retail news in context, analysis with attitude

There is an interesting piece in the Wall Street Journal this morning about how one of Hollywood’s favorite villains is Business - whatever “Business” means. “This may be a nation that likes to see itself as built on free enterprise and self-made pluck,” the Journal writes, “but when it comes to the movies, it gets shady boardrooms, cigar smoke and unadulterated greed.”

Think Gordon Gekko in Wall Street. Think Citizen Kane. Think Glengarry Glen Ross. Barbarians At The Gate. Up In The Air. The list goes on and on.

And it isn’t hard to imagine that in the current environment, with anti-business protests erupting all over the country, that the trend will only pick up momentum.

The Journal piece uses an upcoming film, Margin Call, which stars Kevin Spacey, Demi Moore, Zachary Quinto, Stanley Tucci and Jeremy Irons, as an outlier among this bunch - a “low-budget movie with a high-powered cast, its Wall Street characters are flawed, cynical—but, for once, actually human.” The film may be distinguished by its intention - to suggest that the business world is not black and white, and that human motivations are usually complicated, not simplistic.

We’ll see if Margin Call delivers on the promise and actually is a good movie, but the premise of the Journal story is one that, not surprisingly, Michael Sansolo and I would agree with wholeheartedly. After all, we think that the movies can be a wonderful source of business wisdom, and even wrote a book about it - “The Big Picture: Essential Business lessons from the Movies.”

Coincidentally, we actually have been planning for some months now to do something about the typical hollywood view of business ... and now seems like as good a time as any to announce it.

Michael and I are pleased to announce the First Annual Bizzie Awards - which will be given out to movies released in 2011 that offer an accurate depiction of business and also provide lessons that other businesses can learn from. Our goal is to announce and hand out the awards in early 2012, since we’ll be doing a lot of moviegoing during the month of December, which is usually when all the prestige movies are released.

There won’t be specific categories - there may be a character that appeals to us, or a plot line, or just a general thematic approach. We don;t want to be hemmed in by traditional thinking, and so we’re going to be as flexible as possible in making our assessments.

And...we’re taking nominations from the MNB community. If you have a movie that you love from 2011 that you believe fits our somewhat loose criteria, please send me an email, nominate it and tell us why. I’ll be honest - this isn’t a democracy, and Michael and I will be making the final decisions. But we will take the nominations seriously, and will keep the emails in a sealed mayonnaise jar on Funk & Wagnall’s porch, just to maintain the integrity of the process. (If you are too young to get this last reference, do us a favor and keep it to yourself.)

Our goal is to give the Bizzie Award to six 2011 movies - Michael will name three, and I’ll name three. In addition, we’ll be giving a “Classic Bizzie” award to one older movie that we think deserves it, and there also will be a “Bizzie Lifetime Achievement” award given to one filmmaker. (We also think that there will be two “Tin Bizzie” awards given to 2011 movies that got business absolutely, totally wrong.)

So, send us your nominations ... give us your reasons and rationale ... and we’ll see you at the movies.

If business is one of Hollywood’s favorite villains, the corruption of politics is also a favorite theme - movies such as The Best Man, The Candidate, and Wag The Dog have all turned this subject, to varying degrees, into interesting and absorbing movies.

The genre gets a new entry this month with The Ides Of March, which focuses on the inner workings of a campaign on the weeks leading up to the Ohio Democratic primary.

George Clooney plays the almost-too-good-to-be-true candidate, a liberal governor angling for the nomination with the help of Ryan Gosling as a campaign aide and Phillip Seymour Hoffman as his campaign manager. It is an engaging movie - nicely directed by Clooney, who continues to make intriguing career choices - that endeavors to probe the difference between real belief and political strategy.

The power of the film is in its performances; Clooney’s strength as a director is in casting great actors and giving them room to explore their characters. In addition to Gosling and Hoffman, there also is a nice turn by Paul Giamatti as a rival campaign manager, and Marisa Tomei as a New York Times reporter. And Clooney himself, an outspoken liberal, does not spare the rod when it comes to his own character.

The Ides Of March is a very good movie - smart, savvy and worth seeing.

We’ve been having Indian Summer weather here in the Northeast, so I have a couple of refreshing white wines for you this week:

• the 2010 Prendo Pinot Grigio Vignetti Delle Dolomiti.

the 2009 Ceretto Blange.

Both are wonderful. Enjoy.

That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you on Monday.

(I’ll be reporting next week from the Pacific Northwest, where I’m heading to do “The Innovation Conversation” with Tom Furphy at Portland State University’s annual Food Industry Leadership Center conference ... to moderate a panel discussion at the Network of Executive Women (NEW) event, and teach a class at Portland State. it’s gonna be a great week...!)

KC's View: