20. Boiler Room (2000)
Directed by Ben Younger
What it’s about: Seth Davis (Giovanni Ribisi) is a disappointment to his federal judge father. Instead of looking for a white collar career he runs a small casino out of his home. All that changes when Davis takes a job at J. T. Marlin, an “off-Wall Street” brokerage firm that promises ridiculously high commissions, the kind that just can’t be legit.
Why watch it: On the surface it comes across as a mix of Glengarry Glen Ross and Wall Street, but Boiler Room deserves its own audience if not a cult following due to an emotional performance by Ribisi and a nice turn by Vin Diesel as one of the senior brokers in the firm.
Business takeaway: If a deal or a company sounds too good to be true, well, it probably is. Perform the due diligence in any business venture to make sure you know what you’re really getting yourself into.
Memorable scene: In a cameo similar to Alec Baldwin’s in Glengarry Glen Ross, Ben Affleck delivers an inspirational yet scorching sales pep talk to the new recruits.
Jim Young: And there is no such thing as a no-sale call. A sale is made on every call you make. Either you sell the client some stock or he sells you a reason he can’t. Either way a sale is made, the only question is who is gonna close? You or him? Now, be relentless; that’s it, I’m done.
Next up: Network
19. Network (1976)
Directed by Sidney Lumet
What it’s about: On one hand it’s about the onscreen crackup of a popular nightly news anchor. But, on the other, and more disturbingly, it ushers in a move from serious television news journalism to the pretentious and disturbing exposé-laden sensationalism that continues to be sold as “news” today.
Why watch it: Because of the legendary performances by Faye Dunaway, Peter Finch and William Holden. Also, because Network accurately depicts everything we suspect and despise about journalistic sensationalism.
Business takeaway: Whether it’s television ratings or monthly sales figures, you better be on top or you’re going down.
Memorable scene: Howard Beale (Peter Finch) appearing on camera in a rain-soaked trench coat, ranting and raving for the disenfranchised.
Howard Beale: I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, ‘I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!’
Diana Christensen: I’m interested in doing a weekly dramatic series based on the Ecumenical Liberation Army. The way I see the series is: Each week we open with an authentic act of political terrorism taken on the spot, in the actual moment. Then we go to the drama behind the opening film footage. That’s your job, Ms. Hobbs. You’ve got to get the Ecumenicals to bring in that film footage for us. The network can’t deal with them directly; they are, after all, wanted criminals.
Next up: The Social Network
18. The Social Network (2010)
Directed by David Fincher
What it’s about: The founding of social media giant Facebook. As with many an empire, Facebook was not built without its fair share of double-crosses and backdoor deals.
Why watch it: With a market value of $68.9 billion as of Feb. 19, 2013, the film gives an insider’s peek at how Facebook was created. Besides that, the script by Aaron Sorkin won the Oscar for best adapted screenplay and is written as if with a steak knife, i.e. no one gets out of here unscathed.
Business takeaway: Borrowing from the film’s tagline: “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies.”
Memorable scene: After getting dumped by his girlfriend, Mark Zuckerberg skedaddles back to his dorm room at Harvard where, in an all-night programming binge, he develops the early ideas that eventually lead to Facebook.
Mark Zuckerberg: Did you know there are more people with genius IQs living in China than there are people of any kind living in the United States?
Erica Albright: That can’t possibly be true.
Mark Zuckerberg: It is.
Erica Albright: What would account for that?
Mark Zuckerberg: Well, first, an awful lot of people live in China. But, here’s my question: How do you distinguish yourself in a population of people who all got 1600 on their SATs?
Erica Albright: I didn’t know they take SATs in China.
Mark Zuckerberg: They don’t. I wasn’t talking about China anymore, I was talking about me.