15. Thank You for Smoking (2005)
Directed by Jason Reitman
What it’s about: A precursor to TV’s Mad Men, this satire with teeth and black lungs is scary funny and hones in on the art of spin and persuasion as seen from the point of view of Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart), the tobacco lobby’s mouthpiece.
Why watch it: Naylor is known as the Sultan of Spin and getting to watch his power of persuasion, even if it’s for a despicable cause, is a thing of beauty.
What Your Peers Are Reading
Business takeaway: The world of media and politics is driven by spin more than any of us want to admit, and, if you believe in your message, you can convince people of almost anything. Almost.
Memorable scene: When Naylor is kidnapped by anti-smoking terrorists and used as a human guinea pig to show the damage nicotine can do to the body.
Nick Naylor: Right there, looking into Joey’s eyes, it all came back in a rush. Why I do what I do. Defending the defenseless, protecting the disenfranchised corporations that have been abandoned by their very own consumers: the logger, the sweatshop foreman, the oil driller, the land mine developer, the baby seal poacher.
Jeff Megall: Sony has a futuristic sci-fi movie they’re looking to make.
Nick Naylor: Cigarettes in space?
Jeff Megall: It’s the final frontier, Nick.
Nick Naylor: But wouldn’t they blow up in an all oxygen environment?
Jeff Megall: Probably. But it’s an easy fix. One line of dialogue. ‘Thank God we invented the… you know, whatever device.’
Nick Naylor: Michael Jordan plays ball. Charles Manson kills people. I talk. Everyone has a talent.
Next up: Modern Times
14. Modern Times (1936)
Directed by Charles Chaplin
What it’s about: Charlie Chaplin, in his last role as “The Little Tramp,” finds the new industrial age one that’s hard to live in — and make a living in, for that matter.
Why watch it: For its sheer brilliance and choreography. Chaplin was a visual genius and there are moments from Modern Times that have become cinematic lore, such as the conveyor belt scene and the bit where he roller-skates while wearing a blindfold.
Business takeaway: Never quit. No matter how tough times may get, hang in there, and keep plugging away. Something good is bound to happen.
Memorable scene: Opening scene, which shows sheep running through a slaughter chute, then cuts to waves of people pushing their way through a narrow subway to work.
Another classic scene is the one which has been copied numerous times, where Chaplin is working on a factory line and the conveyor belt gets faster and faster and faster until finally its sucks him into the machine.
Memorable quote: Well, considering it’s a silent film, you’re not going to get a lot of good dialogue. But there are frequent sound effects, such as the voice of the factory owner over a loudspeaker.
President of the Electro Steel Corp.: [from the Telescreen in the restroom to the factory worker] Hey you! Get back to work!
Directed by David Swift
Why watch it: Morse’s impish charisma, and the song and dance numbers (yes, this is a musical).
Business takeaway: Read a good how-to book. It might just have the secret to your success.
Memorable scene: Finch and his boss singing the school fight song.
J. Pierpont Finch: Be patient? Don’t you realize I’ve been working here … well, two whole hours now?
J. B. Biggley: I realize that I’m the president of this company, the man that’s responsible for everything that goes on here. So, I want to state, right now, that anything that happened is not my fault.