Ben Affleck plays the title role in the thriller The Accountant. “Like, a CPA accountant?” asks a Treasury Department worker. “Not quite,” replies agent Ray King (J. K. Simmons) in what might be the understatement of the year.
Affleck is a pocket-protector-wearing forensic accountant who “risks his life cooking the books for some of the scariest people on the planet; drug cartels, arms brokers, money launderers, assassins.” An autistic math genius with a violent side, he survives his dangerous world through dual facilities for math and mayhem.
“He’s a very distinct and unusual character,” Affleck told Entertainment Weekly. “A little bit different than your average, everyday person in the way he processes information and social thinking, and the way he sees numbers and logic, and that he’s trapped a little bit in his own mind.”
Affleck joins a long list of actors who have looked for loopholes, legal, financial and otherwise, on the big screen.
The late, great Gene Wilder became a star playing bookkeeper Leo Bloom in The Producers. “I spend my life counting other people’s money. People I’m smarter than.” It’s Bloom who comes up with the get rich quick scheme to mount a terrible Broadway musical and make off with the investor’s cash when the show flops. His plan falls apart when Springtime for Hitler becomes a hit but his business partner still has good things to say. “You’re an accountant,” raves Max Bialystock. “You’re in a noble profession! The word ‘count’ is part of your title!”
Rick Moranis played Louis Tully, an accountant possessed by an ancient spirit in Ghostbusters. Before he goes all supernatural Louis throws a bash to celebrate his fourth anniversary as an auditor at his swanky Central Park West apartment. “I’m givin’ this whole thing as a promotional expense,” he says, “that’s why I invited clients instead of friends.” The scene was shot in one continuous take with Moranis making his way through the party, improvising perfectly nerdy CPA dialogue—“This is real smoked salmon from Nova Scotia, Canada, $24.95 a pound! It only cost me $14.12 after tax, though.”—throughout.
In The Untouchables Charles Martin Smith plays Oscar Wallace, the bespectacled book balancer who puts together the tax evasion case against notorious mobster Al Capone. The character was largely based on Frank Wilson, the IRS Criminal Investigator who spent years keeping tabs on Capone’s financial dealings before laying charges. A self-penned article on his exploits, He Trapped Capone, inspired the 1949 Glenn Ford film The Undercover Man.
Cher initially turned down the Oscar winning role of Loretta Castorini, the widowed accountant in Moonstruck who falls for a one-handed baker. Though exhausted from one of the busiest years of her career, she ultimately took the part, showing up on set just one day after wrapping The Witches of Eastwick. When Moonstruck was done she took a week off before shooting the courtroom drama Suspect. The singer-turned-actress later called making the film, “too silly, too much fun to be work,” and became only the second female performer, alongside Barbra Streisand, to have a #1 hit and an Oscar.
Bloom, Tully, Wallace and Castorini are reel life bookkeepers, but in real life several actors almost chose figures over fame. Bob Newhart worked the ledger books for United States Gypsum and Eddie Izzard studied accountancy at the University of Sheffield.
The name Tommy Tedesco is likely unfamiliar to you, but if you have played air guitar sometime in the last fifty years, chances are you have mimed to at least one of his guitar licks.
Tedesco was one of the guitar players of an unofficial group of musicians known as the Wrecking Crew, the session band who played on records by everyone from the Byrds to Cher and Nancy and Frank Sinatra to the Beach Boys, the Monkees, and Captain and Tennille.
In “Wrecking Crew” Tedesco’s son, filmmaker Denny Tedesco, has brought together many of the anonymous west coast players who provided much of the back beat of the 1960s and 70s.
It’s a personal project for Denny who spends a great deal of time reminiscing about his dad. We learn about how his father became the most recorded guitar player in history, some personal and studio stories and there is even a clip of Tommy on “The Gong Show,” wearing a pink tutu singing his satirical song “Requiem For A Studio Guitar Player.” “I used to be number one / Did all the work in this town / In the Fifties I was something / In the Sixties I was king / Now the Seventies come around and I will do anything…” It’s a funny moment that really speaks to the big picture story of The Wrecking Crew. They were the kings and queens of the Los Angeles music scene, hitmakers who worked round the clock and became millionaires until the work dried up as the singer-songwriter phase of the 1970s took hold.
Tedesco doesn’t focus on the post 70s careers of the players. Light and breezy, “Wrecking Crew” is as frothy as the music it details but he does mine some interesting biographical details about musicians like Hal Blaine, the genius drummer who went from millionaire to security guitar to working musician again, Carol Kaye, the lone female member of the band and Earl Palmer, a jazz drummer who played with everyone from Count Basie to Little Richard.
“Wrecking Crew” is a heartfelt and interesting peak into an unexplored part of our collective musical history and it has a good beat and you can dance to it.
I’d bet everyone has considered the idea of going back in time to fix a wrong or reconnect with a lost love. Of course, time travel doesn’t exist, but you wouldn’t know that from popular culture.
Cher wanted to turn back time and “take back those words that hurt you,” and on television Star Trek’s characters crossed time zones more often than a pilot’s Timex.
Time travel plays a role on the big screen as well and not just in hardcore sci-fi. This weekend’s The Time Traveler’s Wife is a science fiction romance, but the love story is foremost, the sci-fi second. Believe it or not, it’s not the only one. They’re not just motion pictures; call them emotion pictures.
In Kate & Leopold, Hugh Jackman plays a 19th century man who discovers a wormhole into 21st century New York, and also the heart of the very modern Meg Ryan. It’s a romance, but plays up on the whole fish-out-of-water situation as Leopold must try and come to grips with modern day customs.
“Are you suggesting, madam, that there exists a law compelling a gentleman to lay hold of canine bowel movements?”
Francis Ford Coppola’s Peggy Sue Got Married was played for laughs by stars Kathleen Turner and Nicolas Cage, but the underlying message is profound. Turner plays the title character, a 43-year-old woman on the brink of divorce from Charlie, her childhood sweetheart.
After fainting at her high school reunion, she awakens to find herself flung back in time; she’s returned to high school, but this time around she has a world of perspective under her belt.
“I am a grown woman with a lifetime of experience that you can’t understand,” she tells Charlie.
The humour in this underrated classic springs from real emotions. Roger Ebert summed it up when he described the time-bending first kiss between Peggy Sue and her future ex-husband.
“Imagine kissing someone for the first time,” he wrote, “after you have already kissed him or her for the last time.”
Such is the twisty-turny logic of time travel romance. Logic, however, really has no place in these stories.
The yearning to revisit the past is a romantic quest, a feeling based on emotional sentiment that defies reason.
As sci-fi writer George Alec Effinger wrote in The Bird of Time, “The past… is the home of romance.”
On a scale of 1 to Ridiculous, “Burlesque,” the new film starring dueling pop divas Cher and Christina Aguilera, it’s Rip Taylor. A glittery mix of “All About Eve,” “Striptease” and “42nd Street” it is for people who didn’t find “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” campy enough.
Xtina plays Allie, a small girl with a giant voice who leaves her Podunk Iowa town to find fame and fortune in Los Angeles. Then, in an explosion of glitter and cone bras, she lands a job as a waitress at Burlesque, a place with no windows, but the “Best View on the Sunset Strip.” It’s an old school burlesque house, seemingly inhabited by the spirit of Bob Fosse, on the verge of bankruptcy, currently being run into the ground by Tess (Cher) and Sean (Stanley Tucci). Christina, and her highly articulated vocalizing come along just in time to save the club, romance a handsome bartender (Cam Gigandet) and a multimillionaire (Eric Dane) and alienate the club’s reigning diva.
“Burlesque,” is essentially a vehicle for Christina’s vocal acrobatics. It hangs a recycled show biz story—girl from the sticks becomes a star in Los Angeles—on the elastic voice talents of its star. Less than five minutes into the story she’s on a stage bellowing a multi-octave cover of the Etta James classic “Something’s Got a Hold on Me.” If that sends a shiver down your spine, then “Burlesque” is for you. If not, it’s going to be a long two hours.
Only Cher and Stanley Tucci seem to understand what kind of movie this is. Only Cher could intone a line about helping a dancer when she was drunk and sick, throwing up “everything but your memories,” and walk away with her career intact. Ditto Tucci. He’s slumming here, but he sparks with Cher and seems to be having fun.
Which brings us to Aguilera. She can gyrate like nobody’s business and looks fetching in a sparkly bowler hat, but as energetic as the performance is it never rises above the level of a gifted amateur.
“Burlesque” isn’t trashy enough—remember “Showgirls”?—to be truly memorable. It has no story arc, no dramatic tension, just a lot of bump-and-grind. That’ll be enough for people with a taste for camp but like the art form it is named after the movie is all tease and no follow through.