My lifelong love affair with movies accelerated to an obsession the summer after my freshmen year of college. After the last, final exam, the campus had emptied not unlike the ghost towns of the Wild West after the Gold Rush dried up. The dorms held 1,800 people during the school year, but scarcely five percent of the rooms were occupied that summer.
My roommate and I knew everyone living on campus and spent our days taking an English Lit class (Virginia Woolf, Joseph Conrad) and shuttling around Mario, a blind, middle-aged, Cuban exchange student. Mario refused to call us by our names—Daniel and Thomas—but referred to us instead by our proper biblical placement—Old Testament and New Testament.
One day, after failing to make sense of To the Lighthouse, New Testament and I walked Mario back to his room.
“Have you met the student from California yet?” Mario asked.
“There’s no one here from California,” I said.
“You hear that?” Mario asked. “That’s the new student from California.”
I was about to tell Mario we didn’t hear anything, when I heard a loud explosion and a spattering of multisyllabic cuss words, language strictly forbidden (along with drinking and, yes, even dancing) at our private Baptist college. We followed the noise.
In a corner room of the other men’s dorm, the one without air-conditioning, we found the source. Sprawled on a sleeper couch, wearing only boxer shorts and a Lakers road jersey, was a young man with a Flock of Seagulls haircut. He pointed a remote control at a rear projection TV screen and the explosion and cussing stopped.
“What’s up?” the kid said. We didn’t say anything, not even a mention about him sitting there in his boxer shorts. “You wanna watch a movie?”
Your mileage may vary
The boy’s name was Sid Green, a student in name only, as I never saw him attend a class. Sid was from California, and more specifically, West Hollywood, which was a lot closer to the real Hollywood, than where we lived. The rest of the summer, we let Conrad and Woolf slip out of our minds, eventually dropping the English Lit class. Instead, we spent our waking hours on Sid’s pullout couch, watching movies.
According to Sid, his father worked on movie sets as a caterer, and because of that, Sid had an insight and a vocabulary about movies that we lacked. None of us had a VCR. We didn’t even have a TV in our dorm room, so it was a revelation to find Sid watching tapes of movies that were still in theaters. Some of the movies Sid watched hadn’t reached the South yet; some of them never would.
But most of the movies we watched were the same ones other kids our age were watching and somehow Sid had a way of making them all seem infinitely larger, more important, more beautiful, than they actually were. He spoke of Teen Wolf and Rocky IV with the same flourish and in the same breath as he did Brazil and The Color Purple. We sat, nodding our heads, frequently being talked out of our own opinions, and, the more we thought about it, the more we came to the same conclusion—who were we to argue?
But, whenever Sid finished discussing a movie (he didn’t use the word “film” and neither did we), he’d look us in the eyes, even blind Mario, and always tell us the same thing: “Your mileage may vary.”
As the summer ended and fall appeared with a chill in the air, Sid returned to California. We would never hear from him again, but for years after, Mario and New Testament and I would talk about our summer of movies, the way Vision Quest inspired us to jump rope like Matthew Modine, the way Runaway Train prompted us to affect the snarling delivery of the sublime Eric Roberts. But, eventually, school ended for us, and Mario and NT were gone, too.
In honor of those long ago buddies and an undying love of the silver screen, I give you this list of 2014’s top movies for business professionals. As you work through the list this week, just remember, it’s only one man’s opinion; your mileage may vary.
Up first: Chef
Directed by Jon Favreau
What’s it about: An acclaimed chef loses his fancy restaurant job and has to reinvent himself as the small business owner of a food truck to help make ends meet.
Why watch it: The movie has a sweet message about never giving up. Even if you don’t see yourself realizing your goals, keep your head down and keep plugging away.
Interesting factoid: Favreau does his own cooking in the film and spent a week at an intensive French culinary school to hone his skills.
Business takeaway: Never give up.
Memorable scene: The scene where Carl Casper (Favreau) learns about social media and its viral capabilities from his young son.
Percy: Where are we?
Inez: This is Little Havana.
Percy: Like in Grand Theft Auto?
Next up: Calvary
Directed by John Michael McDonagh
What’s it about: Father James (Gleeson), a small-town priest in Ireland, receives a confessional that includes a threat against his life.
Why watch it: The tension builds and builds like a high-pressure cooker as Father James works through how to deal with the death threat and its impending conclusion.
Interesting factoid: The film features 12 supporting characters; there were 12 disciples; will Father James find his Judas in time?
Business takeaway: Who can you really trust in life and business?
Memorable scene: The scene in the confessional booth where Father James learns of the threat against his life.