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2012 Best Picture Round Up: Lincoln by Jamie

Spielberg’s latest historical work hits the UK shores today and it did fairly well at the nomination announcement picking up 12 in total. The question, of course, is does it deserve them?

Steven Spielberg has, to some degree, contributed a great deal to defining my childhood. I grew up watching the films he directed and the films he produced and they are responsible, at least in some way, for the person I am today. Hell, Jaws is still my favourite film and as close to a perfect film as I believe you can get. Lately, however, I have found myself becoming more and more disappointed in Spielberg’s work. I believe we all remember the terrible CGI-fest that was Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. And the less said about that atrocious, manipulative piece of schlock called War Horse the better. Still, I was looking forward to Lincoln as I have recently started reading Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin, upon which this film is somewhat based, and I am always a sucker for a good historical drama.

First off, I should say that this isn’t exactly a biopic and perhaps a better title for this film would have been The 13th Amendment (Or Abraham Lincoln and the 13th Amendment in a misguided attempt to appeal to Indiana Jones fans) because that’s the era of Lincoln’s presidency that this film focuses on. The Civil War is already well underway and Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) is beginning his second term as President. It is quite clear that the civil war is coming to a close and Lincoln wishes to get the 13th Amendment passed before it does because he fears that his Emancipation Proclamation, a war time measure, would be overturned by the courts when peace time resumes.

The film then focuses on all the political machinations that go on as the President attempts to get the prerequisite number of votes needed in order to ensure that the amendment passes. It also covers a few other aspects of his life such as the relationship with his wife (Sally Field) and his son Robert (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) as well as the relationships between members of the House of Representatives who will be voting on the amendment, in particular the largely Republican abolitionists such as Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones) and the largely Democratic opposition such as Fernando Wood (Lee Pace). So yes, this is not exactly a film about the civil war. The war is certainly going on and its presence is felt constantly throughout the film but make no mistake, this is a movie about the political transpirings of the time.

Political films can, of course, be great and can make for some very tense thrillers. But Lincoln isn’t a thriller and in terms of enjoyment, this film can be a little dry. Part of the problem is that Spielberg seems to be trying to make things tense anyway, particularly in the scene where the House finally votes on the amendment. Unfortunately it can be incredibly, incredibly difficult to make things tense when you already know what’s going to happen. Showing shots of people agonising over whether to vote yay or nay on a proposition falls a little flat when you know the outcome. Yes, I know these are also trying to show how difficult it can be to do what’s right in the face of opposition but cutting away from the Speaker of the House when he’s about to read the result is clearly an effort to increase tension in a situation where no tension can exist. The only people for who this scene can illicit such a reaction are those who are completely ignorant of history and believe slavery still exists in the United States. And to those people, I’d just like to say wow. This movie must have really come as a shock to you, non-existent person.

Another problem is some of the acting. Sally Field is decent enough though her weaknesses really shine through when acting against a power house such as Day-Lewis. He, of course, is brilliant bringing everything to the role that you’d expect including Lincoln’s vocal and ambulatory peculiarities mentioned in contemporary accounts. In fact, the only problem with the performance of Lincoln is that it’s Day-Lewis playing him. Honest Abe is such a reserved, quite personality who rarely raises his voice that you can’t help hope that at some point he might just fly off the handle like Bill The Butcher or Daniel Plainview but alas he never does. I suppose that’s fair given that it’s not really in the President’s character but still…

In conclusion, Lincoln is a perfectly serviceable film particularly if you have some interest in the topics and era that it discusses but I really don’t know how well it’s going to play in the UK. I’m sure part of the reason that it’s done so well in the US is not because it’s a particularly exceptional film but because it’s a competent film about a subject which is very close to the hearts of so many American, a man who is perhaps their most revered President. Outside those shores, it may just come of as a bit of an overwordy, bloated drama directed by a man who’s relying more and more on manipulative directing techniques but with a great actor in the leading role. Three pints out of five. Laterz.



Zombie Month: Creepshow and a Short Word About Leslie Nielsen by Jamie

When I was a young creature, freshly spawned from the Earth and learning to survive in the harsh, unforgiving bitch of a world I came to find myself living in, I came across a movie. That movie was ‘Airplane!’ and it was one of those films that would come to build the foundation of what I would find funny in later life. Being a young British spawnling at the time I’m sure there were certain references in the film that flew over my head and I probably hadn’t seen any films from the genre that the film was spoofing but it was hilarious all the same. In particular there was one grey haired gentleman name Dr. Rumack, a straight-faced, serious yet hilarious man who had me laughing with his insistences that people not call him Shirley. That doctor was played by Leslie Nielsen.

As I grew I came to see more of the man’s comedic work in particular ‘Police Squad’ which in turn lead to the film series ‘Naked Gun’. Nielsen played Detective Frank Drebin and continued to do what he had done so well, playing a serious man in a ridiculous world and treating the ridiculous as though it were commonplace such as arresting a chimpanzee dressed in a gangster suit for murder at the zoo or having a whole bunch of cops kill each other in order to figure out the trajectory of a bullet. Things got a bit more ridiculous and slapsticky in ‘Naked Gun’ but it was still based on the very simple premise that the ridiculous parody world that the characters inhabited was just completely normal to them. As I said, it was this kind of thing that Nielsen shined at. It also shouldn‘t be forgotten that the man had made comic timing look like an art, always knowing the funniest moment to react to or comment on what was going on around him.

His later works suffered a bit in quality and I’ll be honest I didn’t see many of them. I saw ‘Dracula: Dead and Loving It’ when I was about twelve and being young, I probably found it quite funny though repeat viewings have quashed that opinion. I will say that he was probably one of the only things I found funny in ‘Scary Movie 3’. I didn’t see ‘Scary Movie 4’ and I’ve seen a little of ‘Superhero Movie’. It was enough, trust me.

Still, this isn’t about then, it’s about before then. Those classics that I grew up with and loved and the man who helped make them as funny as they were. Leslie Nielsen, a great funny, funny man. The world sucks a little more now that he’s dead.

In honour of Leslie Nielsen, I’ve shoe-horned Creepshow into the Zombie month. I know I said I wasn’t going to touch on Romero’s films but it isn’t a ‘…Of the Dead’ film and these are mitigating circumstances so fuck you. Besides, I can write about what I want and change my mind as I see fit. It’s a blogger’s prerogative… Look, I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to swear at you. It’s just that I could feel you judging me with your eyes and… Let’s just move on shall we?

Creepshow is a 1982 horror anthology film directed by George A. Romero (The Deadfather) and written by Stephen King. If you don’t know what a horror anthology is then… Well, have you seen a Halloween episode of ‘The Simpsons’? Think that but live action and, depending on the film, less humour. Creepshow was based on the precept that the shorts in the film were stories in one of those old 50s horror comics book that a boy’s father had found and thrown away and it had quite a few notables amongst it’s cast. Besides Nielsen it also featured Ted Danson, Adrienne Barbeau, E.G. Marshall, Ed Harris, Hal Holbrook, Joe Hill (Stephen King’s son), a small cameo by Tom Savini and Stephen King himself playing a stereotypical hillbilly who begins sprouting weeds after getting ‘meteor shit’ on his hands.

Nielsen appears in a segment called ‘Something To Tide You Over’ which appropriately enough features Zombies, so let’s dig into it a little, shall we? Oh, spoiler alert by the way. The segment is short so not talking about the plot would leave me very little indeed.

Nielsen plays a wealthy man, Richard Vickers, who seems somewhat obsessed with televisions and videos. He discovers that his young trophy wife Becky (Gaylen Ross) is having an affair with Henry Wentworth (Ted Danson) whom he promptly kidnaps. He takes Wentworth to his private beach and forces him to bury himself up to his neck in sand. He then sets up a television and a camera so that Wentworth can watch as Becky, buried in another location further down the beach, dies as the tide slowly comes in. Vickers returns to his beach house, leaving Wentworth to his presumed fate.

Later that Vickers begins hearing strange noises and is shocked to find that Wentworth and Becky have risen from the dead! They come for him, telling they’ve made a hole for him down on the beach. He tries to shoot them but the bullets prove ineffective against the undead lovers. I gotta say, this was actually pretty creepy, even watching it again. There’s something about the Zombie make-up, all covered in sea-weed, the way they speak and the way they relentlessly but slowly come after Vickers, arms outstretched, that just really got to me. Anyway, the final scene is Vickers buried up to his neck in the sand, screaming that he can hold his breath for a long time as the tide slowly comes in.

So what can be said about ‘Something to Tide You Over?’ Well it’s certainly one of the more serious, scarier parts of ‘Creepshow’ with some of the other segments certainly having a more obvious sense of humour about them. This may come as something as a surprise as this was just two years after ‘Airplane!’ and around the time ‘Police Squad’ was being shown on television. Still there is humour there and it’s found in Nielsen’s dry, villainous wit as he kidnaps Danson and forces him to bury himself. It’s also a bit weird to see him playing the villain but you can tell he’s having a good time with it is imminently fun to watch.

As for the Zombies, they aren’t the traditional Romero fare. As this is based on those old horror comics, they are far more akin to the living dead that would be found in the pages of those. They are generally small in number, tend towards the skeletal (as in the first segment, Father’s Day) or, as in the case of this segment, have a very maritime flair. They are also brought back from the dead not by some mysterious virus or hell having run out of room. No, they are motivated by the mystical force of revenge, coming to seek vengeance on those who wronged them in life which is a kinda cool concept but not one that’d work on a mass Zombie Apocalypse level.

So there you go. That’s my review of one segment from Creepshow in honour of Leslie Nielsen. I heartily recommend it and the whole of Creepshow really. It’s got a few problems here and there, with some of the segments seeming a little more drawn out than perhaps they should have been but if you like horror, horror anthologies or the earlier works of George A. Romero, I highly recommend it. Four pints out of five. Laterz.

You can buy Creepshow at the Cinepub Amazon.co.uk Store.



Zombie Month: Creepshow and a Short Word About Leslie Nielsen by Jamie

When I was a young creature, freshly spawned from the Earth and learning to survive in the harsh, unforgiving bitch of a world I came to find myself living in, I came across a movie. That movie was ‘Airplane!’ and it was one of those films that would come to build the foundation of what I would find funny in later life. Being a young British spawnling at the time I’m sure there were certain references in the film that flew over my head and I probably hadn’t seen any films from the genre that the film was spoofing but it was hilarious all the same. In particular there was one grey haired gentleman name Dr. Rumack, a straight-faced, serious yet hilarious man who had me laughing with his insistences that people not call him Shirley. That doctor was played by Leslie Nielsen.

As I grew I came to see more of the man’s comedic work in particular ‘Police Squad’ which in turn lead to the film series ‘Naked Gun’. Nielsen played Detective Frank Drebin and continued to do what he had done so well, playing a serious man in a ridiculous world and treating the ridiculous as though it were commonplace such as arresting a chimpanzee dressed in a gangster suit for murder at the zoo or having a whole bunch of cops kill each other in order to figure out the trajectory of a bullet. Things got a bit more ridiculous and slapsticky in ‘Naked Gun’ but it was still based on the very simple premise that the ridiculous parody world that the characters inhabited was just completely normal to them. As I said, it was this kind of thing that Nielsen shined at. It also shouldn‘t be forgotten that the man had made comic timing look like an art, always knowing the funniest moment to react to or comment on what was going on around him.

His later works suffered a bit in quality and I’ll be honest I didn’t see many of them. I saw ‘Dracula: Dead and Loving It’ when I was about twelve and being young, I probably found it quite funny though repeat viewings have quashed that opinion. I will say that he was probably one of the only things I found funny in ‘Scary Movie 3’. I didn’t see ‘Scary Movie 4’ and I’ve seen a little of ‘Superhero Movie’. It was enough, trust me.

Still, this isn’t about then, it’s about before then. Those classics that I grew up with and loved and the man who helped make them as funny as they were. Leslie Nielsen, a great funny, funny man. The world sucks a little more now that he’s dead.

In honour of Leslie Nielsen, I’ve shoe-horned Creepshow into the Zombie month. I know I said I wasn’t going to touch on Romero’s films but it isn’t a ‘…Of the Dead’ film and these are mitigating circumstances so fuck you. Besides, I can write about what I want and change my mind as I see fit. It’s a blogger’s prerogative… Look, I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to swear at you. It’s just that I could feel you judging me with your eyes and… Let’s just move on shall we?

Creepshow is a 1982 horror anthology film directed by George A. Romero (The Deadfather) and written by Stephen King. If you don’t know what a horror anthology is then… Well, have you seen a Halloween episode of ‘The Simpsons’? Think that but live action and, depending on the film, less humour. Creepshow was based on the precept that the shorts in the film were stories in one of those old 50s horror comics book that a boy’s father had found and thrown away and it had quite a few notables amongst it’s cast. Besides Nielsen it also featured Ted Danson, Adrienne Barbeau, E.G. Marshall, Ed Harris, Hal Holbrook, Joe Hill (Stephen King’s son), a small cameo by Tom Savini and Stephen King himself playing a stereotypical hillbilly who begins sprouting weeds after getting ‘meteor shit’ on his hands.

Nielsen appears in a segment called ‘Something To Tide You Over’ which appropriately enough features Zombies, so let’s dig into it a little, shall we? Oh, spoiler alert by the way. The segment is short so not talking about the plot would leave me very little indeed.

Nielsen plays a wealthy man, Richard Vickers, who seems somewhat obsessed with televisions and videos. He discovers that his young trophy wife Becky (Gaylen Ross) is having an affair with Henry Wentworth (Ted Danson) whom he promptly kidnaps. He takes Wentworth to his private beach and forces him to bury himself up to his neck in sand. He then sets up a television and a camera so that Wentworth can watch as Becky, buried in another location further down the beach, dies as the tide slowly comes in. Vickers returns to his beach house, leaving Wentworth to his presumed fate.

Later that Vickers begins hearing strange noises and is shocked to find that Wentworth and Becky have risen from the dead! They come for him, telling they’ve made a hole for him down on the beach. He tries to shoot them but the bullets prove ineffective against the undead lovers. I gotta say, this was actually pretty creepy, even watching it again. There’s something about the Zombie make-up, all covered in sea-weed, the way they speak and the way they relentlessly but slowly come after Vickers, arms outstretched, that just really got to me. Anyway, the final scene is Vickers buried up to his neck in the sand, screaming that he can hold his breath for a long time as the tide slowly comes in.

So what can be said about ‘Something to Tide You Over?’ Well it’s certainly one of the more serious, scarier parts of ‘Creepshow’ with some of the other segments certainly having a more obvious sense of humour about them. This may come as something as a surprise as this was just two years after ‘Airplane!’ and around the time ‘Police Squad’ was being shown on television. Still there is humour there and it’s found in Nielsen’s dry, villainous wit as he kidnaps Danson and forces him to bury himself. It’s also a bit weird to see him playing the villain but you can tell he’s having a good time with it is imminently fun to watch.

As for the Zombies, they aren’t the traditional Romero fare. As this is based on those old horror comics, they are far more akin to the living dead that would be found in the pages of those. They are generally small in number, tend towards the skeletal (as in the first segment, Father’s Day) or, as in the case of this segment, have a very maritime flair. They are also brought back from the dead not by some mysterious virus or hell having run out of room. No, they are motivated by the mystical force of revenge, coming to seek vengeance on those who wronged them in life which is a kinda cool concept but not one that’d work on a mass Zombie Apocalypse level.

So there you go. That’s my review of one segment from Creepshow in honour of Leslie Nielsen. I heartily recommend it and the whole of Creepshow really. It’s got a few problems here and there, with some of the segments seeming a little more drawn out than perhaps they should have been but if you like horror, horror anthologies or the earlier works of George A. Romero, I highly recommend it. Four pints out of five. Laterz.

You can buy Creepshow at the Cinepub Amazon.co.uk Store.




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