This picture defines me. Look at that arm. Who did I learn that from? From 1956 till 1959, we lived on Mariposa Ave. just north of Imperial Highway. We went to St. Cabrini Catholic Church down the street. My father used to take me on walks to the local high school to watch the football players practice. My strongest memory is hearing the crickets at night from the empty fields across the highway. They were louder than the cars. We moved to 148th Street in Gardena sometime in 1959 or 1960.
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August 17, 1997
A CIVIL ACTION
Screenplay by Steven Zaillian, based on the book by Jonathan Harr
Synopsis by Brian Aldrich
Boston lawyer JAN SCHLICHTMANN is not an ordinary ambulance chaser--he is a shark. He runs a major personal injury firm, dresses in expensive suits, spends money lavishly, and has a lot of charm. When one of his partners, CONWAY, brings him a difficult case involving eight children in a small town dead of leukemia and the city’s drinking water is under investigation, Jan orders the losing case be dropped. However, when ANNE, one of the dead children’s mothers, harasses him on a call-in radio program, Jan decides to end the case personally. He drives to small town Woburn to turn them down personally, but finds that the two offending business polluting the river include, J.J. RILEY TANNERY, a subsidiary of BEATRICE FOODS, a large food conglomerate, and W.R. GRACE, an international chemical company. Having found defendants with “deep pockets,” Jan now considers the case profitable enough to accept.
Beatrice’s law firm, HALE & DORR, assigns JERRY FACHER, a sports fanatic with a low-key style, to the case. Grace’s law firm, FOLEY, HOAG, and ELIOT, assigns pompous WILLIAM CHEESEMAN who tries to get the case dismissed as a frivolous suit. However, JUDGE SKINNER denies the motion. Jan deposes the parents of the dead children and several of the workers from the two plants. He builds a convincing case out of horrifying evidence of corporate neglect. Expensive scientific studies help support Jan’s case. Jan’s firm’s accountant GORDON worries about the rising costs of the case now up to $1.4 million. Jan has to plead for more money from UNCLE PETE, his bank’s Vice-President. Honest Grace employee AL LOVE lives across the street from ANNE and decides to blow the whistle on his company and gets a few others to do so as well. Facher tells Jan he’ll never let the parents testify and makes an offer to cover Jan’s expenses. Cheeseman makes an offer as well. Jan asks for $410 million dollars. Facher and Cheeseman walk out of the meeting. The jury is chosen and the case begins. Facher makes one of Jan’s geologists, DR. PINDER, look stupid. Meanwhile, Gordon goes nuts juggling the accounts to keep the firm afloat. After failing to win the lottery, Gordon pleads with Pete for more money. Facher convinces Judge Skinner to not let the families testify unless the jury decides there has been contamination by the negligent conduct of the defendants. Waiting for the jury’s decision, Facher makes a small settlement offer to Jan, who, while nervous about his firm’s impending bankruptcy, turns him down.
The jury finds Grace responsible for contamination, but Beatrice not responsible. The case against Beatrice is dismissed. Grace invites Jan and company to come to New York and sit down with AL EUSTIS, the Executive Vice President. Jan tells his partners that although they are broke, they have to give the appearance of prosperity in order to convince Grace that they will continue with the case if need be.
Not wanting his company to appear liable, Eustis wants to settle, but only for eight million which would barely cover Jan’s expenses. He wants at least $20 million, but his partners beg him to settle. Jan is concerned for the parents of the dead children. Reluctantly, Jan settles. After expenses, the families get $375k a piece, but Anne is furious and still wants an apology. Jan’s partners want to dissolve the firm. Broke, Jan has to start over. Suddenly, Jan has an idea. He finds JAMES GRANGER, a maintenance engineer who was paid to clean up the toxic mess at Beatrice’s tannery. Jan can prove Beatrice’s man RILEY perjured himself. Jan turns his evidence over to the E.P.A. who finds the companies responsible. Although he declares bankruptcy, Jan feels a personal victory.
Summary Criticism: Although familiar and predictable, the script focuses on corporate greed and the ultimate folly of materialism. The characters are sympathetic and compelling.
A Civil Action (1998) - imdb
A Civil Action (1998) - wiki
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Monday, February 18, 2008
I attended a screening of JAWS at this theatre in the summer of 1979. Half the theatre was roped off and the decor had seen better days. In the summer of 1985, the theatre was in a run down condition. Since then, the theatre has been restored, and from the photos on the website, it looks amazing.
Stadium Theatre - Official Site