Directed by Nick Cassavetes
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.
John Q. Archibald: The hospital is under new management now! Free health care for everyone!
Next up: The Fortune Cookie
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.
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.
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)
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.