on June 3, 2004
Not only do you get one of the great films of all time, you also get the documentary about the film and its impact on the general public. The film is about a man's priciples to defend a black man who is accused of rape during the Great Depression. The film is also about growing up and facing lifes realities. This work is truly beautiful and has held up every bit as good as when it was first released. The film also follows the book very closely and does a wonderfull job of adapting the masterpiece.
The DVD has running commentary from the film makers as well as an exclusive documentary about the film. This project could not been done better. It is part of my personal film library and is truly a great addition.
This is another rendition of an American classic. I had seen this movie and read the book in the past, so was there really anything new this time? We watched it as a school project for my daughter. She watched it as a teenager, my wife watched it as a teacher and I watched it as a lawyer and, for tonight, at least, a part-time tutor. We each saw something in it that we had not appreciated before. For me, the courtroom scenes were interesting, but I identified more with Atticus, the father, than Atticus the lawyer. No matter how often you have watched this in the past, you will find something new to admire when you watch it again. Never stop!
on July 11, 2004
'To Kill A Mockingbird' is of course the movie adaptation of Harper Lee's movie with the same title. Gregory Peck is a lawyer in rural Mississippi who is asked to defend a black man accused of raping a white woman.
The movie starts however with a seemingly unrelated event, the lives of Atticus Finch's two children. His daughter is a tomboy and his son is trying to keep her from getting into more trouble. The stumble upon some strange items and look at the house of a strange man called Boo Radley.
Then the movie goes into the court case. It is of course very obvious that the black man is innocent, but this is 1930's South with an all white jury...
Then the two parts of the movie come back together again...
The acting in this movie (in black and white) is superb. I recall that Gregory Pecks perfomance was voted the best of the century. Even the little girl is superb, she even got a nominatation for an oscar. Boo Radley is played by Robert Duvall, though he says next to nothing and is only in the movie for a few minutes. He of course 10 years later would play Tom Hayden in The Godfather. For Star Trek fans: Tom Robinson, the black man accused, is Sisko's Father of DS9
on July 9, 2004
We shall say "To kill a mockingbird" is a classic of the century that unfolds reality into film with profound simplicity. Its character development along with the approach of realism supersedes many contemporary works of literature and film. The historic flavor of the film creates an impression of a southern community of America during the great depression. Apparently the quintessential theme of the movie is the social stigma and prejudice. We see conflicts between the blacks and whites in the same community where justice has upheld my one of the central character called atticus.
Tom Robinson, a black guy living in the same town called Mayconb was one of the central characters in the movie has been accused of raping a white woman. However, eventually he was convicted as guilty of charge and subjected to unfair justice system by the ignorant majority that have taken part in the jury. But there were other themes that also have significance to its crafts also. Its amazing reality of children's life that is so universal. It created a reality of vividing contention that helps the viewers to understand how the children see and think about the world. It also calls into attention of the activities that children by their vary nature involve in a family. For instance, Scout and Jem who are the central characters have enormous interests in scary yet joyful venture to Boo Radly's house even after being forbidden by their father. It was also important to observe how the children have collected gifts from the tree given by a isolated guy who they never been acquainted with.
The phenomenal curiosity of children is almost inescapable from the viewer's notice in the movie. They were inquisitive in every detail of what has been happening around them. That gives us the idea of their emotional reopens to the world and family relationships. As you will see, if you watch the movie, their father atticuls who has been a significant moral authority to them. He has great influence on how they develop the ideas of people and differences of good and evil that remain in their fantasy world.
The story of the movie has a unique way to tell you about a community and what is going on to its families. It takes us to the journey to reflect on our own childhood fantasy world and the adventures that still remains in our mind a thrill.
on May 13, 2004
Okay, it might feel slow and it can seem dull, but this movie has a heart and soul like almost no other. Life in a pre-Civil Rights Era, deep South town is not exactly an amusement park experience. Children live in the moment, and that's where perspective resides in this story. It's only later that meaning, lessons, and heartache are really processed (narrator provides the nostalgic adult view). Scout is self absorbed like children are, her older brother Jem longs for manhood, and every adult in town seems to realize their father, Atticus Finch, is a uniquely dedicated man. Story is immensely simple, echoing languid mood of a small town, pre-television, pre-suburban isolation, and very much in the midst of ignorance and prejudice. Racism is the issue that stands out in the end, but story is more an exploration of a time and place that most of us will never--and might never hope to--know. What action exists is observed by a mysterious neighbor and a stoic dad (who just might be the good guys). Don't be fooled by the pace; there are joys and hopes to be found in this small Alabama town.
Collector's Edition DVD includes Fearful Symmetry, a wonderfully illuminating documentary about the making of the film and the basis for its story and characters. It starts slow but the messages (some rathy wordy) are poignant. Narration includes many quotes from the book, details that are left out of the movie in effort to translate to screen. For anyone unsure of the value of movie and its story, this feature-length documentary is a wonderful introduction or alternative.
on June 14, 2010
Not that anyone could touch the Harper Lee novel, but the movie version--which was pretty much rushed to the big screen within about a year of the release of the book--stands up pretty well.
The choice of black and white format is a good one, obviously, even if this may seem a bit heavy-handed in its symbolism for some.
Gregory Peck is so perfect as Atticus that you will have a hard time trying to remember what else he could possibly look like. Jem and Scout work well too. Whatever happened to the child actors who played them? Who knows? Perhaps it's just as well; they can be Jem and Scout forever. Too bad about the casting for Dill, but you can't have everything, obviously.
Speaking of which, the clipping of the novel by Horton Foote is painful but necessary, considering it would otherwise be longer than The Return of the King, but I do wish that there were more scenes to savor. That's what the novel is for, I suppose.
Things not to love: the music for the scene in which Bob Ewell attacks Jem and Scout. Totally wrong. You might expect Thumper to emerge from the trees (trees? what trees?) but certainly not white trash Mister Ewell. Also, the melodramatics with the hands clutching and grasping at nothing in the same scene are really way over the top. If you are trying to go for drama, don't elicit a laugh. That's just deadly.
Another laugh arrives at what should be the most touching moment of the movie: Scout's recognition of Boo Radley. Unfortunately, it's blocked so Robert Duvall's Boo is literally hidden behind the bedroom door and he emerges like Freddy Krueger. Not very touching at all. Sorry.
But really, all the way around, weighing the flaws against the moments of brilliance, the movie comes out a winner and should be viewed as a separate text from the novel, against which no movie could ever be successfully compared.
on March 13, 2004
Making justice in a film to the best novel in the twentieth century (determined by vote of librarians across the US) is not an easy task. I would say that although there are a few elements of the novel that get lost in the movie, it is still a great production regardless. That is probably why it was nominated for eight Academy Awards in 1962, including best picture, best actor (Gregory Peck), best actress in a supporting role (Mary Badham), best director (Robert Mulligan), best screenplay, best black and white cinematography, best black and white art direction and best original musical score. The movie won two of the eight awards, best art direction and best actor.
The story revolves around the experiences of Scout, a little girl who is telling a story from her childhood. Her father is assigned as the defense attorney of a black young man falsely accused of raping a white girl. The movie does a good job in disseminating the book's main message: racism is destructive and has no basis to exist in our society. If you consider that the book was written in 1960, this is not a minor point, but on the contrary it is a very powerful statement. The movie also does a great job in portraying the qualities found in the character of Atticus Finch, a father who is raising two kids by himself, after losing his wife, and is doing a splendid job at it. Not only he differs from the norm at the time because he never hits his children, but he also tries not to influence their ideas of what is wrong and right. Instead of promoting hatred in Scout and Jem against the people that are racist and unfair, he tries to teach them tolerance to understand that these individuals are acting mostly out of fear. Throughout the story one can observe how the two siblings go from considering Atticus an old man who could not play football with other dads to seeing him as a hero with outstanding values.
It is hard to decide how to rate a movie that is based on such an incredibly awesome book. First, because it is harder to convey the "child's view" in the movie while this is very clear in the book. Second because there are passages of the book that were left out, and although they are not crucial to the story they give it a certain charm (for example the visit of Jem and Scout to Calpurnia's church). Therefore, if I use the book as a benchmark, the movie should be rated four stars. However, I think it makes more sense to compare the movie with other movies, and in this comparison it is extremely clear that "To Kill a Mockingbird" is as good as it gets, consequently deserving the five stars rating.
on January 21, 2004
Every so often, as surely as night follows day, a film comes along that manages to transport us from our everyday lives and into a time and place that is recalled through memories of better and in a reversal of fortunes, turbulent times. To Kill A Mockingbird is such a film.
In a Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Harper Lee, the small town of Macomb, Alabama is portrayed in the summer of 1932, during the deepest depression that the United States had ever experienced. Over the course of the next year and a half, events will burrow inside this sleepy southern town and the lives of its residents will be transported by actions, ideas, perceptions and convictions that will influence one and all in ways that will ring true for years to come.
Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) is a lawyer and widower, raising two small children, Scout (Mary Badham) and her older brother Jem (Phillip Alford). Into their lives enters a visitor, Dill (John Megna) from Meridian, Mississippi, come to spend two weeks with his Aunt Stephanie (Alice Ghostley). Macomb is a town with nothing to do and if there were, no money to spend on it. The stage is being set for a life shattering episode that will not go quietly into that good night.
Childhood holds its fascinations, its myths, its coming of age and through the eyes of the three children, the audience is allowed to peer into the adult world around them as perceived through the minds and souls of innocence that will be all too easily shattered as time whistles down the track. One of the stories woven so masterfully within its covers is the local urban legend of bogeyman, Boo Radley (Robert Duval), who lives on the same block as the Finch family. In a narration, rather like playing telephone, his persona takes on all the familiar attributes of a raving lunatic, a monster out for blood. His aura becomes the end all for Scout, Jem and Dill as they seek to master the mystery surrounding Boo and the ability to live to tell the tale!
Into this world of innocence, a shattering crescendo of complexity wraps itself in the lives of the townspeople in the form of an alleged rape of a white woman, Mayella Violet Ewell (Collin Wilcox) by a black man, Tom Robinson (Brock Peters). Atticus Finch is called upon to act as counsel for Robinson and in doing so, the stage has been set for a dance with race relations and the exemplary lengths that are gone to in order to allow justice to prevail in the face of malcontent.
The performances throughout To Kill A Mockingbird are stunning. Gregory Peck, as the gentleman lawyer, mired in small town attitudes and thoughts that were so representational in the southern gothic sphere, has collected and held a restrained order to his character, and in the process, he has allowed us all to be on the receiving end of hate as conveyed through the actions of small minds and small people. The children, especially Mary Badham, are siblings of more than a movie making venture. They show the absence of preconceived notions, and the guile of beings before the actions of adults can render their world as lost and gone with the shedding of time.
James Anderson as Tom Ewell is the complete representation of oily slime as Mayella's father. He embodies all of the hate and prejudice that continues to be harboured to this day in the souls of those who would attempt to wield their vision of the way things should and ought to be. He has a foul baseness that lingers like a bad rash as he attempts to invoke his arguments through drunken bullying and hatred. Collin Willcox as Mayella is excruciatingly convincing as the bored, housebound white woman who tries to tempt Tom Robinson into kissing her and through her actions sets in motion a rollercoaster of tragedy to come. Her speech to the assembled courtroom is superb and as the audience, you feel her anger and resentment at having to be put in such a position, having to lie to save face and what little position she has in the town. Brock Peters as the aforementioned Robinson is equally sure in the allotted time he spends on the screen. There is a noble demeanor to his bearing, and yet we are aware of the restrictions that blacks were held to in their relationships with whites at the time.
Robert Mulligan, the director and Horton Foote, the screenwriter, have presented us with a look into our pasts and faithfully etched a portrait of quiet and artfully rendered proportions that draw us into the canvas and the lives of those assembled. We have walked a mile in their shoes and been under their skin. Foote worried about being able to do justice to Lee's novel, but he worried for nothing. He has completely evoked an era that now rests behind clouds of dust, blown by the winds of time into oblivion.
The cinematography by Russell Harlan and the set decoration by Oliver Emert carry us back through the courtesy of black and white to a depiction seen only in old photographs and clouding memories of those who lived in those precarious times. Black and white films seem to have had a curse thrust upon them by the younger generation today, as boring and tedious, but through the courtesies extended by Harlan and Emert, we are richer for those perceptions that would harken back throughout the pages of history.
Elmer Bernstein's film score carries us like an old friend and helps us to make our acquaintances with the characters held within this framework. He has achieved much with a simple theme and persuades us that said simplicity is fulfilled with less rather than more.
To Kill A Mockingbird is beautifully haunting and having been made in the 60's, at the height of the Civil Rights movement, it garners our attention to stop and take the time to truly 'see' what the human race is all about and what it can and should be, if taken over the bumps in the road and onto a path of sincere honesty and purpose. No special effects were needed, no huge Hollywood budget, no splashing of a story that had a happy ending for everyone involved. It is an open book into the realities of a world tilting temporarily off its axis, and being brought back on track through the goodness that sits in the hearts, minds and souls of mankind, if given half a chance.
See it and be amazed at what real moviemaking is all about.
on January 21, 2004
Midway through this outstanding movie, Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) defends a black man accused of raping a white woman in an Alabama town during the Depression. As the tensions of the trial reach fever pitch, Atticus is summoned home to protect his family from a rabid dog. The mad dog, an obvious symbol of the madness of prejudice (and the only symbolism in the movie) is killed by just one shot from Finch. This is one of the simple themes of the movie: all you have to do is confront and face bigotry, in order to eliminate it.
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is undoubtedly one of the most important and most engaging movies of post-WWII America, and a cinematic emblem for the civil rights movement of that era. From the incredible opening credits, complete with Elmer Bernstein's heartbreakingly beautiful score, you know you're in for a great movie. Seen through the eyes of Atticus' tomboy daughter, Scout, the film runs the familiar gamut of a child's world: the scary neighbor; the new kid in town; the first day of school; and the need to be close to a parent. But the aptly named Scout also sees something that most other children do not: the dark world of grown-ups' hate.
But Scout is not just an observer; she's a fighter who's not afraid to duke it out with the boys in her school. In this way, she is a sort of foil for her father whose fighting spirit is internal, calm, but just as effective. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is full of outstanding performances. Gregory Peck is appropriately understated, although passionate when the moment calls for it. A very young Robert Duvall, in the bit but pivotal role of Boo Radley, conveys the pathos of a manchild locked away from the rest of the world. I defy anyone to watch Brock Peters as the wrongly accused Tom Robinson and not be moved. However, the movie is carried by the amazing and convincing performances of the child actors, Mary Badham as Scout and Philip Alford as her brother Jem. They are so genuine, so not like child "stars" (because they weren't), that, at times, you forget you are watching little actors.
This is a film to be watched on several levels but none more important than its stirring interpretation of childhood rapidly coming to terms with the adult world around them. It sounds trite and banal, but Horton Foote's screeplay, Robert Mulligan's textured direction, and the performances, sidestep any temptation to take the easy path of cliche. This is a demanding movie that requires a lot from us as film watchers and as human beings.
on November 17, 2003
It's easy to think "To Kill a Mockingbird" is older than it is. Released in 1962, the same year James Bond was immortalised in "Dr. No," director Robert Mulligan chose to film in black & white, despite Hollywood's rush to adopt the new Kodachrome II color film. Since the story is set in the 1930's, the classic look of the film adds weight to its historic reality.
Adapted from Harper Lee's only book, which won a Pulitzer prize, the script itself won an academy award. Added to this is a stellar cast who manage to hold their own against the amazing performance given by, Gregory Peck, an actor at the peak of his abilities. For those who also enjoy Robert Duvall's huge body of work, it may be interesting to note this film as his first, in a non-speaking but pivotal role as Boo Radley.
It would be easy to dismiss an old film that deals with the race issue in Alabama. Some might think this topic has been done to death and, to an extent, they are right. But To Kill a Mockingbird is not solely about racism. It deals with honesty, justice, fear, childhood, quick judgements and parenthood. Even the race card is dealt with fairly, without blowing things out to sensational proportions. It shows that minor, selfish decisions, which rely on the racism in others, can breed larger evils.
An adult Jean Louise 'Scout' Finch narrates much of the story but it is her father, Atticus, around which the narrative hinges. Played with subtle dignity by Peck, Atticus is a small town Lawyer who agrees to defend Tom Robinson against charges of Rape. He agrees, in the full knowledge that many of his neighbours will hate him for defending a black man and still others will expect him to put up only a token effort. Instead, Atticus does what we know he will... his best.
There is an interesting contrast between what we see of Atticus and how his two children describe him. Apparently he's too old to do anything, like play ball, and they are a bit embarrassed by his quite ways. The trial and its associated moral battles put their father squarely in the spotlight and not in a good way. He and they are attacked and ridiculed but in the end Scout and Jem see a different picture of their old Pop. A man who is strong enough to stand against hatred, and brave enough to highlight the weaknesses of flawed white girl against the strengths of an honest black man.
The name of the film is taken from one of Attcus's rules relating to using a rifle. Jem relates his father's instruction "to remember it was a sin to kill a mockingbird...Well, I reckon because mockingbirds don't do anything but make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat people's gardens, don't nest in the corncribs, they don't do one thing but just sing their hearts out for us."
There are several Mockingbirds in this movie; the misunderstood Boo Radley, Tom Robins and even Atticus. For me though, the film is defined when Reverend Sykes asks Scout to stand up in the court gallery, after a failed defence, saying "Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father's passin."