“Glengarry Glen Ross” (1992) dir. James Foley, scr. David Mamet

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F–k “The Exorcist”! THIS is the scariest film of all time … because it involves real life at its worst … whatever good is in it is eroding away bit by bit. Based on David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize winning play, this is a film about men who have had varying degrees of success in their life, but are now not doing so great. They’re a millimeter away from losing their livelihood … and they’re resorting to desperate means to hold onto what little they have. This movie disturbed me as recent college graduate in 1992 … it scares me even more 20+ years later.

This scene … the most famous in the film … involves a sales leader browbeating and emasculating the desperate men who are their weakest. This is darkly funny on one level … horrendously sad and depressing on another. This is the dark side of the American Dream … the side which says if you fail, it’s because you didn’t work hard enough, you didn’t want it badly enough, because … you weren’t man enough.

Aside from his genius portrayal of CEO Jack Donaghy on the comedy TV classic “30 Rock,” this is Alec Baldwin’s greatest performance. The other performances by Jack Lemmon, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, and Kevin Spacey are all top-notch, as well. This is not safe for work by any means. This is verbal brutality at its most heinous. A-B-C. Always be closing … ALWAYS BE CLOSING!

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“Short Cuts” (1993) dir. Robert Altman

My favorite film of 1993 (aside from Tony Scott’s Quentin Tarantino-scripted “True Romance), was Robert Altman’s “Short Cuts.”  “Short Cuts” is a devastating 3 hour-plus epic about the damaged lives of multiple souls in the “City of Angels,” circa 1993.   The movie complies several short stories by Raymond Carver and intersects the stories, so that the characters of each story interact with each other at various times for various reasons.  It shows the randomness of life and how all of our actions (no matter how small) can have an impact on the world around us.   Seeing it during a not-so-great point in my life, the film hit me like a brick to the face and I was shaken for days.  This is not to say the film lacks humor.  The movie is oftentimes hysterically funny, albeit in a very dark way.  It also features brilliant performances by a diverse, all-star cast, including Tim Robbins, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Penn, Fred Ward, Tom Waits, Anne Archer, Madeline Stowe, Jack Lemmon, Andie McDowell, Lily Tomlin, Lili Taylor, Frances McDormand, Buck Henry, Annie Ross, Lori Singer, Matthew Modine, Julianne Moore, and several others.

“Short Cuts” was Altman’s ultra-ambitious follow-up to his 1992 comeback film “The Player.”  However, unlike “The Player,” “Short Cuts” didn’t fare too well at the box office.  Despite this, “Short Cuts” was on many Top 10 lists and Altman was nominated for an Oscar for Best Director.   While I enjoy “The Player,” “Short Cuts” is a far better film and its influence has grown tremendously over the years and its format about multiple characters/stories intersecting has resulted in some great films (P.T. Anderson’s “Magnolia”) and not-so-great (Paul Haggis’s “Crash”).  An underrated masterpiece and my all-time favorite Robert Altman film.