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Eric Batson

CoolEric's Cool 25: My Most Meaningful Films

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    Good Night and Good Luck

    Directed by George Clooney

    "[Television] can teach...but it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely lights and wires in a box."


    Box Office: $31.6M Domestic, $54.6M WW

    IMDB Summary: Broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow looks to bring down Senator Joseph McCarthy.

    Why it's so Meaningful to Me: A common opinion said about the 2006 Oscars is that the Best Picture winner should not have been Crash, but instead Brokeback Mountain. Frankly, I have to laugh at that, as it's pretty obvious the real winner is the historical drama Good Night, and Good Luck.


    The film is marvelous in its dialogue, with some of the best lines I've ever seen in a movie, as well as top-notch acting all across the board, but I feel that what really makes this movie so memorable is how it talks about television and the mass media. When looking at the media today, there's a definite feeling that it has lost its way. News sites and cable channels don't really seem to care about the facts or explaining what's going on with the world. Instead, it's giving people what they want to hear. Instead of giving non-politically skewed news updates, Fox News and MSNBC would rather pander to people who refuse to think differently and rather be fed the same garbage they want to believe in. In an effort to boost sales, newspapers use attention-grabbing headlines and fear-mongering to marginalize a person or even an entire group. It may be spiteful, cruel, highly exaggerated, and dishonest, but we got to get money somehow. Truly, the world of the mass media has been rather cold and terrible, but oddly enough it was the same all the way back in the 50s. At the time where McCarthy used fear-mongering and manipulation to rise himself to the top of the political world, the media just ran with the story. They didn't want to be outed out as traitors or labeled as a communist, and it kept America glued to their seats, so why not just run with it? Well one man was aware about the lies that McCarthy had said, and wanted to expose what was really going on: that man was Edward R. Murrow.


    Years later, George Clooney retold his story in biopic form for the new generation to see, and it was definitely something that got to me. Walter Mitty was the movie that made me want to pursue journalism, while Good Night, and Good Luck helped me to prepare myself for the dangers of journalism. There were doubters and people forcing Murrow to step down and stop what he was saying, but his moral code and want to give the people the truth is more valuable, even if it costs him his job. This was the man who stopped the McCarthy trials, or at the very least played an important part in doing so, and he did that with riveting and truthful commentary that made many Americans wiser and stronger as a result. Nowadays, I don't really know if Edward R. Murrow would appreciate what modern news has become, but I do feel that any aspiring journalist should watch this movie and know about this hero.


    Edward R. Murrow, and his biopic feature, are absolutely incredible, and are huge inspirations in my hopeful career in the field of journalism. If you haven't seen this movie yet, please do, as you won't regret it.

    Edited by CoolEric258
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    To Kill a Mockingbird

    Directed by Robert Mulligan

    "You don't really understand a person until you consider things from their point of view..."


    Box Office: $13.1M Domestic

    IMDb Summary: Atticus Finch, a lawyer in the Depression-era South, defends a black man against an undeserved rape charge, and his kids against prejudice.

    Why it's so Meaningful to Me: Some people have asked me, "Eric, what's your favorite movie?" It was something that had been alternating over the last couple of years, but the one that I feel stands out the most in being a film that is both absolutely perfect, and a huge chunk of who I am, it would most definitely have to be To Kill a Mockingbird. I've stated a lot of movies that I would consider perfect, but this is the shining example that puts all other movies to shame. The acting is perfect, the story is perfect, the editing is perfect, the writing is perfect, the characters are perfect, it's all a masterpiece, which is understandable considering its source material is objectively the best novel ever made (fight me, literary nerds!)


    However, I feel that a lot of what makes this film so special to me was something I had already written before: for my Intro to Film Studies class that I took in my last year of high school, we had to do an essay on one of the movies on AFI's Top 100, and this was what I wrote down, and all that I've written still holds up to my feelings today (Click the spoilers tab).


    While the 1950s was a time of conformity and materialism, the 1960s was most definitely a time of progression. Man had escaped the atmosphere and traveled to the moon, social taboos were deconstructed and broken, and minority groups rose up, spoke for their rights and demanded equality. Arguably, the most widely known progressive movement of that time period is the Civil Rights Movement, a time when the African-American community fought against racial discrimination after years and years of suffering and being lesser than their white peers. An eyewitness to these horrible events before such a movement was even thought up was a little girl named Harper Lee. Taking her childhood experiences in Alabama, her novel soon took the world by storm and to this day is considered an American classic. The book’s popularity would later lead to the Academy Award winning cinematic classic, To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). The film’s use of theming and symbolism, as well as two of the greatest film performances of all time, has made To Kill a Mockingbird one of the greatest movies ever made and the perfect depiction of racial inequality.

    To Kill a Mockingbird takes a look at the themes of racial inequality and coming of age in ways that are subtle and nuanced, and yet powerful all the same. Harper Lee’s original story was loosely based on her actual father, who quit his job as an attorney after being unable to defend two black men against his prejudiced hometown, so it’s clear that the story itself focuses on such stances. One of the most iconic sequences, the courtroom debate where the innocent Tom Robinson is unfairly convicted, perfectly showcases such cruelty that was found decades ago, and arguably today. With all of the evidence clearly pointing towards Tom’s innocence, from his crippled stature and intense delivery of his innocence, to the left-handedness of the real perpetrator, Bob Ewell, it would be expected that Tom would be considered an innocent man. The tragedy that comes however is the inherent bias of the Maycomb jury. It’s clear that the majority of the town considers the white race to be the most superior, and the prosecutor uses Tom’s skin color as a disadvantage for him in order to win over the ignorant jury members, and that ignorance comes at the cost of another man, all for something that he had no control over. The most important characters that saw this act of cruelty are most definitely Jem and Scout, as the events before and after the court case helped the two grow and develop, and understand the importance of coming of age. As the story begins, while both kids are precocious and a little bit smarter than their peers, they act very much like little kids. They love playing, they believe crazy tall tales, and contain childhood bliss and ignorance, including a lack of understanding of other people and their situations. It isn’t until they learn more about the Tom Robinson case that they begin to understand about not only the cruelties of the world, but also a greater understanding of the importance of general tolerance and diversity. The perfect showing of this is Jem’s reaction to both the conviction and later death of Tom Robinson. He feels not only sadness, but confusion. Why must a man as innocent as Robinson die? Why must the town inherit such harsh prejudices? This sticks with Jem, making him grow up and understand such prejudices, and fight against them in order to enlighten the next generation. Such important life morals for all to learn indeed.

    However, such enlightening and powerful morals mean nothing if important symbols, including the porches, and an old tree, were not brought up to tell such morals. The porches are interesting, as it appears throughout the story, as almost every scene featuring them involves some sort of wisdom being shared, no matter how subtle. Of course, Atticus talks with his two children about the most important morals and values that must be shared on the porch numerous of times, including Scout’s first day of school, and Scout being insulted over Atticus defending Tom, but the best showcase of such a scene can be found at the town prison. Atticus, prim and proper, sits by the jail cell inhabiting Tom, enjoying his time on the porch with his client, as a mob of angry citizens, ragged and dirty, begin to protest Atticus’ supposedly terrible action. While Atticus doesn’t speak, the one who dispels wisdom is surprisingly Scout, who at the time still has a touch of that childhood innocence. By noticing and conversing with Mr. Cunningham, whose son is a close friend of Scout, the little girl managed to make the angry gentleman realize his blind hatred, and realize what Atticus is doing. He hasn’t completely changed, but some form of enlightenment was given to him from a 9-year old who didn’t know any better. Of course, that 9-year old’s maturity and growing up is perfectly symbolized by a little tree. Beforehand, Scout was of the belief that the mysterious neighbor of Boo Radley, who supposedly stayed in his home for years because of an incident of stabbing, was a monster and a freak of nature. But things begin to change when she notices a little knot in their tree being filled with toys, gum, and string. It’s clear that these gifts are from Boo Radley, which gives Scout a more comforting image of the character, and comes at a time when Scout and Jem are beginning to lose their childhood innocence, meaning that this tree shows that their beliefs in tall tales and outlandish stories were coming to a close, and a new person, one that’s wise and clever, was beginning to emerge. These two themes were prevalent and strongly shown even without these symbolic entities, but when the porch and the tree is added, the emotion and power is greatly heightened, making these themes absolutely powerful.

    But of course, these elements all could have fallen apart without incredible acting, and thanks to Gregory Peck and Mary Badham, the film’s emotional strength is greatly heightened. Gregory Peck is generally considered Hollywood royalty, and a good reason for that comes from his portrayal of Atticus. Peck successfully illustrates Atticus as a determined lawyer, an outspoken critic, and a warm father all at once. Such a monumental task seems like a breeze, as Peck uses subtle facial gestures and strong body language to convey a powerful, yet loving father figure. And to say nothing of Mary Badham as Scout. An issue that most child actors face is their inexperience and age. In the wrong hands, a child actor’s performance can easily grate on the nerves, but it’s thankful that both Badham and director Robert Mulligan were able to pull off Scout as one of Hollywood’s most endearing and likable protagonists. Badham is able to perfectly play the tomboy-like and spunky personality of her character, as well as subtly show her character’s development. In the beginning she succeeds at acting like a little kid, but by the ending, it’s clear through her performance that the life lessons she had discovered in her journey have stuck with her, and that she is blossoming into a brilliant young mind, which again, is highly commendable for someone of her age. Both magnificent actors have touched the American public for years, and it is definitely understandable why when one sees the film.

    What makes To Kill a Mockingbird a true masterpiece is its sense of timelessness, thanks in part to its story and characters. It takes issues that the world has faced from centuries ago to even today, and explains and talks about such issues in a way and form that is able to be powerful and emotionally resonant. Robert Mulligan had managed to take Harper Lee’s American masterpiece and conveyed through the power of film a wonderful tale of coming of age and of racial divides that should be abdicated from life, and yet unfortunately lingers in our society, but hopefully such a film will be an important stepping stone for true equality.

    This is long enough, but I feel that something that I wanted to talk about in more detail was this movie's themes, that being of bigotry and intolerance. Part of what makes this movie (and the book) so universal in its appeal and why it has lasted for so long comes down to emotions and feelings that everyone deals with. And I'm not talking just about race, although that's definitely a major reason for oppression, and something that has unfortunately still continuing for reasons I will never understand. I'm also talking creed, gender, sexuality, nationality, political party, you name it. People should follow the belief that whatever a person believes in or can't help but have, they should accept and respect said ideas or traits. But alas, many people refuse to see that, and as such, almost everyone is forced to have people despising them for what they like or for who they are. For me, growing up with Asperger's, and having to handle issues with social skills was a pretty big hassle, making people believe think that I was a weirdo or an asshole. I was still lucky enough to have lived in a decent community and being raised in a loving family that respects me. It must have been hell for some other people out there that couldn't have had that fortune. Then there's my bisexuality, which leads to people, even in the LGBT community, denying what I'm saying, treating me like I'm a lesser person, or believing that I only want attention. It's frustrating to be attacked or persecuted over something that I was born with, and this is what makes me relate to the struggles found in all of the protagonists, such as Tom, Atticus, and Scout. And it's a simple message that has been taught many times before, but it is still something that should be repeated on the simple fact that everyone should know what it is, and I'm thankful a movie like this exists, and it exists as an American classic, as it perfectly illustrates the importance of tolerance, all being shown from the eyes of an impressionable child attempting to make sense of the crazy world she is forced to inhabit, and this message, its execution, and everything else in the film is so important and impactful to me, that it easily soared to the top of my list.


    In fact, what all of these films I've listed show is how movies can leave an impression on different people, and in different ways. After all, aren't movies nowadays the most important part of our way of thinking? We experience movies when we are young, and they shape and mold our personalities, our interests, and our ideas. As we grow older, we experience new movies, and go back and see old ones before our time, and we get these new experiences, where we're told stories of heroism, of villainy, of fear, of laughter, of truth, and of lies, and we are moved by these captivating stories and characters that feel like real people. These are experiences that stick with us forever, both in times of fear and frustration, and in times of joy and happiness. They tell us what the world should be like, and how we should experience our lives, all through creative, thought-provoking, and engaging means. It's honestly why I hold filmmakers to such clout and prestige, because they aren't making movies; they're making magic.


    And with that, my list has drawn to a close. If you enjoyed the list, and you want to share your most meaningful films, then please share it on a different thread, or even do it on mine. I'd love to hear what other people have to say, and it's cool to see different lists from different people. Also, I'd like to give a big thank you to people like @Baumer @Tele the Jet Baller @Ethan Hunt @Blankments @DAJK and anyone else that gave some sort of like or comment. It means the world to me to see you guys give support and listen to what I have to say, and I hope I was able to entertain you with my little write-ups. I'll end this off by saying thank you all for reading, and take care!

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