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Part II of MacFarlane vs Judge—you be the judge.

In our last post we began comparing what I believe are the two leading contemporary satirists each at the top of their game:  Seth MacFarlane, the creator of the Family Guy and American Dad, and Mike Judge, the creator of Office Space, Idiocracy and King of the Hill. 

Judge, born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, grew up in Albuquerque and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in physics (who would have thought?) from the University of California, San Diego.  In my opinion he is best known for Office Space, Idiocracy and King of the Hill.  Interestingly enough, both Office Space and Idiocracy were not by any means box office hits.

Office Space

Office Space had a cost of $10,000,000 and grossed $10,800,000.  However, like MacFarlane’s Family Guy, Office Space had massive home video sales topping six million by 2006 and by 2003 Comedy Central had run the movie 35 times.  Judge even made a cameo appearance in the film as Stan (complete with hairpiece and fake mustache), the manager of Chotchkie’s, a fictionalized parody of chain restaurants like Applebee’s and TGI Friday’s, but was credited as William King.  In my research for this post I came across some interesting facts about Office Space:

Initech is real.

At least 5 different companies named Initech have been founded since the film’s release.

The original Office Space was a series called “Milton.”

The film was based on a series of animated shorts by Judge titled “Milton.” Fox Studios wanted the film to be based solely on the “Milton” character, but Judge wanted to have an ensemble cast.

Judge’s inspiration came from working in an office filing TPS reports.

While at work filing real TPS reports, Judge met a lonely co-worker who would rant about his bosses and how they constantly moved his desk.  Judge went home and animated what would become “Milton.”  Which raises the question, does art imitate life or does life imitate art?

Office Space gave birth to the red Swingline stapler.

Many people believe this, but it is not exactly true.  The red Swingline stapler Milton used was made by Swingline decades ago but production had long since ceased.  However, the movie’s  prop department had one specially made for the film.  Three years after the release of the movie, requests for the stapler were so overwhelming that Swingline put the Rio Red 747 Business Stapler into production.

Entertainment Weekly could not decide if it loved or hated the film.

Entertainment Weekly gave Office Space a C-rating but named it one of the “The 100 best films from 1983 to 2008.”

 Idiocracy

We have already reviewed Office Space here at JPFMovies as well as Idiocracy.  But the tale of Idiocracy is much like that of Office Space.  Unsure of how to market the film after disastrous test screenings, Fox sat on the film for over a year, before finally giving it an unusually trivial release in only 6 markets (skipping over major markets such as New York City) — by comparison a full blown promotional release covers 600 markets.  Fox’s lack of marketing showed as the movie took in only $400,000 on its opening weekend, but the film has made a strong comeback in home DVD sales.  In an interview Judge speculated that (in addition to Fox’s incompetent marketing department) the studio figured Idiocracy would be received like Office Space, not a money maker at the theaters but profitable in the DVD market, so why would they waste time and money promoting the movie when they could obtain the same result without spending it?  To a certain extent they were right; Idiocracy has gained a cult like following similar to that of Office Space.

King of the Hill. 

This weekly animated series lasted for 13 seasons that ran from January 12, 1997, to May 6, 2010, on FOX.  The show centers on the Hills, a working-class family in the fictional small town of Arlen, Texas.  Judge and Daniels conceived the series after a run with Judge’s Beavis and Butt-head on MTV, and the series debuted on FOX as a midseason replacement on January 12, 1997, quickly becoming a hit. The show’s popularity led worldwide syndication and episodes run every night on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim.  The show became one of Fox’s longest-running series, and at the time of its cancellation the second longest-running American animated series.

Hank Hill is an old fashioned, hardworking, beer-drinking man who is trying to live in a modern Texas world. His wife is opinionated, his son is a disappointment, his friends are losers, and his Father is oppressive.  The show is unpretentious, following an average family and average family man Hank Hill who “sells propane and propane accessories” as the assistant manager of Strickland Propane.

When he is not selling propane, Hank mows his lawn, drinks beer, watches football games, and just stands in the alley with his friends.  The Souphanousinphones are his conceited Laotian neighbors who refer to him and his family as “hillbillies” or “rednecks.”  His son Bobby is in love with their daughter Connie.  Bobby is arguably the funniest of the show’s characters—but another contender, in my opinion, is Dale Gribble.  Bill Dauterive, Dale Gribble, and Boomhauer are Hank’s closest friends and are usually found drinking Alamo Beer in their sacred alley.

Bill Dauterive is a lonely divorced man who is not the brightest of the group. Dale is a man who suffers from paranoia due to theories of conspiracies.  Boomhauer is a man who usually talks very quickly; so quickly it is difficult to understand what he is saying, though the guys can understand him quite well.  Throughout the years, Hank has faced many problems caused by them pushing the limits of their friendship.

Hank’s wife Peggy claims to be extremely bright, but that is a running gag. For instance she claims that she knows Spanish, but she pronounces the words the wrong way (such as espanol instead of español).  She is a three time substitute teacher of the year award recipient (and she never lets you forget it) and when she is not at school she tries to show her (non-existent) intelligence by doing things like starting a business or selling real estate, all of which flop.

There are other characters who deserve recognition but I would be writing for a week if I mentioned them all.  Needless to say, I am a King of the Hill fan and have collected all 13 seasons either electronically or on DVD.

Where does this leave us?  Well, in my opinion, there is a clear winner:  Mike Judge.  Between the cult classics of Office Space and Idiocracy and a 13 season animated series he clearly comes out ahead.  He exhibits versatility by writing and directing films and TV shows as well as being an excellent animator.  This guy with a physics degree really has a sharp satirical edge making his work a cut above MacFarlane’s—and I am a connoisseur of satire.  I invite your thoughts on the question.  Now you know where I come down on this question: Judge.

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

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Office Space: Mike Judge’s Master Piece. (1999)

In my opinion, Mike Judge is probably the best writer in Hollywood, period.  Not only is he the brains behind “Office Space,” but “King of the Hill” (which ran for 13 seasons) and “Idiocracy” as well.  However, I believe that “Office Space” is truly his masterpiece.  Though I have never worked in corporate America, most of my clients have, and they all say the same thing; “Office Space” is an incredibly true-to-life story about one’s existence and experience at the workplace, and anyone who has ever worked in a large office will find at least one element to relate to.  In fact, I like this movie so much that I have chosen seven clips to post, a record here at the jpfmovies.wordpress.com movie site.

I am unsure that there are enough good things to say about Office Space from a movie perspective (yes, I know it’s not going to win the Nobel Peace Prize.)  It has everything a great film needs: A compelling story, excellent acting, outrageous jokes, and a first-rate soundtrack.  Moreover, because it is a satire, the movie actually examines a larger issue facing many people today—disillusionment–whether it is found in their jobs, relationships, or where they are in life. Mike Judge, in my opinion, correctly and effectively points out that there is no shortage of disillusionment among us.

The story is about a disaffected Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston) who has an office job at Innitech (some sort of software company) that he truly despises.  He hates his job so much, that during an occupational hypnosis session, he acknowledges that every day is the worst day of his life.  While he is at this session, the hypnotizer suffers a heart attack and dies, leaving Peter in a blissful state of lacking any inhibitions whatsoever.  While in his state of grace, as things begin to go “wrong,” in the traditional sense, they actually get better.  For instance, he is utterly candid with the two efficiency experts (coincidentally both named Bob), confessing that he does “maybe 15 minutes of actual real work” per week “not because [he] is lazy, it’s just that [he] doesn’t care.”  The refreshingly honest admission he offers while outlining his job duties to the consultants, does not get him fired, but instead earns him a promotion as his noses-to-the-grindstone friends are laid off.

He has several (not as) disillusioned friends at Innitech: Michael Bolton (David Herman), who gets a lot of grief, since he has the same name as the pop singer, and Samir (Ajay Naidu), an Indian immigrant who just wants to keep his job and who also has a problematic name–one that nobody can pronounce correctly.  Another friend is Tom Smykowski (Richard Riehle), an employee who is considered useless and, like the inventor of the pet rock, wants to make $1 million dollars with his “Jump to Conclusions Mat,” his easy scheme from which to get rich.  Then there is Milton (Stephen Root), a strange, mumbling man who can’t stand up for himself.  Milton has an unnatural attachment to his red stapler (a Swingline as he reminds us several times throughout the movie).  There is the “evil” boss, Bill Lumbergh (Gary Cole), who makes Peter, Tom, Michael and Samir work on Saturdays and Sundays and routinely torments everyone, particularly Milton, who is eventually moved into the unlit company’s basement along with a can of pesticide to kill cockroaches.

On a side note, Swingline had not manufactured Milton’s red stapler for years (a prop department employee, named Ric Trzeciak, painted one with red paint, according to the film’s commentary).  However, in 2002 the company released a limited edition series of the red stapler portrayed in the movie as a result of customer interest.  Apparently owning and displaying the red stapler is one way some employees protest their work environment, a fact I find remarkable and clearly demonstrates just how much this movie resonated with viewers.

Peter also loves Joanna (Jennifer Aniston) from afar.  Aniston plays a waitress at a restaurant Peter and his friends frequent, but Peter can’t ask her out, because he does not have the confidence (yet).  After being hypnotized, however, Peter gains all the confidence he needs to decide to “just stop going to” his job, but asks Joanna out and ends their evening together with an episode of “Kung Fu” (one of my favorite shows).

If you have not seen “Office Space,” I am not going to spoil it for you.  My parting notion about the movie is that it’s a case of art imitating life, and to Judge’s credit, he’s succeeded in making an outrageous movie that really hits close to home, without using any gross or infantile humor to do so.  The film puts the “corporate experience” in the spotlight and gives the viewer a chance to laugh at “the boss,” and maybe even a little bit at him or herself along the way.

 
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Posted by on May 3, 2010 in Movie Reviews

 

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Dr. H & J.P. Collaborate On Idiocracy.

A must see film for almost every 2nd person you run into on a daily basis.  Forget all of the post apocalyptic movies, this one stands out for its sheer brilliance and in all probability that is how the world just might end with our Idiocracy.  It is the drama of the absurd at is best.  The comic timing is flawless.  It might not have won any awards for its visual effects or the sound track, but the editing was slick and the screen play was nearly perfect.

Joe Bauer’s (Luke Wilson) is frozen for 500 years and wakes up to a moronic world where even the simplest tasks are nearly impossible for the devolving population.  A world where people are named after products like his attorney “Frito” and “Braundo” (a form of Gatorade) is used to water crops.  Joe, when frozen in today’s world a totally average person, is suddenly thrust into being the smartest person in the world.  He gets into trouble and becomes a fugitive, but when the President discovers how smart he is, Joe is offered a pardon if he solves the world’s problems.  Eventually he earns his pardon and becomes President by showing the world that plants require water not Braundo to grow.

This is a great movie and I can’t for the life of me discern why Fox executives did not do anything to market this movie—it’s almost like it went straight to DVD.  Mike Judge (creator of the legendary film Office Space) should have been up in arms the way the studio hung him out to dry on this one.

All in all a rose.

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2010 in Movie Reviews

 

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