Fistfights with keynote speakers. Award dinners interrupted by nude wrestling matches. Incentive trips turned murder scenes. Whether it’s a romantic comedy, an action flick, or a TV reality show featuring the Donald, film and television have portrayed meetings in a way that’s anything but … well, dull.
Roll the Credits...
ON THE BIG SCREEN
- Young Frankenstein (1974)
- The Man With Two Brains (1983)
- The Fugitive (1993)
- The Conversation (1974)
- The Electric Horseman (1979)
- Intolerable Cruelty (2003)
- Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)
- Reno 911: Miami: The Movie (2007)
- Columbo: “Troubled Waters” (1975)
- The Apprentice, April 2, 2004
- The Office: “The Convention” (2006)
- Scrubs: “My Conventional Wisdom” (2007)
Young Frankenstein (1974)
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (that’s Fronkenstein!), takes up where his kooky grandfather left off and reanimates his dead creation. Unfortunately, his incompetent assistant Igor (that’s eye-gor, played by Marty Feldman) finds the wrong brain for the soon-to-be resurrected creature (Peter Boyle), and Frederick (Gene Wilder) finds that he has created a monster.
Frederick rehabilitates the monster—somewhat—and shows him off at a meeting of the Rumanian Neurological Society, where the two sing and dance to Putting on the Ritz. Everything goes to hell, though, when a light bulb explodes, causing a small fire—enraging the monster, disrupting the dance routine, and disappointing the audience, which then pelts the monster with lettuce, tomatoes, and other vegetables.
The Man with Two Brains (1983)
It seemed that things couldn’t be better for Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr (Steve Martin). As he explains to a newspaper reporter, he’s at the top of his profession—“My brilliant research in brain transplantation is unsurpassed and will probably make my name live beyond eternity”—and he has just married beautiful Dolores Benedict (Kathleen Turner). Unfortunately for Dr. Hfuhruhurr, his new wife is a black widow who drives her rich husbands into early graves. Her chosen method in this case? Withholding marital favors with the aim of inducing a stroke in her sexually frustrated husband.
Hoping to jump-start his marriage, Dr. Hfuhruhurr decides to take his wife with him to a meeting of the Austrian Institute of Craniology in Vienna, where he plans to speak on his theory of brain transplantation.
When he gets to the meeting, he prefaces his demonstration with a shocking declaration: “Ladies and gentlemen, I can envision a day when the brains of brilliant men can be kept alive in the bodies of dumb people.” But the demonstration is aborted when, while performing his groundbreaking “cranial screw top method” of brain surgery on a cadaver, he ends up pulling a bunch of lemons out of the cadaver’s skull instead of a brain. It seems someone has been stealing the brains of Vienna.
Dr. Richard Kimble, a respected Chicago surgeon, is charged and convicted for the murder of his wife, a crime he says was committed by a one-armed man.
After a death-defying escape from prison, Kimble (Harrison Ford) returns to Chicago to find the one-armed man, Frederick Sykes (Andreas Katsulas), and prove his innocence. He discovers a shady connection between Sykes and a pharmaceutical company that has just developed a wonder drug called Provasic, which Kimble suspects causes liver disease.
Kimble’s search for the truth leads him to a hotel where the man who is really behind his wife’s murder is about to give the keynote address at a meeting of the pharmaceutical company.
Kimble gives new meaning to the idea of interactive meetings by crashing the gathering, walking up to the podium, challenging the speaker, and escorting him out of the ballroom, after which the two men go from point to point in the hotel, beating each other into bloody pulps in the process.
The Conversation (1974)
Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) is a professional surveillance expert who has been hired by “the director” of some nameless organization to record the private conversation of a young man and woman in San Francisco’s Union Square.
In the course of listening to the conversation, Harry begins to believe the couple is in danger, a feeling exacerbated by his guilt over three deaths that were a result of information he provided. Harry’s misgivings seem to be confirmed when he has a nasty confrontation with Martin Stett (Harrison Ford), an assistant to the director.
Harry then attends a convention of surveillance experts and security technicians in the St. Francis Hotel. Aisles of exhibit booths advertise the latest security, enforcement, communication, and detection devices. One enthusiastic marketer hawks the latest LT 500 model: “This Is the One That Does It All!” While inspecting a video system, Harry sees Martin Stett on the video screen, and later encounters him in the hotel. The spy is being spied upon.
The Electric Horseman (1979)
Robert Redford is Norman “Sonny” Steele, a five-time All-Around World Champion cowboy who, now past his prime and often boozed up, is flacking “Ranch Cereal” for giant corporation Ampco. Sonny, along with prize racehorse Rising Star, have been brought to Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas to add sparkle to a corporate convention.
While there, Sonny becomes so offended by the treatment of the horse—it’s being drugged by Ampco employees so it can safely appear with a bunch of Las Vegas dancing girls—that he steals the horse and rides out of Caesar’s Palace (through the casino) and Las Vegas and into the wilderness (along with news reporter Alice “Hallie” Martin, played by Jane Fonda) to set the horse free.
Intolerable Cruelty (2003)
George Clooney plays Miles Massey, a celebrated divorce lawyer (and author of the “Massey Pre-Nup”), who successfully represents millionaire Rex Rexroth in divorce proceedings against his wife, Marylin (Catherine Zeta-Jones), leaving her with nothing. Marylin wants revenge.
Soon, Marylin shows up at Massey’s office with a new fiancé, millionaire Howard Doyle (Billy Bob Thornton). She signs the Massey Pre-Nup and invites Miles to their wedding. During the ceremony, Howard rips up the pre-nup and eats it to demonstrate his love. But the marriage ends in divorce, making Marylin a rich woman.
Marylin meets up with Miles at a convention of NOMAN (the National Organization of Marital Attorneys Nationwide) at Caesar’s Palace, where they impulsively get married, ripping up their own pre-nup in the process. Instead of delivering the convention’s keynote address as planned, a chastened Miles tells the conventioneers he is giving up his divorce practice in order to do pro bono work in East Los Angeles.
But while celebrating his life-changing decision, Miles discovers that Howard Doyle is actually an actor, that Marylin is broke, and that by ripping up the prenuptial agreement he has left his wealth fatally exposed.
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)
Borat Sagdiyev (Sacha Baron Cohen) has been sent to the U.S. by the Kazakh Ministry of Information to get a better understanding of American culture. While channel surfing in his New York hotel, he comes across an old episode of Baywatch and, taken with Pamela Anderson, heads for the West Coast to meet—and marry—her.
Along the way, a number of bizarre encounters occur. At the end of the movie, and for no apparent reason, Borat and Azimat, his producer, engage in a nude wrestling match, trash their hotel room, chase each other through halls, and finally crash an insurance adjustors’ meeting, which quickly deteriorates into pure anarchy.
Reno 911: Miami: The Movie (2007)
As the film begins, eight members of a dysfunctional law enforcement organization have received an invitation:
Lt. Jim Dangle: “Guess what, guys? We have been invited to the American Police Convention in Miami Beach! Three days of fun in the sun.”
Deputy Travis Junior: “Why did they invite us?”
Dangle: “They invited us this year because … they invited everybody.”
Junior: “I’ll take it!”
When the department finally gets to Miami Beach, they discover that convention officials have no record of their registrations and refuse to give them their lanyards or hotel room keys. After finding rooms in a sleazy motel, they head back to the convention center, only to find the building quarantined, with thousands of police officials inside, because of a bioterrorism attack. That leaves the Reno Sheriff’s Department as the “only thing standing between complete chaos and order.”
Columbo: “Troubled Waters” (1975)
Lt. Columbo’s wife wins a raffle with a Mexican cruise as the prize. Well, we know that where Columbo (Peter Falk) goes, murder is sure to follow. This time the prime suspect is Hayden Danziger (played by Robert Vaughn), a wealthy car magnate who is accompanying his 104 dealers—and “their ladies”—on an incentive trip. He’s also carrying on an affair with a lounge singer on the ship, who he shoots to death after she threatens to blackmail him. Despite a debilitating case of seasickness, Columbo—raincoat and all—is put on the case.
While a murderer, Danziger is also a solicitous host who is determined his dealers will have a good time on the cruise. He begins to assist Columbo in his investigation when Columbo suggests that with Danziger’s help, he won’t have to disturb any of his dealers. Being that close to Columbo is never a good idea for a murderer, and with a feather and a pair of surgical gloves for clues, Columbo brings Danziger’s incentive to an unhappy end.
The ship used for this Columbo episode was Princess Cruises’ Sun Princess, which has since been renamed the New Flamenco and is operated by Cruise Elysia.
The Apprentice, April 2, 2004
Two teams of wannabee apprentices are charged with renting out the 90th floor penthouse of the Trump World Tower to the highest bidder for a one-time event. The stars of the episode? Jaclyn Bernstein, DMCP, and Rob Hulsmeyer, CSEP, DMCP, CMP, co-owners of Empire Force Events, New York, who, after two visits to the venue, were featured on camera negotiating with one of the teams for the right to rent the penthouse.
Despite a bid of $35,001, Bernstein and Hulsmeyer lost out to a wedding planner’s $40,000 bid. But the promotional value of their 15 minutes of fame was priceless. “Now I tell my potential clients,” says Bernstein, “if Donald Trump and his apprentices wanted me, so should you.”
The Office: “The Convention” (2006)
Michael (Steve Carell) attends a ³booze-fueled sex romp² aka the Northeastern Mid Market Office Supply Convention in Philadelphia, where he accumulates a lot of SWAG (Stuff We All Get), gets caught up in a competition with the manager of his company¹s Stamford office, and holds a party to which no one comes.
Scrubs: “My Conventional Wisdom” (2007)
With his on again/off again relationship with Elliott in the off-again mode, J.D. has the blues. As a remedy, Turk convinces J.D. to accompany him to a surgical conference in Phoenix. While walking the show floor, the two are confronted by their chief of medicine, Dr. Kelso.
Kelso: And what the hell have you two been doing?
J.D. and Turk: You know, convention stuff.
Kelso: Look, just because I get to spend the weekend drinking with the guys and overpaying the escorts so they¹ll do the weird stuff, doesn't mean you two get to screw around. Attend some lectures. Visit some booths. Act likeprofessionals, damn it!
So they attend a lecture, which happens to be given by Dr. Kim Briggs, anex-girlfriend of J.D., and things suddenly get more complicated.