Sunday, October 21, 2007

Movie review: John Ford's "Young Mr. Lincoln"

The first time I attempted to watch John Ford’s “Young Mr. Lincoln,” I struggled to make it through even ten minutes. It was just so over-the-top and corny, such an outright fairy tale, I couldn’t help scoffing at it. In the first ten or fifteen minutes of the film, Lincoln (played by Henry Fonda) does everything except help an old lady cross the street or save a cat from a tree. Sappy music swells while he gives precious food and supplies to a family of hungry strangers, saying they can just “Mail him the money when they want to,” and eventually he gives them the food as a square trade for an old book about the law. “The law,” Lincoln says, gazing at the horizon. It’s corny. There’s not any other word for it. But when you get into the second half of the film, Fonda’s performance heats up. Playing a more mature Lincoln who has taken on a life-changing criminal case (he was a lawyer at the time), Fonda obviously worked very hard on the physical being of Lincoln. Fonda is huge like Lincoln. When Fonda walks, his stature is huge yet still humble, something in the shoulders communicating honesty and humility. His legs and arms move slowly but confidently, a combination that sounds contradictory and must have been difficult for Fonda, as an actor, to work out. One genius element of this performance is that Fonda’s meticulously-crafted Lincoln body language actually began to make Fonda’s handsome face look more like the president’s. It was like one of those “Magic Eye” posters or something, it was like his body became a context for his face, and changed its effectiveness.

Occasionally I make a complete, 180-degree change in my opinion of a film, and that happened tonight upon my second viewing (and first complete viewing) of “Young Mr. Lincoln.” Acting aficionados or actors would benefit from wincing through the irrefutably Hallmark-card-like first quarter of the film to watch the trial portion of the film. It’s worth it.

For more than casual viewers, there is a brilliant essay on the film at Sense of Cinema.

And in a completely, almost OBSCENELY unrelated part of the internet, I believe R. Kelly has taken the art of the music video to a new place with his new video for "Real Talk." I'm not sure this is actually music. I think it is more like a really good piece of comedic performance art. people who don't think R. Kelly is aware of his current context must be (as this song says) TWEAKIN. Here's the video (foul language ahead):

R. Kelly's "Real Talk" video

Does anyone else enjoy the concept of "realness" in hip-hop music as much as I do? Baudrillard fans in the house, please holla.


Blogger saratoga said...


Dude, I love that real just equates to "serious." The implications of what non-serious/non-real is are so extreme! Humor = not real for example. Although, R. Kelly is obviously quite humorous in this video...

11:19 PM  
Blogger Sammy said...

I don't think Mr. Kelly is trying to sum up all real talk, just in relationships. I feel that during this phone conversation he is through holding back to make his woman happy and is finally going to tell her how he really feels...real talk.

7:17 AM  

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