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Maureen Dowd enters debate over Oscar movies' accuracy

February 17, 2013|By Gerrick Kennedy
  • Daniel Day-Lewis as President Lincoln, center, confers with advisors as he attempts to get the 13th amendment passed by the House of Representatives, in the movie 'Lincoln.'
Daniel Day-Lewis as President Lincoln, center, confers with advisors… (Dreamworks II )

New York Times op-ed columnist Maureen Dowd is the latest to lash out at the liberties taken with historical accuracy in movies contending for Oscars this year.

Dowd voiced her frustrations in a column Sunday about a few critically acclaimed — and nominated for best picture — films including “Argo” and “Zero Dark Thirty,” films that have been the subject of criticism for their portrayals of historical events. 

But the film that drew the bulk of her ire was Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln.” Dowd is asking the director to re-film or re-dub a scene from the drama, written by Tony Kushner and starring Daniel Day-Lewis, so that it properly represents the vote of two Connecticut House of Representatives members on the 13th Amendment.

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Earlier this month Joe Courtney, a Democratic congressman from Connecticut, wrote to Spielberg to complain that the film falsely showed two of Connecticut's House members voting "Nay" against the amendment for the abolition of slavery.

“They were trying to be meticulously accurate even down to recording the ticking of Abraham Lincoln’s actual pocket watch.... So why get a climactic scene so off base?” Dowd quotes Courtney as saying.

Courtney, and now Dowd, is asking Spielberg to publicly acknowledge the gaffe before the Academy Awards are given out Feb. 24 and to correct the scene before the film goes to DVD — which the director has reportedly said he would give to every middle and high school that requests it.

“It makes viewers think that realism is just another style in art, so that no movie, no matter how realistic it looks, is believable,” Dowd wrote. “Hollywood always wants it both ways, of course, but this Oscar season is rife with contenders who bank on the authenticity of their films until it’s challenged, and then fall back on the 'Hey, it’s just a movie' defense.”

She points out that the two House members from Connecticut, Republican Augustus Brandegee and Democrat James English, both voted in favor of the amendment abolishing slavery. 

"Lincoln" is up for 12 Academy Awards, including a directing nod for Spielberg.



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