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LAWYER MOVIE

Lawyers in film, however, can still be heroes and heroines—even in the murky moral relativism of late-twentieth-century culture. Many lawyers on the big screen have fought courageous battles to secure justice for their abused clients, as in The Accused (1988), in which a concerned and determined prosecutor successfully argues her case against onlookers in a bar gang rape. In Philadelphia (1993), we see a common theme—the ethical lawyer fighting the corrupt system—imposed upon a controversial, timely topic. A homophobic black lawyer (played by Denzel Washington) defends a gay lawyer with AIDS (played by Tom Hanks) who has been fired from his firm because of his disease. The battle involves the all-too-familiar heartless, corrupt, powerful law firm, with even Washington's character struggling with his conscience and fear as he defends his client. As is the norm in Hollywood films, the forces of good win out in the end, the legal victory tempered, however, by the tragic death of the plaintiff.

Lawyers in film have not been restricted to "serious" or dramatic cinema. Yet even when
comedies center around the legal profession, the humor is usually aimed at the lawyers and their colleagues. Of course, comedies are supposed to be funny, and taking a film like the hilarious 1992 My Cousin Vinny as a serious indictment of the legal profession is to miss the entire point of the movie. Joe Pesci and MarisaTomei are an unforgettable twosome that manage to argue successfully for the innocence of two wrongly accused
boys in a robbery-murder. We meet no real villains here, but the law docs take a procedural hit thanks to some truly memorable characters. In the end, truth and right prevail, the boys are freed, and their lawyer Vinny goes on to finish law school—maybe.

Even comedies can mask darker themes of public mistrust of lawyers, however, as evidenced by the 1997 Jim Carrey hit Liar Liar, in which Carrey plays a lawyer who is literally unable to tell the truth in seemingly any context. Only when his son blows out the birthday candles and wishes that his father not lie for one whole day does Carrey force himself to be truthful, to great comedie effect. A large measure of the film's success as a comedy comes from an exaggeration of the public stereotype of the lawyer as dishonest, and despite the lightheartedness of the plot, the film raises uneasy questions about the publics image of lawyers.

At the same time, television programming invented a new brood of legal narrative centered on small claims courts, the "People's Court," a late-twentieth-century version of common law with a king (or queen) presiding over conflicting claims. Such shows became wildly popular with television audiences across the country, so much so that some of its leading stars would come to include a former New York City mayor and an accomplished prosecutor who was catapulted into fame for his defense of former football star 0. J. Simpson.

Realism reigned in the 1990s too, with "Law and Order" and "The Practice" showing the often uncomfortable intensity of an attorneys job with a tone of authenticity and drama. "Ally McBeal," on the other hand, offered up the legal soap opera, its central themes tending to poke fun at personal characteristics of an array of lawyer types, and their private-life complications, to the point of characterization—only a short step away from the cartoon, where legal parody all started.

As the year 2000 dawned, the lines between lawyer, author, screenwriter, journalist, and actor were increasingly blurred—Harvard Law professor and news commentator Alan Dershowitz wrote a novel, 0. J. Simpson prosecutor Christopher Darden was the co-author of a legal thriller, legal-trained Geraldo Rivera hosted a talk show, and the members of the U.S. Supreme Court suddenly found themselves in the middle of the 2000 national election.

The American legal system—varied and diversified as it is—attracts and holds the public's attention, in large part because the process itself is inherently dramatic. The court scene—firey witnesses, brilliant prosecutors, unrelenting cross examinations, electrifying verdicts—is a rich resource for the purveyors of popular culture. The majesty of the Supreme Court, on the other hand, evokes respect, even a sense of awe and mystery, about the traditions surrounding law and justice at its most lofty level. Lawyers themselves, from the crude examples of "ambulance chasers" to the image of the long-suffering advocate for the downtrodden or unjustly accused, seem endlessly interesting in their daily work. And even the lawyer's personal life has formed the basis for popular entertainment. The fact is that Americans are curious, amused, skeptical of, and even worried about the law and its relationship to their lives and to society's problems. And this preoccupation seems never to have been greater than it is today. In a culture where freedom of speech and press are held in high regard, this is not all bad. The public's scrutiny of the law and lawyers through popular culture may be more than just entertainment. It may be how Americans remind themselves that the law of the land and how it is interpreted stands as the guardian of their hard-won liberty and freedom.

 

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TITLE: Law and Legal Services at CitiMall.com Online Shopping Mall

Law Category: Prepaid Legal Services, Law , Legal, Attorney, Advice, Firm, Search, Attorneys, Lawyers, Power of Attorney, Durable, Forms

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