Long arc of justice bends toward ‘Lincoln’ on the Range

Daniel Day-Lewis portrays Abraham Lincoln.

Quite a while ago I read a story that Daniel Day-Lewis would portray Abraham Lincoln in a movie based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book “Team of Rivals.” I had an episode that would probably be categorized as “geeking out” but probably exceeded the norm. The world’s best actor. My favorite president. A fantastic book. And, though crass to say, my favorite war. I’ve been a civil war buff since I was a small child. Yes, a child. And I love movies to boot.

And sure enough, I later learned that the movie was filmed, edited and promoted for distribution on Nov. 16, 2012, just after the election. What joy! What a balm for our dark and twisted times! (And yes, I know that the story of Lincoln was far darker and twisted than our times in so many ways.)

The movie opened in big cities. The movie opened in Duluth and Brainerd. The movie did not open in the Iron Range theaters of Grand Rapids, Hibbing or Virginia. Now, I’ve been to Duluth and Brainerd, and the Twin Cities and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, for that matter. But we have a young family and I don’t leave the confines of the Mesabi all that often.

I suppose my reaction on social media might have been a bit extreme, but nevertheless I was very disappointed in this development. I quickly learned that this was not a decision by local theaters (who were running two screens of the “Twilight” film at the time) but rather a distribution strategy of some sort by the studio.

All this brought back memories from high school, when the movie “Gettysburg” was released and only opened in one theater in Duluth. I was shiftless and single then, so I drove down the first weekend of course. Now, that film was four hours long, and I understood why the Range theaters couldn’t support tying up a theater for it. “Lincoln,” however, had a national distribution, is directed by Stephen Spielberg and will likely be a strong Academy Award contender. Why was the Range forsaken?

To this I reply, this is no way to treat the reliable Union stalwart of Minnesota. Sure, our northern region was not well populated in the days of the Civil War. The men here would have been loggers and prospectors, unlikely to enlist. But the state itself delivered 10 regiments of soldiers, including the famed “First Minnesota” which held the flank at Gettysburg in a daring, deadly charge, thus saving the battle.

I could go on, and have, but that’s all over now.

This weekend “Lincoln opens in Grand Rapids and Hibbing. Naturally, the occasion coincides with the performance of my Great Northern Radio Show on Saturday, meaning I can’t attend opening night or Saturday. But I might be able to get into town to see it Sunday, and glory be if that is true.

For the rest of my fellow Range “Lincoln” fans, you can see the movie Friday night and give the theaters evidence that they can and should get such films when they are released. We are not a second-class region, but one that has 100,000 people spread throughout and should be treated with respect. Those going Saturday night can catch the radio show beforehand and have what I can only imagine as being the greatest aesthetic experience possible. (I’ll never know, of course).

Cartographer’s map of Minnesota in 1861, via Minnesota Historical Society. My home county of Itasca was bigger than St. Louis Co. in those days. Minnesota was the western frontier during the Civil War.

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