Monday, June 25, 2012

"Real power comes from truth": Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter links

---"Yes, reader, I went expecting to sneer." --Roger Ebert

---the oddities of Lincoln's pop culture legacy

---"Still, there is something bracing about a film that’s not afraid to link the entire Confederacy, still an inexplicable source of pride in some parts of the country, with a race of humanity-enslaving vampires. I can’t wait to see how this thing plays in South Carolina."  --Bilge Ebiri

---"It constitutes a moral sin, if not an outright moral crime, and commits a grave insult against history."  --Glenn Kenny

---"There’s definitely some empty-calories, summer-movie fun to be found in this ludicrous genre mashup, most of it courtesy of maniacal Russian director Timur Bekmambetov, who stages hilarious, imaginative, almost free-form action sequences like nobody in the business. There’s a scene in this movie that involves an ax fight between the young Mr. Lincoln and a slave-trading vampire mastermind, set amid a stampeding herd of horses, who are alternately used as conveyances, obstacles and weapons. In its own idiotic and limited way, it’s a work of genius, and you could almost say that about the movie as a whole."  --Andrew O'Hehir

---making the "Waltz of Death" scene

---"And just as Lincoln said `the world will little note, nor long remember' the words he spoke, he certainly had no idea that 149 years later, giant projected digital electronic moving pictures would show him killing CG-enhanced vampires."  --Jake and Gabor Boritt

---"TOH: Why did you select Abraham Lincoln of all the presidents to be your vampire hunter?

SGS [Seth Grahame-Smith]: Well, I have to go back to how the idea originated. I was doing a book tour for "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" and as part of the tour I would go to bookstores big and small all over the US.  This was in 2009 and it was the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth, so no matter where I was in the country, no matter the bookstore, there were two displays: Abraham Lincoln biographies and "Twilight" books. This was absolutely the zenith of vampire literature. In a moment of cynical aberration, I wondered if it would have some crazy synergetic effect. It got me interested enough to get into Abraham Lincoln biographies.  I didn't know a lot more than middle school level information - the $5 top hat, honest Abe.  During that initial research, I became hooked.The more I read about Lincoln, the actual man got under my skin. I began to ask: how did he do all this, when he had nothing -- no looks, no connections, no money, no name, no family?

TOH: What specifically about Lincoln's story affected you?

SGS: His life was so incredibly dark and fraught with peril and misfortune. His baby brother died, his mother died when he was nine, he was estranged from his father.  With no worldly possessions or education, he dusted himself off and became a man of letters, married a woman of high station, and gained the highest office in the land, and then saved this land while burying two of his sons.  His story is dark and gothic.  It's like a super hero origin story: the outcast, disadvantaged youth who possesses some secret skill. With great power comes great responsibility, the hook from Spider-Man. When he achieves this power, he finds himself in the middle of the Civil War, taking the whole country on his shoulders and wrestling it into shape and then paying the price for doing this with his life."

---the burning bridge scene in Buster Keaton's The General alluded to in Abraham Lincoln

---"In the first scene, an 11-year-old Abraham watches as two (previously free) black adults being dragged away and a boy about Abe's age screaming and crying and fighting the man who's hauling them away. My first reaction to this was: Why are they acting like this is not something completely normal in their lives?

Let's be honest: During this time, black people had been slaves for decades. Even those not born as slaves had to be careful, since they might still get snatched up because they were black and someone could decide they must be property. Any black person with sense, including a child, would not be fighting and carrying on like this unless they wanted to get a severe beating.

And that's just what happens.

A white man starts whipping the young black boy, which is Abe's call to action. He goes after the man with an axe. This doesn't end well for anyone, and eventually the man with the whip starts beating on Abe, too. His mother jumps to his rescue while spouting some abolitionist slogans about how no man can be free unless all men are free.

This scene is supposed to show us that little Lincoln was raised up by slavery-hating people, and his willingness to put his own body on the line for a black person.

All of this is utter and complete crap. I'm sorry, but it is."  --K. Tempest Bradford

---"Real power comes from truth"

---"Mr. Bekmambetov has a knack for screen carnage and he has plenty to work with in “Abraham Lincoln,” which gives him untold bodies with which to paint the screen red. (The intentionally drab, at times duo-chromatic palette dulls the colorful spray.) Outside of Nazis and zombies or, better yet, Nazi zombies, nothing says easily disposable villains like slave-trading vampires. And there is, no question, something satisfying — as the pleasure of the story’s pop conceit hits your deep historical outrage — about watching Lincoln decapitate a slave-trading ghoul, at least the first few dozen times. If only Mr. Bekmambetov had a strong sense of narrative rhythm and proportion, and as great a commitment to life as he does to death and all the ways bodies can be digitally pulverized."  --Manohla Dargis

---"You’ve kicked some ass in past movies. Were you at all bummed that you only have one head count in this movie?

A little bit. I was glad that I at least got one. There’s certainly films where the wife or the woman doesn’t get involved at all, so it was nice to get involved in some capacity. And when I first signed on, part of what I was excited about was not being involved in the action, getting a little break from that. But when I was on set and actually saw people training around me and stuff like that, I got a little jealous. I really wanted to be a part of it."  --from an interview with Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who plays Mary Todd Lincoln

---"as Americans we put him [Lincoln] up on a pedestal and we hold him as sacred to the point of worship, and when we do that we do not allow him to be human, and complicated and conflicted. The more I learned about him the more I learned how conflicted he was about his decisions and how ordinary and humble his upbringing was. That’s what makes him extraordinary to me. In spite of those things, in spite of the misery that beset him early in his life, he did remarkable things. He educated himself. He rose out of that to do something great, and something complicated. It’s very daunting to take on Lincoln, so the more accessible he becomes, by understanding him as an everyman—he was not a superhero, he was not something larger than life, he made himself larger than life and that’s certainly a window into understanding who he was." --Benjamin Walker

---"Instead of deconstructing the icon and starting again, for me it was more about a beginning. I didn't have obligations or stereotypes in my head or my heart. I just started from scratch and learned about him. He didn't start out an icon for me, but he became one. I understood how powerful he was and how important he was, not only what he did for the United States, but for the world."  --Timur Bekmambetov


Maurice Mitchell said...

FilmDr, nice collection of links and quotes. The part about Lincoln not being raised an abolitionist is sad, but true. Not that he necessarily liked slavery, but it was part of society and wouldn't have thought anything of it at that age and time. Sounds like a silly, but fun film.

FilmDr said...

Thanks, Maurice.

I did find Abraham thought-provoking. I like Bekmambetov's Wanted, and I enjoy his action scenes here. The whole concept of blending together a "heavy" costume drama with horror/fantasy elements is so arbitrary, I couldn't help but appreciate its weirdness, although the film has major problems with its handling of slavery, and the Civil War scenes especially struck me as surreal. K. Tempest Bradford doesn't mention how the movie tries to make up for its distortions and trivialization of slavery. As Abe's old friend, Will, Anthony Mackie gets lots of screen time, as if the filmmakers thought that if he shared the same frame with Abe frequently enough, the film would then be okay with race. Such silliness can have ominous overtones.

I also liked seeing Ramona of Scott Pilgrim of all people (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) as Mary Todd Lincoln.

Hokahey said...

I didn't find this movie thought-provoking beyond thinking that it was a waste of expense and effort to attempt to render 1860s DC and to stage big battle scenes. I found the atmosphere curious but the action was boring. As a history teacher, my favorite line is, "The first day of Gettysburg, and we're losing." As if they had a name for the battle already, and as if they knew there would be a second day! However, it was fun seeing this in DC with many African Americans in the crowd. They cheered for Abe and chuckled at Tubman and the slavey scenes.

FilmDr said...

"As a history teacher, my favorite line is, `The first day of Gettysburg, and we're losing.' As if they had a name for the battle already, and as if they knew there would be a second day!"

Very funny. While other critics thought that the movie's pseudo-serious tone was off, I liked that aspect. I also liked how Lincoln does make for an unusually thoughtful superhero, good at writing, inclined to read, filled with guilt over the men he sends to die in war. Where do we see that elsewhere?

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