Let’s All Go to the Lobby

As a consultant, voracious reader, serial networker, author, father of 2, and sometime runner, I am not entirely familiar with the notion of “free time.”  There are times, nonetheless, when I force myself to carve out a few hours, kick back with friends and family and lose myself in a good movie.

Here, in no particular order, are the top 5 titles in my library:

1. The Godfather

Well before his over-the-top “Hoo Ah!” character in Scent of a Woman, Al Pacino played perhaps the most complex, transformative character in all of movie history.  The evolution of Michael Corleone from squeaky clean, Ivy League-educated, decorated war hero to cold, calculating orderer of murders is truly bone-chilling.  The Godfather, along with its phenomenal sequel, is a case study in the elements of a perfect movie: plot twists, gorgeous cinemascapes, impeccable dialogue and delivery, and a powerful soundtrack.  In addition to Michael, the characters are complex and engaging, from the hot-headed Sonny, to dim-witted but dangerous Fredo, to ever-strategizing Tom Hagen.  The movie offers many practical lessons in management, as noted by Fast Company‘s Lydia Dischman.

2. Goodfellas

Next to The Godfather, Goodfellas is arguably the best movie about organized crime, earning a nod from Roger Ebert as “the greatest mob movie of all time.”  All of the usual Martin Scorcese suspects are here, with Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, and of course, a steady montage of Rolling Stones tracks.  Ray Liotta‘s gravely narration, coupled with the signature Scorcese classic rock soundtrack, provide the perfect audio complement to the visuals.  It’s a treat to accompany Henry Hill on a roller coaster ride from petty street hood, to high-ranking soldier, to “average nobody,  a schnook.”  Finally, in the bombastic Tommy DeVito, Pesci pulls off what is perhaps the most amazing blend of comedian / psychopath.  He essentially reprises the role a few years later, to less impressive results, in Casino as Nicky Santoro.

3. National Lampoon’s Animal House

John Belushi was arguably the greatest talent ever to come through the ranks of Saturday Night Live, inspiring Chris Farley, Horatio Sanz, and countless other young comedic stars.  The talented cast of Animal House notwithstanding, Belushi steals the show as Bluto with minimal dialogue and nearly 100% physical comedy (aside from the classic “Germans bombed Pearl Harbor” speech).  Animal House is based on the college experiences of writers Dartmouth grad Chris Miller and Washington University alum Harold Ramis.  I felt a personal connection with the film, having attended Wash U a few decades after Ramis.  Of course, the school I attended in the 90’s bore little similarity to the hedonistic playground where Bluto and his friends golfed, dined, and played with horses.

4. National Lampoon’s Vacation

As I’d alluded to in my post on Yahoo! it’s painful to see the descent of once-promising stars.  Anthony Michael Hall is now a bloated caricature of the delightful character he played in Vacation (as is Chevy Chase).  As with Animal House, I feel a personal connection with Vacation and John Hughes’ other movies as they were set in my stomping ground, the northern burbs of Chicago.  I could relate to Rusty as a youth, bellyaching about family trips to “boring” places such as Devon Avenue (Chicago’s “Little India”).  As a husband and father of 2, I now relate more to patriarch Clark Griswold whenever I try to “sell” my kids on trips to boring places such as…Devon Avenue (it’s a 15-minute drive vs 5 hours, but no less painful of a dragging process).  To bridge the gap, every vacation, whether it’s Wisconsin Dells or Washington DC, starts off with a family rendition of “Hey! Ho! Let’s Go” by The Ramones.

5. Office Space

No review needed.  Just seven words: TPS ReportsCase of the MondaysFlair.  <Shudder>.

No Real Plot Twists Here, But…

Movies are a great way to level set reality, especially after an exhausting day at the office or at home.  As with sports, alluding to movies helps to forge common ground in personal, professional, and academic settings: you can tell a lot about a person by the movies they dig.

I encourage you, gentle reader, to watch or re-watch these films next time you’re checking your queue on Netflix or roaming the aisles of the video store (yes, they still exist).  To fans and foes of these films, please reach out and let me know your thoughts.  You can submit comments below, or hit me up at ntorsekar(at)chicagobooth.edu.

And to paraphrase my fellow movie buff Roger Ebert, until next post, the balcony is closed.

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