La La Land (2016) vs. New York, New York (1977)

February 23, 2017 Arthur Tiersky

Classic Smackdown alert! L.A. vs. New York! East Coast vs. West Coast! Cars vs. Subways! Dark romantic hit ’10s musical vs. Dark romantic flop ’70s musical! Studly leading man De Niro vs. studly leading man Gosling! Winsome Stone vs. irrepressible Minnelli. […]

Nightcrawler (2014) vs. Zodiac (2007)

October 31, 2014 Arthur Tiersky

If we’ve learned anything over the years from movies about journalists, reporters and TV newspeople, it’s that theirs is a world of ethical and psychological pitfalls. One day, you’re an upstanding citizen doing your job, investigating and helping keep the public apprised of current events, and then, suddenly you’re Kirk Douglas in Ace in the Hole (1951), deliberately manipulating your story to create and prolong the media circus surrounding it. Or you’re Philip Seymour Hoffman in Capote (2005), befriending a convicted murderer but privately rooting for his execution. Or you’re Johnny Depp in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), ingesting so many intoxicants that you miss the story entirely. Or you’re Hayden Christensen in Shattered Glass (2003) and just flat out making shit up. […]

Gone Girl (2014) vs. Gone Baby Gone (2007)

October 3, 2014 Arthur Tiersky

It wasn’t so long ago that Ben Affleck was among the easiest punchlines in Hollywood: A wooden, one-note actor with horrendous taste in projects, a consistent provider of gossip fodder, and the co-winner of a screenwriting Oscar that few believed he actually deserved. But then, in 2007, he made the second-wisest move of his career (just behind ditching J-Lo and settling down with J-Garn): He turned his focus to further developing his behind-the-camera talents, choosing Gone Baby Gone, a twisty, noirish mystery based on a novel about a specious kidnapping, for his directorial debut (and opting to leave the acting chores in the film to his younger, squirrelly brother, Casey). […]

Fargo vs. True Detective

September 16, 2014 Arthur Tiersky

What will be the water cooler topic of the coming years? If you work in my office, then Fantasy Football is, as always, the obvious answer. (Seriously, people, if it’s such a great sport, why do you need to gin it up with fantasies? But I digress.) In terms of episodic TV, the pickings are growing steadily slimmer, with Breaking Bad a brilliant but fading memory, Mad Men with but a half-season remaining, and Game of Thrones already starting to show its age, with many disappointed by this past season and (quite justifiably) concerned about the coming Hodor-less one. […]

The Fault In Our Stars (2014) vs. The Spectacular Now (2013)

June 5, 2014 Arthur Tiersky

You fell in love with her in The Descendants (2011), and then you blinked, and suddenly Shailene Woodley was everywhere.

Just in the past nine months alone, she’s been in two horribly titled romances made from best-selling young-adult novels, both adapted, in fact, by the same writing team, best known for previous Smackdown challenger (500) Days of Summer starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who was also the star of 50/50, which shares a theme with…

Well, I’m getting ahead of myself. So let’s get on with this week’s bout, as we pit last fall’s The Spectacular Now against current release The Fault in Our Stars. Because if Movie Smackdown didn’t do it, who Woodley?

(Sorry.)
[…]

Her (2013) vs. Lost in Translation (2003)

December 20, 2013 Arthur Tiersky

We here at Smackdown have a soft spot in our hearts for movies about lonely, alienated mopes. This may or may not have something to do with some of us here in Smackland being lonely, alienated mopes, but in any case, we’re all about the Mopelecore movies, and when they’re about how the mopes learn to get out of their mopey shells and embrace the wonders of the world around them, even more so. And when they are brought out of their shells by the likes of Scarlett Johansson? Catnip. Heck, when it’s Scarlett, it doesn’t even have to be a mope, necessarily, it could be some shallow, womanizing, porn-addicted guido for all we care. What we’re getting at here: Consider us Team ScarJo.

But back to the mopes and this week’s Smackdown, in which two Mope-Meets-Jo tales will try to out-sulk each other, and as a special ultra-Smackdown bonus, the writer-directors of each are ex-spouses. Exes fighting each other! Little thing we like to call Ex-Box. (Eh? Eh?)

Anyway… Mopes to your corners! Let’s do this. […]

American Hustle (2013) vs. The Informant (2009)

December 12, 2013 Arthur Tiersky

Who doesn’t love Matt Damon and Christian Bale?

(Okay, probably this guy doesn’t love Bale so much, and Minnie Driver still might be holding a grudge against Damon…But just go with me on this…)

And who doesn’t love when big stars like Matt Damon and Christian Bale ugly themselves up with bad hairpieces and weight gains and cheesy facial hair for a scruffy little indie role?

And who doesn’t love period offbeat indie comedies based on true stories in which the aforementioned uglied-up big stars like Matt Damon and Christian Bale play real-life dudes who started working undercover with the Feds to catch criminals, only to turn out to be unreliable and devious and driven by their own agendas?

And who doesn’t love when original mavericks of low-budget filmmaking like Steven Soderbergh and David O. Russell return to their indie roots and make…what I just said above? […]

Dallas Buyers Club (2013) vs. Philadelphia (1993)

October 30, 2013 Arthur Tiersky

As the anniversary of the release of Philadelphia approaches, let’s take a moment to consider just what the apparent requirements were for a major studio to be bold enough to make a movie about homosexuality and AIDS back in 1993:

Both leads had to be played by huge stars, and the villain played by one of our most beloved character actors. The director had to have come off an enormous smash that had just swept the Oscars. The opening theme song had to be supplied by the ultimate blue-collar, all-American pop star. The protagonist could be gay, but only if counter-balanced by the other lead being a raging homophobe, and the protagonist and his lover (played by an international star himself) could not only never be seen in bed together, but could never be seen sharing more than a chaste slow-dance.

So admittedly, as envelope-pushing on this topic goes, Philadelphia may not be viewed on the level of, say, Brokeback Mountain (2005), but it’s entirely fair to say that Philadelphia made Brokeback Mountain possible, as well as the current release, Dallas Buyers Club. So what better way for the newborn to pay tribute to its spiritual grandfather than to throw them into the ring for a face-off?
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All is Lost (2013) vs. Gravity (2013)

October 26, 2013 Arthur Tiersky

Lost at sea.

Lost in space.

Adrift alone in a vast ocean, the helpless victim of a freak accident.

Adrift alone in the cosmos… same dealio.

Man vs. Nature.

Woman vs. Nature.

One of the top movie stars of the ’70s, holding the screen all by himself for an entire film.

One of the top movie stars of the last 20 years, holding the screen all by her… well, okay, she’s got help, so we’ll stop there, but the point is, these two thematically similar movies of survival are facing off at your local cineplex as we speak. One is a studio blockbuster on its way to being among the year’s biggest hits, the other is a modest indie seeking sleeper success, and both seem destined for Oscar attention and rivalry, but in the meantime, let’s sit back and watch Gravity and All is Lost duke it out, keeping in mind that here at Smackdown, movie titles are not necessarily spoilers. […]

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