Abraham Lincoln

Criterion Files

Of the 600+ films in The Criterion Collection, almost 200 are listed as from the United States. While not all of these films are explicitly thematically based  around life in the US, the American selections for the Collection do make up a mosaic of diverse perspectives on life in this country, proving that there is no sustainable solitary understanding of what it means to be an “American,” but there exists instead an array of possibilities for interpreting American identity. What the American films do have in common, though, is provide proof that excellent films have been made in the US for quite some time. So, after exhausting yourself with Independence Day Parades, firecracker-lighting, and Budweiser, settle down with a great American movie. Here are a dozen great titles from the Criterion Collection about “America” and “freedom” in the many senses of those terms.

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Steven Spielberg seems hellbent on casting just about every talented actor he can in his long talked-about and finally-upcoming Abraham Lincoln biopic, Lincoln. Beyond Daniel Day-Lewis as the brilliant and ill-fated American president, the rest of the cast listing for Lincoln gives new meaning to the term “star-packed,” as it currently includes Sally Field, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tommy Lee Jones, John Hawkes, Hal Holbrook, James Spader, Tim Blake Nelson, Bruce McGill, Joseph Cross, David Strathairn, Walton Goggins, Lee Pace, Jackie Earle Haley, and David Oyelowo. At this rate, I’m not entirely unconvinced that I haven’t been cast in this project. But Spielberg has now added another British actor to this most American of stories, casting Jared Harris as Ulysses S. Grant. As Spielberg’s film will focus on “the road to abolition,” the inclusion of Grant is a no-brainer, as the general was an essential part of the Civil War, and he is regarded as the war’s most successful general for the Union side, thanks to his big wins at battles such as Shiloh and Vicksburg. Grant, of course, later became president himself, following Lincoln’s vice-president, Andrew Johnson, who assumed Lincoln’s position after his assassination.

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Despite the fact that his most recent film War Horse has yet to even be released, talk about Steven Spielberg’s upcoming Abraham Lincoln biopic Lincoln has already started to increase. And, in my mind, that makes sense. Lincoln stars Daniel Day-Lewis as one of the most iconic historical figures that has ever existed. War Horse stars…a horse. In Monday’s edition of the Orlando Sentinel, they managed to get an interview with the legendary director, who spoke briefly on what his Lincoln pic would be about. According to Spielberg, “we’re basing it on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book, ‘Team of Rivals,’ but we’re only focusing in on the last four months of Abraham Lincoln’s life.” That information helps add some context to another bit of Lincoln news that popped up today: Deadline Crawfordville’s report that Jackie Earle Haley has joined the cast in the role of Confederate Vice-President Alexander Stephens. We’re all used to seeing Haley play roles where he does things like brutally murder people or molest little children, so it’s easy to imagine that he’s been tapped to play Stephens because they’re portraying him as a contemptible racist in the film; but that might not end up being the case. Stephens is most famous for his Cornerstone Speech, in which he said that, “our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior […]

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In person, Walton Goggins is an incredibly nice guy. On television and in movies, he can be incredibly unnerving. It’s the eyes. Fortunately, according to Deadline Warren, Goggins has just been cast as Ohio Congressman Wells Andrews Hutchins for Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. Hutchins, a man with a frighteningly short Wikipedia entry and all three of his names pluralized, was a Democrat who went against his party in order to vote for the Thirteenth Amendment which abolished (on paper) slavery in the United States. He was also the provost marshal for Ohio during the Civil War (a fact which might just come into play in the movie). Goggins joins Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, David Strathairn, Tommy Lee Jones, John Hawkes, Hal Holbrook, Bruce McGill, and Tim Blake Nelson in what is clearly Spielberg’s attempt to buy the pot at the Oscars. Undoubtedly, Goggins can hold his own. He’s emerging as one of the most talented character actors of this generation, and it’s great to see him get this kind of work. He’ll next be seen fighting aliens as a cowboy in Cowboys & Aliens and fighting a cowardly home owner in Straw Dogs.

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Daniel Day-Lewis. Tommy Lee Jones. Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Sally Field. Tim Blake Nelson. Hal Holbrook. James Spader. John Hawkes. Steven Spielberg has officially pointed his bat at the far bleachers when it comes to casting his upcoming film Lincoln. It’s telling when the Oscar talk can begin fairly nonchalantly during the casting phase. We already knew that Sally Field was set to play Mary Todd Lincoln and Daniel Day-Lewis would don the top hat and beard to play the iconic 16th President. Now, according to LA Times Blog, Jones has joined the cast as abolitionist congressman Thaddeus Stevens and Gordon-Levitt is on board as Lincoln’s son. While The Conspirator focused on the aftermath of Lincoln’s assassination, Spielberg’s take will look at slavery from the view point of Lincoln and his political advisers. It now has one hell of a cast and no vampire hunting in sight.

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Before Seth Grahame-Smith’s groundbreaking biography “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” became all of the rage, the world was tragically clueless about the undead-destroying exploits of our 16th president. American school children are taught about the Emancipation Proclamation, they memorize lines from the Gettysburg Address; but they tragically never understand why. Just like elementary classrooms are reticent to include Chomsky in their standard curriculums, they have also shown to be reluctant to reveal to grade-schoolers the unfortunate reality that vampires are real, and that their blood sucking atrocities had a profound effect on the development and presidency of one of our greatest leaders. Fortunately, Hollywood is not as chained to the whims of conservative fundamentalist groups as our nation’s textbook makers are. So, Russian director Timur Bekmambetov has been tapped to direct a big screen adaptation of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. You may know Bekmambetov as the director of the Night Watch and Day Watch vampire franchise already, and if you don’t then clearly you haven’t been paying enough attention to vampires. It’s a wonder you still have all of your blood. Long have they searched for the perfect actor to portray Lincoln in this epic tale; one that spans the president’s life from ages 20 to 55. Many have tested, and many have failed. In the end, all of their efforts have come down to one man: some guy. That guy is actor Benjamin Walker. You may recognize him from such films as Flags of Our Fathers and Kinsey, but chances […]

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Robert Redford has directed a movie starring James McAvoy, Robin Wright Penn, Kevin Kline, Tom Wilkinson, Danny Huston, Stephen Root, Colm Meaney, Toby Kebbell, and Evan Rachel Wood. That should be enough to cause excitement. The Conspirator tells the story of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln and the ensuing police action and trial of the conspirators – including Mary Surratt, who became despised by an entire country. She was guilty until proven innocent. Check out the intense trailer for yourself:

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As the only literate Reject, it’s my duty to find the latest, the greatest and the untouched classics that would make great source material for film adaptations. I read so you don’t have to. This week, Print to Projector presents: Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith “The boy had been crouched so long that his legs had fallen asleep beneath him – but he dared not move now.” Synopsis A young boy named Abraham suffers the grizzly frontier life of the early 19th century and is devastated by the loss of his mother. After finding out that she was killed by a vampire, he makes it his life’s work to hunt down the blood-thirsty monsters and cut off their giant-canine-tooth-stuffed heads with his axe. And to become President at some point. And free the slaves. And keep the union together.

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This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, learn the horrifying truth behind the Lincoln presidency and how to train dragons.

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