Saturday, July 14, 2012

FOR THE WEEKEND: Spielberg's Abraham Lincoln & David Strathairn

I'm eagerly looking forward to the release, later this year, of Steven Spielberg's movie Abraham Lincoln. Apart from the obvious historical interest of the biographical movie, rarely have so many of my favourite actors been seen together in one film: Tommy Lee Jones, James Spader and David Strathairn - a hatrick! If only Paul Giamatti were in the cast too I'd be so overcome I'd need to be tied down in my cinema seat. Throw in Sam Elliott and I'd probably implode!

Leaving aside Tommy Lee Jones and James Spader for the moment (I'm sure they'd be relieved), I'm concentrating on David Strathairn today. He's an actor I'd often recognised in character parts, but until fairly recently hadn't connected the name to the face. Once I did, I began collecting DVDs and tapes of movies in which he has appeared over the years - more on that later.

Picked to play Abraham Lincoln himself is Daniel Day Lewis. Brilliant actor, of course, and is said, once in makeup to look uncannily like portraits we have of the man himself (see right). Liam Neeson was slated to play the part originally, but withdrew as he felt he's too old for the part. Appearance is half the battle in biographical movies. I'm sure DDL will turn in an Oscar-worthy performance, and yet, astrologically, David Strathairn would be much, much nearer to Abraham Lincoln in nature. He could easily be made to look like Lincoln too - though perhaps, like Liam Neeson, he is a tad too old.

David Strathairn was born on 26 January 1949 in San Francisco, Ca. at, according to Astrodatabank, 2:37 AM He will play William H. Seward (right), Lincoln's Secretaty of State, an outspoken abolitionist and a core member of Lincoln’s wartime cabinet. Seward was born on 16 May 1801 in Florida, New York at, according to Astrotheme 2:00 PM.

Daniel Day Lewis was born on 29 April 1957 in London. No time of birth available. He will play Abraham Lincoln who was born on 12 February 1809 in Hodgenville Ky. at, according to Astrodatabank, 6:54 AM.

On the face of it David Strathairn matches Lincoln's astrology better, and Daniel Day Lewis, astrologically, has more in common with William H. Seward.

Lincoln and Strathairn share Aquarius Sun and Capricorn Moon. They share that Aqua/Cap look too!

Daniel Day Lewis and William H. Seward share Sun and Mercury in Taurus.

Just a quirk of fate, I guess.

Back to David Strathairn's earlier movies seen recently. I've enjoyed every one. They're not listed in chronological order of release, but in the order in which we've watched them.

Common thread of David Strathairn's portrayals, for me, is a sense of quiet stability, reliability, and steadfastness. He's well able to portray these characteristics because they're part of his own nature, or so I suspect: reflections of Cardinal Capricorn Moon/Jupiter/Venus, and Fixed Aquarian Sun/Mercury/Mars.

Son of the Morning Star (TV 1991): Two-tape 3 hour VHS set . It's a "Custer's last stand against Crazy Horse and his braves" story, in more detail, clearer context, than most movies featuring the same scenario. Gary Cole (who I remembered as the Nighthawk from an old TV series Midnight Caller) plays George Armstrong Custer and gives the old war horse a more believable side than the usual stereotyped version. The presentation is longwinded, not for the faint-hearted, but worth the effort for anyone like myself, eternally fascinated by US history. Oooh - and David Strathairn (above), bedecked with startlingly blond wig, as Captain Benteen - launched me on a David Strathairn film search.

Limbo (1999): Set in a small Alaskan town, this movie defies any clearcut description. It's not a feel-good kind of movie, not a romance, not exactly in the horror or thriller genre either, but trace elements of all are there. Interesting characters, trying hard to re-program their lives, are its basis; excellent performance by David Strathairn in particular, with female lead Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. Kris Kristofferson features in a more minor, though pivotal, role.

LA Confidential (1997): Film noir-ish tale of police corruption in 1950s Los Angeles. David Strathairn plays wealthy Pierce Patchett, who runs a stable of high-class call-girls who, having been altered by plastic surgery closely resemble popular glamourous female movie stars. Good movie, based on James Ellroy's novel. Leading roles went to Kevin Spacey & Russell Crowe.

Goodnight & Good Luck (2005): A movie where David Strathairn plays the lead: Edward R. Murrow, veteran radio and television journalist. The film tells of his conflict with U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy and the anti-Communist "witch-hunts" by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. David Strathairn was nominated as Best Actor for his performance, the film received 6 nominations in all. Written and directed by George Clooney who also played the role of Fred Friendly, co-producer of the show See It Now, with Murrow. Excellent film, amazing performance by David Strathairn!

Lathe of Heaven (2002) is a second adaptation of Ursula Le Guin's short novel. Ms Le Guin did not approve of this adaptation - and, having read her book since seeing the film, I can see why! The film omits some of the most intriguing parts of the book! It's a very engaging sci-fi/fantasy tale even so. In this adaptation David Strathairn plays the part of Mannie, a character who doesn't actually appear in the novel in the way he's presented in the film - which is odd. His role is mysterious, but is probably there to present a continuous stable presence for the main character, George Orr (hmmmm) to rely on throughout the chaos his dreams bring upon the world around him. I'm glad David Strathairn was in the movie - it was the only reason I bought the DVD that led me to the book - which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Return of the Seacaucus Seven (1980): One of those "reunion" films - story of seven friends, former activists, who spend a weekend together in New Hampshire ten years later. Written and directed by John Sayles. David Strathairn, (far right) in what I think was his first film role, plays a character who, though a friend of The Seven, is not a part of the group. The Seven are more yer white collar types, while he's a mechanic and gas station hand with, probably, more common sense than all the rather precious navel-gazing Seven had in total! Though film critics admired the film, we struggled through it and came out distinctly underwhelmed.

Matewan (1987) another film written and directed by John Sayles. It's fiction, but based on factual events around a coal mine-workers' strike and attempt to unionize in 1920 in Matewan, a small town in the hills of West Virginia.

The struggles of coal-miners, through the years, and in countries all over the world, are legend. Mining coal before the advent of technological aids, was one of the hardest, most dangerous and valuable occupations of all, yet the men who did the job received some of the worst treatment. Makes my blood boil! I loved this film.
The excellent Chris Cooper (another character actor who doesn't get nearly the acclaim he deserves)plays the lead as union organiser. David Strathairn plays fair but firm police chief Sid Hatfield. A ten-out-of-ten movie for me, this one. Again, I have David Strathairn to thank for leading me to it!

Sneakers (1992) a "caper" movie based on juggling electronics, computer hacking, technology in general (as it was in 1992, anyway). David Strathairn plays Erwin "Whistler" Emory, a blind telephone expert, with an exceptionally acute sense of hearing. Well played Mr. Strathairn! Robert Redford has the leading role.
Entertaining movie - by the last scenes I remembered I'd seen it before many years ago - but that was BDS (Before David Strathairn)!

O Pioneers!(1992)A TV movie adaptation of the novel by Willa Cather. Set in late 19th century Nebraska it's a story of a Swedish immigrant family, and their challenges. Left as head of the family after her father's death, Alexandra Bergson (Jessica Lange)discovers a fierce love of the land she has inherited. It's a simple story, simply told and is a touching tribute to a part of the US often derided. David Strathairn plays Alexandra's love interest, Carl Lindstrum. He doesn't have a lot to do, but as always he turns in a solid performance.

Steel Toes(2006) ~~~ A Canadian film described in my previous post.

I half-suspected that I'd noted David Strathairn's name at some time in the past in one of these posts. After a bit of digging I found these words from a 2010 post, about a movie My Blueberry Nights: "Other characters the heroine meets on her travels are played by Natalie Portman, Rachel Weisz and, best acting of the movie: David Strathairn - an actor who deserves a starring part - SOON!" It took a while for me to catch up with his body of work, but now I'm on board and on a roll! Still many more DS films to sample, and no doubt blog about.

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