Labor Day is the peoples’ holiday, a day when the backbone of this country, you, the American worker, gets to kick back and take a day for you. Sure, you could use the day to go to another barbeque, but at this point you’ve probably had your fill of hot dogs and potato salad. So if you’d like to honor yourself this weekend by lying down on the couch in front of your television, like an American, here are a few movies (besides Office Space which I assume you’re already planning to watch) to watch and to avoid, involving some of our country’s most important jobs. Remember, you work too damn hard not to be lazy sometimes.
SELLERS OF SEX
Where else would we start but with the world’s oldest profession. It can be hard out there for America’s proprietors of the flesh. The hours are inconsistent, the job security is almost non-existent, and you know keeping up with the latest fashions cuts into their bottom dollar. So while these folks might not be our most celebrated laborers, they too deserve their recognition for their long hours of work.
REWATCH: Boogie Nights
Unquestionably in the pantheon for both quotable and rewatchable movies, this story about the porn industry remains my favorite Paul Thomas Anderson film. It has Mark Wahlberg at his best, along with Julianne Moore and Heather Graham doing, they, uh, well, let’s just say they are both fantastic here. The list of notable actors is actually too long to name, because this movie is loaded. If you haven’t seen it in awhile (or even in two weeks), do yourself a favor and remind yourself why you loved it the first twenty times. I mean, John C. Reilly here kills me:
ONE YOU MAY HAVE MISSED: Night Shift
Maybe you’ve heard of this film, but you have never actually seen it. Huge mistake. Michael Keaton and Henry Winkler play two overnight city morgue workers who start working as pimps right out of the morgue. Also, Shelley Long plays a prostitute with a heart of gold (the amount of cinematic prostitutes with hearts of gold seems abnormally high, but truthfully I’ve never spoken with one, so maybe they really do have a high ratio of workers to hearts of gold). If you love Michael Keaton you’ll be disgusted you have never seen this film. I won’t give it away, but he delivers a line towards the end of the movie so perfectly that I had to pause the film because I couldn’t breathe. Amazingly, Ron Howard directed this, and his Oscar for A Beautiful Mind was probably a make-up win for this.
(Bonus Keaton: Gung Ho – a Japanese company buys an American car factory. The movie is funny and endearing and has peak Keaton. You can’t call yourself a Keaton fan if you haven’t seen both of these. That’s the law.)
AVOID: Pretty Woman
Julia Roberts plays a duplicitous prostitute with a heart that only yearns for gold. She uses her feminine wiles to manipulate a successful but lonely businessman, ruining both his life’s work and destroying his only real friendship. A sad tale that honors neither this country’s laborers nor, and this is much worse, love, make sure to politely say you’re not interested in this one.
(No clip provided.)
THE 4TH BRANCH OF GOVERNMENT
The media has taken quite a beating these last couple of yea…decades, actually, decades. Sure, some of them deserve it, but for every retracted story and for every slanted outlet we have institutions that are always on the ball. You know, like TMZ. As angry as we might get with them, most reporters try to do the right thing, and without them we’d still be getting our news from people like this.
So here are some films that take a look at the world of journalism, because while the news never rests, we can honor them while we do.
REWATCH: All The President’s Men
The story of Woodward and Bernstein will be remembered for as long as this country exists, and fortunately the movie about their reporting on Watergate does their story justice. Eminently rewatchable and perfectly paced, everything feels like life or death, even though the movie is mostly about sources and reporting. Alas, one of the greatest mysteries of the 20th century has since been answered, since Deep Throat revealed himself. Oh Mark Felt, between that, Stonehenge, and why the dinosaurs went extinct, the only mystery left for me from childhood is where in the world is Carmen San Diego? (Huge bonus points for the great hair Redford and Hoffman are rocking.)
ONE YOU MAY HAVE MISSED: Shattered Glass
How can we honor the media with a film about a fabricating reporter? Well, for one it’s great film that you’ll never skip over when you come across it on cable, but more importantly it is just as much about other journalists willing to risk their jobs to reveal the truth. Maybe you only know Hayden Christensen from films where he does a dreadful job delivering terrible dialogue to Natalie Portman, but I assure you the force is strong in him in this one. Oh, and it has Peter Sarsgaard and is great.
AVOID: I Love Trouble
Julia Roberts plays a duplicitous Chicago reporter who betrays her newspaper by joining forces with a reporter from a rival paper. Of course she uses those aforementioned wiles to seduce the older, more experienced, more respected reporter. As though that’s not enough, she also avoids jail time after exposing herself to a bunch of Boy Scouts. Stay away from this film. It dishonors decent journalists everywhere, and sadly, the concept of love.
(Co-star Nick Nolte said Julia Roberts is “not a nice person” so we’ll just include a great, NSFW scene from one of his other movies.)
THE LAW DOESN’T TAKE HOLIDAYS
On this great American holiday let us honor the law, for we are nothing if not a nation of laws. No one likes lawyers, that is until you need one. It might seem fun to be a lawyer on television, but the job is less about giving a passionate closing argument to save an innocent man’s life, and more about writing tedious briefs and poring over century old case law minutia. So here are some films to honor our justice system. It may not be perfect, but it sure does make for a compelling movie.
REWATCH: My Cousin Vinny
You might be too young to remember when Marisa Tomei won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role of Mona Lisa Vito, but people lost their minds. We didn’t have Twitter and Facebook back then, so people mostly shared their feelings by leaning out their windows and screaming their thoughts at their neighbors. The yelling went on for weeks. I think. Anyway, everyone was wrong. She’s excellent in this film. Plus, instead of killing people for a change, Joe Pesci saves two innocent lives. It has a ton of memorable scenes, and you can jump into the film at any point and you’ll end up staying until the end.
(Bonus Movie – A Few Good Men: Tom Cruise puts on a Tom Cruise clinic, even as Demi Moore tries to ruin every scene she’s in. I strenuously object to her performance, but it doesn’t matter, I love this movie.)
ONE YOU MAY HAVE MISSED: The Devil’s Advocate
……what? What more do you need? That’s the Gettysburg Address of film descriptions.
AVOID: Erin Brocovich
Julia Roberts plays a duplicitous paralegal angry about losing a lawsuit in court, who then exploits the tragic poisoning of innocent people for her own financial reward. Based on a truly inspirational story about a brave woman that fought for the little man, in Roberts’ hands it becomes a tale of egoism and greed. This film does not honor the law, its “the ends justify the means” mentality honors Machiavelli.
(Note: If memory serves me correctly, they awarded no winner for Best Actress at the Oscars that year.)
KNOWLEDGE IS GOOD
Before you get angry about honoring people that just ended a two-month vacation, imagine for a second that today at your job twenty-five children will be sitting in front of your desk. All day. And they’ll be there tomorrow. And the day after. And the day after that. How many holidays do you think you’d need to avoid losing your mind? Besides, someone you love is a teacher, and you know how hard he or she works. So here are some movies about that noble profession and will you please sit down I’m trying to get through this, Jeremy!
REWATCH: School of Rock
You know you love this movie. You love it more than you realize. Embrace it. Embrace everything about this film. Jack Black pretends to be a teacher, who then uses his elementary class to form a rock band. It’s sincere, it’s funny, the kid actors are good, and it has one of the best musical performances in movie history. Oh, and also Joan Cusack is in it and Joan Cusack is a national treasure. It might also have the best ending credits in recent memory.
(Bonus film: Billy Madison – Adam Sandler was once the funniest guy alive. He was then killed and replaced by a less talented Adam Sandler lookalike. Very underreported story.)
ONE YOU MAY HAVE MISSED: Hamlet 2
This film is half slapstick/half parody, as it definitely uses the Dangerous Minds-style teacher movies for inspiration. Steve Coogan plays a goofy drama teacher whose class is suddenly flooded with minority students. He then writes a sequel to Shakespeare’s Hamlet. My only complaint is that the we never see the whole play, because every scene in the play is amazing. Oh, and it’s got Elisabeth Shue playing herself and if you don’t like Elisabeth Shue you don’t deserve a holiday.
AVOID: Mona Lisa Smile
Julia Roberts plays a duplicitous college professor who insults students that don’t share her worldview. Feeling she is above reproach in spite of being new to the profession, she ignores her boss’s clear instruction, the one she accepted the job under. Dismissive of traditional American values, she condescends to some students and tries to interfere in their lives. This film shows that being a teacher means you have great power to shape and influence the lives of your students, and with great power comes great responsibility. Show responsibility by not watching this film, which honors neither the hard-working teachers of America, or respect for others.
(Here’s the opposite of this film:)
That’s it! I hope this list was helpful. My other suggestions for you to enjoy your Labor Day weekend are to have plenty of snacks, plenty of beverages, and plenty of rest. Oh, and if none of these films are for you, just watch a movie about the ultimate “job,” Ocean’s Eleven. I cant think of anything wrong with that movie.
If you have any Labor Day appropriate movies you’d like to recommend or warn against, mention them in the comments. We’ve got three days of nothing to do.
Feature Image: 20th Century Fox
Mona Lisa: Leonardo da Vinci