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


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!

“Swimming with Sharks” (1994) dir. George Huang


One of the best (and sadly forgotten) indies from the mid-1990s is George Huang’s dark Hollywood satire “Swimming with Sharks.” “Sharks” is “The Player” filtered through David Mamet and contains one of Kevin Spacey’s finest performances as the Satanic studio executive Buddy Ackerman. The verbal brutality Spacey’s character inflicts on his underling, played by Frank Whaley, is alternately frightening and … darkly funny (if you’re in a particularly sick mood). Attached is the infamous scene where Whaley gives Spacey a packet of Equal instead of Sweet ‘n’ Low. Key dialogue: “You … have … no … brain. No judgement calls are necessary. What you think means nothing. What you feel means (heh-heh) nothing.”