The world premiere of Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" Monday night at the New York Film Festival has left many Oscar handicappers humming, "Hail to the Chief."
Though some griped the film is overly talky, the response to the Great Emancipator biopic has been just shy of rapturous. Many of those who have seen the epic were predicting Monday that it will snag Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor for Daniel Day-Lewis' portrayal of the title character.
Also seeing their Oscar chances improve are Tommy Lee Jones, who plays abolitionist congressman Thaddeus Stevens, and Sally Field as Lincoln's mentally unbalanced wife, Mary.
The film is not a birth-to-death biography, but focuses on the final months of the Civil War and Lincoln's attempts to pass the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery.
Also read: 'Lincoln' Trailer Shows Civil War Clashes
It's a dramatic change of fortunes. The initial trailer for "Lincoln," with its reliance on a plodding voiceover, struck many bloggers as preachy and dull — although those prejudices were softened by a second ad that premiered during the presidential debates and ramped up the dramatic tension substantially.
But based on the initial reaction to the film, the Oscar race may have a new favorite.
Scott Feinberg, The Hollywood Reporter's resident Oscar tea-leaf reader, predicted a treasure trove of gold baubles in "Lincoln's" future.
"Lincoln appears to be Oscar-bait incarnate," he wrote. "As he did with his most ambitious historical films — Schindler's List (1993) and Saving Private Ryan (1998) — Spielberg, who has made a career of blurring the line between art and commerce, has risen to the occasion. Although the film runs two hours and twenty-five minutes, every scene felt tight and necessary."
Coming Soon's Edward Douglas believed that the film delivered and should rack up an impressive list of nods.
"Either way, Lincoln should be good for 12 Oscar nominations and 4 easy wins," he tweeted.
The Los Angeles Times' Steven Zeitchik indicated the picture was "wonky," but also was a genuine contender.
"After the screening, 'Lincoln's' awards picture clarified somewhat. Its seriousness of purpose and modern echoes — it is sure to draw comparisons to logjams in the modern Congress — bolster its awards pedigree," he wrote. "But the movie also plays on the talky side; to a great extent it is devoid of the histrionics and schmaltz that populate some awards contenders. Judging by both the events on-screen and in the room, Day-Lewis, a longtime Oscar favorite, solidified his status as a lead actor contender."
Also read: Steven Spielberg's 'Lincoln': The Poster
Also citing the acting as a particular strength was Daniel Walber of Film School Rejects.
"These really are some of the best performances of the year, including Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln," he wrote. However, Walber said the film was guilt of hagiography and fell short of Spielberg's high-standards.
"The question, therefore, is not whether Lincoln effectively (yes) or artfully (probably not) achieves its goals," he wrote. "Rather, we must ask ourselves whether a film like this falls flat because of something about the character of our culture. Is there a place for this kind of historical sainthood? Or is the more collective heroism, that of Spielberg’s earlier films, more our speed? Can we have gods if we don’t even have kings?"
On the Oscar-tracker Awards Circuit, Clayton Davis said that the film represented one of the "War Horse" director's better efforts.
"Spielberg delivers one of his best efforts in years showcasing Tommy Lee Jones and James Spader as standouts," he wrote.
Perhaps the sharpest critique came courtesy of ThePlaylist's Rodrigo Perez, who said the film was neither well-paced nor engaging. Too much spinach and not enough steak seemed to be his major complaint.
"While admirable in its unwavering and committed portrait of an inherently mostly undramatic subject (the approbation of a constitutional amendment, albeit perhaps the most important one in history), ultimately, 'Lincoln' reads, at least right now, like a prosaic, semi-compelling history lesson; the type teachers showed to you in school when they saw your eyes glazing over prerequisite text (one you need to know, but not one you're likely going to seek out on your own)," he wrote.