Tag: Young Mr Lincoln

Top 100 Films List (2012 edition)

Surprise bonus list! Every year I revise my top movies list and this year I didn’t spend much time on the ordering, outside adding in ten new movies and dropping out ten old movies. The new movies are underlined. Click the movie title if it’s a link for a full review. I decided to not go into the full detail that I did last year, because those are still available for you to peruse at your leisure. I did pick out a new quote for each entry, though, so I hope you still enjoy it. Here we go.

100. Scream

“Sidney, how does it feel to be almost brutally butchered? People want to know. They have a right to know! How does it feel?”

99. This is Spinal Tap

“May I start by saying how thrilled we are to have you here. We are such fans of your music and all of your records. I’m not speaking of yours personally, but the whole genre of the rock and roll.”

98. A Serious Man

“You understand the dead cat? But… you… you can’t really understand the physics without understanding the math. The math tells how it really works. That’s the real thing; the stories I give you in class are just illustrative; they’re like, fables, say, to help give you a picture. An imperfect model. I mean – even I don’t understand the dead cat. The math is how it really works.”

97. The Lion in Winter

“You’re so deceitful you can’t ask for water when you’re thirsty. We could tangle spiders in the webs you weave.”

96. The Fly

“I’m saying… I’m saying I – I’m an insect who dreamt he was a man and loved it. But now the dream is over… and the insect is awake.”

95. All the President’s Men

“You’re both paranoid. She’s afraid of John Mitchell, and you’re afraid of Walter Cronkite.”

94. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

“You could have dinner with us… my brother makes good head cheese! You like head cheese?”

93. Mother

“There’s a meridian point that can loosen the knots in your heart and clear all horrible memories from you mind.”

92. Days of Heaven

“You know how people are. You tell them something, they start talking.”

91. Exit Through the Gift Shop

“I think the joke is on… I don’t know who the joke’s on – really. I don’t even know if there is a joke.”

90. To Kill a Mockingbird

“There just didn’t seem to be anyone or anything Atticus couldn’t explain. Though it wasn’t a talent that would arouse the admiration of any of our friends, Jem and I had to admit he was very good at that – but that was *all* he was good at… we thought.”

89. Apocalypto

“I am Jaguar Paw, son of Flint Sky. My Father hunted this forest before me. My name is Jaguar Paw. I am a hunter. This is my forest. And my sons will hunt it with their sons after I am gone.”

88. Once

“What’s the Czech for “Do you love him”?”

87. How Green Was My Valley

“Everything I ever learnt as a small boy came from my father, and I never found anything he ever told me to be wrong or worthless. The simple lessons he taught me are as sharp and clear in my mind as if I had heard them only yesterday.”

86. Punch-Drunk Love

“I have to get more pudding for this trip to Hawaii. As I just said that out loud I realize it sounded a little strange but it’s not.”

85. Paths of Glory

“I apologize… for not being entirely honest with you. I apologize for not revealing my true feelings. I apologize, sir, for not telling you sooner that you’re a degenerate, sadistic old man. And you can go to hell before I apologize to you now or ever again!”

84. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

“Maybe you don’t have to do this all by yourself, mate.”

83. Manhattan

“I had a mad impulse to throw you down on the lunar surface and commit interstellar perversion.”

82. In Bruges

“Number One, why aren’t you in when I fucking told you to be in? Number Two, why doesn’t this hotel have phones with fucking voicemail and not have to leave messages with the fucking receptionist? Number Three, you better fucking be in tomorrow night when I fucking call again or there’ll be fucking hell to pay. I’m fucking telling you – Harry.”

81. The Godfather

“You talk about vengeance. Is vengeance going to bring your son back to you or my boy to me?”

80. Metropolis

“There can be no understanding between the hand and the brain unless the heart acts as mediator.”

79. A Fish Called Wanda

“To call you stupid would be an insult to stupid people! I’ve known sheep that could outwit you. I’ve worn dresses with higher IQs. But you think you’re an intellectual, don’t you, ape?”

78. The Proposition

“I know where Arthur Burns is. It is a God-forsaken place. The blacks won’t go there, not the tracks; not even wild men. I suppose, in time, the bounty hunters will get him. But I have other plans, I aim to bring him down – I aim to show that he’s a man like any other. I aim to hurt him.”

77. Repulsion

“I must get this crack mended.”

76. The Shop Around the Corner

“Well I really wouldn’t care to scratch your surface, Mr. Kralik, because I know exactly what I’d find. Instead of a heart, a hand-bag. Instead of a soul, a suitcase. And instead of an intellect, a cigarette lighter… which doesn’t work.”

75. Hot Fuzz

“You wanna be a big cop in a small town? Fuck off up the model village.”

74. The Conversation

“I’m not following you, I’m looking for you. There’s a big difference.”

73. RoboCop

“Let me make something clear to you. He doesn’t have a name. He has a program. He’s product.”

72. Young Mr. Lincoln

“I may not know much of law Mr. Felder, but I know what’s right and what’s wrong. And I know what you’re asking is wrong.”

71. Brazil

“Listen, this old system of yours could be on fire and I couldn’t even turn on the kitchen tap without filling out a 27b/6… Bloody paperwork.”

70. Eyes Wide Shut

“I have seen one or two things in my life but never, never anything like this.”

69. The General

“Heroes of the day.”

68. Catch Me If You Can

“For the last six months, he’s gone to Harvard and Berkeley. I’m betting he can get a passport.”

67. A Streetcar Named Desire

“But some things are not forgivable. Deliberate cruelty is not forgivable! It is the one unforgivable thing, in my opinion, and the one thing of which I have never, never been guilty.”

66. Synecdoche, New York

“I know how to do the play now. It will all take place over the course of one day. And that day will be the day before you died. That day was the happiest day of my life. Then I’ll be able to live it forever. See you soon.”

65. Moonrise Kingdom

“I love you, but you have no idea what you’re talking about.”

64. The Mortal Storm

“I’ve never prized safety, Erich, either for myself or my children. I prized courage.”

63. The Truman Show

“If his was more than just a vague ambition, if he was absolutely determined to discover the truth, there’s no way we could prevent him.”

62. The Night of the Living Dead

“We may not enjoy living together, but dying together isn’t going to solve anything.”

61. The Brothers Bloom

“This was a story about a girl who could find infinite beauty in anything, any little thing, and even love the person she was trapped with. And i told myself this story until it became true. Now, did doing this help me escape a wasted life? Or did it blind me so I didn’t want to escape it? I don’t know, but either way I was the one telling my own story…”

60. The Wicker Man

“You’ll simply never understand the true nature of sacrifice.”

59. Children of Men

“And now one for all the nostalgics out there. A blast from the past all the way back from 2003, that beautiful time when people refused to accept that the future was just around the corner.”

58. Hellboy II: The Golden Army

“Demon! What are you waiting for? This is what you want, isn’t it? Look at it. The last of its kind. Like you and I. If you destroy it, the world will never see its kind again… You have more in common with us than with them.”

57. The Quiet Man

“No patty-fingers, if you please. The proprieties at all times. Hold on to your hats.”

56. Fantastic Mr. Fox

“Why a fox? Why not a horse, or a beetle, or a bald eagle? I’m saying this more as, like, existentialism, you know? Who am I? And how can a fox ever be happy without, you’ll forgive the expression, a chicken in its teeth?”

55. 7th Heaven

“I work in a sewer but I live near the stars.”

54. 2001: A Space Odyssey

“I know I’ve made some very poor decisions recently, but I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal. I’ve still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission. And I want to help you.”

53. The Incredibles

“No matter how many times you save the world, it always manages to get back in jeopardy again. Sometimes I just want it to stay saved! You know, for a little bit? I feel like the maid; I just cleaned up this mess! Can we keep it clean for… for ten minutes!”

52. A History of Violence

“This isn’t a completely dead eye, it still works a bit. The problem is, the only thing I can see with it is Joey Cusack, and it can see right through him… right through your husband, Edie. I see what’s inside him, what makes him tick. He’s still the same guy. He’s still crazy fucking Joey! And you know it, don’t you? How much do you really know about your husband, Edie? Where he’s from, where he’s been, his life before he met you some 20 years ago?”

51. Mulholland Dr.

“It’ll be just like in the movies. Pretending to be somebody else.”

50. Out of Sight

“I’ve, uh, vertically integrated myself. You know, diversified and shit, and now I’m into the occasional grand larceny, home invasion… shit like that.”

49. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

“Hold fast to the human inside of you, and you’ll survive”

48. The Grapes of Wrath

“Tom, you gotta learn like I’m learnin’. I don’t know it right yet myself. That’s why I can’t ever be a preacher again. Preachers gotta know. I don’t know. I gotta ask.”

47. The Social Network

“I think if your clients want to sit on my shoulders and call themselves tall, they have the right to give it a try – but there’s no requirement that I enjoy sitting here listening to people lie. You have part of my attention – you have the minimum amount. The rest of my attention is back at the offices of Facebook, where my colleagues and I are doing things that no one in this room, including and especially your clients, are intellectually or creatively capable of doing.”

46. The Prestige

“You never understood, why we did this. The audience knows the truth: the world is simple. It’s miserable, solid all the way through. But if you could fool them, even for a second, then you can make them wonder, and then you… then you got to see something really special… you really don’t know?… it was… it was the look on their faces…”

45. Die Hard

“You know my name but who are you? Just another American who saw too many movies as a child? Another orphan of a bankrupt culture who thinks he’s John Wayne? Rambo? Marshal Dillon?”

44. Chinatown

“After you’ve worked with a man a certain length of time, you come to know his habits, his values – you come to know him – and either he’s the kind who chases after women or he isn’t.”

43. Where the Wild Things Are

“Happiness isn’t always the best way to be happy.”

42. Throne of Blood

“Admirable, my Lord. You, who would soon rule the world, allow a ghost to frighten you.”

41. My Darling Clementine

“I ain’t gonna kill you. I hope you live a hundred years… so you’ll feel just a little what my pa’s gonna feel. Now get out of town – start wandering!”

40. 12 Angry Men

“Well, I’m not used to supposin’. I’m just a workin’ man. My boss does all the supposin’ – but I’ll try one. Supposin’ you talk us all out of this and, uh, the kid really did knife his father?”

39. Black Swan

“Perfect? I’m not perfect. I’m nothing.”

38. Reservoir Dogs

“If you shoot this man, you die next. Repeat. If you shoot this man, you die next.”

37. Zodiac

“Do you know more people die in the East Bay commute every three months than that idiot ever killed? He offed a few citizens, wrote a few letters, then faded into footnote… Not that I haven’t been sitting here idly, waiting for you to drop by and reinvigorate my sense of purpose”

36. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

“I tell him about destiny; he’s shaking his head. About dreamgirls; he doesn’t care. I mention the underwear thing? He has a *fucking conniption*. And you? How ’bout it, filmgoer? Have you solved the case of the – the dead people in L.A.? Times Square audiences, please don’t shout at the screen, and stop picking at that, it’ll just get worse.”

35. The Thing

“I dunno what the hell’s in there, but it’s weird and pissed off, whatever it is.”

34. North by Northwest

“Now you listen to me, I’m an advertising man, not a red herring. I’ve got a job, a secretary, a mother, two ex-wives and several bartenders that depend upon me, and I don’t intend to disappoint them all by getting myself “slightly” killed.”

33. Princess Mononoke

“Look, everyone! This is what hatred looks like! This is what it does when it catches hold of you! It’s eating me alive, and very soon now it will kill me! Fear and anger only make it grow faster!”

32. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

“Liberty Valance defeated. D-E-F-E-E… T-E-D? The unsteady hand betrays. What’s the matter, Mr. Peabody? Are you afraid? The answer is indub… yes. No courage left. Well, courage can be purchased at yon tavern. But have we credit? That is the question. Have we credit? Well, credit is cheap. Wait for me, old servant of the public wheel. Our shining hour is yet to come. As for you, Horace Greeley, go west, old man, and grow young with the country.”

31. Hoop Dreams

“Four years ago that’s all I used to dream about was playing in the NBA. I don’t really dream about it like that anymore. You know, even through I love playing basketball, you know I want to do other things with my life too.”

30. 127 Hours

“Aron from Loser Canyon, Utah. How do you know so much? Well, I’ll tell you how I know so much. I volunteer for the rescue service. You see, I’m something of a… well, a big fucking hard hero. And I can do everything on my own, you see? I do see! Now… Is it true that despite, or maybe because you’re a big fucking hard hero… you didn’t tell anyone where you were going? Yeah. That’s absolutely correct. Anyone…? Anyone. Oops… Oops. Oops.”

29. The Night of the Hunter

“You know, when you’re little, you have more endurance than God is ever to grant you again. Children are man at his strongest. They abide.”

28. Fargo

“There’s more to life than a little money, you know. Don’tcha know that? And here ya are, and it’s a beautiful day. Well. I just don’t understand it.”

27. Sunshine

“For seven years I spoke with God. He told me to take us all to Heaven.”

26. Inglourious Basterds

“I love rumors! Facts can be so misleading, where rumors, true or false, are often revealing.”

25. Halloween

“I watched him for fifteen years, sitting in a room, staring at a wall, not seeing the wall, looking past the wall – looking at this night, inhumanly patient, waiting for some secret, silent alarm to trigger him off. Death has come to your little town, Sheriff. Now you can either ignore it, or you can help me to stop it.”

24. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

“Well, if you’ll pardon my saying so, I guess it is interesting, the many ways you and I overlap and whatnot. You begin with our Daddies. Your daddy was a pastor of the New Hope Baptist Church; my daddy was a pastor of a church at Excelsior Springs. Um. You’re the youngest of the three James boys; I’m the youngest of the five Ford boys. Between Charley and me, is another brother, Wilbur here, with six letters in his name; between Frank and you was a brother, Robert, also with six letters. Robert is my Christian name. You have blue eyes; I have blue eyes. You’re five feet eight inches tall. I’m five feet eight inches tall. Oh me, I must’ve had a list as long as your nightshirt when I was twelve, but I’ve lost some curiosities over the years.”

23. Shaun of the Dead

“Lizzy, how can you put your faith in a man you spectacularly binned for being unreliable? A man whose idea of a romantic nightspot and an impenetrable fortress are the same thing? It’s… This is a pub! We are in a pub! What are we going to do now?”

22. Fantasia

“What you will see on the screen is a picture of the various abstract images that might pass through your mind if you sat in a concert hall listening to this music. At first, you’re more or less conscious of the orchestra. So our picture opens with a series of impressions of the conductor and the players. Then the music begins to suggest other things to your imagination. They might be, oh, just masses of color or they may be cloud forms or great landscapes or vague shadows or geometrical objects floating in space”

21. The Lady Eve

“You don’t happen to be a mouthpiece, do you? You talk like a law school.”

20. Toy Story 3

“Now Woody, he’s been my pal for as long as I can remember. He’s brave, like a cowboy should be. And kind, and smart. But the thing that makes Woody special, is he’ll never give up on you… ever. He’ll be there for you, no matter what.”

19. His Girl Friday

“Walter, you’re wonderful, in a loathsome sort of way.”

18. The Exorcist

“Have you ever heard of exorcism? Well, it’s a stylized ritual in which the rabbi or the priest try to drive out the so-called invading spirit. It’s been pretty much discarded these days except by the Catholics who keep it in the closet as a sort of an embarrassment, but uh, it has worked. In fact, although not for the reasons they think, of course. It’s purely a force of suggestion. The victim’s belief in possession is what helped cause it, so in that same way, a belief in the power of exorcism can make it disappear.”

17. The Long Day Closes

“Erosion is the cumulative effect of a great variety of processes – full stop. In general, these can be divided into five groups. One. River erosion. Two. Rain erosion. Three. Glacial erosion. Four. Wind erosion. And five. marine erosion. Life also cooperates in the work of destruction.”

16. The Fall

“What a mystery this world, one day you love them and the next day you want to kill them a thousand times over.”

15. Three Comrades

“So long as you don’t give in, you’re bigger than what happens to you.”

14. Miller’s Crossing

“All in all not a bad guy – if looks, brains and personality don’t count.”

13. Adaptation

“You and I share the same DNA. Is there anything more lonely than that?”

12. Jaws

“You know that was the time I was most frightened… waitin’ for my turn. I’ll never put on a lifejacket again. So, eleven hundred men went in the water; 316 men come out and the sharks took the rest, June the 29th, 1945. Anyway, we delivered the bomb.”

11. City of God

“A kid? I smoke, I snort. I’ve killed and robbed. I’m a man.”

10. The Searchers

“Well, Reverend, that tears it! From now on, you stay out of this. All of ya. I don’t want you with me. I don’t need ya for what I got to do.”

9. Alien

“I admire its purity. A survivor… unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality.”

8. Lucky Star

“You’re a cannibal and a dirty, no-good low-down little thief!”

7. Jurassic Park

“You never had control, that’s the illusion! I was overwhelmed by the power of this place. But I made a mistake, too, I didn’t have enough respect for that power and it’s out now. The only thing that matters now are the people we love. Alan and Lex and Tim. John, they’re out there where people are dying.”

6. The Shining

“I think a lot of things happened right here in this particular hotel over the years. And not all of ’em was good.”

5. There Will Be Blood

“Drainage! Drainage, Eli! Drained dry, you boy! If you have a milkshake and I have a milkshake and I have a straw and my straw reaches across the room and starts to drink your milkshake. I drink your milkshake! I drink it up!”

4. Blade Runner

“Not very sporting to fire on an unarmed opponent. I thought you were supposed to be good. Aren’t you the “good” man? C’mon, Deckard. Show me what you’re made of.”

3. Raiders of the Lost Ark

“You and I are very much alike. Archeology is our religion, yet we have both fallen from the pure faith. Our methods have not differed as much as you pretend. I am but a shadowy reflection of you. It would take only a nudge to make you like me. To push you out of the light.”

2. Pan’s Labyrinth

“You’re getting older, and you’ll see that life isn’t like your fairy tales. The world is a cruel place. And you’ll learn that, even if it hurts.”

1. Magnolia

“Want to know the common element for the entire group?… I’ll tell you the answer: I’ll tell you, ’cause I had that one. I had that question… Carbon. Carbon. In pencil lead, it’s in the form of graphite and in coal, it’s mixed up with other impurities and in the diamond it’s in hard form. “Well… all we were asking was the common element, Donnie… but thank you for all that unnecessary knowledge… haha, kids! Heads so full of useless knowledge. Thank you. Thank you.” And the book says: “We may be through with the past… but the past is not through with us!” And… no, it is not dangerous to confuse children with angels!”

Top 100 Films: The _7’s

Today’s portion of the list leans heavily on the romantic side, with 6 of them containing heavily romantic elements. There’s also only two movie from before I was born. And it leans towards the generic side, with 2 period epics, a rom-com, a courtroom drama, a con film, a 2 crime dramas, and 2 films about artists and their works. And dinosaurs.

97. Gangs of New York (2002)

Directed by Martin Scorsese. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Daniel Day-Lewis

That’s what preserves the order of things. Fear.

Another mini-epic, this film survives thanks to strong performances by DiCaprio and Day-Lewis and remarkable directorial work by Scorsese. He’s not a favorite of mine but here everything works. It is forgotten all too easily.

87. The Scarlet Empress (1934)

Directed by Josef von Sternberg. Starring Marlene Dietrich and John Lodge

I want to play with my toys!

This telling of the story of Catherine II is probably the best looking film on this list, at least in terms of set design. The opulence on display is overwhelming, and Dietrich’s performance matches it. Then there’s the hilarious Sam Jaffe’s over-the-top Grand Duke Peter, amping everything up to 11.

77. Punch-Drunk Love (2002)

Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Starring Adam Sandler and Emily Watson

I didn’t ask for a shrink – that must’ve been somebody else. Also, that pudding isn’t mine. Also, I’m wearing this suit today because I had a very important meeting this morning and I don’t have a crying problem.

The best Adam Sandler film takes the typical Adam Sandler shtick and puts it in the real world. Mostly. It’s funny and romantic and thrilling and sad. All the things you want a movie to be.

67. Young Mr. Lincoln (1939)

Directed by John Ford. Starring Henry Fonda and Marjorie Weaver

By jing, that’s all there is to it: right and wrong.

More great Henry Fonda, more great John Ford. And there is another on the way. This one shows a small part of the beginnings of Abe Lincoln’s career. It’s mostly a courtroom drama, and a great one at that.

57. The Brothers Bloom (2008)

Directed by Rian Johnson. Starring Rachel Weisz and Adrian Brody

The perfect con is the one where everyone involved gets just what they want.

I’ve not seen a great deal of con movies, though I have seen some of the big ones. This one has a lot more heart to it than any of the others. It’s also hilarious and all of the con stuff works. The ending is super great. So’s the middle and the beginning.

47. Out of Sight (1998)

Directed by Steven Soderbergh. Starring George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez

It’s like seeing someone for the first time, and you look at each other for a few seconds, and there’s this kind of recognition like you both know something. Next moment the person’s gone, and it’s too late to do anything about it.

Cool and hot, this movie has it all. Clooney’s on top of his game and Jennifer Lopez has never been this good since. A tale of impossible love and criminals, there’s a lot of humor and violence. That’s how you know it’s a good romance.

37. Black Swan (2010)

Directed by Darren Aronofsky. Starring Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis

Perfect? I’m not perfect. I’m nothing.

A movie about art, the pursuit of perfection, and going crazy. There’s much melodrama in this film, everything is black or white. It’s not subtle, but I love it. The final performance is one of the best things I’ve seen recently.

27. Fargo (1996)

Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. Starring William H. Macy and Frances McDormand

There’s more to life than a little money, you know. Don’tcha know that? And here ya are, and it’s a beautiful day. Well. I just don’t understand.

Sometimes you just gotta laugh at some of the silly things that people do. The Coens know this, which is why their seminal Fargo is at once real and hilariously un-real. The accents just enhance everything to another awesome level.

17. The Fall (2006)

Directed by Tarsem Singh. Starring Lee Pace and Catinca Untaru

You should ask someone else. There’s no happy ending with me.

A movie about storytelling and why we do it. With two amazing performances at the center, filmed all over the world in what must be the most beautiful places, this film is something to get wrapped up in. The story within the story doesn’t always make sense, but it shouldn’t, really. The ending is, again, amazing.

7. Jurassic Park (1993)

Directed by Steven Spielberg. Starring Sam Neil and Laura Dern

But with this place I wanted to show them something that wasn’t an illusion, something that was real, something they could see and touch. An aim not devoid of merit.

Dinosaurs always fascinated me. Things that did exist but don’t any more. But Jurassic Park gives us a glimpse at what might happen if we weren’t the top of the food chain anymore. It’s thrilling and thrilling and thrilling. Also, Jeff Goldblum is amazing.

The other parts of the list:

The _0’s section

The _9’s section

The _8’s section

The _7’s section

The _6’s section

The _5’s section

The _4’s section

The _3’s section

The _2’s section

The _1’s section

A Separate Savior: How Abe is Visually Distinguished in Young Mr. Lincoln

In his film Young Mr. Lincoln, John Ford creates a version of the American hero that is, for the most part, detached from the rest of the world. Ford loves the idea of community but how can you have a genuine hero in a place and a film that revolves around community? Henry Fonda’s Abe Lincoln is this kind of hero. There are visual clues that Ford uses to demonstrate that the only kind of hero that a community can use is one that isn’t part of the community. These clues come from the framing and the use of fences in those frames. Through these ideas Ford makes a clear case for the lonely and distinct hero.
            We’ll start with the framing of Abe throughout the film. Right through the film Lincoln is visually separated from other people by Ford’s use of “hero shots”, the juxtaposition of one shots and two-plus shots, and other miscellaneous framing devices. Let’s first look at the hero shot. Generally, a hero shot is a one shot from a low (as in below the torso) perspective looking up towards the character within the shot. The character will take up most of the frame and will therefore be very imposing and intimidating. John Ford uses this kind of shot on Lincoln during several key scenes to drive home the fact that Lincoln is worthy of the hero title. Our second shot of Lincoln comes in the form of a hero shot. He’s giving a speech on a porch in his small hometown. He’s not particularly imposing at this point but he does carry himself well and his speech, which is all given in the duration of this shot with the reactions saved for after his speech is over, is a good one. However, at this point Lincoln hasn’t become who he will be and is not as important or well developed yet. As such the hero shot is not very dramatic. It’s almost indistinguishable from what a normal mid shot would look like, save for the fact that we see a bit the wall above the door behind him which wouldn’t be visible in a normal mid shot.

           The next hero shot of Lincoln comes at what may be the most important moment in the entire film, if not his life. It is during the celebrations at his new town and Lincoln is the sole judge of the pie contest. We get a camera angle that is probably from the audience’s perspective and, since Lincoln is on an elevated platform to perform his sacred duties, we see a much more dramatic version of the hero shot as he struggles to decide between the two obviously delicious pies. But don’t let a little jesting fool you, this shot really is important to developing the themes of the film through the hero shot. Abe has previously recognized that the law and deciding what’s right and what’s wrong is an important concept to him and this pie eating contest gives him the opportunity to exercise that concept in a relatively unimportant venue. At this point Lincoln is building his career as a lawyer and the ability to distinguish right from wrong is a valuable tool in his belt as we see later in the film. It’s this discriminating characteristic that both separates Lincoln and turns him into the hero that the community needs. And the pies are tasty.
            The next three hero shots go a long way to distinguish Lincoln as a moral and just hero which is important for Ford to do so that the audience sympathies are firmly in his camp. They all accomplish a similar goal and I’ll therefore group them together and talk about them as a whole, for the most part. The first is at the jailhouse as Lincoln reigns in the mob that wants to lynch the two suspected murderers (who just happen to be Lincoln’s first clients), the second comes after he proves his clients’ innocence and the final is the last shot of the movie as Lincoln stands on a hill during a thunderstorm. This last one isn’t a typical hero shot and is actually more of a wide shot but as he is on a hill and super tall, I think it works for what I’m talking about here. These three shots are used to firmly establish Lincoln as an undeniable hero. First he turns the mob of people away from the jailhouse in order to get the two boys a fair trial. The moral high ground here is definitely Lincoln’s. Again, the shot is likely from the perspective of his audience, a theme which runs through these hero shots. The next one, as he leaves the courthouse to wild applause, is a similar situation and accomplishes similar things. Now he has a legitimacy from finding the real killer and proving his two clients innocent and the hero title is definitely deserved. The last shot of him on the hill sets Lincoln up as the national hero that everybody knows from history books and who pays the ultimate sacrifice for bringing his community together.
            Now that I’ve established that Lincoln is clearly a hero, I’d like to point out how he is defined as separate from the community through the framing and set up of the shots throughout the film. Ford consistently frames Lincoln in one shot while almost every other shot has multiple people in them. This constant visual separation sets Lincoln apart from the community he is trying to build and defend. Let’s look at some specific examples.
            The first example is also from the mob scene where Lincoln diffuses the crowd’s overreaction to the murder. He is framed throughout the scene in one shots either from the side or straight on (including the hero shot mentioned above). The rest of the town is framed together to emphasize how they are of a unified mind. They all think the same thing and are therefore visually equated within the scene by being shown in two-plus shots. Lincoln, who isn’t a part of this mob and knows that their point of view is incorrect, is shown separately from them to emphasize his severance from the community. Here Lincoln recognizes that the town requires him to stand and make a difference but he also knows that he can’t do it and still be a part of the community. This dichotomy is what Ford is trying to express throughout the movie and in this scene.

            Similarly, Lincoln is shown as separate from a community in the trial scene, though this time it isn’t the community as a whole that he is separate from but the judicial system. As the prosecutor begins his opening arguments Lincoln goes over to a bookshelf and begins to read one of the law books on display there. He is shown in a one shot here, too, while the rest of the trial happens in another shot that contains the judge and jury and prosecutor and everybody else. Lincoln is again established as an outsider that will eventually save the legitimacy of the court and the two innocent men’s lives. The court works as it is supposed to where both sides get a chance to argue innocence and guilt which is then finally decided by the jury, but Lincoln undermines the rules that are set up when he feels that they are irrelevant. This separation from the normal and accepted rules for the greater good is again echoed in the visual separation shown in the framing of him apart from the courtroom and with the law books that he will use when they fit him and ignore when they don’t. This dedication to the ideals of the law but not the sometimes unnecessary practices is another example of Lincoln being the necessarily separate hero.
             The way Lincoln is framed when he is shown in shots with other people is also a key to understanding how his character operates within the film. He is often shown to be separate from the others even in shots that show him interacting with them. Lincoln is usually shown to be either above or below the rest of the characters in the shot. When he is below them he is trying to be humble to people that are better than him, either in terms of class or moral stature. When he is above them he is trying to bend them to his own goal, that of bringing the community together. Lincoln was physically imposing but it is surprising how little Ford chooses to capitalize on his height. This, of course, means that when he does decide to emphasize Lincoln’s height he does so for a reason.
            Lincoln is shown in the bottom of the frame in three key scenes. The first comes when he goes to the 4th of July celebration and sits with the big wigs of the town. He feels uncomfortable here and decides to sit on the platform instead of in the chairs that the high class people are sitting in. He is a tiny figure in the bottom left of the frame when compared to these “better” people. Here Lincoln recognizes that he’s not a part of this community and is separated visually because of that. Later he pulls a similar stunt but for an entirely different purpose. Here he is meeting with the mother of his two clients at her house out in the country. This is the type of house he grew up in, and he tells them that he’s more comfortable there than in the rest of the town. He still, however, sits down on the porch floor instead of in a chair like the mother. He really respects the family he represents and is therefore humbled that they would let him be their representation in the court case. His humble nature compels him to position himself below the mother and therefore low in the frame. He is again the smaller character within the frame, a hard thing to pull off with a person like Lincoln. Finally, in the court case itself he is shown over and over again in the bottom of the frame. At the beginning it seems to be because he’s out of his league. He stretches out as we have seen him do throughout the movie and puts his feet up on the table so he takes up the entirety of the bottom of the frame. He seems unimpressed by the whole proceeding, or perhaps nervous about his first big court case. He isn’t conducting himself in the way that the prosecutor and the rest of the people in the trial are, with the pomp and ceremony that is normally associated with such an occasion. But later we see him again sitting on a kind of platform: the steps up to the jury box area. Here he’s below the jury, the witness, the prosecutor, and pretty much everybody else in the frame and courtroom. But he’s in charge here. He’s playing a role in order to fool the room so that his revelation will surprise them. When he does finally pounce he stands up and becomes the tall, impressive figure we expect from Lincoln.
            In fact, it is later in this scene that he is shown above the rest of the community in the frame. It doesn’t happen often so when it does it makes an impact. The most important scene where he is above the rest of the characters in the frame comes when he questions Jack Cass, the supposed eye witness to the murder. He knows something is fishy with Cass’s story and because of this he is framed to be taller than Cass. Lincoln hovers over him and makes him admit to the murder and conspiracy to implicate the two boys instead of him. Here Lincoln is in charge and has the moral high ground, so he is in the top of the frame. He’s powerful now, and he knows it. This difference in framing is only exacerbated when Cass gets off the stand to run out of the court room. He’s even smaller in comparison to Lincoln now that he knows he is busted.  One other example comes much earlier in the film, right after his first speech on the porch. He is offered some books as a form of payment and when he first opens the barrel of them he is below all of the characters around him in the frame. Once he realizes that they’re law books he steps forward to practically fill the same frame. He’s taller than everybody else at this point and it is all because he has found his true passion in life: law. I’ve already discussed how the idea of right and wrong shaped Lincoln’s future and this scene is the impetus for that change. When he discovers the law he fills the frame and becomes larger than everybody else, indicating how important an event it is. He is now going to be an educated man, a lawyer, which automatically distinguishes him from the rest of the community who seem to be generally uneducated.
            Fences are not normally a large part of the framing of a film, but in this case they play an important role in showing the separation between Lincoln and the rest of the community. I’ll walk you through the way Ford uses fences to cut Lincoln off in the remaining part of this essay beginning now.
            From the first there is almost always a fence of some sort within the frame of this film. This alone should be evidence enough that fences are important, but I’ll elaborate a bit more to better explain why they are important. The first critical fence comes when Lincoln and his first love Ann meet at the river side where Lincoln is reading one of his law books. They begin to walk along the river and as they do there is a fence running along the bottom of the frame. It’s presence in the foreground and the river’s presence in the background creates a path that the two characters walk down. The nature of this path means that there is no way to go but forwards. When the finally stop walking there seems to be a break in the fence. This allows Lincoln and Ann to be on seemingly equal footing. And their characters would seem to match this equality. They both love each other and want only the best. However, the camera then cuts to a wider shot and we see that Ann had moved to the other side of the fence at the beginning of the conversation. The fence hadn’t disappeared, it just got lower for a bit. When the camera shows that they were separated by the fence for the end of the conversation the audience realizes that something isn’t quite right. There is, of course, a reason that they were separated by the fence. Ann is convinced that nobody – even Lincoln – can love her. She is also dead by the next scene. Lincoln goes to visit her grave (predictably separated from the rest of nature by a fence) and there he decides to become a lawyer. Ann is the impetus for the rest of the film but even she is separated from him by a fence.

            Jumping forwards a bit and over a couple of minor fence scenes, the next important fence surrounds the clearing where the murder takes place. Not only does the fence fail at containing the violence (the mob later rushes out of a hole in the fence proving its worthlessness in its actual duties) but it also allows Lincoln to observe the entire happening. When the community comes to the clearing they all enter through a hole in the fence. Lincoln goes up to the fence but decides to stay back. He leans on the fence and watches what happens as the community turns into a mob. The fence allows for impartiality by way of separation. It is likely that if Lincoln had entered the clearing like everybody else did he, too, would have been wrapped up in the excitement of a hanging and joined the mob. Instead he watches from a distance and sees how foolishly the community acts. This visual representation of separation in the form of a fence allows Lincoln to fulfill one of the key components of law: objectivity. In these shots Lincoln is not only separated by distance but also by the fence on which he leans.
             Mary Todd, Lincoln’s future wife, isn’t much of a character within this film, but she does play an important role in a scene involving one of the most creative fences on film. Lincoln is invited to a high class party and as he enters there is a big John Ford dance scene going on. When we first see him the camera angle comes from within the big dance area facing the hallway where Lincoln enters and talks to some old guys. The dance is still going on and at this point the dancers are all linked arm in arm and skipping around the circumference of the room. As they dance by the camera their bodies and clasped hands form an unbroken fence between the camera and Lincoln who stands in the background. This living fence blocks a clear view of the hero. The camera takes a side here, and it is the side of the rich. It’s within the walls of the dance hall where all the rich guys dance and intermingle. The rich even create a fence within the already extravagant walls to keep out the less desirable elements, which Lincoln clearly thinks he is a part of. He is hesitant to enter the formal area and dance with Mary Todd. In the end she practically forces him into dancing with her, and Lincoln isn’t the greatest of dancers. He seems out of place, which makes his separation at the beginning of this scene by the dancing fence all the more important. It establishes that Lincoln isn’t a part of this crowd. Earlier we saw that he wasn’t a part of the community at large, either, so he’s effectively an outsider to everybody. Yet when he saves the day he is welcomed into the masses as a hero. He epitomizes that separate hero and no more is this in evidence than in the courtroom scene.
            Again we return to the scenes that take place within the courtroom. Here there are several fences to separate Lincoln from everybody else. The first separates him from the rest of the community by keeping them in the back of the room and him and the prosecutor and other people actually involved in the trial in the front. There is a small fence (which some would call a railing) that can be seen in nearly every courtroom scene in film and real life separating the community and the trail participants. This isn’t a super important fence until the end of the trial scene when Cass, the true murderer, tries to escape Lincoln’s questioning by leaving through a small door in the fence. When he moves to the other side of the fence the community begins to close in on him, and the mob that he wanted to incite earlier is turned against him. Still, Lincoln is separated from him and the rest of them by the fence. He’s proven Cass’s guilt and now he’ll let him get what’s coming to him, but Lincoln won’t have any part in it. After not trusting himself and almost losing the trial he seems happy to have gotten his clients off. He still doesn’t need or perhaps he isn’t able to join the community at large. He’s the hero they needed but he doesn’t really need them, nor do they particularly care about him. Still, his part is performed and now the community is whole again.
            But we aren’t finished with those darn fences yet. As he says goodbye to the family he saved they leave along a road lined with a fence. He, too, leaves by way of this road. When he reaches the top of the hill there is a fence on his side. The fences seem to have been guiding him all along, from the river scene with Anne to the final scene on the hill the fences have done more than just separate Lincoln from the rest of the community. They are like the law, unwaveringly steady. They are used to impose order and boundaries on the world, much like the law is used to impose order and boundaries on people and the community. They are a tool used to make clear delineations, a vital part of any life, but especially crucial to Lincoln, a man who must necessarily be separate from others in order to help them. The fences and framing of Young Mr. Lincoln clearly show that Abe must be severed to some degree from those that he wants to save. He is successful but at the price of being integrated into a community. It’s a theme that runs through John Ford’s films and is perhaps most important in the story of Abe Lincoln’s early career.