2012 was a year of countless blockbuster disappointments, a handful of sleeper gems, several overhyped critical darlings, some masterful documentaries and foreign films, loads of forgettable dreck, a couple of delightful surprises, and no genuine […]
Movie Smackdown loves a good old fashioned film fight â€” it’s something we do every day that Hollywood does once a year during awards season. Who among us can’t appreciate putting some films in a cage and letting them duke it out until there’s only one left standing?
This year there were nine nominations out of a possibility of ten in the “Best Picture” category.
We’ve had most of the nominated “Best Picture” films in the Smack ring already. 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. […]
Once upon a time, long before you were born, way back in 1994, a writer-director named Quentin Tarantino made a movie called Pulp Fiction. It was a low-budget, stylish and irreverent thriller so wildly entertaining, energetic and fresh that it became an instant cult classic, was a huge critical and box office success, won Quentin an Oscar for his script (story co-written with Roger Avary), and turned him practically overnight into the biggest celebrity director since Alfred Hitchcock.
The movie was so unconventional in so many ways — unusual length (two hours and forty minutes), non-chronological/episodic/multi-plot structure, long stretches of idle chit-chat, hairpin plot turns, extreme violence sprinkled with laughs, eccentric soundtrack selections — and Tarantino was so amply lauded and rewarded for it that he began to believe he could do no wrong, that he could be either as daring or as lazy as he felt on any given day, and we would continue to bow at his feet. The films that followed over the next two decades were… well, it depends who you ask. There are those who still worshipped at his altar, but many others didn’t quite take to much of it, grew tired of waiting for the old Tarantino to return, and viewed each new release with ever-decreasing expectations. […]
Not quite satisfied with making history as the first female Oscar winner for Best Director with The Hurt Locker (2008), Kathryn Bigelow, working again with screenwriter Mark Boal, is back with Zero Dark Thirty, another topical and suspenseful Middle East adventure that’s already a serious contender for this year’s top Oscars. The new film expands far beyond the modest scope of its predecessor, taking on one of the biggest stories of recent years, the decade-long, multi-country search for 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden and how it eventually found closure, a mere 19 months ago (maybe you heard about that part). […]
The body count in Django Unchained — given that it’s a Quentin Tarantino film — is way, way high. The film hits theaters on Christmas Day so we can consider “Peace on Earth” while amping up on slave-era violence. It will likely pack the theaters, Rotten Tomatoes has it with 100% fresh reviews as we write this. We wish we were smart enough to figure out what all of this means about violence in America and what should be done. We are devastated, like everyone else, by what happened in Connecticut, but doubt that a red carpet arrival for Tarantino’s spaghetti-western ultra-violence-fest has much bearing on it. […]
The Smackdown â€œTwo damaged, anti-social people find each other and fall in loveâ€ is not exactly an under-utilized premise for movies. Â The genre is actually pretty extensive, so much so that it would not be […]
Life, as they say, is a journey, and thatâ€™s never so clear as when watching a life story unfold in the hands of a masterful film director. In Life of Pi, the voyage is both literal and symbolic, as the title character is forced to traverse the high seas under Grimmsâ€™ fairy tale-like circumstances that must be seen to be — well, if not believed, then at least experienced at a deep level. At the same time, the young, Indian lead character, a devoted spiritual seeker, undergoes an intense inner journey as well.
Slumdog Millionaire, the multi-Academy Award winning 2008 film, similarly explores a young, Indianâ€™s life journey as he navigates the Dickensian streets of Mumbai, constantly relying on his wiles to survive, while also seeking love and, ultimately, fabulous wealth and the respect he deserves. […]
You’ve heard about all the Kennedy/Lincoln coincidences by now. Some of them are even true. But did you know that Kennedy and Lincoln both have had movies made about pivotal moments in their presidencies? Yeah, I guess you probably did know that. The long list of movie Lincolns includes such notable stars as Henry Fonda, Walter Huston and now, in Steven Spielbergâ€™s new film, Lincoln, Daniel Day-Lewis, while Kennedy has been assayed by, among others, Cliff Robertson, James Franciscus and Bruce Greenwood, who played our youngest President in the true-to-life political thriller, Thirteen Days.
But did you know that I just happened to watch both Lincoln and Thirteen Days in the same week? […]
Iâ€™ve tried to warm up to the motion-capture films Robert Zemeckis has been drawn to recently (Polar Express, Beowulf, Mars Needs Moms) and failed, mainly because it feels as if they have not yet sufficiently warmed up to me. But despite his recent, animated Crapfest from the Uncanny Valley, these two live-action, survival dramas â€“ Flight and Cast Away â€“ are among my favorite films.
When it comes to drama about the human condition, theyâ€™re both a cut above. And they have something else in common too: Each tries pretty successfully to create the scariest jet crash ever seen on film, at the time it went before the cameras. […]
We at the Smack like a sprawling, epic movie about Big Themes as much as anyone else. So in this edition weâ€™re throwing two big, brainy behemoths against each other in a ring-shaking Sumo contest.
In the challengerâ€™s corner, weighing in at a few thousand pounds and nearly three hours in length, is a film so big it needed three credited directors: Cloud Atlas, essentially six movies in one, covering a range of genres, time periods and motifs. Our reigning champ is The Tree of Life, a thick, mood piece by Terrence Malick about a middle-aged manâ€™s reflections on his upbringing and relationship with a tough, unhappy father. And, oh yeah, the origins of life and nature while weâ€™re at it. […]