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Hollywood Directors at DGA Pick Their Top Five Films

Bryce Zabel, Editor-in-Chief

The Directors Guild of America (DGA) announced its nominees today for the 64th annual DGA Awards.

We all know the drill for what comes next in such coverage; in fact, we can probably recite it by memory. All together now: the DGA award is the single best predictor of the nominees for and winners of the best director Oscar. So if you care about the Oscars, you care about the DGA winner.

A DGA nomination is an important part of that hype for the simple reason that it’s the direction and the directors who are nominated, not the film itself. Even though it often seems the two are one and the same, they aren’t. And it can get personal because of this. As the Hollywood Reporter noted in its coverage:

As was widely expected, Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist), Alexander Payne (The Descendants), Martin Scorsese (Hugo), and Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris) scored nominations. But, in something of a surprise, the final slot was claimed not by Steven Spielberg (War Horse) or Tate Taylor (The Help), both of whose films have been regarded as serious best picture Oscar threats, but rather by David Fincher (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), whose end-of-the-year release has generated mixed feelings among audiences, critics, and guilds thus far.

Because we are diligent culture-watchers operating here at The Smack, we come to this day well-prepared. We’ve had each of the nominated director’s films in the Smack ring already, each one reviewed by a different critic as it turns out. I’m very proud of the writing on display here from Art Tiersky, Nicole Marchesani, Mark Sanchez, Ben Silverio and Eric Volkman. Each one of them is riffing from the Movie Smackdown theme song, but they’re adding their own signature sound to it.

This offers us the chance, here in this single post, to create a gateway for you to lots of fresh writing, keen observation and (of course) a general lack of respect for authority, cinematic or otherwise.

If you want to go straight to any of these reviews, just click on the graphics and away you’ll go!  Each Smackdown has a poll embedded in it and some of them are just amazingly close, so check them out. After you’re done, drop by our Facebook page and let us know your own thoughts.

The Artist -vs- Singin’ in the Rain

The Artist (2011) -vs- Singing in the Rain (1952)

(Nicole Marchesani) Computer-generated effects, 3D, surround sound… It’s hard to believe there was a time when the biggest challenge in filmmaking was incorporating the sound of characters talking. The 1952 classic Singin’ in the Rainpays homage to that task while showcasing some of the greatest song-and-dance of its era. With the introduction of talking pictures and color soon to follow, everyone in Hollywood jumped on the bandwagon, and silent, black-and-white films almost instantly became a thing of the past.

Why would anyone want to return to such a time, when it was clear, even back then, there was no market for silent films? Frenchman Michel Hazanavicius, the writer/director of The Artist, disagrees, and he’s out to prove that with creativity and talent, anything is possible. The Artist, Hazanavicius’ silent black-and-white film that opens this week, is already getting a heavy Oscar buzz, but will it make the same kind of lasting impact on moviegoers as its rival, or should we stick with the classics and encourage filmmakers to keep looking forward instead of back? Click Here to Read the Full Smackdown>

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo -vs- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

(Eric Volkman)  Leave it to Movie Smackdown to throw two mythical film beasts at each other. The Dragons in this tale are the mighty Scandinavian monsters that have dominated the world of fiction for nearly a decade. Metaphors aside, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was the first in a series of three mystery novels by the late Swedish writer Stieg Larsson. Dragon and its two siblings became best-sellers throughout the world quickly after publication. So it wasn’t surprising when the movie people showed up for an adaptation.

Fittingly, the Swedes got there first with a 2009 version of the first book; two years later, we have Hollywood heavyweight director David Fincher doing a big-budget reworking of same. So the claws are out, and the air will reek of sulfur from the fire-breath of our monsters. But only one Dragon will prevail.  Click here to read the full Smackdown>

Midnight in Paris -vs- Adaptation

Midnight in Paris -vs- Adaptation

(Mark Sanchez)  If there’s anything that sounds less appealing than watching the mental anguish of a blocked writer, we can’t imagine what it is. In fact, we can’t even begin to visualize… hold on a second… getting my thoughts straight… just have to play some Spider Solitaire while I, um… trying to focus… Huh — I didn’t know we had Cheetos….

Fifteen hours later. Right, where were we? Oh yeah, writer’s block — it’s not pretty. Not cinematic either, until Charlie Kaufman came along and sweated blood for three years, cracking the code of how to translate to film his own innermost creative struggle in a deeply personal, throw-out-the-rulebook kind of way. His resulting screenplay for Adaptation became the Holy Grail of screenwriter movies, and under the brilliant direction of Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Where the Wild Things Are), earned a slew of Academy Award nominations, including one for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Kaufman and Jonze took their basic conceit to dizzying new heights, but the idea of basing a protagonist on one’s self and thrusting him into a world populated by famous characters, both real and fictional, has been done before — notably by Woody Allen. Now the Wood-Man’s at it again with Midnight in Paris, the 44th film he’s written and directed.

Two unhinged lead characters, two brilliant supporting casts, two ambitiously plotted mashups of a writer’s comic trip down the rabbit hole. Anyone want some Cheetos? Click here to read the full Smackdown>

Hugo -vs- Pinocchio

Hugo (2011) -vs- Pinocchio (1940)

(Ben Silverio)  Walt Disney and Martin Scorsese — two names that stand out in the pantheon of cinema legends. Both have made indelible contributions both to the world of film and to popular culture. Now, for the first time ever, they’re in the same weight class, so we’re bringing them together for what’s sure to be a classic Smackdown.

Don’t be fooled by the size and ages of the two title characters from their films in this bout. While they may be young boys, on their own, looking for their purpose in this crazy world, they each pack a Pacquiao-style punch in more than one department. Cinematically, technically and narratively, their stories are both groundbreaking and larger than life.

Fighting out of the Scorsese corner is Hugo, the legendary director’s new effort and his first foray into broad, family-friendly fare. Representing the formidable Disney empire is the second full-length animated classic produced by the House of Mouse, Pinocchio. Both stories originated from the literary world. Now, brought to life head-to-head on the big screen, only one can rule this boys’ clubhouse. And don’t say you know which it will be, or your nose might start growing.  Click here to read the full Smackdown>

The Descendants -vs- The Boys Are Back

Descendants (2011) -vs- Boys Are Back (2009)

(Art Tiersky)  The good news is, ladies… your dream man is available! And you have your choice of two! And they’re both successful, and they live in beautiful beach towns! The bad news is, how they became available is a really sad story. Actually, two really sad but similar stories.

Oh, and after years of being a passive parent, each one is now suddenly, reluctantly responsible for raising two kids, a rebellious teen and a difficult youngster, on his own.

Oh, and one of them still sees and converses with his dead wife, and the other’s wife isn’t technically dead yet.

Still interested?

Of course you are! You can’t even decide which one you’re more interested in. So let’s take George Clooney in The Descendants and Clive Owen in The Boys are Back and let ’em have at it for this special Gorgeous and Sensitive Widower with Kids Smackdown!  Click here to read the full Smackdown>

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