#309. Daniel Day-Lewis

Have you ever noticed that some actors seem to be in every critically-acclaimed movie? I’m not talking about the actors who win a lot of awards, but then also do some “low brow” comedies on the side. I’m referring to the actors who just seem to have a higher standard for the work they do. They usually aren’t the most prolific actors, but often they are the most awarded actors. It’s almost as if they have perfected the craft of acting and will only take on roles that they know will bring them the praise of critics and audiences alike. Daniel Day-Lewis certainly seems to fit into this category of actor. While he has appeared in more films in the early part of his career, lately his roles have been a little more spread out, but have earned him many accolades, regardless. This week’s two films highlight some of Daniel Day-Lewis’ most notable roles.

Gangs of New YorkGangs of New York
Year: 2002
Rating: R
Length: 167 minutes / 2.78 hours

Even though Daniel Day-Lewis has won multiple Oscars, there are still a few films where he was nominated for Best Actor and didn’t win the honor. It’s probably useful to note that these films were also nominated for Best Picture, but also lost to other movies. His first loss was to Tom Hanks in 1993 (for Hanks’ role in Philadelphia), despite a solid performance in In the Name of the Father (which itself lost to Schindler’s List). Fortunately, the only other time he didn’t win a nomination was in 2002 for his role in Gangs of New York (losing to Adrien Brody in The Pianist and the film losing to Chicago). Of course, Gangs of New York also garnered Martin Scorsese a nomination for Best Director. The only other time Day-Lewis and Scorsese worked together was for the period piece, The Age of Innocence (1993).

In Gangs of New York, Daniel Day-Lewis portrays William “Bill the Butcher” Cutting, a man whose violent tendencies crushed a rival gang of Irish immigrants led by a Catholic priest (Liam Neeson). Having no trouble cutting up animals or men, his intimidating persona managed to keep the neighborhoods of lower Manhattan in a state of fearful peace for sixteen years. In the midst of the Civil War, a man by the name of Amsterdam (Leonardo DiCaprio) arrives in New York and starts to stir up some trouble, becoming involved with William M. Tweed (Jim Broadbent), the boss of the newest rival gang to Bill’s “Natives.” As it turns out, Amsterdam has a connection to the previous gang war and it doesn’t take long for Bill to figure out who he was related to. Instead of running away to San Francisco, Amsterdam officially challenges Bill to a fight, which he accepts to his own peril.

Year: 2012
Rating: PG-13
Length: 150 minutes / 2.5 hours

No other actor has won three Best Actor Oscars. Walter Brennan won three Best Supporting Actor statues, but everyone knows the highest honor comes with Best Actor. Daniel Day-Lewis has achieved this feat with only five nominations to his name. Even before he won his first Best Actor Oscar, he appeared in the Best Picture, Gandhi (1982). He would then go on to win his acting Oscars in the Best Picture nominees, My Left Foot (1989), There Will Be Blood (2007), and Lincoln (2012). Perhaps due to his first Oscar coming from My Left Foot, Day-Lewis collaborated with director Jim Sheridan twice more for In the Name of the Father (which earned him an aforementioned acting nomination) and The Boxer (1997). Still, it’s his performance in Lincoln that pushed his name into Hollywood history for having earned three Best Actor Oscars.

While the gang wars of New York were coming to a head in 1863, Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) made a definitive move in turning the tide of the Civil War by passing the Emancipation Proclamation. Unfortunately, now that he sees the end of the Civil War quickly approaching, he realizes that this wartime executive order might not stand up to legal scrutiny once the war is over. In order to keep the effects of the Proclamation permanent, he proposes the Thirteenth Amendment. This Amendment to the Constitution has a difficult road to ratification, considering the 16th President of the United States wants to have it approved before the end of the war so that the southern states re-joining the Union won’t be able to deny its passage and the freedoms it provides to slaves across the nation. It’s up to the men of Congress to ensure that Lincoln’s legacy remains intact, despite a sporty deadline quickly approaching.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 different Daniel Day-Lewis characters

Bacon #: 2 (Lincoln / Tommy Lee Jones -> JFK / Kevin Bacon)


#236. Lengthy Running Times

In a world that is having an increasingly difficult time sitting still for an extended amount of time, any movie longer than 90 minutes can be a struggle to watch. Especially with the ubiquitous nature of smart phones shortening our attention spans, many of us won’t even bother watching a video that’s longer than seven seconds. Part of the solution many movies have resorted to in recent years has been to split films into two-parts so that they are easier to watch, instead of sitting through a four hour film. Other solutions have been to keep the pace of the plot set so fast as to keep the audience enthralled all the way to the end credits. This latter option often includes plenty of flashy and disorienting action to keep the excitement level at a point where viewers won’t glance at their watches. This week’s two films have lengthy running times, but are worth the watch if you can pay attention long enough.

Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles
Year: 1975Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 201 minutes / 3.35 hours

Movies with running times above 3 hours have been around since nearly the beginning of cinema itself. Many of these films were merely adapting the tenets of the theatre. With its plays and musicals, many theatre productions included overtures and intermissions. These plays and musicals were quite long, easily spanning several hours. This is why many lengthy films also followed suit by including overtures and intermissions for audiences to get up and stretch. While the latest notable film to have an intermission was made in 2001 (Pearl Harbor), quite a few films from the 1960’s and 1970’s had intermissions, even if they were cut out in home media. That being said, Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975) does not have an intermission, or fast-paced plot, or any exciting action. It merely has the life of a homemaker, revealed in near real-time.

Life as a single mother can be a regular series of events, repeated ad nauseum. For each of the three hours of this film’s running time, we get a glimpse into three days of Jeanne Dielman’s (Delphine Seyrig) life. There is cleaning to do, dinner to cook, and a bedroom “job” to perform to keep her and her son living comfortably. However, when the small details start to go awry, we see Jeanne slowly succumb to the stress she hides right beneath her stoic surface. Whether it’s the countless hours spent alone in the house or the exceptional standards of homemaking that she holds herself to, the subsequent days definitely show that she is almost at her breaking point. Finally, on the third day, Jeanne has a sudden release with one of her “clients”. Perhaps as a result, she cuts her session short in an unforeseen outburst of violence.

The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
Year: 2003The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Rating: PG-13
Length: 201 minutes / 3.35 hours

If there’s one thing that the Academy Awards likes, it’s a long movie. Often, the nominees for Best Picture are regularly over 2 ½ hours long, and will sometimes even break the three-hour mark. Additionally, some films of a particular series might have different release dates, but are considered as one, complete film when placed back-to-back. In these cases, franchises like Star Wars, Harry Potter, and The Lord of the Rings all could be considered singular films with running times at or over 12 hours long! In regards to the last series of the aforementioned list, which won Best Picture in 2003, the fact that it was shot all at once with the same actors gives credence to the thought that all three films are actually a single film split into three parts. With the “extended editions” of these films considered to be the true film adaptation of the Lord of the Rings story, get ready for a half-day movie marathon.

The third installment in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Return of the King follows Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) as they complete the final push into Mordor to destroy Sauron’s ring of power. Meanwhile, the remaining members of the Fellowship (established in the first film, The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)) bolster their forces to take on Sauron’s army. Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) gains alliances of kings, both living and dead, and battles his way to Sauron’s front door. Having traveled a very long way and endured numerous obstacles and struggles, Frodo and Sam wearily make their way into Mount Doom, the source of (and therefore only way to destroy) the ring of power. As the battle heats up between good and evil, Gollum (Andy Serkis) sees his last chance to obtain the ring for himself. Will Sauron win in the end, or will Frodo be able to rid Middle Earth of the ring once and for all?

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 movie marathons