The Reader (2008) -vs- Doubt (2008)

December 28, 2008 Bryce Zabel

Both “The Reader” and “Doubt” feature lead characters that either are or probably are having sex with underage boys. If you’re looking to find the rooting value in either of these films, you’ll have to look pretty hard. During the awards season run-up out here in Hollywood both films got a big push from their studios as “serious” films worthy of Oscar attention and it got each a few nominations from other awards-giving groups (but not in the “Slumdog Millionaire” or “Benjamin Button” stratosphere). Now “The Reader” has made it into the Final Five in the “Best Picture” category of the Academy Awards but, even so, is clearly a long shot. One thing we can settle here and now, though, is which one is worth paying to see in a theater and which one you can wait for the DVD. That’s just how we roll at the Smack so let’s get started… […]

Slumdog Millionaire (2008) -vs- The Kite Runner (2007)

December 27, 2008 Bryce Zabel

Childhood friendships can last a lifetime and have profound consequences. Both Slumdog Millionaire and The Kite Runner tell sweeping stories in the lives of two boys — a set of brothers in the former and a set of friends who act like brothers in the latter. They use narratives that cut back-and-forth across time, forcing them to use multiple sets of actors to portray their characters as boys turn to men. The contemporary story lines are deepened by the children’s experiences we see in flashback. Both films started as novels, force viewers (English-speaking ones anyway) to read a few subtitles and share settings — India and Afghanistan — that have been scarred by terrorism as deeply as the United States. And even though Slumdog Millionaire is assured of a “Best Picture” Oscar nomination this year (and currently, is the odds-on favorite to win), it’s still going to have to hold off The Kite Runner to win this Smackdown… […]

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) -vs- Forrest Gump (1994)

December 25, 2008 Bryce Zabel

When “Forrest Gump” hit the theaters in 1994, it was a pure original: nothing quite like it had come before. Tom Hanks got the title role and basically hit it out of the park playing a man-child with an IQ of 75 who manages to be involved in every major happening in America between the 1950s and the 1980s. As directed by Robert Zemeckis, the film manages to move forward relentlessly in its narrative scope and, before it’s over, Tom Hanks has taught Elvis, made JFK laugh, been a hero in Vietnam, opened up China with his ping-pong skills, run across America and had a girlfriend die of AIDS. The bases are covered every which way but it’s Hanks’s dignified, down-to-Earth performance that sets it totally apart. It might be a comedy or a drama, I’m not really sure.
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