Films featuring
Hal Holbrook

Lincoln

Abolishing slavery by constitutional provisions settles the fate for all coming time. Not only of the millions now in bondage, but of unborn millions to come.

Daniel Day Lewis has received so much attention for his incomparable performance as Abraham Lincoln that we have somewhat ignored the other master stroke of this film. Rather than try to forge a sweeping biography of 16th president, something better suited to a television miniseries, director Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner have chosen to focus on one critical interval late in his presidency, to show the full weight of his political genius brought to bear on the most critical issue of that presidency.

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Wall Street

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Oliver Stone’s reputation as a wide-eyed provocateur of the left is mostly founded around one movie, the unfortunate JFK, and those who only see him through the prism of that one movie might expect Wall Street to be nothing less than a lacerating indictment of the entire capitalist system. The director’s target is more specific than that, however. His father was a stockbroker, so Stone isn’t about to trash the entire profession, but he does take aim at some of the more egregious excesses of the mid-eighties.

Keep in mind that this was before day trading and the days of CNBC and cable news channels with a full time stock ticker running across the bottom of the screen, so elements that seem familiar to us in 2007 were actually somewhat revelatory in 1987. Thus, Stone’s insider’s look at the world of corporate raiders and leveraged buyouts was pretty eye-opening at the time.

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All the President’s Men

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Adapting Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s bestseller about their investigation in the Watergate scandal, director Alan J. Pakula, screenwriter William Goldman and Robert Redford accomplished the near impossible. They made a genuinely gripping political thriller out of the day-to-day drudgery of the life of a newspaper reporter.

They did it without hyping up the story with a lot of false Hollywood devices or overly glamorizing its lead characters. It is this prosaic sense of everyday reality, this semi-documentary style that gives the film its tension. There is no point where you are comforted by the thought that it couldn’t happen this way. It could and it did. The film shows the two reporters often beating their heads against the wall. At many times their story teeters on the edge of failure and you realize just how close the perpetrators came to getting away with it.

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