4 Star Films’ Favorite Movies: 21-25

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One of the reasons film is so engaging and fascinating is the discussion that it evokes from all people. Every person, no matter their age or knowledge, can have their own subjective opinion on a film and why they liked it, or better yet why they hated it so much that they wanted to throw up.

But I’m going to cut the discussion short and put my cinematic life on the line by being completely vulnerable with some of my admittedly subjective picks for my favorite movies. Any agreement is highly encouraged. All dissenting opinions will be disregarded without a thought. Enjoy #21-#25 in this ongoing series:

21. It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963)

This first title was love at first sight. All the things I love about a great comedy. Completely lacking sophistication and full of hilarious insanity. Also, Mad…World has arguably the greatest ensemble every assembled for one film. Everyone shows up for the party and it’s wonderful. Jonathan Winters was my favorite discovery from this film because he truly was a comic gem of a man.

22. Some Like it Hot (1959)

Jack Lemmon will always and forever be one of my favorite actors. Maybe it’s because he reminds me of my Grandpa because my Grandpa is a funny man. But that’s neither here nor there. Some Like it Hot stems from the genius of Billy Wilder, always ready with a funny storyline (two cross-dressing musicians fleeing Chicago gangsters) and a rapier wit. Of course, there’s Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe too, and the Hotel Del Coronado makes a memorable appearance filling in for Florida. Boy, oh boy, am I a boy!

23. The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967)

Now this one might seem kind of random. But I quickly fell in love with the fateful whimsy of Jacques Demy. His love of American musicals is evident with the casting of both Gene Kelly and George Chakiris, but this is also undeniably a French production starring sisters Catherine Deneuve and Francoise Dorleac. Michel Legrand’s music is surprisingly catchy and the fact that the film’s exposition is all given through song intrigued me from the beginning.

24. Laura

Film-Noir became a favorite genre, movement, style (whatever you want to call it) early on and Laura was one of the reasons why. I think I was smitten with Laura (Gene Tierney) much like our protagonists, and the film’s core mystery was gripping in more ways than one. David Raksin’s haunting score adds yet another layer to the drama as does Otto Preminger’s direction through the film’s interiors.

25. To Kill a Mockingbird

By now Harper Lee’s novel and Gregory Peck’s portrayal of Atticus Finch are almost intertwined in my mind, so much so, it becomes difficult to separate the two. And since I loved the book growing up, it’s only fitting that the film adaption would also hold a special place. Its set of sentiment and moral uprightness is hard for me to disregard, even when I’m at my most cynical. Mary Badham does a wonderful job as does Brock Peters — the perfect foils for Peck’s monumental portrayal.

Review: To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

Atticus_and_Tom_Robinson_in_courtHere is one of the rare occasions when novel and film are so closely connected in my mind that I cannot help love Harper Lee’s initial work and its adaptation to the screen. They’re both so timeless in their own ways. Don’t get me wrong. They are very firmly entrenched in a bygone era, but this story exudes certain themes that are universal.

It’s rather like visiting an old friend. It seemed like so long. I can hardly remember the last time I sat down with To Kill a Mockingbird the book, or the movie for that matter. And yet it rushes back so easily. The characters, the settings, the story. I can almost visualize the words on the page as the scenes take place on screen. It’s a wonderful experience and I wish I could connect with something like this more often. But To Kill a Mockingbird is special to me because I read it at a young age and really ate it up. Thanks to Peck’s performance the story was just moving the second time around. It never ceases to be.

It struck me that I thoroughly enjoy Gregory Peck’s iconic performance as Atticus Finch, because of Mary Badham. Finch is a stalwart father figure and that comes out in the ways he guides and leads his young daughter Scout through life. She has a very cut and dry view of the world, not getting down the nuances or complexities around her. What Atticus does is model what it is to live life with other people, pure and simple. He takes the complexities of life and simplifies them in terms his daughter can try to make sense of.

To a lesser extent, that means telling his kids to leave the Radleys be and complementing the always ornery Mrs. Dubose. He is not prone to bravado by acting his age instead of playing football and not gloating about his skill with a gun. He’s too humble a man for that. He also does not fight back. He has more self-respect for himself and other people.

He attempts to instill this and other skills like tact in his kids, especially naive Scout. He gives her the eponymous metaphor that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird because they are a bird (supposedly) that brings only beauty and goodness into the world. And as he says, and I’m paraphrasing, you never understand someone else until you climb into their skin and walk around a bit. He delves into what empathy is and it’s what allows him to feel sorry for the Ewells, instead of desiring vengeance.

Atticus Finch is one of the special characters that I would actually use as a model. He makes me question my own actions as I take on a role much like Scout. He’s constantly reminding, constantly being patient, and modeling what it means to do what is right. All this is done without condescension, without lecturing. It’s done out of love.

His greatest act is, of course, defending accused African-American man Tom Robinson (Brock Peters), because after all, without this central point there is no film or book before it. But rather than focus on the depiction of these African-American characters and whether they are objectionable or not, I would rather acknowledge that this was a simpler time with a lot of evil still left in the world (as there is now), so this film speaks to me, because on a basic level, it is a story of good in the midst of all this blind discrimination and hatred.

That simple truth still speaks to me even with a story that is over 50 years old. The only adult cast member who is still with us now is Robert Duvall, and he is well into his 80s. Gregory Peck with his bespectacled visage and his soothing yet commanding voice is gone. Brock Peters is no longer with us, nor are the many other lesser known figures. But their story and these characters they embodied remain as a testament to Harper Lee’s original work.

It seems important to ask ourselves why would a man like Atticus do what he did? Why would he take that risk when no one else would? He answers Scout in this straightforward manner, “If I didn’t I couldn’t hold up my head in town, I couldn’t represent this county in the legislature, I couldn’t even tell you or Jem not to do something again.” He’s a man who holds himself to a different set of standards.

5/5 Stars

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

Adapted from the famous novel, this film holds its own thanks to a stellar portrayal of Atticus Finch by Gregory Peck who embodied one of the most heroic screen personas because of his humility, his quiet strength, and his ability to understand others. Furthermore, this film covered the issue of prejudice when it was still a very explosive subject to many people.

*May Contain Spoilers

Adapted from Harper Lee’s classic, this film has a lot of things going for it. This includes a touching story and on of the greatest heroes of all time. It follows the recollections of Scout (Mary Badham) as she remembers her childhood with her older brother Jem and their widowed, lawyer father Atticus. The plot revolves most importantly around the trial of a black man for an accused rape of a white girl . The only man willing to defend Tom Robinson is Atticus because he feels it is the right thing to do. In probably his greatest performance, Gregory Peck portrayed a quiet yet courageous man, Lee had likened to her father. Instantly we are drawn to this well-grounded person who is not always liked or successful for that matter, but who always does what is ultimately right.

5/5 Stars