The Set of 400: #126 – My Favorite Set of Steak Knives

Today! Because I can go out there tonight with the materials you’ve got and make myself $15,000. Tonight! In two hours! Can you?

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

Directed by James Foley

Starring Jack Lemmon (x4), Al Pacino (x3), Ed Harris (x2), Alan Arkin (x4), Kevin Spacey (x2), Alec Baldwin, Jonathan Pryce (x3), Bruce Altman

Hey, surprise back-to-back Jonathan Pryce movies! Now in the past I’ve mentioned some stage-y films (say, Noises Off) and really stage-y films (Rhinoceros), but then we’ve got Glengarry Glen Ross, which is one of the stagiest goddamn motion pictures ever made. Seriously, it’s what, 80% in the office? Maybe more than that? Sure, they broke some moments out into the rain or that bar, but it’s almost a unit set film, and that set isn’t anything all that striking or cinematic. So how do they counteract this? Towering, screaming performances, that’s how!

Enjoy this one room, suckers!

Pacino won an Oscar in ’92 for his over-the-top, wacky, “Hoo-ahh!” Scent of a Woman, but he was also nominated for Supporting Actor for Glengarry, and really, this is where he should’ve won, if either (I’d probably go neither, as Gene Hackman’s Unforgiven was awesome). It’s not that Pacino even particularly manages to stand out – it’s that everyone is operating at such a high level, playing varying shades of the same sad, blustering salesman – with Ed Harris’ Dave on the complete volcano end of the spectrum, Alec Baldwin’s film added motivational pitchman next, Pacino’s Roma, Spacey’s office manager, and Lemmon’s Shelley and Arkin’s George on the meeker but no less passionate end. It’s shouty, wordy arguments wall-to-wall, and if you like that kind of play/film/entertainment, you’ll never find a better example this side of 12 Angry Men then Glengarry.

This probably isn’t for everybody – so live theater-y is the film – plus it’s vintage vulgar Mamet throughout, so probably not the best primer for the little ones on how the real estate market functions. But man, what a cast! Director James Foley (who doesn’t have another great movie on his resume) must’ve just cranked up the cinematograph and let the actors run free (Foley did direct episodes of some pretty good TV shows – Twin Peaks, Hannibal – not to mention the last two Fifty Shades movies. Wait…). How about this is the first Alec Baldwin movie on the list, huh? I’m always surprised this far into the enterprise when a big modern actor is just now appearing. Hell, this is the fourth Jack Lemmon movie already! #357 JFK, #301 Some Like It Hot, and #219 The Player have come and gone!

This is the fourth Arkin too, but that makes a little more sense for me, old comedy guy that Arkin is, not to mention being the star of the film adaptation of my favorite book (coming April 16th!). He’s got #307 The Return of Captain Invincible, #209 Wait Until Dark, and #274 Argo in the rearview. Pacino (#196 Dick Tracy, #160 Dog Day Afternoon) and Pryce (#369 Evita, #127 Brazil) advance to the Threes today, while Harris (#214 Nixon) and Spacey (#260 The Usual Suspects) join the Twos. Is Spacey in jail yet, when you’re reading this? As of this writing, the wolves are closing in but there has been no legal progress, really. Let me know! Never mind, I’ll know by this point one way or the other, I’m sure.

Fun fact – I saw Glengarry Glen Ross on Broadway a few years ago, and Pacino had aged into playing Jack Lemmon’s Shelley “The Machine” Levine role! He was good – he’s Al Pacino! But the rest of the cast was no slouch either – Bobby Cannavale, David Harbour, John C. McGinley, Richard Schiff – dude, it was something.

Coming tomorrow! The German poet Goethe expressed man’s desire to fly, “How I yearn to throw myself into endless space and float above the awful abyss.”

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