About Mark Sanchez
Oregon based media and communications consultant Mark Sanchez is on the fifth or sixth step of his recovery program from his career as a television news reporter. And that’s the way it is. Mark has been an Oregonian since the Reagan administration and shows no signs of leaving. He lives in Portland — a city that is famous for its transit system, its rain, its independent film community and, lately, for the TV series Portlandia, which Mark notes is about half-true, but to protect confidential sources he won’t say which half.

How I Won the War (1967) vs. The Magic Christian (1969)

October 28, 2012 Mark Sanchez

Because the Beatles both led their times and and lived with the creative and political expectations of them as well, the energy drain from Beatlemania had been significant. By the time these two films were made in the late 1960s, the cracks were already showing — definitely in society but even, now, in the Beatles who were, more than ever, four guys named John, Paul, George and Ringo.

The Beatles had had a mixed film run. Certainly A Hard Day’s Night (1964) and Help! (1965) were commercial and artistic successes for United Artists (see Smackdown here). But following them up with the barely conceived Magical Mystery Tour (1967) and an arm’s length involvement with Yellow Submarine (1968) hardly signaled that the Beatles had gone Hollywood.

All the Beatles toyed with Hollywood as solo artists both behind-the-scenes and in front-of-the-camera. The first to show individual interest, though, were John Lennon in How I Won the War (1967) and Ringo Starr in The Magic Christian (1969). They each acted in an establishment-tweaking, sarcasm-bubbling and sometimes cringe-inducing films that are certainly cultural artifacts.

Want to know which one of those films works so much better than the other? As Paul McCartney wrote in a song he gave Badfinger that went in his buddy Ringo’s film, keep reading and “Come and Get It.” […]

CONVENTIONAL WISDOM: Republican National Convention (2012) -vs- Democratic National Convention (2012)

September 6, 2012 Mark Sanchez

In less than two months Americans will write the final chapter of the recurring reality show we once called the presidential election. Former Massachusetts Governor Willard “Mitt” Romney emerged from testy GOP Smackdown primaries with his haircut intact. President Barack Obama didn’t have a Democrat opponent, but faced a tougher job: He had to govern during the run-up to the conventions.

Now the conventions are over, and it’s our turn to cast a pre-vote of sorts. Just how well – as TV events – did the parties establish their candidates and focus their messages for November? […]

Awake (NBC) -vs- Fringe (Fox)

April 30, 2012 Mark Sanchez

It’s the lucky ones among us who get the luxury of a “do over,” a chance to take the road less traveled. Poet Robert Frost isn’t the first person to actively wonder what lies on the other side of the life we’ve made. A pair of admired TV programs work that street of possibilities, although maybe not for long.

Let’s touch on the newer and more endangered series first. NBC announced Awake as a mid-season replacement for 2012. This is a cop show with a twist that marks it as a fresh entry in a tired, overplayed genre. Propelled by advance hosannas at the Critics’ Choice Television Awards, the series premiered on March 1 to more than six million viewers, but despite the healthy start, low ratings may put Awake to sleep before it gets a shot at Season 2. […]

Tower Heist (2011) -vs- Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

November 4, 2011 Mark Sanchez

Everyone likes seeing David whip Goliath, especially these days, with people absorbing the emotional toll of a tanking economy, with limited prospects for recovery. At times like these, we all become like Network’s Howard Beale, shouting, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.” Why else does Occupy [your city here] keep rolling? […]

Warrior (2011) -vs- The Fighter (2010)

September 6, 2011 Mark Sanchez

From Cain and Abel to King Lear to The Godfather saga, sibling rivalry has fueled many a classic Smackdown.

Warrior, opening this weekend and featuring two estranged brothers thrown together for a five million dollar payday in the mixed martial arts arena, is no exception. It steps into the ring here against The Fighter, a small, boxing film that took Hollywood by storm, eventually earning seven Academy nominations and wins for Christian Bale and Melissa Leo in supporting roles. […]

Reign Over Me (2007) -vs- Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)

September 6, 2011 Mark Sanchez

Many of us now mark time pre-9/11 and post-9/11. Horrific events that day took nearly 3000 lives and altered history. It’s been 10 years. Americans and others now regard their sense of national identity and personal security much differently. Films have stepped up to reinterpret that moment when everything changed. Dozens of movies, large and small, offer stylized reminders of events and their effects on people. Most tell us something important about a seismic shift we’ll never forget.

This Smackdown revisits 9/11 films sitting at either end of the heartbreak spectrum: One contender focuses on the big picture for all of us. The other dramatizes how those weighty events affect one person. […]

Colombiana (2011) -vs- Taken (2009)

August 26, 2011 Mark Sanchez

“You done me wrong – and you’re going to pay!”

How many times have we witnessed the impulse for revenge? In the movies, just consider Michael Corleone, Kill Bill 1 & 2, and fully half of Clint Eastwood’s impressive oeuvre.

Colombiana just opened with a stylish, bloody bang from writer-producer Luc Besson. He mines familiar territory with a female protagonist holding her own against long odds (Le Femme Nikita, Leon the Professional, The Fifth Element). This time the heroine is Zoe Saldana, whose character, Cataleya, offers an astonishing response to a traumatic childhood.

Besson has his bets covered in this Smackdown! Having co-written and produced the very popular revenge-fest Taken, from 2008, he can’t lose either way. This Defending Champion features some of the worst characters ever deserving the fate awaiting them. Liam Neeson is the protagonist with a lethal grievance. Grab your flak jacket, put away the moral compass and be glad somebody else will be cleaning the carpets. […]

The Tree of Life (2011) -vs- The Fountain (2006)

July 6, 2011 Mark Sanchez

The universe is full of mystery: What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? If God exists, why does He allow evil? And perhaps most perplexing of all, how did not one, but two Hollywood productions in the last five years attract major financing for projects tackling those kinds of questions without linear stories that film critics, not to mention common moviegoers, could understand?

Well, the good Lord works in mysterious ways, and in the case of writer-director Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life (now in theaters) and The Fountain (2006), written and directed by Darren Aronofsky with help on the story from Ari Handel, we are arguably better off for it.

Reactions are all over the lot on Malick’s latest opus, and so is the film, which examines a Texas family’s extended life and reaches for an emotional link connecting it to all of creation. Aronofsky’s metaphysical missile, on the other hand, describes a parabola between life and death, attempting to shed light on life’s essence through a sort of tag-team narrative, part of which deals with a literal search for — wait for it — the tree of life. […]

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