I went to see Lincoln last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. The first five minutes was pretty dreadful with Lincoln meeting a couple of black soldiers who repeated the various lines of the Gettysburg Address to him. Ugggghhh. Death by anachronism.
But the film gets down to the business of its plot which is of course the passage of the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery. It’s dark and sombre with a cast of interesting characters, and Lincoln is well portrayed by Daniel Day Lewis. I had always imagined that Mary Todd was a dull, straightening sort, but who knows if that’s true and it doesn’t make for good cinema, so Sally Field’s Mary much more interesting and compelling First Lady isn’t dull.
The thing that’s so good about the film is its writing and acting. There are four or five scenes which are quite brilliantly written and acted, not least a major screaming match between Abe and Mary which ultimately homes in on their shared grief at the loss of their children.
Weaknesses of the film were that, despite some attempts to add a few warts, Abe is still Mr Nice Guy through and through. Despite the attempt at those warts, Americans really can’t quite get beyond their almost infantile relationship of the President as father and teacher of the nation. (This is the same thing that keeps me away from the West Wing, despite the President’s smartarsed irony he’s just such a Great Guy).
One of it’s biggest weaknesses is a kind of politically correct anachronism regarding race. In his heart of hearts Lincoln was presumably an abolitionist despite his political contortions. He was also someone who seems to have related to black people and this would have had a fair bit to do with his background as a relatively poor country lad. He liked them. But black people would have been treated pretty damn badly as a matter of course in that world in ways that it’s hard to imagine not being drawn into as part of the ordinary discourse of life. The word ‘nigger’ gets used a couple of times but the generalised discrimination of normal everyday life is no-where captured. Had this been done, had we even seen the sainted Abe being drawn into it in some way – as I expect he almost certainly was – it would not only have been more realistic, but also a more powerful anti-racist polemic.
Anyway, go see the movie. It’s a great achievement, and not surprisingly for such an ambitious undertaking, there are a few things that might have been better done.
Osper is a smart new London startup. Here’s its pitch to Angel investors.
Osper is a cash card for young people with a mobile banking app with login for mum and dad (with parental controls) and login for young people (which teaches responsible money management).
The cash card can be used anywhere, is setup within minutes and doesn’t require bank visits or complex paperwork.
The parent app can instantly lock the card, track transactions in real time, and manage loans from the bank of mum and dad! The young person’s app allows them to manage their own savings goals.
That’s all well and good. I’m surprised that the only mainstream parental ‘app’ that’s at all common in my experience is ‘net nanny’ type apps which filter out porn from websites. One of the things I’ve always wanted was software that would enable me to give my kids time limits for recreational use of a computer or a TV. Oh and software on the house wifi to enable you to check out what people were using it for, or, if you don’t like that, to impose download limits on different users. Alas, I think with enough savvy some of these things are possible, but they weren’t easy. And there are only 24 hours in the day.
With a few days to the local release of the James Bond movie Skyfall, it’s time for all patriotic Aussies to understand the case for the only home-grown James Bond, George Lazenby. I am not a Bond fan, but I’ve long maintained that his sole Bond film, 1969′s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (OHMSS), was at once the series’ best and among its most innovative. Feel free to agree or disagree in the comments, with the urbane violence appropriate to the subject.
For most of the past 30 years, OHMSS has been a minority taste: it was usually referred as “the forgotten Bond film”, if it was referred to at all. But recent years have rehabilitated it to the point where it now sits with From Russia With Love and Casino Royale atop most lists of best-ever Bond films. And Lazenby is being re-assessed too.
(Above, some highlights from the final half-hour of OHMSS)
OHMSS began with a problem: Sean Connery was Bond, and he was heartily sick of it. When he turned down a sixth tour of duty, Bond producers Albert “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman began looking for a remarkable replacement. Their search for the perfect Bond discovered no-one very impressive; both Richard Burton and a 22-year-old Timothy Dalton turned them down.
Enter George Lazenby – initially, through the door of the barber shop where Cubby Broccoli was having his hair cut. Lazenby was a Queanbeyan-raised former car salesman, ski champion and Army martial arts instructor who had made the trip to London and quickly become a highly-paid male model. When Broccoli saw Lazenby in a chocolate commercial he remembered their barber-shop encounter and called him in for auditions. He stood out from the uninspiring alternatives. He first turned up in a suit he had bought from a Saville Row tailor that had actually been made for Connery but never collected. He looked like Bond should look. In a later audition, he brawled like Bond too: one of his punches allegedly broke stuntman Yuri Borienko’s nose. That seemed to seal the deal. He was quickly signed. Unbeknownst to Broccoli, it was Lazenby’s very first acting role. Continue reading
Enthusiasm alert: Well folks, some of you are aware that I suffer from bouts of enthusiasm. In the cold light of day, perhaps things don’t look so good. So here I am blown away by something I’ve just seen. But then I’m on a plane travelling across the greatest ocean in the world sitting here in a cocoon with the wind wooshing by at 900 kms. I’ve had a delicious dinner of Indian rice and butter chicken aboard Air New Zealand. (I’m in economy, but it was delicious nevertheless). And I’ve had three glasses of wine.
So perhaps I’m wrong. But I’ve just watched Woody Allen’s “To Rome with Love”. So far Betty Friedan, Germaine Greer and Naomi Wolf in sheep’s clothing have managed to orchestrate for public consumption whatever Stage They’re Going Through from adolescent girls (Naomi) to suburban neurosis (Betty) to middle aged Have it All woman to retiree (Betty). Good luck to them. I haven’t read much of their books, but I’m sure they’re OK.
But Woody Allen has just done it with much more humour and artistry. We’ve had Annie Hall and Manhattan and then a string of hits and misses of middle age, and now with “To Rome with Love” we have a masterpiece of comedy surely equal to Chekov. Well to tell the truth I wouldn’t really know. Who am I to measure and equate Chekov and Woody? Just a schmuck at 35,000 feet. I wouldn’t know. But I recommend To Rome with Love unreservedly as an hilarious comedy and a great work of art.
I’m in my fifties (alas and double alas), and it appeals to me from that vantage point. Woody’s in his seventies. If you’re in your twenties or thirties, I don’t know if you’ll be that impressed – though it’s a good film in my opinion nevertheless. But it resonated with me at every level, humour, intellect, soul.
But go and see it and tell us what you think.
Postscript: you can read an insufferably pretentious review of it here, by someone who thinks that reviewing a film involves little more than showing how well read and viewed you are by ‘decoding’ all its allusions. I’m no expert in film but I’d say the allusions to other filmmakers are atmospheric ornaments. The story’s the thing, and its presentation. Here’s another review – this one as off point as the first but also at least clear in its dislike of the film. Both these reviews take what I think of as one of the best scenes in the film as a ‘joke’ – a man singing in the shower. It’s not a joke guys, it’s a metaphor. It’s the pinnacle in which utter ridiculousness provides the keyhole through which some genuine achievement occurs. Anyway, what can one say. All I can say is that I was moved.
Postscript II: by the way, the trailer is not a good sampling from the movie leaving out the best scenes, particularly the opera scenes.
The ABC has broadcast a two part doco on Woody Allen’s life which I really loved. He’s a remarkable person, and just keeps churning out films, great, good, bad and indifferent.
In any event by the end of watching this documentary I was an admirer of his, not just of his films, which is to say that he seems to be someone who’s been very ‘on the level’. He doesn’t have an exaggerated opinion of himself, and just does his films, for better or worse, year in year out.
Here’s the first episode on iView, and here’s the second.