NYT Columnist Sides With Connecticut Congressman on 'Lincoln' Inaccuracy

11:08 PM PST 02/17/2013 by THR Staff
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"Lincoln"

Maureen Dowd's op-ed piece comes on the heels of Joe Courtney's calls for Steven Spielberg to acknowledge the mistake before Sunday's Oscars.

The New York Times op-ed columnist Maureen Dowd on Sunday became the latest to criticize Steven Spielberg's Oscar-nominated Lincoln for its historical inaccuracy.

Earlier this month, Joe Courtney, a Democratic congressman from Connecticut, wrote to the director saying that the movie incorrectly showed two of his state's House members voting against the amendment for the abolition of slavery. He asked Spielberg to acknowledge the error before the Feb. 24 Oscars -- where Lincoln is nominated in 12 categories, including best picture -- and fix the scene before the movie's DVD release. (Spielberg has said he will give the DVD to any middle school or high school that asks for it.)

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"I’m a princess-and-the-pea on this issue, but I think Spielberg should refilm the scene or dub in 'Illinois' for 'Connecticut' before he sends out his DVDs and leaves students everywhere thinking the Nutmeg State is nutty," Dowd wrote in a piece that ran Sunday.

She also noted her "pet peeve about filmmakers who make up facts in stories about real people to add 'drama,' rather than just writing the real facts better. It makes viewers think that realism is just another style in art, so that no movie, no matter how realistic it looks, is believable."

Dowd also talked to Lincoln screenwriter Tony Kushner, who said that in movies, it is acceptable to “manipulate a small detail in the service of a greater historical truth. History doesn’t always organize itself according to the rules of drama. It’s ridiculous. It’s like saying that Lincoln didn't have green socks, he had blue socks.”

But, argued Dowd, "Spielberg’s production people called the National Archives in 2011 to get a copy of the original voting roll and to plumb deeply into the details of the vote on one of America’s most searing moral battles, even asking whether the vote was recorded in a bound volume or on loose ledger forms. That roll shows that the first two votes cast were 'nays' by Democratic congressmen from Illinois, Lincoln’s own state. Wasn’t that enough to show the tension?"

Dowd also criticized Argo and Zero Dark Thirty as two other movies among this year's crop of Oscar nominees whose filmmakers "bank on the authenticity of their films until it’s challenged, and then fall back on the 'Hey, it’s just a movie' defense."

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Regarding Argo, she quotes former President Carter aide Jerry Rafshoon, who notes that the president's chief of staff, Hamilton Jordan, is portrayed in the film as married with kids, which wasn't the case during the Iranian hostage crisis at the center of the movie.

Meanwhile, she writes that Zero Dark Thirty inaccurately led moviegoers to believe that Jessica Chastain's character worked alone in tracking down Osama bin Laden, when in fact it was a team of CIA analysts.

Movie critic Roger Ebert responded to Dowd's column on Twitter.

"Ouch! Maureen Dowd thinks movies are not always so very accurate, and twist things to make better stories!" he wrote.

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