Daniel Day Lewis

cc gangs of new york

Gangs of New York was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, and yet, I still can’t shake the feeling that Martin Scorsese‘s revenge epic has been overlooked. With a filmograpyy as refined as Scorsese’s, a few gems are bound to go unnoticed, but even at the time of its release many were split by the film. It wasn’t a domestic box-office hit, scored a modest 75% on Rottentomatoes, and, from what I can recall, most people I knew weren’t a fan Scorsese’s impressionistic period piece. That’s a pity, because this fictional tale of Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio) seeking revenge on the man who killed his father, Bill ‘The Butcher’ Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis), is one of Scorsese’s most thrilling and hypnotic films. Even if you found the acclaimed director’s untraditional approach to period distancing, you can’t dismiss it has one of the finest pieces of acting ever put on film courtesy of Day-Lewis. He was so magnificent in a supporting role that the Academy instead nominated him for best actor, but it’s well earned since he is Gangs of New York. Technically speaking the movie is stunning, from the sets to the editing to the you name it, but when Gangs of New York fans start talking, it’s Day-Lewis’ towering performance that usually dominates the conversation.

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Best Actor

It’s an honor to just be nominated, right? You hear that politely said every year, even though you know it’s total hogwash for the four silver medallist of Oscar season. In reality, it’s not just an honor to be nominated; it’s quite easily a shot of go-go juice to an actor’s career. However, when the field of Best Actor nominees is populated almost entirely with people who have won before, it becomes an academic exercise. Best Actor is a category reserved (mostly) for seasoned actors who have been around the block a few times. There are occasional dark horses who come on strong, but the first-time nominees and those breaking out of genre roles usually show up in the Best Supporting Actor category. Yet every year, there seems to be one or two races in the Big Six that appear to be a lock. This year, we see that run in the Best Actor category, even though all of the nominees did fine work. It’s a popularity contest, to be sure, but it’s also an oft-accurate gauge of the best performance out there. (Because, let’s face it, if it were just a popularity category, where the hell is George Clooney this year?) Read on for the nominations and my predicted winner in red…

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argo_29

One of the big surprises of the 2013 Golden Globe Awards involved a sort of “Argo-f**kyourself” to the Academy Awards, as Oscar-snubbed Ben Affleck was named Best Director of the year. His film, Argo, also ended up winning Best Picture in the drama category. Early in the night, in a brilliantly hilarious monologue by co-hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, the ceremony offered some foreshadowing with subtle jabs at the Oscars with immediate shout outs to Affleck and fellow Academy snubs in the director category, Kathryn Bigelow and Quentin Tarantino. They even fit in a joke directed at Anne Hathaway about her 2011 Academy Awards ceremony co-hosting gig with James Franco. Hathaway expectantly wound up winning for Best Supporting Actress, though, and her film, Les Miserables won Best Picture – Comedy or Musical. Co-star Hugh Jackman was a bit of s surprise as Best Actor – Comedy or Musical. More than who won and what didn’t, people will be talking about the somewhat cryptic speech by Cecil B. DeMille Award winner Jodie Foster and the appearance by Bill Clinton to present Best Picture nominee Lincoln. Speaking of Lincoln, Daniel Day-Lewis surprised nobody by winning Best Actor – Drama. But at least I ended up surprised that he did a comedy 25 years ago called Stars and Bars, which I need to see immediately. My Golden Globes live-blog co-host, Daniel Walber, alerted me to that. And if you didn’t follow us during the ceremony, which we found far more enjoyable than […]

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Criterion Files

Since his infamous assassination in Ford Theater was re-imagined for D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation, American movies have been just as fascinated by Abraham Lincoln’s image and legacy as American culture at large. Besides the general veneration directed towards his name, there are specific reasons why Lincoln has been a subject of considerable preoccupation in the moving image. Lincoln is an icon ubiquitous in American culture; his face resides on our currency and his larger-than-life status has literally been set in stone by the Lincoln Memorial. But at the same time, Lincoln occupied the Office of the Presidency years before the emergence of mass media as it is recognizable today. Having died several decades before the first images were captured on film, history knows Lincoln only through still portraits. On the one hand, this reality has emboldened the notion that Lincoln was a uniquely authentic President; this Kentucky rail-splitter of modest means and education didn’t have to perform leadership for microphones, mass-distributed newspapers, or television cameras. On the other hand, the pre-cinematic status of real-life Lincoln emboldens curiosity about Lincoln the symbol versus Lincoln the human being. Live action cinema forces a rendering of reality concrete even if its subject matter concerns the mythic and the symbolic; any cinematic rendering of Lincoln may pose answers to a variety of questions, including details as difficult to know certainly as the sound of his voice.

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Culture Warrior

In 1989, two major studios released films about race relations in America that couldn’t be more different. Driving Miss Daisy, Bruce Beresford’s adaptation of Alfred Uhry’s successful off-Broadway play, was a heartwarming tearjerker about a rich, isolated elderly Jewish woman who comes to the astounding revelation that her friendly African-American chauffeur is often subject to discrimination in the South during the 1950s. Do the Right Thing, meanwhile, enshrined Spike Lee’s place on the cinematic map. Its pull-no-punches mosaic of conflicting, negotiating racialized voices in contemporary Bedford-Stuyvesant refused happy endings and clear answers, leaving critics and audiences in a gray area where they couldn’t decide whether the film was a lament over the brick-wall met by post-Civil Rights discourse, a call to violent action, or something else entirely. The relative critical and economic successes of both Driving Miss Daisy and Do the Right Thing paved a crossroads for future representations of African Americans in mainstream American cinema: should they pursue the direction of  affirmation and closure in the face of racism dismissed as a problem solved long ago, or strive for contemporary relevance and a refusal of easy answers to complex questions? Time and again, Hollywood has overwhelmingly preferred to continue in the direction of Driving Miss Daisy. As a retelling of history, Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, which chronicles the hard-won political gymnastics enacted in order to get the 13th Amendment passed and abolish human slavery in the US thereafter, would seem to continue Hollywood’s preference to gaze backwards at race relations […]

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Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln

Editor’s note: Lincoln gets its full theatrical release tomorrow, so please enjoy a re-run of our AFI FEST review of the film, originally published way back on November 9. It opens with a battle. Not the sort of battle we’ve come to expect from movies these days, not one punctuated by booms and blasts and bullets, but one that feels almost eerily and unnaturally quiet. There are hordes of soldiers attacking each other left and right, to be sure, and as they grunt and grasp in hand-to-hand (face-to-face, really) combat, Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln immediately lets its audience in on what sort of film it is going to be – a personal one, a deeply felt one, and one startlingly free of what we’ve come to expect from big, bustling films about horrific wars and the beloved men who carry them out. No, Lincoln is not exactly what you’re expecting it to be – and it’s all the better for it. The plot of Lincoln can be briefly explained in few words – it centers on the last gasps of the American Civil War and President Abraham Lincoln’s (Daniel Day-Lewis) attempts to end it and get the Thirteenth Amendment (the one that outlaws slavery and serves as a a much stricter take on the Emancipation Proclamation) pushed through the divided House of Representatives. Adapted from Doris Kearns Goodwin‘s meticulously researched (and nearly 1,000-page long) “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” screenwriter Tony Kushner and Spielberg have distilled down […]

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The Best Damn Oscar Blog

The release of Lincoln could not be better timed. The plan must be to get as much of a boost from the presidential election as possible, yet at the same time avoid being cast as part of the political debate, by opening after November 6th. Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner would rather their film be seen as a portrait of a great American hero above contemporary politics, or at least not see it hijacked by 21st century bickering.  They have every right, even though upon closer inspection it might become clear where they stand. However, let’s leave that for later and move on to some Oscar history. Only four men have earned Best Actor nominations for playing US Presidents, with Daniel Day-Lewis now certain to be the fifth. (For context, the Academy has over the years nominated nine Kings of England.) The list contains one other Lincoln, one Woodrow Wilson, and two Richard Nixons. That’s a bit bleak, isn’t it?

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Life of Pi AFI FEST

October offered up plenty of films to give this awards season a proper start. Ben Affleck once again showed he’s got one of the best eyes for tension working today; John Hawkes gave another year’s best performance in Fox Searchlight’s The Sessions; Martin McDonagh made another wicked, original dark comedy with real bite; and, who could forget, The Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer made a huge box office smash which received unabashed praise up the wazoo, especially for the seamless makeup work. While I wish Cloud Atlas did fit that description, at least for a few more years the trio’s daring and moving film will go down as a box office bomb which may or may have not been ahead of its time. No matter how Cloud Atlas stands up in a few years, it was the type of ambition which served as another reminder of how important going to the movie theater is and to truly have experiences while you are there, be they good or bad. With November 2012, there are plenty of movies to have a similar experience with, from Ang Lee‘s Life of Pi to a triumphant new Bond movie. Keep reading to find out what other eight movies you must see this month.

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Some of you may already know me by my Twitter handle: @thefilmcynic. It’s a name I’ve gone by for nearly a decade (so, before current social media outlets), because I’m very cynical about the film industry and try to keep my expectations low. I’m also very cynical about the Academy Awards and awards season in general, because we devote so much focus on them — with a wide spectrum of positive and negative angles — and they’re really a bunch of malarkey (much like the V.P. debate, which has inspired my newfound obsession with that word). So, the higher ups at FSR have asked me to write a cynical column devoted to the Oscars. The first one is inspired by the films Seven Psychopaths, Looper and Lincoln and their celebrated performances. As someone who has studied acting (I’m not very good at it), I’ve long taken issue with the way people look at film performances, because there are just so many different kinds. But there are two real distinct types that we tend to recognize while watching and writing about movies that aren’t acknowledged by the Academy: realistic and artificial. The former has been a big favorite since method acting came into play, though it doesn’t necessarily apply to that style nor does that style necessarily always mean realism. The latter could be more expressive and therefore goes back to the dawn of cinema and its silent performances or could even be more stiff, if that’s what’s intended. Directors who […]

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In America we have neither kings nor gods. Our brief experiments with any cult of personality ended badly, though they inspired some excellent movies along the way (All the Kings Men and Gabriel over the White House spring to mind). We have put our greatest presidents on mountains and given them monuments on the National Mall in Washington, but we’ve never admired them with the same spirit as the divine right of European monarchs or the fanatical devotion required of totalitarian dictatorship. Biopics of our Commanders-in-Chief are often either ambiguous critiques, like Nixon, or flippant light pieces along the lines of NYFF’s Hyde Park on Hudson. This history makes Steven Spielberg’s newest undertaking almost unprecedented. Lincoln is an earnest attempt to give Honest Abe a cinematic apotheosis, the kind of hero-making treatment rarely given one of our leaders on film. This is also a new path for Spielberg himself. Previous capital-I “Important” films have focused on a more collective triumph of the people, from Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List to the more directly applicable Amistad. Where those works take a wide look at the trials, tribulations and heroics of large and varied casts, Lincoln puts on its blinders and focuses on a very specific period in the life of a single icon. Spielberg and writer Tony Kushner are only concerned with a few short months in early 1865 — telling the story of the arduous passage of the 13th Amendment through the House of Representatives — and nothing more. […]

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Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln

While much of the FSR family is busy in our hometown of Austin, Texas, gorging themselves on equal parts barbeque and genre films at dear old Fantastic Fest, the rest of us must attempt to extract some joy from future festivals that we’ll be able to attend – like Los Angeles’ own AFI FEST. To that end, the Hollywood-based festival has just announced their Closing Night Film: the world premiere (swank!) of Steven Spielberg‘s Daniel Day-Lewis-starring Lincoln. The film will close out the festival on the evening of November 8 at the “historic” (and historically beautiful) Chinese Theatre. “Steven Spielberg epitomizes American filmmaking,” said Jacqueline Lyanga, Director, AFI FEST, “and who better to tell the story of one of the most significant figures in our country’s history. In this important presidential election year, Spielberg’s Lincoln reminds us that the challenges of the past remain as relevant today.” Spielberg has previously been the recipient of the AFI Life Achievement Award (in 1995) and, just last year, his The Adventures of Tintin closed that year’s festival.

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Lincoln Movie 2012

Well, this is classic Steven Spielberg, cribbing slightly off Glory. It’s uplifting and terribly sad, with a sweeping slow score and a range of beautiful shots. Judging from the trailer for Lincoln, this movie is going to pull every ounce of emotion right out of our veins, and with Daniel Day-Lewis in the spotlight, the chances of veering into cheesy heartstrings is diminished considerably. The best part is how subtle Day-Lewis is and how calmly the trailer sells him as the president. There’s nothing overly bombastic or showy, and it reveals the distinct possibility of Day-Lewis completely inhabiting the role of what must have been the most conflicted leader in our nation’s history. Check out the trailer for yourself:

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Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln

President Abraham Lincoln. Google. It’s a natural fit. The first official bit of footage from Steven Spielberg‘s highly anticipated Lincoln has finally arrived, and it’s done its damnedest to make Lincoln and Google seem simpatico in ways no one has ever dreamed. At least there’s voiceover by David Oyelowo to give this glorified commercial some actual gravitas. We won’t get a full trailer for the film until this Thursday at 7PM EST, but this remarkably slim teaser trailer is much more concerned in letting us know that said trailer premiere will be followed by a “Live Google Hangout” with Spielberg and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. That’s just a string of stuff I don’t understand, but perhaps you young’uns out there will get what it means and can participate. Check out some fresh looks at the back of Daniel Day-Lewis‘ head after the break. Presidential!

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Lincoln Movie 2012

We all knew that Daniel Day-Lewis looked exactly like Abraham Lincoln, but this new poster for Lincoln is just creepy. It’s goose-bump inducing. It’s also the kind of poster that makes you want to throw Oscars at it. There’s no real doubt that Steven Spielberg‘s forthcoming biopic will definitely be in the Oscar race. It’s the right kind of bait, and he’s not the kind of filmmaker to squander the opportunity. Plus, he’s got a searing talent on display, portraying an oft-misunderstand yet ultimately fascinating figure whose name seems to be thrown out more and more in political circles. It’s not like a movie poster can seal the deal or anything, but knowing nothing else, wouldn’t you want to see this thing based on Day-Lewis’ dramatic into-the-distance stare? This right here is the man who kept our country together during its darkest hour:

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Lincoln Daniel Day-Lewis

Of course you do. We’ve been reading your totally healthy Lincoln/Day-Lewis slash fiction, and we can tell you’ve been aching for this moment all year. Entertainment Weekly has debuted the first glossy image of Daniel Day-Lewis as the 16th president for Steven Spielberg‘s Lincoln. The resemblance is terrifyingly accurate. However, according to Spielberg, reports that Day-Lewis lost himself in the 19th century for the role are not. “Daniel was always conscious of his contemporary surroundings,” Spielberg said. “Daniel never went into a fugue state. He did not channel Lincoln. All that stuff is just more about gossip than it is about technique.” That’s fortunate because, as Breaking Bad fans know, a fugue state would have left Day-Lewis naked save for a top hat trying to buy snacks at a convenience store on the outskirts of Nowhere, New Mexico. Check out the full image below followed by a side-by-side comparison:

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Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis on Lincoln Set

With Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter already a distant memory, it’s time to turn our attention to that other Abraham Lincoln film – you know, the real one? The one directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Daniel Day-Lewis (and approximately ten thousand others) and based on a bestseller by an actual Pulitzer Prize-winning historian? Yeah, that one. DreamWorks Pictures has now set a release date for their Lincoln, and the clear awards-bait production is hitting screens a tad earlier than we’d previously suspected. The film will open in limited release on November 9, which it will follow with a nationwide expansion on November 16. The film’s limited release date will pit it against both Skyfall and Anna Karenina, also opening on that Friday, and its nationwide release will coincide with two films that probably won’t stand as much direct competition – The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 and the limited release Cannes film Rust and Bone. The following week really kicks off the holiday movie-going season, with November 21 (the day before Thanksgiving) seeing the release of Life of Pi, Parental Guidance, Red Dawn, Rise of the Guardians, and Silver Linings Playbook. When you look at that list, DreamWorks’ decision to date the film on the early side seems like a wise one, giving it plenty of time to get in front of audience eyeballs before the holidays and the rest of the tentpole pack.

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Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln

What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly collective of links and thoughts breaking down all the news and great essays from around the movie blogosphere. A celebration of quality programming, if you will. Thus, it becomes quality programming in and of itself. In short, it’s worth however long it takes you to read to the end (where we’ve strategically placed a Christopher Nolan-themed video as your reward). We begin this evening with the internet’s story of the night, Daniel Day-Lewis’ awesome Abe Lincoln beard, as shot by Virginia local Michael Phillips. He snapped a shot of the highly method actor in a Richmond restaurant (not far from where Steven Spielberg’s film is currently in production). Basically it looks like Abraham Lincoln with jeans on. So yes, that works. Also worth noting: It’s being reported that Day-Lewis has not dropped his Lincoln accent since March. That’s one hardcore mother-effing emancipator, right there.

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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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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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