Steven Spielberg's Lincoln ranks as the #8 choice for the Muriel Awards in the Best Picture category, after having placed a little bit higher on my own ballot, at #3. My thoughts on the power of this compelling movie are now live at the official Muriels site, Our Science is Too Tight.
Lincoln is, of course, an epic story of moral unrest, political machinations and the weary death rattles of civil war, conjured without the conventions of an epic palette -- the expansive consciousness of David Lean made to serve a confined template of dimly-lit quarters and crowded congressional chambers in which Altman would have thrived. (Both Altman and Spielberg have always shared a fondness for the cacophony of crowds and overlapping conversation.) What Lincoln is not is, in the strictest sense, a biopic. Based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, Spielberg restricts his perspective to the last months of Lincoln’s life, with the beleaguered president embroiled in struggles to corral and manipulate myriad conflicting, belligerent, slippery, conniving and stubborn personalities -- in his cabinet, in Congress, and even in his own family -- on the way toward pushing through the 13th amendment to the Constitution: the abolition of slavery...
Perhaps it’s a coincidence that both Munich and the ostensibly more conventionally-mounted Lincoln were written by playwright Tony Kushner (Angels in America, Homebody/Kabul); if so, it’s a happy one. Both movies deal with the necessity of moral and political compromise, both feature a nimble sensitivity toward dialectical debate in its fulfillment and its inadequacies, and both screenplays seem to have inspired Spielberg to work outside his own comfort zone and reach for something tangible in the material that might elevate each movie out of the realm of the well-meaning museum piece.
You can read the essay in its entirety by clicking here.
The posts for the rest of the pack are coming in right now, with the Muriels winner for Best Picture scheduled to be unveiled in just a few hours. We're almost there.