Tuesday, December 20, 2011

AFI Top 100 countdown: #87 12 ANGRY MEN

87: 12 ANGRY MEN

Directed by Sidney Lument
Written by Reginald Rose
Starring: Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, and E. G. Marshall

AFI Top 100 Criteria:

Critical Recognition: Formal commendation in print, television, and digital media.

* 100% on Rottentomatoes.com

*"This is a film where tension comes from personality conflict, dialogue and body language, not action." -Roger Ebert, Chicago-Sun Times

*"Although it may sound ungallant, these 12 Angry Men, are all right without distaff glamour. Their dramas are powerful and provocative enough to keep a viewer spellbound." -A.H. Weiler, New York Times


Major Award Winner: Recognition from competitive events including awards from peer groups, critics, guilds, and major film festivals.

*Academy: nominated for Best Director, Writing and Picture.

*Golden Globes: nominated for Picture, Actor,  Supporting Actor and Director.

*Berlin International Film Festival: Golden Bear Award

Popularity Over Time: Includes success at the box office, television and cable airings, and DVD/VHS sales and rentals.

*Budget: $350,000

Historical Significance: A film's mark on the history of the moving image through visionary narrative devices, technical innovation or other groundbreaking achievements.

*At the beginning of the film, the cameras are positioned above eye level and mounted with wide-angle lenses to give the appearance of greater depth between subjects, but as the film progresses the focal length  of the lenses is gradually increased. By the end of the film, nearly everyone is shown in closeup using telephoto lenses from a lower angle, which decreases or "shortens" depth of field. Lumet, who began his career as a director of photography, stated that his intention in using these techniques with cinematographer Boris Kaufman was to create a nearly palpable claustrophobia.

*The film makes use of one main setting, the diliberation room, which is a popular tenique for the stage, not necessarily film.

Cultural Impact: A film's mark on American society in matters of style and substance.

*Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor stated that seeing 12 Angry Men while she was in college influenced her decision to pursue a career in law.

Javi: Wow. This movie was downright amazing. Ever since reading an article in wired magazine over three years ago, I have always been fascinated by the concept of limitations and how that forces the creative types to come up with more interesting solutions to the dilemma. With that in mind, I love that Sydney Lumet's TWELVE ANGRY MEN is just a simple movie with twelve men all in one single room, with the exception of a rest room scene.

Dealing with a jury of twelve men all deciding the fate of someone's life, this movie is a great exploration of psychology, social prejudice, a commentary on the potential fallacies of the judicial system with just damn fine writing. The dialogue is what makes this movie. Just with a simple question, there is a dent in the armor of the preliminary ruling, and thus starts the events of the movie. This is a movie that is very hard to spoil because the joy is not the plot; it's the conversations where you get to learn a little at a time about the personality of each of the unnamed jurors. Some don't take the job seriously, some have deeply seethed issues that inform their decisions for better or for worse.

Around the time of when we started this column, Lumet had died, if any of you are at all interested in his filmography, check out NETWORK, MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, and even WHEN THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD.

Jonesy: To go against the masses takes a considerable amount of courage and confidence. We're taught from a young age to stand up for what we believe in, but how many times do we actually do that? It's easy to spout beliefs on social networking sites nowadays, but could you really stand against 11 other people who are vehemently against you? Lument's classic 12 ANGRY MEN explores this theme set in a jury deliberation room.

Our hero, juror #8, is the first to vote not guilty in a case where a young, poor boy is accused of stabbing his father. He is met with anger and agitation as all the others see this as an open and shut case. However, ever so slowly through logic and examining the he begins to convince the others. Not all the jurors have the same reasons for their initial vote; some let their prejudices influence their vote while others just want to go home. It's a scary thought that juries decide the fates of people everyday, and even though it's our duty to look at everything presented in a case, who's to say someone doesn't make a decision because of outside influences?

The fairly simple plot that works so well because of the smorgasbord of stand out acting performances. Lument also kept the the action solely in the juror room, which as the plot progresses, begins to fill with more and more tension and creates a claustrophobic feeling. Having seen this on stage before, I already had a love for the story. And it was such joy to see a solid translation from the stage to the screen.

Older movies sometimes scare some people, but 12 ANGRY MEN has such a strong script that the themes and cultural implications can be translated to any day and age. A solid entry on the countdown, and it has easily become my favorite so far.

No comments:

Post a Comment