Frank's Faves: Career movies

Frank's Faves: Career movies

"Don't ever let somebody tell you you can't do something, not even me. All right? You dream, you gotta protect it. People can't do something themselves, they wanna tell you you can't do it. If you want something, go get it. Period." — Will Smith in "The Pursuit of Happyness"

You remember Victoria, right?

If you've been reading this column long enough, you might recall a granddaughter I've mentioned a few times over the years — from her first newspaper assignment at age 4 as my co-correspondent braving the animal-rights protesters outside what was then known as the Assembly Hall to cover a performance of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, to her most recent appearance in this particular column last summer as the source of an idea for a list of favorite movies with bad titles. And yes, as I've also said before, I have a dozen or so grandkids and great-grandkids with whom I do my level best not to play favorites.

But as it's also true that ALL of my grandkids and great-grandkids are my favorites, each knows they are special to their grandparents in ways different and unique to each of their individual personalities.

So it is that Victoria is unique among my grandkids in that she's the only one who actually likes it when I write about her enough that she asks me to do so again.

And in this case, yet again.

You see, Victoria will be tossing her tassel next Tuesday with the rest of Champaign Central High's graduating Class of 2019, and what do you suppose she asked from me for her graduation gift?

A new iPhone? A new sports car? Caribbean cruise tickets? Thank God, none of the above.

Victoria asked only that I write about her.

Yeah, I can do that. Only trouble is, I wrote about my favorite graduation movies a year ago this month, so have already burned the obvious topic for Victoria's graduation faves list. But does that mean I'm at a loss for faves when my granddaughter has done me the honor of requesting some?

Of course not.

Naturally, the favorite graduation movies I served up last year and the advice I gave grads then certainly apply to this situation and this year's graduates — Victoria and her classmates included — just as they did for last year's, and I encourage you, and her, to revisit them by clicking the included links.

But this occasion calls for something special, and like Victoria — who was so inspired by her first journalism assignment to suggest then that the two of us run off and join the circus that very night — I, too, am looking forward to the career opportunities open before her and her fellow graduates this commencement season.

In Victoria's case, she's planning on a career in law enforcement, having first shown an aptitude for it as a middle-schooler during a summer CSI course offered by the Champaign Police Department, which then blossomed when she got into the CPD's Explorers program while in high school (and take it from her instructors, you don't want to ask her to demonstrate her takedown moves).

But rather than risk either jinxing her or outright discouraging her with a list of rookies-in-training flicks along the lines of my favorite "Police Academy" movies (I'll save that for her NEXT graduation), I prefer to focus on all the opportunities as well as the challenges awaiting her and the Class of 2019 in whatever future careers they pursue. Entering the working world as a young adult (or even as a terrified teen) is a daunting proposition we all face at some point, and there are plenty of lessons those of us who have been through that ringer can impart to help ease their way. Not that they won't have to learn many of the hardest lessons for themselves, but so did the characters in the following faves, each of whom managed to rise to the challenge simply by realizing they're not in it alone.

So here's to you, Class of 2019, and of course, to you, Victoria. You've already made us proud. Now go do some world shakin' like the heroes and heroines you are — and like the heroes and heroines in these faves hereby conferred the title of:


— "The Secret of My Success" (1987). Michael J. Fox was at the peak of his boyishly charming comic powers — and halfway between his breakout role in the box-office smash "Back to the Future" and its somewhat less successful sequel — when he starred as a recent Kansas State graduate who moves to New York City for an entry-level position as a financier and winds up laid off before he even starts. He winds up in the mailroom of his uncle's company, and uses the position to learn the workings (and flaws) of the business, and eventually to occupy an empty office and create an alternate identity as a hotshot new executive. It's the dual roles he must then fill which form the basis of the film's slapstick-style comedy, but its lesson is clear: All you have to do is the work of two people and master a split personality, and you will go far. As the movie's theme song by Night Ranger says, "The secret of my success is I'm living 25 hours a day."

— "The Devil Wears Prada" (2006). I wouldn't wish Anne Hathaway's first job on anyone as assistant to high-fashion magazine editor and boss-from-hell Meryl Streep. But in learning to meet a tyrannical superior's unreasonable demands, she definitely learns a much bigger lesson in realizing when too much is too much. Cue Johnny Paycheck's "Take This Job and Shove It."

— "Working Girl" (1988). Melanie Griffith plays the ultimate secretary with moxie who gets even with her nasty boss (Sigourney Weaver) for stealing her business idea by impersonating her to land a major deal with investment broker Harrison Ford. And, of course, win his heart. The girl's a closer.

— "Wall Street" (1987). Charlie Sheen plays a junior stockbroker who manages to catch the eye of cutthroat corporate raider Michael Douglas and winds up his protege — as well as his pawn in some dirty dealings. The lesson in director Oliver Stone's morality play? Greed is not good. It's a self-destructive addiction. But it might just bring you an acting Oscar.

— "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" (1967). Sure, this musical comedy is somewhat dated today, but it's still an inspirational hoot to watch Robert Morse as the wonderfully named J. Pierrepont Finch follow the ethically questionable advice of the titular book in his calculated rise from window washer to chairman of the board of the World-Wide Wicket Company. I'm not sure what the lesson is here, other than: Don't be afraid to aim high. And have fun while you're at it!

BONUS: "9 To 5" (1980). Here's hoping none of our new grads winds up with a boss like Dabney Coleman, but whoever you wind up working for, this comedy starring the terrific trio of Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton offers a hilarious revenge fantasy that's still as rapier sharp today as it was nearly 40 years ago. And its theme song is still just as catchy.

Topics (1):Film