Glass Onion Was Disappointing

“Maybe Elon Musk is dumb actually” is an idea that is certainly having a moment, as Musk has been live-tweeting his mid-life crisis for the past several years. I wonder when Glass Onion was written, that it happened to come out just as that wave seems to be cresting (but hey, maybe Musk has even more spectacular failures in the queue). Certainly, the fact that “the Elon Musk-alike is very stupid” is meant to be the movie’s twist ending has been kinda spoiled by the fact that this is now a common opinion and one you would expect Rian Johnson in particular to have.

Very early on they set up “maybe the Elon Musk-alike is the killer” and then dismiss it with “no, his motive is too obvious and whoever the killer was struck in-person, and he’s too smart to take such a bone-headed risk.” And the problem is that I immediately realize this is not a thing Rian Johnson believes and so right off the bat I know that yeah, of course he’s the killer, he is absolutely stupid enough to have done it, doubly so since, with him ruled out, the entire middle of the movie is spent detective-ing four other potential culprits instead. I don’t even consider it worth being a spoiler alert. If you saw Glass Onion and you didn’t instantly realize the Musk-alike is the killer as soon as the line dismissing him was spoken, then you weren’t here for the mystery anyway. Two years ago we all might’ve bought that Rian Johnson was actually going for “Musk-alike as corrupt genius,” but not in 2022 (or very early 2023, when I saw it).

But then it falls apart in the ending, because Benoit Blanc is supposed to have this takedown at the end where he lays out how stupid the Musk-alike’s murders were…and, uh, they actually reveal a strong ability to improvise, poisoning his second victim with his own glass by using their pineapple allergy, thus creating a drink that he can drink from with impunity but which the target will die from, thus making it seem like he was the one being targeted and removing himself from suspicion as the culprit. We don’t see his first murder clearly (it’s the inciting incident, already accomplished as the story begins), but apparently he managed to poison the victim’s drink without her noticing. His third murder was simple, straightforward, and except for a stroke of pure dumb luck, effective. Benoit Blanc even praises it as having “panache” before he realizes that the killer was riffing off of an idea that Blanc himself had planted in his head – but if turning off the lights and shooting the target works, it works, regardless of who gave him the idea. If the third victim didn’t happen to have her sister’s diary in her coat pocket to intercept the bullet, the Musk-alike would’ve just won.

The method of his downfall is pretty dumb, anyway. His whole getaway mansion is powered by some new energy source that floods the place with hydrogen gas. It’s supposed to be a “billionaire self-proclaimed genius inventor’s idea is actually disastrously stupid” thing, but it takes serious effort to get the place to catch on fire. Firearms are discharged, a crucial piece of evidence is lit on fire, the lighter used to do it is playfully flicked on and off a couple of different times throughout the movie, and the protagonist (Andy/Helen, not Blanc – he ties the series together, but as a recurring supporting character, not the protagonist) has to get a bonfire going pretty high indoors to set off the chain reaction. Which then fails to inflict meaningful harm on any of the people at ground zero for the explosion. While making homes hyper-vulnerable to arson is certainly a drawback of the technology, it demonstrably isn’t turning homes into deathtraps, because the trap gets sprung and no death ensues. You definitely wouldn’t want this energy powering urban centers where a fire in one building could cause an explosion that chains into other buildings and causes a city-spanning blaze, but vastly reduced energy prices at the tradeoff that someone intentionally setting your house on fire will be able to get the whole house burning in thirty seconds sounds like a pretty good deal to me, on account of the scarcity of mad arsonists.

Not to mention the ending relies on the protagonist engaging in the exact same kind of improvised crime that Blanc just finished calling the Musk-alike an idiot for. There’s definitely a moral distinction to be drawn between arson for the sake of avenging your murdered sister versus murder for the sake of personal gain, but intellectually speaking, “use the materials at hand to accomplish a crime” is pretty much the same.

The “billionaire ‘genius’ is actually stupid” theme gets carried really well earlier. Early on in the movie, the Musk-alike sets up a murder mystery themed party, and brags to Blanc, a professional detective considered the best in the world, that it’s going to be “next level.” Blanc solves it before the “murder” scene even happens, and we later learn that 1) the mystery was written by someone else who 2) did not know Blanc would be at the party, expecting only the Musk-alike’s other “disruptor” friends, none of whom have any kind of background in solving puzzles or mysteries. So, y’know, this mystery writer set up a mystery for some randos and of course Blance walks right through it effortlessly, he’s a professional at the top of his field tackling a mystery designed to be solvable by ordinary people. If the Musk-alike had designed these puzzles and mysteries himself, he would know how hideously mismatched the difficulty of the puzzle was to Blanc’s skills, but since he’s just taking credit for other people’s work, he blithely assumes that since he got a renowned person to design the mystery, it’s probably a fair match for the renowned person who’s showed up to solve it (not to mention, a renowned mystery writer is not the same thing as a highly effective actual criminal, although it’s not clear to me whether or not Rian Johnson, a renowned mystery writer, is copping to this).

The parlor scene for the fake murder was pretty enjoyable, but the parlor scene at the end is a flop. Maybe this could’ve worked, if the Musk-alike had been set up with a sense of real menace, a sense of being an evil genius looming over the gathering with the power to snuff out anyone at any time he chooses, someone removed from suspicion because he projects an aura of such power that if he were the killer, things would surely be much, much worse. When he confronts Benoit Blanc in the glass onion after his murder mystery is ruined, the audience should feel like Blanc is in danger. When he positions Blanc between himself and his “friends” after Duke’s death, it should come across as an act of ruthless calculation, unconcerned with the lives of others, not panicky cowardice. Give Blanc lines about how the Musk-alike has been living here for months, in a building he built, on an island he owns. He could’ve had an entire platoon of security on site if he wanted, could’ve filled the place with cameras, could’ve rigged it up with death traps if he wanted to, using the same design skills that went into the puzzle boxes. The only reason, Blanc muses early on, to have left the island so unsecured is if he knew that none of the guests would dare to try and kill him. After the Musk-alike is seemingly targeted, Blanc starts trying to figure out why the Musk-alike’s predictions were wrong, what information he didn’t know about could’ve changed the situation.

Then he can be revealed at the end to be a moderately clever improviser who stumbled into power by blind luck. The reason why the island isn’t a fortress ready to protect him from a murderer isn’t because he assessed no such precautions were necessary, but because he was too stupid to realize he was in danger until it was too late. I can imagine a version of the ending scene where the big reveal is that, if you ignore his aura of menace and self-aggrandizing narrative, the thing he holds over everyone’s heads to keep them in line isn’t genius. It’s money. He didn’t design his own puzzle boxes or his own mystery, and his murders are accomplished not with elaborate traps or brilliant misdirection, but slightly clever improvisation with a glass of pineapple juice. The “he just used pineapple juice” reveal is supposed to be obviously stupid, but the problem is that it’s cleverer than most people could come up with on short notice. But if it’s bringing him down from “sinister criminal mastermind” to “exactly one clever idea” then it works.

You could even do a thing with the puzzle box where the Chess puzzle is presented as more important than the others, getting an entire layer of the box to itself, the “final boss” puzzle before getting to the invitation. And on the surface the Musk-alike can sell that as “Chess puzzles were always my favorites, I’m a Chess master, bwahaha,” but the actual puzzle (as it is in the movie we get) is mate-in-one. An earlygame mate-in-one where you can recognize which piece is your queen and which is the opponent’s king even though they’re unlabeled. It might even literally be the Scholar’s Mate, I didn’t look closely enough to check. It’s Chess, a game where you famously have to think more moves ahead than your opponent to get an advantage, and the Musk-alike thinks the best way to show off his genius is a mate-in-one puzzle. He didn’t even design the box, of course, so really all he did was say “oh, and make the final puzzle a Chess puzzle because that’s my brand” to the guy who actually made them.

Instead, the movie is a glass onion. An illusion of complexity, sure, but you can see the center clearly from the beginning. And I think Rian Johnson was too busy taking potshots at his Musk-alike character to sell that illusion.

The Book/Movie Backlog

My video game backlog project has worked out pretty great for its intended purpose: Pushing me to try new games instead of revisiting old favorites over and over again, replaying them about as soon as I stop being completely sick of them. The problem I’d identified long ago is that every time I wanted to play a video game for a while, it almost always meant I was kind of tired and unfocused and needed to recharge, which means I was in no state to scroll through a list of 500+ video games in my Steam library and pick out something new. I’d play a spate of new games about once a year or so when I’d give myself a goal to play through a specific category, like every Star Wars game in my library, or every Metroidvania. This would work for a while, but after a few weeks I’d get sick of that category and drift back to playing whatever.

During my Star Wars kick after this year’s May the Fourth sale, I felt my interest in the project ebbing, noticed the pattern, and decided to solve it by creating a list of every video game I wanted to play. The broader subject matter means that, when I got tired of one category, I would switch to a different one, not replaying old favorites yet again. And it worked: My Star Wars playthrough has been on hiatus for months, but once I’m in the mood again, I’ll pick up where I left off, rather than feeling like the project is abandoned and starting a new one. Anyone following the blog will remember that I’ve mentioned exorcising Ubisoft from my soul, getting closure on their series and then moving away from them, and while that project has successfully carried me through to the end of the Assassin’s Creed series and into Far Cry, I’ve intermixed tons of other games with it. The “make peace with the fact that Ubisoft sucks and maybe always did” project tends to dominate my chunky, 20+ hour playthroughs, but since I’m also playing lots of 5-10 hour games, I’m not getting burnt out on it the way I have in the past.

But also, video games have completely taken over my hobbies. It used to be, when I needed to recharge, I would scroll over Steam and Netflix and my Kindle library until something popped out at me. Video games were always a plurality if not majority, but I’d also watch movies/shows and read books semi-regularly. Now, the process of finding a new game is much easier, which means I gravitate towards that. The solution, plainly, is to create similar backlogs for books and movies. The problem is, that’s going to be much harder.

The creation of my video game backlog has a lot of prerequisites. The backlog was over 180 games long at start and new games are added on a monthly basis. I didn’t just pluck out a half-dozen games that I’d never gotten around to, and that was the point: By being really huge, it’s easy for me to pass over a game that I don’t feel like playing right now and come back to it later. But in order to build that huge list, I needed to have 500+ games sitting in my Steam library, a list that I cut down to less than 200 by going through game by game and asking myself if I really cared if I never played this video game.

The reason why I had 500+ Steam games in my library was because of 10 years of accumulation from Steam wishlist/sales, Humble Bundles, and Humble Choices. Each of these sent new games past me on a more-or-less monthly basis for something like $5. Steam sends me a steady stream of recommendations based on what I’m already playing, and I’ll wishlist anything that looks interesting. During major sales, I’ll grab a few games if they’re heavily discounted enough. Humble Bundles regularly serve up packages of games that usually include one or two headline titles along with a dozen or so others, and while most of the other dozen never make it to my Steam library, some catch my eye and I give them a shot. The Humble Choice works the same way, except that the games aren’t even grouped by publisher or category, which is how games like Yes, Your Grace and Crypt of the Necrodancer find their way into my library.

And this is what books and movies/shows are missing. If I’d embarked on this project five years ago, Netflix probably could’ve served me on the movies/shows angle, if only minimally. Their recommendations and new releases would’ve served a similar role to Steam, and being a one-stop shop for all audio-visual media meant that once I paid my monthly subscription, everything was free. This means I don’t have to decide whether I want to risk money on a show I might like or might not – anything that looks interesting goes on the list (the video game equivalent being a combination of Steam wishlist and games from Humble bundles that I was already buying for other titles in the bundle). Unfortunately, the Balkanization of streaming services means that nobody has access to the data they need to offer me recommendations that are more hit than miss, and nothing like Humble Bundles – a package deal that includes several more obscure titles alongside one or two attention getting big ones – has ever existed.

Books are even worse. While Amazon certainly has an algorithm, it doesn’t seem to be very good at its job, and I still have to pay for every single title I take a chance on. I’ve tried using Amazon/Audible the way I use Steam, and the end result is that I spent a lot of time on books I abandoned halfway through because they were bad. Humble Bundle has book bundles, but they’re usuall either graphic novels or non-fiction, and the rare occasion on which I’ve tried one of their book bundles, I found its quality was abysmal. It has a lot of short story collections, which I have learned tend to be two or three short stories from really good writers to draw people in and fifteen from the publisher’s poker buddies. Instead of Yes, Your Grace, I get Shipwrecks Above. That collection also had the phenomenal Coldest Girl In Coldtown, but the only reason I realized that story was good and read it is because someone told me about it, and I doublechecked the one book of vampire short stories I had lying around to see if it included that one. There’s probably one or two other good stories in there, but I’d have to sift through a bunch of junk to find them. My video game backlog isn’t like that. September had 4 Regrets to 6 Complete, and I considered that a bad month for Regrets, plagued by technical difficulties!

The recommendation for Coldest Girl In Coldtown worked out great, so that presents a potential solution: Get recommendations. The problem is, if you ask a random individual for their favorite books/TV shows, you will mostly get an inventory of things they read when they were fifteen or which remind them of things they read when they were fifteen. If you ask a broad group for their favorites, you will get things that have broad appeal, with nary a trace of any Yes, Your Graces or even Crypts of the Necrodancer. People who can give reliable recommendations do exist (the guy who recommended me Coldest Girl In Coldtown has a really good track record), but they’re rare. I can’t easily find a group of 50 of them, ask them for recommendations, and assemble a 100+ entry list from each of them giving me 2 or 3 recs each.

I’ve begun assembling book and game backlogs in text files. It took ten years to build up my video game backlog, so even if the tools are not ideal, getting started on the book and movie backlogs right away seems prudent. So far they’ve all got a single digit number of entries, though, and I’m not sure how to open myself up to the steady stream of recommendations that would allow them to expand.

Assorted Thoughts On She-Ra

I caught episodes of the new She-Ra here and there, but recently I’ve sat down to watch the whole thing. One thing I didn’t realize until I started from the beginning is that Adora’s standard outfit is at least 80% Horde-issue. She has, at most, thrown a personalized red jacket (something which raises no eyebrows in the Fright Zone, so while it might not be standard issue, it’s not some act of defiance, either) on top of what is otherwise a Horde cadet uniform, and that this uniform makes her easily mistaken for an enemy is a plot point in the two-parter opening. And then she never changes outfits, even after seemingly weeks of working with the Rebellion! Fair enough if you want to keep the same white-top-grey-bottom-red-jacket look, but it would’ve been nice if the new white top were noticeably different somehow (we do eventually get a jacketless shot from behind that confirms she no longer has the Horde symbol stamped on the back, at least). Like, here’s a picture of Adora without the jacket:

This is actually a shot from the two-parter opening episode when she still has the Horde symbol, but from the front the shirt is the same. And here’s Adora with her jacket:

You can see that the only important part to retain between the pre- and post-Horde designs is that it’s white on the sleeves and the parts of the chest that are visible under the jacket. Those little red blobs on the sleeves are very Horde – every Horde cadet’s shirt is a white base with some kind of red accent. So the obvious thing to do when switching away from the Horde would be to replace the little red bits with a different color. Purple is pretty princess-y and also shows up in Brightmoon colors a lot (Brightmoon being the specific princess kingdom that Adora uses as home base), and the cool thing about white is that it goes with basically any other color. You could also change the shape, maybe to triangles or some kind of Princess Alliance symbol, and as long as it doesn’t go down far enough to be visible through the cuts on her jacket it’d be fine, and would immediately communicate from episode 3 onwards that Adora has kept her general style but is no longer wearing a Horde uniform.

Also, I realize that a show aimed at kids can’t depict enemy soldiers being dismembered and that the sword as a symbol of heroism is pretty baked into the She-Ra lore and you can’t just ditch it, which backs the creators into a bit of a corner with regards to She-Ra actually using her signature weapon, but the Horde soldiers almost all wear armor. She-Ra can hit them with a sword and just smack them around without cutting through, and then when you need her to cut through a tank or war drone, give the sword a little glowy fire effect to indicate that She-Ra has activated the armor-piercing power. She-Ra’s sword has glowy magic effects all the time, so this won’t be out of place.

Also, also, the heroes are sovereign nations resisting invasion, but they call themselves “the Rebellion.” This even though they have another perfectly good term that they use all the time: The “Princess Alliance.” I think the idea is that the Rebellion refers to all anti-Horde forces and the Princess Alliance is a specific coalition coordinating resources, but “Rebellion” sounds like it’s a specific organization anyway. Plus, they refer to princesses outside the Alliance as not being part of the Rebellion anyway, when the Horde is attempting to conquer all princess realms without exception, so presumably all princess realms are anti-Horde by default, even if they’re not cooperating with other anti-Horde forces.

Also, also, also, I really would’ve appreciated a map early on showing all the princesses and the territory they hold, preferably as part of the opening titles the way Avatar did it. I realize “try to be like AtLA” is advice that animated shows these days generally follow too much, but if your primary conflict is going to be about territory control, I would appreciate being able to see the territory being fought over. AtLA didn’t keep track of exact frontlines for the current state of the war, but it did show that the Air Nomads were totally eliminated, the Southern Water Tribe was under siege, the Earth Kingdom was contested, and the Northern Water Tribe was untouched for now. It gave us a scoreboard for the course of the war, so when the Earth Kingdom fell at the end of season 2, we got that this was a major blow to the good guys. It was only a matter of time before the Fire Nation consolidated their victory over the rest of the Earth Kingdom, the Northern Water Tribe was the only safe place left, and it was only a matter of time before the Fire Nation turned the full might of their forces against them. The finite number of countries on the map meant that I could keep track of the stakes of the overarching conflict.

She-Ra has a similar conflict with similar stakes, but very stubbornly refuses to let them be kept track of. In the princess prom episode, we get that the Kingdom of Snows has a buffer between them and the Horde which makes Princess Frosta reluctant to join the Princess Alliance, but not who that buffer is and at what point of the Kingdom of Snows would be in danger. In the episode where we meet Princess Mermista, we get that the fall of her realm of Salineas (or even just the loss of the magic gate holding some kind of strait, although it’s not clear how much of Salineas lies beyond that strait) would allow the Horde unfettered access to the sea, but we have no idea which new fronts that would open up, what additional kingdoms would be in immediate danger were the Horde to succeed. Even stories that focus on a direct attack against a specific kingdom, like when Plumeria is attacked and Princess Perfuma has to learn the virtue of violent resistance, would at least benefit from knowing how many princess realms are left and thus how much of a blow against anti-Horde forces it would be if this battle were lost. Is Princess Entrapta’s realm basically just that one castle, or is that just the capital of a larger realm?

When Brightmoon is considering surrender to the Horde to protect the captured Princess Glimmer, that’s definitely a severe political defeat since Brightmoon is the leader of the Princess Alliance, and we know from the previous episode that Brightmoon is the single largest and most powerful princess realm, but it’s not really clear what other dominoes might fall as a more-or-less inevitable consequence of that defeat, the way the loss of the Earth Kingdom plainly spells doom for the entire world of Avatar. If Brightmoon surrenders, is Plumeria’s or Salineas’ position untenable?

I’ve had a bunch of nitpicky complaints in this post, so I’m gonna try and level things out with some things I loved about the first season of She-Ra:

-Swiftwind is amazing every time he shows up, even when he’s just a regular horse.

-I love the magical girl transformation sequence they have for She-Ra. They’re good about not using it so often that it loses its impact, too.

-Entrapta’s “hack the planet” line made me laugh. It took me offguard while making perfect sense with her personality and the conversation up to that point, it was great.

-The characters in general are all so much fun to watch. Princess Mermista’s too-cool-for-school routine is fun, particularly from a side character who doesn’t show up often enough for it to become grating, and the same with Princess Entrapta’s geeking out about First Ones tech and robots and stuff. Bow and Glimmer’s more excitable and fun personalities make a great contrast to Adora’s focused determination.

-The princess prom was fun. It was cute how Adora was preparing for it like some combination of a school test and a war, and I really liked the prom outfits for all the characters.

-In general, all the times Adora’s past with the Horde affects her present behavior and makes her a little dysfunctional are fun. It’s nice to see that being raised by a totalitarian military dictatorship doesn’t just inform her relationship with Catra and other dramatic moments, it also bleeds into things like how she only knows how to relax by hitting things. Her occasional moments of childlike wonder at princess-y things is so delightful.

-Catra and Adora’s episode in the Fortress of Solitude was fantastic.

-The reversals in the final battle where the heroes are fending off one attack after another and slowly getting worn down until all hope seems lost, only for one final reversal to save the day with the power of friendship is a paint-by-numbers way to run a final battle and I do not care, I am here for it and I loved She-Ra’s first season finale.

2019 Was A Good Year For Movies

2019 was by no means immune to having bad movies – Disney live action remakes continue to exist, in defiance of even the basest standard of human decency – but we also got several really good films in the last year. Joker and 1917 stand out as movies that have worked their way into my top five, reminding me in a good way of Inception and Gravity, two films which have (evidently) stuck in my head for 7+ years. Avengers: Endgame is more of a popcorn film, but it was a satisfying finale to a decade-spanning cinematic megaproject, ambitious for its sheer scale even if not for the specific notes it tried to hit. Knives Out proves once and for all that Rian Johnson isn’t bad at making movies, he just hates Star Wars, JJ Abrams, or both.

Movies like Detective Pikachu, Spider-Man: Far From Home, the Lego Movie 2, and Toy Story 4, which could’ve been solid contenders for second best film of the year in most other years, are instead fighting each other to even make it into my top five of 2019. This checks out for 2017, where they’d be fighting Wonder Woman, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Lego Batman, and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 for second place behind Logan, 2016, where they’d be fighting Rogue One, Captain America: Civil War, and Zootopia for first (although I never did see Hacksaw Ridge), and 2015, where Inside Out and Mad Max: Fury Road are fighting for first, the Martian has third locked down, but any of the 2019 also-rans could’ve  pretty solidly beat the fourth-place contenders out of the top five, like Age of Ultron and Ant Man. Funny enough, 2018 was also more crowded with good top five contenders, giving us all of Black Panther, Into the Spider-Verse, and Infinity War, but while these can all soundly trounce 2019’s also-rans, they compare less well against 2019’s own best movies. Particularly, the Infinity War vs. Endgame comparison isn’t kind to Infinity War.

This isn’t changing the world of cinema forever or anything. Film historians aren’t going to look back at 2019 and say “we’ll never have another year like that again.” If you could find a way to chart movie good-ness by year, 2019 would probably show up as noticeably above the trendline, but probably not as some massive, unprecedented spike. For starters, I already mentioned that 2018 holds up a pretty tough fight, and I only checked back to 2015. I’d be very surprised if you didn’t get a year about as good as 2019 once every decade-ish. But still, 2019 is the best year we’ve had for movies in a while.

Of course, about half the legs on this thesis can be knocked out if 1917 is actually a 2020 release. I’m counting it as a 2019 movie because both its worldwide premier and its American release were December, but there were other nations that got it in 2020, so you could list it as a 2020 film and that wouldn’t be inaccurate either. Joker is still a stand-out movie, but lots of years have stand-out movies. I still think 2019 is above par even without the one-two punch of both Joker and 1917, but it’s definitely less decisive if it has to ride more on Endgame (which is itself riding on every Marvel movie that came before it) and a slightly bigger crop of good second-place contenders to fill out its top five.

You’ve also probably noticed that I don’t watch all movies, or even all good movies, and there’s some good 2019 movies that I haven’t listed. But, like, there’s also movies from the other years that I’ve heard good things about but did not actually see, and that a good deal of my thesis rests on two absolutely fantastic movies coming out in the same year, so I’m reasonably confident my thesis is going to hold even on closer examination.

Office Space

I’m super short on time lately. Not, like, “I don’t even have ten minutes spare,” but definitely to the point where getting an hour or two spare is getting very difficult. So I wanted to watch Office Space, a classic movie that came out when I was seven and which I still haven’t seen, realized that this was going to occupy the time I usually have for reading Conan the Indomitable for a blog post, and decided hey, I could write a blog post about Office Space instead, Conan will still be there tomorrow.

So Office Space is a 1999 movie about a guy who works at a generic 90s tech company and they’re bringing in some consultants to figure out who to fire. Our protagonist hates his job because his job is mired in pointless bureaucracy. He has eight bosses (the movie does not, unfortunately, then require him to traverse the grass world, desert world, ocean world, ice world, lava world circuit to kill them all), and they only ever talk to him about getting the right cover on TPS reports. The plot starts when Jimmy Protagonist’s girlfriend brings him to a hypnotherapist, who hypnotizes him into forgetting all his worries, and then has a heart attack before he can break the trance, putting Jimmy in a completely relaxed state permanently (hypnosis doesn’t actually work this way, incidentally, the trance wears off in like an hour if it’s not maintained, but it’s the premise of the movie, so we’ll roll with it). As a result, he barely comes into work, does basically nothing while he’s there, but the consultants absolutely love him and convince one of his bosses to give him a promotion while firing his two friends, who have actually been showing up to work. This snaps him out of the trance and leads to a scheme to steal money from the company. Hilarity ensues when the scheme goes wrong and the three risk getting caught, until an entirely unrelated disgruntled employee burns the building down, destroying all the evidence that a crime ever occurred and, through an unlikely coincidence, ends up with all the stolen money. The weird thing is the smoothness of the switch from a movie about a guy hypnotized out of all his work worries to a movie about a guy stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from his abusive workplace.

Despite being the origin of the “that’d be real great” meme and the two Bobs brought in to consult being parodied in multiple places across the internet, Office Space is weirdly lacking in real laugh out loud moments or quotable lines. What it has is a really good sense of atmosphere. Just like the drudgery of the terrible workplace it’s making fun of, the comedy of Office Space accumulates over time, coming together to form an experience far stronger than any of its individual moments. No one moment of the abuse heaped up on the eventual arsonist is particularly hilarious, but as a running gag spaced across the entire movie, it’s great. The whole “that’d be real great” line from the movie isn’t really funny and I don’t know how it turned into a meme, but as one part of the terrible boss performance that stretches across the whole movie, it works.

I ended up liking Office Space better than movies which actually made me laugh, even though it didn’t. Funny thing is, I don’t think Office Space is really that much better of a movie than the rest, I just think it’s different enough that I’d rather have one Office Space than one more Groundhog Day or Anchorman or whatever. It kind of reminds me of how Simpsons jokes were, back in the days when they were actually good, structured such that it was impossible to stick a laugh track on, because the joke had multi-layered punchlines where one punchline serves as the setup for the next, chained together three or four times. Office Space is that, but with each joke spaced out over a 90 minute movie, all running in parallel.