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Why did the critics love 'Lincoln'?


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Old 17-07-2013, 13:15
Kapellmeister
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I watched it last night and thought it was one of the most stolid, boring films I've ever sat through. It was all so worthy and earnest and completely lacking in flair, pace or passion. I like a good Hollywood 'biopic' as much as much anyone else but 'Lincoln' wasn't remotely good. It was film-making by numbers, as if Spielberg was so over-awed with his subject that it totally ossified his creativity (but then he's not made a decent movie for ages so perhaps he's just losing it).

But I then looked on RT and 'Lincoln' gets a really high rating. The only good thing about it was DDL's performance.

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Old 17-07-2013, 13:38
Ancient IDTV
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I haven't seen it. I wouldn't want to watch it, even for free.

I prefer to watch Rex Hamilton as Abraham Lincoln, at the start of each episode of Police Squad!
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Old 17-07-2013, 13:38
Trsvis_Bickle
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I watched it last night and thought it was one of the most stolid, boring films I've ever sat through. It was all so worthy and earnest and completely lacking in flair, pace or passion. I like a good Hollywood 'biopic' as much as much anyone else but 'Lincoln' wasn't remotely good. It was film-making by numbers, as if Spielberg was so over-awed with his subject that it totally ossified his creativity (but then he's not made a decent movie for ages so perhaps he's just losing it).

But I then looked on RT and 'Lincoln' gets a really high rating. The only good thing about it was DDL's performance.

I think you've answered you own question there, Kap. Films with worthy subject matter, especially if it's a hot-button subject with the Academy that year, always enjoy a massively-enhanced reputation, regardless of how well the film is actually made.
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Old 17-07-2013, 14:05
gashead
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I think it's because critics tend to judge a film on its artistic merits and intangible concepts such as 'did the director achieve what he set out to do', as opposed to audiences who tend to judge simply on the basis of whether it was 10 well spent. Neither way is any more or less valid than the other, but they review a film from different angles. Arty, boring films get high critical/ low audience acclaim, whereas so-called 'high concept' (e.g. Michael Bay movies) are vice versa.

In the case of Lincoln, the worst thing I - indeed most people - can say about it is that it's worthy but dull. We're entitled to that opinion, but is that good enough for a professional film reviewer? A critic cannot (or should not) rate a film badly just because he personally found it boring, unless he can justifiably back that up, and I don't think any half-decent film critic could with Lincoln. There isn't a single bad performance in it (I think in years to come, DDL's will go down as one of the great performances of all time), the script is well researched and detailed, sets/ costumes/ location etc are stunning. From an artistic p.o.v. it's very dificult to knock I think.
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Old 17-07-2013, 14:18
roger_50
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Yep, it's technically very proficient. And film critics hate to be seen as being narrow-minded or simplistic - they prefer to be thought of as being experts at appreciating films of all types and subjects (even when it's clearly not the case a lot of the time).

It's true Lincoln is dullsville as a piece of entertainment, but it has other merits and critics have to grudgingly talk them up.

I can't remember who it was, might have been Kermode, but you could tell in his radio review (between the lines) he was aching to say what he really thought of the film.
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Old 17-07-2013, 14:19
Kapellmeister
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I think it's because critics tend to judge a film on its artistic merits and intangible concepts such as 'did the director achieve what he set out to do', as opposed to audiences who tend to judge simply on the basis of whether it was 10 well spent. Neither way is any more or less valid than the other, but they review a film from different angles. Arty, boring films get high critical/ low audience acclaim, whereas so-called 'high concept' (e.g. Michael Bay movies) are vice versa.

In the case of Lincoln, the worst thing I - indeed most people - can say about it is that it's worthy but dull. We're entitled to that opinion, but is that good enough for a professional film reviewer? A critic cannot (or should not) rate a film badly just because he personally found it boring, unless he can justifiably back that up, and I don't think any half-decent film critic could with Lincoln. There isn't a single bad performance in it (I think in years to come, DDL's will go down as one of the great performances of all time), the script is well researched and detailed, sets/ costumes/ location etc are stunning. From an artistic p.o.v. it's very dificult to knock I think.
Yes, DDL was terrific but even so I detected a certain two-dimensional aspect to his protrayal which almost made the performance border on caricature. I usually love 'arty' films but I didn't see any directorial 'art' in 'Lincoln'. Spielberg merely set his camera up, pointed it in the right direction and filmed the actors. The pacing was just boring. There was no ebb and flow to the drama. It ended almost exactly on the same pitch as it began.

I agree it was technically accomplished and yes, much of the acting was good, which is no doubt what the critics saw, but it was so reverential and so desperate to be seen doing justice to the historical moment it depicted that it sapped all interest out of the movie.

I have noticed looking online that in the weeks and months since the film's release there have been an increasing number of dissenting voices saying 'actually, the film really isn't all that'.
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Old 17-07-2013, 14:20
Kapellmeister
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Yep, it's technically very proficient. And film critics hate to be seen as being narrow-minded or simplistic - they prefer to be thought of as being experts at appreciating films of all types and subjects (even when it's clearly not the case a lot of the time).

It's true Lincoln is dullsville as a piece of entertainment, but it has other merits and critics have to grudgingly talk them up.

I can't remember who it was, might have been Kermode, but you could tell in his radio review (between the lines) he was aching to say what he really thought of the film.
Hmm, I wonder how many other critics felt obligated to praise the film given its subject and its director?
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Old 17-07-2013, 14:57
gashead
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Yes, DDL was terrific but even so I detected a certain two-dimensional aspect to his protrayal which almost made the performance border on caricature. I usually love 'arty' films but I didn't see any directorial 'art' in 'Lincoln'. Spielberg merely set his camera up, pointed it in the right direction and filmed the actors.
Some would say that that in itself is an amazing skill. To be able to draw out the performances you want, to have a DP/ lighting & sound etc crew that understands exactly what you, as the director, want with this or that shot, and sets it up accordingly. With many directors, it could also, of course, be Ed Wood levels of laziness (i.e. "That'll do, let's move on"), but I don't think you could accuse Spielberg of that.

The pacing was just boring. There was no ebb and flow to the drama. It ended almost exactly on the same pitch as it began.
Totally agree, but is that necessarily a bad thing? It makes for difficult viewing, but is that Spielberg's problem for perhaps wanting to make something more challenging (for him and us) or ours for wanting 'something' to break it up to hold our interest?

I agree it was technically accomplished and yes, much of the acting was good, which is no doubt what the critics saw, but it was so reverential and so desperate to be seen doing justice to the historical moment it depicted that it sapped all interest out of the movie.
Again, totally agree, but this appears to be just an occupational hazard of 'bio-lite' films. The director portrays them as they choose to see them, not necessarily as they really were. Stone did the same in Nixon and W, Gibson with Braveheart, I daresay someone will do/ is doing the same with the inevitable Mandela 'bio' pic.

I have noticed looking online that in the weeks and months since the film's release there have been an increasing number of dissenting voices saying 'actually, the film really isn't all that'.
I've noticed this. Empire's DVD review gave it 4, down from 5 on the cinema release, with no explanation why. I wonder if that reflects the fact that on the small screen, the lack anything really happening is much more noticeable?
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Old 17-07-2013, 15:40
Iggyman
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It certainly bored me to tears - yet another reason why reviews from critics should be taken with a bucket load of salt.
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Old 17-07-2013, 16:22
degsyhufc
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cos critics like to cream themselves of DDL's method acting
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Old 17-07-2013, 16:35
Kapellmeister
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Totally agree, but is that necessarily a bad thing? It makes for difficult viewing, but is that Spielberg's problem for perhaps wanting to make something more challenging (for him and us) or ours for wanting 'something' to break it up to hold our interest?

Again, totally agree, but this appears to be just an occupational hazard of 'bio-lite' films. The director portrays them as they choose to see them, not necessarily as they really were. Stone did the same in Nixon and W, Gibson with Braveheart, I daresay someone will do/ is doing the same with the inevitable Mandela 'bio' pic.
Re. the BIB, I think this plays into the lack of overt 'direction' in the film. It was almost as if Spielberg was saying, "look, no gimmicks, no trickery, nothing 'cinematic', this is how it was", and yet 'it' was nothing of the sort. It was, like all cinema, a carefully constructed fiction and one man's view of what this moment in history was like. It was subjectivity masquerading as objectivity. Cinematic techniques can really help tell a story. Instead Spielberg rejected them and tried to let the story tell itself. Unfortunately the end result often felt like a stage play or a dry biography acted out on screen.
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Old 17-07-2013, 16:37
Pink Knight
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I still think he sounds like Mr Burns from The Simpsons. Unless it was the clips I've seen.
Films about political figures are not my idea of entertainment. Won't watch The Iron Lady either.
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Old 17-07-2013, 19:22
Ancient IDTV
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Films about political figures are not my idea of entertainment. Won't watch The Iron Lady either.
I wouldn't want to watch The Iron Lady, either. I like Downfall, mind.
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Old 17-07-2013, 21:26
YoungAtHeart
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It certainly bored me to tears - yet another reason why reviews from critics should be taken with a bucket load of salt.
Absolutely. I got so bored that I didn't even finish watching the movie! And I don't give up on films easily either.

I could just see that it wasn't going to become entertaining at any point and I don't care about American politics/history that much to sit through it.

Critics are really up their own bums sometimes.
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Old 17-07-2013, 22:11
Jon Ross
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I can't remember who it was, might have been Kermode, but you could tell in his radio review (between the lines) he was aching to say what he really thought of the film.
Kermode did once say that Spielberg would ultimately be remembered for his fun popcorn flicks (the kind he made his name with and the critics sniffed at but audiences lapped up) than his worthy, serious films that have won him critical acclaim.
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Old 17-07-2013, 22:15
Jon Ross
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Hmm, I wonder how many other critics felt obligated to praise the film given its subject and its director?
I don't know, but it wasn't always like that for Spielberg.
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Old 17-07-2013, 22:35
Kapellmeister
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Kermode did once say that Spielberg would ultimately be remembered for his fun popcorn flicks (the kind he made his name with and the critics sniffed at but audiences lapped up) than his worthy, serious films that have won him critical acclaim.
I think that is entirely true. 'Close Encounters', 'E.T.', etc. will have much greater longevity than his 'serious' films, which I find totally underwhelming (except for 'Saving Private Ryan').
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Old 17-07-2013, 22:41
Muttley76
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Films with worthy subject matter, especially if it's a hot-button subject with the Academy that year.
Ironically the academy seemed to care for it less than the critics by far.....yes it got nominated in many categories (technically proficient, as noted above) but other than for Daniel Day Lewis's performance, which undoubtedly was wonderful, it won only one other minor award (for production design)

Indeed, this was a pattern through much of the award season that preceded it: few actual wins outside of the best actor category in noteable awards ceremony.

My view is that the oscar hype for this film was largely driven by the media. The fact that inspite of not winning one single major director award for Lincoln all awards season Speilberg was being pushed as a near dead cert was bewildering.
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Old 17-07-2013, 22:56
So 3008
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Lincoln is my favourite film of 2013 so far (going by it's UK January release), and it fully deserved it's rave reviews in my opinion. I've only watched it the once so far however, so my opinion may well change on later re-watches but for now I thought it was spectacular.
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Old 17-07-2013, 23:09
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DDL is just awful but he has a gift for attracting tremendous praise for his work somehow. It's like being a fan of his is a pre-requisite for being knowledgeable about film.

His bad guy in Gangs of New York was just ridiculous. There Will Be Blood is several hours of my life I'll never get back after it was hyped as being a classic. The fact that so many people say Lincoln is slow and ponderous tells me to avoid it at all costs.
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Old 17-07-2013, 23:13
Muttley76
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DDL is just awful but he has a gift for attracting tremendous praise for his work somehow.
*shakes head*

ridiculous comment, tbh.
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Old 17-07-2013, 23:23
Kapellmeister
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Lincoln is my favourite film of 2013 so far (going by it's UK January release), and it fully deserved it's rave reviews in my opinion. I've only watched it the once so far however, so my opinion may well change on later re-watches but for now I thought it was spectacular.
What did you like about it particularly? It was interesting for me as I watched it a few days after watching 'Django Unchained', set in a similar time period but utterly different. (Despite all its hyper-stylised grand guignol, I felt 'Django' was, strangely, more 'realistic'. I've subsequently read quite a few articles claiming that the history in 'Lincoln' is less than accurate.)


DDL is just awful but he has a gift for attracting tremendous praise for his work somehow. It's like being a fan of his is a pre-requisite for being knowledgeable about film.

His bad guy in Gangs of New York was just ridiculous. There Will Be Blood is several hours of my life I'll never get back after it was hyped as being a classic. The fact that so many people say Lincoln is slow and ponderous tells me to avoid it at all costs.
'Gangs of New York' is unbearably ridiculous, I agree, but not just because of DDL's over-the-top performance. But I thought he was genuinely very good in 'Lincoln'. I wish we could've been told more about what motivated him. It was all peculiarly passionless, but maybe that's what Lincoln was like.
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Old 17-07-2013, 23:23
lordo350
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It's a critics dream in all honesty really. To be fair to it, it really tackles a tricky subject well. And, in all honesty, DDL is bloody amazing in it.

But yeah. Like many of you guys, I didn't much care for it either. I appreciated what they tried to do and can see why the critics loved it so much, but I wouldn't rush to watch it again. It's the same with movies like Benjamin Button. I thought that was a superbly made film with an outstanding performance from Brad Pitt, but no way in hell would I sit through it again. Far too long and depressing.

I think some films are kind of made to cater to oscars. To pull off a much loved historical figure seems to really be loved by those guys, as seen with Meryl Steep and now DDL. And, for the record, the Iron Lady was not a good enough film for her performance. She deserved much better.
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Old 17-07-2013, 23:24
Froggie72
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Re. the BIB, I think this plays into the lack of overt 'direction' in the film. It was almost as if Spielberg was saying, "look, no gimmicks, no trickery, nothing 'cinematic', this is how it was", and yet 'it' was nothing of the sort. It was, like all cinema, a carefully constructed fiction and one man's view of what this moment in history was like. It was subjectivity masquerading as objectivity. Cinematic techniques can really help tell a story. Instead Spielberg rejected them and tried to let the story tell itself. Unfortunately the end result often felt like a stage play or a dry biography acted out on screen.
Forgive my ignorance, but what does "BIB" mean?
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Old 17-07-2013, 23:28
Kapellmeister
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It's a critics dream in all honesty really. To be fair to it, it really tackles a tricky subject well. And, in all honesty, DDL is bloody amazing in it.

But yeah. Like many of you guys, I didn't much care for it either. I appreciated what they tried to do and can see why the critics loved it so much, but I wouldn't rush to watch it again. It's the same with movies like Benjamin Button. I thought that was a superbly made film with an outstanding performance from Brad Pitt, but no way in hell would I sit through it again. Far too long and depressing.

I think some films are kind of made to cater to oscars. To pull off a much loved historical figure seems to really be loved by those guys, as seen with Meryl Steep and now DDL. And, for the record, the Iron Lady was not a good enough film for her performance. She deserved much better.
Yes, I suspect many involved in 'Lincoln' expected it to sweep the board at the Oscars but it totally failed on that level. I think it was the sort of film that people felt almost obligated to praise: the intricate realisation of 19th America, the intellectual script, the topic and lead character, the starry cast, the prestigious director, a titanic lead performance, etc. etc. There is an element of the Emperor's New Clothes about the praise it was given (although I've read a number of film blogs online in which people have essentially said it was hagiographic, turgid nonsense and, with its almost complete absence of black Americans, highly problematic if not racist).

Edit: oh, and yes! Meryl Streep was fantastic in it but 'The Iron Lady' was abysmal.
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