A couple of friends and I went to see "12 Angry Men" last week, which is not a collection of rejects from "The Bachelorette," but rather the gripping 1957 film starring Henry Fonda as the lone dissenting juror in a seemingly open-and-shut murder case. Turns out it's really the American judicial system on trial.
This was the first selection in the springtime classic movie series at the historic Alameda Theatre, where we've seen some fun stuff before -- current movies, of course, but also gems like "All About Eve" with Bette Davis, or "The Manchurian Candidate" with Frank Sinatra and Angela Lansbury. Classic movie nights are awesome because I've only viewed some of these masterpieces on TV during random
For upcoming movie dates, we also considered "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" over at the Paramount in Oakland on March 8, but we rejected the idea because we all knew it by heart. Not that you can ever really see killer rabbits and insubordinate peasants too often, but you can definitely get an overdose of audience members in chain mail, simulating the clap of horse hoofs with halved coconuts and possibly flailing shrubberies around with wild abandon, and, well, I really like my shrubberies placed neatly
Butter me up
So for "Angry," the plan was for more than a half dozen of us to meet and enjoy the film, but friends gradually began to bail. Even my spouse rejected the invitation, opting to stay home and watch "Machete" on TV instead. So it ended up being three not-really-angry-but-slightly-miffed women, and it's just lucky we didn't have to decide anyone's life/death fate that day.
The movie was superb, of course, as was the popcorn (they use real butter there). You just can't go wrong with actors like Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, Ed Begley (Sr.), Jack Klugman, Jack Warden, Martin Balsam or even John Fiedler, who played a shrill little pipsqueak character for which he was so often known, like when he was neurotic psychology patient Mr. Peterson on "The Bob Newhart Show." At least once in his life he got to embody a raving murderous alien entity -- that was in the "Wolf in the Fold" episode of the original "Star Trek" series, when Scotty was accused of killing several women on Argelius II, but it turned out it was Fiedler instead. I didn't know little Mr. Peterson could be so evil.
"Angry" is set in a stifling jury room with emotions on slow boil. The camera was apparently locked in with the 12 of them, making us viewers feel like we were all sealed in there too for an hour and a half. Not that I know what that's like. Despite being called for jury duty several times, I have only once made it past the phone-reporting stage, but never to the interview room where people try to weasel their way out with excuses about washing their hair or having to complete a very important World of Warcraft quest.
Yes, the judicial system is totally missing out because I am one of the few people in the world who actually wants to serve my time and work to discern the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me Raymond Burr -- as Perry Mason or Ironside, but not Lars Thorwald in "Rear Window." I didn't know he could be so evil.
Just the facts, sir
It would be fascinating to experience the deliberation process, witness total strangers bonding thick as thieves, some forming "Survivor"-style alliances as they agonize in unison over a fellow human being's fate. In the movie, the majority opinion gets stuck in everyone's craw, and few can see the facts with a fresh eye, if indeed one's craw has something to do with one's optic nerves. The only man who takes a stand is Fonda, slowly convincing the others of reasonable doubt. It's an awesome display of Jedi mind skills.
Sadly, there were only about 12 people -- counting me and my pals -- in the whole theater. Maybe someone will remake the film into a musical with Hugh Jackman singing the jury instructions, and then our friends and spouses won't bail.
After watching one of the best movies ever, I returned home to discover my husband complaining that he'd watched one of the worst movies ever. Dinner was ready. And justice was served.