Posts Tagged ‘Jack Lemmon’

Movie Reviews 403 – Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

August 2, 2019

“Gotta have the leads”

That cryptic phrase is the essence of Glengarry Glen Ross, the film scripted by and based on David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize winning play. The ‘leads’ in this case are a coveted list of potential customers for a group of desperate real estate salesmen working in a branch office of a firm that has just cold-heartedly announced the least successful salesman that month will be shown out the door.

With the exception of Richard Roma (Al Pacino), who is on track to win a coveted Cadillac for best salesman that month, all the others in the office are already just barely clinging on when their office manager Williamson (Kevin Spacey) calls a surprise meeting to set the stage for Blake (Alec Baldwin), a hard nosed VP ‘from downtown’ to unleash the news that they have one week ‘get on the board’ with fresh sales. But before the meeting is over Blake taunts the men with a stack of prime new “Glengarry” leads that will only go to ‘closers’. Leads that the men desperately need.

The wretched salesmen include Shelley “The Machine” Levene (Jack Lemmon), once a high flying pitch man now pitifully recalling former glory days when in reality he can’t even afford the measly hundred dollars he bribes Williamson for a few of the new leads. Moss (Ed Harris) is the one with a chip on his shoulder constantly threatening to jump ship and join a competing firm. The only associate he can even have a non-combative discussion with is George (Alan Arkin) only because George is so low on self esteem and confidence himself most of his words are merely echoing what others say.

It’s all about the leads. The leads the men are handed are obsolete and hopeless, and they know it. Moss tempts George with a late night break-in to snatch the new leads which they can then sell to the competition. Shelley, tries to bribe Williamson for just a few new leads to get some sales back into the game. And while all this is happening, Roma slowly, masterfully works over a barfly (Jonathan Pryce) over drinks to land a sale, right under the noses of all the others.

The stellar cast is only outdone by the intricate, crisp dialogue in Mamet’s script. We have Blake’s expletive laced tirade against the salesforce which includes him bringing out an actual set of brass balls to embolden the men. Roma’s pitch is much more subtle with Pacino rambling nonsensically as he slowly but surely lures his mark. The one common thread spewed by each and every salesman are the litany of lies, deceit, maneuvering, foot-in-the-door tactics they unleash on potential prospects. It is both a delight and eye opening to hear the pitches coming from every conceivable angle for that almighty redeeming sale.

Come morning the men arrive at the office to find out that there has been a break in and, surprise, they leads have been stolen. Did Moss follow through on his plan to con George into breaking in? Did “The Machine” have more than mere luck with a huge overnight sale he flaunts in Willamson’s face? The already high strung office explodes with yet more bickering, threats and distress.

I never get tired of this drama. A jewel just as precious as those sacrosanct leads.

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Movie Reviews 306 – The China Syndrome (1979)

July 14, 2017

We can all laugh now after watching those old 1950’s instructional videos of school kids being told to ‘Duck and Cover’ in the event of a nuclear war.- like hiding under a school desk was going to offer any protection for a 50 megaton hydrogen bomb dropping out of the sky. Growing up in the Cold War 70’s we were still living with the threat of a thermonuclear war breaking out any second but we still managed to add another nuclear wrinkle to our worries; home grown nuclear accidents from the growing number of local nuclear power plants. Hollywood films sensationalized the threat of nuclear war in numerous films – Dr. Strangelove, Fail Safe, and War Games to name just a few – but it wasn’t until The China Syndrome that the fear of a nuclear meltdown was tackled head on.

Languishing as a budding TV news reporter relegated to providing the daily upbeat local event stories, Kimberly Wells (Jane Fonda) sees an opportunity to advance her career while working on a story about the inner workings at the local nuclear plant. The visit is purely an instructional promo piece for the hosting power plant authorities until an incident is surreptitiously captured on camera by her spirited and rebellious cameraman friend Richard (Michael Douglas). The soundless images capture control room personnel trying to address what begins as a routine alarm and then growing increasingly nervous as supervisor Jack Godell (Jack Lemmon) fixates his eye on one particular ominous sensor reading. After an interminable few minutes of concerned gazing the event ends with shouts of relief, smiles and claps of approval. But exactly what happened in those few minutes?

While Kimberly and Richard are not sure of the exact nature of what transpired, they know they have something and don’t believe the official press releases downplaying the event with jargon. When attempts to air the footage are scuttled by station management Richard steals the footage, intent on having experts examine the evidence while Kimberly prods Jack who initially tries to allay fears claiming that ‘the system worked’. But Jack himself has other doubts having sensed minor tremors within the plant leading up to the incident. Digging into the technical specifications, architecture drawings and component testing results he uncovers a darker truth that has him scared.One that the plant operators will go to extremes to bury and enough to push Jack over the edge.

Part techno thriller, part dystopian warning, the movie addressed a palpable horror that the world glimpse a mere 12 days after this movie’s release with the first recorded nuclear facility at Three Mile Island and which we’ve sadly gotten closer to with Chernobyl and again in Fukushima.

I have to admit that for myself the inclusion of Jack Lemmon in the cast is enough of a reason to watch this movie (he did earn an Oscar nomination for his role as did Fonda) but this movie has a lot more bite than just good performances. Some of the plot is overly dramatic in a few places but in general the film has stood the test of time. And the warning remains as relevant as ever.