Among Spielberg’s “important” films, Amistad isn’t the home run that Saving Private Ryan or Schindler’s List is, but it’s still a powerful film and one with an incredible ensemble cast anchored by Anthony Hopkins in an Oscar-nominated performance as former President John Quincy Adams.
In today’s political climate, it’s hard to imagine, but after Adams lost his bid for re-election as President, he ended up running for Congress and returned to the House of Representatives (the only former President to do so) and government service. There, he was enlisted to represent the “cargo” of the slave ship La Amistad before the US Supreme Court. The Africans enslaved by the ship, had escaped the hold and slain their captors before being apprehended when their ship arrived in America. The 1839 case hinged on whether this was a matter of kidnapped human beings rising up and shaking off their chains or human cargo that should be returned to its “owners”. Hopkins arguing on their behalf before the court with a ten-minute dissertation on freedom is one of the most riveting monologues and pieces of acting I’ve ever seen. Hannibal Lecter’s introduction may be the most obvious best scene of Hopkins’ career, but this is every bit as good.
Matthew McConaughey has had two phases to his career. Bursting on the scene with 1996’s A Time to Kill, he seemed like the next superstar, but battles with substance abuse and a chronic lack of focus (probably not unconnected) left him nearly written off. However in the last decade McConaughey has climbed back into the top rungs of leading men, culminating in his Oscar for The Dallas Buyers Club and his astonishing performance in HBO’s True Detective’s first season (which would have won him an Emmy any other year than Bryan Cranston’s last on Breaking Bad). Since, he has kept up a steady stream of successes, and is always someone to pay attention to now in whatever projects he chooses to pursue. Continue reading Matthew McConaughey’s 10 Best Movies→
There’s something about a courtroom showdown that makes for great cinema. It’s an opportunity for an actor to monologue, to almost stage perform, or in the case of, say, A Few Good Men, it’s a showcase for two iconic actors to go at each other full bore. In all it’s iteration over the years, cinematic legal showdowns have given us some of the best scenes of all-time. I’ve narrowed it down to my top ten. Continue reading Top 10: Courtroom Scenes in Movie History→
Latest vs. Greatest looks at directors, actors, actresses, screenwriters and composers to assess the state of their career as it stands. We’ll look back at the latest 10 movies the artist has done, rate them and then average them out to see where they stand today. We’ll also rank their 10 greatest movies and give them the same treatment to compare what they have been doing to their very best work. (A quick side-note: if an artist is/has been a regular on a TV show we’ll also grade the seasons individually; artists need 10 projects to qualify).
Anthony Hopkins, like Morgan Freeman in our last profile, is someone whose career didn’t really reach superstardom until later in life – in his mid-fifties, really. Hopkins has been acting since 1965, but it wasn’t really until 1991, when he became a household name for The Silence of the Lambs.Hopkins’ second film, and I believe still the best he’s been in, was 1968’s The Lion in Winter with Peter O’Toole and Katherine Hepburn. Hopkins played the eldest son of an aging king, angling with his brothers for the best position to take the old lion’s throne. It’s a fantastic film, and while Hopkins is overshadowed by O’Toole and Hepburn (who wouldn’t be?) it had to be a tremendous boost to start his acting career in such and excellent film with such excellent company. Continue reading Anthony Hopkins’ Latest 10 Movies vs. Greatest 10 Movies→
Amistad is one of Steven Spielberg’s flawed ventures. Ultimately good, the film never rises to the heights that it should given the incredible source material: Africans, captured as slaves, rising up to overthrow their captors en route to America, then put in chains while the legal system decides whether they are men or material. While the movie as a whole isn’t flawless, this scene is. Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of former President John Quincy Adams (the only President to return to serve in Congress after being President – factoid) is masterful and deserved the Oscar nomination it got. The culmination of the film is Adams argument before the Supreme Court on behalf of the Africans and it is one of the great movie speeches of our time.