JUMP CUT
A REVIEW OF CONTEMPORARY MEDIA

 

 

Notes

1. Although Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter does not develop this theme, with Southern aristocrats as the vampiric villains, I thought of Marx’s metaphor of capital as a vampire sucking out the blood of living labor; for development of the vampire metaphor in Marx, see Marshall Berman, All That is Solid Melts in Air. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1981; I was saddened to read recently that Marshall had passed away. [return to text]

2. See Editors of Cahiers du Cinema, “John Ford’s Young Mr. Lincoln, Cahiers du Cinema, no. 223 (1970), translated in Screen, vol. 13, no. 3 (Autumn, 1972), and anthologized in Bill Nichols, editor, Movies and Methods. An Anthology (Berkley: University of California Press, 493-528. I will refer to pagination in the text from the Nichols anthology and refer to the text as Cahiers.

3. See my previous Jump Cut article on Spielberg, Douglas Kellner, "Spielberg's Ideology Machines: "Poltergeist and the Suburban Middle Class," Jump Cut, No. 28 (1983), 5-6, on-line at http://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/onlinessays/JC28folder/Poltergeist.html (accessed November 23, 2012). Spielberg has continued his intense focus on middle class U.S. life in subsequent films but also also expanded his purview to take on epic historical themes like slavery, the Civil War, and the Holocaust.

4. See the account of Lincoln’s genesis at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lincoln_(2012_film)#cite_note-millenium-33 (accessed on November 25, 2012).

5. For an illuminating study of the U.S. monomyth which draws on Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With the Thousand Faces, see Robert Jewett and John Shelton Lawrence, The Myth of the American Superhero. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002.

6. See Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals. The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012. The cover of the 2012 re-issue of Goodwin’s book has the face of Lincoln on the cover with graphics underneath noting “A Steven Spielberg film” and in larger caps LINCOLN, followed by “Based in Part On” (words used in the concluding credits of Lincoln). In fact, only pp. 686-690 of Goodwin’s book constitute the main narrative frame of the film, although it draws on other parts for flashbacks and dialogue. Also, in contrast to the film, Goodwin’s book sketches out the parallel lives of Lincoln and three of his major cabinet members and sometimes rivals, while describing their interaction throughout the Civil War. The Kushner/Spielberg text, by contrast, is highly Lincoln-centric and of Goodwin’s characters only William Seward gets significant screen-time.

7. See See Kate Masur, “In Spielberg’s ‘Lincoln,’ Passive Black Characters,” New York Times, November 12, 2012 at (accessed November 25, 2012).

8. See J.R. Jones, “Dishonest Abe. Steven Spielberg's long-awaited biopic of the 16th president reveals the pol behind the legend,” November 7, 2012, Chicago Reader at http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/dishonest-abe/Content?oid=7880189 (accessed November 25, 2012). Jones writes: “Steven Spielberg's commanding biopic about the 16th president, has been scheduled to open three days after the election—probably so that Spielberg, a deep-pocketed Obama backer, can't be accused of trying to swing the election for the first African-American president.” Strictly speaking, Lincoln is not a biopic, but is a historical epic about a crucial moment in U.S. politics.

9. It may be that the studio or other interested parties held up release of the film, and in this study I am not able to engage the production history of the film beyond information found on the genesis of the film project. Clearly, however, Lincoln is an auteur-production of Steven Spielberg, although the high quality of the dialogue and drama of many of the scenes are no doubt highly indebted to Tony Kushner, one of the country’s greatest playwrights. It will be interesting to discover if there were conflicts and disharmonies between Spielberg, Kushner, and others involved in the production of the film. So far, I have discovered no information concerning whether there were conflicts between Spielberg, Kushner, and others over the development of Lincoln, and most of the publicity I saw at the time of the release of the film and during its campaign for Oscars, Spielberg and Kushner were portrayed as friendly and respectful collaborators.

10. See John Patterson, “This Harvey Weinstein-produced docudrama borrows from The Hurt Locker and Homeland to give us a grisly rendition of a decisive moment in the war on terror,” Guardian, November 6, 2012 at http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/series/first-look-review+harvey-weinstein (accessed on November 24, 2012). Seal Team Six could be contrasted with an excessively rightwing militarist film Acts of Valor (2012), which uses real-life Seals speaking military Sealspeak in an ideological glorification of Seals’ acts of valor in a heavily-contrived rightwing scenario that link Ukrainian smugglers, Mexican war lords, and Jihadist terrorists, aiming at the Homeland as an Axis of Evil, and threatening the U.S. while the Seals successfully defend the country. The stage was thus set for one of the most highly anticipated and contested films of 2012, Kathleen Bigelow’s celebration of the killing of Osama Bin Laden in Zero Dark Thirty. The film legitimated torture and political assassination while generating heated debate over its politics.

11. Andrew O’Hehir has his “Lessons for Obama, from Abe Lincoln” in Salon, November 3, 2012 at http://www.salon.com/2012/11/03/lessons_for_obama_from_abe_lincoln/ (accessed on November 24, 2012). Interestingly, it was Lincoln’s concept of “team of rivals,” popularized in Goodwin’s book, which allegedly inspired Barack Obama to put Hilary Clinton and other “rivals” into his cabinet just as Lincoln did.

12. Abraham Lincoln, “Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address,” in Speeches and Writings 1859-1865. Library of America: New York, 1989, p. 687.


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