Workplace movies: Watch these 10, but skip internships
By Bill Goodykoontz
Published: Sunday, June 9, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
“The Internship” re-teams Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, who were so funny in “Wedding Crashers.”
They play two salesmen who lose their jobs, thanks to advances in technology, but manage to land internships at Google. Which put us in mind of the best workplace movies of all time. Here's our ranking:
10. “The Hudsucker Proxy” (1994): A “minor” Coen brothers' film, a screwball comedy in which Tim Robbins finds himself installed as the president of the Hudsucker manufacturing company. It's a scam Paul Newman's in on, and Jennifer Jason Leigh is a wisecracking reporter sniffing out what's really going on. Not the place where you'd want to work, but a fun movie.
9. “Broadcast News” (1987): Yeah, yeah, the almost-love triangle involving William Hurt, Albert Brooks and Holly Hunter is good, but the workplace elements in James L. Brooks' film are great. Hunter feeding information into Hurt's ear during a broadcast, Brooks and his flop sweat, Hunter and her morning cry, all of it a spot-on depiction of the high-pressure TV news people face. Also: really funny.
8. “Clerks” (1994): Kevin Smith's ultra-low budget first feature (in black and white, no less) follows an eventful day in the lives of Dante and Randal (Brian O'Halloran and Jeff Anderson), clerks in a convenience store and video store, respectively. Funny, sometimes dark, yet, utterly charming.
7. “Apollo 13” (1995): It just so happens that the workplace here is located in space (for much of the film). Ron Howard makes a gripping movie out of astronaut Jim Lovell's book (which is also excellent), about the ill-fated attempt at a moon landing. Tom Hanks brings even more of his straightforward winning persona to the film. You know what happens (or you should), but that doesn't make it any less exciting.
6. “Office Space” (1999): Pretty much the definition of a cult classic. Mike Judge, the guy behind “King of the Hill,” among other credits, wrote and directed this comedy about disgruntled office workers who decide to fight back. Ron Livingston, David Herman and Ajay Naidu are good as the workers, but Gary Cole steals the movie as the clueless boss (or is he?). Perfectly captures the frustrations of the working life. Though, as they say, it beats the alternative.
5. “Glengarry Glenn Ross” (1992): “As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anybody want to see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is, you're fired.” So says Alec Baldwin in a brilliant, brief scene, raising the stakes for real-estate sales in David Mamet's brutal, profane, outstanding film. The cast includes Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon and Alan Arkin, among many others, and they're all good. But the real star is Mamet's dialogue.
4. “The Social Network” (2010): Mark Zuckerberg invents Facebook. Or does he? Director David Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin leave room for interpretation. (Sorkin won an Oscar.) Jesse Eisenberg is outstanding as Zuckerberg, capturing the arrogance and brilliance of a man who was always the smartest guy in the room, and didn't care who knew it.
3. “His Girl Friday” (1940): Ace reporter Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell) is going to remarry; editor Walter Burns (Cary Grant) is not going to let that happen. Howard Hawks based his film on Ben Hecht's play, and it's terrific. The nonstop, rapid-fire banter is classic. And any movie that puts a newsroom in a good light is worthy. (Well, pretty good light.)
2. “Network” (1976): Sidney Lumet's brilliant film, in which Howard Beale (Peter Finch) is famously mad as hell and not going to take it anymore, serves as both an outstanding drama and a precursor of the worst bits of reality TV that would follow a generation later. The cynicism, the exploitation, the bitter infighting: that's entertainment!
1. “Modern Times” (1 936): Charles Chaplin's last silent film (though it had sound effects) finds his Tramp struggling to keep up with technology. It's as timeless now as it was then. (Isn't this, in some form, the basis for “The Internship?”) The Tramp can't keep up with the giant, grinding gears in the movie's most-famous scene, a metaphor if ever there was one. A true classic.
Bill Goodykoontz of The Arizona Republic is the chief film critic for Gannett.
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