In real life, most folks don’t talk in speeches. They talk in little sound bites, most of which are borderline incoherent. Don’t believe me? Open to any page of the Watergate transcripts next time you’re bored.
But in the movies, every now and then, a character reels off a doozy of a speech that becomes an instant classic. Full of passion and rancor and righteous pissed-offness. The kind of soliloquy I think of in the car on my way home long after the moment has passed.
Here are three of my all-time favorites . . .
Lloyd Dobbler (played by a young John Cusack) in “Say Anything,” responding to a barrage of probing questions about his future, courtesy of Diane Court’s father (“Frasier” alum John Mahoney):
“A career? I’ve thought about this quite a bit sir and I would have to say considering what’s waiting out there for me, I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed or buy anything sold or processed or repair anything sold, bought or processed as a career. I don’t want to do that. My father’s in the army. He wants me to join, but I can’t work for that corporation, so what I’ve been doing lately is kick-boxing, which is a new sport…as far as career longevity, I don’t really know. I can’t figure it all out tonight, sir, so I’m just gonna hang with your daughter.”
Arthur Kirkland (played by a young Al Pacino), turning on his own client (John Forsythe playing against type as malevolent Judge Fleming) during opening arguments in “And Justice for All”:
“The one thing that bothered me, the one thing that stayed in my mind and I couldn’t get rid of it, that haunted me, was why. Why would she lie? What was her motive for lying? If my client is innocent, she’s lying, why? Was it blackmail? No. Was it jealousy? No. Yesterday I found out why. She doesn’t have a motive, you know why? Because she’s not lying… And ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the prosecution is not going to get that man today, no, because I’m gonna get him! My client, the Honorable Henry T. Fleming, should go right to fucking jail! The son of a bitch is guilty! That man is guilty. That man, there, that man is a slime! He is a slime! If he’s allowed to go free, then something really wrong is goin’ on here!”
Judge Rayford: “Mr. Kirkland you are out of order!”
Arthur Kirkland: “You’re out of order! You’re out of order! The whole trial is out of order! They’re out of order! That man, that sick, crazy, depraved man, raped and beat that woman there, and he’d like to do it again! He told me so! It’s just a show! It’s a show! It’s ‘Let’s Make A Deal’! Hey Frank, you wanna make a deal? I got an insane judge who likes to beat the shit out of women! Whaddya wanna gimme Frank, three weeks probation? [To Judge Fleming] You, you sonofabitch, you! You’re supposed to stand for somethin’! You’re supposed to protect people! But instead you fucking rape and murder them! [Dragged out of court by bailiffs] You killed McCullough! You killed him! Hold it! Hold it! I just completed my opening statement!
And the winner is . . . Anchorman Howard Beale (played by a not-so-young Peter Finch) going off the rails during his nightly newscast in “Network,” and proving in his messianic fervor that he might just be the sanest man on the planet:
“I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth; banks are going bust; shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter; punks are running wild in the street, and there’s nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it.
We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat. And we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be!
We all know things are bad — worse than bad — they’re crazy.
It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out any more. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we’re living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, ‘Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials, and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone.’
Well, I’m not going to leave you alone.
I want you to get mad!
I don’t want you to protest. I don’t want you to riot. I don’t want you to write to your Congressman, because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street.
All I know is that first, you’ve got to get mad.
You’ve gotta say, ‘I’m a human being, goddammit! My life has value!’
So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!!”
That movie is 36-years-old and you tell me, what’s changed? Makes me want to spew out my own rant. I’m sure I’ll think of one in the car.