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Yes, No, Maybe So: On "Lincoln" and Trailer Premieres

Four score and seven years ago One hour and some minutes ago our Spielberg brought forth, upon this internet, a new trailer, conceived in Marketing, and dedicated to the proposition that all biopics are created equal.

LINCOLN will arrive in theaters on November 16th, 2012, a mere ten days after the election when everyone will undoubtedly be exhausted by politics (if they aren't already). And for reasons unbeknownst to The Film Experience Lincoln became the first movie to have its trailer premiere in this Google Hangout fashion with immediate commentary from fans afterwards. A sober presidential biopic isn't a natural fit for "OMG!" Insta-Reactions that fanboys pics can bring in trailer form as you'll see if you watch. You can watch the event (non-live) right here.

There is some hedge-betting from Steven Spielberg with which I personally great sympathize. The much beloved filmmaker hasn't bought in 100% to this new frightening world where trailers and not movies are the things that get people talking en masse.

Strathairn worries, Nathaniel doubts, and the trailer after the jump

Steven Spielberg: The main thing that you should expect is that whatever you're about to see in trailer form is only a slight texture. It's just a little tone or an offering of the tone of the film. But the movie is really about the content of Lincoln's life. The content of the last four months of his life...

In a sense, all you're going to get is a sense of the film. The film really has to be appreciated from start to finish.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: [teasing] You mean you have to watch the whole thing?

Spielberg: Unfortunately you have to watch the whole thing. That's the way it works.

YES: Daniel Day-Lewis is almost always worth watching. (Nine being an exception to the rule. God, he was miscast in that). I love Tommy Lee Jones freakishly soft voice and David Strathairn's compelling worry face, don't you? Screenplay by the genius Tony Kushner. Plus, Joseph Gordon-Levitt's role as the eldest Lincoln son Robert Todd Lincoln actually sounds interesting (the way JGL describes after the trailer). And he gives props to DDL and Spielberg and team:

As an actor so much of what I was doing revolved around what Daniel was doing. His performance --  so so powerful. The environment that you created, the set the stage that you set for him to perform this extraordinary process of his, I found just so engrossing that all I had to do was pay attention to him and I was sucked right into the world."

NO: If what the trailer has offered is in fact, an accurate sense of the "tone of the film" than Spielberg has delivered a Very Stuffy Traditional Prestige Biopic. Complete with dramatically posed I'm Making Big Decisions lighting, dramatically sober This Is Important film scoring, and dramatically pompous This Is My Oscar Clip acting.

David Strathairn worries about Abraham Lincoln. I worry about "Lincoln (2012)"

Perhaps all biopics are created equally.

MAYBE SO: All that said, 2012 is shaping up to be The Year of Deceptive Trailers and with this cast and crew, a "maybe so" is in order out of respect. Films DO need to be appreciated from start to finish. And with a script by Tony Kushner surely this will be thornier, more interesting, and less Garden Variety Biopic than, say, Ray

Will you be voting for Lincoln on November 16th? And do you think Oscar voters will?
Yes, no or maybe so?

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Reader Comments (45)

Turn John Williams off, please.

September 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGustavo


September 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew

They went with an historically accurate higher pitch for Lincoln's voice, I see. Interesting.

September 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSean C.

Hope this isn't Tony Kushner's J. Edgar.

September 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLuiserghio

Kinda boring. Meh I think I'm allergic to biopics. And Spielberg lately.

September 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlex S

When I watched the trailer, my first thought was, "God, I hope the tone of this was only done to sell the movie to general audiences. This is really schmaltzy and stuffy." Then of course I read that Spielberg said the trailer depicted the tone of the movie, and needless to say, I'm really discouraged now. While I agree with Spielberg's sentiment that a movie shouldn't be judged by its trailer, I'd be lying if I said watching it didn't make me a lot less excited for it. It's hard to say what DDL's overall performance will be, but I pray it's not all somber posing and impassioned pleading.

Oh, and yeah, if that's the score from the movie, then damn, Spielberg should consider hiring someone else to score his "serious" movies (Schindler's List being the major exception).

The production design looks impeccable, but I'm worried Janusz Kaminski might drown it out with his self-important sense of dramatic lighting. He can be a brilliant DP sometimes (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Schindler's List), but he can also be maddeningly indulgent and unnecessarily shadowy.

September 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEdwin

Im a total yes. DDL definitely gave me chills. But Tony Kushner's involvement makes this a must

September 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJosh

Day Lewis no longer a threat to Joaquin Phoenix's Oscar. Washington, on the other hand, remains as a strong possible spoiler.
Sally Field is everything, I root for her 3rd nomination in supporting, beating Hathaway and Adams is fine with me.

September 13, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter4rtful

DDL is still a threat to joaquin i believe. Though i am rooting for anderson of course as i believe is our greatest filmmaker working today.

September 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJosh

Yes. I would love to spend a little time with Lincoln, listening to him, thinking about him, especially as interpreted by DDL and Kushner, such interesting artists! And this looks like it is interested in the ideas and political conflict going on, maybe encouraging a more thoughtful consideration of current issues.
Maybe so: Spielberg often steers in directions I'm not interested in. But- so what. I wish there was an accompanying double feature where a fearless FDR pushes through the New Deal. Shuffling the current deck and re-dealing it would be refreshing and beneficial.

September 13, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteradri

i agree about the john williams music - time for him to retire. his music was one of the many things that ruined warhorse.

September 13, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjimmy

It's a terrible trailer, but I'm still very interested. They had me at Kushner.

September 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKurtis O

But isn't DDL "imitating" Lincoln? I thought that was a no no for acting? Just wondering aloud!

September 13, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterrick

The music just echoes War Horse, and the fade outs are just overkill.
Just my opinion but the look of this film makes Anthony Minghella's Cold Mountain look like an attempt at hard core realism.

September 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAdamA

The cast, Day-Lewis and Kushner is fantastic.

But I'm a Spielberg apologist, and even so? It's a little too much for me.

September 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBeau

I'd pay to watch footage of Daniel Day-Lewis eating breakfast; it's a definite yes for me.

September 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMDA

For me it's a yes ( at least on DVD) just because the supporting cast is so strong. Pretty much any two of Gordon-Levitt, Jones, Harris, Pace, Hawkes, Stuhlbarg would be enough to get me there.

September 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

It looks awful. :/ I wonder if Spielberg can still deliver something what might be called "good movie". After "War Horse" and last "Indiana Jones". And seeing this trailer I have my doubts.

September 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSomeone

Yes, because of the sheer quantity of top-notch talented people involved, but Lordy. If that looked any more like a mass-produced biopic hitting all of the expected clichés with a sledgehammer, it'd have Paul Muni in the lead role. And the music is quite possibly the most trivial thing I've ever heard from John Williams, assuming that it is his score. Not excited at all - I honestly think that even the J. Edgar trailer was more appealing, at least it offered the hope of being amusingly overdone.

September 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTim

I feel the same another war horse,spielberg hasn't really moved with the times lately.overly stuffy and imortant,s field with have a nothing part judging by this trailer,maybe a support actor nom like amistad but nothing more not even ddl.

September 14, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermark

Amistad 2: The Boringning

September 14, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterpar3182

It looks like a great performance in the midst of a dish of pudding.

September 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSan FranCinema

Definitely hope this is more Amistad than War Horse, or dare I even go back further and hope for more Empire of the Sun? Given it's been a long time since a good historical Spielberg I guess the odds are long, but one can hope. That score is heavy handed even for John Williams, this does not bode well... Enough sparks from the actors to be a definite yes despite the unease.

September 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDebby M

Definitely hope this is more Amistad than War Horse, or dare I even go back further and hope for more Empire of the Sun? Given it's been a long time since a good historical Spielberg I guess the odds are long, but one can hope. That score is heavy handed even for John Williams, this does not bode well... Enough sparks from the actors to be a definite yes despite the unease.

September 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDebby M

I didn't like the trailer much but I'm still very interested in seeing it.

That "Now! Now! Now!" reminded me of that letter, written by Kushner and read by Meryl, in which Kushner is talking to God and it also included NOW NOW NOW. Be more creative, Tony! :p

September 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

I don't know how someone can say that the trailer looks awful! For me looks awesome!
It's a very big YES!!!
I have no words to describe Daniel Day Lewis. I think we have the winner of all the prizes of this year!
I think this will be a great movie.
And I enjoyed 'War horse' so much! It's one of the last movies that makes me cry in cinema!!!

September 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterManuel

I can't stand Spielberg... I find his 'tone' out of date. War Horse made me want to hurl. Will watch this only for DDL.

September 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMsh

In the words of Gypsy Rose Lee, "I said turn it off!" I would love to call at least a five-year moratorium on biopics, no matter the subject. They're typically no more than two-hour FYC adds, and I can't remember the last one I saw that I truly took pleasure in viewing. Sure, this is merely a trailer, yet nothing about it screams "great movie" to me.

September 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H.

I'm a yes although the trailer doesn't thrill me but I like biopics as a rule. I'm very interested to see if Spielberg takes advantage of Sally's great gifts and lets her explore the many complexities of Mary Todd Linclon. Love DDL and think he'll make Honest Abe fascinating and there doesn't seem to be a weak link in the entire cast so I hoping for the best.

September 14, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

That trailer looks like The Curious Case of Abe Lincoln's War Horse.

That supporting cast is endlessly intriguing though. Even people like Jared Harris and Walton Goggins in small supporting roles seem like they could be special.

September 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDrew C

I'm a yes always for Spielberg (I've seen all but 4 of his movies, I think, though really, who can't claim that of his films?), so I'll be there, but yes, this does seem more like stoic Spielberg rather than childhood wonder Spielberg, or my personal favorite, dark and macabre Spielberg (man, I will never get over that 1-2 punch of AI and Minority Report).

September 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

After a decade of giving us some of the most flawed but fascinating films of his career like A.I., Munich, War of the Worlds. I fear now with Indy 4, War Horse and this that Spielberg has returned to schmaltz with full force. Of course I'll still see it. It is Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln (and is it me or is he channeling Henry Fonda?). Oh and Jared Harris as Ulysses Grant is pretty inspired casting.

Also, does it feel like there's quite the attempt to draw the comparison to the current political environment. I need Don LaFontaine saying "A war for the heart of America, a battle over the unchaining sanctity of the Constitution, a great orator, a president for his times. Steven Spielberg presents.... 'Not the Barack Obama Story'"

September 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRobert A.

I agree with the poster that said this looks like Amistad 2, and that film was dreadful!

September 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSeisgrados

He stole Clint Eastwood's lighting fixtures.

September 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

I saw J. EDGAR and IRON LADY in theaters. How could I then not see LINCOLN with DDL and that cast? The trailer was nothing special, obviously, but this was always a YES.

September 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

'Lincoln' looks uninspired, sentimental, and melodramatic...Oscar will love.

September 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike M.

Awful trailer

September 14, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterferdi

@Tim I chortled at the Paul Muni reference.

September 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTB

YES: Well, Tony Kushner rarely writes something even slightly bad, so...

NO: Yeesh, it all reeks so much of august exceptionalism that it feels like a particularly well-lit lecture, not matter how beautifully worded. Despite the somewhat muted palette, it screams IMPORTANT in a way that makes me roll my eyes.

MAYBE SO: That cast! If I can take anyone speechifying earnest, august exceptionalism, it's Daniel Day-Lewis and David Strathairn. Spielberg very rarely makes something unworthy of my time, but War Horse descended into too much treacle for me at the end despite some thrilling sequences and fine acting. If the reviews are good, I'll very likely see it.

September 14, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

Tony Kushner will make this something challenging for sure. I watched Munich again and I think Kushner works so well with Spielberg. He makes his hollywood epic more edgier.

September 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJosh

It's Spielberg. So it's always going to be a "Yes!"

September 14, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

Er, a this-is-not-for-me no that's also a I-know-I'll-see-it-eventually yes. Spielberg needs to just pack it in, and Day-Lewis, for all of his gifts, seems largely uninspired and pedestrian in his choice of roles.

P.S. It's funny that Drew C. referenced The Curious Case..., which I think is one of the *best* trailers of recent years (Desplat's score...gah!).

September 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

The trailer can best be summed up with:

"Just in case you forgot, Lincoln was a GREAT AND IMPORTANT MAN."

September 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAustin

God, that score is beyond obnoxios. I love DDL to pieces, but I don't know if I can see this if that music will be playing.

September 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChristine


September 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne
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