May 21, 2013
Written by Mark Schumann, Father of Three
Thursday, 15 November 2012 11:48
Each week, the Reel Dad checks the nutritional value of a movie — new or classic — to help families choose what to watch. This week’s pick is a new film from Steven Spielberg about the 16th President of the United States, Lincoln.
At a time our world is filled with challenges that demand real leadership, Steven Spielberg’s masterful Lincoln reveals what it takes for a leader to look beyond himself to bring out the best in his nation.
With restraint and artistry, Spielberg creates his strongest film in years by tightly focusing on Lincoln’s mind and heart while limiting the scope of the story to a defining moment in history. Because he purposely creates a small film, Spielberg brilliantly tells a large story about a hero with gigantic thoughts who remains grounded in his beliefs.
This film entertains as it informs, enlightens as it inspires. Playwright Tony Kushner, working in part from Doris Kearns Goodwin’s bestseller Team of Rivals, explores the demons that haunt this great man, the experiences that shape him and the people who fill his daily routine. Worn from the stress of the job, and the burden of the Civil War, Lincoln strongly believes the only resolution to the conflict over slavery is the passage of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to forever ban its existence. But that’s an aspiration easier to express than to accomplish in a land sharply divided along political and ethnic lines. Kushner effectively shows how Lincoln uses every manipulative charm and persuasive power within his grasp to advance his mission. Nothing will stand between this leader and what he knows to be right.
The Kushner exploration of Lincoln beautifully comes to life in the brilliant work of Daniel Day-Lewis. This incredible chameleon, winner of two Oscars for distinct performances in My Left Foot and There Will Be Blood, should be the front runner for this year’s honor for daring to reveal the weaknesses of a man while helping us discover his surprising strengths.
What’s magical about the performance is how the actor never resorts to the theatrical. That he makes the portrayal as small as he does only makes the character feel that much larger. And Day-Lewis makes Lincoln so likable that we want to spend as much time as we can with this fascinating character.
The film is so rich that, no matter how strong its Lincoln, the screen welcomes other performances. Sally Field, who might be considered a surprising choice to portray Mary Todd Lincoln, offers a daring portrayal of a woman well known for her insecurities. Tommy Lee Jones applies his crusty persona to a rich look at Representative Thaddeus Stevens and David Strathairn, so effective on Broadway now in The Heiress, is a haunting Secretary of State William Seward.
For director Spielberg, Lincoln is a particular triumph. While this director can create excessive films, he wisely resists showing us what we might expect to see in a Spielberg film. He gives us few battle scenes even though the film is set during wartime and few broad visuals despite its vivid locations. Instead Spielberg uses his camera to explore the souls of the people he reveals.
We feel, as the film ends, as if we have traveled back in time to the moments that made history. Because Lincoln dared to lead, we have the freedom to live. And that shapes what we expect of our leaders today.
* Content: High. Steven Spielberg brings a moment in history to life with his rich, compelling and thoroughly original look at a defining moment in our nation’s examination of its soul.
* Entertainment: High. As valuable as the history lesson may be, Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner make sure to captivate with every conversation they create.
* Message: High. How appropriate, at a time in our nation when we savor real leadership, to return to a moment when a real leader reminds a nation why it must exist.
* Relevance: Medium. Any opportunity to learn from history, and look at our present day through the lens of past lessons, enables us to measure how we act today against the standards of what our nation stands for.
* Opportunity for Dialogue: High. Any family who takes the time to absorb this film, and discuss its content, will experience an important conversation about today, and about the past.
(Lincoln is rated PG-13 for an intense scene of war violence, some images of carnage and brief strong language. The film runs 149 minutes.)
5 Popcorn Buckets
What’s on your family’s movie menu this week? Choosing what films to offer is a lot like planning what meals to serve: You want to savor something that you enjoy at the same time you nourish the mind, heart and body. Here are a few nutritional movies available this week on television and cable for you and your family.
Want to learn more about the Middle East? David Lean’s masterpiece from 1962, Lawrence of Arabia, is a trip back in time to the origins of many of the issues that make headlines today. Peter O’Toole stuns the screen as Thomas Edward Lawrence, a British intelligence officer in Egypt during World War I, who ultimately helps the Arabs harass the Turks and the British overwhelm the Ottoman Empire.
In perhaps the most significant epic created on screen, director David Lean puts us in the middle of a fascinating part of the world at its most defining time, as the British lose their hold on a land and the destiny of its people. Lean teaches us, more than he could have imagined, the fundamentals that continue to define today’s challenges.
Lawrence is, as well, as much a story of a man on screen and the filmmaker behind the screen. No one making movies today could ever achieve what Lean achieves unless they resorted to the computer. But Lean did it the old fashioned way. When we see the characters in the middle of the desert, we know Lean was there with his crew, transporting the water to keep the people and animals alive, always striving for authenticity in every shot he put on the screen. He passion for truth brings greater clarity to a most confusing hero. Lawrence of Arabia airs on Turner Classic Movies at 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 16.
Billy Wilder, the famed director of the classic comedy Some Like it Hot, offers a chilling look at corporate values in the Oscar winner from 1960, The Apartment. While this is not a traditional family film, it does offer an opportunity to talk with older children about workplace issues. And even if its view of the office is dated now — some 50 years later — the fundamental choices its characters face still happen much too often. Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine deliver heartbreaking performances as people caught in a web of romantic complexity when people who work together have more on their minds than getting things done on the job. Look for The Apartment at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17, on Turner Classic Movies.
Ellen Burstyn won a well-deserved Best Actress Oscar in 1974 for her meaningful portrayal of a widow adjusting to life after the death of her husband in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. Burstyn portrays a woman who, years before, wanted to be a singer. So, after her husband dies, she and her young son take off for a new life in a new city where, hopefully, her dormant dreams can come true. But time has passed for this lady, and her dreams, and she must confront “the new normal” that now defines her future. Burstyn’s touching work inspires us to courageously face our own day-to-day routines. Alice airs on Turner Classic Movies at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 17.
Serving nutritious movies can be as easy as turning on the television. And be sure, as you watch together, to share what you observe, question and consider. Watching movies together can prompt valuable family discussions.
|< Prev||Next >|
The requested URL /components/com_soyd/tent.php was not found on this server.