So, like many Americans this Thanksgiving weekend, this grad student took a bit of time with family and friends to see a couple of the holiday movie releases. (Side note: I did not go shopping! But, if you did and have any good Black Friday stories, please write in to share!) I was so inspired by the filmmaking that I decided my perspectives on them needed to be a part of Grad.Life.
The first film I saw this weekend was Skyfall, the latest film in the James Bond series by Eon films. I saw it up in Lake Placid, amidst a lovely 3 day snow storm that did not cripple but rather enhanced the charms of the town. Quite beautiful!
Now, I have watched Bond movies from an early age, as my dad was a huge fan of the character and the franchise and always seemed to be tuning into some AMC Bond double feature or marathon. But Skyfall has, by far, supplanted all the rest of the contenders as my new favorite Bond movie ever. Roger Ebert used the word "invigorating" when describing this film, and after seeing it, I know what he means.
Then, I capped off the holiday with a viewing of Spielberg's Lincoln. As an Americanist literary student, I knew this would be right up my alley, but I had no idea how moved I would be by this story and the telling of this story by these filmmakers and these actors. I was reminded of when I first visited DC and was inspired by the inscriptions on the stones around me to study American literature in the first place. But the movie -- the movie is absolutely incredible. I was stunned by the performances: Daniel Day Lewis leaves behind his persona entirely, like he does in most of his roles, and seems to inhabit Lincoln's actual body and channel his spirit; Tommy Lee Jones made me cry and laugh; the "figures" we "know"and "don't know" from "history" receive beautiful, heartwarming, heroic, three dimensional treatment from some of the best character-actors in the business. At the heart of the movie is the story of Lincoln's crusade for the 13th Amendment to be passed. Although the Civil War rages on in its fourth year, the audience also sees Lincoln at war within himself -- his conscience, his politics, his desires, his role as a husband and father, his humanity, his guts -- they are all raging with life inside him, and we see a man working through what he believes, and what actions he must take, in a very human way. In the end, it is Lincoln's ability to really stand for his belief in the dream of democracy -- an ability to really represent what he believed to be the best interest of the idea of the United States, for the sake of it -- while also remaining true to his participation in the real and embodied community of humanity, that cuts the deepest into the audience's heart.
Like all historical pieces, Lincoln serves as a reflection not of a historical time but of the times in which it was written and created. Lincoln serves as a mirror for our own shaky political times, and reminds us that it is minds, hearts, and bodies, not ideologies or documents, that make up our government and our democracy. And, Skyfall also destabilizes the idea of history, demonstrating that the way we were in the past is not so different than the way we are now.
Both movies inspired me in ways that I didn't think were possible as I headed into the theaters. Both reminded me of why I love stories. Both made me want to keep going, to keep creating, to keep learning. And that is what I call the hallmark of a great cinematic achievement. Bravo to movie season! Grad.Lifers, let me know if you see anything that inspires you this season!
Here's to taking a motivational break that will help keep your scholarly fire lit in the home stretch! Until next time, Liza