Good Movie Basics- Random thoughts

counsellor 3What makes a good movie/bad movie? What are the fundamentals?

Gregory’s recent comment on my review of The Counsellor “It’s despicable, mean-spirited trash and Scott should do us all a favour and just retire” (he clearly didn’t like the movie), set me to thinking about what makes a good movie. I can well understand Gregory’s viewpoint regards The Counsellor, after all, it’s one shared by many. The film doesn’t follow the usual structure of a three-act movie, it doesn’t have a sympathetic protagonist that the viewer can identify with, it doesn’t have a ‘proper’ ending or sense of resolution. It rather undermines the basics of any film-school screen-writing class.

None of the characters have any redeeming features, the worst of them is the one that ends up ‘winning’ at the end,  and the ‘hero’ is frankly a greedy fool that is swept up by everything and fails to effect the outcome in any way at all.  Indeed, he’s a non-entity, caught up and lost in the events, his life unravelling and never really aware of what is really going on. Its no wonder it alienates so many viewers.  Its so easy to dismiss it- at its worst, its a frankly masturbatory affair of a bunch of millionaire actors/film-makers playing at something ‘meaningful’ and ‘profound’ when its nothing of the sort, at its best though, its rather wonderful.

The thing is, so many things about The Counsellor are both infuriating and rewarding. Technically its remarkable what they got away with on such a low budget and shooting it in Europe in lieu of America/Mexico (you’d hardly notice unless you were told). And its so slowly paced, almost a throwback to 1970s film standards, as opposed to the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it way so many films are shot/edited now. But does it try too hard to be an anti-mainstream movie?

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My own positive viewpoint likely has at least something to do with my fondness for Ridley Scott’s films. I enjoy his art-house credentials; there is always something rather subversive in his better movies, a heart of darkness if you will. And The Counsellor has this in spades. Its like Chaos Theory in action. Events unfold beyond the characters understanding and control. Characters slip into lengthy monologues about the nature of greed, life, justice…. but don’t really seem able to act upon their pearls of ‘wisdom’.  Their ignorance is astonishing but this blindness, to me, rather mirrors real-life in that none of us are really ever in full control of our lives. In this respect, the film is refreshingly honest. So often we are lulled into false security by films that show characters ‘seizing the day’ and triumphing against the odds, but while that works well for movies life isn’t always like that. People fail; people suffer and die and don’t really understand why, sometimes they just suffer the vagaries of fate and are powerless. Its that sense of a Lovecraftian universe that I find interesting about The Counsellor.   Its wildly self-indulgent, and yes, it would likely have played better with a cast of unknowns rather than a bunch of beautiful millionaire superstar actors, but that’s just how movies get made these days.

But is it a good movie? Ah, there’s the rub. I like it, but so many don’t, and I have to wonder, does it fail at the basics?

Does a good movie need a main character, a protagonist that we can identify with, empathise with? Does a good movie have to clearly set up in its first act its premise, its characters, its plot? Does a good movie have a middle act that further extrapolates its themes,  develops its drama and crisis? Does a good movie have a final third act that solves this crisis with the main character reaching some kind of resolution, whether he succeeds or fails, is he or the audience wiser at movies end? Is there some kind of moralist credential to the film, for good or ill? Simply put, should a movie have a clearly defined beginning, middle and end?

It can be argued that The Counsellor has neither. We begin the film almost in the middle of things, events and characters already in motion, the main character learns little, ignorant of what is really going on (indeed, I don’t believe any of them ever really learn the instigator of their fall) and the film has little meaningful resolution at all, other than perhaps that you’re not paranoid, the universe really is out to get you. If the final shot had been a bizarre pull-shot out and away into orbit and beyond, showing an increasingly small and fragile Earth increasingly lost in the immensity of the cosmos, I wouldn’t have been at all surprised. At least the film would have perhaps suggested some meaning in a final flourish.

But that’s to me the point of the film. Nothing means anything, other than perhaps greed undermines all and to the hunter the spoils- justice is utterly subjective and sin is not always punished.

But is The Counsellor a good movie? Or is it a bad movie that I’m reading too much into? I guess even the worst of movies have their fans!

 

 

 

 

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The Counsellor: The Extended Cut (2013)

counselorRidley Scott’s The Counsellor is as divisive a film as his previous film, Prometheus. Is he deliberately antagonising his audience, subverting our expectations with his  films now? Prometheus was supposed to be an Alien prequel, and was, in a way, albeit spinning off in some other direction and ultimately not really being the Alien movie fans seemed to want.  The Counsellor, made from a screenplay by literary darling Cormac McCarthy (The Road, No Country For Old Men) and featuring a tremendous cast including  Michael Fassbender, Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem and Brad Pitt in a tale of greed and drug trafficking, seemed to be prime thriller material- and yet it is hardly a thriller at all, more interested in long monologues regarding observations on greed, where it leads and responsibility for our crimes, than action sequences.

For myself, I quite enjoyed the film, choosing to watch the Extended Cut rather than the theatrical that apparently so infuriated cinemagoers. How much more superior the Extended Cut is over the theatrical, or even what those differences are, I cannot say. I can however state that The Counsellor is a fascinating art-house movie in the guise of a traditional thriller. There is action, and very brutal action at that, including one of the most gruesome and memorable murder sequences I have ever seen, but all of that is simply incidental to the lengthy monologues and sometimes poetic observations verbalised by the characters. What doesn’t help is that, other than Penélope Cruz ‘s character, every character in this film seems thoroughly unredeemable and unsympathetic. It’s faithful to the films theme but does rather hinder audience empathy with the film. We just don’t care for anyone other than Cruz (who is wonderful by the way, full of sensuality and warmth here) and things don’t end well for her either, so whilst avoiding spoilers, don’t expect a happy conclusion here. Its a frankly nihilistic film from beginning to end. Does that sound hard to stomach over two and a half hours? It evidently proved to be for cinemagoers watching the two hour version, and this Extended Cut is surely just more of it.

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The title character (played to perfection by the dependable as ever Michael Fassbender) is an utterly unlikeable hero, known only as The Counsellor in reference to his dubious trade representing criminals. He seems to have it made from the start; handsome, wealthy and in an exciting relationship with a stunningly beautiful and sensual woman (Cruz) – admit it, you hate him already, I did, especially when it is abundantly clear that even when he apparently has it all, it isn’t enough. He wants more, hence his slide into the drug trafficking of his clients. When things go awry and he and his associates are unwittingly put in the frame, retribution follows but we hardly care. We have little if any empathy for any of them. Its honest and faithful to the point of the film- we simply aren’t meant to like any of them- but it does rather undermine the movie in the traditional sense of rooting for people.  In that respect, I often felt like I was watching a coldly analytical Stanley Kubrick film. It really doesn’t feel like a Hollywood movie.

Indeed  its so refreshingly different to what I expected, and wonderfully, unrelentingly dark, that I rather fell in love with it anyway. It may prove to be one of those films that gets re-evaluated in the future, and becomes widely considered a success after all (another Blade Runner, perhaps?). Kudos to 20th Century Fox for letting Scott make the film he clearly wanted to, as it must have been tempting to rip it apart and make it more, well, traditionally positive – although maybe the theatrical cut was Scott’s way of compromising his intentions somewhat. I won’t know unless I try watching that version but I hardly see the point.

One of Scott’s better movies. Or maybe I’m wide of the mark and it really is as terrible as people make out? If you’ve seen it, do let me know what you think.

 

 

Frenzy (1972)

hitchboxI finally get around to watching a film from the Hitchcock box-set I bought last September and, surprise, surprise, its not Vertigo– its Frenzy instead. Go figure. I watched this film many years ago late at night, when it was aired on tv, and found it quite enjoyable, albeit one of Hitchcock’s lesser films.  Watching it again on this fair-to-middling Blu-ray (chances of a proper restoration/remaster of a film like this virtually none), I found that its a better film than I remembered, with plenty to offer.

His penultimate film, made when Hitchcock was well into the unfortunate artistic and commercial slump that would define his latter years, Frenzy found him returning to the London of his roots and was a definite return to form. Its a thoroughly nasty film though – two lawyers discussing the serial murders in a pub finally agree that at least the victims had a good time first as they were raped prior to being finally murdered.  Try getting away with saying that in a modern movie! Its ghoulish indeed and likely also the most graphic of all Hitchcock’s films- a sign perhaps that the Master of Suspense was acknowledging that films were moving on and leaving his own tastes/sensibilities behind? As I say, its a nasty film and quite unlike what you might expect of Hitchcock on evidence of his other, superior films. 

Frenzy has many pleasures, particularly its humour (Chief Inspector Oxford (Alec McCowen) being gently tortured at home by his wife’s horrible cooking) and the performances are very good, especially Barry Foster’s serial killer Rusk. But its the films dark undercurrents that run deep and resonate long after the viewing. Two scenes are particularly astonishing- the first rape/murder film is surprisingly graphic but so brilliantly, beautifully staged that the audience can’t turn their eyes away, only witness the horror unfold.  For another rape/murder, Hitchcock then goes completely the other way- we know, from what we have seen prior, what is happening inside the apartment, and Hitchcock pulls the camera away, backing down the staircase in a silence haunted by what we imagine is happening, silently withdrawing further, out into the noisy street, busy with people oblivious to the horror occurring beyond the windows above them. What we don’t see, but instead imagine, is worse/more effective than the graphic crime we witnessed earlier.  Its a master class in direction and suspense and quite remarkable film-making.

The Garden of Words (2013)

gardenofwordsMakoto Shinkai’s The Garden of Words is a visually breathtaking anime that somehow reminds me of the audiovisual quality of Disney’s Fantasia, or it’s out-take, the short Claire de Lune. Its when a piece of animation truly seems a work of art, rather than, say, simply being a movie or a product. An astonishing combination of CGI and traditional hand drawn techniques, it really is quite arrestingly beautiful. There is a sense of light and space, the beauty of nature and the passing of time that is quite remarkable here. You could turn down the sound/disable the subtitles and just take the film in as a visual experience independent of the story and be thoroughly enchanted by it.

Takao, a teenager with something of an old soul, dreams of being a shoe-maker and is frustrated by life, something of a misfit at school . He  skips school on rainy days to retreat to the local park. There, sheltering under a pergola he chances upon Yukino, a beautiful but troubled young woman drinking beer and eating chocolate. She is escaping her job in just the same way as he is avoiding school. On successive rainy days they meet at the park and a friendship forms between them. Over time we learn more of Takao’s troubled family background and of Yukino’s own problems, as the days slip into weeks and the friendship begins to blossom into something more-  something, it turns out, forbidden, as we learn the truth behind Yukino’s pain.

It’s a short movie, running at just 46 minutes, which does make me wonder if it might have been better as a full-length piece. Some may consider that heresy, but I rather think more time for further characterisation would have helped, but that’s likely just me being greedy, as this is one of those films that you really don’t want to end. Some may well find its brisk running time just one more perfect thing about a perfect movie.The story is fine, although I have a few problems with its conclusion,which is the weak link in the entire enterprise, as it felt overly melodramatic. In fairness to the film, this may be due to the fact I watched it with the English dub, and the original Japanese with subtitles may well be a superior experience. Something just felt a little ‘off’ with the central denouement.

Moreover, had this been a live-action film, I would imagine it might have garnered rather more considerable controversy and criticism regards the forbidden nature of the relationship described. Being animation it seems to be protected from that (which raises the question why, exactly?). As the forbidden nature of their relationship (and believe me its not really as shocking as I’m perhaps making out) is a ‘twist’ that might detract from viewers enjoyment of the film, I won’t discuss it here, but some people may have problems it. Did there need to be any romance in the film at all, was friendship not enough? Was the twist even necessary may be the most pertinent question of all, because its such an arresting, beautiful film even without all the dramatics. Its something very special and anyone with any interest in animation really should watch this film.

“You fart HELIUM?!”- Farscape 1.1: Premiere

farscapetitle

TV pilots are difficult- they have to introduce characters, settings, arcs and set up what a series is. The pressure is instantly on to ‘sell’ the show to the audience, hoping most of that audience will come back to the second episode. Its one thing to do this with a real-world show, but a genre show set in a totally alien environment has its work cut out for it. Think for a moment about something like Star Trek: The Next Generation, in which we knew what Star Trek was, the Federation, Klingons etc- so much groundwork was already done, yet it can be argued even that show struggled for its first year or two to establish itself. Shows like Babylon 5 and Farscape had even greater problems, in that they were not Star Trek, or Star Wars, but something else, and that was rather a problem back then in particular. They had whole new premises to establish, and Farscape would, after its first ten minutes, lose any safety-net of Earth or humans even. Once John Crichton falls through the wormhole and arrives on the other side of the galaxy, its all alien and strange from here on. Alice is in Wonderland, so to speak, only this Wonderland is full of wild and deadly danger from the first moment.

So if Farscape struggles its only natural. Indeed the story it tries to tell in the pilot ‘Premiere’ and all the background facts/histories it throws at the audience, is simply too much for a standard 50-minute episode. It really needed to be a 90-minute tv-movie; I wonder if that option was considered and if so, why it wasn’t taken. However, it would seem the lesson was indeed heeded, as the show would often have two-parters and three-parters later on in order to give larger stories the room to breathe. Farscape was always a bit demanding, frenetic and busy but this pilot is just too hectic for its own good; it sets up Crais losing his brother and his drive to avenge him by chasing down Crichton, who Crais feels is responsible- but we never ‘see’ the brother or establish his relationship with Crais. It’s as if when Crichton arrives through the wormhole we are already forty minutes into a tv movie and we’ve missed all the setting-up. Its sort of a future pattern for the show; very often we start an episode with the nagging feeling we’ve missed the first ten minutes already. Its part of what makes Farscape so fun and so special, the show always saying hold on to your hats, you’re in for a ride, so pay attention and play catch-up as we go long. Its great for genre fans familiar with some of the sci-fi stuff but rather disconcerting for many viewers I’m sure, and indeed fans coming off the comparatively safe and familiar Star Trek.

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Of course, rewatching Farscape as I am, I have the benefit of knowing the characters and where the show is going to take them. In this first episode, its inevitable that some of the performances are a little awkward and some things work better than others. Already the great one-liners and comic undertone is working, and Ben Browder is clearly a charismatic actor and a sympathetic hero. There is an instant chemistry between him and Claudia Black, which will turn out to be the bedrock of the entire series. The creature effects already hint at the show being something special and the cgi (still somewhat novel at the time) have a sense of scale remarkable for television back then.

Overall it is very effective but one already can see how the shows strangeness might alienate initial viewers; it feels written for genre fans/geeks first and Joe Public second. How many of the latter would give the show a second try after this first episode, I wonder? Alas that seems the perennial problem for genres shows like this, but its surprising looking back just how full-on Farscape was from the start, and it can be argued it wasn’t even ‘proper’ Farscape until it reached episode fifteen, after which, frankly, all bets are off and you realise that Anything Goes. Its one of the great things about the show but it would also haunt it always, right up to its criminal cancellation after season four, but that’s 87 more episodes away, thank goodness…

The Evil of Frankenstein (1964)

evilfrankA curio even for Hammer fans; in many ways this doesn’t even have the feel of a ‘proper’ Hammer horror film. The third film in the Hammer Frankenstein series, The Evil of Frankenstein again features the wonderful Peter Cushing as the evil scientist, but other than that the film seems to drop any link to the Frankenstein films prior or after. The curious thing is that,  at odds somewhat even with the films title, the scientist here isn’t as evil as he was in the prior films.  Indeed, he is even rather comically set up as the victim- as if mutilating cadavers and experimenting on resurrecting the dead was something normal, he bemoans the people chasing him, something of a running gag through the film. “Why won’t they ever leave me alone?” he mutters, as if utterly ignorant of his wrong doing. He complains of being persecuted a number of times, evidently thinking he’s the victim.  Yep, he’s crazy, at least the film seems to get that right.

The ‘villain’ of the piece turns out to be a hypnotist in a travelling Fair visiting the village, the aptly named Zoltan (sharing the moniker of a rather evil Hound, I believe). Frankenstein enlists Zoltan’s skills  in order to repair his monsters injured brain, but doesn’t realise the hypnotist is then sending the creature on a crime spree in the village, robbing the church gold and killing the authorities that he feels wronged him.

Something of a reboot (aha, there’s that horrible word again, even back in the ‘sixties) , I believe partly due to this film being co-financed by Universal Pictures, it  resulted in various nods to the 1930s Universal Horror originals, such as the design of the laboratory and the monster itself, which now has a passing familiarity with the Karloff original. All of this sadly means that the final film is more of a Universal/Hammer hybrid than a genuine Hammer film. So it doesn’t have the proper Hammer flavours and gothic sensibilities I would prefer. It has its moments and its always fun to spot cast members from other Hammer productions, and indeed Cushing is worth watching whatever tosh he is in, but nonetheless its one of the weakest Hammer films released on Blu-ray so far. Hammer fans will no doubt relish the opportunity to have the film in HD and the extras, sparse as they are, are rewarding as ever, but some modern viewers will perhaps wonder what the fuss about Hammer is all about on the evidence of this effort.

 

Farscape (1999-2003)

farscapeI well remember the profound sense of loss, anger and injustice I felt when Farscape got cancelled after its fourth season. There is something rather intense about how attached you can get to a tv show, and its characters, over the course of the many episodes and years it is on air. Particularly a show as well-written and challenging as Farscape was.  It was never going to get the audience figures it needed to thrive- it was on the verge of cancellation for some time. But I loved that show.

Farscape was unusual, odd. It was like nothing else on television, more Star Wars than Star Trek, but even Star Wars never pulled things like Farscape did. It was wild, action-packed, funny, shocking, huge. Once the series hit its stride mid-first season, I was hooked. It was a great show, full of surprises, mysteries, odd turns… it was wonderful. Seasons three and four were nothing short of spectacular, and I don’t think television has seen anything quite like that since.  But it was very complex, and every season suffered with the problem of trying to get new viewers in mid-arc in order to keep the network happy. Indeed, I’ll be the first to admit that the very things that fans cherished likely led to its demise. It was just a bit too complex, too wild, too different.

But when the Sci-Fi channel finally pulled the plug it was still a shock.  Farscape had a five-year arc and its cancellation prior to season five robbed its fans, its cast and its crew of the resolution the show, and they, deserved, especially having managed to tell 80% of its tale with the last chapter to tell.  I honestly, fervently believe that it was the worst network decision since the original Star Trek tv series was cancelled.  It was a reminder of how cruel and sometimes short-sighted the entertainment business can be. One more season. Maybe just a half-season. After telling a story for four years and taking up all that time and effort of the fanbase watching it, small that those audience figures may have been, surely the network at least owed something back to that audience? And surely the franchise had more legs and viability in syndication had it got a proper conclusion? Who wants to start watching a show in re-runs if they know it never gets a proper conclusion? I couldn’t figure it out. I even joined in the campaign to bring it back and sent emails to the Sci-Fi network in the US.

These things happen, of course- look at shows like Dark Angel, Dollhouse, Firefly… there are so many shows that get cancelled. Some shows deserve it, some shows deserved more. There have been a few times when I’ve been hesitant to even start watching a tv show for fear of it being cut short. I guess I’ve been lucky enough in the past- Babylon 5 got five seasons to finish its arc (albeit the doubt over season five kind of damaged what it could have been), and the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica managed to find Earth and complete its own remarkable story. Both series got their grand finale, but Farscape was the one that deserved it but never got it. An eventual mini-series/tv movie hybrid sort of summed up what should have been season five in something like three hours, but it wasn’t really what should have been It was something, and we fans, God knows, were thankful for that, but it wasn’t quite the real deal.

I have all the four seasons on DVD- they are up in the loft. Bought back when full-season boxsets were unknown and you had to buy individual DVDs as they were released, three or four episodes at a time (God knows how much they cost me overall), so the DVDs take up some considerable real estate. Of course, it makes it that much more difficult regards actually getting to watch them when you have to climb up into the loft and dig them out of storage boxes. So anyway, I noticed a sale at Zavvi on Sunday, with the complete series on Blu-ray for just £32.99. That’s an absolute bargain if only for space-saving, with the bonus of many extras/commentaries that my initial DVDs didn’t have. So when I do finally get back up the loft the redundant DVDs can finally be given away to whatever needy cause wants them, and in the meantime I have the complete series in one handy box. Frell, yeah!

So I can finally watch the show again, after all these years. It should be interesting. How far I actually get, or how long it will actually take, only time will tell. But I’m looking forward to it. May try to put short reviews here too if I can get to it. And if anybody out there has never heard of Farscape or have heard of it but not seen it, well, if you are willing to embark on a wild and crazy challenging ride in a universe that makes the Cantina scene in Star Wars seem tame, well, I’d urge you to give it a go. It might piss you off. But you might just fall in love with it. Believe me, if you fall in love with it, you’ll be in for a very special experience.

And who knows, there may be more to Farscape yet. Rumours are going around regards a reboot/continuation, set years after the last episode.  Its a strange world, after all, and if its a world with more Farscape coming, then its getting only stranger.

Thor 2: The Dark World (2013)

thor2This was a great superhero film- indeed I do believe this must be one of the very best superhero films that I’ve ever seen.  How weird is that? Somehow I didn’t see a film as good as that coming, but here it is.

Certainly its better than the first Thor movie, taking everything to the next level. Its confident, its bold, its fun, it’s superbly paced and it doesn’t take itself at all too seriously. Its a ‘proper’ superhero movie; while I appreciate the realistic/moody Batman films they aren’t by any means honest to the original comics. Thor, though, at least feels like a ‘sixties comic book brought to cinematic life, in that respect more authentic than, say, Man of Steel, which was so far up its own self-important arse that it beggared belief. Thor 2 is a far better movie. The cast in particular is note-perfect; they look amazingly relaxed in their roles, particularly Hemsworth and Hiddleton. They simply are Thor and Loki. The supporting cast are uniformly excellent. Its amazing how well the whole film just works.

But the funny thing is, what I kept on thinking of whilst watching Thor 2 was, of all things,  Star Wars. It was just the sense of ease and confidence that the film has, and how the Dark Elves that feature as the villains were a great analogue for how the Sith could look like in a future Star Wars movie. And the architecture of Asgard, the ship designs, even the sound effects… Frankly, the whole look and feel and sound of Thor 2, it somehow felt like a Star Wars movie, at least the nearest thing since the John Carter movie. As a huge Star Wars fan (well, of the Original Trilogy anyway) this meant the film was right up my alley, offering tantalising glimpses of what we may be in for in Christmas 2015 if Disney gets it right.

These superhero films seem to dominate modern cinema nowadays and its easy to forget how difficult they are to make. Actors might find it hard not to feel silly in a costume, and the stunts and effects work needed to match the simplest brush-strokes of a comic-book artist in a single panel don’t come cheap. But when it works, as it does here, it looks and feels like the easiest thing in all the world. I thought The Avengers and Iron Man would take some beating, but here we are. I think its that good.

This disc even features the best of the Marvel One Shot’s– Ben Kinglsey’s thespian arch-villain Trevor Slattery from Iron Man 3 returns in All Hail the King, which is such a scream from start to finish its almost worth the price of the disc alone, and nearly had me hunting down a copy of Iron Man 3 to watch him again.

12 Angry Men (1957)

12 angryAh, 12 Angry Men– a review here seems largely redundant- a sensational film; one of the very greats. As powerful and important now as it was when it was made, more than fifty years ago, and likely to be just as powerful when its a hundred years old.  One for the ages, as they say, only here in this case at least its very true. I’ve seen the film several times over the years (and now in HD on a fine Blu ray) and it rewards every time.

Filmed in stark black and white,  its ostensibly a courtroom drama but really its something else entirely- yes, its set almost wholly in a jury room as the twelve jurors debate the guilt of a young boy accused of murder , but its much more than that. Its a study of twelve characters, twelve Everymen, strangers to each other, each from wildly different lives and backgrounds. Its a study of how they behave, what they believe, how they interact with each other, and how personal prejudices affect their behaviour and attitude towards the case.

As they assemble in the juror room, referring to each other as Juror One, Juror Two etc, the faultless casting and tight screenplay give the viewer immediate insight. Its in how they move, their mannerisms, their speech, as if with the briefest of brush-strokes the film paints us a complex picture. The camera relentlessly fixes its eye (and therefore the viewers eye) in tightly framed close-ups of each of the 12 jurors. An initial count reveals that all but one of the jury believes the boy is guilty. The one holdout is Juror Eight (Henry Fonda in his usual all-American wholesome character that reminds me how much of a shock/master-stroke was his later casting as the villain in Once Upon A Time In The West); Juror Eight doesn’t believe the boy is necessarily innocent, just that he has his doubts that he is guilty. He isn’t sure, he felt the case for the defence was poor, and that he wants them all to discuss and review the facts once more.  What follows for the next near-ninety minutes is a riveting examination of the characters and how it affects over the course of their deliberations their final decision.

12 angry2The cast is to die for- mostly unknowns at the time, with backgrounds in television, the actors would generally have great success in the years ahead- actors like Martin Balsam, John Fiedler, Lee J. Cobb, E.G. Marshall, Jack Klugman, and Jack Warden. If those names little to you, consider yourself slapped on the wrist.

12 Angry Men reminds me of Glengarry Glenn Ross; both films are studies of the human condition, and both are master classes of acting. Both are fine studies of their Americas, separated by the decades; Glengarry is a study of greed, of a cut-throat world where morals suffer under the weight of ambition and sales are gained at any cost – 12 Angry Men is a study of society and the justice system, where 12 strangers from widely different backgrounds bring all their beliefs and prejudices into play when in the jury room. The stories both films tell are almost incidental to the incredible character acting demonstrated in both. Its remarkable stuff. Every budding actor in drama school must surely have a copy of each of these films at hand. Maybe every budding screenplay writer should too though, for although the acting is incredible and at the fore, in both films the scripts are razor-sharp, brimming over with a sense of reality and truth. Magnificent films.