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Film and TV notes

Friday 6/18/21

Watched 1957's 12 Angry Men again. Wanted to see how it was written. How the off-stage narrative--which is crucial to the onstage narrative--was built.


A lot of the sound is diegetic. The weather is part of the soundtrack, like when it eventually rains. Also, the fan. The film works less well when it's ostentaciously theatrical. The men walking away from the table when the racist makes his big racist speech, for instance. And at the end when the big holdout finally votes not guilty. That's pretty silly--the photo of his kid, and the crying. It also happens too fast.


That holdout is important to the picture. He's as much a part of justice being done as Fonda's character. He seems to believe what he believes because he believes it. If that makes sense. He may be wrong, but he's not up to no good.


I like the speech at the window that the foreman gives Fonda's character. About the high school football team and the rain and the mud. The story doesn't really go anywhere. It just sort of peters out. People tend to tell stories like that. They're lost in translation. But rarely do you see evidence of this in a movie.


What's also notable is how short the deliberation is. They're not in there for days. It's a couple hours or whatever. If that. It's summer, and when everything is wrapped up, it's still daylight out. This strikes a false note. You're supposed to think these guys are embroiled in this big ordeal of justice, but it's more like they argue for ninety minutes. Really no biggie, in a way. Klugman is good. He usually is.


One thing that has to happen is movement. I'm sure that was one of the big challenges. This is a film that easily could have become too static. You have to get these guys moving around, providing physical action. Or else you have justice dogma.


The uptight stockbroker--who hardly seems to move--ties the film together. He's the lynch pin between the contrasting sides, and ultimately, when he converts to the non-guilty vote, Fonda's day is carried. It's easy to miss the tune that is whistled from the Laurel and Hardy films. Especially now. You also see what a far bigger deal baseball was in American culture.


I have been staying up later. Haven't meant to. The Golden Girls have thus been on a lot. It's the most consistently funny sitcom from my lifetime. Something like Cheers is hit or miss in its lines and jokes. They're often not funny--you're there for other reasons. You like the characters and the hanging out vibe. So many of the lines in The Golden Girls "tell." It's very consistent comedy. They're brutal to each other, but not in a mean way. There's actually a hockey locker room quality to The Golden Girls.


One of the Mel Bushman episodes was on last night. I love that they named Blanche's FWB guy Bushman. He speaks about himself in the third person. "Every couple weeks you bring a little class to Bushman's place." Ha. Or, "The Bushman awaits." Third person and definite article. Bush man indeed, baby. Though there's also an episode where Blanche makes a joke about shaving her vagina. Yes, I know a lot about The Golden Girls. Rose does not believe Blanche when the latter says that she does this.