January 4 - THE VERDICT (1982)
"Your honor, with all due respect: if you're going to try my case for me, I wish you wouldn't lose it."
It's really neat to watch a movie that lets its actors breathe. Sidney Lumet -- the director of THE VERDICT -- often locks down the camera, lights the scene, frames up the shot, and allows Paul Newman, Charlotte Rampling, and Jack Warden (Warden played President "Bobby" in yesterday's BEING THERE) to deliver captivating performances without needlessly interrupting the flow by switching from mid to close-up to wide to close-up again just to prove coverage. The cuts and camera movements in THE VERDICT are motivated and always add something to the film in that moment. That kind of directorial control extends to every aspect of the movie, and I especially noticed it with the lighting. Lighting is my personal biggest weak spot. It's mostly mystifying to me, and I generally lack the patience to really sit down and design the lighting for each scene. In THE VERDICT, though, the lighting for every shot conveys information and keeps the scene visually interesting. Time of day, hints at the weather outside, and emphasis on the dramatic elements to the story are all facets of what makes the lighting in THE VERDICT such a big part of why the movie is so compelling.
I imagine I'll get around to watching more Paul Newman this year, but suffice it to say he's the man. He plays a bad person trying to do a good thing in THE VERDICT, and does it subtly without falling prey to the melodramatic patheticism another actor in another movie might not be deft enough to avoid. The strong performances of the central characters really draw attention to some of the overacting in some of the supporting roles, unfortunately. One or two characters get a single scene to lose control of their emotions and they definitely go for it. Besides that and a couple moments when you suspect the producers insisted on some "make things clearer" devices, however, THE VERDICT is a phenomenal film worth watching. I remember trying to watch this movie some years ago but not making it very far into it. I don't know what stopped me before, but watching it this afternoon and evening -- even while sleep-deprived -- was much easier.
Reading yesterday's post about BEING THERE is already funny. It was really hard to pound out my thoughts on that movie, but I didn't have to be so whiny about it. Some posts might be longer than other posts, but the goal here is mostly just to watch a lot of movies and write something about each one and hopefully I keep my sanity along the way. Tune in tomorrow for maybe more Sidney Lumet? Perhaps another Tom Hanks movie? We'll see!