It’s Abraham Lincoln: peacemaker and slavery abolisher in Steven Spielberg’s new biopic Lincoln, the frontrunner in this year’s Oscar’s race with 12 nominations. Sporting stovepipe hat and trademark whiskers, Daniel Day-Lewis looks like he’s stepped straight off a five-dollar bill as the 16th US president. The film zeros in on the last months of his life as he sought to end the Civil War and get the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery through Congress. A powerhouse supporting cast features Sally Field, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tommy Lee Jones.
After gangsters, kung-fu masters and soldiers, Quentin Tarantino does cowboys in Django Unchained, a movie that comes at slavery from a very different direction. Taking inspiration from the spaghetti westerns of his beloved Sergio Leone and Sergio Corbucci — from whose 1966 Django it steals the title — the movie stars Jamie Foxx as a slave freed and trained by German gunslinger Christoph Waltz. After carrying out a number of jobs together, the pair turn their attention to rescuing Foxx’s wife from plantation owner Leonardo DiCaprio.
Not sharing in the Oscar buzz, though nevertheless high on many a critic’s best of 2012 list, Tabu is the third film from Portugal’s Miguel Gomes. Shot in beautiful black and white, it’s a film of two halves: the first set in present-day Lisbon as a woman shows concern for her elderly neighbor; the second, a quasi-silent movie pastiche, as the old lady’s ex-lover narrates the illicit romance they shared in 1960s Africa. The result blends cinema, memory, colonialism — and crocodiles — to rich effect.