Awards season has come finally to a close. They all seemed so much the same, didn’t they? With all the focus on the people in the movies? Directors, actors, screenwriters… snore. Where are the awards for all the totally great stuff in films? I mean, with the costumes and sets they’re headed in the right direction, but if I were in charge of everything it wouldn’t stop there. There would be awards for best food in movies, best buildings, best cars… And my favorite category, Best Appearance by Office Supplies in a Motion Picture. Until I can convince the Screen Actors Guild to start giving out awards to objects, I’ll just have to get the word out any way I can. Here are my Golden Photocopier Awards. And the nominees are…
The portable laminating machine, The Darjeeling Limited
It is 2007 and I am sitting in a dark movie theater with my friend Anne. Francis (Owen Wilson) is explaining to his brothers how his assistant is going to give them daily itineraries for their epic Indian train journey every morning, slipped under their doors. “How’s he going to do that?” asks Peter (Adrien Brody). Francis replies that his assistant has brought a printer and a laminating machine on the train. Stunned, I turn to Anne and before I can even ask, she whispers urgently to me, “Is he saying he has a portable laminating machine?” “Is that a real thing?” I whisper urgently back. “Because if it is then I totally need one!”
Rotary phones, All the President’s Men
Brilliant political thriller, yes. But would it have been quite as suspenseful without those times when you had to hold your breath and wonder, “Can Robert Redford dial his phone faster than that guy can walk down a hallway? And why do these phone numbers seem to have so many 9’s?”
Red Swingline stapler, Office Space
Most audiences thought this was a hilarious, biting satire of modern office culture. I, however, knew that it was really a heart-wrenching drama about Milton Waddams, a humble man, powerless against the faceless corporate behemoth that oppresses him- and keeps moving his desk, just trying to hold onto his humanity. And his stapler.
Legal pads, The Lincoln Lawyer
You need more than just a legal pad to turn your car into a law office. You also need a cell phone and a briefcase. But it’s the legal pads that assure your clients they are not riding around with the Lincoln Accountant.
And the winner is…
The fax machine/ telecopier in Bullitt
The Mustangs racing through the streets of San Francisco are memorable to be sure. But the quiet, raw scene in which Steve McQueen and three other guys stand around in the police station FOR NEARLY TWO MINUTES watching a fax sloooooowly come in on the nearly desk-sized machine- that’s what stayed with me long after the film was over.
Lifetime achievement award for use of office supplies in film: Wes Anderson.
Anderson’s work is always a lovely showcase for useful objects, and he seems to have a particular appreciation for those objects that are necessary to record thought and conduct business in a non- or pre-digital world. From the young Chas Tenenbaum (The Royal Tenenbaums) tricking his bedroom out to look like a 1970’s Wall Street office to the miniature stop-motion paperwork that clutters Clive Badger’s desk in The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Anderson’s films are an office-supply-lover’s cinema candyland.
In memoriam: The Printer in Office Space, the Fax Machine from In the Loop