Courtroom dramas and great closing arguments have been a staple of cinema since the addition of words. It’s probably the best forum for monologues in a picture, and it gives an actor a chance to do a bit of stage acting for the camera. (Click here for my Top 10 Courtroom Scenes of All-Time) One of the very best closing arguments comes from 1982’s The Verdict which paired possibly the greatest actor of all-time (my favorite) in Paul Newman with one of the greatest directors of all-time in Sidney Lumet (12 Angry Men, Network), and one of the greatest screen and stage writers of all-time in David Mamet.
Newman always brought an honest conviction to whatever role he played, be it Cool Hand Luke, The Hustler, Butch Cassiday, or alcoholic lawyer Frank Galvin in The Verdict. His closing in The Verdict isn’t long at all (by that point in the trial Galvin knew it didn’t need to be). It’s simple, powerful and effective. Without being hokey or cornball it lays out the hope we all have for our justice system: that at the end of the day, honest people embody the law and do right by it and those on trial. We live in cynical times, and it’s hard to act as if we have faith still in the system. Maybe we shouldn’t. But listening to Newman orate, you want to still believe. In a career of over 50 years of powerful performances, this is just a page in Newman’s portfolio, but it’s a great one.
As this year ends, and awards season begins, it’s worth noting one of the biggest truisms of Oscar-dom: people don’t usually win their Oscars for the movie they should have. Continue reading Top 5: Actors Who Won Best Actor For the Wrong Movie
Road to Perdition is one of my favorite films, period. It’s also one of the most criminally underrated and overlooked films of all-time and Paul Newman’s last performance in his peerless career. To give context to those who may have not seen the film (and it’s worth buying because you’ll watch it again and again; perhaps even with the sound off just to marvel at the best cinematography I’ve ever seen in a motion picture) this is a quiet scene. My favorite scenes in movies tend to be ones between two characters, beautifully written, paid for-and given extra weight by-the bigger and louder scenes that surround it. Perdition is about a mob hit man (Hanks) who goes on the run from the mob boss who raised him (Newman) after the hit man’s young son witnesses one of his assassinations. After gunfire, chases, and chaos, Hanks slips into Newman’s church and asks to talk one last time. This is their conversation. Not only is it beautifully dialogue brilliantly delivered, it is, in a larger sense, a passing of the torch. Newman, the greatest actor of his lifetime, passing the torch to Hanks, arguably the greatest of his. It is the pivot point in a film about fathers and sons, to watch this foster father send away his preferred child in favor of his biological one. Both know the next time they see each other, one is going to die. Scenes simply don’t get better than this.