Day: April 16, 2011

Movies That Work

With the barrage of  health problems thrust at my door in recent weeks it can be no surprise that my blog has become a strange mixture of a detailed health report and a personal medical venting forum.  I suppose the appropriateness of such posts depends on the definition and purpose of a blog.  If it is a meant to be an opportunity for the writer to portray his or her life to the world then my blog has been a true blog in nearly every sense of the word. If it is supposed to be the syrupy weekly equivalent of a holiday newsletter then I have failed!

I am actually quite grateful for the literary art-form and the freedom it gives me to express my thoughts in a way vocal conversation can not. In talking with a loved one I get an immediate sense of satisfaction and pleasure; whereas, writing my struggles and joys is a different egg all together.  It forces me to mull over words and analyze how my experiences are really impacting me- both in the short and long term.

In fact, I sometimes feel sorry for those that read my blog right after publication (not that I discourage it!) because it is only a rough draft at that point with many revisions and editing sessions to follow.  Most blogs I review at least four or five times before I am minimally satisfied with the way they convey my feelings.

Despite such an editing pen I hope you enjoy my ramblings and have found some use for them in your busy lives.  I know it has certainly benefited me, so thank you for coming and reading.

Enough said on that… I thought it might be fun to lighten the mood a bit and when I think of lightening the mood I almost always come to one of four topics- books, movies, television, or music.  (One can not be surprised as I have done many posts on each.)

Today I was thinking about movies.  In particular,  one of my favorite topics in film- movies about work.  I am not a film historian but it seems to me that work and work-related issues have often been a theme of movies.   This is probably for the simple reason that everyone has to work to survive- it’s universal.  Work is also the only activity, with the exception of family-life, that effects every human being, every day throughout the entirety of our lives- no matter their culture, language or religion, work is an essential part of life.

With such a mass appeal, work can be used as a simple backdrop or a critical element in the plot.  It is also broad enough to be applicable to every genre including drama, comedy, suspense and romance.  However, no matter the category, these movies tend to focus on two overarching questions:

1. What is my purpose for existence or to what aim am I working for?  and

2. How much does money matter to me,  and why?

1. I don’t care if you are a celebrity, professional athlete or just an ordinary person, work is all about routines.  To some extent life for everyone gets drummed down to bare essential behaviors and those who exhibit those behaviors well, are considered a success.  Even a ‘creative’ person must go through certain processes to achieve their ultimate product.  The best we can hope for is to find something that makes us moderately satisfied and we can perform well enough at to gain a living.  This may sound pessimistic but I believe the idea of the soul fulfilling job is mostly an illusion of youth.

In Its a Wonderful Life Jimmy Stewart learns the value of his work, especially when compared to the evil Mr. Potter

2. Scripture teaches us the ‘love of money is the root of all evil’ (1 Timothy 6:10).  Think about it- if 8 hours of our life are devoted to sleep (on a good day!) and at least 8 to work, that leaves only 8 to everything else.  If we are not careful the income producing section of our day can be the only part of value, of meaning, because it is the only part with obvious immediate profit.  With such income providing sustenance and happiness, its increase can become an obsession, our soul life’s quest.

how many have wanted to do this to their office copier? From Office Space

The obvious example of such greed is in my beloved Christmas Carol.  In each version and the original text, we are vividly taught that Scrooge has squandered his life in pursuit of wealth, power, and the safety of work.  He feared poverty too much and shut the world and Christ (in the form of Christmas) out. His redemption teaches all of us that life is about serving others and living a full life (the remaining 8 hours of the day!).

Scrooge- the ultimate capitalist gone wrong!

Some of my other favorite movies on this topic are:  ( I started to describe each of these but then the post became a novel.  Just trust me they are great!):

The Classics- Its a Wonderful Life (yes its not just a holiday movie), The Holiday, Talk of the Town, His Girl Friday, Shop Around the Corner, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Notorious, On the Waterfront, Singing in the Rain, Dr. Strangelove, the Apartment, Modern Times, Citizen Kane, and more.

In the Apartment Jack Lemmon learns what he will sacrifice to not be one of the office masses
Love and work get muddled in the hilarious classic His Girl Friday

Comedies- Groundhog Day, City Slickers, Office Space (a lot of profanity so watch with a warning.  I have edited if anyone wants it),  The Kid, You’ve Got Mail, Dan in Real Life, Stranger than Fiction, the Devil Wears Prada, the Incredibles (yes, the incredibles…think about it super hero’s wondering if their life-work is of value?), Up, Fever Pitch, What About Bob?, Defending Your Life, Fun with Dick and Jane (its better then it looks.  Try it out!), Sabrina, Mother, About a Boy, While You Were Sleeping, Big, Mary Poppins (think about what the stiff banker Dad learns?) and more.

Some people have their careers forced on them. In the Kings Speech King George must learn to tackle his enormous job as King of England.

Dramas- Last Chance Harvey, Babette’s Feast, Breach, Enron: the Smartest Guys in the Room, Remains of the Day, In Good Company, the Family Man, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Howards End, half of Julie and Julia, the Queen, Amadeus, All About Eve, Afterlife, Shall We Dance (Japanese version), Death of a Salesman, The Chorus, Up in the Air (although it has some mature content), the Kings Speech, the Music Man, Roman Holiday, Mr. Holland’s Opus, the Social Network (I will mention it even though I thought it was a bit over-rated), Dead Poet’s Society, the Quiet Man, and more.

Will Farrell screams out at his humdrum work and the voice in his head in the great Stranger than Fiction

While not really a movie Thorton Wilder’s great play Our Town cannot be removed from the list.  There is an excellent filmed Broadway version with Paul Newman which is available on Netflix.  I also love the filmed production of Stephen Sondheim’s Company- check out the stream of the amazing 2006 Broadway cast on Netflix.   Its incredible on so many levels (on a side note- how did Raul Esparza not win a tony for this performance? For shame!)

I’m not saying each of these movies is equally good, just that they speak to me about work.  I also know there are many good ones I am leaving out.  Please contribute some of your favorites.