‘Lincoln’s’ accuracy, stirring performances could move it into history classrooms

Jack H. Evans

It’s been a month since Lincoln , Steven Spielberg’s study of the United States’ 16th president, was released through Dreamworks & Touchstone to widespread critical acclaim. The film has been praised for its historical accuracy and for Daniel Day-Lewis’s (Best Actor winner for 2007’s There Will Be Blood ) portrayal of Man with Top Hat. Lincoln , whose all-star cast includes Sally Field, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tommy Lee Jones, and Jackie Earl Haley, is centered on the title figure’s efforts to pass the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which would abolish slavery throughout the Union. As one of the rare biopics that focuses on one major event in the subject’s life, and with both teachers and students raving about its excellence, the film could eventually work its way from the big screen into the DVD players of U.S. History and Government classrooms. But would teachers at Bearden use it? “Absolutely,” U.S. Government teacher Mr. Mark Fleenor said. “There are parts of the film that I can see using, and maybe someday we could integrate it more fully. “There are parts of it, of course, that would be objectionable, but in terms of the realism and the story and if we want to see what Lincoln was like in the White House in the 1860s, it’s as good a visual as any teacher, I should imagine, will ever have.” That’s high praise for a film that premiered as a limited release less than a month ago and as a wide release even more recently than that. Despite its recent release, though, Lincoln has already received accolades from early film awards. At the recent New York Film Critics Circle Awards, it won three awards (Day-Lewis for Best Actor, Sally Field for Best Supporting Actress, and Tony Kushner for Best Screenplay), and it’s nominated for seven and eight awards at the International Online Film Critics’ Poll and the Satellite Awards, respectively, including Best Picture, Best Director, and, of course, Best Actor. “Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln was definitely the strongest point,” BHS senior Joel Weber said. Despite the film’s educational aspect, it can also appeal to younger generations of moviegoers who just want to see a movie for fun. “I really liked the fact that it wasn’t focused on big theatricals, like everything you see in movies nowadays,” Weber said. “It wasn’t a 3D movie, it was just a really laid back documentary film – not a lot of special effects, just camera [and] actors. There wasn’t music in every scene – a lot of times it just focused on what the actors were saying, and it was really important, and all the dialogue was really good.” Lincoln ’s historical and educational merits hold even more depth and are more revealing of the interactions that take place in the U.S. government than some may expect. Mr. Fleenor mentions the instances of lobbying, back room deals, life in the Chambers of Congress, and more that could display valuable points in Government classes. “I sat through that film and saw so many scenes that would depict where we’ve come from politically to where we are today,” he said. Weber agrees that the film addresses politics that are pertinent to those of today, especially in the conflict within governing bodies. “It was really trying to [show] that conflict in Congress trying to pass this amendment, which was such a controversial thing,” he said. “I think it really reflects the attitudes that some people in Congress have. “We talk about today how Congress is so divided and everything. This movie shows that it was probably the most divided it’s ever been.” It would appear that, with Lincoln , Spielberg has succeeded in doing something that he may not have even set out to do: he’s produced a film that could educate students for years to come. Jack H. Evans is the entertainment editor for The Bark. Follow The Bark on Twitter @BeardenBARK and like The Bark (Bearden High School) on Facebook.