by Kellan Miller
*originally published on WhatCulture!
With the vast improvements in technology over the years, filmmakers have a wealth of sources at their disposal to make movies entertaining. Seeking a large pay day, many directors rely on over-the-top CGI effects and computer design to draw butts into the seats of the local movie theater. Hot leading actress who at some point takes off her clothes? Check. Ridiculous car chase scene in the middle of a heavily populated metropolitan area? Check. Fierce trigger showdowns where the good guy comes out on top? Check. Adhere to the list above, and you've got yourself a movie. But it is the hallmark of a truly talented filmmaker who can take a mundane subject and transform it into a captivating film. Take “Thank You For Smoking” for instance. A film about political lobbying is not something most people think of when they are scrolling through Netflix pondering what movie to watch next, but the film is expertly done without all of the standard movie tropes directors have been using as a crutch for decades. What follows is a list of eight films that make really boring things look awesome.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Comas or Locked-In Syndrome)
Seriously, can you think of anything more boring than a coma? Just getting through a grueling workweek is often a practice in mental and physical fortitude, and you probably have had coma fantasies on more than one occasion. But in reality, comas are not fun, but “The Diving Bell and The Butterfly” is an entrancing film. Adapted from the actual 1995 memoir of Jean-Dominique Bauby, the former editor-in-chief of Elle magazine. At only age 43, Bauby suffered a massive stroke which left him paralyzed from the neck down. The only form of communication at his disposal were his eyelids, and in the film, a conscious protagonist struggles to learn an entire new form of communication via blinking. Julian Schnabel's film adds a stunning depth during flashback scenes where we see Bauby in his pre-locked-in-syndrome life. Sitting in his hospital bed, Bauby has time to reflect on all of the bad decisions he made in the past, and how little he cherished his esteemed life as the editor of a major fashion magazine. Bauby decides to take his newfound wisdom and put it to good use, employing his blinking-eye technique to pen a memoir with the help of publishing assistant.
Before Sunrise (First Dates)
Richard Linklater has a knack for transforming the mundane aspects of life into a captivating narrative. Think more along the lines of “Slacker,” not “A Scanner Darkly,” because as we all know there is nothing routine about waking up in an animated futuristic dystopia where an entire society is addicted to drugs. However, in “Before Sunrise,” Linklater takes the viewer on a seemingly simple journey of self-discovery. Two strangers meet each other, and after an endless conversation, eventually fall in love. Ladies and gents, we've all been here. First dates are often excruciating experiences, but in the first film of the critically acclaimed three-part series, Linklater provides a realistic portrait of two diverse individuals discussing basically every subject under the sun (no pun intended) to stunning effect. Although Quentin Tarantino is often viewed as the king of dialogue, Linklater is able to keep the viewer glued to the screen without much action at all. Yes, there are no sex scenes, or dramatic arguments in the rain, but the ride up until the final moment when the two decide that they are seriously attracted to one another is thoroughly entertaining. While your next first date might be the result of Match.com rather than a random exchange on a train in Vienna, remember that first dates don't always have to suck.
Little Miss Sunshine (Family Road Trips)
As long as I'm a non-parent, I'll never pretend to identify with the stress that goes along with raising a child, especially a hyperactive little girl who loves to constantly dance and dreams of being in a beauty pageant many miles from my home. I can only imagine that the stress load would improve if your other child is experiencing an awkward teenage phase of Nietzschean non-verbal communication. Additionally, I don't know a person alive who wouldn't want to spend a few hours with the Michael Scott version of Steve Carrell, but not the depressed intellectual version. Sometimes road trips can be fun, but even with a cool cat like Alan Arkin riding passenger, can you imagine being locked in a broken-down minivan with the personalities previously mentioned as you race across the country to California? It's actually an insult to the word "boredom" to call this a boring situation. Nevertheless, “Little Miss Sunshine” is a riot. Although all the characters are suffering through respective hardships, the family is able to achieve a state of harmony and bliss despite enduring an insane road-trip that would cause even the most stable human a Nietzschean nervous breakdown.
The Breakfast Club (Detention)
I'm sure you have many memories of weekend detention, and while you probably never had to write different phrases on a blackboard for over 20 years Bart Simpson style, detention evokes memories of sheer boredom for most people. Especially Saturday morning detention, when instead of sleeping in your comfortable bed you have to go to school during technically non-school hours. However, even Saturday morning detention doesn't seem so bad if it is spent with an 80's version of Molly Ringwald. Written and directed by the legendary John Hughes, “The Breakfast Club” is the movie most synonymous with the brat pack because it is just plain awesome from start to finish. Although many films have attempted to mimic the seemingly simplistic nature of the film, none have come close to the brilliant portrait of adolescent angst and anxiety that treads through the entirety of “The Breakfast Club.” I admit, it would be kind of hilarious to see Seth Rogen and the frat pack act in a film where they talk about farts and what not for ninety minutes, but I doubt very seriously the film would be as awesome or poignant as “The Breakfast Club.”
Office Space (9 to 5 Jobs)
OK, OK, maybe this one's a little too obvious. Nonetheless, a list about films that boring things look awesome wouldn't be complete without “Office Space.” Mike Judge's hilarious comedy is a complete fantasy for about 90 percent of the American public. Many working-class Americans spend a great majority of time trapped in bumper-to-bumper traffic all en route to a job that they hate, and subsequently spend eight or nine hours trapped inside a stuffy cubicle. The grueling nature of the 9-5 is boredom on steroids, and in “Office Space,” Ron Livingston and a couple co-workers decide to seek revenge on their bosses. The movie is adored by mostly every person in America who didn't have the luck of inheriting Gates or Walton as their last name. Out of all the films in this list, “Office Space” is the most identifiable, as who hasn't lost themselves in daydreams about bringing about the complete and utter downfall of their respective employer? I'm sure it would feel really good to be a gangsta. Shows like “The Office” would capitalize on the idea of cubicle boredom as entertainment, but “Office Space” will always have a special place in the cannon of wildly hilarious films.
Most will agree that political affairs not pertaining to Bill Clinton are boring (see what I did there?). Although any video of a Nixon speech viewed in a high-school U.S. history class will quickly give you the impression that Nixon himself was boring, the fact that he illegally video-taped his political opponents is kind of a big deal. Still, a two hour historical drama about an anchorman interviewing the 37th president of the United States has boredom written all over it based on premise alone. However, Ron Howard's film takes a historical moment and turns it into a dazzlingly intense narrative. Stretching history a wee-bit, “Frost/Nixon” turns a television interview into a heavy weight boxing match. Frank Langella (Nixon) and Michael Sheen (David Frost) are treated the same sort of mythical layering as the athletes on HBO's "24/7" or in NFL Films documentaries. After watching Frost take a pounding in the first couple of rounds with a box of popcorn by your side, it's extremely tempting not to scream "Down goes Nixon! Down goes Nixon!" when Frost lands the final TKO-- getting Nixon to admit to his illegal activity on air for the world to witness.
Wall Street (Finance)
We all love money, but the drudgery of keeping up with stocks, bonds, investments, shares, and trading is something that conjures of migraines for the average person not named Warren Buffet. While it's true that money never sleeps, a quick skim of Yahoo.com finance reports is enough to send me on my way to zzzz land. Despite the perks involved with becoming successful in the field, most will agree that a stockbroker is not the most glamorous career in terms of excitement. Nonetheless, Oliver Stone's “Wall Street” is one of the most beloved films of the American Cannon. Even though the original wolf of wall street (Charlie Sheen) would later go on to live a life completely 180 degrees removed from boredom, his portrayal of Bud Fox as an eager young man #winning and using his full arsenal to ascend to the tops of the corporate world is stellar, and it boggles the mind how such an actor could eventually fall into the likes of mediocre prime-time television. The film is augmented by Michael Douglas' portrayal of the money-hungry Gordon Gekko; one of his most recognizable roles to date. Douglas deservedly went on to win the Academy Award for Best Actor, and Oliver Stone went on to direct a lot of other films that make really boring things look awesome.
12 Angry Men (Jury Duty)
Since the dawn of time, man has gone through great lengths in order to escape jury duty. People always talk about how morally wrong our judicial system is, but they never stop to criticize the fact that no measures are taken to ensure that the jurors themselves have even an ounce of fun while they debate for extended periods of time. It's our duty as citizens to partake in this pain-staking process, even if we would much rather be watching that major league baseball game, we bought tickets for. The brilliance of “12 Angry Men” is that it beautifully encapsulates this idea-- the majority of the film taking place in one room. This is an expert study in dialogue, as the plot revolves around Henry Fonda's attempts to convince an otherwise decided room of angry men that the young defendant is not guilty. At first, Fonda seems like the kid who reminds the teacher to assign homework to the class, but as the film progresses, eleven angry men eventually come to a unanimous verdict of not guilty. As film buffs the world over know already, the story is a fascinating exploration of the human psyche and intellectual competition between competing ideologies. Much credit must be bestowed on Reginald Rose, the late screenwriter who penned the story, because until a director decides to film a movie literally about paint drying, “12 Angry Men” is far and away the greatest example of boredom cloaked in awesomeness.