Take 3: To Kill a Mockingbird Review

Before I start this review, I’d like to remind everyone that Thursday, April 9th, is the last day to cast your vote for the Best Supporting Actor of the 2nd Annual Gold Sally Awards! The next poll will be posted on the April 10th! Here is the link to the poll:

 

Now it’s time to choose the Best Supporting Actor of 2020’s Gold Sally Awards!

 

Originally, I had planned on reviewing To Kill a Mockingbird for Pure Entertainment Preservation Society’s A Month Without the Code Blogathon. Since The 2020 Classic Literature On Film Blogathon was given an April participation date and because I was reading To Kill a Mockingbird at the time of the event’s announcement, I decided to review the film adaptation a lot sooner than I expected. For years, I had heard great things about the novel. The now famous quotes have been plastered all over the internet, sounding deep and thought-provoking against backgrounds of characters’ pictures from the film. No literary list would be complete without To Kill a Mockingbird’s inclusion. What caused me to pick up a copy, and eventually see the movie, was the trial where Atticus defends Tom Robinson. This situation taking place in a time that is very different from today brought up a lot of questions. How would Atticus approach the case? Was Tom innocent? How different was the court system back then? For a while, this book was sitting on my bookshelf, waiting for the day when it would be read. Because of this blogathon, the day to read the book and see the movie has finally come!

To Kill a Mockingbird poster
To Kill a Mockingbird poster created by Brentwood Productions, Pakula-Mulligan, and Universal Pictures. Image found at commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:To_Kill_a_Mockingbird_(1963_US_theatrical_poster).jpg

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: In my review of Mystery 101: An Education in Murder, I talked about how the characters in that movie appeared as if they came from real-life. This is partly the result of the quality of the actors’ performances. The aforementioned strengths are shared by both films. While watching To Kill a Mockingbird, I noticed how all the performances felt realistic. The actors brought enough emotion and animation to their roles, in order to bring their characters to life. I enjoyed watching the performances in this film. However, the two standouts came from Collin Wilcox Paxton (who portrayed Mayella Ewell) and Brock Peters (who portrayed Tom Robinson). Even though they appeared on screen for a limited amount of time, they were able to bring so much emotion and power to their roles. These elements allowed Collin and Brock to elevate their characters as well as the source material.

 

How the source material was presented: Looking back on the book, the story itself was 20% about the trial and 80% about the “slice of life” perspective Scout offers to the readers. This imbalance is what caused me to not enjoy the book as much as I had expected. The film’s creative team makes an effort to create a balance between these two ideas by removing scenes that would have felt like padding. In the book, the majority of a chapter is devoted to the Halloween carnival/play and what caused that event to take place. The movie, however, only shows Jem and Scout arriving and leaving the school. The way some scenes were presented in the movie highlighted Atticus’ abilities as a lawyer more effectively than in the book. When Atticus to talking to Scout about compromises and trying to see things from another person’s perspective, the scene places more emphasis on Atticus himself delivering the message, showing the values he follows as a lawyer. In the book, it feels like these lessons are rehashing information most readers already know.

 

Moments of suspense: There were some scenes containing suspenseful moments that were periodically placed in the film. One of these moments takes place in the scene when Atticus visits Helen Robinson for the first time. While Jem is sitting in Atticus’ car, Bob Ewell drunkenly approaches the vehicle. Because this is the first time Bob is introduced on screen and because he is presented in a disorderly state, Bob’s decisions and actions are very unpredictable. Scenes like this one maintained the overall story’s intrigue. It maintained my investment in the film as well. These scenes featuring suspenseful moments also allowed the creative team to adopt story-telling elements like the use of shadows and dramatic music.

Classic Literature On Film Blogathon banner
The 2020 Classic Literature On Film Blogathon banner created by Paul from Silver Screen Classics. Image found at https://silverscreenclassicsblog.wordpress.com/2020/01/16/announcing-the-2020-classic-literature-on-film-blogathon/?wref=tp.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The trial taking place at a later time: As I said in the introduction, the trial where Atticus defends Tom Robinson is what made me want to read the book. When I did read it, I was disappointed to discover the trial itself took place sixteen out of thirty-one chapters into the story. In the movie, the trial appears at the halfway point. In this case, I fault the source material more than the film’s creative team. Even though I had to wait an hour for the trial to be presented on screen, the creative team did try their best to get to that point as soon as possible.

 

Some unclear details: Some details in this movie were unclear, especially if someone didn’t read the book before they saw the movie. In the book, Jem and Scout are introduced to Reverend Sykes when they attend Mass at Calpurnia’s church. When the trial takes place, they agree to sit with Reverend Sykes in the balcony section of the courthouse. Because the church service was omitted from the movie, there’s no clear explanation provided for how Jem and Scout know Reverend Sykes. It might have helped if details like this one were given some context.

 

The voice-over: The book is told from the perspective of an adult reflecting on their childhood. However, the movie presented the events as if they are taking place in “present-time”. Because of this decision, it allows the events to speak for themselves. This makes the voice-over seem like an unnecessary component. The voice-over was also not consistently included in the movie, causing its presence to not feel justified.

Law Justice Isometric Composition Icon
Courtroom image created by Macrovector at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/isometric”>Isometric vector created by macrovector – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

There are very few times when I feel a film adaptation is better than its literary source material. In fact, the two previous instances that I can think of are Hallmark’s Hall of Fame’s The Beach House and Hallmark Channel’s Rome in Love. After watching To Kill a Mockingbird, I have now found a third adaptation to add to that list. I’m not a fan of “slice of life” stories, hence why I didn’t enjoy the book as much as I had expected. While these aspects of the “slice of life” story were incorporated in the movie, the creative team’s main focus was about getting straight to the point a lot sooner. The visual nature of film worked in the favor of certain elements from the source material. Suspenseful moments in certain scenes are one great example. Reading about those moments in a book does cause a level of uncertainty. Watching them take place on screen makes those moments seem real and intensifies that uncertainty. If I known my feelings about this movie before reading the book, I honestly would have skipped the book and gone straight to the movie.

 

Overall score: 8.1 out of 10

 

Have you read any classic literature? If so, did you see its film adaptation, if it has one? Let me know in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Twilight of Honor Review

When Tiffany from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society invited me to join The Second Annual Claude Rains Blogathon, I was familiar with Claude as an actor. I’ve seen five of his movies, as I reviewed Caesar and Cleopatra back in September. While looking through his filmography on IMDB, I discovered that Claude starred in a film called Twilight of Honor. Because I happened to have this movie on my DVR, I figured it would be a great choice for the blogathon. This isn’t the first time I’ve talked about a courtroom film. Last year, I reviewed two movies from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ Darrow Mystery series. What I enjoy about those films is the mystery component featured within the narrative. It creates an intriguing and interactive experience for the audience. Will I find a mystery in Twilight of Honor? Keep reading if you want to find out!

Twilight of Honor poster
Twilight of Honor poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Image found at commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Twilight_of_Honor_FilmPoster.jpeg.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: The overall cast in this film was pretty good! Everyone’s performance appeared believable, especially for their character’s situation. Even though Claude Rains was in the film for a limited amount of time, his portrayal of Art Harper was memorable! He brought a pleasant persona to his character and was a joy to watch on screen. The lead star, Richard Chamberlain, also gave a good acting performance! His character, David Mitchell, had a healthy balance between the seriousness of a lawyer and the charm of a gentleman. That’s because his acting abilities were well-rounded enough to pull off this specific kind of portrayal. The supporting cast was just as talented as the starring cast! Joey Heatherton was a standout in this film as Laura-Mae Brown! With an on-screen personality that was feisty and bold, Joey found a way to shine among her co-stars. Her character certainly brought an interesting element to the story.

 

The dual screen special effect: Whenever one of the characters shared their perspective on the case, the screen was split to show the flashback on one side of the screen while the character was speaking. After this was shown, the flashback was presented in a full-screen format. This element made the project appear ahead of its time. Because the ‘60s weren’t known for experimentation with technology in film, it makes the creative team behind this movie appear innovative. I respect their decision to try something new. They took a creative risk and it worked in their favor.

 

The Clinton house: At one point in the movie, David visits the widow of the murder victim, Mrs. Clinton, at her house. Despite this location being featured on screen for a short amount of time, this house looked very appealing on film! The way it was staged and decorated gave the impression that the creative team was going for: the living environment of an affluent family. From the winding staircase to the large door-frame, everything about it spoke volumes about the characters that lived there. It was also just a nice-looking place in general. I’m not sure if this was a real location or a set, but the people associated with bringing this place to life did a good job in doing so.

Claude Rains Blogathon banner
The Second Annual Claude Rains Blogathon banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Image found at https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2019/10/18/round-up-the-usual-suspects-the-second-annual-claude-rains-blogathon-is-coming/.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The run-time: Twilight of Honor is almost two hours. Because of this, it makes the story feel drawn out and some scenes last longer than they need to. One example is some of the courtroom scenes. I understand that court cases in film take time to be explored and discussed. But, personally, I don’t think this particular story needed to be as long as it was. If this movie was an hour and ten or twenty minutes, then the script could have been a little bit tighter and the run-time would be more condensed.

 

Very little intrigue: When I first heard about this movie, I was expecting the story to have a mystery element. Similar to programs such as Matlock, Perry Mason, and Hallmark’s Darrow Mystery series, I was ready to figure out whodunit. Sadly, that’s not the kind of story Twilight of Honor is. It’s a courtroom drama with a surface level narrative that’s “cut and dry”. Because the story was so basic, I found the final verdict to be anti-climactic. It wasn’t a boring story, but it wasn’t exciting either.

 

David and Susan’s relationship: I have nothing against David and Susan’s relationship. The issue I have with it is how little emphasis it was given in the film. David and Susan’s relationship feels rushed and under-developed. They are seen spending so little time with each other that when their relationship does progress, it just comes out of nowhere. There’s no build-up to where this relationship ends up. It just seems like it was placed in the movie just for the sake of being there.

286520-P6QACV-178
Scales of Justice image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Twilight of Honor is not what I expected it to be. That intriguing, courtroom mystery that I was looking to ended up becoming a straight-forward drama with a simplistic story. Because of that, I found the movie to be just ok. While there were things about it that I liked, the story itself could have been stronger. But that doesn’t mean that the movie is void of purpose. Twilight of Honor does have its place in film history with the use of the dual screen special effect that was featured in the movie. It also gives people a good excuse to watch Claude Rains perform on screen. This isn’t one of the best movies I’ve seen this year, so far. But it’s definitely not one of the worst films I’ve seen either. I’m glad that I saw Twilight of Honor, though, because now I can have an honest opinion about it.

 

Overall score: 6 out of 10

 

What do you think of this review? Which movie from Claude Rains’ filmography is your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen