Thursday, October 26, 2006

Movie Of The Day

In 1999, Hollywood finally got it right. And they never did it again.

The biggest cliche in Hollywood is that every waiter and bus boy is actually an aspiring actor or director. Which is why most films do a pretty good job of showing what it's like to work in a restaurant or to be a courier or to schlep stuffed mushrooms for a catering company.

But pretty much to a man, no filmmaker (past, present, or aspiring) has ever worked in the corporate world. It just doesn't happen.

Which is why almost every film ever made that takes place in a corporate setting is total crap. From Wall Street to Match Point, and every Albert Brooks and Chevy Chase Vacation picture in between, they get it wrong every time.

The other day I caught the first 30 minutes of this instantly forgettable Jennifer Aniston movie where, in 1997, she travels to San Francisco to track down this guy she thinks is her father (Kevin Costner). He's a dot com guru and is speaking at some convention. Everyone is dressed in suits. They carry briefcases and stand around shaking hands and drinking scotch.

My first thought was, "Wow, I'm glad we have a 2nd TV upstairs." But my second thought was, "This is so off base that it's obvious these filmmakers have never been to Northern California, never been to a convention, and never met anyone that actually works for a Silicon Valley company."

But that's par for the course. I mean, if movies were your only source for insight into the corporate world, you'd think that everyone walks around in 3-piece suits, carries briefcases circa 1955, eats at Spago for lunch everyday, has a corner office with a view of the Hudson River, has a secretary who "holds calls", and spends their afternoons in large board rooms pointing at graphs with sticks.

Which is why Office Space was so fucking awesome. The first completely realistic look at REAL corporate America.

When it came out, I WAS Peter Gibbons. I worked for a company called Accrue Software, which might as well have been called Initech. I had the same commute, worked with all the same people, had the same cube, got the same shocks on every doorknob, went to the same awkward birthday "parties" with the same bad sheet cake from Safeway...hell, we even had the same motivational catchphrases and banners up on the walls - "What have you done for Accrue today?"

Office Space nailed every aspect of cube life, right down to the joyless lunches at bad chain restaurants. It was so perfect I actually didn't like it the first time I saw it. Ever heard the guys from Aerosmith or Judas Priest say they hated Spinal Tap the first time they saw because it was too close for comfort? Same deal.

Over the years though, especially once I got OUT of that lifeless cube farm, I came to not only appreciate Office Space but fucking LOVE it.

Sure, a few films have come close. The Big Kahuna with Kevin Spacey and Danny DeVito was an underrated film that really captured the quiet desperation of the sales side of the corporate world. But it was far from dead-on, and illustrated its point in an exaggerated made-for-the-stage Glengarry Glen Ross kind of way. Old School had some good moments ("Let me have your drink tickets"). She's Having A Baby had one classic scene in which Kevin Bacon gets a reality check from his boss, played by the always spot-on Dennis Dugan.

But that's about it. Office Space stands alone as the one painfully accurate slice of life in corporate America.

PC Load Letter? What the fuck does that mean!?


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