Tuesday, January 31, 2012

My Favorite Films: To Kill a Mockingbird

I was planning to do another MFF post since I hadn't done one in awhile, and this one in particular is quite special for me because it's on what started my love for film and it's adapted from my favorite book: To Kill a Mockingbird. The film won't celebrate it's fiftieth anniversary until December, but I'm writing about it early in honor of the commemorative Blu-ray and DVDs being released today.

Directed by Robert Mulligan and released by Universal Pictures, To Kill a Mockingbird tells the story of Alabama lawyer Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) who defends an an African-American man that is falsely accused of raping a Caucasian woman  in the 1930s. The case is seen through the eyes of Atticus' young children (Mary Badham and Phillip Alford).

I first saw this film in middle school a few years ago, and the way I've looked at films has never been the same. There are so many things about it that I remember being fascinated by: the realness that the actors brought to their performances, the family element that is prevalent throughout the film, and the moral of the story that still applies to society today.

No one other than Gregory Peck could have played Atticus. It's almost as if the character was written specifically for him. Harper Lee even said "In that film, the man and the part met". His nine minute summation speech (which he filmed in just one take) is one of my favorite scenes in any film and it's one of many moments that show how much Atticus deserved to be ranked the greatest hero in American film.

Mary Badham and Phillip Alford give the finest performances I've ever seen from child actors. Something I've always taken note of is their facial expressions throughout the film, particularly in the scene where Scout meets Boo Radley, which I'll talk more about farther into this post. They were both wonderful alongside Gregory Peck, especially Badham, who became close to him during filming (they even called each other "Scout" and "Atticus") and remained friends with him until his death in 2003.

Brock Peters plays Tom Robinson, the man Atticus defends who is accused of rape. The scene in which he gives his testimony is part of what makes the trial so powerful. It's obvious that he's an innocent man, yet few people in Maycomb believe him. 

Then there is Collin Wilcox as Mayella Ewell, the supposed rape victim. Her only scene in the film takes place during the trial and it's just as moving as Peters'. Yes, I realize I keep going back to the trial, but it's the defining point of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Last, but certainly not least, is Robert Duvall as Arthur "Boo" Radley. He has no lines and appears in the final scene, but it always makes me tear up when Scout meets him for the first time and simply says "Hey, Boo".  It's such a heartwarming scene.

Since the book is my favorite, I care a lot about how it's adapted, and Robert Mulligan did a wonderful job. There are few changes in the film and, in my opinion, it's quite close to the novel, although I know some people don't agree.

Overall, To Kill a Mockingbird continues to inspire me, and has changed not only the way I view films, but the way I view life and society, and I hope it does the same for many of you.

Monday, January 23, 2012


I'm sorry for the lack of posts lately, but those of you that follow me on Twitter know I injured my foot last week and I just didn't have the motivation to write anything then. I have another installment of My Favorite Films coming in a few days and I will also be working on a tag/meme that I'm quite excited about. Another thing I wanted to mention is that I probably won't post as many reviews during the month on February because I'd like to catch up on seeing more films from 2011 prior to the Oscars, but I have several other post ideas coming up to take the place of my regular reviews.

Hope you all are having a great day!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Review: How to Steal a Million (1966)

IMDb Synopsis: Romantic comedy about a woman who must steal a statue from a Paris museum to help conceal her father's art forgeries, and the man who helps her.

When I reviewed That Touch of Mink, I mentioned that 60s comedies were either a hit or miss for me- some I've absolutely loved and some I'll never watch again (That Touch of Mink being part of the latter). I wanted to see How to Steal a Million because I'm trying to see more Peter O'Toole films and also because many of the people I follow on Tumblr absolutely love it. After watching it myself, I now understand all the hype.

This was the only time O'Toole ever co-starred with Audrey Hepburn, which is quite unfortunate because I thought they were wonderful together. While their performances are great, I felt that the best aspect of the film was their chemistry. I've heard some people criticize the film for its "fluff", but isn't that what makes most romantic comedies so much fun?

Overall, if you're looking for a film that's lighthearted, romantic and fun, How to Steal a Million is just that.

5/5 stars

Monday, January 9, 2012

Review: The Aviator (2004)

IMDb Synopsis: A biopic depicting the early years of legendary director and aviator Howard Hughes' career, from the late 1920s to the mid-1940s.

I'm back from my hiatus! For my first post in 2012, I'm reviewing a film that is discussed frequently among the classic Hollywood fandom: Martin Scorsese's The Aviator. (I also plan on reviewing The Artist whenever I get an opportunity to see it.)

I love watching biopics, if they're made well. Sometimes I'm hesitant to watch a film when it's portraying people I''m fond of, since there's always a chance that the actors chosen won't live up to my expectations. Fortunately, this wasn't the case here.

The two actors that surprised me the most (and the two that I was most pleased with) were Cate Blanchett and Leonardo DiCaprio. Prior to viewing, I was skeptical of Blanchett- not just anyone could play Katharine Hepburn- but I was pleased with her performance and I'm glad she won an Oscar.  For no particular reason I loved her line "Can't you just eat ice cream out of a bowl, like everyone else?" 

Then there's DiCaprio, who I've never liked (I blame Titanic). Like Hepburn, Howard Hughes isn't an easy role to play, but DiCaprio managed to master his role, especially in the scenes concerning Hughes' mental illness.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed The Aviator and I think the same goes for many other classic Hollywood fans. Also a deserving mention to the costume designer and makeup artists for making all of the actors look so authentic. 

4.5/5 stars