Mike Kueber's Blog

May 20, 2013

Saturday Night at the Movies #72 – Lincoln, Atlas Shrugged Part II, The Winds of War, and North and South

Filed under: Movie reviews — Mike Kueber @ 2:09 am
Tags: , , ,

Lincoln is a dramatization of Lincoln’s successful effort in 1865 to secure the passage of the 13th amendment, which eliminated slavery in America.  Although slavery was partially eliminated in the South with the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, Lincoln and legal experts were concerned that, because the Emancipation was based on Lincoln’s war powers, the effect of the Proclamation might be rescinded once the war was over. 

The drama in the movie focuses on securing the votes necessary for narrow passage of the Amendment, and as with most legislation, securing the votes depends more on crass politics than lofty idealism, with many of the decisive votes being bought through offers of patronage.  This is clearly an example of the ends justifying the means, at least according to Lincoln. 

Irrelevant side stories that appear intended to humanize Lincoln concern his erratic wife, Mary Todd, and his earnest son Robert, who wants to leave Harvard Law to join the military. 

I suspected the Rotten Tomato critics would like Lincoln more than the audience did, and I was right – 89% to 84% – but I also suspect the audience rated the movie as high as it did out of respect for the man.  The story as a movie simply wasn’t as good as advertised.  The acting and casting are fine with Oscar winning Daniel Day-Lewis (whose reedy voice reminded me of John Voight), Tommy Lee Jones, and Sally Fields, but the movie could have done without TV actors James Spader and S. Epatha Merkerson.  And the audience certainly could have done without Hal Holbrook in another Civil War drama.  I give it a mere two stars. 

Atlas Shrugged – Part II is the middle part of Ayn Rand’s classic novel Atlas Shrugged and is utterly disappointing.  It was bad enough that the sexy Taylor Schilling was replaced as Dagny Taggard by the unsexy Samantha Mathis, but the story is totally lacking the three-act format.  Instead Part II serves merely as a filler between an already-excellent Part I and a hoped-for excellent Part III.  No drama and no romance.  Its only saving grace is its educational value in showing us what America will look like after a few more years of Obama.  The Rotten Tomato critics (all 21 of them) give it a score of only 5%, but its 10,587 conservative viewers-cum-critics are more generous in scoring it at 71%.  The viewers are too generous and I score it at only 1 star.

The Winds of War and North and South were television miniseries in the 80s that chronicled America’s two greatest wars – the Civil War and World War II.

The Winds of War, which came first, in 1983, told the story of America’s involvement in WWII through the family of Victor “Pug” Henry.  The miniseries was incredibly popular, and is the fourth most popular miniseries of all-time.  North and South followed shortly thereafter in 1985 and told the story of the Civil War through the Hazard and Main families.  It was so popular that it is the fifth most popular miniseries of all-time.  (Roots, Jesus of Nazareth, and Band of Brothers are #1, #2, and #3.)

The immense popularity of these miniseries led to sequels.  The Winds of War was followed by War and Remembrance and North and South was followed by North and South Book II and Heaven and Hell: North and South Book III.

The Winds of War was great when it focused on the May-December romance between Pug Henry (Robert Mitchum and Victoria Tennant.  The sequel spent way too much time portraying the difficulties of Henry’s Jewish daughter-in-law, who was caught in a Nazi web in Europe.  I recommend the former and not the latter.  I give The Winds of War three and a half stars out of four, but War and Remembrance only gets one and a half stars.

North and South is a great mini-series because there are no many characters to care about, especially the stars southerner Patrick Swayze and northerner James Read, who meet in 1842 at West Point and remain good friends up to the Civil War.  Part II goes through the Civil War and is just as good.  I didn’t watch Part III because it received poor ratings and apparently Patrick Swayze is not a significant player.  North and South gets three and a half stars as does Part II.

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2 Comments »

  1. James Spader’s performance was one of the best parts of Lincoln. He was a movie actor for over 20 years before he was on TV. The way you said “TV actors” makes me wonder if you have something against actors who appear on TV…do you?

    Comment by Youdontsay — May 20, 2013 @ 11:57 am | Reply

    • Yes, youdontsay, I intended “TV actors” to be disparaging, as in being too small for the big screen. And I admit that I was taking a cheap shot at Spader and Merkerson because I didn’t like their TV characters. With certain dislikable characters, including non-TV actors, I will forever dislike their performance, not matter how good. Like Tony Goldwyn in Ghost or Paul Bettany in A Knight’s Tale.

      Comment by Mike Kueber — May 20, 2013 @ 10:27 pm | Reply


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