Cell phone photos taken by Aaron Atkins of the Williston Fire Department show the destruction caused by Superstorm Sandy on the Jersey Shore. (Observer courtesy photos by Aaron Atkins)
By Michael S. Goldberger
Special to the Observer
We knew Lincoln was a great man, a wit, an altruist, a template for humanitarianism and a darn good rassler in his youth. But often lost is what a brilliant politician he was, maybe because of the negative connotation generally ascribed that occupation. In director Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” Daniel Day-Lewis magnificently rectifies that oversight.
Should you choose to venture with the 16th President of the United States during the last months of the Civil War, be prepared for two and one half hours of the most intelligent, thoughtful and provocative entertainment to come down the cinema pike in recent time. While seeing it won’t earn you an M.A. in history, one should be granted a credit or two.
This is responsible stuff. And though loaded with life’s humor, usually via the title character’s pungent anecdotes, truisms and observations, there is little Hollywoodization here to make the smart and weighty go down easy. OK, it isn’t for everyone. Yet it is a testament to Mr. Spielberg’s brilliance that he makes such heady material so accessible.
There’s a whole bunch going on at once, both in the narrative so splendidly realized and in the grand but deceptively simple process that presents it. The filmmaker sings a paean to the tradition of historical movies, acknowledging the pageantry of the ages, and yet happily skips all the baroque surplus thanks to an instinctive economy of storytelling.
An award-worthy script by Tony Kushner, adapted in part from Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book, is obviously interpreted with due reverence by a stellar cast. It can get a little complicated, especially if you’ve been out of school for a while. However, in time the memory is jogged and you figure out who’s who, by word, deed and even body language.
The scenario: It’s early 1865 and, while it’s fairly certain the North will win the war, the nature and structure of the peace that will follow pose numerous questions and enigmas. Although the union will be preserved, Mr. Lincoln sees his work far from done. Granted, the Emancipation Proclamation fulfilled a military goal, but slavery is still not abolished.
Hence, honest Abe has now turned most of his attention and energies to the proposed 13th Amendment. Passed by a friendly Senate, its future in the House of Representatives is precarious. What thus follows is a world class primer on advice, consent, everything Machiavelli taught, a little Medici and maybe a few moves and stratagems from Caesar.
Lincoln, driven by moral certainty, doesn’t actually say the end justifies the means. But when he concedes to his associates that one ploy in particular is a lawyerly tactic he first ventured back on the circuit in Illinois, we take it as a sly wink cordially inviting us into his confidence. We are aboard to see justice done, and feeling all ennobled for it.
Doing the great man’s bidding and thereby framing for us the length and breadth of Mr. Lincoln’s diplomatic brilliance is Secretary of State William Seward, convincingly realized by David Strathairn. Sullying his hands where the President cannot, we’re literally brought to the back room where two scalawag go-betweens add comic relief.
The negotiations and brinksmanship recall the warning of the pundit who said folks should avoid seeing two things made: laws and sausage. Indeed, it’s tough going for the emancipator. And as the work proceeds, one can’t help make analogies to current, well-meaning politicians, and appreciate the loneliness that can often attend a moral mission
Spielberg, through Daniel Day-Lewis’s all-encompassing command of both the myth and the man, subtly pedestals the protagonist, evidencing the admiration earned even from his most ardent political foes. We check ourselves, rationally sure that he was but human, yet remain in awe of this down home soul whose abilities seem otherworldly.
Creating the time and temper of the intriguing milieu is a solid supporting cast led by Sally Field as the troubled and often maligned Mary Todd Lincoln. But the pick here for a secondary Oscar is Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens, abolitionist, congressman and the cleverly embodied proof that politics makes for strange bedfellows.
However, a nomination for the major male statuette is sure to be garnered by Daniel Day-Lewis. In the vernacular of the texting generation, his portrayal is awesome…totally. The performance, a veritable lesson in method acting worthy of Brando, uncannily captures not only what is known of Lincoln, but enchantingly assumes his spirit as well.
Too bad for those who will avoid this epochal gem because they don’t care for history, preferring instead to repeat its mistakes. This is a sturdy monograph certain to win the muse Clio’s approval. Vigorously reconstructing the watershed era in question, “Lincoln” also shows us that divisiveness can be overcome when good people put their minds to it.
“Lincoln,” rated PG-13, is a Touchstone Pictures release directed by Steven Spielberg and stars Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones. Running time: 150 minutes
On Nov. 26, troopers from the Williston Barracks of the Vermont State Police responded to several motor vehicle crashes. These crashes coincided with the first snowfall of the year, and occurred on I-89, 189, Route 15 and many secondary state and town highways. In most cases, the crashes were the result of operators traveling too fast for conditions or following too closely, according to police. State Police remind motorists that weather conditions and subsequent poor road conditions can change rapidly. Black ice and other unforeseen hazards can cause sudden loss of traction, and require operators to slow down and leave more following distance between vehicles.
Search for Phillips continues
State Police are asking for the public’s assistance in locating Shane Phillips, 32, of Johnson, who has been wanted for more than 10 years on multiple aggravated assault charges. During a Nov. 18 incident, troopers from the St. Albans barracks came into contact with Phillips when they attempted a motor vehicle stop on Route 118 in Berkshire, according to police reports. As a result of this incident, Phillips is now also wanted for attempted aggravated assault on law enforcement, felony attempting to elude, careless and negligent operation and excessive speed, according to police. The public is urged to contact VSP-St. Albans, VSP-Lamoille, or the Lamoille County Sheriff’s Department with information regarding Phillips’ whereabouts. You can also submit an anonymous tip by texting “CRIMES” (274637) to Keyword: VTIPS or online at www.vtips.info<http://www.vtips.info>.
- Williston police are seeking the public’s assistance in identifying a man who committed an act of vandalism at Wal-Mart on Nov. 25 at approximately 6 p.m. The man went to the automotive department and slashed 20 five-quart oil containers, causing extensive damage that took 10 employees nearly two hours to fully clean, according to police reports. Anyone with information is asked to call Williston Police at 878-6611.
- G.B. Mechanical Truck Center reported to police on Nov. 13 that a customer’s vehicle had been vandalized while in its Williston parking lot, according to police reports. Also on Nov. 13, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters reported vandalism at its Williston location. No other information was released. The investigation is ongoing.
A woman was referred to the Williston Reparative Board on Nov. 15 after she left her “small children” alone in a vehicle parked in front of Once Upon A Child, according to police reports. No other information was released.
A Dick’s Sporting Goods employee reported to police on Nov. 16 that his iPhone 5 had been stolen from his “unsecured” work locker, according to police reports. No other information was released.
Driving under the influence
Johnathan P. Rodger, 30, of Newark, Vt. was cited on a charge of driving under the influence on Nov. 17, according to police reports. His blood alcohol concentration was .092, according to the report. The legal limit for driving in Vermont is .08. He was cited to appear in court.
By Kim Dannies
Feeling ready for a meatless main dish? In the aftermath of the turkey trot and before the roast beef rolls in, I sure am. Consider risotto, the Arborio rice specialty, for a meal that is easy on the eye and the budget. This recipe, adapted from the Dec. 2010 issue of Bon Appétit, is just the ticket for winding down between holidays.
Traditional risotto requires a labor-love intensive technique that results in toothsome grains of rice swimming in a super creamy sauce. It is created by stirring hot stock into a mixture of rice and onion that has been sautéed in butter or olive oil. The stock is added slowly, and the mixture is stirred gently and consistently until all of the stock has been absorbed into the rice. Like pizza, the range of flavors and ingredients that complement risotto is unlimited, so feel free to improvise. When I make risotto, I pick a quiet evening, put on my jammies, pour a glass of wine, grab my wooden spoon and enjoy this quiet, delicious process.
Bon Appétit Butternut Risotto
Purchase pre-cut butternut squash and cut pieces into half-inch cubes to equal 4 cups. Dice enough sweet onion to equal 3 cups. Measure out 2 cups of Arborio rice. Purchase four 14-ounce containers of vegetable stock. Ribbon cut a bunch of fresh basil to make 1 cup. Grate 1 cup best-quality Parmesan cheese.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add the squash and sauté until it begins to soften and brown around the edges, 5 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl. Reduce heat to medium; add 1 tablespoon butter and the onion to the pot and cook 5 minutes until tender but not browned. Add rice and stir 1 minute. Add 1 cup of broth and simmer until absorbed, stirring frequently, 3-4 minutes.
Add remaining broth by the 1/2 cup, allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding the next, gently stirring all the while, about 15 minutes. Return squash to the pot; continue to cook until rice is tender and creamy, about 10 minutes more. Season to taste with salt and fresh pepper. Remove pot from heat and fold in basil and cheese. Serves six immediately.
Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three twenty-something daughters who come and go. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to kimdannies.com.
In the wake of Division 1 championship seasons by both boys and girls soccer teams, six members of Coach T.J. Mead’s boys squad and five girls from Coach Brad Parker’s second straight title combine have captured all-star honors.
Leading the way are Shane Haley from the boys team and the girls’ Kate Raszka, who were selected as Vermont high school soccer players of the year by the Burlington Free Press.
Haley, a forward-striker, is better known as he who smashes balls deep into opponents’ nets. The swift senior tallied 25 goals and added six assists. The last score of his interscholastic career won the championship in overtime.
Raszka was a consistent force at midfield for the Redhawks and added seven goals and seven assists to the offense.
Both also earned first team recognition with the Vermont Soccer Coaches Association All-State team and the Free Press All-State team.
Also named to both all-state first teams were midfielder Noah Lieberman and back Zack Evans. Joe Castano was a Free Press second team selection. The threesome, along with Haley. were named all-metro, while metro honorable mentions went to Roshi Brooklyn and Alden Shumway.
Raszka was joined on the coaches’ star team by midfielder Taylor Goldsborough, Abby Eddy and Kaelyn Kohlasch.
Free Press first team honors went to Raszka, Goldsborough and goalie Lily Harris, while Eddy is on the second team and Kohlasch an honorable mention. All are all-metro selections.