Directed by Peter Weir
What’s it about: An insurance salesman/adjuster discovers his entire life is actually a TV show.
Why watch it: Made in 1998, a few years before reality TV seemed to take over the media and our lives, The Truman Show is all the more frightening now, as its voyeuristic message has taken on a creepy realism through social media and Honey Boo Boo.
Interesting factoid: The Latin motto on the double archway in the Seahaven town center is UNUS PRO OMNIBUS, OMNES PRO UNO, translated to English as: “One for all, all for one,” thus fitting the premise of the show within The Truman Show.
Business takeaway: What is fact and what is fiction? What, in your life, is truly authentic? Those are the questions to ask yourself as you go through your day, sell products and cultivate relationships.
Memorable scene: The scene (in the video above), where Truman’s morning begins. The scene’s “payoff,” both literally and figuratively, is when the town’s twins push Truman against a product placement sign, giving us a moment that is both hilarious and terrifying.
Truman: Good morning, and in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening and good night!
Next up: Death of a Salesman
Directed by Volker Schlöndorff
What’s it about: The Arthur Miller play comes to life in this made-for-TV version, also penned by Miller. It’s the classic tale of Willy Loman (Dustin Hoffman) a traveling insurance salesman who is slowly losing his mind and his will to live.
Why watch it: You might be familiar with the play, but Hoffman’s incendiary performance as Willy Loman makes it well worth another viewing.
Interesting factoid: It took three and a half hours for makeup artists to transform Dustin Hoffman, then in his forties, into Willy, who is described in the stage directions as “over sixty”.
Business takeaway: You are only as big as your dreams, but to realize those dreams you have to be willing to take the first step.
Memorable scene: Where Biff (John Malkovich) visits Willy at the hotel in Boston forever changing the direction of both of their lives.
Biff Loman: [arguing with Willy] Pop, I’m a dime a dozen and so are you…
Willy Loman: [shouting] I am not a dime a dozen! I’m Willy Loman and you are Biff Loman!
Biff Loman: [to his father] Will you let me go, for Christ’s sake? Will you take that phony dream and burn it before something happens?
Next up: About Schmidt
Directed by Alexander Payne
What’s it about: Upon retirement from the life insurance industry, Schmidt (Jack Nicholson), finds himself adrift and sets out on an existential quest, even if he wouldn’t call it that, to find purpose for this new chapter in his life.
Why watch it: Known for playing outlandish characters who take over the screen with bravado and charisma, Nicholson goes subtle and small in this performance and it’s his best work in decades.
Business takeaway: What if our life’s work was just that, work? Don’t wait until it’s too late to find you’re life’s purpose.
Memorable scene: The opening “wordless” sequence that tells us so much about Schmidt without ever uttering a word.