If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.”

                                                           Abraham Lincoln

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I LOVE Steven Spielberg, the director of motion pictures like Schindler’s List and Lincoln. And, I LOVE popcorn too!

I have a huge crush on Spielberg’s abilities and vision. He’s not beatifyingly perfect, just like any paramour we admire. But he’s done enough to get on my register of platonic lovers. Fortunately, these two loves (Spielberg/Popcorn) don’t need to live mutually exclusive existences in my life. I can be polygamous in this sphere and encounter no moral or legal burdens…Life is good!

Quality filmmaking is something of which I’m in awe. Spielberg is a good part of the reason.

I don’t typically go to the theatre with the idea of watching something memorable or amazing. There are so many important pieces to the movie puzzle that need to fit seamlessly in place, meaning that there is only about one or two made each year that shine brilliantly – and that’s in a good year! It’s just entertainment usually and I accept this.

And so because of that, the movie-going experience is really about the popcorn.

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The intoxicating mix of hot maiz crunch suffused in systolic-elevating sodium accompanied by a finish of atherosclerotic-inducing butter fats is orgasmic to the senses. Discerning the subtle flavours and textures within a good popcorn is akin to drinking wine and picking up the nuances of smoke, and blackberry and citrus.

Just gliding by a theatre with the aroma of popcorn wafting reminds me of the cartoon scenes of a character floating nose-first dreamily through the air, the waving lines of scent drawing him into the open window with its steamingly-aromatic apple pie. It’s majorly unhealthy stuff but it pulls me in like iron filings to a magnet.

There are rare occasions that I go to see a movie where the wonder of the flavour profile of the popcorn gets lost in the beauty of the film itself. Steven Spielberg’s LINCOLN is one of those occasions. Spielberg and actor Daniel Day-Lewis and screenwriter Tony Kushner make harmony of a tragic and desperate time in American history.

Lincoln is not cinematic perfection but it comes close enough to bump popcorn as the real motivation for entering the theatre.

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Honestly though, Spielberg drives me crazy when he brings on board a bunch of well-known actors into his epics- I don’t want to see former TV bartender Ted Danson in Saving Private Ryan, just as the iconic faces of  Tommy Lee Jones, James Spader, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Epatha Merkerson in Lincoln pull me jarringly out of the story in which I’m immersed. It’s small stuff Steven, I know, but Hollywood is full of quality, unknown actors that don’t send me back into an episode of Law & Order or Cheers!

More importantly, what Lincoln DOES have:

  • There is the exquisite beauty of the cinematography that delicately brushes each scene like a Dutch Master’s painting that you could lose yourself in for hours and absorb all that it encompasses and symbolizes.
  • Warm amber oil-lamp light on Daniel Day-Lewis’s face. There is a complete story told in all of the well-worn facial wrinkles and crevices in his countenance. These are the marks of a man who has struggled with the vexing morality of life and death decisions that changed the lives of thousands upon thousands of families.

  • Exquisite, nuanced acting by Day-Lewis sculpts a total person of Lincoln with human foibles but mostly principled and heart-felt virtues that many of us believe Lincoln to have possessed. The quality of the writing combined with Day-Lewis’s acting could have made a memorable movie if filmed entirely in Lincoln’s shower under fluorescent lights…I wonder how Lincoln bathed in those days??
  • A reminder that the reality of the political world that lives today is not greatly changed from 150 years ago, or likely 1,500 years ago. The horse-trading and arm twisting that occur in our political chambers of Congress or Parliament are nothing new and are the price to be paid for decisions made by many of differing backgrounds and circumstances. Bullies versus nerds versus whatever playground personalities play out in any arena of substance, real or trivial.
  • The interplay between Sally Field’s Mary Lincoln character, deeply worried about her own family’s plight versus the worries that Abraham Lincoln necessarily feels for the multitude of suffering families is mesmerizing and poignant. Agonizing choices don’t get any more difficult or bitter than this.

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Lincoln, like any film worth its weight in butter-drenched popcorn, sends me into the recesses of my own life and experiences.

I walk the earth in a place and a time where life is lived in an historic cocoon. War, disease, poverty, torture and rape, natural disaster, financial ruin all happen somewhere else, and to someone else. I haven’t personally experienced any of this. Setbacks, sure. But minor stuff in reality.

The intensity and drama of  the films The Color Purple, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, Lincoln are all human tragedies of Shakespearean magnitude and beyond. And these are but a few of Spielberg’s roll call.

These features all provide us a reminder of what life can or could be, given different times or governments. By displaying to me the real lives lived by others in traumatic circumstances, it serves me well to observe and reflect on what it is that allows me to live a peaceful, prosperous life. Films such as these give me the opportunity to live vicareously the trying experiences of others and still walk away unscathed…slightly changed but unscathed nonetheless.

Steven Spielberg keeps my head out of the clouds of complacency, and occasionally, when he’s at the top of his game, my fingers out of the popcorn bag.

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