I told a friend that I had a dream the other night, and in it a well-known critic was murdered. It was a horrible dream. A kind of nightmare really. The friend suggested that the critic was being dispatched because he’s a fan of Lincoln. I laughed and said “that’s funny,” but I reminded her that I’ve never hated Lincoln. I hate the Lincoln Best Picture talk — that’s the difference.
I reminded her that I gave Lincoln a passing grade in my initial review….a pass with reservations. A good, intelligent film that is also a doleful, talky, slow, ponderous civics lesson. Plus that hateful Janusz Kaminski lighting scheme as a kicker. Yeesh.
“But there are worse films than Lincoln that could win Best Picture,” my friend replied. “Good intentions and all of that. Lincoln has made $120 million at the box office and is the highest grossing film so far of the Best Picture nominees. You can’t just discard that.”
My response: “People are going en masse because the legend of Abraham Lincoln has been drilled into them since they were 7 or 8 years old. It’s not the movie, really — it’s the man and the Steven Spielberg brand assurance and the Daniel Day Lewis performance. Nobody is truly aroused or turned on by that film…no one. They’re going because they feel it’s something they ought to do — it’s a kind of cultural duty — and because it’s about the great Abraham Lincoln and because they know that all Spielberg films are safe and schmaltzy and intelligent in their fashion.
“And so they go and they sit and watch like an obedient congregation, and then the lights come up and they stand up and trudge out with those blank or grim expressions (I’ve seen them so don’t tell me), and they tell each other afterwards that DDL was really good (which he is) and yaddah-yaddah. Lincoln is no one’s idea of an ecstatic or rousing or head-turning experience. You know it and I know it. It’s a kind of homework movie that audiences feel they should go see because we’ve all received the Lincoln legend, and we don’t feel we can ignore it or wait for the DVD or the Netflix download.
“It’s a better-than-decent film, I agree, but people have gotten carried away by the awards talk and because they’re saying ‘how can we go wrong if we give the movie about the great Abraham Lincoln our Best Picture award?’ It’s on that level rather than ‘oh,my God, this film is so great…I’ve seen it three times and I could see it again.'”