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J [Category A]

Jagged Edge
Jesus of Montreal
Judgment at Nuremberg
Judgment in Berlin
The Jury
Justiz (Execution in Justice)

Jagged Edge (1985)

Directed by Richard Marquand, this film, which stars Glenn Close, Jeff Bridges, Peter Coyote, and Robert Loggia, tells the story of a San Francisco heiress who is murdered in her beach house. I have not seen this movie. The Internet Movie Database states: "Her husband is devastated by the crime, but soon finds himself accused of her murder. He hires lawyer Teddy Barnes to defend him, despite the fact she hasn't handled a criminal case in years. There's a certain chemistry between them, and Teddy soon finds herself defending the man she loves."

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Jesus of Montreal (1989)

This film, written and directed by French Canadian Denys Arcand, won the Grand Jury Prize at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival and gained 12 Genies, the Canadian equivalents of the Academy Awards. Father Leclerc (Gilles Pelletier) hires Daniel (Lothaire Bluteau), a talented and intelligent actor, to direct the annual passion play. Daniel casts himself as Jesus and becomes enraged by the contemporary equivalents of the beheading of John the Baptist and the moneychangers in the Temple. Upset by the treatment of an actress filming a beer commercial, Daniel/Jesus vandalizes the set and is arrested and tried. I have not seen this movie, but of course the impact of the trial and death of Jesus are endlessly fascinating to people of all faiths, especially when superimposed on modern times.

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JFK (1991)

The speed of the Warren Commission's investigation into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, concerned many people, and gave rise to numerous, persistent conspiracy and cover-up theories. In this film, director Oliver Stone tells the story of a district attorney in New Orleans, played by Kevin Costner, who launches his own investigation by recreating the events leading to the assassination and exploring the many people and groups who stood to gain from Kennedy's murder. According to Clarke Fountain, in the All Movie Guide: "Garrison's investigations culminate in his conducting a show trial that he knows he will lose and which he is sure will ruin his career in order to get his evidence into the public record where it can't be buried again. This movie won two of the many Academy Awards for which it was nominated: one for Best Photography (Robert Richardson) and the other for Editing (Joe Hutshing)."

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Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)

The 1961 film is a classic, fictionalized account of the trials of four Nazi judges after the end of World War II. Spencer Tracy, who was nominated for an Oscar for this role, plays a thoughtful, torn American judge assigned to preside over the trial of his peers who enforced Nazi sterilization laws. Montgomery Clift plays a German victim of sterilization and Judy Garland is a woman whose life was ruined because of her love affair with a Jew. Both were nominated for Oscars for their unforgettable performances, but it was Maximilian Schell who won the Oscar for his role as a brilliant lead defense counsel for one of the defendant judges, played by Burt Lancaster. Marlene Dietrich, as a widow of a German general, is particularly poignant in her last substantial film role. This movie must have been terribly personal for this German-born actress who became an American citizen in 1937 and who was awarded a Medal of Freedom in 1947 for entertaining American troops during the war. A staunch opponent of Hitler, Dietrich left much of her estate to the city of Berlin when she died.

While this film shows Nazi atrocities, it also frankly addresses the pressures put on the judge to impose light sentences on the defendants --- it's three years after the end of the war, and the West is confronting the Soviet Union, and needs German support to do so. Directed by Stanley Kramer, the movie is a true ensemble effort, featuring Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland, Maximilian Schell, Montgomery Clift, Walter Klemperer, and a young William Shatner.

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Judgment in Berlin (1988)
(also known as Escape to Freedom or Ein Richter für Berlin)

Written and directed by Leo Penn, whose son, Sean, has a small but crucial role as a witness, this film stars Martin Sheen as an American judge in Germany who must decide if the hijacking of an East German plane was a justifiable violation of law. I have not seen this movie, but I hear it is a well-written and compelling courtroom drama.

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The Jury (2001) (BBC TV)

Directed by Pete Travis and featuring Derek Jacobi, one of my favorite actors, this made-for-TV series involves a young schoolboy, a Sikh, arrested for murdering his classmate. The jurors' deliberations, the pressures upon them, and the class and racial issues are well-presented, and the acting top-notch, but the ending of this film is frustratingly ambiguous. We must accept ambiguity in real life, but in films, I'd like to know whether the accused is guilty or not, thank you, and I was not sure after seeing this movie. If you can figure out the last few scenes, do let me know who dunnit.

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Justiz (Execution in Justice) (1993)

I have not seen this film. The Internet Movie Database states: "Directed by Hans W. Geissendorffer. Cast: Maximilian Schell, Thoma Heinze, Anna Thalbach, Mathias Gnadiger, Norbert Schwientek, Ulrike Kriener. The plot involves the examination of justice from the moral as well as from the judicial point of view. A man, who shoots another in open view without any reason, is arrested and sentenced to 20 years in prison. He then prevails on a young lawyer to reexamine the question of guilt from a purely theoretical perspective. The question of what is right and what is wrong turns out to be extremely complex."

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