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Twelve Angry Men

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8 Responses

  1. KipEsquire says:

    “We cannot say that it is constitutionally impermissible for a State acting in pursuit of the general welfare, to conclude that a woman should be relieved from the civic duty of jury service unless she herself determines that such service is consistent with her own special responsibilities.”

    Hoyt v. Florida, 368 U.S. 57, 62 (1961)

    “It is untenable to suggest these days that it would be a special hardship for each and every woman to perform jury service or that society cannot spare any women from their present duties.”

    Taylor v. Louisiana, 419 U.S. 522 (1975)

    You’ve come a long way, baby…

  2. Patrick S. O'Donnell says:

    This is one of my all-time favorite films. I used to show it in a “critical thinking” course to illustrate a handful of informal fallacies in reasoning. I think it is truly a classic. Had I the time I would list the many virtues of the film, but perhaps others who like it can say something on its behalf.

  3. Patrick S. O'Donnell says:

    This is one of my all-time favorite films. I used to show it in a “critical thinking” course to illustrate a handful of informal fallacies in reasoning. I think it is truly a classic. Had I the time I would list the many virtues of the film, but perhaps others who like it can say something on its behalf.

  4. Matt says:

    I liked _Paths of Glory_ quite a lot but can’t say that I found it full of moral complexity. The only difficult moral question, I thought, was whether Krik Douglas’s character had an obligation to do more to prevent the obviously unjust executions. Is there something you think I’m missing on it? (I must admit it’s been a few years since I’ve seen it so I might not be remembering quite right. It didn’t seem as morally interesting as Breaker Morant to me.)

  5. Bruce Boyden says:

    Kip, thanks for the cites. If you infer that the Supreme Court follows changes in society rather than producing them, it looks like all-male juries ceased becoming normal somewhere between 1961 and 1975.

    Matt, I won’t argue the point too strenuously — I think it’s perfectly plausible to see Paths of Glory as a straightforward tale of a fight against a corrupt system. I also saw questions about whether the soldiers could justifiably be punished at random for a collective failure, which is what made their defense so difficult, but I would agree that’s at most a minor theme. So I have to backtrack a little: a right vs. wrong tale can be entertaining. Why didn’t I find “12 Angry Men” entertaining? I still think it has something to do with its obviousness.

  6. merevaudevillian says:

    Bruce, I think that your review is a bit flippant, if I may say so. The film (though the play as well) is beautiful because of the profound levels of meaning at which we may examine it. It starts with two strata of basic courtroom drama, how a jury deliberates and how Fonda can play the role of “defense attorney” to the opposition. The crime is simple, to the audience and to all but one juror. Perhaps you had the benefit of insight that most of us lack (and, indeed, the ability to notice details on jurors that were never mentioned until individual jurors mentioned them later), but the story unravels in evidence in a powerful way.

    It then moves to individual biases or perspectives shading the evidence. Indeed, it illustrates what, say, the legal realists generally posit: that we bring to the same set of facts a varying degree of perspectives. How each juror views the evidence, and what each remembers portions of the evidence, is profound. We have the expert logician, the simplistic and biased fop, the largely-ignorant surface-reader, and so forth.

    From there, it moves to greater social questions of justice (in this case alone, or retributive for prior wrongs?), of racial animus, of life’s priorities (get to the game or back to the office, or get this case right?), of truth-seeking (does looking too closely obscure it, or clarify it), and so forth. Each dimension is expertly crafted into these 12 personas.

    In short, I think if you’re looking for an “entertaining” work, you could easily settle for Grisham. If you’re looking for a work that goes beyond a bare courtroom plot of good v. evil, Fonda v. Cobb, I think you should take the time to re-examine this work.

    (Incidentally, I classify both 12 Angry Men and Paths of Glory among the greatest of all time. Kudos for bringing this oft-forgotten masterpiece to the discussion.)

  7. Bruce Boyden says:

    merevaudevillian — I’m not sure you mean “flippant,” which according to my dictionary means “lacking proper respect or seriousness.” It’s just a movie. I think you mean that you vehemently disagree with me.

    Anyway, like I said, I’ve never seen the movie, only the play, and that was some time ago. So maybe I should rent it and watch it sometime. I’ll post the results here or wherever I might be blogging at the time.

  8. merevaudevillian says:

    Bruce, I used the phrase “a bit flippant” to address your statements, which comprised the bulk of substantive criticism, of “struck me as boring,” “obviously morally lopsided,” “as interesting as watching the Patriots play a high school football team,” “philosophically uninteresting,” “nothing to discuss,” and “nothing to think about.” Such phrases, I believe, tend toward the “lack of proper respect or seriousness.”