Tag Archives: J.C. Chandor

Workplace Movies

TMPThursday Movie Picks, sponsored as ever by Wandering Through the Shelves, is brought to us this week by the letter W – for movies set in the workplace.


Office gossip can be addictive. Most people wind up spending most of their time talking about work when they spend time with their colleagues outside the office. Actually, three of the Assholes work in the same place and- when we’re not arguing about movies we’re often reminiscing (or ranting) about work. Even people who claim to hate their job tend to find the comedy and drama of any workday pretty interesting. All you need to do is capture that environment in a relatable way and you’ve got a pretty good movie.

The ApartmentThe Apartment (1960)- This has been one of my most significant Blind Spots until this week and it was worth the wait. Jack Lemmon plays an accountant at a big firm who’s just trying to get noticed. Once his superiors find out that he has a modest but nice apartment conveniently located on the Upper West Side, he becomes their go-to guy as they start borrowing his key so they can discreetly cheat on their wives. Director Billy Wilder has a lot to say about the compromises people make in the name of ambition and manages to make a movie that is still funny after all these years while he’s saying it. Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine are as charming as can be too.

Office Space (1999)- Turning an animated short into a live action feature-length film could have Office Spacebeen a disaster but Beavis and Butt-head creator Mike Judge turned any old boring day into the office into one of the funniest comedies of the 90s. Re-watching it this week, I laughed loudest when Gary Cole’s Bill Lumbergh- in an effort to pacify the troops- announces that Friday will be Hawaiian Shirt Day. Around our office, they charge us two dollars to wear jeans on Friday. I couldn’t help feeling bad for poor old Milton though.

MargMargin Callin Call (2011)- Yet another movie that I’m thankful to Wanderer for giving me an excuse to finally check out this week. Zachary Quinto, Stanley Tucci, Jeremy Irons, and Kevin Spacey (making my list two weeks in a row) play investment bankers who see the writing on the wall leading up to the 2008 Financial crisis and sit around wondering what to do about it. Director J. C. Chandor (A Most Violent Year) knows how to set the mood and the performances are all stellar.


Up In The Air – Poor Ryan Bingham is so afraid of real life that he’s made sure his job keeps him in constant motion. His office may be at a cruising altitude of 32 000 feet but he spends a lot of George-Clooney-Whattime visiting other people’s workplaces to tell them they’re no longer employed. This is such a tough job that cash-strapped businesses are still willing to pay big bucks during a recession for him to do it in their place. He sees offices at their very worst, smells the fear and senses the instability, and is the receptacle for sometimes 20 years’ worth of pain and frustration. Our identities can be so wrapped up in our work, and in many ways, Ryan (George Clooney) is the prime example of this. Director Jason Reitman bravely tackles those creeping workplace notions of downsizing and obsolescence and asks some tough questions of the aging American workforce.

The Social Network – I love how you see the growth of the company here, the “offices” originally facebookin a Harvard dorm room, and then graduating quite quickly to the impressive work space that was eventually needed. The movie recounts a very modern invention (hello, Facebook) but its workplace themes are as old as the first profession – loyalty, jealousy, theft, power, the complicated ownership of ideas. Whether friends or enemies, friended or unfriended, colleagues or competition, this project is always work, and everybody wants to get paid.

Brokeback Mountain – The classic office romance. They meet by the photocopier, lock eyes over the  on, thwater cooler, exchange business cards in the elevator…or, you know, not. Don’t you wish your office looked like this? The scenery is breathtaking but mabrokebackke no mistake: these two cowboys meet at work, doing a job that’s not altogether welcoming to “their kind.” When their boss gets an inkling of what’s going on, the work dries up and the two spend the rest of their lives stealing secret moments and steeling themselves with memories of the best job they ever had. monsters

Bonus pick: Monsters, Inc. Sully and Mike are about as close as two colleagues can be. Mike is the more ambitious of the two, but it’s Sully’s talent and skill that make them so successful. The workplace is originally competitive, and tinged with the fear of contamination (they do bio-hazardous work with children). It may be a cartoon about fuzzy monsters, but any joke about paperwork in triplicate is likely to land huge with adult audiences.


Since Matt took Office Space and Jay took Up in the Air, I am sticking to familiar territory and making my section an all-lawyer-movie workplace bonanza!

Philadelphia – a great movie about a lawyer getting kicked out of his workplace, and then going to his other workplace, the court, to try to make things right.  Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington absolutely own this movie.  I actually did not see this until last year and I should have seen it way sooner, because it’s excellent.

A Few Good Men – I saw this in theatres, I owned it on VHS, I own it on DVD, and one of my roommates in university recited the “You can’t handle the truth!” speech every time he had more than three drinks.  And I could watch it again tomorrow.  There are so many good lines and so many good characters in here that it remains enjoyable to this day.   And again there are a few workplaces in here, namely the courts and the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.

The Firm – Tom Cruise is probably the best lawyer ever, at least if you go by his on-screen performances.  He almost got Dawson and Downey freed and in the Firm he somehow outmaneuvers a whole team of crooked lawyers and the mob while still adhering to his strict ethical code.  Plus he does a lot of really fast running in the Firm which is always the best part of any Tom Cruise performance.  This movie feels really long, because it is, but it’s still a good watch.

Anyone had an office love? Office hook up? Office BFFs?

Three Assholes Talk A Most Violent Year

Matt: For a movie called A Most Violent Year, there wasn’t much actual violence with at least two people exiting the Coliseum last night calling it simply “slow”. Did A Most Violent Year hold your attention?

Jay: Yes, actually, it did. I agree that it was “slow” but I kind of liked the control of the pacing. It was very deliberate, which helped build the tension. I also agree that A Most Violent Year was neither terribly violent nor actually a year (the script keeps reminding us, actually, of a strict 30-day countdown, but I suppose “A Pretty Shitty Month” is a less compelling title).

Matt: I actually like A Pretty Shitty Month! The film is set in statistically one of the most violent years in New York’s history. I was born in 1981 and had no idea until now that I was born in A Most Violent Year.most violent year 1

Jay:  The scenes of NYC were unrecognizable to me (and I assume to us) – subways filled with graffiti, garbage overflowing onto the streets – and the movie was shot in a really hazy palette of colour. There was snow, obviously, but also just this bleakness, like everything was beige or maybe sepia is a better word. How did that grittiness add to your understanding of the movie?

Sean: I think the bleakness helped set the tone for the movie. There was no real happy ending other than Abel is a bigger player and maybe as a result he could bribe the DA into giving him a better deal.

Matt: Time and place is everything. This is a very different New York than the one that we know, the one that people talk about from the early 80s. Abel’s world is a dangerous one and director J. C. Chandor immerses us in it. He doesn’t have to show much violence. The mood he creates reminds us of the danger.

Jay: Abel is certainly guilty of fraud and tax evasion, among other charges. Does his refusal to pick up a weapon make him a “good” man? most violent year 2

Sean:  No, his choice not to use guns does not redeem him. He seemed to like to think he was better than his peers because of it but he was not a good guy.

Matt: I went into A Most Violent Year expecting a gangster film. What I got was almost an anti-gangster film with Abel doing almost anything to avoid becoming a gangster. He prides himself up until the end on walking a righteous path. Is he as morally superior as he would seem to like to believe? Is he more interested in avoiding the appearance of wrongdoing than he is actual wrongdoing?

Jay: I don’t think he kids himself that it was righteous, just “the most right”, and picking the most right of two wrongs doesn’t exactly equal righteous. He seems to have some interior moral code that he’s following, but mobsters often do have exactly that, a strict code, but one that’s just terribly skewed toward their own ends. Abel aspires to be more of a white-collar criminal rather than a gangster, but that’s just semantics. He doesn’t want to pull the trigger himself, but he doesn’t seem above putting out a hit on someone. He’s all about growing his business, and he seems willing to do that by any means necessary. He’s chasing after the American dream, so appearances do matter. I also think he’s smart; he’s not against committing crimes, and he’s definitely not innocent, but he thinks about consequences.

Jessica Chastain plays a wife who seems to challenge her husband to push his moral compass to the limit in order to “support the family.” Can you relate to these characters? Is there ever a time when, as a husband, you’ve felt that pressure?

Sean: I could not relate to either of the characters. I feel a drive to succeed but not to compromise my values in doing that, and I want to do well for my wife but don’t feel I am pressured to attain anything specific by her in order to support our family.

Jay:  Really? Then I think you’ve misunderstood some things…

most violent year 4Matt: Uh-oh. So…. Is she the devil on her husband’s shoulder or is their dynamic more complicated than that?

Jay: You know, that’s a really smart question and I couldn’t have put it so well myself. Clearly she’s a little less scrupulous, but she’s also a little less smart. Not to say that she’s dumb. This may be 1981 but she’s no housewife. She’s ambitious and cut-throat and has her own ideas about how to provide for her family. She basically accuses him of being a coward so I’m surprised their marriage isn’t rockier. Ultimately I think he needs her, she’s the one who pushes him to greater heights, she’s partly what motivates him but she’s also what forces him into situations that make him uncomfortable. But as he says early on, “When it feels scary to jump that is exactly when you jump, otherwise you end up staying at the same place your whole life.

Matt: When the Oscar nominations were announced earlier this month, the list of Best Supporting Actress nominees were mostly identical to that of the Golden Globes with Jessica Chastain being replaced by Laura Dern. Should she have been included? According to IMDB, she’s received 18 nominations for her performance while the excellent Oscar Isaac has 3. Why do you think he hasn’t gotten more attention?

Jay: I’m not terribly upset she was left out, but I can’t say that Laura Dern was more worthy. I don’t have a particular appreciation for Jessica Chastain, but there were a couple of scenes that were show-stopping. Plus, anyone who can act through the 80s bangs and the big gaudy earrings and still be noticed has to be doing something right.

As for Oscar Isaac, it is a bit of a mystery. I remember when I first started seeing previews for most violent year 3this film in theatres, it took me a while to place Chastain. The shoulder pads were distracting, I guess, not to mention the press-on nails, and I had to go through a rolodex of actresses in my mind before I got to her name and it clicked. Him I recognized right away, but in the movie he seemed way more transformed. Maybe it’s because the last big movie I saw (and loved) him in was Inside Llewyn Davis, and the difference is astonishing. He comports himself like a don, like his empire is vast and his future assured. We know that’s not necessarily the case, but there’s never a hair out of place or a stray piece of lint on his ubiquitous camel coat. Appearances clearly mean a lot to this man; he wants to make it clear he’s risen above his station. And I believe it. I believed his pride, his hubris, his sense of “right.” So I don’t know why he hasn’t been singled out, although considering the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, maybe I have an idea why.