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David Poland

By David Poland

Fun Video: Courtroom Movies: Hollywood’s Most Hackneyed Genre

25 Responses to “Fun Video: Courtroom Movies: Hollywood’s Most Hackneyed Genre”

  1. arisp says:

    Just re-watched THE VERDICT the other night for the 394839th time. the pinnacle of court room filmmaking.

  2. lazarus says:

    I projected Anatomy Of A Murder for friends last night, and as much as I like Lumet’s film, I’d put Preminger’s at the very top.

    Yes, The Verdict has one of Newman’s best performances (if not his very best), but Anatomy has a pitch-perfect James Stewart, and that supporting cast? George C. Scott at his slimiest, Lee Remick at her sexiest, Ben Gazzara, Arthur O’Donnell, Eve Arden. And the script is so detailed in terms of the legal proceedings, but filled with laugh-out-loud moments.

  3. arisp says:

    Two things bugged me about The Verdict though –

    1) What was Charlotte Rampling’s motivation to double cross Newman? Why did she do what she did? It couldn’t have been only for the measly $500. Her character was slightly undefined

    2) If Nurse Costello’s testimony was supposed to be stricken from the record, and stricken from jurors’ minds, how did the jurors decide for the prosecution? Newman had nothing other than the nurse’s testimony.

  4. anghus says:

    arisp, the answer to both questions:


  5. christian says:

    ANATOMY OF A MURDER still the best template…

  6. The Pope says:

    to reinforce what anghus said, it is because Rampling’s character is now on the downward slope that Newman’s character was at the start of the film. And as for the jury’s verdict… it’s an answer to Newman’s “prayer.” And, as anghus says it adds gravitas because it dares to suggest that we might have to answer to something greater than the law. The religious motifs are rife throughout the picture, from the opening credits, to the fires burning in the bishop’s office etc.

    I liked the clips that were put together but fun as they all were, the one that stopped me in my tracks was The Verdict. Anatomy is very good, but damn it, The Verdict was immaculate. The jury’s decision touches my heart each time. It’s not schmaltzy. The film earned that moment.

  7. Sam says:

    No question that there are a lot of formulaic courtroom scenes in movies and TV, but I’m not sure if this montage does a good job at distilling the lack of creativity, especially in pulling legitimately inspired courtroom dramas into the mix.

    Thing is, a lot of the stuff that looks like movie tropes — the swearing in of witnesses, objections, asking the jury for a verdict — is authentic courtroom procedure. So how should these movies have done these things instead, exactly?

  8. palmtree says:

    I agree with Sam. Calling it the “most hackneyed” requires more than just a few shows using the same courtroom procedures. Wouldn’t it entail showing how the stories themselves are formulaic and predictable? Or how the characters are all drawn the same way or how certain dramatic beats are repeated? Or….ugh….it just isn’t the most hackneyed Hollywood genre. What about rom coms?

  9. christian says:

    I like watching Bruce Willis in the court behind Newman – did the extra think he’d be getting paid 5 million dollars a few years later?

  10. YancySkancy says:

    I’m with Sam; this is not only uninspired, it’s rather insulting to the many excerpted films that went out of their way NOT to be hackneyed. Also, it seems about half of these clips are from parodies of the genre, which isn’t exactly fair play either.

  11. Lex says:

    “I projected Anatomy Of A Murder for friends last night…”

    Wow, sounds like a fucking blast.

  12. christian says:

    Speaking of Most Hackneyed….

  13. Lex says:

    Speaking of courtrooms…

    I’ve asked this before, never get answers. But what do movie bloggers do when they get jury duty? In L.A. you got summoned almost once a year. I’ve never, ever heard of like McWeeny or Faraci or Wells or Poland missing a big FESTIVAL because of jury duty. Imagine if Sasha Stone got a jury summons and had to report in late November then got sequestered until March and had to miss all the Oscars and everything?

    I know you can delay it to off times of the year, but I’ve never seen any of the usual suspects, all of whom live in L.A., miss a SINGLE MOVIE because of jury duty. Their employment situation is so nebulous, how do you explain it to a judge who doesn’t give a shit?

  14. Joe Leydon says:

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but I have found over the years that as soon as I identify myself as a journalist, it’s practically a race to see who’ll strike me from the list first, the prosecution or the defense. Indeed, I’ve been on two juries in my entire life — and both cases (including a sanity hearing) were over and done in a single day.

  15. Lex says:

    Yeah, but you were a newspaper critic. Not like guys who write at HitFix are going to a physical office where they’re hanging out in the breakroom with a guy on the crime beat.

  16. Joe Leydon says:

    Actually, I haven’t hung out in a newspaper office for nearly 18 years. But, hey, if that is the perception that gets me out of jury duty, so be it.

  17. leahnz says:

    my top ten fave courtroom movies (in no order, just what I think of):

    * In cold blood (brooks)

    * In the name of the father (Sheridan)

    * To kill a mockingbird (Mulligan)

    * And justice for all (Jewison)

    * The verdict (Lumet)

    * Philadelphia (Demme)

    * My cousin vinny (Lynn)

    * The accused (Kaplan)

    * The crucible (Hytner)

    * Paths of Glory (Kubrick)

  18. bulldog68 says:

    No A Few Good Men Leahnz? The extended JFK courtroom scene always gets me whenever it’s on cable. I’ll add the original 12 Angry Men, A Soldier’s Story and A Time to Kill as some of my faves.

  19. christian says:

    Who actually would know anybody’s life/work schedule or give a shit?

    And JUDGEMENT AT NUREMBERG is a fave courtroom epic. Not to mention MY COUSIN VINNY….

  20. leahnz says:

    I really like ‘a few good men’ bulldog but i don’t think it would make it into my all-time faves – it doesn’t have the visceral punch for me but it’s a good, tense drama – and it’s hard to leave ’12 Angry Men’ out too; I haven’t seen ‘Judgement at Nuremberg’, ‘Soldier’s story’ or ‘A Time to Kill’ in a long time, so i think one problem for me is if i don’t have it on dvd/blu and watch something occasionally then in fades for me, perhaps unfairly. Another one that could possibly sneak in the top 10 for me is Beresford’s ‘Breaker Morant’, but as always i have a hell of a time making set lists because i have such a hard time narrowing things down to a set number and always feel like i’m leaving something great out.

  21. Triple Option says:

    Judgement at Nuremberg would be extremely high on my list as well. Paths of Glory is one of my favorite Kubrick movies but even though the vast majority of the film is dealing with court hearings and procedure, that always defaults to war movie in my mind whenever I think of it.

    I’ll admit, I was expecting to see more repeated phrases, ala the Sorkin videos that reprise many of his same lines that find themselves repeated in different shows and movies.

  22. cadavra says:

    Nobody’s mentioned INHERIT THE WIND or WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION yet? Sheesh!

  23. Foamy Squirrel says:

    Cad – I’m surprised Mockingbird even showed up. Shit, I did Morant back in school (along with Unman, Wittering and Zigo), so it doesn’t really count either.

    Remember, films before the 80s don’t exist. 😉

  24. christian says:

    And INHERIT THE WIND – still packs a punch today and sadly, it still relevant..

  25. Triple Option says:

    I actually was going to bring up Wit for Process. Not sure how I missed it. Kinda like going into a store, picking a couple of things out and forgetting what you intended to get.

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