Thursday, April 21, 2011

12 Angry Men

Recently the great Sidney Lumet passed away, leaving behind a legacy of terrific and inspiring films such as "Network" "Dog Day Afternoon" and "The Verdict". For a while I have been a fan of his films, but had never seen the film that really started his career, 1957's "12 Angry Men". Fortunately, I had to watch it for a class.

From the moment the film began I knew I was in for something special. the film is about 12 jurors on a murder trial. The defendant is an 18 year old kid, accused of stabbing his father to death. The entire film takes place in the locked room where the jury decides this boys fate. Everyone in the room seems to unanimously agree that the kid was guilty, the trail seemed to leave them with no question, except for juror #8, played incredibly by Henry Fonda.

He doesn't know if the kid is guilty or not, he just has doubts, and doesn't feel like they can send a kid to the electric chair without discussion. All the other jurors (many big names throughout like Ed Begely, Jack Warden, Jack Klugman and Lee J. Cobb) are in a hurry to be done, one has a baseball game to get to, others just seem rushed. Nobody but #8 seems to think it needs discussion.

In a murder trial the vote has to be unanimous to send a person to the chair, and with #8's vote of not guilty, the discussion begins. As each presents their case to him about why the kid is guilty, he easily comes up with logical rebuttals. Slowly he convinces more and more of them to question their own beliefs and decide if the kid is really guilty.

As stated above the performance from Fonda is brilliant, it proves why he is a Hollywood legend. The emotion conveyed in his facial expressions, the morality his character portrays is just brilliant. This film puts him up there with the classic greats of Gregory Peck, Humphrey Bogart and William Holden. The rest of the jurors put in great performances as well.

Jack Warden (While You Were Sleeping) plays the jokster, who just wants to be done so he can watch the ball game. Jack Klugman (TVs The Odd Couple) plays a quiet reserved man, who is also from the slums, just like the accused, who can't stand the social prejudices of some of the other jurors.

Like I said the entire film takes place in one room. But the script is razor sharp, leaving you riveted the entire film. The cast is electric, and the directing is perfect. The film was a glimpse at everything to come in Sidney Lumet's long and brilliant career as a master filmmaker. No matter how good he got though, I think its safe to say "12 Angry Men" is more than just the beginning of his career, it might have just been his best work period. Its the classic example of the cliche`d phrase, "They just don't make em like the used to!", they really don't.....

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Alright, I am terribly sorry to those few of you, well really probably nobody, who have missed my once frequent posting. I have been busy therefore not much time to write about movies, no matter how stoked about some of them I have gotten. I have had a strong desire to end my hiatus though, due to the release of the trailer for the indie film "Hesher". "Hesher" played over a year ago at the Sundance Film Festival, and now has finally gotten a release date.

The film stars Joseph Gordon Levitt as the title character Hesher, a dirty, long-haired, home-made tattooed, drug addicted, violent lowlife who forces his way into the life of a young boy grieving over his recently deceased mother. Natalie Portman (who also produced the film) plays a nice caring store clerk who wants to help the young boy stay away from the unhinged Hesher. The movie looks quite dark, quite moody but the performances look outstanding. Riann Wilson known for his role as Dwight on "The Office" plays the depressed and grieving father, looking nothing like the odd-ball he plays on television.

What I find most intriguing about this film, is the acting of Levitt. He has been an immensely talented actor for years, especially in the independent scene. Films like "The Lookout", "Brick" and even "500 Days of Summer" really show off his ability, but this shows off just how far and wide of a range he has as an actor, he looks completely different as the creepy "Hesher".

Now to be honest, I don't even know if this film will be good, most of the reviews from film festivals label it as dark and and hard to watch. Yet they also label it as touching and at times funny. A good review from the Sundance screening can be read here If nothing else, the trailer is worth watching just to see the transformation of Joseph Gordon Levitt.