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timdraft #4: Movie Category Draft (1 Viewer)

OK, I've had enough of this ####.

You remaining judges have until Friday to post the exact date your results will be posted, and it needs to be within 2 weeks from now. Starting this weekend I'm going to start judging whatever's left over. I'll just start at the top of the list and work my way down. If either I don't get a post from you OR you fail to keep your promise within the two week period, your category is on the list.

My rankings may be crappy but they're better than no rankings. I intend to finish this draft and move on to the next one. No matter what, this draft WILL be done by mid August.
OK, here's what we have left:

1. Monologue

2. Shooting a movie scene

3. Dramatic actor in a comedic role

4. Sex scene

5. No idea what this movie is about.

I will begin ranking in the order listed above. I will post the results every few days. If somebody posts their own rankings in the meantime, we'll use those. But I intend to be done by August 15, just as I wrote a month ago. If by that date Aerial Assault hasn't posted the new WTF rankings, then we'll use the ones I already posted. Let's get this finished.

Monologue will be posted later today.
Update?
The update is that every time I wrote that, somebody else volunteered to do the job.

I started out offering to judge two categories; they were both done within two weeks after the draft ended. I don't do nearly as good a job as judging as either you or Aerial Assault, so I prefer to be patient. If nobody does it, then I'll do it.

 
Since no one ranked the films I didn't, here are the points:

1 pt - The Girl Next Door (Acer)

1 pt - State and Main (Nick V)

3 pts - Ed Wood (Dr Octopus)

4 pts - Bowfinger (Mister CIA)

5 pts - Sunset Boulevard (jwb)

6 pts - Baadasssss (Bobby Lane)

7 pts - Blazing Saddles (tim)

8 pts - Argo (Usual 21)

9 pts - Who Framed Roger Rabbit (tiannamen tank)

10 pts - Tropic Thunder (Aerial Assault)

11 pts - Zack and Miri Make a Porno (joffer)

12 pts - Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (hooter 311)

13 pts - Be Kind Rewind (tish)

14 pts - Holiday Inn (rikishiboy)

15 pts - In Bruges (jml)

16 pts - Super 8 (Andy Dufresne)

17 pts - Son of Rambow (Karma Police)

18 pts - CQ (Kumerica)

19 pts - Day for Night (tremendous upside)

20 pts - Shadow of the Vanpire (higgins)

21 pts - Hooper (doug b)

22 pts – Singin’ in the Rain (Mrs Rannous)

23 pts - Living in Oblivion (krista)

24 pts - Chaplin (Rannous)

25 pts - Hugo (Time Kibitzer)

(The first two each got one point since I had no way to rank them.)

 
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Since no one ranked the films I didn't, here are the points:

1 pt - The Girl Next Door (Acer)

1 pt - State and Main (Nick V)

3 pts - Ed Wood (Dr Octopus)

4 pts - Bowfinger (Mister CIA)

5 pts - Sunset Boulevard (jwb)

6 pts - Baadasssss (Bobby Lane)

7 pts - Blazing Saddles (tim)

8 pts - Argo (Usual 21)

9 pts - Who Framed Roger Rabbit (tiannamen tank)

10 pts - Tropic Thunder (Aerial Assault)

11 pts - Zack and Miri Make a Porno (joffer)

12 pts - Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (hooter 311)

13 pts - Be Kind Rewind (tish)

14 pts - Holiday Inn (rikishiboy)

15 pts - In Bruges (jml)

16 pts - Super 8 (Andy Dufresne)

17 pts - Son of Rambow (Karma Police)

18 pts - CQ (Kumerica)

19 pts - Day for Night (tremendous upside)

20 pts - Shadow of the Vanpire (higgins)

21 pts - Hooper (doug b)

22 pts – Singin’ in the Rain (Mrs Rannous)

23 pts - Living in Oblivion (krista)

24 pts - Chaplin (Rannous)

25 pts - Hugo (Time Kibitzer)

(The first two each got one point since I had no way to rank them.)
1 point because you couldn't rent the movie?

 
This is what I have. I will now try to spend my day looking for the posts to youtube clips or descriptions

monologue

1. Cloris Leachman in The Last Picture Show

2. Robert Shaw in Jaws

3. Christopher Walken in Pulp Fiction

4. Peter Finch in Network

5. Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator

6. "People Will Come" from Field of Dreams

7. George C. Scott in Patton

8. Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross

9. "Greed is Good" from Wall Street

10. RL Ermy in Full Metal Jacket

11. The Breakfast Club

12. On the Waterfront

13. Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood

14. Robert Duvall in Apocalypse Now

15. Blade Runner

16. Good Will Hunting

17. Harvey Keitel in Reservoir Dogs

18. American Psycho

19. Talk Radio

20. The Third Man

21. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

22. Slingblade

23. Braveheart

24. Colossus: The Forbin Project

25 Independence Day

 
I'll wait until tomorrow (when thiere's no football to distract us all day), then number my rankings.

Krista, how would you rank the top five movies and why? Sign me "Curious".
Dear Curious,

I'd love to tell you, but really I'm just not able to muster the energy. I know I thought Chaplin was too high, and I expected Ed Wood (not in the top five) to rank higher but you made a good point about which scene was taken. Your rankings were very good, so little quibbles here and there aren't worth mentioning; it just makes slotting a little harder.

Signed,

Nada in Nicaragua
The Ed Wood ranking killed me. There's so much to work with there. Same for Tropic Thunder.
I guess I see your interpretation of "shooting a movie" as too restrictive. My scene is on a movie set, with the actor, director and film crew present. True the director does not call for "action" until the end of the clip - but they are clearly shooting a movie here.

Anyway, you're the judge and at this point I don't really care anymore (or really never did) - but just trying to clear it up.

 
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COURTROOM SCENES

The key word here was realism. For the most part, in accordance with the announced criteria, I wanted courtroom scenes that could actually happen, and graded accordingly. However, if the scene in question was spectacular enough – and contained interesting legalisms – it might have overcome its lack of real-life credibility, though this was rare. Additionally, I definitely awarded “points” for compelling drama.

In the opening section, called “the verdict,” I sum up the pick’s ranking in a sentence or two. The remaining evaluative subcategories are self-explanatory. For some selections, some of the subcategories were inapplicable: for example, choices featuring closing arguments did not typically feature judge or witness participation. In a couple of cases, the subcategories did not fit at all, so I abandoned them. For these reasons and others, I eschewed any mathematical formulae: the subcategories are only there to provide some insight into my thought process.

The selections were for the most part very good. From the timing of the picks, most drafters viewed this as a deep category, and often waited. This paid off extraordinarily well for a few drafters who apparently banked – correctly – on the rest of the panel not knowing or caring about their intended courtroom selections. One movie that I was surprised not to see included was “Class Action,” but perhaps it was too obscure despite the presence of Gene Hackman as the lead. “Runaway Jury” might also have done very well.

And now . . . has the jury reached a verdict? How do you find?

 
ONE GAVEL

Idiocracy (2006) (Bobby Layne) (1 point)

THE VERDICT: A movie about the dumbing-down of society unknowingly contributes to the cause. The ridiculous, pointless courtroom scene is a poor fit for the category among the other selections.

Scene quality was good.

OVERALL REALISM: There’s no point in the rest of my breakdown, as this will take care of everything. “Idiocracy” is a science fiction film by Mike Judge about the United States of 500 years from now, where everyone in society has become profoundly stupid. Unfortunately, in a bit of an irony, or perhaps in a fitting piece of congruence, Judge’s film is pretty dumb too. The entire thing, including the courtroom scene, is a fantasy, and a dumb one at that, so there are no points for realism. I get the rationale for the pick, but stacked up against some of the titans of the courtroom genre, this doesn’t fare well, to put it mildly.

[SIZE=12pt] FOOTNOTE: This is one of those satirical films that completely forgets to be funny or even thought-provoking. I’m sure that there’s a way to portray a dysgenic society, and even comment on our own deteriorating intellectualism via allegory, through a cleverly presented film, but this certainly isn’t it. [/SIZE]

Liar Liar (1997) (“hooter311” played by Karma Police) (2 points)

THE VERDICT: Goofy comedy is a good movie but with realism as the watchword, this choice is sentenced to hard labor.

Scene quality was excellent.

OVERALL REALISM: Very, very little. I like this movie a lot and this scene is quite funny, but it suffers from numerous problems, starting with the fact that in a case like this, any lie that Carrey’s client told about her age would have been discovered loooooooooong before trial. This is, incidentally, one of my biggest pet peeves about movie courtroom scenes (more in the civil context than in the criminal): when a sudden! Piece! Of new evidence! . . . just turns up and everyone acts like that’s the end of it because, well, the script says so. It’s lazy legal writing at its worst.

LEGAL REALISM: The argument that Jennifer Tilly would not have been able to enter into a pre-nup while a minor actually has some plausibility. The presentation, of course, is beyond preposterous, but hey, it’s a comedy.

ATTORNEY REALISM: Since this isn’t to be taken seriously, it’s hard to comment. I still think this is Carrey’s best career movie performance, though.

WITNESS REALISM: Fine. I like the part how Tilly’s character is persuaded to tell the truth about her weight.

JUDGE REALISM: Actually, even in the midst of the frenetic Carrey comedy, Jason Bernard as the trial judge maintains realistic reactions. He had plenty of practice, as he played judges quite frequently on television over the years. Sadly, he died just after filming concluded.

[SIZE=12pt] FOOTNOTE: Good movie, ill-fitting selection based on the announced criteria.[/SIZE]

The Shawshank Redemption (1994) (higgins) (3 points)

THE VERDICT: A great film and, of course, completely revered around these parts, but this isn’t an outstanding courtroom scene, just a solid one. Scene quality was good.

OVERALL REALISM: The selected scene, which is basically the film’s opening sequence, combines the cross-examination of Andy Dufresne by the prosecutor, a portion of the prosecution’s closing argument, and a brief snippet of Andy being sentenced by the judge. One troublesome aspect in evaluating this for realism is that it takes place in Maine in 1947, making modern-day comparisons a bit more difficult. This also creates an irony, noted below.

LEGAL REALISM: Although the scene doesn’t tell us anything about Dufresne’s circumstances, we learn those later. One thing that knocks the scene down a couple of pegs is that Dufresne’s lawyer fails to object to the badgering questioning by the prosecutor; instead, Andy meets it with steely-eyed conviction and unwavering, even unblinking steadfastness. This serves the story but doesn’t really create a terribly realistic feel, although it could be argued that (like Meryl Streep’s character in “A Cry in the Dark”) Andy is just exhausted by the entire process and resigned to leave his fate in the hands of the jury. There are certainly criminal defendants who take that attitude, although I can’t say I’ve seen too many facing life imprisonment who do so.

ATTORNEY REALISM: The prosecutor is just too sneering and condescending for my taste; in many modern urban jurisdictions, some jurors would find that off-putting (particularly from a representative of the government) and decide against that attorney right then and there, just to teach him or her a lesson. It’s not right or rational, but it happens, and so the attitude of a prosecutor in a situation like this has to be approached with extreme care. It’s not blatant, but it does grate just enough to diminish the scene. I’m still wondering where Andy’s lawyer was, too.

WITNESS REALISM: Pretty much covered above. Robbins’ performance fits in more with the rest of the story than with the attitude one might expect a respected banker to have in such a situation.

JUDGE REALISM: Very good - - I like his comments about Andy lacking heart. These days, at least in federal court, sentencing is far less open to the judge’s discretion and they’re pretty much reading out of a book of formulas to arrive at the time to be served, but this is state court and in the 1940s, just after World War II. Completely realistic.

FOOTNOTE: I first saw this film not too long after I entered law school, and I remember thinking that the courtroom scene wasn’t terrific, but set the stage for the rest of the movie well enough. Some things don’t change, it seems.

The Insider (1999) (Kumerica) (4 points)

THE VERDICT: Hmm. This is probably the toughest call of the category, because the movie is good, I love its message, and there’s a lot of drama in the scene. However, the scene itself is not particularly realistic at all, even though it’s based on completely real-life events. Scene quality was excellent.

OVERALL REALISM: The problem here is that the ACTUAL pre-trial deposition is more interesting than what Michael Mann and the scriptwriters portray here, and it doesn’t include Bruce McGill’s fiery and well-delivered, but ultimately silly “this is not North Carolina . . . this is the sovereign state of Mississippi” speech. During the actual deposition, Ron Motley, the attorney played by McGill, sparred repeatedly with the tobacco company lawyers, who tried on a near-constant basis to get the witness, former tobacco industry scientist Jeffrey Wigand, to stop his testimony, but Motley and Wigand persevered. The transcript of most the deposition, as well as a few video excerpts, is here on Wigand’s site, and it’s far more interesting than the fictionalized dialogue. Why the writers didn’t just use some of the lines from the transcript – Motley even fires off some colorful one-liners – is beyond me.

LEGAL REALISM: Poor. The film could have shown the fast-paced efforts by the tobacco lawyers to shut down Motley’s questioning, and Motley’s clever efforts to get around it, but it utterly failed to do so in favor of some goofy Hollywood drama and plenty of screaming by McGill. Again, let me stress that McGill, who’s one of my favorite underrated character actors, did a great job, but the script is very silly.

ATTORNEY REALISM: Another problem is how the chief tobacco industry lawyer just stops his objections after McGill’s Motley shuts him down with a full-throated, soul-stirring speech. In reality, the objections continued throughout the entire proceeding.

WITNESS REALISM: For some reason, Crowe portrays Wigand as though he is practically suffering from some sort of autism spectrum disorder; Wigand himself comes across as far more standard in his behavior. Wigand didn’t wear glasses during the deposition, but Crowe does. Weird.

JUDGE REALISM: Overruled, but amusingly, the first pillar of obstruction by the tobacco lawyers during the real-life proceedings was to argue that the presiding judge should be called to resolve a dispute over the areas of testimony about which Motley was attempting to solicit answers from Wigand. At one point, one of the tobacco lawyers even virtually pleads on the record for someone to redouble their efforts to find the judge. However, no one ever did and the deposition proceeded. Showing *this* would have been a great way to illustrate the nature of this witness examination, and could have been easily compressed into a few minutes for dramatic effect.

FOOTNOTE: Great movie, but lousy courtroom scene.

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) (jwb) (5 points)

THE VERDICT: This was a strange pick for the category. It’s a great film, of course, but this isn’t really a courtroom and it doesn’t fit the announced criteria. There is questioning, and some repartee between poor Joan and the torturers, but evaluating this against the other selections in the category is nigh impossible. It kills to me to give hyped-up, fact-destroying garbage like “JFK” a higher-ranking than this, but I will at least rank this at five points because of the quality of the film and the innovation of the choice. There’s no point in going through the rest of my evaluative framework, as it just doesn’t fit. The drama in the last minute or so of the selected scene, incidentally, as Joan gives an impassioned speech and then faints, is amazing. This film sure was ahead of its time.

[The remainder are coming on Saturday.]

 
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Since no one ranked the films I didn't, here are the points:

1 pt - The Girl Next Door (Acer)

1 pt - State and Main (Nick V)

3 pts - Ed Wood (Dr Octopus)

4 pts - Bowfinger (Mister CIA)

5 pts - Sunset Boulevard (jwb)

6 pts - Baadasssss (Bobby Lane)

7 pts - Blazing Saddles (tim)

8 pts - Argo (Usual 21)

9 pts - Who Framed Roger Rabbit (tiannamen tank)

10 pts - Tropic Thunder (Aerial Assault)

11 pts - Zack and Miri Make a Porno (joffer)

12 pts - Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (hooter 311)

13 pts - Be Kind Rewind (tish)

14 pts - Holiday Inn (rikishiboy)

15 pts - In Bruges (jml)

16 pts - Super 8 (Andy Dufresne)

17 pts - Son of Rambow (Karma Police)

18 pts - CQ (Kumerica)

19 pts - Day for Night (tremendous upside)

20 pts - Shadow of the Vanpire (higgins)

21 pts - Hooper (doug b)

22 pts – Singin’ in the Rain (Mrs Rannous)

23 pts - Living in Oblivion (krista)

24 pts - Chaplin (Rannous)

25 pts - Hugo (Time Kibitzer)

(The first two each got one point since I had no way to rank them.)
1 point because you couldn't rent the movie?
I tried. I couldn't find it. And I really like Charles Durning. But it also wasn't really my job to rent it.

 
(Courtroom Scenes, Continued)

TWO GAVELS

These next five are quite a bit better than the bottom five but have some obvious flaws. Whoops; I should have changed the order. Oh, well. Read from the bottom up for this post.

Inherit the Wind (1960) (Mrs. Rannous) (10 points)

THE VERDICT: Another problematic pick give the announced criteria. Scene quality was compromised by the You Tube link featuring an overlay of goofy techno music (no, I kid you not) over the last third, but it’s not like I haven’t seen this before.

OVERALL REALISM: We start with the fact that the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925 was a show in and of itself, designed in large part to make a mockery of the judicial process by the two sides, which were almost exclusively focused on advancing their own agendas outside of the courtroom. So we’re dealing with a nearly unique event here. The problem? The original play, which the 1960 film adaptation follows fairly faithfully, fictionalizes the account for reasons of pure Hollywood. It’s totally unnecessary and ultimately disappointing.

LEGAL REALISM: Again, the real-life event wasn’t much of an actual trial, but a showcase for the two sides’ positions, but this scene has the two adversaries shouting at one another while the judge does nothing. Worse, the William Jennings Bryan surrogate is on the witness stand, which creates a real judging quandary here because it’s totally unrealistic – but it actually happened.

ATTORNEY REALISM: Most historical accounts of the trial show that Clarence Darrow was probably the more dismissive and contemptuous of the proceedings as between him and Bryan, but the film shows the opposite. The real trial was also more of an actual court proceeding and a battle between two skilled advocates than an endless string of speeches, most delivered very loudly.

WITNESS REALISM: See above.

JUDGE REALISM: Harry Morgan’s judge is a potted plant throughout the entire scene. Maybe everyone else here had a larger agenda, but the real-life judge didn’t, at least not one that much has ever been written about. So the script’s portrayal of this aspect is unfortunate.

FOOTNOTE: Most of the Hollywood fictionalizations are in favor of evolution and against the creationists, so I can’t say that bothers me too much, to put it mildly. I tried to discard this factor in my ranking, and am mostly including this disclaimer so no one reading this writeup and examining the ranking concludes that I’m some sort of anti-evolution zealot.

And Justice for All (1979) (DougB) (9 points)

THE VERDICT: Oh, boy. More entertaining drama at the cost of legal realism. I figured this would be taken so at least I was ready. Scene quality was good and I appreciated the drafter’s setup.

OVERALL REALISM: I’ve never found anything particularly realistic about this movie except the notion of legal corruption and judges as human beings, but luckily, those are the primary underpinnings of the screenplay. In the selected scene, of course, there’s virtually no realism, but then, I’ve never seen a lawyer just absolutely lose it court. Strangely enough, I don’t know anyone else who has, nor have I ever read of more than a handful of real-life examples, and certainly not outcome-determinative ones like this.

LEGAL REALISM: Virtually none, and this ranking is going to have to depend on dramatics and entertainment, which will only carry it so far against the other selections.

ATTORNEY REALISM: See above. I do love “I’VE JUST COMPLETED MY OPENING STATEMENT,” but Pacino does just too much scene-chewing here, the reactions of Craig T. Nelson's prosecutor are weirdly off (he ought to be thrilled and just sitting back in bewildered and bemused satisfaction instead of looking around frantically), and the applause by the spectators is preposterous.

WITNESS REALISM: Overruled.

JUDGE REALISM: Forsythe’s portrayal of the judge-as-defendant is great; I’m not nearly as much of a fan of Jack Warden’s portrayal of the wacked-out trial judge. And by the way, this has to be the least effective courtroom security I’ve ever seen. They take hours to get to Pacino and then utterly fail to subdue him until the script allows him to spit out all of his lines.

FOOTNOTE: I tried not to be influenced by how disturbingly weird I’ve always found this film to be.

JFK (1991) (John Madden’s Lunchbox) (8 points)

THE VERDICT: I’d love to rate this with one point, or even zero, based on the fact that it is a dramatization of one of the most sickening prosecutions in recent American history by a maniacal zealot who distorted the truth and ignored facts at will, ruining the life of a completely innocent man in the process, but I’ll just rate the scene.

Scene quality was good.

OVERALL REALISM: As long as we’re not talking about the preposterous “deconstruction” of the much-maligned, poorly-understood, deliberately-misnamed “Magic Bullet Theory,” the scene is probably the most realistic of the closing arguments selected.

LEGAL REALISM: This is actually pretty close to what a closing argument looks like in many, perhaps most, civil cases and a good many complex criminal cases. Setting aside the fact that the courtroom appears to be about as long as a football field, and that Costner’s Garrison keeps walking into new areas filled with professional-quality exhibits, mockups, and charts, that’s what attorneys do during closing arguments. While the film itself is a bad joke – read Gerald Posner’s Case Closed and/or Vincent Bugliosi’s Reclaiming History, which includes an entire chapter on the nonsense of “JFK,” for the real story – this is a very good approximation of a real-life summation, and it’s dramatic to boot.

ATTORNEY REALISM: Costner does a nice job playing a very charismatic attorney. His portrayal has virtually nothing in common with the real-life Jim Garrison, who was justifiably thrown out of office by Harry Connick, Sr. for continued near-psychotic abuses of power not too long after his sad crusade against Clay Shaw, but if you ignore all of that, Costner does a great job here and sells what a prosecutor forming a (or benefiting from an already-formed) good rapport with the jury should look like.

WITNESS REALISM: Overruled.

JUDGE REALISM: Overruled.

FOOTNOTE: “JFK” is being re-released this November in some theaters and on Blu-Ray, with the latter apparently containing new half-truths and outright lies to counter all of the criticism that the film has received in the last 22 years. Can’t wait.

Anatomy of a Murder (1959) (rikishiboy) (7 points)

THE VERDICT: Another great dramatic pick that heavily sacrifices legal realism for exciting proceedings, and unnecessarily too. However, the acting by Jimmy Stewart is unreal – in a good way.

No link was provided, but from the drafter’s comments I gather that this is the “core of the apple” scene.

OVERALL REALISM: Not great; this film is about drama, not trial clinics. Throughout this scene and much of the movie, Stewart and the two prosecutors deluge the judge with legal arguments right in front of the jury. It’s great acting and dialogue, but would absolutely never happen in a courtroom with the jury present.

LEGAL REALISM: The case itself is really fascinating, and the best parts of this movie involve the ins and outs of it; it’s very cleverly written. This scene doesn’t address that too much.

ATTORNEY REALISM: Stewart talks a lot but comes off as pretty convincing, as do the prosecutors, played by Brooks West and George C. Scott. I like the part when Stewart says that he can’t contend against the two legal titans making objections at the same time, and the judge agrees. The one witness-one attorney rule is actually written into most judges’ trial procedures these days.

JUDGE REALISM: The judge was not played by a professional actor, but by Joseph Welch, the lawyer who demanded to know whether Joe McCarthy had any decency. It’s inspired casting but poor Welch mostly just has to sit there and endure the speeches. I do like this element of this scene, however: after Stewart makes his “core of the apple” appeal and the prosecutor objects, Welch sits there for what seems like an eternity, snaps shut and fiddles with his pocket watch, then finally rules. It’s really interesting in a real courtroom when the judge has the floor to rule on something but sits back and thinks for a moment, and no one dares to say anything.

FOOTNOTE: This has all the feel of a movie adaptation of a stage production, but it’s based on a novel.

Primal Fear (1996) (Tish155) (6 points)

THE VERDICT: Another really tough call provided by this draft, but one I saw coming, at least, as I knew that this precise scene would be selected. This is a pick that benefits from dramatic license – i.e., the excellent drama that it provides – in the face of its almost total lack of realism.

OVERALL REALISM: Virtually none. Of course the premise here is that the two attorneys (played by Richard Gere and Laura Linney, the prosecutor doing the interrogating in this scene) have their own motives for allowing this examination to proceed the way that it does. However, a real-life Martin Vail, Gere’s character, would simply have brought the whole matter before the judge, who would probably have done what she eventually does anyway, and Vail could have avoided committing serious attorney misconduct (not to mention probably committing a crime or two) by effectively endangering Linney’s character and hiding key evidence.

LEGAL REALISM: True as to the fact that the plea likely couldn’t be switched, setting up the courtroom confrontation selected, but totally ridiculous in that the easy way out was to bring the whole matter to the attention of the judge in the presence of the jury. Vail could also have forced a mistrial in about 100 different ways (in the legal universe of the film, anyway) without the stunt that he pulls here. Moreover, the judge’s final solution would have probably been to declare a mistrial and order Norton’s character retried, this time with the entrance of an insanity plea available, not to take over the proceedings herself after dismissing the jury.

ATTORNEY REALISM: Venable (Linney) badgers Norton’s character relentlessly, and nearly pays a serious price for it. While Vail naturally allows this because it gets him what he wants, well, see “Judge Realism.”

WITNESS REALISM: Who knows? I will say that Norton has never been my favorite actor and this, his debut, made me hate him in everything he’s been in since, with the exception of the last Bourne movie (where he was playing an odious villain). I’ll also note that L.A. Law did a plot very close to this about seven or eight years earlier, and better. Again, this ranking is on dramatics, not realism.

JUDGE REALISM: Pretty bad. Vail and Venable have their own reasons for the badger-to-bad-outcome cross-examination, but Alfre Woodard’s judge sure doesn’t. Most judges would have stopped Venable’s shouting and posturing or at least asked her to done it down.

FOOTNOTE: With apologies to the drafter, this, for me, is one of the worst courtroom scenes in recent American cinema, but it doesn’t get the bottom ranking (or even really all that close to it) because there were other picks that didn’t fit the category or were even more unrealistic.



 
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THREE GAVELS

Now we're getting into some quality, and some really tough rankings. Many of the selections from here on up were outstanding and really well-acted monologues that lost out to courtroom scenes with more complete legal trappings. Read from the bottom up.

A Time to Kill (1996) (Usual21) (16 points)

THE VERDICT: The protracted summation scene from this Grisham adaptation veers from real to unreal and back again, but ultimately scores well. Scene quality was not good but I just watched my version.

OVERALL REALISM: This is like a tennis match. Points scored for the length of the closing argument. Points deducted for what sounds like the introduction of new evidence concerning one of the witnesses. Points scored for McConaughey’s defense lawyer saying that he had a lengthy summation all drawn up but tossed it out in favor of what he’s about to discuss - I’ve seen that done. Points deducted for no charts, graphs, or even more than one or two bare references to the witness testimony. Points scored, however, for recreating the scene of the murder vividly for the jury members. Points deducted for admitting that he made mistakes and was inexperienced: bad idea to remind the jury of that right before deliberations. Points scored for the drama of the scene and the ultimate appeal to the jury of “now imagine she’s white.”

LEGAL REALISM: I like the way that McConaughey’s Jake Brigance doesn’t fly around the courtroom or bounce off the walls while he delivers his speech. In fact, he remains virtually stationary, which is never what you see in Hollywood but what attorneys are supposed to do unless moving around to an exhibit or something, even to the point of some judges ordering it in their standing trial procedures. The reactions of the jurors are realistic, even if I’ve always thought that one or two of them might have been resentful about being asked to close their eyes.

ATTORNEY REALISM: Kevin Spacey’s prosecutor’s reactions are pitch-perfect: he looks uncomfortable, he seems to be considering objecting at one point or more (always a dicey proposition during the opponent's summation), and he looks at the judge several times, perhaps wondering if he is going to interrupt the proceedings. Or Spacey's character might just have been trying to gauge how the closing was going over with the evidentiary gatekeeper.

JUDGE REALISM: Patrick McGoohan doesn’t say anything during this scene, but I like his reactions. By the way, that’s the biggest courtroom I’ve ever seen – even though the common belief that Hollywood courtrooms are always too large is actually not really all that accurate. There are some big ones out there. But with what appear to be three decks of seating, bleachers, rooftop seats across Waveland Avenue, and popcorn vendors? Probably not.

FOOTNOTE: I thought it was interesting that this was the only Grisham adaptation that was taken in the category.

A Separation (2011) (Time Kibitzer) (15 points)

THE VERDICT: The 2011 film about an Iranian divorce was an inspired pick that really taxes a judge looking for realism as the main criterion, but thankfully, I’ve seen this film, for reasons that are too convoluted to explain.

OVERALL REALISM: From what I understand in researching the matter, very high; the character’s divorce petition is rejected, and the judge takes pains to explain his rationale in detail.

LEGAL REALISM: I really enjoyed the film’s portrayal of what I think most of us would loosely (and fairly) call the “Iranian justice system.” The courtroom scene occurs at the beginning and apparently, consultants were brought in to make sure that it mirrored reality as closely as possible. That’s got to be good enough for me. It certainly feels realistic, and I have no doubt that this is a better portrayal of what really goes on in Iranian courtrooms than the usual Hollywood portrayal of American trials and other legal proceedings, which is so often painful to watch, at least while thinking critically.

ATTORNEY REALISM: Overruled.

WITNESS REALISM: The actress playing main character Simin, Leila Hatami, is simply spectacular in this scene, and in the whole movie.

JUDGE REALISM: Another outstanding acting job from this gentleman. This really is a gem of a film for those who haven’t seen it.

FOOTNOTE: The closing courtroom scene might be a little less powerful, but it’s no less moving and well-acted, and (I assume from my research) realistic. It would have scored identically.

A Cry in the Dark/Evil Angels (1988) (Tiananmen Tank) (14 points)

THE VERDICT: A really well-done scene in a movie mostly remembered anecdotally thanks to Seinfeld and other parodic mentions, but which nicely captures a baffling episode in recent English-speaking criminal jurisprudence.

The scene selected was only 51 seconds long and didn’t show much, but I remember the courtroom sequences in the movie vividly.

OVERALL REALISM: Excellent. The courtroom has the right feel to it, there is little grandstanding or theatrics, and the attitudes of the participants have a high degree of verisimilitude. The courtroom segments in the movie have the feel of a documentary more than a drama, which is a good thing.

LEGAL REALISM: Very good. It’s a murder prosecution, and as the accused Lindy Chamblerlain, Meryl Streep displays persecution with just the right amount of restrained anger (while doing what sure sounds to me like a reasonable Aussie-Kiwi accent). I’ve seen many accused witnesses in proceedings both civil and criminal with exactly this sort of clenched-teeth frustration, but they weren’t climbing the walls or screaming at everyone.

WITNESS REALISM: Top-notch, as mentioned. The idea here was to portray Lindy Chamberlain as she testified in real-life: emotionless, without any plea for sympathy from the jury (even though she was pregnant at the time of trial). That’s hard to pull off for an actor, but Meryl Streep was unsurprisingly equal to the task.

ATTORNEY REALISM: This scene shows only the prosecutor, but he’s appropriately inquisitive without nonsensical artificial drama.

JUDGE REALISM: I’ve never been in a courtroom in this jurisdiction, but the actor playing the judge captured the detachment of most bench officers well.

FOOTNOTE: A new inquest in 2012 definitely established that, indeed, a dingo took baby Azaria.

Paths of Glory (1957) (Karma Police) (13 points)

THE VERDICT: More of a monologue than a courtroom scene, but nonetheless a pretty strong pick; from here on up, the picks were all very good. Scene quality was excellent.

OVERALL REALISM: Well, I’m not in much of a position to comment on the details and nuances of World War I-era French courts-martial, but there’s nothing that screams Hollywood about this scene. Kirk Douglas’ defense attorney (actually the commander of the accused troops, defending them because he was a criminal defense lawyer as a civilian) does get a little hot under the collar, but not in an inappropriate way that would draw anything more than a mild rebuke (if that) from most judges today, particularly in the setting of a closing argument.

LEGAL REALISM: Like a couple of other selections, this features a “kangaroo court” element, and such themes resonate resoundingly with me because I’ve seen a few too many such proceedings in various contexts and jurisdictions.

ATTORNEY REALISM: Douglas’ Colonel Dax informs the court that it is illegitimate, but manages to do so in a respectful way, and appeals to justice and, ultimately, mercy. Seldom does any lawyer run into this sort of situation in his or her career, unless it’s spent defending capital cases, but I have seen such appeals in the face of overbearing, prosecution-friendly judges, and for all I know, this may have been the model. I also love how George Macready’s character, who is effectively the prosecutor, casually lounges on a divan during the defense’s summation, knowing that he has the case in the proverbial bag no matter what Dax does.

WITNESS REALISM: Overruled.

JUDGE REALISM: Not much to go on here, but other scenes display it fairly realistically.

FOOTNOTE: This is an oft-overlooked film that I personally regard as a near-masterpiece.

Sleepers (1996) (Tremendous Upside) (12 points)

THE VERDICT: A “sleeper” choice indeed, this movie’s focus was elsewhere but its courtroom scene was a clever, if not earth-shattering, selection.

Scene quality was excellent, clocking in at over six minutes long.

OVERALL REALISM: Good, particularly in the person of Dustin Hoffman. DeNiro is a little too glib and smug for the part of the priest, in my opinion (one joke too many), which undermines the realism of the scene subtly, but enough to knock this selection down a bit. Incidentally, this is only a problem on direct exam; his performance on cross-exam is perfectly realistic and not flippant at all. The dialogue (again, mostly on direct exam) is also not particularly stellar; it could have been better.

LEGAL REALISM: Solid. The courtroom has the right feel and the presentation of the witness, the reactions of the jury and the spectators, and everything else is something you could walk right into the middle of at Supreme Court on Centre Street in Manhattan. I must add that the assignment of Brad Pitt’s character as the ADA prosecuting the case would absolutely never happen in a million years given his ties to the defendants, but that’s not part of the scene, so I deducted no points for this problem.

WITNESS REALISM: On cross, something you might see in a criminal prosecution every day, although the ticket stubs would probably draw an objection (but in many jurisdictions, maybe not). On direct, as mentioned, DeNiro comes off as 98% Robert DeNiro and only about 2% the part he’s supposed to be playing.

ATTORNEY REALISM: Dustin Hoffman, as supposed burnout Danny Snyder, is very good, walking around with his legal pad and asking just the right questions without leading the witness. Brad Pitt is credible as the prosecutor and reacts much like a real DA would to DeNiro’s testimony – importantly, there are no histrionics – whether you understand the backstory of his character or not.

JUDGE REALISM: Fine and perfectly believable.

FOOTNOTE: I’d argue that this is the last movie of any particular note directed by Barry Levinson, which is odd considering his achievements before it. And speaking of Centre Street realism in film (or TV), the real-life Lorenzo Calcaterra (played by Jason Patric), upon whose book this movie is based, wrote and produced several eps of Law & Order.

National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978) (Val Rannous) (11 points)

THE VERDICT: One of the category’s only two truly successful comedic selections is rewarded a bit, because if there’s one thing that needs to be sent up, it’s the ridiculously slanted nature of too many student disciplinary proceedings.

Scene quality was good.

OVERALL REALISM: As with a couple of other selections, I’m going to suspend my formulaic breakdown for this choice, as the evaluative subcategories don’t really apply.

This pick scores as high as it does because even though the Delts were largely guilty, I have enough firsthand experience (as a lawyer) with the disciplinary systems of universities to know how utterly biased they are, procedurally and substantively, against the students. It just doesn’t seem to serve the interests of many institutions of higher learning if students get a fair trial, and the extraordinarily twisted message that sends to young people trying to obtain an education is apparently lost on many an administrator. I have no idea how much of that played into this selection, but kudos anyway. The “kangaroo courts” of too many student disciplinary proceedings are well captured by this clip.

 
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FOUR GAVELS

It's just one notch below flawless for these selections. Read from the bottom up again; m'bad.

My Cousin Vinny (1992) (joffer) (19 points)

THE VERDICT: Although a link was not provided, I certainly know this one and got it out to watch. The drafter chose the examination of Marisa Tomei’s character. It’s a comedy but actually surprisingly realistic.

OVERALL REALISM: Let this be a lesson to some other “courtroom comedies” out there - - you can be funny and realistic at the same time. Trials are often amusing despite the seriousness of the subject matter, and the rapport between Pesci’s Vinny and Marisa Tomei’s Lisa, serving here as an expert witness mechanic, is palpable and fantastic. I can’t say I’ve seen too many attorneys examine their fiancés or fiancées before, but I have seen lawyers question relatives with whom they obviously had more familiarity than most counselors do with their witnesses, and this is pretty close to what it actually looked like.

LEGAL REALISM: The legal underpinnings of the scene are pretty much completely accurate. The concept of the fast-talking, smart-mouthed Tomei as an expert witness is deviously brilliant.

ATTORNEY REALISM: At a younger stage of my career, I had the distinct pleasure of appearing in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens. Joe Pesci’s Vinny would have fit right in. Lane Smith’s DA is a little over the top but fine.

WITNESS REALISM: It doesn’t hurt that Tomei is just adorable here, but leaving that aside, she answers the very cogent and perceptive questions definitively, logically, and completely, leaving little room for cross-examination, which is what the best experts do.

JUDGE REALISM: The late Fred Gwynne, in one of his last performances, is one of the best parts of the movie, as his sparring with Vinny is hilarious yet often quite true to life at the same time (notwithstanding the fact that some of Vinny’s evasions strain credulity).

FOOTNOTE: I’m glad I had the opportunity to judge a good comedy, instead of some of those selected here and in the Superhero category that just . . . weren’t funny. Good pick.

Presumed Innocent (1990) (Nick Vermeil) (18 points)

THE VERDICT: One of the best value picks in the entire draft shows exactly how a cross-examination – and a devastatingly effective one at that – occurs.

The scene was not linked but I have the movie and went and watched it.

OVERALL REALISM: Very, very high. The scene mirrors the corresponding portion of the book very closely, and Scott Turow certainly knew what the cross-examination of an expert witness looks and sounds like.

LEGAL REALISM: Raul Julia’s Sandy Stern character, defending a prosecutor (Harrison Ford) on trial for murder of a colleague, gets the expert to establish his story, then blows it up, all the while avoiding cheap theatrics or anger. Julia does what a cross-examiner is supposed to do: he effectively testifies through the hostile witness, here an expert. As a bonus, the expert isn’t portrayed as a bumbling doofus: I’ve seen many expert witness crosses in which the seasoned expert ends up smoothly schooling the interrogator.

ATTORNEY REALISM: Just about perfect. No screaming, no yelling, no dramatic lunges forward or theatrical flourishes. Great character, great portrayal.

WITNESS REALISM: Also very high, as mentioned. The avoidance of histrionics, especially in a scene involving the cross of an expert, is a massive plus.

JUDGE REALISM: Fine.

FOOTNOTE: I get the general sense, not from this draft but just overall, that many people have not seen this movie, which is a shame. The subsequent semi-sequel book and later-adapted TV miniseries featuring/starring Hector Elizondo as Stern, “The Burden of Proof,” are also excellent.

Breaker Morant (1980) (Mister CIA via Andy Dufresne) (17 points)

THE VERDICT: An unfairly unheralded movie wins points for its soaring, inspired closing argument.

Scene quality was excellent. I considered this for my “monologue” selection and was surprised that it ultimately served as an add-on pick given the presence of monologue and courtroom categories and its superb fit for both.

OVERALL REALISM: High. As I discuss during my segment on “The Verdict,” long closing arguments in civil cases are the norm and are often absolutely necessary, diminishing the believability of an appeal to justice-style closing argument in that context. In the criminal arena, however, you do see these sorts of moving speeches made from time to time, particularly if the delivering attorney is satisfied that the jury has a pretty solid command of all of the evidence. That’s why the standard three-minute closing argument on Law & Order doesn’t grate. Don’t get me wrong – the norm is still to have a boring closing argument with all sorts of graphs and blown-up crime scene photos, but I think juries actually appreciate these kinds of quick-hit closings far more than most criminal defense counsel will accept. Of course, not every third-degree larceny case lends itself to an impassioned appeal to the jury’s sense of right and wrong with few references to the facts of the matter.

LEGAL REALISM: Pretty much covered, supra.

ATTORNEY REALISM: This is one heck of a speech from renowned Australian actor Jack Thompson (recently seen as Nick’s doctor in “The Great Gatsby,” and some American viewers might remember him as Cliegg Lars in “Attack of the Clones”), and its delivery is nearly flawless. I’ve seen some pretty good lawyering, and rarely does it approach this level of eloquence or well-ordered logic, but I’m not going to dock this great selection for *that*.

WITNESS REALISM: Overruled.

JUDGE REALISM: Overruled.

FOOTNOTE: As Andy noted, virtually no one seems to have seen this movie, and I agree that it’s a real shame. Maybe it’s the somewhat obscure (to American audiences) subject matter, or the cerebral presentation, but this is a great film.

 
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FIVE GAVELS

The best of the best, and I'll arrange them (properly) for suspense for this last post.

12 Angry Men (1957) (Andy Dufresne) (20 points)

THE VERDICT: One of the true classics of the legal dramatic genre. Dufresne checked with me before selecting this, concerned that it wasn’t truly in the courtroom, but the jury room is just an extension of the courtroom, and is, of course, where the ultimate fate of the parties is formally sealed and decided. Accordingly, this was a nice pick. Scene quality was very good.

OVERALL REALISM: The film certainly lives up to its title; just about everyone back in the room is angry in one manner or another (except for one or two who seem to have other things on their mind), and the film takes pains to illustrate that. There’s a fair amount of overacting, particularly from the main speaker in this scene (Juror 10, played by Ed Begley), but it’s not unrealistic, just a bit of dramatic license. I have never sat on a jury – most attorneys are sensibly booted by one side or the other during voir dire – but I’ve seen enough mock juries staged by consultants, and spoken with enough jurors after trial, to know that this sort of passion – if not this sort of open prejudice, one hopes – is definitely on display in some cases.

LEGAL REALISM: There’s nothing legally deficient about the scene at all. I’ve always liked how Henry Fonda’s Juror 8 coolly takes command of the situation after the mini-“walkout” is staged by the listeners who are forced to listen to Juror 10’s outburst of bigotry. The reaction of E.G. Marshall, playing the almost Vulcan Juror 4, to Juror 10’s pleas of “listen to me” is truly classic as well. It’s always interesting to find, after a trial, who dominated the jury discussion, and on which points.

ATTORNEY REALISM: Overruled.

WITNESS REALISM: Overruled.

JUDGE REALISM: Overruled.

FOOTNOTE: A legal classic and a film that would have been sorely missed not it not been drafted. A must-watch these days in any trial practice class, in my view.

Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) (krista4) (21 points)

THE VERDICT: An obvious pick but one of the many fantastic selections in the category. A powerful, realistic and moving choice.

Obtaining the scene was a problem because the supplied link was broken, but thankfully, I was able to tell what was selected from the drafter’s comments. It’s the same one I would have picked if this had been my choice, even though Dustin Hoffman also had quite a nice turn in the box.

OVERALL REALISM: Extremely high. Family law is one of the areas that I will not touch with a ten-foot pole; despite having covered a wide variety of practice areas in my career due to various circumstances and my desire not to be niched, I have only handled two family court matters, both for friends as favors. I’ll never do it again. There are no winners in family court; everyone is profoundly unhappy; and child custody battles such as that depicted in this masterpiece of a film are almost overwhelmingly tragic. This portrayal of the courtroom process in such a case is very, very credible and tangibly real.

LEGAL REALISM: I mostly covered it in the above paragraph.

ATTORNEY REALISM: The selected scene is the cross-examination of Joanna Kramer, played by Meryl Streep at her most attractive. Her ex-husband Ted, played by Dustin Hoffman, has hired a ruthless family court litigator expertly played by the late Howard Duff, and he completely deconstructs Joanna and gets her to admit (through tears and almost silently) that in the most significant personal relationship of her life, her marriage to Ted, she was a failure. Although Duff’s character actually screams (“WERE YOU??”) at Joanna at one point and the judge and her attorney do nothing, that can and does happen with fair regularity, and is even tolerated if used sparingly, particularly in family court where there is no jury present. But the best moment of attorney realism comes at the end of the clip, when Hoffman asks Duff, returning to counsel table after concluding his questions, “Did you have to be so rough on her?” and Duff gruffly responds, “Do you want the kid or not?” EXACTLY. Bravo.

WITNESS REALISM: Just about perfect - - it’s Meryl Streep, appearing here on the stand for the second time. She isn’t testy and she doesn’t spar with Duff’s aggressive and hostile questioner, although I love the attempted evasion of “it . . . did not succeed” as an answer to the demand as to whether or not she failed in the marriage.

JUDGE REALISM: Pretty good. He’s a little rougher on Joanna than most judges would be, but as an older male judge, that’s certainly not out of the bounds of reality at all. Moreover, many judges, as I alluded to above, let quite a bit go when they are the factfinder and there is no jury. Oh, and I forgot to mention above that the award of custody at the end of the case is also completely realistic and not only possible, but even probable.

FOOTNOTE: I’ve never read any details on it, but I always thought it was interesting that Streep won Best Supporting Actress for this, and was not nominated in the lead category. However, she might have lost to Sally Field for “Norma Rae” instead of cruising to what I imagine was an overwhelming win in the supporting category, which also included Jane Alexander from this film. The flick won for Best Picture, Best Actor (Hoffman, of course), Best Director (Robert Benton) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Benton again).

Philadelphia (1993) (Aerial Assault) (22 points)

THE VERDICT: My pick, and I didn’t see anything to knock it down more than a couple of spots. In fact, I could make an argument that it was more realistic, my primary basis for evaluation, than “A Few Good Men,” but the dramatic magnificence of the latter has to carry the day here.

OVERALL REALISM: It’s just about flawless. This is exactly what a courtroom feels like in a big city, and even in the particular big city depicted by the film; I’ve been in enough of its courtrooms to know. The attorneys are cool and dispassionate, the witness is remarkable, the judge acts exactly like real judges do, and the reactions of the jurors and the spectators are precisely on target.

LEGAL REALISM: This scene illustrates one of the true magic techniques of witness examination, which usually occurs on redirect but can also happen on cross: using some device or prop (or even just an idea, but this concept works best with something tangible) introduced by the other side to further your case in the examination of the same witness. Here, it’s the mirror. I love the way that Denzel Washington’s Joe Miller character fights, calmly yet firmly, for the right to keep the examination going so that the impact of his masterful tactic is not lost on the jury by the passage of time.

ATTORNEY REALISM: Denzel’s portrayal is so realistic it’s scary, but as I mentioned when I drafted this, he’s actually outdone by Mary Steenburgen as the law firm’s defense lawyer. She manages to attack Beckett without coming off as a monster, remaining totally under control, never raising her voice, and trying to appeal to the rationality, rather than the passions, of the jury. Very, very few lawyers can do this well, but she acted it just beautifully.

WITNESS REALISM: This is great acting by Hanks and wonderful direction from Jonathan Demme. Beckett is ill, he’s tired, but he knows the significance of his testimony and he’s determined to get through it. And since he’s a lawyer himself, he knows that Miller will largely destroy any points the defense gained during its cross if he’s given a chance to do it right away, so Beckett toughs it out and helps convince the judge to let Miller finish the exam. The subtle smile he flashes at Miller at the end is perfect. In real life, you have to coach your witnesses to the hilt and prepare them for anything; this scene shows a closely-coordinated strategy and a complete trust in Miller on Beckett’s part. Even if they didn’t anticipate the mirror, Beckett knows that Miller will take care of it in just the right way. It’s superb.

JUDGE REALISM: Also pretty much perfect. Many judges spend much of their time during trial concerned with the welfare of the jury members and the witnesses, and the judge’s desire not to create some kind of medical crisis for Beckett by allowing Miller to continue here is precisely what would happen in real life. Moreover, when Miller and the judge converse about continuing for a brief bit for redirect, no one is hollering or getting upset; it’s all business and purely professional.

FOOTNOTE: This is one of those movies, like “Kramer vs. Kramer,” where the courtroom drama is not the primary emphasis of the film, but the courtroom scenes that are included are absolutely first-rate. Bravo to everyone involved for this fantastic scene.

The Verdict (1982) (AcerFC) (23 points)

THE VERDICT (HAHAHA): Paul Newman shines in a closing argument that deviates a bit from civil case reality, but given what happened to his character in the course of the proceedings, can you blame him?

Scene quality was fine.

OVERALL REALISM: Real-life closing arguments are almost impossible to capture on film, and that’s probably a good thing, because in many cases, they’re boring. Depending on the length of the trial, the jury is exhausted and ready to see the case end. In my experience interviewing jurors post-trial, most – but not all – have made up their minds before closing argument, and the usual recapitulation of the evidence by the lawyers does little if anything to sway their conclusions. Normally, in closing arguments, I go witness-by-witness, and try to avoid too much rehashing, instead shooting for an overall narrative that ties all of the testimony together and spins it in my client’s favor. However, I have been tempted more than once – and I won’t say whether I’ve done it or not – to do a “Verdict”-style closing argument and let the evidence speak for itself without additional embellishment. I’ve also seen it done exactly twice. In each instance, the side employing the tactic won. But it’s incredibly risky. Still, it happens, and this film captures it perfectly.

LEGAL REALISM: Again, in a real-life med mal case, there would be charts and blown-up mockups of exhibits galore, and the closing arguments would take as long as the judge allowed, but probably at least several hours for each side. However, I’ve known plenty of jurors who would prefer the Newman character's approach for all the reasons explained above.

WITNESS REALISM: Overruled.

ATTORNEY REALISM: I love Frank Galvin's world-weariness given everything that’s happened to his character in the course of the trial, the issues with Laura (Charlotte Rampling), his client’s frustrations, and the complexity of the case. I’d be very tempted to just chuck the charts and give a “truth and justice” summation too. It does happen and it can work.

JUDGE REALISM: The crusty judge, played by the recently passed Milo O’Shea, was outstanding in this flick, but here he just badgers Galvin to start his summation. Perfectly real.

FOOTNOTE: A natural, but still terrific, selection.

The Caine Mutiny (1954) (timschochet) (24 points)

THE VERDICT: Great pick. This is an amazing film adaptation of a fantastic book, certainly one of the best legal-themed works I’ve ever read.

OVERALL REALISM: I’ve actually seen more than a handful of witnesses lose it on the stand, and even realize that they’re rambling and digging their own graves, and this is pretty much what it looks like. Bogart’s Queeg is a deeply flawed and paranoid man, but he’s also a tragic figure, as the movie emphasizes much more pointedly than the book, and when Bogart pauses and says that he can only testify from memory, and he knocks the steel balls together ceaselessly, while everyone just looks on with pity, it’s magical.

LEGAL REALISM: Pretty much covered above. I had the privilege of attending (not by any means participating in) a court martial once, and the protection of officer witnesses and prevention of assaults on their integrity (also treated well in “A Few Good Men”) is a serious, even overriding concern. The subject is admirably and deftly handled here.

WITNESS REALISM: Witness rambling is much more common in depositions than at trial, but it does happen in trial settings too, and there doesn’t have to be a great deal of histrionics or any Perry Mason-type breakdowns; a lot of times it comes out of nowhere and surprises everyone. This captures that very well.

ATTORNEY REALISM: It’s not really featured in this scene, but in the midst of some wonderful performances and the fantastic Bogart in perhaps his last great role, I’ve always admired the pitch-perfect portrayal of Lt. Barney Greenwald, the defense lawyer, by José Ferrer. Ferrer depicts Greenwald almost as a Vulcan, devoid of emotion (with an exception or two) and discarding needless, unproductive passion but delivering a flawless defense of his clients. It’s not an easy act to pull off, but in my opinion it’s a characteristic of the very best criminal defense attorneys out there. Incidentally, as the movie makes abundantly clear, Greenwald sympathized with Queeg, a career naval officer, and had contempt for the “temporary,” wartime junior officers he was defending. (The book also deals with this theme but, because it is far longer, treats it a bit less concisely and dramatically.) Ferrer’s performance captures all of that completely.

JUDGE REALISM: Overruled.

FOOTNOTE: This is probably my favorite courtroom drama of all time. There were a few other scenes from this one (like the cross-examination of Whit Bissell’s Navy psychiatrist) that would have done just as well.

. . . and the winner is:

A Few Good Men (1992) (Dr. Octopus) (25 points)

THE VERDICT: I think this pretty much has to win the category. Sure, sure, there are histrionics, but they’re well-explained and supported by everything that goes before them.

OVERALL REALISM: There are superb touches of realism throughout the entire movie, but in this scene, some of the elements of Nicholson’s answers and Cruise’s attempts to break him down are just masterfully clever. I also love the gimmick of the two airmen sitting in the gallery with, as it turns out, not much to say.

LEGAL REALISM: By this point in the movie, the law is pretty much out the window and the military-based facts are what will decide the case, but that happens all the time. In fact, I think many courtroom dramas fall down in trying to create what they view as neat little legal tricks and traps, all of which, in reality, would have been dealt with long before in discovery (civil cases) or pretrial proceedings (criminal cases). Here, Cruise’s Lt. (J.G.) Kaffee is going for broke with a bit of a fishing expedition, but given what we’ve seen of Col. Jessup elsewhere in the movie, it fits in perfectly.

ATTORNEY REALISM: I don’t care how many movies he stars in: this will always be Tom Cruise’s best performance. He’s pretty skilled and fast on his feet for a very junior lawyer with a penchant for plea bargaining who’s never been in a courtroom before, but no matter, as that (along with most of the potential plot holes) is amply addressed by the script. Kevin Bacon’s Marine captain prosecutor is another fantastic addition to the movie. I love how, at the end of Jessup’s outburst, he resignedly nods assent to Jessup being brought up on charges, knowing that he has just been witness to, and even an unwitting part of, the self-destruction (if completely deserved) of a decorated Marine officer.

WITNESS REALISM: It’s the witness outburst to end all witness outbursts. During my first jury trial, I remember being surprised at how much the judge let me get away with sparring, quite aggressively at times, with the other side’s most troublesome witness. It happens.

JUDGE REALISM: J.A. Preston’s marine colonel judge, like Bacon, provides another supporting piece that makes this one of the best courtroom dramas ever. His reactions during the various stages of Kaffee’s examination of Jessup are extraordinarily realistic. I particularly like the umbrage he takes at Jessup’s snide remark about not knowing “what kind of unit you’re running here.”

FOOTNOTE: One of those courtroom dramas that has held up best after I went to law school (and even graduated!), meaning that my perspective on it has changed almost not at all since I first saw it. Great pick and the category winner.

Nice drafting. This court is adjourned.

 
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COURTROOM SCENES



FINAL RANKINGS

A Few Good Men (1992) (Dr. Octopus) (25 points)

The Caine Mutiny (1954) (timschochet) (24 points)

The Verdict (1982) (AcerFC) (23 points)

Philadelphia (1993) (Aerial Assault) (22 points)

Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) (krista4) (21 points)

12 Angry Men (1957) (Andy Dufresne) (20 points)

My Cousin Vinny (1992) (joffer) (19 points)

Presumed Innocent (1990) (Nick Vermeil) (18 points)

Breaker Morant (1980) (Mister CIA via Andy Dufresne) (17 points)

A Time to Kill (1996) (Usual21) (16 points)

A Separation (2011) (Time Kibitzer) (15 points)

A Cry in the Dark/Evil Angels (1988) (Tiananmen Tank) (14 points)

Paths of Glory (1957) (Karma Police) (13 points)

Sleepers (1996) (Tremendous Upside) (12 points)

National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978) (Val Rannous) (11 points)

Inherit the Wind (1960) (Mrs. Rannous) (10 points)

And Justice for All (1979) (DougB) (9 points)

JFK (1991) (John Madden’s Lunchbox) (8 points)

Anatomy of a Murder (1959) (rikishiboy) (7 points)

Primal Fear (1996) (Tish155) (6 points)

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) (jwb) (5 points)

The Insider (1999) (Kumerica) (4 points)

The Shawshank Redemption (1994) (higgins) (3 points)

Liar Liar (1997) (“hooter311” played by Karma Police) (2 points)

Idiocracy (2006) (Bobby Layne) (1 point)

 
COURTROOM SCENES



FINAL RANKINGS

A Few Good Men (1992) (Dr. Octopus) (25 points)

The Caine Mutiny (1954) (timschochet) (24 points)

The Verdict (1982) (AcerFC) (23 points)

Philadelphia (1993) (Aerial Assault) (22 points)

Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) (krista4) (21 points)

12 Angry Men (1957) (Andy Dufresne) (20 points)

My Cousin Vinny (1992) (joffer) (19 points)

Presumed Innocent (1990) (Nick Vermeil) (18 points)

Breaker Morant (1980) (Mister CIA via Andy Dufresne) (17 points)

A Time to Kill (1996) (Usual21) (16 points)

A Separation (2011) (Time Kibitzer) (15 points)

A Cry in the Dark/Evil Angels (1988) (Tiananmen Tank) (14 points)

Paths of Glory (1957) (Karma Police) (13 points)

Sleepers (1996) (Tremendous Upside) (12 points)

National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978) (Val Rannous) (11 points)

Inherit the Wind (1960) (Mrs. Rannous) (10 points)

And Justice for All (1979) (DougB) (9 points)

JFK (1991) (John Madden’s Lunchbox) (8 points)

Anatomy of a Murder (1959) (rikishiboy) (7 points)

Primal Fear (1996) (Tish155) (6 points)

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) (jwb) (5 points)

The Insider (1999) (Kumerica) (4 points)

The Shawshank Redemption (1994) (higgins) (3 points)

Liar Liar (1997) (“hooter311” played by Karma Police) (2 points)

Idiocracy (2006) (Bobby Layne) (1 point)
Great Job :thumbup:

Either you did this in 3 days or you've been doing this for months. Obviously the latter.

That's all I was trying to ascertain, how much you'd put in already before I did something with it.

Glad the finished product is as great as it is.

 
Extremely well done as always, AA. Made me really want to go rewatch some of these.

Sorry, didn't know there was a broken link on the Kramer pick. It worked several months ago when I drafted it. I agree the Hoffman testimony would have been good too but that this was superior.

 
Thanks very much to those of you who enjoyed the courtroom rankings. JML, I wrote them on Friday and Saturday, but I had seen all of the movies more than once except "A Separation," and I only had to go dig out a few DVDs for unlinked scenes and such. krista, no problem, GB; broken links are what happens when the judging takes place five months after the drafting. :)

Now - - who is doing monologue to finish this up?

 
Thanks very much to those of you who enjoyed the courtroom rankings. JML, I wrote them on Friday and Saturday, but I had seen all of the movies more than once except "A Separation," and I only had to go dig out a few DVDs for unlinked scenes and such. krista, no problem, GB; broken links are what happens when the judging takes place five months after the drafting. :)

Now - - who is doing monologue to finish this up?
You seriously wrote all that up in 2 days?

Crap. That's damn good stuff then. I thought that was months of writing edited down to the final result.

 
Thanks very much to those of you who enjoyed the courtroom rankings. JML, I wrote them on Friday and Saturday, but I had seen all of the movies more than once except "A Separation," and I only had to go dig out a few DVDs for unlinked scenes and such. krista, no problem, GB; broken links are what happens when the judging takes place five months after the drafting. :)

Now - - who is doing monologue to finish this up?
You seriously wrote all that up in 2 days?

Crap. That's damn good stuff then. I thought that was months of writing edited down to the final result.
Let's see. I started on Friday night after getting home from going out, and was done whenever they were posted late Saturday (Pacific), I think. Oh, but I had written the first like seven or eight selections of my list (I didn't go in any particular order) on Monday night of last week when you and I were slapfighting. ;) So, yeah, two days or so. It was arduous but I enjoyed it and I'm glad you, krista, Nick, Mrs. R and some others did too. And thanks for the compliment.

 
Thanks very much to those of you who enjoyed the courtroom rankings. JML, I wrote them on Friday and Saturday, but I had seen all of the movies more than once except "A Separation," and I only had to go dig out a few DVDs for unlinked scenes and such. krista, no problem, GB; broken links are what happens when the judging takes place five months after the drafting. :)

Now - - who is doing monologue to finish this up?
You seriously wrote all that up in 2 days?

Crap. That's damn good stuff then. I thought that was months of writing edited down to the final result.
Let's see. I started on Friday night after getting home from going out, and was done whenever they were posted late Saturday (Pacific), I think. Oh, but I had written the first like seven or eight selections of my list (I didn't go in any particular order) on Monday night of last week when you and I were slapfighting. ;) So, yeah, two days or so. It was arduous but I enjoyed it and I'm glad you, krista, Nick, Mrs. R and some others did too. And thanks for the compliment.
Yeah, that's a pretty insane output. Maybe you're like I am and write everything in your head and then putting it to paper (or computer) is just a formality? Anyway, so interesting and well done.

I'm hoping Mister CIA is doing monologue. He volunteered but needed some time, but I think his judging, albeit more limited, has been reeaaallly good in the past.

 
Thanks very much to those of you who enjoyed the courtroom rankings. JML, I wrote them on Friday and Saturday, but I had seen all of the movies more than once except "A Separation," and I only had to go dig out a few DVDs for unlinked scenes and such. krista, no problem, GB; broken links are what happens when the judging takes place five months after the drafting. :)

Now - - who is doing monologue to finish this up?
You seriously wrote all that up in 2 days?

Crap. That's damn good stuff then. I thought that was months of writing edited down to the final result.
Let's see. I started on Friday night after getting home from going out, and was done whenever they were posted late Saturday (Pacific), I think. Oh, but I had written the first like seven or eight selections of my list (I didn't go in any particular order) on Monday night of last week when you and I were slapfighting. ;) So, yeah, two days or so. It was arduous but I enjoyed it and I'm glad you, krista, Nick, Mrs. R and some others did too. And thanks for the compliment.
Yeah, that's a pretty insane output. Maybe you're like I am and write everything in your head and then putting it to paper (or computer) is just a formality? Anyway, so interesting and well done.

I'm hoping Mister CIA is doing monologue. He volunteered but needed some time, but I think his judging, albeit more limited, has been reeaaallly good in the past.
Hi! Saw you over in the GMTAN. Hope you will get no more bad news calls tonight.

I am like you as far as having things in my head, but this was more a case of being able to write really quickly about something that I sort of understand fairly well and really enjoy. For example, if someone asked me to rank all 79 original Star Trek episodes and do 45-50 pages total, I might be able to bang that out in 1-2 days. But if it was Breaking Bad episodes - to take an example of a show that I've watched and like, but am not an insane fan of like everyone else - then it would take far longer.

But make no mistake: fast-seeming or not, this was exhausting.

I had forgotten that Mister CIA volunteered to do the monologues. Mister, are you still interested?

 
Thanks very much to those of you who enjoyed the courtroom rankings. JML, I wrote them on Friday and Saturday, but I had seen all of the movies more than once except "A Separation," and I only had to go dig out a few DVDs for unlinked scenes and such. krista, no problem, GB; broken links are what happens when the judging takes place five months after the drafting. :)

Now - - who is doing monologue to finish this up?
You seriously wrote all that up in 2 days?

Crap. That's damn good stuff then. I thought that was months of writing edited down to the final result.
Let's see. I started on Friday night after getting home from going out, and was done whenever they were posted late Saturday (Pacific), I think. Oh, but I had written the first like seven or eight selections of my list (I didn't go in any particular order) on Monday night of last week when you and I were slapfighting. ;) So, yeah, two days or so. It was arduous but I enjoyed it and I'm glad you, krista, Nick, Mrs. R and some others did too. And thanks for the compliment.
Yeah, that's a pretty insane output. Maybe you're like I am and write everything in your head and then putting it to paper (or computer) is just a formality? Anyway, so interesting and well done.

I'm hoping Mister CIA is doing monologue. He volunteered but needed some time, but I think his judging, albeit more limited, has been reeaaallly good in the past.
Hi! Saw you over in the GMTAN. Hope you will get no more bad news calls tonight.

I am like you as far as having things in my head, but this was more a case of being able to write really quickly about something that I sort of understand fairly well and really enjoy. For example, if someone asked me to rank all 79 original Star Trek episodes and do 45-50 pages total, I might be able to bang that out in 1-2 days. But if it was Breaking Bad episodes - to take an example of a show that I've watched and like, but am not an insane fan of like everyone else - then it would take far longer.

But make no mistake: fast-seeming or not, this was exhausting.

I had forgotten that Mister CIA volunteered to do the monologues. Mister, are you still interested?
Sure I'll do it, if only as a reminder to post less when drinking. It will take me a few days to work this in. I'll go back and look later, but in the meantime does anyone recall if judging criteria was already laid out?

 
Thanks very much to those of you who enjoyed the courtroom rankings. JML, I wrote them on Friday and Saturday, but I had seen all of the movies more than once except "A Separation," and I only had to go dig out a few DVDs for unlinked scenes and such. krista, no problem, GB; broken links are what happens when the judging takes place five months after the drafting. :)

Now - - who is doing monologue to finish this up?
You seriously wrote all that up in 2 days?

Crap. That's damn good stuff then. I thought that was months of writing edited down to the final result.
Let's see. I started on Friday night after getting home from going out, and was done whenever they were posted late Saturday (Pacific), I think. Oh, but I had written the first like seven or eight selections of my list (I didn't go in any particular order) on Monday night of last week when you and I were slapfighting. ;) So, yeah, two days or so. It was arduous but I enjoyed it and I'm glad you, krista, Nick, Mrs. R and some others did too. And thanks for the compliment.
Yeah, that's a pretty insane output. Maybe you're like I am and write everything in your head and then putting it to paper (or computer) is just a formality? Anyway, so interesting and well done.

I'm hoping Mister CIA is doing monologue. He volunteered but needed some time, but I think his judging, albeit more limited, has been reeaaallly good in the past.
Hi! Saw you over in the GMTAN. Hope you will get no more bad news calls tonight.

I am like you as far as having things in my head, but this was more a case of being able to write really quickly about something that I sort of understand fairly well and really enjoy. For example, if someone asked me to rank all 79 original Star Trek episodes and do 45-50 pages total, I might be able to bang that out in 1-2 days. But if it was Breaking Bad episodes - to take an example of a show that I've watched and like, but am not an insane fan of like everyone else - then it would take far longer.

But make no mistake: fast-seeming or not, this was exhausting.

I had forgotten that Mister CIA volunteered to do the monologues. Mister, are you still interested?
Sure I'll do it, if only as a reminder to post less when drinking. It will take me a few days to work this in. I'll go back and look later, but in the meantime does anyone recall if judging criteria was already laid out?
I don't think so, but at this point, it's the last category and five months post-draft and the cat has been through about 17 judges, so I imagine everyone will be good with your criteria, whatever they are.

 
Thanks very much to those of you who enjoyed the courtroom rankings. JML, I wrote them on Friday and Saturday, but I had seen all of the movies more than once except "A Separation," and I only had to go dig out a few DVDs for unlinked scenes and such. krista, no problem, GB; broken links are what happens when the judging takes place five months after the drafting. :)

Now - - who is doing monologue to finish this up?
You seriously wrote all that up in 2 days?

Crap. That's damn good stuff then. I thought that was months of writing edited down to the final result.
Let's see. I started on Friday night after getting home from going out, and was done whenever they were posted late Saturday (Pacific), I think. Oh, but I had written the first like seven or eight selections of my list (I didn't go in any particular order) on Monday night of last week when you and I were slapfighting. ;) So, yeah, two days or so. It was arduous but I enjoyed it and I'm glad you, krista, Nick, Mrs. R and some others did too. And thanks for the compliment.
Yeah, that's a pretty insane output. Maybe you're like I am and write everything in your head and then putting it to paper (or computer) is just a formality? Anyway, so interesting and well done.

I'm hoping Mister CIA is doing monologue. He volunteered but needed some time, but I think his judging, albeit more limited, has been reeaaallly good in the past.
Hi! Saw you over in the GMTAN. Hope you will get no more bad news calls tonight.

I am like you as far as having things in my head, but this was more a case of being able to write really quickly about something that I sort of understand fairly well and really enjoy. For example, if someone asked me to rank all 79 original Star Trek episodes and do 45-50 pages total, I might be able to bang that out in 1-2 days. But if it was Breaking Bad episodes - to take an example of a show that I've watched and like, but am not an insane fan of like everyone else - then it would take far longer.

But make no mistake: fast-seeming or not, this was exhausting.

I had forgotten that Mister CIA volunteered to do the monologues. Mister, are you still interested?
Sure I'll do it, if only as a reminder to post less when drinking. It will take me a few days to work this in. I'll go back and look later, but in the meantime does anyone recall if judging criteria was already laid out?
Just did a relatively thorough search, I'm pretty confident no criteria for the category was ever written.

 
Just did a search through the 8(!) pages of posts in this thread including the term "monologue" and see that no criteria were ever posted. :shrug:

 
Just did a search through the 8(!) pages of posts in this thread including the term "monologue" and see that no criteria were ever posted. :shrug:
Yep, I did the same. Tiananmen Tank was the original judge, but no criteria was ever announced. As late as early August he was still the judge and the last post said he would have it up soon.

Then Tim did his dummy spit

OK, here's what we have left:

1. Monologue

2. Shooting a movie scene

3. Dramatic actor in a comedic role

4. Sex scene

5. No idea what this movie is about.

I will begin ranking in the order listed above. I will post the results every few days. If somebody posts their own rankings in the meantime, we'll use those. But I intend to be done by August 15, just as I wrote a month ago. If by that date Aerial Assault hasn't posted the new WTF rankings, then we'll use the ones I already posted. Let's get this finished.

Monologue will be posted later today.
and we heard no more until Acer FC and Mister CIA said they'd do it just to finish.

CIA looks like the one who has the poisoned chalice as of right now, but whoever posts first wins(or loses)

 
:lmao: I'm sure I'm the real dummy by asking this, but what is "dummy spit?" It's really funny even without knowing precisely what you mean, but I somehow made it 40+ years without ever hearing it before and might as well ask.

 
:lmao: I'm sure I'm the real dummy by asking this, but what is "dummy spit?" It's really funny even without knowing precisely what you mean, but I somehow made it 40+ years without ever hearing it before and might as well ask.
Sometimes my Australianisms slip in...

Spit the Dummy Australian Term: To indulge in a sudden display of anger or frustration; to lose one’s temper. The phrase is usually used of an adult, and the implication is that the outburst is childish, like a baby spitting out its dummy in a tantrum and refusing to be pacified. (Dummy is a pacifier)
 
Thanks very much to those of you who enjoyed the courtroom rankings. JML, I wrote them on Friday and Saturday, but I had seen all of the movies more than once except "A Separation," and I only had to go dig out a few DVDs for unlinked scenes and such. krista, no problem, GB; broken links are what happens when the judging takes place five months after the drafting. :)

Now - - who is doing monologue to finish this up?
You seriously wrote all that up in 2 days?

Crap. That's damn good stuff then. I thought that was months of writing edited down to the final result.
Let's see. I started on Friday night after getting home from going out, and was done whenever they were posted late Saturday (Pacific), I think. Oh, but I had written the first like seven or eight selections of my list (I didn't go in any particular order) on Monday night of last week when you and I were slapfighting. ;) So, yeah, two days or so. It was arduous but I enjoyed it and I'm glad you, krista, Nick, Mrs. R and some others did too. And thanks for the compliment.
Yeah, that's a pretty insane output. Maybe you're like I am and write everything in your head and then putting it to paper (or computer) is just a formality? Anyway, so interesting and well done.

I'm hoping Mister CIA is doing monologue. He volunteered but needed some time, but I think his judging, albeit more limited, has been reeaaallly good in the past.
Hi! Saw you over in the GMTAN. Hope you will get no more bad news calls tonight.

I am like you as far as having things in my head, but this was more a case of being able to write really quickly about something that I sort of understand fairly well and really enjoy. For example, if someone asked me to rank all 79 original Star Trek episodes and do 45-50 pages total, I might be able to bang that out in 1-2 days. But if it was Breaking Bad episodes - to take an example of a show that I've watched and like, but am not an insane fan of like everyone else - then it would take far longer.

But make no mistake: fast-seeming or not, this was exhausting.

I had forgotten that Mister CIA volunteered to do the monologues. Mister, are you still interested?
Thanks. Great job as usual - and not just because I topped the list. :cool:

 

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