“Lincoln” is amazing on so many levels.

Lincoln movieIt’s exactly what you hope for in a historical movie … and so very rarely get. Spielberg not only made this wonderful movie well, he made it smart. Instead of trying to cover the entire Lincoln saga or perhaps myth, he focuses on the President’s last months on earth, the period following his reelection during which he pushed through the 13th amendment that finally eliminated slavery in the United States, and ended the war. You will see more about the man Lincoln than in any previous movie or documentary about Lincoln.

The performances are universally brilliant, as you would expect. This is the Hollywood A Team where the magic comes together. Everyone is in this movie — some not even credited but you will recognize them — even if only for a tiny cameo, as if being part of this movie was an honor.

And perhaps so.  I suspect actors volunteered for the privilege of being included. The script is intelligent, elegant, somehow managing to convey both the greatness of the man and his pained humanity. There is no reason for me to go into the details of the cast, writing, history, and so on. The  review published in the New Yorker covers those bases well and you can read it here or on its original site.

“Lincoln,” was written by Tony Kushner, directed by Steven Spielberg, and derived in part from Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals.”

Daniel Day-Lewis has gotten the role of a lifetime and gave a performance that will probably define his career. Tommy Lee Jones, James Spader and so many others … literally too many to name … are all brilliant. There are not many big roles for women in this story, but I’d like to make a special mention of Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln. Her performance as First Lady gives this suffering woman the first real depth and three-dimensional portrayal I’ve ever seen. Mrs. Lincoln has in cinema and history been given short shrift, labeled a crazy lady, then dismissed.

That she was not quite “right” after the loss of her son is well-documented and disseminated, but she was more than a mere wacko. She was politically savvy and highly intelligent, albeit emotionally unstable and in great pain. Perhaps a more stable, supportive mate would have been able to provide some rays of light in the dark world of President Lincoln … but given the dreadful times through which they lived and were destined to play major and tragic roles, this couple was probably doomed to misery, even had Mary Todd been the incarnation of Pollyanna.

Cover of "Team of Rivals: The Political G...

Cover via Amazon

The enormity of their personal tragedies combined with the responsibility of being the nation’s leader at this particularly desperate historical turning point would have crushed anyone. Lincoln was a giant, but also a man with a wife, children and more than his share of family drama.

The movie is mesmerizing. The way it’s shot, moving from panorama to private moments keeps you on the edge of your seat. Even though the outcome is a foregone conclusion, you live through the battles on the floor of the House of Representatives and in the back rooms where agonizing bargains are struck as if you’ve never seen it before. It’s a painfully accurate and timely look at the real process of getting legislation passed, the viciousness, ruthlessness, chicanery and all else that goes into a process that hasn’t significantly changed over the past 150 years or more. Great cinema and a Real Politik civics lesson for young and old.

Most of the reviews I’ve read have emphasized the historical importance but failed to mention that this is a really compelling movie that makes you feel you have traveled back in time. It’s great drama with more than a dollop of wit and humor. Watch and chew your nails while Lincoln and his carefully picked team somehow push through an amendment to the constitution against staggering odds while simultaneously ending the deadliest war in American history.  It feels like you’ve never heard or seen it before. Spielberg manages to inject a level of tension and excitement that should be impossible. There are surprises, some of them very funny.

Given the subject matter, it’s amazing how often film will make you laugh. There are wonderful scenes, small and intimate, revealing of magic and myth. There are the mandatory “big scenes,” of  battlefields heaped with corpses, but most of the story takes places in small places, in sheds and basements, back rooms, parlors and hidden corners where the light is always dim. Everyone always looks cold … in the most literal sense. It’s winter without central heating and while no one mentions it (why would they? that was the way their world was), men and women alike constantly wrap themselves in blankets and shawls to fend off the chill. It makes you grateful for electricity and radiators, not to mention thermal underwear.

abraham-lincoln-tadLincoln is too tall for the world in which he lives. It can barely contain him or the sorrow he carries. He stoops, bent under the weight of impossible choices and ducks through doorways never high enough.

Go see this movie. Take your kids. Take the grandchildren. Then buy it on DVD and watch it again. Let it remind you of how painful it is to have a free nation and how heavy is the price we pay for the privilege.

This is grand entertainment, history, civics and drama wrapped in a story so insane it could only be true. To quote a familiar phrase, “you can’t make this stuff up.” You rarely get to see movies this good. It’s a treasure that will be even more appreciated in years to come.

Regardless of how many Oscars it wins … or doesn’t win … this is destined to be a classic. It can’t help it. It’s just got classic written all over it.

One more interesting note. When the movie ended and the credits started to roll, no one got up and left. No one at all. Every single person in the theater sat there and watched the credits until the screen went dark. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that happen before.

♦ See more on www.newyorker.com

Getting the Liebster Blog Award!

Sharla Lee Shults writes beautiful poetry. She publishes it and gives you a delicious taste of it on her website, The Catnip of Life. I have been enjoying her work for a while. She has been generously made it mutual. A big thank you for this award!

Also a big thanks to all my friends who have followed my writing, ranting and photographic ups and downs over the past six months. Has it been only six months? I feel like I’ve been writing this blog forever.

I know, I’m a little obsessive about writing, well, about almost everything, but I shan’t dwell on my psychological idiosyncrasies. If I don’t grab this by the horns (virtual horns, not real ones) and wrestle it to the ground, it will hang over my head as a Big Task Undone. For anyone with a streak of obsessive-compulsive to their personality, that’s bad. That’s like a virtual Sword of Damocles … and who was Damocles anyhow and how dare he bring a sword into my house?

A long digression. 

Digression is my nemesis. Although to the naked eye, digression may look the same as procrastination, its psychological origins are completely different. True, both behaviors land one in the same place: work needs doing and hasn’t gotten done. Now, time for the “but.” There’s always a “but” ….  so wait for it … wait … okay, now.

But. Whereas procrastination means that one has intentionally put off performing an essential or at the least, important task(s), digression means one has forged ahead fully intending to get the job done, but somewhere along the way, was diverted. For me, it means that on my way to accomplish a task, I noticed something interesting. I stopped to read it, take a picture of it, ponder it … maybe do a little research on it …  after which I fully intend to get on with doing the needful task, assuming I still remember what it was.

Take last night. At around 2 in the morning, having already brushed my teeth, straightened the bed, and put on my nightie, I began to climb into bed. I just then noticed the telephone was not in its cradle, which meant it was still on the desk in my office. I got up and went across the hall to grab the telephone and return it to its charger.

Once in my office, just a few feet from the bedroom, being as I was at my desk, I figured I’d take a quick peek at my email. I wanted to check out the Liebster Award that Sharla has been so kind as to award me. I have gotten a couple of awards before … Lovely Blogger and Versatile Blogger …  and each of these has entailed some effort on the part of the recipient. I was sure there would be some stuff to go with this one, too. No idea what the Liebster is, so I should at least acquaint myself with it, shouldn’t I?

At about 2:30 in the morning, my husband is snoring softly and I’m reading about The Liebster Award in my office. The window of opportunity for snuggling together as we fall asleep has already been missed (my very bad). Even the dogs, all four of them, are passed out. I’m trying to be oh so quiet and not wake them. My computer’s speakers are off and even if they should, as they are wont to do, decide to turn themselves on, I have the volume all the way at zero so I won’t wake anything up. I am enthralled, reading the list of nominees and the rules of acceptance, pondering to whom I can confer this honor and what would be a proper acceptance blog. Shall I be humble (pronounce that, please, as does John Wayne “umble”)?

Perhaps I should throw caution to the winds. Show the world who I really am: arrogant, proud, and puzzled:

  • Arrogant: I know I write well and take pretty pictures.
  • Proud: I no longer grovel with gratitude when someone compliments me. I can say thank you while remaining upright. This is  a huge  improvement on earlier behavior.
  • Puzzled: I love awards but always wonder why anyone would pick me? My professional life was long in work and short in recognition. That’s what you get for working in a field that doesn’t give awards. Where I come from, you get a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly award. It’s called a “paycheck.”  On a really good week, you get the money and don’t get informed that you’re redundant (aka “fired”) or the company is closing for lack of funds … the price for working in tiny start-up venture capital development groups run by people who have wonderful ideas and absolutely no clue about how to handle finances. They make fun bosses until the money runs out.

My tech writing roots are showing. Who else uses bulleted lists in their blog?

The bird clock above my desk chirps the hour of 3 AM but I ignore it. I’m deep in the throes of the Liebster Award. Finally, having satisfied myself that I know what to do, I amble off to bed. As soon as I am comfortably arranged, clutching my pillow and sighing with pleasure (I love my bed), I realize that the telephone is still in the office. I get back up and get the phone so I can, as originally intended, return it to its charging cradle.

While I’m gathering up the phone, oh no! I’ve left a couple of dirty dishes on the desk and a not-quite-empty coffee cup! Evil bad Marilyn! I am torn. If I take the dishes and the cup to the kitchen, I might wake up the dogs. If I go anywhere near the  biscuit box, they are on me like giant furry ticks. All bets are off until I give them a piece of something. Into how many tiny pieces can you break a small, tasteless, hard biscuit? It takes skill. It’s late. I’m tired. But I have to take the dishes in. If I don’t, bugs might find them. Oh yuk! No no, anything but bugs.

What’s that blinking on my screen? Incoming mail? Ooh, it’s a “Like” notification. Someone likes me. I  love those likes. Someone besides my husband thinks I’m a good writer. I’m all atwitter. I feel like Sally Fields at the Oscars. “You really LIKE me!” Which reminds me about the award. I have begun to worry passing it on without insulting anyone to whom I am NOT passing it along. I certainly don’t want to offend anyone. That would be dreadful!

I am getting sleepy, probably because it’s nearly dawn and I haven’t gone to bed yet. Realizing that I’m asleep sitting in front of the monitor, I grab the telephone and go to bed. Out cold before my head is on the pillow.

Today, the next day, the two unwashed dishes are still on my desk but do not seem to have been infested by vermin during the night. I washed out the coffee cup and put fresh coffee in it and fortunately, managed to finally get that phone into the recharging cradle. I know because it rang at 9 to remind me that I have prescriptions waiting at the pharmacy.

And here I am, writing about the award, sort of. In my world, this is progress.

Now, where was I?

Oh yes. I was about to thank Sharla Lee Shults who is a charming and talented author and blogger. Please take a long look at her blog, the catnipoflife … which I follow with something slightly south of religious fervor. She writes lyrical poetry that is balm to my Type A nervous system. She also gets published which for anyone who writes poetry is no small feat. Actually, in today’s publishing environment, getting published at all is quite an achievement.

The Liebster Blog Award 

What is the Liebster Blog Award?

The Liebster Blog Award is given to up and coming bloggers who have fewer than 200 followers. “Liebster” is the German word for “favorite”. Thus this award is the “favorite blog award.” In essence, someone likes you. This is a good thing.

“The rules state that winners  pay forward to other people whose sites are worthy of recognition, and have fewer than 200 followers. If they accept the award, they should:

  • Thank the person who nominated them
  • Link to his/her site
  • Nominate between five and eleven (5 to 11) favorite blogs with fewer than 200 followers
  • Copy/paste the Liebster Blog Icon into their post.”

In doing some additional research about this award, some say pay it forward to five (5), others say pay it forward to eleven (11). Sharla has graciously left it to each of us to make our own decision in the matter. Some nominators give questions to be answered; others require none. I put some in, but if you’re shy or whatever, you don’t have to answer. I’m easy.

Q & A

NOTE: Since not all sites feature stats some nominees may actually have more than 200 followers. If so, please graciously accept the award as a way for you to pay it forward to someone you know that is deserving of its recognition.y:

1. What brought you into the blogging world?

I started reading other people’s blogs, especially the ATMTX Photography Blog devoted to those of us who work with of 4/3 mirrorless cameras. I was so grateful to have someone of whom I could ask questions and get correct answers that somehow, I got hooked.

2. What do you enjoy most about blogging?

Freedom to write and post what I want, when I want, with no one second guessing me.

3. What do you remember about the first movie you ever saw??

I was sitting in the first row watching “Gunfight at OK Corral” and the heads of Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas were 15 feet high.

4. What sitcom that has aired its final season would you like to see returned to television?

Murphy Brown. Just loved her character. She reminded me of so many people I know.

5. What is your favorite animated character?

Mr. Incredible.

6. What is your favorite all-time classic movie?

Casablanca. Saw it recently on the big screen for the first time. I forgot how funny it actually is.

7. If you had a time machine, where/when would you go and why?

The 14th century before the Black Death because after the plague, the world was entirely different.

8. What are your interests/hobbies other than reading and/or writing?

Watching movies with my husband and all the dogs. Taking pictures. Talking and thinking about what it all means.

9. What is your dream vacation?

An ocean voyage to Europe, then Paris, Rome, Dublin and maybe London … and a long, peaceful sea voyage back. NO airplane travel!

10. How would you change the world if you could in one way??

I’d try to make people care about each other more than they care about getting rich, becoming famous or powerful. I would try to make everyone treat everyone else with respect and civility. It sounds so small, but the results would be huge.

11. What are 5 words that describe your personality?

Creative, outspoken, generous, opinionated, talkative. Those are my good qualities. I won’t mention my evil side.

And now for my questions:

  1. Why do you blog?
  2. About what are you passionate?
  3. What makes you happy?
  4. What did you want to be when you grew up? Is that what you have become?
  5. If you could fix one thing that’s wrong with the world, what would it be?
  6. If you could travel in time, to when would you travel? Why?
  7. What do you do for fun? If you don’t do it, but would like to, that’s okay.
  8. Name two friends, one human, one four-legged.
  9. Do you like thunder storms?
  10. What’s your favorite season and why?
  11. Describe yourself briefly as if you were someone else. Single words will do and no need for full disclosure!

And the nominees are. . .(drum roll) …

I’m delighted to have an opportunity to showcase some blogs I feel are worth your attention. I hope you will take the time to visit them. You won’t regret it and they deserve it. There are so many … if I could nominate everyone, I would. Instead, I’ve tried to choose blogs that I think can use the bump in readership and deserve attention. Decide for yourself. Take a look and see what others are doing! I get great ideas that way and probably so will you!

  • Leanne Cole’s Photography Field Trips – Great pictures and a lot of really useful photographic information.
  • RumpyDog – Saving the dogs of the world, one dog at a time.
  • TheLintInMyPocket – S. Thomas Summers is an author, historian, and poet with a strong emphasis on the Civil War. If you have any interest in this era, check it out. Even if you don’t have a special interest in this period, check it out anyhow. Good writing is good writing, whatever the subject matter.
  • My Kidney Transplant Story – Faced with terrible odds, sickness, possible death, a young man soldiers on, fighting off the triple demons of depression, self-pity and despair while maintaining a sense of perspective, humor, and irony. A good place to learn about organ transplant … the real story, not the tidied up versions you get on television.
  • Text From Dog – I know with all the serious stuff going on that I should be serious. Sometimes I’m downright grim. I promise to be depressed — even demoralized —  tomorrow, if that will make you feel better. In the meantime,  I need to laugh. Laughter is the only thing that lets me hang on to my sanity in this crazy world. This blog is cartoons the form a continuing cell phone dialogue between a guy and his dog. It makes me laugh. Come. You laugh too.
  • Divide and Nurture – A rather new blog about design with original illustrations. Really love design work and some good information for those of us who design our own books and websites. I think this one’s going to be big!
  • Clotildajamcracker – The wacky stories of a crazy lady: Exactly what it sounds like!
  • BunnyandPorkBelly – Food reviews, pictures and interesting stuff about restaurants and tourist sites up and down the east coast between Boston and Virginia. Is it poetry or prose? Both, I think. This young woman has hit that misty mid region that like between the two forms. She’s young, lovely, and talented, so take a look and see where she goes.

I would have nominated more, but many of the blogs I follow are already very much more popular than this award allows, so I tried to find people like me who are relatively new and might appreciate a boost. Hope I chose well and hope you all enjoy these wonderful blogs.

Thanks again Sharla!