A Prairie Home Companion has been on seemingly forever. I first came across it when it used to be played on Radio 4 at odd times, usually late into the night (perhaps it’s still on).

His voice, that of Garrison Keillor is hypnotic, soothing, and iconic.

What’s wonderful about it is how lasting it has been, created and hosted by the same man since 1974, no doubt thanks to it’s formula; inoffensive yet compelling cockamamie tid bits within a reliable and quickly familiar setting – that is Lake Wobegon. Any mention of the show conjures instantly the words in that familiar deep voice “the news from Lake Wobegon”.

What I take most from this though is that it’s okay to just keep on producing seemingly stodgy content, especially on the radio. It has it’s place. It can be noble work.

Not everything has to be cynical or bold or ruthless. Sometimes, you can just make familiar.

12 Angry Men

The 1957 Film 12 Angry Men is often heralded as a movie must see.

 

I actually got down to watching it after it was mentioned in this video on the limitations of the long take: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X3FlrbaHN2o

This critical look at the slow build cinematography of the film was an excellent primer, and the film did not disappoint.

It was a good example of site specific storytelling, it was a deliberate choice to keep all of the film within the court, and mostly within one room, to add to the sense of clostrophobia the characters must themselves be feeling.

It spoke of the shining example that the jury process is to democracy, and demonstrated how it brings together folk from all walks of life (this came to a head when one of the central characters of the film, whose name we never know, talks very demeaningly about people from slums and is confronted by a man who grew up in slums himself) but also demonstrated the tensions inherant to them.

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The film has  theatrical considerations of proxemics and the attention to this coupled with the editing makes for a slow building tension throughout, on top of the personal skirmishes the characters have.

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The angriest of all the angry men, who at the beginning is shown as flying off the handle a little too easily, and having intractably prejudice views, leads the resistance against the prevailing tide of ‘Not Guilty’ pledges that an increasing amount of the men are moving to.

The crescendo of the film is his absolute refusal to budge, citing wavering and shaky evidence, most of which has already been cast into reasonable doubt, and contradicts himself. In a masterful shot, he is looked down on by the leader of the ‘Not Guilty’ camp, and told that he is alone.

He breaks down into hidden tears.
It seems it is this that is the moral punch of the film, that there are those who will hold their prejudices no matter what and it is a repellent characteristic which is usually down to events in their past.

This was no doubt a pretinent message in 1957 America.

 

 

A Few Good Men

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‘A Few Good Men’ is a 1992 Courtroom Drama, in which the ever insolent Lt. Daniel Kaffee is charged with defending two Marines, who whilst stationed on Guantanimo Bay, followed informal orders in order to frighten a fellow under-performing Marine which ended up killing him.

The film boils down to an ideological battle between the “Harvard Mouth” of Kaffee and the Southern Male Pride of Colonel Nathan R. Jessup. Kaffee figures out that Jessup gave the order, known informally as a ‘code red’, but needs to have him admit to it in court.

This scene is the real crux of the film, as Jessup begins angrily waxing lyrical about the kind of men who defend the borders, and the arrogance of those like Kaffee who sleep in the bed provided for them and complain about how the bed was made.

As such, I think context is everything with this film – the cold war Spectre was still very fresh in the minds of Americans (the threat of a Cuban attack was mentioned by Jessup as one of the reasons he became so hard line; “I eat breakfast 300 yards from 4 thousand Cubans who are trained to kill me”). There is a power play between these two figures, who represent ideologies and sections of America far bigger than themselves.

The following scene culminates in a power play by Jessup; “You have to ask me nicely”

 

With President H.W Bush about to be defeated by the younger, more liberal and perhaps perceived as the more ‘Intellectual’ Bill Clinton (in opposition to Bush Senior’s gut governance), this film really sits on the cusp of this movement, with its finger on the pulse of the clash and transformation of American Ideals.

Right down to the Title, it’s clear who the film is implying are the ‘Few Good Men’ and why they are so; they reason, they change their minds and are flexible to new ideas, and they are not afraid to ruffle the feathers of the men who think in old ways.

That is the interesting part about this film.