5. Cedar Rapids (2011)
Directed by Miguel Arteta
What’s it about: Think what would happen in The Hangover if it took place in Cedar Rapids, Iowa instead of Las Vegas and if all the characters were small-town insurance agents.
Why watch it: It’s raunchy, sure, but if you’ve ever been to an insurance industry event, Cedar Rapids is a how-to manual of what not to do.
Interesting factoid: The hotel wedding that Tim Lippe (Ed Helms) and his friend’s crash is for two women. Same-sex marriage has been legal in the state of Iowa since April 3, 2009.
Business takeaway: There’s a right way and a wrong way to conduct your business at an industry event and our everyman, Tim Lippe, manages to do a little of both.
Memorable scene: The skinny dipping scene at the hotel pool where Dean Ziegler (John C. Reilly) wears a metal trashcan on his head.
Tim Lippe: Do you realize I used to just stare and stare at you when you were teaching us about the rainforests or whatever? And I would think, “I wonder what Mrs. V. looks like with her clothes off.” And then, boom, we run into each other in line at True Value and, boom, here we are making love. Like, once a week. It’s like it was fate or something. Did you ever used to look at me and think dirty things?
Macy Vanderhei: You were twelve.
Tim Lippe: Right.
Next up: The Wrong Man
4. The Wrong Man (1956)
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
What’s it about: When a struggling jazz musician (Henry Fonda) enters an insurance office to see if he can borrow off his wife’s life insurance policy to pay for her dental bills, he is mistaken for a serial thief and has to prove his innocence.
Why watch it: Hitchcock would return to his “wronged-man” theme in numerous films, but this is the only one based on a true story, which adds an extra level of tension to the master of suspense’s white-knuckled approach to filmmaking.
Interesting factoid: Although based on a true story, Alfred Hitchcock deliberately left out some of the information that pointed to Manny’s innocence to heighten the tension.
Business takeaway: Sometimes, insurance doesn’t pay?
Memorable scene: The chilling moment when the police first stop Fonda on the street and tell him they need to ask a few questions. Though shot in beautiful black-and-white, those blue eyes of Fonda tell more than any words of dialogue could.
[first lines] Prologue narrator: This is Alfred Hitchcock speaking. In the past, I have given you many kinds of suspense pictures. But this time, I would like you to see a different one. The difference lies in the fact that this is a true story, every word of it. And yet it contains elements that are stranger than all the fiction that has gone into many of the thrillers that I’ve made before.
Next up: The Apartment
3. The Apartment (1960)
Directed by Billy Wilder
What’s it about: C. C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon) is a lower-middle manager in one of the five largest companies in the country. He also has an apartment that’s convenient to the corporate headquarters and the perfect lover’s nest for Baxter’s bosses to bring their mistresses.
Why watch it: For the education on office politics and the perfect comic timing of Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine, who plays his love interest.
Interesting factoid: Although C.C. Baxter works at desk number 861, one of the thousands of employees for a giant insurance company, inside his apartment are two authentic Tiffany lamps. Worth hardly anything when the film was made, they’re estimated to now be worth between $30,000 and $40,000 each.
Business takeaway: The climb to the top might be rife with pitfalls and other moral judgements. How much do you want that promotion and can you live with yourself if you compromise your morality?
Memorable Scene: The scene where Baxter makes Fran a spaghetti dinner, and, in typical bachelor fashion, strains the noodles with his tennis racket.
C.C. Baxter: [narrating] On November 1st, 1959, the population of New York City was 8,042,783. If you laid all these people end to end, figuring an average height of five feet six and a half inches, they would reach from Times Square to the outskirts of Karachi, Pakistan. I know facts like this because I work for an insurance company – Consolidated Life of New York. We’re one of the top five companies in the country. Our home office has 31,259 employees, which is more than the entire population of uhh… Natchez, Mississippi. I work on the 19th floor. Ordinary Policy Department, Premium Accounting Division, Section W, desk number 861.