Saturday, December 10, 2005

Special Edition Showdown: Office Space v. Big Lebowski, Part Two

The second in a two-part review of late 90's cult classics ends with a look at the Office Space: Special Edition With Flair! Box Set. Click here for my review of The Big Lebowski: Achievers Edition Box Set.

I love Office Space, and a majority of my friends and I have been entertained over the past 6 years or so with the Mike Judge satire about life in the cubical jungle. I'm hard pressed to think of even a casual acquaintance aged in their 20's who hasn't added a Lumberghesque "...yeaaaaahhhh..." into conversation at some point. The cultural saturation of this film speaks volumes about the power of "word of mouth" advertising. Even the Swingline stapler company was wise enough to sate the demand of the movie's savvy fan-base and create a red version of their beloved office supply; it also happens to be their number one seller. So, it's no surprise then that the regular ol' widescreen or *gasp* fullscreen versions of the film on DVD were not good enough for those needing a fix of the adventures of Peter Gibbons and the rest of the crew from Initech. Enter the Office Space: Special Edition With Flair! Box Set.

This box set is only available from Best Buy, which sucks. Something this good should be available to retailers of all sizes, but evidently the Big Blue Box just didn't feel like sharing. However, this is where the bad news ends.

The box contains the best swag in both form and function, and a DVD that sports a remastered film with deleted scenes, a hilarious documentary, downloadable soundbites from the film, and the original theatrical trailer.

The box itself is a little bit flimsy for my taste, (glorified paperboard), and is modeled after a worn-in filing cabinet. Once opened, the box reveals the film-themed goodies, such as a coffee mug with Lumbergh on it and the Office Space logo, a magnet that is styled after Post-It notes that can be hollowed out to place a personal picture, a pen and pencil set, an Initech notepad for your important TPS reports, a Chotchkie's-themed mousepad with pins showing the films characters, and the all important "red stapler" that you should hide from your evil boss. I'd say the only things missing are a "Jump To Conclusions" game and a million dollars. All the items are of good quality, and are more than suitable for repeat usage. This set is a very satisfying collection of items that is more than justifiable for purchase by a die-hard fan.

The DVD is also a welcome upgrade from the rather sparse initial release. The 8 deleted scenes give a few new twists to the story, and while all of them are funny, it's easy to see how they found their way to the cutting room floor. I'm especially glad that one scene depicting Lumbergh as Peter Gibbons new construction crew boss was dropped; it would just give me a sick feeling to have the film end like that. The retrospective documentary is worth the price of the DVD alone. Writer/Director Mike Judge encapsulates the birth of the "Milton" animated short and it's creation into a full-blown feature. Nearly all the cast (save for Diedrich Bader (Lawerence) and Richard Riehle (Smykowski) ) return to relate their time on the set and how they developed the motivation for their characters. The theatrical trailer is here, too, as is a DVD-ROM feature for peeps who have active 'net connections who want to download high quality soundbites from the film.

This set is a veritable treasure trove of goodies for Office Space fanatics, and the best part is that it only costs $21.99. Yep, you're reading that correctly, $21.99. This sort of set shows The Big Lebowski box set for what it really is; a total rip-off. Office Space: Special Edition With Flair! Box Set dominates this competition and wins hands-down.

Greymatter's Report Card: Office Space SE: With Flair!
SE DVD: Film - A
Features - B+
Box Set: Design - C+
Content - A

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Story Of The Coolest Christmas Song

I'm a fan of Christmas music. Call me lame, sentimental, or devoid of taste, but I don't care. There's something about "the season," and I love listening to the celebratory tunes.

The undeniably coolest Christmas collaboration of all time belongs to David Bowie and Bing Crosby. Their composition, "Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy" was a meeting of cultural icons who stood at the crossroads; Bowie a musical visionary of burgeoning fame and Crosby enjoying one last go-round before his good-bye.

Yes, one of the more surreal moments in pop music history took place Sept. 11, 1977, when the leading American pop star of the first half of the Twentieth Century met and performed with one of the more innovative rock 'n' rollers of the last half of the Century. Bing was in London on a concert tour and to tape his yearly TV Christmas special. It was Bing's idea that he should have as a guest on his TV show a young star. Someone suggested David Bowie. Bing had never heard of Bowie, but his kids had, and so an invitation was sent to the rock star. Bowie, as it turned out, was a secret fan of Der Bingle and jumped at the chance to perform with him.

Bing's idea was that he and Bowie would perform "The Little Drummer Boy" as a duet. Bowie felt the song did not showcase his voice very well, so the writers added "Peace on Earth," which suited Bowie's voice quite well. The two musical spokesmen of different generations met for the first time on the morning of the taping, rehearsed for an hour and finished their duet in only three takes. Bing was impressed with Bowie, and gave him his phone number at the end of the taping. Bing told an interviewer four days later that he considered Bowie "a clean cut kid and a real fine asset to the show. He sings well, has a great voice and reads lines well. He could be a good actor if he wanted."

Bing died a month later, and the public did not see their performance until after his death. The duet generated much interest, and was excerpted to become a perennial TV music video, a best-selling 45-rpm single and, eventually, a computer CD-ROM. Some viewed the joint performance of Bing and Bowie as a symbol of the end of the intergenerational wars of the 1960s and '70s. In 1999 TV Guide chose the duet as one of the 25 best musical television moments of the century (June 5 issue).

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