Georg's Log

Wed 18 April 2018

Work-related Movies

Posted by Georg Sauthoff in misc   

This article features a watch list of work related movies. A list for getting some peace of mind in the evening after working overtime.

Each movie has some relation to a pathological work related setting. Not always on the surface, but more on a deeper layer of interpretation.

Some of the movies are about war, perhaps this isn't by chance, because sometimes work is war.

  • A Bridge too far (1977)- Watching this movie one might quickly shout: 'Just one bridge too far?!? What about two or three bridges too far!' So to say a symbol for a big project that isn't completely ill-conceived but it's just too big and too ambitious for doing a successful big-bang release. Like a second-system project waterfall-planned by an army of wannabe software architects and project managers.
  • Apocalypse Now (1979) - Apocalypse Now is directed by Francis Ford Coppola who adapts Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness into the Vietnam War setting. Special forces army Captain Willard, who has trouble establishing some work-life balance, gets the top-secret mission to terminate the vigilante Colonel Kurtz. Of course, the mission requires to rally through the Vietnam war theater to a remote part of Cambodia. Kurtz is a curious figure who was top of every class, but at some point of time deviated from the expected way, starting with going through a special forces training in late years.
  • Bad Lieutenant (2009) - Directed by Werner Herzog (!), it features several work-related went-better-than-expected and rage-guy moments. The lieutenant (Nicolas Cage!) is highly dedicated to his work and perhaps he is too idealistic, when he goes above-and-beyond to be the good cop who rescues a prisoner during an evacuation. Of course this doesn't play out well for him, and thus he's forced to be more creative and apply unconventional methods in his work.
  • Der Untergang (2004) - The movie Der Untergang is about the last days in the Führerbunker. There are some surreal scenes where the leadership, i.e. the Wehrmacht generals and Hitler keep on having meetings about some grand strategies. Not to relativize anything, but the levels of cognitive dissonance aren't necessary that different to a - say - upper management call about a utmost important but ultimately doomed IT project. Last but not least, the movie is the source of the Hitler-Reacts meme.
  • Falling Down (1993) - William Foster (played by Michael Douglas) has a breakdown when he is stuck in rush hour traffic. Instead of simply burning out, he is done keeping calm and the situation escalates. In a sort of Michael Kohlhass style. The source of some of his anger is that he was recently reduced-in-force from his defense contractor engineering job.
  • Fightclub (1999) - the protagonist (played by Edward Norton) works a dead-end and at the same time ethical questionable job where he has to apply shareholder-value logic to the aftermath of fatal car crashes. Thus, he develops insomnia and feels more and more depersonalized. As a way out he discovers self-help group tourism. All this escalates quickly in unexpected ways.
  • Full Metal Jacket (1987) - Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket starts with a traditional bootcamp training with the ultra authoritarian drill instructor Sergeant Hartman. Later on, a military journalist who is in a relatively safe location develops the meme of wanting to get into 'the shit', i.e. to get some war experience basically out of boredom.
  • In the Loop (2009) - This political satire is about how a bunch of assistants, communications and PR experts try to manage their incompetent bosses and deal with their inconsiderate statements. Of course, each meeting is extremely chaotic and the minister is absolutely replaceable. All this can be read as a parable on clueless C-level/upper-management types who are easily confused with the latest hype such as 'Blockchain', 'IOT', 'AI' and 'Datalakes', and who are thus happy to rashly engage with shady consultants to come up with the ultimate strategy that really will pivot the company to mega-growth, big-time. The people who do the real work then have to work around that mess, limit the damage and try to catch some of the most problematic stray messages.
  • Killing them Softly (2012) - A free-lancer (Brad Pitt) in a 2008 USA bad economy setting has to deal with some mob issues. He well knows how to proceed, but the mob isn't how it used to be. The overhead has increased and like in a mediocre corporation, there are some useless processes to follow. To make things even more unpleasant, a colleague who used to be good at his work now is a liability and the employer makes a fuzz about the payment. This neo-noir movie features shots of depressing city development and parts of election speeches are cut in. It ends with this epic line: 'This guy wants to tell me we're living in a community? Don't make me laugh. I'm living in America, and in America, you're on your own. America is not a country; it's just a business. Now fucking pay me.'
  • Office Space (1999) - Office space is a seemingly light 90ies comedy that involves some cubicles. It even features Jennifer Aniston. It turns out that it is a treasure trove of internet memes. Perhaps the most popular is the Didn't you get the memo? one.
  • The Thin Red Line (1998) - As a war movie, The Thin Red Line has everything: an ambitious colonel who wants to over-deliver on taking an pacific island from the Japanese as fast as possible since he sees it as last chance after feeling been left out again and again for a long time. An overly cautious captain who's actions effectively make things worse. An almost gay hero who cares about his peers more than himself, and an endless stream character development. Basically, it's 170 minutes of epic. Directed by Terrence Malick, it's one of his better movies and features and impressive cast, as well.
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) - On the surface a cold war espionage movie (directed by Alfredson before he lost his mojo) it's really about colleagueship and paranoia at the workplace. Like for example when reminiscing about a past office party where everybody seemed to get along, while in the meantime most conversations are filled with distrust.
  • Work Hard - Play Hard (2011) - This documentary features some epic shots of modern office settings while interviewing assessment center job candidates, architects and managers that follow the latest trends (e.g. 'lean'). There is no narrator, the interviews stand for themself. Often, they are self-revealing the absurdness and are unwittingly funny. The atmosphere ranges from an unclear creepiness (think: The Invitation build-up) that has elements of a brave-new-world environment mixed with some newspeak to general alienation.