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Accountants' exciting lives -- on film

Ah, summer! It's heaven for film fans. Every weekend, a blockbuster, generally with a comic book hero, premieres on movie screens nationwide.

But, according to an article in today's New York Times, many film goers likely will overlook an exciting and entertaining genre, the accountancy movie.

We're all very aware of the role accountants play in getting movies made in the first place. But the bean counting and associated tax connections extend beyond the studio ledgers.

In recent months, the tax troubles of actors (Paul Hogan, Wesley Snipes, Nicolas Cage, Will Smith) have been well publicized. Then there was the IRS interest in the award ceremony swag bags. And many states are offering tax breaks to get film crews, with their associated boosts to local economies, to set up cameras within their borders.

And now on the big screen itself, Joe Queenan notes that we're getting accountants as protagonists in exciting flicks, albeit mostly from European movie makers. If you're willing to read subtitles, then you can settle in with your Coke and popcorn and enjoy celluloid accountants who are, in Queenan's words, "directly in the eye of the dramatic storm."

Toting up acting accountants: In his article The Discreet Charms of Accountancy, Queenan most closely examines four relatively recent foreign films: Yella, The Dinner Game, The Closet and Intimate Strangers.

But he also references, usually disdainfully, American "accountancy" movies with cinematic connections, sometimes tenuous, to CPAs, bookkeepers, auditors and Treasury and/or IRS agents. They include:

  • midnight_run_dvdDave
  • Same Time Next Year
  • The Producers
  • Moonstruck
  • Casino Royale
  • Ghostbusters
  • Midnight Run
  • Hitch
  • Exotica
  • The Royal Tenenbaums
  • She-Devil
  • Ghostbusters
  • Hannah and Her Sisters
  • Lethal Weapon IV
  • Schindler's List

And, of course, there's The Untouchables. In addition to being one of my favorites films, it's one of the movies that taught me an indispensable money message, as noted in my story Lights! Camera! Money!

More money movies: Queenan's accounting of accountancy films is good, but not all-inclusive. That would take too long to track down and would make his story much too dense, putting it in the wordy realm of the ever-growing tax code.

But I did want to point out a couple unmentioned accountancy films, or ones in which accountants and/or tax issues played a role, that I think deserve recognition: Before the Devil Knows You're Dead and Stranger Than Fiction.

And The Classic Film Guide presents a list of 10 movies about taxes or the IRS.

Looking at all these titles, some very good; other's not so much, one thing is clear. There's a film festival out there and surely one of the Big Four could spare a few bucks to sponsor it.


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