Tag Archives: To Kill a Mockingbird

My Favorite Scene: To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) “All Men Are Created Equal”

To Kill a Mockingbird is rare adaptation of a literary classic that matches its source material.  Harper Lee’s novel of a principled man defending an African-American accused of rape in Depression-era Mississippi was brilliantly brought to the screen over 55 years ago.  It’s unfortunate that Mockingbird is as relevant now as it was when it was released in 1962.  The sad paradox of the American experiment is that while our founding documents declare, as Atticus Finch does in his closing argument, that all men are created equal, the reality of American life has never achieved that ideal.  All men-all people-are created equal, but they are not treated as such.  Inequality and racism still exist, and no law can legislate them away.  Change, if it comes, will come from the courage of decent men and women to stand up and do the right thing at the right time.  That’s why the example of Atticus Finch still matters, and why his words still need to be heard today.  Mockingbird is, quite simply, one of the best films of all-time, one everyone should see, and one that leaves its viewers better for having seen it.  Those films are so rare.  They’re not just classics; they’re treasures.Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird

Top 10: Courtroom Scenes in Movie History

Tom Cruise, A Few Good Men

There’s something about a courtroom showdown that makes for great cinema.  It’s an opportunity for an actor to monologue, to almost stage perform, or in the case of, say, A Few Good Men, it’s a showcase for two iconic actors to go at each other full bore.  In all it’s iteration over the years, cinematic legal showdowns have given us some of the best scenes of all-time.  I’ve narrowed it down to my top ten. Continue reading Top 10: Courtroom Scenes in Movie History

R.I.P. Harper Lee (1926 – 2016) *America’s Greatest Novelist Has Passed*

Harper Lee

Haper Lee, the reclusive author of two books – both amongst the most controversial of their time – has passed away at the age of 89.  For an author who only published two books in her life, Lee’s place in literary history is assured by the quality of the two and the effect they had on American society.

Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

1961’s To Kill a Mockingbird is considered by many, myself among them, to be the greatest American novel.  It introduced the world to Atticus Finch, a principled lawyer who defended a black man against a rape charge in rural Alabama.  The novel also introduced iconic characters like Scout Finch and Boo Radley and was adapted into an Academy Award winning film with Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch.  Most schools mandate Mockingbird as required reading and, quite frankly, you didn’t go to a good one if they didn’t (mine didn’t, for the record).

Harper Lee, Go Set a Watchman

Lee became almost as famous for her refusal to discuss Mockingbird and her reclusiveness as she did for the groundbreaking novel itself.  She never published another book, gave interviews on the one she had and had been living in an assisted care facility the last few years.  All this is why it was a literary bombshell when, after 44 years, she published a sequel to Mockingbird entitled Go Set a Watchman.

Gregory Peck, Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Watchman isn’t so much a sequel as it is the first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird.  The publishers wanted something where Scout Finch was a young girl, so Lee returned with Mockingbird.  The hand-written draft of Watchman was thought lost for decades until its discover and publication last summer.  While Watchman is not the masterpiece Mockingbird is (no other American novel is, after all), it was still the best book of 2015 and challenged readers to accept a more nuanced, realistic and complicated Atticus Finch than the hero-carved-in-marble that had been established over the years.

For my part, I don’t think Watchman tarnishes the character of Atticus Finch.  He went to a KKK meeting?  I think the important thing is he went ONCE and that to see who was showing up to these things.  A product of an isolated southern town, his concerns about racial integration were not spoken from a standpoint of bigotry, but terror over the South seceding  from the nation once more.  Given that I’m never sure when South Carolina is just going to pop off and do that to this day, it was a perfectly reasonable fear for a man of his birth to hold.  What’s not mentioned in many Watchman reviews is how Scout grows into a young lady for her times, a Finch to face the complexities of the coming civil rights era, as Atticus was the Finch the world needed in his generation.  Lee’s prose was always a pleasure to spend time with, and I’m glad Watchman was published.  Her impact on the literary scene and the social dynamics of racial politics are just as relevant today as when Mockingbird was first published.  Her legacy as one of the most powerful novelists America has ever produced is etched in stone.

Full obituary below by Ed Pilkington of Guardian News. Continue reading R.I.P. Harper Lee (1926 – 2016) *America’s Greatest Novelist Has Passed*

Harper Lee’s Sequel to TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is OUT!!!

go-set-a-watchman-harper-lee

Just a reminder to all book lovers out there that Harper Lee’s long-lost manuscript, Go Set a Watchman,  is now out on bookshelves and in e-book stores all over the world.  The story takes place after To Kill a Mockingbird and features Scout and Atticus Finch, but was actually written before Lee’s masterpiece.  The publishers wanted something set when Scout was younger and that’s when Lee wrote Mockingbird.  She had hand-written the manuscript for Watchman and had thought it lost for decades until it was found last year.

As far as book events go, this is a Star Wars movie, so read it yourself and don’t let positive or negative reviews sway you.  This is a publishing event the likes of which there really is no comparison for.  Mockingbird is considered by most literary critics (with a brain) to be one of the greatest novels of all-time.  It’s almost like a lost Shakespeare play turned up (and don’t think that hasn’t “happened” over the centuries), but this is the real deal.  Lee’s prose isn’t something you rip through.  Half of the enjoyment of her writing is in her phrasing, so even if you read a paragraph a day, there’s a new Harper Lee book out!

The event is not without controversy, through, primarily because the character of Atticus Finch is not the moral paragon of racial equality the book originally indicates and Gregory Peck’s classic performance in the movie hammered into icon status.  This story, which takes place in the 1950’s, has Finch revealed to be pro-segregationist and deeply afraid of what giving full civil rights to African-Americans (which are called “Negroes” in the novel, which is setting off a PC firestorm though it is consistent with Mockingbird and the nomenclature of the fifties ); he’s even have revealed to have attended a Klan meeting once.  Having only just downloaded the book, my take is this: Atticus took Tom’s case in To Kill a Mockingbird not because he was really super happy to do it, but because he believed that everyone, no matter the color of their skin, deserved a fair trial.  Living in the south at the time he did, I don’t think it’s scandalous he attended a Klan meeting.  I think it’s telling he did so ONCE.  And Finch’s fears that a new Civil War might arise from giving African-Americans full civil rights and his fleshed out views don’t make him a racist so much as they make him a man from the South who grew up in the early half of the twentieth century.  It adds more nuance to the character, in my opinion, that despite being that product of his times-as a lawyer who believed absolutely in the law-he still knew wrong when he saw it in Mockingbird.  It comes down to whether you want a moral paragon without blemish or a more realistic product of those times and that place able to rise above the climate to do right when put to the test and still spent the rest of his life still struggling with his ingrained upbringing.

Either way, I don’t believe it diminishes Atticus, and you have to remember that Lee wrote both books and this is how she saw the character.  That, Harper Lee, now 89 and living in an assisted living facility, declined all her life to discuss the book, may have prevented us from being more prepared for Atticus as a more torn man on the subject of race.  At this time, though, when we are all STILL struggling with a gaping racial wound in this country, it seems more comforting that Atticus Finch struggled and had his downfalls as well.  It makes him more the Atticus we need right now for a more complex. racially divided America.  Maybe that’s why the book had to wait to now to be published.

PS – Don’t think Hollywood is already scrambling for rights and actors a chance to play Atticus Finch, despite the controversy.

“The Man Who Spent His Life In A Drive-In Theater” (A Reasonable Critic Production)

drive-in-movie-theater

A film enthusiast decided to live his life in a drive-in theater. To be outside, and watch movies—it fixed the principal drawback of the pastime

The location of his lifelong experiment was all-important, a place to showcase the changing of the seasons. Snow on three non-consecutive days in the winter. A church in earshot, so he could hear the Easter chimes every spring. The location would double as a dog park in the summer, because dogs were better creatures than men, and he liked to be around them. And no evergreen nonsense in the autumn—he wanted to see those leaves as they changed color.

 

First he watched To Kill A Mockingbird, and that set the tone for the life to come. He knew he would be revisiting this movie often… it was a catchall that handled every doubt about the proper way to behave in any situation, and he tended to blindly grope in that department.
He started to grow. For the longest time he thought his assertions of independence were a mark of maturity, but in time he recognized the truth: he might have been the captain of his own ship, but his existence was not his own. He had to consider the other people in his life before he acted. Therefore he watched Pinocchio, because that little wooden boy put Geppetto through the ringer.

 

At the same time the movie enthusiast knew he was not his father, grandfather, uncle, or anyone else for that matter. His genes did not determine who he was. He was not bound by the sins of those who had come before. The Star Wars Saga

 

Negative emotions kept fighting to get out of him. When he felt jealous, he watched Amadeus, a reminder that jealousy could make a person do terrible things. And sometimes jealousy could color the way you behaved towards people who were close to you, and that was ugliest of all.

 

The film enthusiast knew it was inevitable that certain people were going to want to hurt him, stifle him, break his heart, or kill him, or all of the above. But he watched Miller’s Crossing, and that demonstrated that when he went down, he should go with dignity and grace. He watched The Searchers, too, when he was wronged, and it made him think twice before taking revenge.

The sin and the sinner? Miles apart. Even hating someone evil was wrong. Return of the Jedi.

 

Pride was dangerous. The film enthusiast watched Touch of Evil to remind him it was the only sin. Whenever he felt sanctified, whenever he felt superior and thought that heaven would be his final destination for certain, he watched Brazil. Most evil was committed casually and callously, and he was reminded not to be so sure of his own high worth just because he had never actually killed a man. By that criteria, most were saints.

 

But pride was not to be mistaken for confidence. The movie enthusiast knew he would get his chance in life, just like everyone else would, and that was certain. The system was not insurmountable, all one needed was some ingenuity. Return of the Jedi.

 

He took a wife. A woman in an unrevealing white garment was just as sexy as the same women wearing a gold bikini. Strong and intelligent was attractive. Star Wars.

 

When he argued with his wife about money, it was time for Citizen Kane. Money was important, but he tried to not let it interfere with his interpersonal relationships, which were the most important things in the universe

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He and his wife had kids, and Godfather taught that a person could actually be evil and still be a good father, so there was hope. He would look to Vito for wisdom as he raised his brood.

 

As the film enthusiast grew older, he watched movies less and read history more, which was ironic because he lived in a drive-in movie theater. Whenever it was time for some culture, he watched Fantasia to put him in the correct frame of mind. Fantasia took the snobs of the world down a peg. Good for Fantasia. Bring on the pachyderm ballerinas, that was the motto of the film enthusiast!

 

He kept growing older. Apocalypse Now loomed large, and he revisited it often. The dark night of the soul was seductive, but while it was good to be philosophical, he decided to never take himself too seriously. And yet there was nothing inherently wrong with being crazy. Everyone was. As long as you were nice crazy, that would set you apart. Hence, Harvey.

 

He grew older still, and started to really feel death’s shadow. No Country For Old Men was useful. Given the choice between dying or renouncing everything he believed in, he knew he would happily bite the dust, and that was comforting, because it put death in perspective.

 

He drank more wine as he got older. Godfather.

 

Then it was time to die, and much too soon, but his life could have been worse. He watched Beetlejuice to remind himself that death was just a part of life. The last movie he would ever see was Fellowship of the Ring, just for that moment when Aragorn, facing probable death at the hands of an evil horde, lifted his sword and smiled the smallest of smiles, because there were worse ways to go.

 

And the film enthusiast died.

 

Actually… no, he did not.

 

But he had seen every movie in the world.

 

He thought back on his life. Deep down he had always known those movies were telling him things he had already understood, natural things that every human being was aware of, probably since birth. And no other form of mass media did a better job of reinforcing those truths. Films were twenty times larger than life, and their makers had only two, succinct hours to work with.

Had the film enthusiast just been killing time at the movies? Probably. But then, the history of the human species has been one long attempt to flee the ticking clock.

 

The elderly film enthusiast was glad he no longer lived in a drive-in movie theater. The weekend with its new summer movie would arrive soon enough.

 

He decided to go for a walk somewhere less civilized.

 

Continue reading “The Man Who Spent His Life In A Drive-In Theater” (A Reasonable Critic Production)