Aside from The Hobbit, I’m not sure any other movie of late 2012 is quite as anticipated as Lincoln. When it was announced that legendary director Steven Spielberg had cast phenomenal actor Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln, the film world collectively threw up their hands and said, “How many Oscars will this win?” While discussing his reactions to last year’s Academy Awards, Richard Roeper predicted that Lincoln would lead the nominations this year with 11. I, too, was inclined to assume the film would be a juggernaut, and I think that was rather foolish of me.
Lincoln is based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography of the 16th President, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. The story will focus primarily on the final four months of Lincoln’s life and the clashes he had with members of his Cabinet over the issue of abolishing slavery.
Steven Spielberg is one of the greatest directors of all time for creating some of the most iconic on-screen moments ever. Nothing can be said to take away from the massive influence he has had on countless filmmakers and audiences alike. But you’ve got to admit, lately, his movies have been a bit sappy. He hasn’t made a film with significant cultural impact since Saving Private Ryan back in 1998, and while he was nominated for Munich and War Horse, those films don’t match up against his classics. More than anything, Spielberg is good at manipulating audiences’ emotions with excessively maudlin theatrics. War Horse was wall-to-wall schmaltz, and I don’t know why I thought Lincoln would be any different.
The first trailer for Lincoln was recently released, and my immediate response to it was a sigh. Daniel Day-Lewis looks incredible, and his performance is going to be outstanding, no doubt about it. That didn’t disappoint me. I started to get disappointed at around the one-minute mark, when the music begins to swell and Lincoln is concluding an impassioned speech. It is at this moment that I thought that, once again, this film will just be another example of modern Spielbergian sappiness. The typical, larger-than-life John Williams music takes over, and the trailer eventually devolves into characters just staring contemplatively ahead. I can tell just from these few tidbits that this film will be filled with rhetoric and long, meaningful monologues. Dialogue like this can be amazing on stage but is quite tedious on film.
Lincoln appears to have excellent actors, beautiful cinematography, captivating art direction, and powerful music, and it will probably be considered a really good movie. It will earn Oscar nominations in all of the categories that correspond with the qualities I listed, and it will probably deserve them. But if this trailer is anything to judge from, I do not think there is reason to believe Lincoln will win Best Picture, and if the nominations were still only five, I think it would have had a hard time even getting nominated.