20. John Q (2002)

Directed by Nick Cassavetes

Starring Denzel WashingtonRobert DuvallGabriela Oltean

What’s it about: A down-on-his luck father, whose insurance won’t cover his son’s heart transplant, takes the hospital’s emergency room hostage until the doctors agree to perform the operation.

Why watch it: To see Denzel go all Denzel on the hospital and its employees. He’s one of the rare actors who can illicit sympathy while going on a rampage.

Interesting factoid: The scene where George W. Bush is speaking about health care while John (Denzel Washington) and Denise (Kimberly Elise) are watching TV, was also shot with footage of Al Gore because the election winner had not yet been declared at the time of the film’s shooting.

Business takeaway: That the horrors over the health care system have been raging since well before Obamacare made it a daily conversation piece. As John Q. puts it: “My son is dying, and I’m broke. If I don’t qualify for Medicare, who does?”

Memorable scene: The horrifying scene when John Q.’s (Denzel’s) son collapses at the ball field. It’s one of those moments any parent hopes to never experience.

Memorable quote:

John Q. Archibald: The hospital is under new management now! Free health care for everyone!

 

Next up: The Fortune Cookie

 

19. The Fortune Cookie (1966)

Starring Jack LemmonWalter MatthauRon Rich 

Directed by Billy Wilder

What’s it about: When an NFL cameraman (Jack Lemmon) is knocked over during a football game, his shyster brother-in-law, Whiplash Willie Gingrich (Walter Matthau), convinces him this is their big payday, so they sue CBS, the NFL and the Cleveland Browns for damages.

Why watch it: For the great chemistry between Lemmon and Matthau, who would gain greater acclaim in The Odd Couple, but who put their initial stamp down here as one of cinema’s great comedy teams.

Interesting factoid: Marked the first pairing of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, who subsequently worked together on eleven additional films.

Business takeaway: Even if good intentions are your motivation, remember that crime doesn’t pay. Well, maybe it pays, but not without repercussions.

Memorable scene: There’s a terrific sequence with Whiplash Willie (Matthau) where he’s on the phone, his wife is cooking dinner and their kids are roller-skating through the house. His fraudulent scheme is unraveling and we can experience this through the whirlwind nature of his homelife.

Memorable quote:

Professor Winterhalter: All these newfangled machines. Fake! It proves nothing. In the old days, we used to do these things better. The man says he’s paralyzed, we simply throw him in the snake pit. If he climbs out, then we know he’s lying.

Specialist #1: [shocked] And if he doesn’t climb out?

Professor Winterhalter: Then we have lost the patient, but we have found an honest man.

 

Next up: Ossessione

 

18. Ossessione (1943)

Starring Clara CalamaiMassimo GirottiDhia Cristiani

Directed by Luchino Visconti

What’s it about: Ossessione, made in 1943 and banned in Italy by Mussolini, is the first adaptation of James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice. It’s not as strong as Cain’s Double Indemnity (what is?), but it follows a similar thread: Can illicit lovers kill the woman’s unsavory husband and cash in on his life insurance policy?

Why watch it: Ossessione is the film that launched the neorealism movement. While it can try on the patience with its deliberate style, Ossessione is a superior version than either of the American adaptations of James M. Cain’s, The Postman Always Rings Twice.

Interesting factoid: Fascists destroyed the film’s negative. Luckily, director Luchino Visconti managed to save a print.

Business takeaway: If your spouse is 20 years younger and, to put it bluntly, much better looking, a prenup might be in order. Also, if a muscular, young man starts hanging around your wife, he’s probably not there to ask about the weather.

Memorable scene: The haunting moment where the smoldering stranger (Massimo Girotti) hears the café owner’s wife (Clara Calamai) singing and is drawn to her heavenly voice.

Memorable quote:

Gino Costa: Do you know the fat man?

Giovanna Bragana: He’s my husband.

Gino Costa: He’s lucky to have such a lady. One that cooks so well.

Giovanna Bragana: Save your breath. Anyway, I’m not a cook.

 

next up: Fletch

 

17. Fletch (1985)

Starring Chevy ChaseJoe Don BakerDana Wheeler-Nicholson 

Directed by Michael Ritchie

What’s it about: Los Angeles journalist, Irwin “Fletch” Fletcher (Chevy Chase) is working in disguise as a bum on the beach to investigate a drug ring. One day he’s approached and asked to kill a rich man for the sum of $50,000 so the rich guy’s wife can get the insurance money.

Why watch it: A little Chevy Chase can go a long way, and while he does have his hammy moments here, Fletch is his most complete role and he’s perfect in it.

Interesting factoid: Gregory McDonald, the author of the Fletch novels, had casting approval over the film. He rejected both Mick Jagger and Burt Reynolds before he decided on Chevy Chase for the lead.

Business takeaway: Identity theft is a real problem. Make sure you have the necessary channels set up to protect your identity, assets and accounts.

Memorable scene: The proctology exam where Fletch (Chevy Chase) begins crooning “Moon River.”

Memorable quotes

Gail Stanwyk: I didn’t know you knew the Underhills.

Fletch: Yeah, well, I saved his life during the war.

Gail Stanwyk: You were in the war?

Fletch: No, he was. I got him out.

 

Next up: To Catch a Thief

 

16. To Catch a Thief (1955)

Starring Cary GrantGrace KellyJessie Royce Landis 

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

What’s it about: American expatriate John Robie (Cary Grant) is living the good life on the Riviera. He’s also a retired cat burglar who must find out who the copycat thief is responsible for the rash of jewel heists being pinned on him. Enter a gorgeous Lloyd’s of London insurance agent (Grace Kelly) who uses a a thief to catch a thief.

Why watch it: Hitchcock and the stars, Cary Grant and Grace Kelly, are all in fine form here. Whether all the leads were having fun, I have no idea, but they sure look like they are.

Interesting factoid: On September 14, 1982, Grace Kelly was killed in an automobile accident in Monaco, supposedly on the very same road as her famous chase scene in this film and not far from where she had a picnic scene with Cary Grant. She was 52 years old and lost control of her car after apparently suffering a stroke while at the wheel.

Business takeaway: It takes a thief to catch a thief.

Memorable scene: The brilliant opening sequence where we see a black cat running wild on the roofs of villas, and, later on, hysterical ladies are seen screaming when they realize they have been burglarized.

Memorable quote:

John Robie: [In reference to a beautiful villa they are visiting] Why don’t you own a place like this?

Frances Stevens: Palaces are for royalty. We’re just common people with a bank account.

 

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