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Top 100 Movies of the 1990's: #91 Glengarry Glen Ross

Box Office: $10.7 million

Oscar Nominations: Best Supporting Actor (Al Pacino)

Oscar Wins: None

Available To Stream: Amazon Prime 91/100

Glengarry Glen Ross has one of the greatest casts ever assembled along with some of the sharpest dialogue that's ever been spoken on film. It literally has the the greatest cameo performance ever. Yet, it's not a movie I love. I like it a lot and respect the hell out of it but this isn't among my favorite movies.

I want to blame the director James Foley. I really don't like how the Chinese food restaurant stuff is shot. The lighting is weird and there is no one there. The emptiness in the street scenes are weird too. I can't forget I'm watching a movie. For a story that is showing us the dark truths and desperation of the sales world, why it look so artificial at times?

Foley hasn't had an especially decorated film career. He directed The Chamber which is one of Gene Hackman's worst movies. It's not as bad as Superman IV but it stinks. That same year, he helmed Fear which isn't a particularly good movie but he did a nice job with it. He made some creative choices and elevated the material. To defend Foley with Glengarry, I loved how the scenes in the sales office are shot. 

What people remember most from this movie is the Alec Baldwin in the "Coffee is for closers!" scene. It's incredible. Watch it again.

It's the most exciting part of the movie with the most captivating character. It's tough when you have such greatness in the beginning of a movie. You are never able to live up to it. Think of Saving Private Ryan. The movie is never as compelling as it is when they storm Normandy at the very beginning. It can't be. It's same way with the Coffee scene.

This was was not in the original play and was written into the movie by David Mamet (who also wrote the play) when the studio requested an action sequence of some kind. Good for Mamet to have enough confidence in his written word to know this would be more than exciting enough. I love Mamet. The script for Untouchables is so great and I don't think anyone has written a better role for Sean Connery. Mamet also wrote The Verdict which is is more than a courtroom drama. It's a story of redemption (and also one of the greatest performances ever by Paul Newman).

Mamet is a pretty good director too. He directed and wrote Heist which came out in 2001 with Gene Hackman, Sam Rockwell and Danny DeVito. I enjoy Heist more than Glengarry. I can understand how some people will consider that a wildly ridiculous statement. Heist doesn't reach the peaks of Glengarry but the overall story and is better and I enjoy the fun double crossing more. Heist is about as much fun as a Mamet movie can have. 

The other great scene in Glengarry was also written for the movie. It's when Shelley "The Machine" Levine (the great Jack Lemmon) visits the home of potential customer Larry Spannell (played by Bruce Altman who was also in the Whitecaps episode of The Sopranos). I was in sales for over a decade before I started working here and it's this scene that felt the most true to salespeople (or at least bad ones). Shelley trying to make any connection to Larry while they both know that he isn't going to buy a single thing from him is perfectly paced and acted. I love how Mamet's script allows Larry to politely but firmly reject Shelley but at a realistic speed. You feel like you are in that living room.

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This cast is perfect. Al Pacino is very good as Ricky Roma, the one competent salesman in the room. He exhibits the perfect amount of false confidence mixed with underlying panic. Pacino was in the middle of the second act of his career which started with Sea Of Love in 1989. The following year, he did Godfather III and Dick Tracy and was nominated for the latter. He was up for a couple of Academy Awards two years later. He lost for Best Supporting Actor for Glengarry but wound up finally winning his first Oscar with Best Actor for Scent Of A Woman. He wouldn't get nominated for another Academy Award for 27 years (The Irishman).

I mentioned Lemmon earlier and he is so good at someone coming apart at the seams. It's his last great dramatic film role. Ed Harris is fantastic as the angry salesperson Moss and Alan Arkin is very good as the defeated Aaronow.  The cast is so deep, it even has Kevin Spacey and Jonathan Pryce who both would eventually get nominated for Oscars (Spacey won twice). During production, the other members of the cast would even show up on set on days they weren't working to watch the other actors shoot scenes.

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I know for many people, this is a top 25 movie of the decade. It is filled with very memorable quotes and it showcases Mamet's genius so well. I just don't like the mystery of who stole the leads and the spartan way it's shot is distracting. This is a very good movie and if you love it, I wouldn't disagree with you at all. I just wish someone else directed it.

91. Glengarry Glen Ross

92. Die Hard With A Vengeance

93. The Blair Witch Project

94. Twister

95. Dirty Work

96. Election

97. Tremors

98. Any Given Sunday

99. The Wedding Singer

100. Clerks