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Planning: general Planners in movies

Cullen

Member
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33
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2
I was thinking about it last night, I can't really think of many times when there is a person in a movie who is doing something in the planning related field. I think this sort of thing can really influence the popularity and profile of planning as a profession, as well as the study of all the related disciplines.

I can think of the character in "singles" (the seattle film of the early 1990's) who was proposing a big train. Also, luke wilsons character in "old school" was a real estate lawyer, sorta close almost. Also, sunshine state is all about the land development process and its impact on a town and all that. A main character is a landscape architect, also sorta close almost. Wow I came up with three already, I guesss there are more than I expected.

What other movies can you think of that feature planners as main characters?
 
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We've explored this topic under the guise of planning-related movies.

In "Quick Change," Bill Murray's character worked at the NY City Planning Department (it wasn't clear to me if he was a planner or not, but the mere mention of the dept was enough for most of us).
 

Seabishop

Cyburbian
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3,838
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25
I don't know of any but I think you're right about its effect on the popularity of the profession. They say that the number of Archaelogy and Paleantology spiked after Raiders of the Lost Ark and Friends respectively.

The flip side would be a movie with an evil "pointy headed" planner (Gary Cole of Office Space) trying to take the hero's (Robin Williams) land.

A sample scene would go something like this with a bearded Robin Williams in a historic town hall, clutching a fistfull of dirt which seeps from between his fingers:

"Land! . . . This land . . . is all we have! Without this land we are nothing but dirt ourselves. The people of Elmdale have had enough. Mayor, is this what you want the children to remember? Will the sight of our children being forced from their homes be the legacy of Elmdale?" [applause]


I've written 550 pages so far today, does anyone have a good agent? ;)
 

otterpop

Cyburbian
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6,655
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28
The planning profession is definitely under-represented in film. Guess it could be attributed to our profession not having much in the way of car chases, explosions and rampant gunplay. Guess we cannot expect to see Arnold as "The Zoning Administrator." Or an exciting film play about long range planning - Harrison Ford is "The Long Ranger".

Don't expect to see a film where any of those dewy-eyed, breast-heaving starlets get their panties in a bunch over a mid-level, doughy planner pulling down a whopping $35,000 a year.

I had a friend who was a planner in San Francisco and he said he had a Hollywood-type who was looking for a good storyline to pitch to the moguls. The guy followed him around for a while and ask him lots of questions. But the guy lost interest pretty soon.

I do remember that on the TV show "thirty-something" they had a storyline where one of the women was dating a city planner.
 

nerudite

Cyburbian
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6,544
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30
What is even worse than being under-represented is when you are watching a good movie and they start talking about zoning in a way that you know is wrong in real life. Such as in 'Old School' where the single family house that they are renting was zoned for university uses and so they have to start a fraternity. In reality, the single family use would very likely be grandfathered or at the very least have a very long period for compliance.

I watched another movie recently with a city planner as a main character, but now I can't remember the name of the movie. Doh!
 

Belle

Cyburbian
Messages
142
Points
6
nerudite said:
What is even worse than being under-represented is when you are watching a good movie and they start talking about zoning in a way that you know is wrong in real life. Such as in 'Old School' where the single family house that they are renting was zoned for university uses and so they have to start a fraternity. In reality, the single family use would very likely be grandfathered or at the very least have a very long period for compliance.

Glad I wasn't the only person annoyed by that. I am such a nerd.

I wish there were more movies with planners, perhaps then we wouldn't get the blank stare or the "can you install a stoplight on my block?" when people ask us what we do.
 

Seabishop

Cyburbian
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3,838
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25
otterpop said:
The planning profession is definitely under-represented in film. Guess it could be attributed to our profession not having much in the way of car chases, explosions and rampant gunplay. . .

I don't know - some of people's stories on here would make an exciting movie. Donk's redneck animal threats, Pete Rock being chased by gangsters, lots of crazy site visits. Most professions are boring if you follow some average guy all day (like me).

As an offshoot, our housing inspectors have stories to tell about roaches and horrible half-dressed women that would sure make an interesting movie.
 

SkeLeton

Cyburbian
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4,853
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26
Seabishop, ANY movie involving ANY profession, can't show the dull parts of the job... unless you want to make a boring movie...:p

Cop movies never show the dull office work or boring night patrols with nothing interesting to show. So the lack of movies with planners as main characters isn't because the profession is boring... all jobs can be boring sometimes. In sci-fi movies you don't see scientists doing hour-long experiments... so in movies with planners you can't show a planner drawing a comp plan or in a council meeting...
 

SlaveToTheGrind

Cyburbian
Messages
1,494
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27
Somewhat related from a movie I like:

Carl (River Phoenix) in Sneakers - "It's fascinating what fifty bucks can get you at the county recorder's office." In reference to obtaining building blueprints for a building they wanted to break into.
 

Bangorian

Member
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198
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7
There are TONS of planning-related documentaries out there, though, and most are pretty interesting (to me at least)!

Might the lack of hollywood attention to our field have something to do with the fact that many, many people have no idea there is such a thing?

Here's a sample conversation I've had:

"What do you go to school for?"
"Urban planning"
long silence. "Like, putting in trees and bushes and stuff?"
"No, Planning, not PLANTING - planning and directing the growth of a city - zoning and stuff."
"Oh." long silence. "You mean, that's a job someone does?"
"Yeah, how do you think things get built and taken care of in a city?"
"I don't know, I guess I never thought about it. I thought it just...well...happened."

You get the picture. And this is not one isolated instance, it happens all the time, with people who really ought to know better. And many of those who do know what planners are have bad notions of them as land-stealers, communists, or beaurocrats (or worse).

So, perhaps the reason there are few planners in movies is because few people would identify with or be compassionate for a planner character in a movie.

But I do think there could be a wicked good movie made with all the funny stories I've heard on this forum!!!
 

Cullen

Member
Messages
33
Points
2
hey I just thought of one more movie that is actually pretty exciting that has a lot to do with planning - Chinatown. The whole premise revolves around water resources in southern california in the 1930's or 40's when LA is growing. It stars Jack Nicholson, its a really good film noir / detective flick.

it really does include planning in this whole dramitic situation in a really interesting way.
 

Mastiff

Gunfighter
Messages
7,181
Points
30
Architects are easy...

gkmo62u said:
Charles Bronson was an architect in Death Wish.

Tom Hanks - Sleepless in Seattle
Richard Gere - Intersection
Steve Martin - Housesitter
Kevin Kline - Life as a House
Rob Lowe - Living in Peril
Michelle Pfeiffer - One Fine Day
Tom Selleck - 3 men and a Baby
Warren Beatty - Town & Country

Even the late John Ritter did one in "Colony"...

Those are the famous (Or almost famous in Lowe's case) actors I can remember playing one. Planners? Heh... We get almost no play...

The Secret World of Michael Fry (2000) is about it.
 

Mastiff

Gunfighter
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7,181
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30
SlaveToTheGrind said:
Somewhat related from a movie I like:

Carl (River Phoenix) in Sneakers - "It's fascinating what fifty bucks can get you at the county recorder's office." In reference to obtaining building blueprints for a building they wanted to break into.

Sneakers is a great flick... My favorite part is at the end when Carl asks for the "girl with the uzi's phone numebr" and James Earl Jones says no.

Martin Bishop: How about a lunch? You can chaperone.
Mr. Bernard Abbott: No, I will not do this.
Martin Bishop: Hey, Abby, Abby, come on, now the F.B.I.'d give him twins!
 

Dan

Dear Leader
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Michael Fry (Bremner) is a town planner and single father of a one- year-old baby, living in a small Welsh seaside town, where he is asked to close down a hotel on the grounds that it is breaking fire regulations. When the police turn up to help him accomplish this task, Mr Fry discovers that the hotel is covering for an internet sex den, run by a pimp (Kitchen). Having helped rescue one of the porn actresses (a plain and vulnerable Rosie Marcel), he begins an unlikely relationship with her. He also discovers that the closure of the hotel is linked to some dodgy deal being planned by his boss (Pugh), into which not only he, his porn actress and his baby have been dragged, but also his parents, whose Polish roots become ever more significant. When Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey, rugby union and male voice choirs enter the plot, there is a whiff of involvement by the Welsh tourist board: thrilling, chilling, or simply sloppy writing?

Yup. Typical day in a planner's life. :D
 

Richmond Jake

You can't fight in here. This is the War Room!
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18,313
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44
"entry-level jobs require a master’s degree"

So how did I get so far with just BA and some UC Extension courses? I feel so dirty now...ashamed even.
 

Trail Nazi

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2,779
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24
Zoning Goddess said:
Only if you were quoting the Comp Plan as part of your dialogue...


Wait a minute, I did recite Code in the County's public service announcement that was aired on tv.
 

Maister

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Wow, I went to start a new thread and discover that someone beat me to the punch almost four years ago! That's okay, I'll just stand on the shoulders of those Giants who came before us ;-)

Anyone got any suggestions for a new movie script featuring a planner as the protagonist or having a planning related theme?

Drama - could there actually be something serious and dramatic enough to make a movie about here?

Adventure - perhaps a shootout scene with a Wal-mart acquisitions rep:-c ;-) ?

Romance - Can you already hear the trailer?....'he worked for Beelzebub & Associates and she worked for the city of Jonesburg; spirited discussions about stormwater easements turned into spirited discussions about access easements in the bedroom....'

Comedy - this seems way too easy (see adventure and romance) but I'll ask anyway!

Sci Fi or Western???? (again nothing but comedy potential comes to mind)
 

ofos

Vintage Cyburbian
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8,278
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27
WHile not a movie, Judd HIrsch supposedly is a planner in the CBS show Numb3rs. When he has actually has dialogue related to his job, it sounds more like he's an engineer.
 

jmello

Cyburbian
Messages
2,583
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22
hey I just thought of one more movie that is actually pretty exciting that has a lot to do with planning - Chinatown.

Along those lines is Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, which is about a scheme to dismatle the Red Car network and build a system of freeways in its place. They don't actually show the planners who developed the plan though, just the evil developers who want to implement it.
 

zman

Cyburbian
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9,245
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32
Charles Bronson was an architect in Death Wish.

While Charlie Bronson was "The Man" (..and always had rope...) do not EVER make the comparison of planners and architects... :-@

I wish NOT to be lumped with those "T-Square using HACKS!"

Two buttons for the origin of the Charlie Bronson/Rope reference
 

TOFB

Cyburbian
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2,625
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33
One of the women on "Thirtysomething' was a planner.

There was an episode of "Family Ties" where Michael J. Fox was pondering college/career choices. He says, "How about an urban planner?"

BIG LAUGH . . . .

END OF JOKE!
 

Maister

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One of the women on "Thirtysomething' was a planner.

There was an episode of "Family Ties" where Michael J. Fox was pondering college/career choices. He says, "How about an urban planner?"

BIG LAUGH . . . .

END OF JOKE!

Okay, I am as far away from being a blueshirt as any planner on earth can be.....but unless there was some incredibly relavent context behind that joke, I just don't think it's even remotely funny.

I always thought the writing on that show was about the worst around and this just proves it!
 

cch

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20
Of course, there is the Sienfeld episode, when the scholarship applicant goes from wanting to be an architect (much to George's liking) to wanting to be a city planner. "Why just design a building when I could design a whole city?" he ponders.

And in an early episode of Sex and the City, Miranda is suppose to have a date with a city planner. She thinks she's been stood up, but actually he had died.

Those are the only two film references to planners that I can think of.
 

zman

Cyburbian
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Perhaps we should all pool our creative writing minds together and compose a collaborative screenplay.

You know, ...a thousand monkey at a thousand typewriters....;)
 

michiganplanner

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472
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14
Took me lon enough but,

While Charlie Bronson was "The Man" (..and always had rope...) do not EVER make the comparison of planners and architects... :-@

Two buttons for the origin of the Charlie Bronson/Rope reference

I can't let that one go zman. Nice, nice Boondock Saints reference!

Sorry I can't think of a movie featuring planners to add to the discussion. But when I see a good movie reference I have to jump on it.
 

jmello

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22
Okay, I am as far away from being a blueshirt as any planner on earth can be.....but unless there was some incredibly relavent context behind that joke, I just don't think it's even remotely funny.

Wasn't his character a diehard Reagan Republican? That is funny ;-)
 

Planit

Cyburbian
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13,452
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55
Just coming out on TV...this info came from Slate On-line Magazine - doesn't sound good at all.:r: :-x :-|

Notes From the Underbelly (ABC, debuts Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET). It is a sitcom, occasionally sharp as an epidural needle, often dumb as a pea pod, sometimes half decent. (Variety, exercising sound judgment and questionable taste, has already quipped that the series is unlikely to make it beyond its first trimester.)

The leads are Jennifer Westfeldt, best known as the star of Kissing Jessica Stein, and Peter Cambor, a newcomer soon to be known as the guy you call when you can't get Paul Rudd. Westfeldt plays Lauren, a blonde who, despite being in her early 30s, remains girlish in that fuzzy chick-lit way, with the shoe collection and the foregrounded indecisiveness. Cambor is Andrew, her husband, a cutie also in his early 30s, a planner but a bumbler, neurotic yet dudelike enough to plausibly anchor a beer commercial. They're pregnant!

Lauren's a guidance counselor at a Los Angeles private school serving the special needs of entitled twerps, and Andrew's a landscape architect, but let's cut to what really matters here: what they buy. The Mini Cooper, the yoga classes, the weekend getaway to a boutique hotel, the (dated) talk of pashmina and peasant skirts … It would be easier to sympathize with Andrew's second-episode fretting about the cost of raising a kid if he weren't airing his concerns in a kitchen bigger than Clair Huxtable's, or, indeed, Babbo's.

Did you notice, first he's planner, then he's a landscape architect ?
 

Mud Princess

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27
Hey, anyone remember the character played by Campbell Scott in the grunge-era Seattle movie Singles? I'm pretty sure he was a planner, maybe a transportation planner. I remember he presented some BIG idea he had to the mayor -- at lunch! on his own! Yeah, right.

Of course he got shot down.
 
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zman

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I can't let that one go zman. Nice, nice Boondock Saints reference!

Two buttons will be heading to the Mitten State real soon. Good work my Friend!

michiganderplanner, I think that with the movie references you called me on, the Family Guy avatar and the sweet Sideways sig line, we should hang out sometime. You like good Scotch? Maybe some dark ale?
 

michiganplanner

Cyburbian
Messages
472
Points
14
Two buttons will be heading to the Mitten State real soon. Good work my Friend!

michiganderplanner, I think that with the movie references you called me on, the Family Guy avatar and the sweet Sideways sig line, we should hang out sometime. You like good Scotch? Maybe some dark ale?

Dude count me in. I'll bring my 18 year old......Chivas.:)
 

Dan

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Of course, there is the Sienfeld episode, when the scholarship applicant goes from wanting to be an architect (much to George's liking) to wanting to be a city planner. "Why just design a building when I could design a whole city?" he ponders.

Best eposide ever, IMHO. :D

From http://www.seinfeldscripts.com :

[Setting: Susan Ross Foundation conference room]

GEORGE: Ladies and gentlemen, this (Opens the door, Steven is standing there) is Steven Koren. His G.P.A. is a solid 2.0! Right in that meaty part of the curve -

not showing off, not falling behind.

WYCK: George, the quailifications for this scholarship were suppose to be.. largely academic.

GEORGE: I'm sure we're all aware of the flaws and biases of standardized tests..

WYCK: These aren't standardized tests - these are his grades.

GEORGE: Besides, Steven Koren has the highest of aspirations. He wants to be (pauses for effect) an architect.

WYCK: Is that right?

STEVEN: Actually, maybe I could set my sights a little bit higher.

GEORGE: (Laughs) Steven, nothing is higher than an architect.

STEVEN: I think I'd really like to be a city planner. (Sits down, addressing the entire foundation board) Why limit myself to just one building, when I can design a

whole city?

WYCK: Well, that's a good point.

GEORGE: (Mutters) No, it's not.

STEVEN: Well, isn't an architect just an art school drop-out with a tilty desk, and a big ruler? (Laughs - so do the board members)

GEORGE: (Irritated) It's called a T-square.

WYCK: You know, the stupidest guy in my fraternity became an architect - after he flunked out of dental school! (Everyone but George laughs) Contratulations,

young man. (Shakes Steven's hand)

STEVEN: Thank you.

WYCK: Susan would be proud of what you're doing.

STEVEN: Thank you.

(Scene ends)

[Setting: NYC Street]

(George comes out of a store, he meets up with Steven Koren)

STEVEN: Why'd you take away my scholarship, Mister Costanza?

GEORGE: Well, Steven, I, uh.. (All the sudden, a small gang steps out of nowhere, surrounding George)

STEVEN: These are my new friends - The Van Buren Boys.

MEMBER 1: He became so disillusioned, he had to join us.

GEORGE: Oh.. nice.

STEVEN: I want my scholarship back, so I can be a city planner.

GEORGE: What about architect, Steven?

MEMBER 1: (Moves threateningly close to George) City planner.

(Scene ends)
 

Random Traffic Guy

Cyburbian
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644
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18
From the traffic side:

Tom Cruise's cover in Mission Impossible 3 is a traffic engineer, he has some line about shockwaves.

Otherwise, all we get is victimized by hackers taking over our traffic signal systems, like The Italian Job.
 
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From the traffic side:

Tom Cruise's cover in Mission Impossible 3 is a traffic engineer, he has some line about shockwaves.

Otherwise, all we get is victimized by hackers taking over our traffic signal systems, like The Italian Job.

Oh, that's how he was able to get from Hampton to Alexandria, VA in 30 minutes. He was a traffic engineer.
 

illinoisplanner

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5,335
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25
Okay, I am as far away from being a blueshirt as any planner on earth can be.....but unless there was some incredibly relavent context behind that joke, I just don't think it's even remotely funny.

I always thought the writing on that show was about the worst around and this just proves it!

I think they were laughing because he was being so articulate. I think the term "urban planner" is a big word for the majority of people.

I could be wrong though.
 

alex_greece

Member
Messages
10
Points
1
As I was watching last year an episode of a popular american tv show, that the first role is a structural civil engineer I was wondering if there is a movie or tv show or something that has to do with an urban planner for key role or just for urban planning.
I think that it would be interesting. Does anyone has an idea about that?
 

hullcorey

Member
Messages
19
Points
1
I had a couple of professors back in college use movies an example of planning, usually more on the social aspects of planning though.

One of them was the beginning of Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Another was Metropolis, a 1920s silent movie.

It seems like I remember saving a list that they had come up with, I will have to see if I can find it.
 
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207
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9
There's a great episode of Seinfeld where a kid applying for a scholarship wants to be a city planner. IIRC, the episode includes the line: 'The dumbest guy in my fraternity flunked out of dental school and became an architect.' It's the same episode where we learn that there's a street gang named after Martin Van Buren -- 'and they're just as mean as he was'.

Anyway, not a movie, but it's all I could come up with at the moment.
 

nrschmid

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21
Disney:
  • Documentary on the Car of Tomorrow: talked about cars and the future of transportation planning: very hokey.
  • EPCOT (Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow) was a masterplan for an entire city.

Golden Girls. Blanche wants to build a hot tub. Building inspector finds out all of the girls are living under one roof without a boarding license. I vaguely remember something about Betty White talking about primary dwellings or setbacks.

Back to the Future All three movies look at the historical progression of development: downtown, not yet-built subdivisions, re-use of buildings.

Jumanji The fast decline of a bustling town after the biggest employer, Parish Shoes, goes out of business. Has some similarities with saving Callahan Autos in Tommy Boy

Truman Show : A movie about Seaside, FL!!! I wonder if all new urbanist communities have that many hidden cameras and a wave machine? Maybe Ed Harris' character was really Andres Duany. Hmmmm....

Miracle on 34th Street. A movie about Levittown!!! Isn't it the American Dream to move from a glamarous rent-controlled apartment on Central Park West/Columbus Circle to a mediocre split level Cape Cod in the middle of No Where, USA?

I probably have a few other "urban planning movies" . Will add more later. And no, I am proudly NOT a movie junkie.
 
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arcplans

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There's a great episode of Seinfeld where a kid applying for a scholarship wants to be a city planner. IIRC, the episode includes the line: 'The dumbest guy in my fraternity flunked out of dental school and became an architect.' It's the same episode where we learn that there's a street gang named after Martin Van Buren -- 'and they're just as mean as he was'.

Anyway, not a movie, but it's all I could come up with at the moment.

Actually in that episode, George wants to give the scholarship to that boy because like him, he was a c student and emulated him in high school and he wanted to be an architect. At the Board of Directors meeting for the foundation named after Susan, the boy stood up and said he no longer wanted to be an architect, but be a city a planner and told them "why would i want to build just one building when i can design a city!" The light bulb went off in my head and i too decided i should check out what city planning was all about..

Recently i was watching saturday morning cartoons with my daughter and she likes this show called "horseland" on cbs (yes they still exists). It is about these young kids who ride horses. Well the episode entitled "new development" had all the following elements rolled into one package: NIMBYism, endangered species, destruction of property, calling in of the press under false pretenses and attractive looking developers all rolled into a 30 minute cartoon intended for young children. I kid you not. The show had a premise where the horse riders where fearful that a new development would ruin their meadow and were set to stop it any cost including deflating tires from tractors, releasing a gecko that "looked" like an endangered species and come to find out that the development would be an eco-friendly "sustainable" development with solar energy, preservation of open space and a parking lot on the highway no less requiring visitors to hike to the resort. If this episode wasn't planning at its best, i don't know what is.
 
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