Tony Kushner


The 70th Golden Globe Awards will be held tomorrow night, and I invite you to join myself and FSR’s awards guru, Daniel Walber, for live-blog commentary during the ceremony. We’ll try to keep it smart, avoid too much snark and will likely be obeying the rules of the drinking game that co-hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have devised. It will also hopefully be more conversational than remarks we could have just tweeted, in order that I can turn the discussion around as a more readable post-event recap of the night. In case you’re too busy paying attention to your TV to also read our words simultaneously. Anyway, you can’t head into a big awards telecast viewing without predictions for what you think will win. Daniel and I seem to agree on exactly half of the movie categories. So, maybe it won’t be such a predicable night. Check out our choices after the break and give us your own predictions in the comments. If you do better than either of us, we commend you in advance (and maybe at the end of our GG coverage too).


What America Looks Like 2012 Election Map

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 […]


Sally Field in Lincoln 2012

Should we reward the films that challenge us? More pointedly, is that the role of the Academy Awards? Sasha Stone opened her State of the Race column this week by raising that very question. The two most recent Best Picture winners, The King’s Speech and The Artist¸ don’t exactly demand soul searching. They “offered a path of least resistance; they delivered a lot but asked so little of us in return,” she explains. Yet in 2012, a year of such great political conflict and often ugly national bickering, we might be in the mood to laud films that strike closer to our core. For Stone, this leads directly into a proclamation of Lincoln’s historical weight. Her argument casts Steven Spielberg’s film as period piece that reaches into the present, calling on us to examine our wounds so that we may prepare for the future. There is no better time for such a powerful work about America to arrive and take Oscar gold, reminding us to continue on the road to a better society in the spirit of the Great Emancipator. The same logic can be applied to other films in the race as well, from Argo to the (as yet unseen) Django Unchained and Zero Dark Thirty.


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 […]


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?


Lincoln NYFF

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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published: 01.28.2015
published: 01.28.2015
published: 01.28.2015
published: 01.27.2015

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