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Oscar 8-Ball: Steven Spielberg's 'Lincoln'

The
Gold Standard

November 23, 2012|By Glenn Whipp
  • "Lincoln" director Steven Spielberg should be getting ready for another Oscar close-up.
"Lincoln" director Steven Spielberg should be getting ready… (David James / Disney-DreamWorks )

Mine eyes have seen the glory. And by this point, most academy members have too. Time to check in on "Lincoln" with the Oscar 8-Ball, that magical portal into the minds and hearts and, in the rare, applicable instance, the souls of academy members and how they'll be voting this awards season.

It is certain: For the film, its director and its star, the question of nominations ceased to be an issue the moment it screened last month at the New York Film Festival. What's left for history to decide: Will Daniel Day-Lewis win a third Oscar as a lead actor? And can Steven Spielberg make it an Oscar hat trick for directing? Spielberg's energetic work in "Lincoln" isn't showy. It's almost invisible, in fact, which serves the story but might not make him a favorite to win here. Day-Lewis disappeared too, becoming Lincoln in a way that stood as a complete, convincing creation.

Yes — definitely: Tommy Lee Jones and Sally Field seem set in the supporting categories. Tony Kushner's smart, superbly structured screenplay leads the adapted field. And beyond that, "Lincoln" figures to vacuum up noms in a host of below-the-line categories, including editing, makeup and hair (those glorious beards!), production design and, of course, John Williams' distinguished score. (That would make it 48 nods for the composer.) That's 10 nominations in the bag. Could the movie's count go higher?

Reply hazy, try again: Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski has won two Oscars since he began working with Spielberg on "Schindler's List." His work here, full of shadows and silhouettes, has won mostly praise, though some critics have carped about the brownish, rarified imagery. Though the category is crowded with contenders, Kaminski has a strong chance of landing a sixth nomination. The movie's period setting could finally land Joanna Johnston overdue recognition for her extraordinary work. 

Outlook not so good: In a perfect world, there would be room at the table for the film's deep bench of supporting players, particularly James Spader, who proved that Day-Lewis isn't the only actor who can thoroughly disappear into a role. Spader's spirited turn as the main, duplicitous lobbyist brought a much-needed irreverent spirit to the film's serious sense of purpose. "Lincoln" wouldn't have worked quite as well without his roguish charm.

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Glenn Whipp

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