Stranger than Fiction

Recently my wife and I put Babel in the DVD player. We were treated to a preview of another movie, I think called Perfume, in which the main character murders women and turns them into perfume. Lovely. So I was already psyched for Babel. In the early scenes of that movie, a young boy in a desolate land masturbates on a cliff, then shoots a bus with his family’s new rifle. That was enough for me. We popped out the video. I had already seen the preview, so I got the idea that the next two hours of the film are devoted to the husband of the shooting victim trying to find help for his wife. No thank you, and again I thank you.

Thankfully, we had also rented Stranger than Fiction, which I thoroughly enjoyed even more than I had on a previous viewing. Will Farrell is a genius actor of physical comedy. In this film, Farrell plays an IRS agent who initially leads an entirely routine life devoid of meaningful values. Then, one day, he begins to hear a narrator describing his life. As he anxiously tries to figure out what’s going on, he begins to reevaluate his life and do the meaningful things that he truly wants to do. I like the movie because it is bright and positive and caring and funny — all of the things banned from so many other Hollywood movies these days.

We also watched an old film called Executive Suite. I forget who recommended it. It is another film we truly appreciated. Yes, it’s a bit dated; all the executives are white males (and all served by female secretaries) and the title sequence is quite jarring. Yet it is spectacularly acted and well written. It’s the story of the struggle to replace the head executive of a furniture company after he dies. Contrary to Oliver Stone’s commentary — and I have no idea why his commentary appears on the video, as he had nothing to do with the film — the film is not a critique of business profits. (I listened only to a few minutes of his commentary.) Instead, the film is about producing something of quality, something you can believe in and sell with pride, and something that will serve the company’s long-term success, not just its short-sighted balance sheet of the month. There are a some problems with the ideas conveyed by the writing. For example, three of the seven executives are quite horrible, which is more than any business could plausibly sustain, and the other four are overly tolerant of their behavior. Nevertheless, the climactic speech is among the most rousing and morally inspiring conclusions to any movie I’ve seen. Furniture boring? Not in this film.

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