‘Lincoln’ made to win awards, not stand test of time

By Tony Beaulieu

The trailer for Steven Spielberg’s epic Abraham Lincoln biopic dropped last week, and “Lincoln” already looks like it will be a top contender at next year’s Academy Awards but only because the movie was made specifically for that purpose.

The world-class cinematography by Janusz Kaminski is immediately striking.

Daniel Day-Lewis, as the 16th president leading the all-star cast, gave an impassioned speech that left me with chills as I watched the trailer come to a close. But I also was left with a more peculiar impression as the image faded out on ol’ Honest Abe: Spielberg’s “Lincoln” is pure Oscar-baiting.

I immediately had flashbacks to last year’s “J. Edgar.”

Films made for awards are just as reprehensible and artistically lax as films made as shameless cash grabs. The reason is in both cases you have an objective to be achieved which constrains full artistic potential. A film shouldn’t be made just to garner awards or satisfy a filmmakers’ ego.

Perhaps Spielberg genuinely wants to tell the story of Abraham Lincoln’s life, but will the film add to or challenge our perception of the great emancipator, or will it merely reinforce what we already believe?

Will it be technically innovative in any significant way? Will it be remembered 10 years from now? One year from now? Doubtful.

Take a film from the opposite side of the spectrum: “The Avengers.” I think we can all agree that while “The Avengers” was crackling with entertainment and made a gazillion dollars this summer, it is unlikely to garner any awards come Oscar season.

It’s pure popcorn entertainment, and that’s just fine.

The trailer for “The Avengers” features explosions, superheroes duking it out, computer-generated action sequences and more explosions. The script doesn’t necessarily have to make sense, people are fairly forgiving of plot holes as long as there’s some quippy dialogue … and a bunch more explosions of course.

Now consider this: Are the flashy cinematography and top-notch actors and chill-inducing dialogue of the “Lincoln” trailer that much different that the explosions and chill-inducing computer-generated spectacle of “The Avengers” trailer?

Blockbusters like “The Avengers” are rather undemanding of the audience. Oscar-baiting films are equally undemanding of their audience.

We know what to expect here: A transformative performance by Day-Lewis, impassioned dialogue, inspiring and pathos-infused speeches on freedom and the American way, perhaps a sweepingly photographed Civil War battle scene or two. But is any of that new?

Will “Lincoln” add anything to the lexicon of American film language or will it stick to the tried and true formula for Oscar success? This is the meter by which “Lincoln” should be judged. Because we all know the acting will be great, the cinematography top notch and the script polished to perfection. But how worthy is it if it doesn’t challenge us in some meaningful or memorable way?

One of my favorite things to do around Oscar season is to ask people looking forward to the ceremony to name the film that won Best Picture the previous year. Most people can’t do it. They’ve already forgotten. These films go the way “Lincoln” likely will.

Read more here: http://oudaily.com/news/2012/sep/18/lincoln/
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