Thursday, June 25, 2009

Weekly Top Tens: Top Ten Movie Accountants

So last week, I did a top ten list about my future wife’s profession – teaching – and the movies, so this week I decided to do my own profession – accounting. Let me tell you, the pickings were somewhat slim, and my profession is not exactly portrayed very positively in the movies. But I did manage to come up with 10 movie accountants I love – even if they not all of them are very good people.

10. Louis Tully (Rich Moranis) in Ghostbusters
Poor Louis. He is in love with the girl next door (Sigourney Weaver), who does not even notice him, because she is too busy flirting with Bill Murray’s dangerous bad boy Peter Venkman. If that isn’t bad enough, he gets possessed by a demon and even worse, if when possessed by the demon he actually gets to embrace the love of his life, it will bring about the end of the world! Louis is the stereotypical nerdy accountant in the movie, and Moranis plays it perfectly.

9. Jonathan Fuerst (Jack Nicholson) in Carnal Knowledge
Carnal Knowledge isn’t really about Fuerst as an accountant, but rather about his inability to have a successful relationship with a woman. There is a reason why he can’t – and it’s fault – and that’s because he has an idea of his fantasy girl in his head, and the women he meets have the frustrating habit of being too real. He treats them like objects, and because he has the charm of Jack Nicholson, he keeps getting them from when the movie opens when he’s in college until he is in his early middle age. The saddest section of the movie deals with him and Ann Margaret – who has the looks and the breasts that he thinks he always wanted. Is the movie saying that all accountants are sexually screwed up, and will wind up impotent and having to play bizarre sexual games with prostitutes to find any satisfaction? I sure hope not.

8. Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) in Stranger Than Fiction
Another stereotypical accountant type, Harold Crick is a stickler for details and follows a set routine everyday – including how many brushstrokes he uses to brush his teeth and how many times he chews his food before swallowing. So he is a perfect fit as an auditor for the IRS. But then, his neurosis is part of the point, as the author in the film (Emma Thompson) who is writing Harold Crick’s life (and who he hears narrating it) is trying to make a point about him. Yes, like many movie accountants, the ultimate goal of the film is to get him to break loose and come out of his shell – inspired by his relationship with wild child Maggie Gyllenhaal – and something a little bit deeper as well. I forgive the movie for saying that all accountants are boring.

7. Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder) in The Producers
I hated the remake with Matthew Broderick in this role, but Gene Wilder was absolute perfection as Leo Bloom, the nervous, neurotic accountant who along with Max Biallistock (Zero Mostel) sets out to make the worse show in Broadway history. Wilder goes madly over the top in the movie but for once it was appropriate. Yet again, we get the stereotype of the accountant as a nervous nerd, but in this movie I was laughing so hard I did not care.

6. Jonathan Mardukas (Charles Grodin) in Midnight Run
As a mob accountant who has skipped bail with $2 million in cash, Charles Grodin is given one of his very best roles. The movie teams him with Robert DeNiro as the bounty hunter who has tracked him down, and wants to drag him back across the country to go to jail, dodging mobsters the entire time. DeNiro and Grodin have terrific onscreen chemistry, and the film itself is perhaps the best buddy movie action picture of the 1980s (where it seems like every other movie was a buddy picture action movie). While Grodin is a little bit of nerd in the film, he is not just a typical movie accountant. He is whip smart and funny. A great performance.

5. Francis Brown (Bruce Greenwood) in Exotica
Francis Brown is at the center of Atom Egoyan’s elaborate puzzle of a movie. He is an accountant looking into the books of a pet shop owner by day, and by night he attends a strip club where he only cares about one dancer – Christina (Mia Kirshner) – who does a naughty schoolgirl routine. Yet Francis is far from being a pervert. His interest in Christina never really seems all that sexual – more of a father/daughter type relationship – which is why when he violates the rule and touches her, it seems so out of character. This is Egoyan’s second best film (the first being The Sweet Hereafter), where everything in the film is more complicated then it at first appears to be. Francis is not fascinating, sad character, and Bruce Greenwood gives the best performance of his career in the role.

4. Oscar Wallace (Charles Martin Smith) in The Untouchables
Call me a loser if you want to, but I have always felt that Oscar Wallace was the real hero of The Untouchables. After all, it isn’t Elliot Ness (Kevin Costner) or Malone (Sean Connery) who figure out how to bring down Al Capone (Robert DeNiro), but it is Charles Martin Smith’s lowly accountant. And what does he get for his trouble? Mocked by Malone, who wonders aloud if the accountant carries a badge, and then tells him he needs to carry a gun before pitching a shotgun at him. But when the shootout finally does come, Wallace handles himself quite well, taking down some of the bad guys, and even getting a snappy one liner about gunfights (“It’s more about diverting than accounting” – ah, accountant humor, you have to love). That Wallace doesn’t make to the end of the movie just makes him a tragic hero.

3. Paul Kearsy (Charles Bronson) in Death Wish
I’ll admit that Charles Bronson doesn’t do any actual accounting in the movie, and to be honest, I’m not entirely sure that the movie even mentions he is a CPA (the book does though). But Bronson’s Paul Kearsy will always be an accountant for me, because at least that means there’s one badass accountant in movie history. What does Kearsy do when his wife and daughter are raped and murdered? He goes vigilante, trying to single handedly end gang violence in New York by killing every gang’s member he meets. Bronson proved in this movie that it’s not smart to fuck with accountants.

2. Bud Baxter (Jack Lemmon) in The Apartment
Bud Baxter is a typical office drone in Billy Wilder’s black comedy masterwork. He is love with the elevator girl (Shirley Maclaine), but since she is his boss’ mistress, he does nothing about it. He even lets his boss use his apartment for his rendezvous’ with MacLaine. But Baxter gets the last laugh in the movie, as by the end of the film, he is out from the drudgery of his job, and he even gets the girl. This may not be a flattering portrait of my chosen career, but Lemmon is perfect in the role, and proves that even accountants sometimes get the girl.

1. Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley) in Schindler’s List
Ben Kingsley’s Itzhak Stern is without a doubt the most heroic accountant in movie history. Working closely right alongside Liam Neesom’s Schindler, Kingsley helps Schindler to save thousands of Jews during WWII. He helps Schindler at first with all his factories, keeping them running and keeping Jews from going to the concentration camps, and when the list is finally made, it is Stern who helps to compile it all. He even gets the movies most memorable line – “This list is life!” Kingsley is a chameleon of an actor, and his disappears into this role, and gives one of his best performances.

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