Friday,26 April, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1123, 22-28 November 2012-
Friday,26 April, 2019
Issue 1123, 22-28 November 2012-

Ahram Weekly

Hail to the chief

It must be human nature to save the best for the last.  So it is with Hollywood folk.  They toil and labour all year long, leaving their best effort for year’s end. Naturally, most filmmakers wish to screen their work before the Academy Awards December deadline, in order to be eligible for Oscar consideration. This leaves us poor souls, scurrying and scampering from one movie theatre to another to catch the latest wonders of the season; but what better time for such a divertissement!
Holiday time is the perfect time to take flight from the pressures of shopping, baking, planning and entertaining, to slide into a comfortable seat in a darkened theatre, to rest and relax, ready to be dazzled by the brilliant enchantment of the magic of film.  The latest “BOND” adventure:“Skyfall” has broken all records of the previous 22 films, at the box-office; and “Lord of the Rings” prequel, “The Hobbit” is also slated for holiday viewing, and here comes ”Lincoln”, Steven Spielberg’s tribute to America’s 16th president, one of the greatest men of all time.
 Revered and admired by all Americans, Hollywood has paid homage to Abraham Lincoln in numerous films throughout the years.  He has been portrayed by a number of able actors, but none could even come close to Daniel Day-Lewis’ impersonation of this giant of a man, champion of humanity’s underdog.  It was no less than a stroke of genius that inspired Spielberg to seek, the reluctant recluse to become Abe. That is what this eccentric actor does. He does not play a character, he becomes the character.  With extensive preparation, Day-Lewis immerses himself in each role, on and off the screen.  In Britain they call him, “mad as a hatter”, but there must be a method to his madness.  This brooding Irish actor has stunned and delighted audiences at every turn. He won Best Actor Oscar for “My Left Foot”, and has received Oscar nominations, for almost each appearance.  
The genius of Spielberg has been evident in all his efforts, particularly in his knack for casting the perfect actor for the part. Never has it been more evident than in “Lincoln” for not too many directors would have thought of the sporadic, veritably intense, moody actor. Tired of soppy family-fare, such as his recent “Tin-Tin” and “War-Horse”, Spielberg felt the urge to sink his teeth into a meaty slice of American history.  Wisely he chose the best episode in its history, the hero of its democracy. Based on Doris Keans Goodwin book, “Lincoln”, which concentrates on his last days, Spielberg had optioned the book almost a decade ago.  The mammoth project took years in the making, and will soon be released at a most befitting and relevant time. During such a low point in US history, following a destructive hurricane, a divisive election, an opaque and dysfunctional administration, ”Lincoln” is a reminder of their days of glory. Without a Lincoln, could there have ever been an Obama?
Born in the backwoods of Kentucky in 1809, Lincoln’s ancestry has been traced back to Samuel Lincoln, a weaver from Hingham England, who immigrated to the USA in 1637, 17 years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. The 16th President of the US preserved the Union during the American Civil War, and proved to the world that democracy can be a permanent form of government.  His qualities of faithfulness, honesty, humour and courage afforded him the strength to lead his country during the bloodiest years of its existence.  By the time he had taken office in 1861, 7 states had already seceded from the Union over the issue of slavery.
Lincoln was a man of many gifts and many assets. He was not without his shortcomings, but his merits overshadowed them by far.  He coordinated every aspect of the war effort as Commander-in-Chief, and his military genius was instrumental in the war victory. He had an ability to express his convictions clearly and with great force. His endless source of strength and his iron will were imperative in restoring the Union.   Many of his speeches and writings are considered classic statements of democratic beliefs and goals.    
Statues of Lincoln stand in cities and towns throughout the US and beyond.  To him democracy in the US represented an experiment.  The case of world democracy he believed, hinged on the success of the US, otherwise dictators, kings and autocrats would conclude that people cannot govern themselves. He showed nobility of character in his unwavering determination that his nation would not be destroyed, neither will democracy or individual freedom.
 Brought together by a leader of men, a force of nature, this trio of geniuses has been an inspiration to countless others. The thread that binds them is the drive and dedication they bring to their specific fields.
 Have we not had enough of the shaky, shabby, shameful conditions of the present?   How appropriate to conjure up visions of a glorious past by reviewing the rich and noble pageant of history, weaved by the descendant of weavers,  Abraham Lincoln,  assembled by the deft hands and fertile imagination of the father of E.T., and impeccably interpreted by the delightfully wicked, immensely magnetic talent of Daniel Day-Lewis.
Time to reserve a permanent seat at your favourite movie theatre, and keeping it warm, so you can escape reality into the world of blissful dreams, the world of movies..  

 “I don’t think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday”.
   Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

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