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Cinema Sounds: Office Space

on September 22, 2010, 1:42am

In 1999, I found my favorite movie of all time: Office Space. As a freshman in high school, I had no idea what to think of the corporate world. I never thought I’d ever wear a suit and tie to work or sit in a cubicle for hours on end staring at a computer; I was going places. The place I ended up going was to a cubicle, staring at a screen for eight hours a day. How quickly dreams can be shattered, but at least I have a window view.

From the very first scene of this film, you can tell that hip-hop and gangster rap is going to play a huge part in this film. Cut to the nerdiest looking white guy you can imagine, named Michael Bolton (portrayed by David Herman) mind you, blasting “No Tears” from Scarface while sitting in traffic on the way to work. A morning jam session is always necessary.

Even at a young age, I could appreciate the humor of Mike Judge’s film. Peter Gibbons, played brilliantly by Ron Livingston, a regular guy like all of us, hates his job. I mean, he really hates it. He hates getting up in the morning to go there, he hates the traffic, and he loathes his boss. It really takes a toll on his personal life. Because of this, he goes to see a occupational hypnotherapist, which I still don’t know if these even really exist, and he basically gets brainwashed enough to shed off every ounce of stress in his life. Him and his buddies, Michael Bolton and Samir Naga…Naga…not-gonna-work-here-anymore, attempt to rip off their company for a large sum of money. This doesn’t end well.

Some of the movie’s most memorable scenes are sold by its soundtrack. When Peter arrives to work after a long, relaxing hiatus, the Geto Boys’ “Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta” sets the perfect tone for the moment. Without it, we’d be left with just another movie montage. Well, not just any montage. When was the last time you saw a film where its main character guts a fish in an office cubicle? Exactly. Later on, the Geto Boys return, this time with the much heavier and more threatening “Still”, which plays over the now infamous printer-bashing scene. There’s a reason this scene is so iconic. The music fuels the over-the-top aggression, furthering the parody and taking it to higher levels of perversion. To see these mundane characters interact with such a hardcore anthem behind them is just, well, classic.

Speaking of classic, who could forget Ice Cube’s “Down for Whatever” when the nerds-turned-bad boys do “the deed”, making the necessary trade-offs and completing the otherwise underwhelming actions of their Superman 3 gameplan to rip off the company. Stepping aside from the gangsta rap, there’s also the colorful sounds of Perez Prado, whose tracks “Mambo #8” and “The Peanut Vendor” juxtapose this tropical vibe with the setting’s awful bland tones. Again, it’s an awkward pairing, but it works wonders. In fact, without these sonic inclusions, the scenes probably wouldn’t work. At all. So, a huge nod goes out to Judge for creating not one, not two, not even three, but several matches made in editing heaven.

Without a doubt, the movie and the soundtrack go hand in hand. On paper, it would seem like such an odd pairing – and it is – but yet that’s why it’s so good. Everything about the soundtrack is contradictory to the corporate world this movie parodies. Prior to 1999, you would never think of Ice Cube or Scarface and think of an office, a suit, a fax machine, etc. But now, you almost can’t imagine one without the other. Ah, the subliminal powers of filmmaking.

After watching this movie, whether you work in an office or not, you’ll have a deeper appreciation for those who do. And to those who do, you can sit there with me today, take a 15-second break, and put your feet up on your desk and say, “Damn it feels good to be a gangsta.” It certainly does.

That is, unless you subscribe to the entire catalog of Michael Bolton.

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