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Cinema Classics for a New Classic Cinema

Posted Friday, November 18, 2011, at 11:15 PM

Mary Badham and Gregory Peck bring classic cinema to Marshall in the recent free screening of "To Kill a Mockingbird".
A few weeks ago the Marshall Cinema celebrated its one-year anniversary under new independent management. The Thompson family has done an incredible job with the small old-fashioned three-screen cinema. The recent transfer to all digital projection has transformed the old theater house into a modern cinematic wonder. As part of their first anniversary celebration they held a free screening of a cinema classic, "To Kill a Mockingbird".

The film adaptation of Harper Lee's classic American novel involving civil rights in a Southern courtroom as seen through the eyes of children has been one discordant for critics. Some say it's as much a classic as the book. Others argue it doesn't live up to its reputation. Either way it's a seminal film in the civil rights movement because the point of view comes from the children, who we all know see the world without the filters we put on our own views as we grow older.

I brought my oldest boy to see it on the big screen with me. He's the budding cineaste of the tribe and the only one I felt could really appreciate such a classic. I remember going to see my first adult minded movie with my mother when I was about his age. That one was "On Golden Pond", and I never forgot the experience. I was very anxious to see what he felt about the movie. There were some moments where it lost him, but he seemed very connected with it throughout most of the screening.

He said he loved it, except for the courtroom scenes. Those were boring. Having seen it for the first time as an adult myself, the courtroom scenes were the ones I remembered best. I'd forgotten how much of the movie was about the kids just being kids, spending their summers looking for trouble to fight the boredom, getting into the Radley's business when they shouldn't. Trying to understand what their high-minded father was trying to do for the black man he was defending in court. I was impressed how director Robert Mulligan and screenwriter Horton Foote worked the issues of prejudice and injustice into the everyday lives of being kids. In the context of childhood, the kids were only being children; but in the context of the civil rights movement, they get right to the heart of the country's most divisive issues of the time.

It's difficult for me to judge the cinematic quality of this film, because the issues at its core strike such a cord with me. I think the use of a childhood context is ingenious of both Mulligan and Lee, in her original novel. It was such a joy to discuss these important issue with my son afterward, and rewarding that he showed genuine interest in something other than giant robots fighting each other in the streets of Chicago. Jack's future as a filmgoer looks bright, and if the Marshall Cinema continues to program such quality films along with the current mainstream fare, it will prove to be a quality resource for Marshall's children for generations to come.

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Good going Andrew.

-- Posted by Oklahoma Reader on Sun, Nov 20, 2011, at 12:34 AM

I agree--it is wonderful for the Thompsons to offer free showings of these classic films. _To Kill a Mockingbird_ has always been one of my favorite books--a love affair that began in the fifth grade (long before it was required reading in high school).

It strikes me that viewings such as this one would make a perfect pairing with some kind of "Classic Books" reading group. Read the book, watch the movie, discuss. I wonder if Marshall Cinema/Marshall Public Library have ever considered a collaboration such as this?

-- Posted by imaloony on Tue, Nov 22, 2011, at 9:01 AM

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Andrew is a professionally trained actor and stage director. He was a reporter for the daily newspaper The Marshall Democrat News. He has been critiquing film since Mr. Lucas released the first of his "Star Wars" prequels in 1999. His reviews can also be seen at his blog site.
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