The High Society: I-O Psychology at the Movies
Paul M. Muchinsky
University of North Carolina at Greensboro
The other day I was thumbing through an I-O journal in our field. I began to
notice that some of the terms we routinely use were, to be direct, rather
catchy. I began to envision them having meaning which goes beyond our usage of
them. In fact, some of our terms are so catchy I think they would make great
movie titles. My mind then began to wander into the farthest recesses of
divergent thinking. I developed movie plots and characters for my films. The
reviewer in me even provided an assessment of each film. So readers, sit back in
your chair, grab some popcorn, and let TIP take you to the I-O movies.
The semibiographical account of Ted Turner's buffalo ranch in Montana. No
longer content with a mere 600,000-acre tract of property, Turner seeks to
expand his land holdings by whatever means necessary. However, he is thwarted
from expanding to the west and north by the Environmental Protection Agency, to
the south by the Army Corp of Engineers, and to the east by the Greenpeace
Movement. Robert Redford stars as Turner who does not feel at home on the range.
Redford continually fusses and fumes over being hemmed in by a bunch of liberal
bureaucrats, and derives no comfort in 1having to raise his buffalo
on a small spit of land the size of Rhode Island. A cameo appearance by Jane
Fonda as a trespasser who pans for gold in the middle of Turner's range is
amusing. Turner has no patience for gold-diggers, just as you will have no
patience with this trite, self-absorbed soliloquy. Just how big of a range does
one person need, anyway?
1 Offended, unamused, or entertained readers can
contact the author at email@example.com
Latin singers Ricky Martin and Marc Anthony make their acting debuts in this
film. Given the popularity of Latin music and the resurgence of interest in
ballroom dancing, it was just a matter of time until such a film was made. The
movie is about a brief but influential time period in the evolution of Latin
music. After the cha cha and rumba faded from popularity, the bossa nova was the
rage in the early 1960s. Martin and Anthony represent the lead singers of two
rival bands. However, there is conflict both within and between the bands, which
ultimately leads Martin and Anthony to form their own group, the Latin Squares.
The bossa nova sound emerges (best showcased in the hit single "Blame it on
the Bossa Nova," originally recorded by Sergio Mendez), which makes
listeners of the day forget all about the conga, manova, and anacova.
Contemporary devotees of the lambada will appreciate the origins of their
passion. The film has a relatively tepid plot, but the music is riveting.
Following the retirement of Michael Jordan from the Chicago Bulls, the
franchise becomes a moribund memory of its past glory. Desperate for improved
defensive play, the owner of the Bulls hires three motivational speakers to
masquerade as new players who join the team. In so doing, the team will
supposedly increase the rejection rate of opponents' shots. Snoop Doggy Dog, Ice
T, and Puff Daddy star as defense-minded players who seek to inspire their
teammates with clever rhymes. However, this hypothesis is rejected when theory
meets reality in the form of Shaq O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. Bodies fly and points
score, exposing the trio as wannabes who fail to make a significant enough
contribution to the team to warrant membership. Stilted dialogue, dumb plot, but
good jump shots.
Set in the mid-1960s, this film chronicles the devotion of two twenty-somethings
to rock-and-roll music played on AM radio stations. At this time stations are
beginning the conversion to stereo broadcasts on FM, and this pair of
trustworthy fellows cling desperately to the few remaining grains of sand in the
monaural hourglass. They pine for a past of fading broadcasts gingerly educed
from the AM dial of their '57 Chevy. Johnny Depp and Sean Penn convincingly play
young men who yearn to remain old boys. The angst runs deeper than found in American
Graffiti, and our pathos is palpable as we watch the helpless duo face what
we know is the inevitable. The Shirelles never sounded so good.
Italian film director Roberto Benigni's attempt to show the dark side of
middle age. Set in the Avese province of Italy, an average middle-class couple
begins to fill their home with material possessions following the marriage of
their only child. However, each spouse soon brings out a mean streak in the
other. Neither is seemingly content with their growing stash, and neither
approves of the other's mode of acquisition. However, it becomes painfully
evident that their amassings represent little more than a central tendency to
fill their empty lives with soulless objects. The couple faces the choice of
dichotomizing their possessions or finding a new way to maintain their marriage
as a continuous variable. Alternately sanguine and haunting, with a few moments
of levity. A strong script but weak casting limits the power and effect size of
Woody Allen's long awaited sequel to his classic, Psycho-Analysis. A
hip Park Avenue therapist (played brilliantly by Holly Hunter) has been schooled
in a new form of analysis. Rather than singularly focusing on Freudian-based
sexual motives or dysfunctional cognitive processes, Hunter believes in the
increased power of an eclectic approach. Hunter combines the client's values,
dreams, childhood hobbies, behaviors, birth order, motives, and astrological
sign into a curious admixture, and then somehow adjusts or corrects it to
produce a "true" diagnosis of the client's condition. No fan of mind
games, Allen skewers both the traditional methods of analysis as well as the
avant garde. However, it is not until the end of the film where the audience
discovers the "true" basis of Allen's sardonic humor lies not in
Hunter's misplaced faith in this New Age nonsense, but the viewer's penchant to
believe its results. P. T. Barnum would have loved this film, as will you.
Jim Carrey reprises his role from Dumb and Dumber in this
light-hearted, light-weight film. Carrey and his buddy (played passively by Joe
Pesci) possess a charismatic charm, which lands them in a wide variety of
outrageous circumstances. The audience is somehow supposed to believe that these
men could con their way into such implausible settings as being co-pilots of the
Concorde, thoracic surgeons, State Department undersecretaries, Chinese acrobats
from Taipei, and bearded ladies in a circus. While there are a few good sight
gags, the underlying premise that different organizations would repeatedly hire
such maladroits strains credulity. I thought you couldn't fake an intelligence
test. Sorry, but False Positives is a true negative.
This is another film on the ad infinitum, ad nauseum resume of
Jean Claude Van Damme. Would you believe Van Damme plays a bespectacled
librarian in a tender love story? Of course not. How about a wrongly accused
former Green Beret who likes to shoot up and blow up everything in sight? Now
you know what this movie is all about without even having seen it. In this
tasteless affront to celluloid, Van Damme eliminates everyone whose position is
at variance with his. In his simplistic world, people are either true to the
cause or are considered as social errors. Van Damme's job, of course, is to
suppress the errors. And he does, over and over, in a myriad of ways, and never
errs himself. preStallone and preSchwartzenegger, this idea may have had some
appeal, but it has repeatedly been found lacking in value based upon its
disassociation from reality. How many movies can you say are more banal than Godzilla
versus The Smog Monster?
The most recent disaster film in a series which includes Volcano, Meteor,
and Earthquake. Martin Scorcese directs a star-studded cast that battles
global warming. The entire planet is threatened by rising temperatures which are
caused by an ever-widening hole in the ozone layer. An international conference
is called among scientists who think they are really prominent. While all the
participants are in agreement that noxious gasses are responsible for the
crisis, there is no consensus as to the cause of the gas. Only two researchers,
whose publications are not in prestigious journals, have unraveled the mystery.
It seems the unrelenting posturing, preening, pontificating orations of the
suffocatingly self-important researchers are poisoning the planet. Tommy Lee
Jones and Meryl Streep must find a way to silence those who resolutely believe
they and they alone can save humanity. Heart-pounding drama, great special
effects, and many correction formulas.
A love story embedded in a very unloving context produces an eerie
juxtaposition that commands our attention, if not our interest. Naomi Campbell
is the love interest of Denzel Washington, who works as a programmer at a
military base in Kansas. It is not just any military base, but the top-secret
command center for the Star Wars missile defense system, code name "LMX."
Contrary to what we have been lead to believe, LMX is not just the stuff of
theory and speculation. Quite the contrary, it is fully operational. However,
Washington's mind is not on his job, as he often fantasizes about forming a
vertical dyad with Campbell. An impending terrorist missile attack places
Washington in the position of possibly including Campbell in the in-group who
know about LMX. The film taunts the viewer with portentous contrasts of
Armageddon versus Nirvana. However, in the final analysis the movie disappoints.
What is supposed to produce tension through conflict only produces confusion.
The casting is questionable, the plot is thin, the dialogue and the Kansas
landscape are flat, but not the performance by Ms. Campbell.
A high-tech thriller, which has you on the edge of your seat and leaves you
guessing up to the last minute. A large multinational corporation staffs a group
of nerds as a secret unit (KR20) to counter cyber-terrorism. However, it soon
becomes apparent that the motives of KR20 are not internally consistent. An
illusory and renowned hacker, who goes by the moniker "Alpha," toys
with KR20, seemingly at will. Diligent research by a tenacious member of KR20
(played by Leonardo DiCaprio) suggests that Alpha is actually a member of KR20.
When DiCaprio follows up on his suspicions, he learns that Alpha is a group, not
a person. Furthermore, that group is KR20, making Alpha and KR20
functionally equivalent for all practical purposes. The action heats up when
DiCaprio attempts to delete members of KR20 without adversely affecting its
reliability, thereby tipping off the corporation which is behind the whole plot.
A classic nail-biter whose taut and homogenous plot unfolds with each twist and
The third in the trilogy of films (following The Client and The
Firm) by John Grisham. In this movie, a hardened and clinically depressed
attorney (played by Anthony Hopkins) joins a large prominent law firm. Hopkins
is at first bemused and then troubled over the lack of dissension within the law
firm. Normally a contentious lot, Hopkins discovers that all of the lawyers in
this firm are placid and congenial. His character further discovers that all of
the firm's cases are settled out of court. Portraits of former associates who
all experienced sudden, tragic, and supposedly accidental deaths lead Hopkins to
discover the dark truth about his employer. In the belief that conciliation is
always more profitable than litigation, this organization metes out its own form
of justice to keep dissenters in line. Hopkins vacillates between thoughts of
privately taking his own life, or blowing up the entire firm and taking 200
other lawyers with him. The audience openly cheers Hopkins on to follow one of
these two options, creating a surrealistic interactive movie that will not leave
the typical viewer disappointed. This film has been condemned by the American
Bar Association. Stilted plot; a few slow periods; but a terrific ending.
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