowboys going to the playoffs.)

Pat’s bipolar disorder spills over into his parent’s home causing them more long-suffering. Pat also has a restraining order by his wife after he catches her with her history professor (she leaves town after the incident) in the shower, which he beats the guy up. His wish to re-unite with her perhaps triggers the bipolar disorder even more.

While jogging in his Philadelphia neighborhood, he meets the “girl-next-door” jogger Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), also suffers from bipolar disorder. He rebuffs her accusing her of “stocking” him. Over the ensuing weeks the two cross paths jogging throwing an occasional zing or sarcastic remark back and forth. Clearly, more predicable than a Philadelphia Eagles win over the Seattle Seahawks, Tiffany and Pat Jr. will lay down their defenses to find common ground. In the quiet air of a Philadelphia suburb, Tiffany convinces a reluctant Pat to join her in learning dance steps for a future contest.

From papa Soltano’s position, his urging his son to sit down to watch Sunday afternoon football with, usually fails if only because the old man is barred from Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia Eagles Stadium), for getting into a brawl at one of the games. His satisfaction would come if only his son will sit with him and Pat Sr.’s friends watching the game while his wife cooks goodies for them. Bets on the game go on urged by Pat Sr., serious bets sometimes by these white blue-collar people (David O. Russell also highlights in “The Fighter”).

Pat Sr. may be a fanatic Eagles fan, but his son is far more delusional than he is. Tiffany had several affairs before her husband dies in a car accident. She thinks the people in the neighborhood thinks she’s the town whore; something of which she is not altogether shamed and Russell doesn’t want his female lead to eat crow nor does he want his male lead to suffer an accident beyond the Stair Master. Russell seems to get the behavior of bipolar disorder more accurately than what may be displayed elsewhere in some other films

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