By Anonymous (not verified) on January 10, 2013

As America observes the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, actors depicting the Great Emancipator, an abolitionist Congressman and an immigrant who frees a slave and the movies they’re in have all been nominated for Oscars, along with films celebrating revolution in France and the Age of Reason in Scandinavia.

Daniel Day-Lewis portrays Honest Abe and Tommy Lee Jones plays the Radical Republican Representative Thaddeus Stevens in Best Picture nominee “Lincoln,” which is about passage of the 13th amendment outlawing slavery, snagged 12 Academy Award nominations (the most noms this year), including Steven Spielberg for Best Director and Tony Kushner for Best Adapted Screenplay.

German actor Christoph Waltz, the émigré bounty hunter disdainful of slavery who liberates (the un-nominated) Jamie Foxx, scored a Best Supporting Actor nom for “Django Unchained,” which is likewise one of the nine Best Picture nominees. Waltz previously won that accolade for Quentin Tarantino’s 2009 anti-Nazi “Inglourious Basterds”; Tarantino received an Original Screenplay nomination for the militantly anti-slavery, 1858-set “Django Unchained,” wherein Foxx’s Django kills more white supremacists than Denmark Vessey, Nat Turner, John Brown, Malcolm X and Huey Newton combined. Denzel Washington, who’d previously won a Best Actor Oscar and a Best Supporting Actor Oscar as a Black Civil War soldier fighting to end slavery in 1989’s “Glory,” has also been nominated for Best Actor for "Flight."

The musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic “Les Miserables” received eight nominations, including: Best Picture; Hugh Jackman for Best Actor as Jean Valjean, the wronged convict who does forced labor; Anne Hathaway as Fantine, the proletarian forced into prostitution, for Best Supporting Actress; and for Best Original Song (“Suddenly”). This epic about injustice depicts an 1832 student uprising in Paris and ends with France’s 99% taking to a symbolically gigantic barricade, symbolizing the revolutionary spirit.

The Best Foreign Language Film nominees are: Denmark’s “A Royal Affair” is a lushly romantic, fact-based period piece about how enlightened doctor Johann Friedrich Struensee (Mads Mikkelsen) brought the Age of Reason’s ideals to the court of King Christian VII. Canada’s “War Witch” is about a 12-year-old girl in sub-Saharan Africa who is captured by a rebel army during a civil war. The Chilean “No” stars Gael Garcia Bernal (who played Che in “The Motorcycle Diaries” and a cable TV movie) as an advertising executive who campaigns against dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet in a 1998 referendum. Norway’s “Kon-Tiki” is a fictionalization of the real life voyage of a raft from Peru to French-occupied Polynesia, with Gustaf Skarsgård as Bengt Danielsson, the Swedish anthropologist who eventually became one of the leading voices protesting French nuclear testing near Tahiti.

The youngest (nine-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis for "Beasts of the Southern Wild") and oldest (85-year-old Emmanuelle Riva for Michael Haneke’s "Amour") actresses ever to be nominated for Best Actress are competing in that category with Sally Field, who plays an increasingly unhinged Mary Todd Lincoln in “Lincoln,”, Jennifer Lawrence in "Silver Linings Playbook" and Jessica Chastain as the CIA agent who supposedly helped liquidate Osama Bin Laden in “Zero Dark Thirty.” Although nominated for Best Picture, “Zero’s” director, Kathryn Bigelow -- who’d won Best Director for 2009’s Best Picture, “The Hurt Locker” -- did not receive an encore directing nom for the movie which has been mired in controversy regarding the role torture played in killing Bin Laden and whether the CIA and/or Obama administration leaked classified information to the filmmakers.

The Louisiana-set indie "Beasts of the Southern Wild" has likewise generated heat for its depictions of child abuse and of a predominantly Black subculture pursuing a backwoods lifestyle, although Benh Zeitlin received a Best Directing nom, as well as a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination with co-writer Lucy Alibar.

The Best Documentary Feature nominees include Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi’s “5 Broken Cameras,” about a Palestinian farmer’s filming of the struggle against Israel’s separation wall in the West Bank. "The Gatekeepers" is about former chiefs of Shin Bet, Israel’s secret service. "How to Survive a Plague" deals with the anti-AIDs activist groups ACT UP and TAG. Kirby Dick’s “The Invisible War” is a powerful indictment of the rape epidemic in the U.S. military. "Searching for Sugar Man" is about the rediscovery of the Chicano musician Rodriguez, who inspired South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement. Although "Chasing Ice" -- which uses stunning time lapse cameras to document glacial melting -- was not nominated for Best Documentary Feature, the film’s "Before My Time" by J. Ralph is up for Best Original Song.

Ang Lee, who’d won Best Director for 2005’s “Brokeback Mountain,” is up for the same Academy Award this year for “Life of Pi,” which has also been nominated for Best Picture. In an upset, “Silver Linings Playbook,” a relatively small film dealing with mental illness, earned eight nominations, including in all of the acting categories (an Oscar rarity), and David O. Russell for Best Director and adapted Screenplay. In another unusual Academy move, all of the Best Supporting Actor nominees -- including Robert De Niro for “Silver Linings Playbook” -- have previously scored Oscar gold.

Abolitionist Congressman Thaddeus Stevens inspired Austin Stoneman (Ralph Lewis), a scheming, overzealous congressman, in D.W. Griffith’s 1915 racist epic “The Birth of a Nation.” But Tommy Lee Jones’ scene-stealing depiction in “Lincoln” sets the record straight about one of America’s greatest freedom fighters, who dares to love an African-American woman.

You’ve come a long way, Thaddy -- and so have the movies.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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