on May 10, 2007
`Ghosts of Mississippi' is the story based on factual events of the final trial of the man who murdered civil rights leader Medgar Evers in 1963. He was tried twice before but both times the case ended in hung juries. It is also a portrait of enduring patience in the fact that his widow, Myrlie Evers, had to wait 30 years for final justice, all the while knowing that her husband`s assassin remained a free man.
I can't honestly think of too many movies where I have seen Alec Baldwin and Whoopi Goldberg give such impressive acting performances as compared to their work here. They both fit their roles perfectly and it shows. On the other end of the spectrum, James Woods, who also did an outstanding job, is so into his character that it is almost spooky. The way he behaves and delivers his lines just gives the impression that you're looking at total hate and evil personified in a man.
To compliment the acting, the movie moves along at a nice pace and portrays the difficulties of preparing a case that is 3 decades old along with the still unresolved issues of racism still evident in the Mississippi climate. As for the trial itself, this is also a tense atmosphere that adds realism and intrigue to the movie. If I had to make a comparison, and this being based on similar types of events, I would have to say that this film ranks up there with `Mississippi Burning' which is also an excellent movie in its own right.
`Ghosts of Mississippi' is a fine example of solid acting and directing coupled with a strong, thought provoking story. This film is very enjoyable all the way through and I recommend it to everyone.
on April 5, 2009
I love things on Civil Rights, yet I've found nearly all to be extremely boring. This movie is the MOST engaging and gripping movie on this topic, ever created. I LOVE that it is full of history! It has far more history than any other film of its type or genre, in history. I LOVE that it Evers' son playing himself in it. I love the fact that, for a real treat, we even have The Great Martin Luther King's grand-daughter, playing Merlie's daughter. I love that Detective Bennett, plays himself, Dective Bennett in it. I love that it mentions Goodman, Chaney and Schwarner, without the sterile blandness of Mississippi Burning. I LOVE that this film covers everything and more, is SO full of history, and real people from history playing themselves. This film is a history buff's delight.
This film smashes it right out of the ballpark in terms of ege-of-your-seat suspense, and true historical value. In contrast, Mississippi Burning (which I also own), is very methodical in comparison. Very bland, very dry, and very sterile. Two cops who can't agree and sadly, take centrestage more than the subject matter, no emotion, no nothing. The most emotional and dramatic MB gets, is when Agent Anderson slices Deputy Pell with the razor. MB had no historical value. Even the 'facts' at the end, were fictional. However, whilst MB was cold, clinical, very methodical, sterile and completely lifeless, GoM went into the main character's LIVES. It was EMOTIONAL. It allowed us to see how each character ticked. It was full of personal nuances, historical data, and atmosphere.
As for acting, Baldwin was very convincing, and Woods, as the overwhelming majority of people agree, personified evil and racism to a T. In fact, it was so hard to remember he was only acting. He sent chills through to my bones, and many others.
The one thing that I find people misjudge in this movie, is the FANTASTIC and flawless portrayal of Merlie Evers. Some say she was emotion-less. That, is such an absurd comment, it really is hard to know how to deal with such an ignorant comment. But I really do feel that those who say that, expected this movie to be one of Goldberg's typically 'outrageous comedy' movies. What people that say that, DON'T understand, is that Goldberg, was in fact, TRUE to the REAL Evers. As the real Bobby DeLaughter said, the REAL Evers was very prim and propper, well spoken, an exuding not emotion what so ever. The real Merlie is always composed. So much so, that the end scene of Whoopi yelling "Yay Medgar, YAY!" after the trial, was added for the movie. Merlie, ever composed, did not make such an utterance. So in saying that Goldberg exuded no emotion, you are making a personal attack on Merlie Evers herself, and you need to at least research the facts before making the statement and find out WHY. The answer is, because that is how the REAL Merlie Evers is and was. In other words, in FACT, Whoopi Goldberg in that role, was perfection personified, and portrayed Merlie exactly as she is. Please bare in mind, this is not a COMEDY, so if you are expecting that, go elsewhere. I find most are too used to hilarious Whoopi, and simply can't recognise this performance, as it is not Whoopi's usual work. THAT is why Whoopi's performance was indeed, the most lauded by critics, out of the movie. It was THE MOST accurate. And accuracy, considering the subject matter, is far more important than silly comedy or grins, smiles and heaps of crying and screaming. The real Merlie Evers was never emotional, thus.
Overall, this movie, out of all the civil rights movies to me is the most HISTORICALLY INFORMATIVE, and the most engaging. It doesn't make you fall asleep like Missisippi Burning, but it doesn't sell-out to cheap dramatic license to create humour and sitcomish laughs, either. It is a movie that goes behind the scenes and into the key character's worlds in a matter than leaves you very emotional, yet very very drawn to the gripping storyline. The Director surely gets kudos for his gripping direction and pace, however the acting, particularly from Whoopi Goldberg and James Woods makes this a movie that compels you to watch over and over and over again.
on May 1, 2009
Years ago I saw the VHS edition of Ghosts of Mississippi on a library shelf. I was in the mood for a good Peter Straub ghost story; so I checked it out. It was not a ghost story, but I was far from disappointed. No ghost story has ever been as good as this story of fact.
Most movies are not worth the time necessary to see them. Nevertheless I have seen hundreds of them, and Ghosts of Mississippi is one of my favorites. A recent viewing of the DVD motivated me to buy Of Long Memory, the book that the movie is based on. Almost finished with the book, I checked amazon, thinking of buying the movie for another viewing. Before buying it, I looked at the reviews. I think my reading of the book has given me something to contribute.
Ghosts of Mississippi is far better than the older, sensationalistic Mississippi Burning, though the latter got six Oscar nominations. Ghosts of Mississippi got only two: one for James Woods' portrayal of the villain Beckwith, and one for makeup (probably for the makeup on Woods).
How can the relatively humble and unacclaimed Ghosts of Mississippi possibly be one of my favorite movies? Am I crazy? Yes, of course I am, but besides that you might want to consider some other things: I have an affection for the acting of Alec Baldwin, Whoopi Goldberg, and James Woods; I favor true crime and courtroom dramas; I have always been a firm advocate of racial equality and civil rights; I appreciate a movie with a hearty stand-up-and-cheer ending.
About the acting:
1. Of Long Memory says a good deal about that despicable rat Beckwith, and it is always reminiscent of the portrayal by Woods. That indicates Woods did a good job. And he did get an Oscar nomination.
2. The book doesn't say a whole lot about Myrlie Evers (the victim's wife), and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Whoopi's portrayal exhibited more energy than was in the real person. Even so, Whoopi was charismatic, lots of fun, and more than satisfactory.
3. Baldwin didn't look at all like the real prosecuting attorney, Bobby DeLaughter. But maybe his acting was accurate. The book says this: "The critics were discouraging [of DeLaughter's efforts to resurrect a twenty-five year old case]. But.... He would explain in his methodical, plodding way, why he felt impelled to go through with it." In other words, Oscars are often won not because of the acting but because of the role. Woods had good material to work with. Baldwin's character was methodical and plodding.
On unusual occasions, fact is more fictional than fiction. In Ghosts of Mississippi, you'll learn that the murder weapon has disappeared over the years. This was the scoped rifle that Beckwith used. It was an important piece of evidence. You'll also learn, if you pay close attention, that DeLaughter's wife, Dixie, was the daughter of a pro-segregationist judge. After starting on the Evers case, DeLaughter remembered that the judge had a souvenir gun from the the historical Civil Rights era. The gun turned out to be the rifle that was missing. (The serial number matched.) That's right. After a quarter of a century had passed, the young prosecuting attorney for the retrial had married the daughter of the judge who had the missing rifle. Fantastically unlikely, but absolutely true. (I think the movie has the rifle being found in an old chest. The book says it was in a closet.)
An interesting point for you Mississippi Burning fans: Two prominent events led to Beckwith's retrial. The immediate stimulus was a court order that released secret Mississippi-government documents suggesting jury tampering in the previous Beckwith trial. But before that, Mississippi Burning itself played a role.
Mississippi whites had bad things to say about Mississippi Burning, and so did Mississippi blacks. The latter felt that the movie didn't give enough credit to blacks for the liberal revolution that occurred in the state. I think the blacks were right, but what the movie did successfully was to remind white Mississippians of their uncivil past. Maybe only a few white Mississippians were ashamed of their past, but the movie encouraged at least some members of the new generation to show the world that Mississippi was, if not yet perfect, cleaner and more civilized. So when the secret files were released, there was enough support for a retrial of Beckwith.
Postscript (May 4, 2009): I got my DVD in the mail, and after watching this movie (again), I wanted to make a final comment, with respect to Mr. Baldwin's acting. I think the climax of the movie is his portrayal of Bobby DeLaughter's concluding argument. It was one of the more eloquent speeches I have ever seen or heard, in or out of a movie, real or fictional. It was so good it may me doubt that it was composed by the screenwriter. Maybe these were Bobby DeLaughter's actual words. I don't know. But it was a very fine speech, and you owe it to yourself to see the movie so you can see the speech.
Two post-movie notes:
1. 1999 - Bobby DeLaughter was appointed to a judgeship.
2. January 21, 2001 - Beckwith died during imprisonment.
This is one of the best movies I have ever seen, as it has just about everything in it to tug at your heart strings. A very serious movie, which also has a few great humorous moments too. The casting is just about perfect. Every character was very believable. Whoopi Goldberg wouldn't have been my choice to play Merlie Evers, but she did a pretty decent job in the role. I think the movie might have been better with an unknown in the part. Still, I can't imagine anyone doing a better job than Whoopi did. This is an important movie that helps keep alive the memory of the all but forgotten Medger Evers. I have watched this movie 3 or 4 times and I never get tired of it. James Woods is absolutely superb as the militant racist. Alec Baldwin does a great job. All the supporting actors and actresses are believable and do a great job as well. Racists probably won't like this movie, but those of us who have a sense of justice will cheer the fact that a murder conviction against a white man for murdering a black man finally occurred after what was way too long a time. Justice sometimes takes a while. Based on true events, which makes it even more compelling. The movie sustains a continued level of suspense throughout and keeps you interested all the way through. This movie is also more suitable for a younger audience than two other very good movies with similar themes, A Time to Die and Mississippi Burning, which are more graphic and perhaps more troubling to younger audiences.