By John Depko and Susanne Perez
8:08 PM PST, November 29, 2012
Steven Spielberg is the premier film director of his generation. When he turns his creative spotlight on major historical events, he has no equal. In "Saving Private Ryan" and "Schindler's List," he brought forth the reality of World War II like no other director ever could. In "Lincoln," he shines his awesome spotlight on the most revered president in American history.
Daniel Day-Lewis virtually becomes Abraham Lincoln through his astonishing portrayal of the legendary man. He is certain to be nominated for Best Actor. Sally Field gives a bravura performance as Lincoln's troubled wife. Tommy Lee Jones is captivating as abolitionist congressman Thaddeus Stevens. Both of them deserve Oscar nods, too.
The story centers on Lincoln's monumental effort to abolish slavery by getting Congress to pass the 13th Amendment to the Constitution before the Civil War ends. The drama unfolds in a matter of four intense weeks in January 1865. The backroom arm-twisting and horse-trading to win votes have sharp lessons for our modern politics mired in gridlock.
Spielberg has created a superb film that is both a grand epic and intimate study at the same time. It adds glorious insight and marvelous humor to Lincoln's legacy and is guaranteed to contend for Best Picture.
Mad passions abound in two new films this week:
"Silver Linings Playbook" was nothing like I expected, and that's why I loved it.
It's a crazy quilt of obsessive behaviors, family dysfunctions, football and ballroom dancing. It sounds nutty when you try to describe it. But thanks to an amazing cast, all those wrongs make it right.
Bradley Cooper plays Pat Jr., a bipolar man just released from the sanitarium by his doting mother (Jacki Weaver). Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro) has his own fixations and doubts his son's strategy for creating that silver lining, that happiness he so desperately seeks.
Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who's messed up in her own way, and mutual attraction and edginess about friendships somehow allow them to form one.
The characters are flawed, quirky and endearing. Look for "Silver Linings" around Oscar time.
In "Anna Karenina," director Joe Wright ("Atonement") made an ambitious remake of Leo Tolstoy's novel of illicit love in Imperial Russia that boggles the eye. It's sensory overload. But more is not always more, it's a bore.
Keira Knightley plays yet another high-strung, petulant heroine whose bedazzled bosom heaves at the sight of pretty Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). All sympathy goes to the excellent Jude Law as the deeply honorable, deeply wronged husband. He's the best reason to see "Anna."
The camera loves Knightley's face, but her jaw-jutting, weepy angst gets tiresome. Halfway through the film, I was so ready for her to just jump on those train tracks and let me go home.
JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator.
SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.