Daily Archives: March 2, 2013

Political Animals

Before I got too depressed from thinking about the grim prospects for voters in this year’s elections, I decided to watch a movie. The next time someone tells you that his idea of an escapist fare is a historical drama, make sure to slap that person in the face in order to rid him of his foolish pretentious notion.


Heard on Jay Leno: when I saw the poster, I wanted to give him the Oscar already!

If I really wanted to get away from election fever, I might have been better off watching ‘Anna Karenina’ with Kiera Knightley. Don’t get me wrong: Lincoln is an amazing film, largely due to Daniel Day-Lewis’ mesmerizing portrayal of Abraham Lincoln. There is also an excellent supporting cast of actors I admire, led by Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, James Spader, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

As a student, I recalled lessons on American history with a vague sense of interest. I learned what I could because I didn’t want to get a low grade on the subject, not because I was genuinely interested in the topic. Fortunately, I had a very clever History teacher in high school. She discussed events in American history that impacted on our own history. This strategy was effective in generating interest on American history from us.

I thought the film would be a life story of Lincoln, but instead it focused on the time between his re-election and the enactment of the amendment that abolished slavery in the U.S., up to his assassination just days after that historic event. This resulted in a more action-oriented film, even if the ‘action’ I’m speaking of is mostly comprised of the political maneuvering and wrangling that went on in order to pass a polarizing and controversial constitutional amendment. Lots of thumping on tables, insults veiled as speeches, and suggestions of blackmail.

Watching the politicians ‘at work’ in this film reminded me of the same political maneuvering and wrangling that we still see up to this day in government. I have to admit that the House of Representative portrayed in this film is not that far from our House of Representatives now. There is almost the same cast: idiot politicians whose sole claim to fame is coming from a wealthy or political family, seasoned politicians who are experts at leveraging for their own benefits, even the idealists who are constantly barraged to conform with the status quo.

Fortunately for the Negro slaves, this House–in spite of itself–voted to declare slavery illegal in the constitution. A rare triumph, which I dare compare to the passing of the RH Bill in our own House. Also, in spite of itself.

There’s always hope for all political animals, the film indirectly told me.

Daniel Day-Lewis so deserves his awards for his work here. And I think the film deserved more awards at the Oscars, to be frank. I read about the meticulous details that went into this film, and everything looks great in the film–even the scenes of death at the beginning, which echoed the opening scenes of another Spielberg film: ‘Saving Private Ryan’.

Finally, having also read about the debate on Lincoln’s sexuality, I was surprised to find the film so sexless. Well, except for one scene. Late in the film, as Lincoln was struggling with the decision to pursue the passing of the 13th amendment, he paid a late-night visit to one of this young aides. There’s a lot of affectionate touching and hair-tousling and as Lincoln stood to go, the young aide asked him if he would like “company” that night. To which Lincoln said that it was best that he be alone at that time, as he is shown walking away. Personally, I found this scene utterly tender, and yes, quite erotic as well.

What was the scene about? Was it an acknowledgement of the debate on Lincoln’s sexuality? Screenwriter Tony Kushner, who also wrote ‘Angels in America’, provided some information HERE and HERE.