Jul 312014
 
The American Transcontinental Railroad

Victorious in the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), the United States acquired California and New Mexico. A year later, gold was discovered in California, luring hundreds of thousands of people across the plains. However, the new territories resembled distant colonies rather than parts of the republic. It took six months of hard, dangerous travel to cross the plains. The other options were sailing around South America or sailing to Panama and crossing the fever-ridden isthmus. The government approved the construction of a transcontinental railroad in 1862, but construction was slow until the American Civil War (1861-1865) ended, when labor and materials became available. The Union Pacific, which started from the Missouri River, relied mainly on veterans, while the Central Pacific, which originated at Sacramento, turned to cheap Chinese labor. Paid in government bonds, both companies competed to lay more track and qualify for more bonds. When the two tracks met at Promontory Point in Utah on May 10, 1869, a six-month-long trek by wagon had been replaced by a week-long trip on a train, thus linking the two sides of the nation.
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Apr 012013
 
Abraham Lincoln

Born in a log cabin, Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809-April 15, 1865) taught himself enough law to become a lawyer. An ambitious man, he was elected repeatedly to the Illinois state legislature, where he became a leader of the Whig party. After a single term in Congress (1846-1848), Lincoln’s political career seemed to have peaked. As the debate over slavery tore apart the nation in the 1850s, the Whigs appeared increasingly irrelevant, so Lincoln joined the newly formed Republican party. Although he lost a hard-fought campaign against Democrat candidate Stephen Douglas for a senate seat in 1858, a series of debates between the two men had attracted national attention, especially among the growing abolitionist movement. Chosen as a compromise candidate during the 1860 Republican convention, Lincoln won election as president, aided by the breakup of the Democrat party over slavery. Convinced that he intended to destroy their way of life, the southern states seceded, starting a long and bitter civil war (1861-1865). When Lincoln decided to emancipate the slaves, it seemed likely that he would lose the 1864 election, but several victories on the battlefield ensured that he was given a second term with a sizeable majority. Unfortunately, Lincoln was assassinated shortly after the war ended. Read More…

Feb 212013
 
Lincoln

Rating: ★★★★☆
Balancing the conflicting needs of the radical and conservative factions of the Republican Party, President Abraham Lincoln struggles to convince enough Democrats to vote for the Thirteenth Amendment, which will abolish slavery. The war is almost over, so Lincoln must deal with Confederate negotiators, who hope to win peace and keep slavery, aware that the North is weary of war. Determined to see that the Thirteenth Amendment passes, Lincoln insists that all means short of the exchange of money be employed to persuade Democrats to vote for the amendment. The film is a stunning recreation of the real Lincoln’s world. While this is not the definitive movie about the long road to freedom for blacks in the United States, it is the definitive movie about Abraham Lincoln.
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Nov 152012
 
How has Hollywood treated Abraham Lincoln?

Since Lincoln, Steven Spielberg’s big-budget look at Abraham Lincoln, opens in theatres tomorrow, it would be a good idea to examine how the sixteenth president has been handled by Hollywood over the years. Possibly the greatest American president, Abraham Lincoln has been the subject of a number of movies, but he has received little attention during the past few decades.
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Oct 252012
 
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Despite huge potential, the actual movie was astonishingly unimaginative. Bursting with countless elaborate and ridiculously expensive action scenes where humans routinely make death-defying acrobatics, the film numbs the mind into submission. To be honest, the number of missed opportunities is simply depressing. Read More…

Oct 182012
 
Abraham Lincoln

Rating: ★½☆☆☆
Adopting an episodic approach to the life of Abraham Lincoln, the movie turns a shrewd, intelligent man into a saint-like figure, who leads the government to win a war and free the slaves, without actually showing any black people, presumably to avoid offending white audiences in the south. Made in a different era, when actors and directors had not fully adjusted to the switch from silent movies to sound, the film is honestly hard to watch. Infamous for the racist Birth of a Nation (1915), where the Klu Klux Klan save the South from an alliance of blacks and northern whites, director D.W. Griffith hoped that Abraham Lincoln would salvage his reputation and his career. It did neither. Read More…

Oct 042012
 
Young Mr. Lincoln

Rating: ★★★½☆
The movie presents Abraham Lincoln’s first major case as a young lawyer in Springfield, Illinois, where he defends two young strangers accused of murdering a popular deputy. Director John Ford’s first collaboration with Henry Fonda, they would work together again on Drums Along the Mohawk and Grapes of Wrath. A touching movie with excellent court-room scenes, Fonda’s Lincoln employs a simple manner and sharp wit to win the sympathy of the jury, and proves to be a formidable cross-examiner. Despite a slow start, Fonda captures the real Lincoln’s mix of self-depreciating humor and belief in people’s better nature. Read More…

Sep 272012
 
Abe Lincoln in Illinois

Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Unbelievably boring, the movie follows the correct sequence of events but drastically changes Abraham Lincoln’s character to fit the needs of the script, while its plodding pacing makes watching it an unpleasant experience that should never be repeated.
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Sep 202012
 
The Tall Target

Rating: ★★★★☆
Combining a great mystery with superb historical accuracy, The Tall Target (1951) uses the Baltimore Plot, a suspected conspiracy to assassinate President-elect Abraham Lincoln during a stop in Baltimore, to illustrate the tension in the United States as the nation found itself on the verge of civil war. Read More…