To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Movies picks.  It’s also one of their 10 Best Courtroom Dramas (the actual best).

I re-read the book earlier this year for book club (one of my fellow members hadn’t read it) and it was just as wonderful as I remembered.  I saw this movie well before I read the book (I was in advanced English the year the AP kids read it and AP the year the advanced English class read it in high school) but when I finally did read it, we fell in love.

The book (and movie) combine two of my favorite things: coming-of-age narrative and courtroom dramas.  It’s set in the south and deals with all these hard issues but through the eyes of a child (so in that way, similar to Emma Donoghue’s Room—but even better).

And the movie has the added bonus of starring Gregory Peck who is, I believe, one of the best actors ever.

If you haven’t read or seen this, do so.  NOW.  You will be so happy you did.

Sometimes the adaptation outdoes the original material…

Stevil

One common conversation among bibliophiles is how film adaptations so often fail to live up to the books from which they are derived. Words like “depth”, “nuance”, and “characterization” are usually included in any comparison, with the film nearly always on the short end. So, it was with some interest that our Flick Buddies topic for August was literary adaptations.

There were two films that I thought demanded a special shout-out because I think they are better than the book from which they were derived.

The first one is Jaws, which is such a tremendous and landmark film that I imagine most people don’t even know that it was originally a novel. It is probably my favorite film, period. I’ve posted about it a couple of times, here and here. My guess is that I’ve probably watched it from start to finish a dozen times, so it’s…

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Jaws

I just finished watching Jaws for probably the sixth or seventh time.  It’s one of my favorite movies and I think it’s held up very well.

I’m not sure why I love it so much.  Part of it is that it’s very scary but most of it is that it’s just a good movie.  (And I do appreciate very good movies.)  Quint’s speech about the shark that killed his crew gives me chills, no matter how many times I’ve heard it before. 

It was just released on Blu-Ray for the first time and if you have a Blu-Ray player, you definitely need to upgrade for this movie.  It felt like a totally new movie—it was very pretty.

And, as Entertainment Weekly noted, the blood is very red.

I’m sorry that Bekki didn’t love it, but that’s okay.  I love it enough for both of us, and I’m pretty sure Jenny loves it enough for an entire city of people. 😉

Bekki Jaw’s about Jaws

And yet another cringe-worthy admission:  Up until this very moment, I have never seen Jaws. 

*ducks and covers*

This is quite the iconic movie, and it had it’s moments.  It was great to see the origin of some of pop cultures great moments “That’s some bad hat Harry” and “We’re gonna need a bigger boat”  to name a few. 
Yet, for all that I’d never seen the movie before, I knew what was about to happen, and who was about to get chomped. 

This movie was So. Very. Predictable.

That being said.  I thought Spielberg did a great job building suspense, and keeping you on the edge of your seat.

And to close, a word of warning:  When a huge, angry shark-puppet is eating your boat, that is not the time to destroy your radio in a fit of pique. I’m just saying. That might contribute to your ultimate demise. 

Hitchcock Goes Black and White (Strangers on a Train with Bekki)

How much would this stink, someone very crazy murders the very woman keeping you from happiness in your new wife. Then you find yourself embroiled in a crime you did not commit, yet cannot prove it.  Shudder.  My worst nightmare. Being completely innocent, but unable to prove it, and having it seem like I’m so very guilty.

Despite the fun of seeing Hitchcock’s cameo in this film (that is a very big string bass, sir) I spent most of this movie biting my nails.

It was a good film, and Robert Walker, as Bruno Anthony, was deliciously unhinged.  He really did a number on Guy Haines, almost unraveling his life to the point of complete destruction. Kudos to his prospective family, the Morton’s, for sticking by him, and not washing their hands of the supposed murder. Babs was my particular favorite.  She was a ray of sunshine and quite the loyal girl in this film.  Such a delight.

This was my second black and white Hitchcock film.  I liked the way you can see his traditional ways of growing suspense.  He used darkness to his advantage multiple times in this film.  This fit black and white film much better than Rebecca did. Making the tennis game, usually  not a very suspenseful sport, the means by which we measured success of the plans was very good.  Hitchcock has intriguing ways of building suspense and keep you on the edge.

I liked this film a lot. It’s probably my second favorite of the ones we watched this time around.

Contact

Contact was Steve’s pick for Literary Adaptations month.  I had seen it before, but not since I saw it in the theater (which was, what, almost 20 years ago?)

I remembered liking it, but I didn’t remember much about it.  Imagine my supreme delight to remember that it was a dead dad movie.  (Thanks for that, Steve.)

There are so many facets to this movie—science vs. religion, the similar argument of logic vs. faith, the question of whether or not we’re alone in the universe—but really? Dead dad movie.

In terms of cinematography, Contact has completely gorgeous scenes.  (It reminded me of Tree of Life, actually, in that some of the scenes are just absolutely breathtakingly beautiful.)  And the acting is top-notch.  (Obviously, since Jodie Foster carries the movie.  But Jena Malone, who plays the younger version of Foster’s character Ellie, is also very good.  There’s also Matthew McConaughey, James Woods, Tom Skerritt, Angela Bassett and, God love him, Bill Clinton as “the president.”)

This is an incredibly good movie, one that has flown under a lot of radars.  I haven’t read the book that the movie is based on (and probably am not going to) but the movie is definitely worth watching.

Flick Buddies: North By Northwest (1959)

Steve here:

North By Northwest (1959)

Like Kelly, I will shamefully admit that I had never watched North By Northwest until this past week. And like Kelly I’ll be free to admit that this was a HUGE MISTAKE on my part.

Freakin’ Biplane!

What a film. In it, the dapper Madison Avenue executive Roger Thornhill is mistaken for undercover agent George Kaplan and before he knows it he’s mixed up in a cross-country trek involving kidnapping, murder, international spies, the heads on Mount Rushmore, and of course, romance.

Was the cast perfect? Maybe. I mean, has anyone ever been as cool and suave as Cary Grant? I doubt it. James Mason was at his breathlessly sinister best, a young Martin Landau was excellent as the creepy henchmen, and Eva Marie Saint was perfect as the beautiful (and deceptive) Eve Kendall. An aside: I couldn’t get over how much Saint reminded me of Anya (Emma Caufield) from Buffy. Also, I bought into Grant’s and Saint’s attraction waaaayyy more than I did with say the one between Paul Newman and Julie Andrews in Torn Curtain.

Grant trumps Mason. Or does he?!?!?

Probably the most iconic scene (which I’d seen out of context before) was when Thornhill is lured out to a barren field in Indiana and attacked from the air by a crop-dusting biplane. The filming is fantastic – the pale sky against the brown dirt and Grant in his fine suit. The slow turns of the biplane arcing into the sun are absolutely filled with menace.

Things I liked most: The biplane attack. Thornhill avoiding assassins by causing a ruckus at an art auction. James Mason’s cool confidence. The snappy dialog. Thornhill’s desperate attempts to break up Mason’s getaway.

Things I didn’t like: Was there anything? I’m still thinking about it…

Things that are still with me: The realization that I will never, ever be as cool as Cary Grant.

Grade: A+

Rebecca (Bekki’s Review)

Hitchcock has a thing for tragic relationships eh?
Can someone answer a question for me…was Rebecca (as the story not the movie) meant to be a modernized twist on Jane Eyre? I had some serious Rochester vibes all over the place.

This was my first black and white Hitchcock, and, I’m ashamed to admit, my first ever Lawrence Olivier. I just recently saw My Week With Marilyn and so actually got to see someone playing Lawrence Olivier before ever seeing him act on screen. Branagh did a great job.

Danny.
Mrs. Danvers.
She really was the linchpin of all of this. It wasn’t the ghost of the first Mrs. de Winter, it was the way Mrs. Danvers evoked her. That woman was really off her rocker. Actually most of the characters were.
The relationship between Maxim and the young Mrs. de Winter was quite telling. He liked her almost as a child, and never empowered her to become what she should have been. She worked so hard to keep him happy, but had none of the tools she needed.
I also come back to what I often yell at the screen when I’m watching movies. “You could have prevented so much of this nonsense if you had JUST TOLD EACH OTHER THE TRUTH!”
The young wife needed to just tell him how out of her depth she was, and ask him to stop treating her like a child, and Maxim needed to get his head out of his ass and tell her what happened with his ex and fire that horrid housekeeper.
Other than that, I loved this movie. I thought Joan Fontaine was just lovely. Precious and earnest. I liked her, despite her complete lack of backbone.
Olivier was also pretty interesting. I sympathized with him a lot. Even though I never would have married him, I didn’t wish him harm.
Danny on the other hand. She was just twisted. She loved, in the weirdest sort of way, Rebecca. I have yet to figure out why anyone did. Apparently Rebecca was the coldest of cruel women. Nice. My namesake is a complete and utter bitch. Hitchcock really likes those twisted women, doesn’t he?

Marnie (Bekki’s take)

Well.
That was a tale of neuroses.
Practically everyone had one.
Let me just say, though, that this was really fun to watch with my friend, who is a therapist, and my housemate, who has raised many foster children that have had severe trauma. We has a steady stream of commentary during this entire flick.
Also, as a side note, what was up with Tipi Heddren’s hair? One of the opening credits mentioned some great hair designer that had done her hair in the movie. Seriously. I would not have attached my name to the monstrosity that was her hair helmet. I’ve seen worse, but not often.
Impressions:
MMM Sean Connery. Good to look at, lovely to listen to, but what a perverse character. Aside from the near rape (it technically wasn’t written as a rape in the screen play, but in the book it did take place) what kind of man entraps a broken woman into marrying him, and trying then to be the means of her healing? Narcissistic to say the least. It was almost like Munchausen syndrome by proxy, but instead of causing pain in someone to get sympathy, he caused pain to be the hero. It was odd, and weird.
I did not like Lil. She a) reminded me of Jacob in Twilight. (He’s not yours. Get over it. Stop trying to force yourself on him) and b) she wasn’t half as clever as she thought she was.
Honestly, though, I really didn’t like anyone in this book.
Loved the safe cracking scene where the cleaning lady was working. It was so much fun.

So early on I figured out that the childhood trauma was big. It was either she killed the man for hurting her, or hurting her mama. At least that was what I thought.
I think this is probably my least favorite of the Hitchcock movies. Mostly because I spent most of the movie wanting to knock peoples heads together.