The US Presidential race is hotting up and getting into its most crucial phase 9n the last few weeks before election. It was perfectly timed then a secret screening of Steven Spielberg's latest work 'Lincoln' got an unfinished premier at the New York Film Festival and in keeping with all things Presidential, Swide brings you five of the bet Presidential portrayals in cinema.
Spielberg's latest release is a biopic of the US presidential icon Abraham Lincoln and stars Daniel Day-Lewis. Written by Tony Kushner, who won a Pulitzer Prize for 'Angels in America' and teams up with Spielberg for the first time since penning 'Munich'. He spent six years on the 'Lincoln' script adapting it from Doris Kearns Goodwin's acclaimed 2005 book – Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. The film is an in-depth look at the last four months of the President's life and explores his political wrangling during the Civil War and his efforts to get the 13th Amendment signed which finally outlaws slavery in the United States. It is more an homage to the icon's political clout and masterfulness than a debunking of or a polishing of the Lincoln myth.
Daniel Day-Lewis is made for this role and the finest character actor of our times gets his chops around the role with relish and surprising restraint. His soft-spoken performance is off-set by Sally Field's glorious over-acting in the role of his wife Mary Todd-Lincoln, which could see her in the running for her third Oscar. Tommy Lee Jones is his usual scene stealing self while James Spader revels in the period setting of it all. It's destined to become of the most authoritative Presidential films ever and it got us thinking, about what are the best portrayals of the US President in film. Swide has the top 5...
Oliver Stone's surprisingly sympathetic depiction of the country's last President was more an indictment of a skewed political system than of one man. Josh Brolin's pathetic portrayal of a very human Gerorge W. was memorable to say the least. The hype surrounding the film's release had the Republicans on red alert before the George W.'s re-election campaign with much of the Conservative media denouncing the film even before its release. In the end it was less a political powder keg and more dry political observation.
Propably the most notorious President of modern times, his downfall was political drama of the highest order played out under media scrutiny. It is not surprising then that Richard Nixon has been one of the most portrayed US Presidents in film. Ron Howard's 'Frost/Nixon' (2006), is an intensely-acted window into the mind of the disgraced former President as seen through the prism of a series of one-on-one interviews with English television journalist Sir David Frost. Frank Lagella's Nixon is dripping with pathos and Michael Sheen's dandyish Frost is superbly entertaining.
Jefferson in Paris
This Merchant Ivory production went under the radar so to speak. With all the hallmarks of the British period film production house, lavish sets and heaving bossoms stuffed into ornate bodices, it is about Thomas Jefferson's tenure as Ambassador to Versaille before the French revolution. Playing on conjecture and hearsay, the film depicts a Jefferson far removed from the idealist caught up in the movement of Liberté, égalité, fraternité. The American widower, in his first time abroad, falls for the decadent charms of the court of Versailles and duly becomes embroiled with Italian-Anglo artist Maria Cosway. Furthermore he also decides to help himself to his daughter's nanny, his wife's half-sister, sired by her father and one of his 'mulatto' slaves.... intriguing. Nick Nolte is watchable in just about anything and does a solid potrayal of an introspective Jefferson.
Ok, not a film, but Paul Giamati's portrayal of US President John Adams is such a tour de force that it deserves its place as probably the best of all. The HBO produced mini-series followed the political arc of the second President and confirmed Giamati's standing as one of the very best actors working today. How he hasn't won an Oscar yet is a mystery.
Young Mr. Lincoln
Maestro John Ford directs Henry Fonda in an account of Lincoln early career and his first significant court case as an aspiring lawyer. Ford and producer Daryl F. Zanuck struggled for control of the film with Ford destroying unwanted takes in case the studio would use them. Ford uses the microscopic examination of one man's struggle to depict a greater, and at that time taboo, political universe.
By Hugo Mc Cafferty