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A Late Quartet ****

I suspect this movie will not be easy to find nor will it be around long, which is a shame. It’s a good one.

A Late Quartet is the fictional story of the four members of the “Fugue Quartet,” a string quartet that has been together for 25 years. Now, as the one older member finds he is facing a medical problem that will require him to withdraw from the group, all hell breaks loose for the other three musicians.

Some of the ensuing problems are more realistic than others, but I found the film involving and thought provoking. Plus, the portrayal of what it is like for four artists to work together, and how that differs from life for solo artists, is a side story that is fascinating too.

Good performances from all four actors, starting with Philip Seymour Hoffman and including Christopher Walken, Imogen Poots and Wallace Shawn.


Lincoln *****

Despite the title, this film is not a biography (‘bio-pic’).

It is something quite different.

It’s about a short, very specific time in Lincoln’s presidency, the time leading up to and the passing in the House of Representatives  of the 13th Amendment, the outlawing of slavery. In the process of telling that story, director Spielberg gives us an absorbing and captivating portrait of the man who already has had more books written (16,000) and more movies made (300) about him than any other single individual.

The film is not perfect. I suspect Lincoln scholars will have some bones to pick with it. Also, so too will movie critics, no doubt.

But don’t let that prevent you from seeing Lincoln.

What we see is an appealing and steely acting performance by Daniel Day-Lewis who ‘inhabits’ the body of the president in such a way that you feel you are ‘there’ at a specific time in our history.

We see not only the principled Lincoln but also the crafty, political Lincoln who will do whatever he must to accomplish his goal of getting slavery outlawed before the end of the Civil War. Lincoln uses all his personal power(s) and all the power(s) of his office to accomplish this goal.

Actress Sally Fields also gives a strong performance in her portrayal of Molly, as the president refers to his wife Mary Todd.  So too do other members of the cast, particularly Tommy Lee Jones as Congressman Thaddeus Stevens, and David Strathaurn as Secretary of State William Seward, to name just the very best of a very strong cast.

Lincoln is a wordy (I mean that positively), suspenseful, and engrossing film about one slice of A. Lincoln’s presidency — his choice to end slavery before ending the Civil War.  In deciding to focus on this aspect of Lincoln’s presidency, Spielberg does what good artists, photographers, and others do when they show us just a small portion of a bigger picture.

(Note: Perhaps the best of the reviews and comments on Lincoln that I’ve seen is this column, Six Footnotes, in the current The New Yorker magazine.


Argo ****1/2

If you’re old enough to remember the American hostage crisis of 1979 when Iran held 52 of our Embassy employees captive for 444 days, you may have missed another aspect of that story that occurred at the same time.

I know I did.

Six American Embassy employees escaped just before the Iranians broke into our embassy. They hid in the Canadian Embassy, and the CIA was tasked to get them out of the country.

Argo is a film that tells the ‘story’ of what happened to that attempt to smuggle the six out of Iran before the Iranians realized they were there.

It’s an engrossing, captivating story, directed Ben Affleck, who is also the lead actor in the film.

*                     *                    *                    *                    *                     *

(Note:  Our Sunday morning Cinema Club gave the film The Sessions a positive rating {Excellent or Good} of 97.5, an extremely high rating for this group of Sunday morning film lovers.  For Silver Linings Playbook, the group’s positive rating was 89.4%.

I too thought The Sessions was outstanding – reviewed on MillersTime 10/23/12 and ‘revisted’ on 10/29/12.

My mini-reviews of The Silver Linings Playbook and a new documentary, West Memphis, will be coming soon.)