December 21, 2012 at 05:00 AM EST

Best scene: a president strategizes in Lincoln
At a cabinet meeting, Abraham Lincoln makes a startling confession: He has no idea if his Emancipation Proclamation is even legal. He just…did it. In fact, he’s been winging the legality of his actions through most of the Civil War. But then he floats a head-spinning case for why his push against slavery is legal — and why the courts, with no Thirteenth Amendment, may still overrule him. This spellbinder of a monologue seizes us with the intricacy of Lincoln’s mind, even as Daniel Day-Lewis’ acting shows us his secret renegade spirit. And Steven Spielberg uses a very slow zoom to mythically echo the scene in The Godfather when Michael Corleone “joins” his family. That’s great filmmaking.

Worst scene: a guidette confesses in One for the Money
As Stephanie, the screwup–turned–bounty hunter of the deadly rom-com thriller One for the Money, Katherine Heigl does working-class sexy slovenliness in an overly thought-out way. When the cop she likes subdues her by handcuffing her to a shower rod, she offers up the line: “I confess, I fantasized about being handcuffed and naked in front of [you] once. Maybe twice.” Ick!


He looks around the table. Everyone’s listening.

Two years ago I proclaimed these people emancipated — “then, thenceforward and forever free.” But let’s say the courts decide I had no authority to do it. They might well decide that. Say there’s no amendment abolishing slavery. Say it’s after the war, and I can no longer use my war powers to just ignore the courts’ decisions, like I sometimes felt I had to do. Might those people I freed be ordered back into slavery? That’s why I’d like to get the Thirteenth Amendment through the House, and on its way to ratification by the states, wrap the whole slavery thing up, forever and aye. As soon as I’m able. Now. End of this month. And I’d like you to stand behind me. Like my cabinet’s always done.

A moment’s silence, broken by a sharp laugh from Seward.

As the preacher said, I could write shorter sermons but once I start I get too lazy to stop.

It seems to me, sir, you’re describing precisely the sort of dictator the Democrats have been howling about.

Dictators aren’t susceptible to law.

Neither is he! He just said as much! Ignoring the courts? Twisting meanings? What reins him in from, from…

Well, the people do that, I suppose. I signed the Emancipation Proclamation a year and half before my second election. I felt I was within my power to do it; however I also felt that I might be wrong about that; I knew the people would tell me. I gave ’em a year and a half to think about it. And they re-elected me.
And come February the first, I intend to sign the Thirteenth Amendment.

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