Monday, February 16, 2015

Oscar Movie Review: "To Kill A Mockingbird" (1962)

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Oscar Movie"To Kill a Mocking Bird"
Year Nominated: 1963
Director: Robert Mulligan
Rating: NR
Running Time: 2 hours, 9 minutes
Did It Win?: No.

Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) is a single father and lawyer in the South during the depression. He is assigned to defend a black man named Tom Robinson (Brock Peters), who has been falsely accused of assaulting and raping a young white woman. On top of that, Atticus must deal with the racist townspeople, who would just as well usurp the justice system and string up Tom Robinson long before he has a chance to ever offer a defense. All the while, Atticus must also teach his kids the difference between right and wrong and show them the importance of judging people by their character and integrity rather than their skin color. 

If there was a list of 100 movies everyone should see in their lifetime, "To Kill a Mockingbird" would most certainly be on it, perhaps even towards the top of that list. It is another one of those classic films that falls into not just a "must watch" category, but a "need to watch" category for its cultural significance and importance. It is a tragic and heart-wrenching story of a black man named Tom Robinson, who was wrongfully accused of raping a white woman and has to face trial in a small Alabama town in an era where racism and segregation were still the norm. The hopes of finding an impartial jury is nearly impossible for Atticus Finch, played tremendously by Gregory Peck, one of the finest actors of his generation, as we mentioned recently in our review for "Roman Holiday." Finch is the defense attorney assigned to Tom's case and has one hell of undertaking in trying to defend him. The story itself is told from the point of view of Atticus' daughter Scout (Mary Badham) and strongly focuses on Scout, her brother Jem (Philip Alford), and of course, Atticus himself, and his efforts to defend Tom. The Finch family, once Atticus takes on the Robinson case, starts to receive threats for defending a black man accused of raping a white woman because, as far as the town in concerned, Robinson is guilty without ever being put on trial. Though he thought of quitting many times, Atticus Finch does what he knows in his heart to be right and is a true hero, noble and willing to do all he can to ensure that justice is served. The film really shows the ugly side of American history and how hard it was for a minority to receive any fair justice in our country during this era. Back then, an accusation was as good as a conviction as the accused had to not only deal with biased juries, but the possibility of being a victim of a lynch mob before ever even stepping foot in a court room. Though it is important for us to learn about the ugliness of our past so we can avoid the same atrocities in the future, unfortunately, it seems like this horror does still manage to happen even in today's much more educated society.

Beyond the powerful story, Gregory Peck puts on a inspiring, brilliant performance as Atticus that earned him a much deserved Oscar win for Best Actor. Once again, his commanding on-screen presence can turn into a much more levelheaded, calm and stoic demeanor at any time as his versatility is put on display here. When you look at Peck's body of work, this film is in his top 3 performances, and that's saying something coming from such a storied, successful actor. His performance in this movie is one of the best you could ever hope to see in film history. It's worth watching this film for Peck's performance in the summation speech alone, a scene that has always stuck with us as movie lovers. Though Peck was the only actor from the movie to win an Oscar for their role, Mary Badham also received a nomination for her excellent performance as Scout. At the time, she was the youngest actress ever to be nominated, losing out to another child actress, Patty Duke. Badham wonderfully portrays Scout as we watch her grow from a naive, trustworthy kid to a more understanding and thinking young woman right before our eyes as she and Jem come to realize that life is not always as it seems, and that things should not be seen in strictly black and white. This is also the feature film debut of Robert Duvall, who plays the mysterious Boo Radley, and though he is not in the movie for long, he also proves that things aren't always as they seem. Overall, a fantastic, flawless film rounded out with stellar performances, an impactful story and an important message. A must see!

My Rating: 10/10
BigJ's Rating: 10/10
IMDB's Rating: 8.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 94%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!

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