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(500) Days of Summer (2009) -vs- Annie Hall (1977)

July 31, 2009 Jackie Zabel 9

(500) Days of Summer takes many of its cues from a certain New York filmmaker, making it similar to a pivotal movie in the entire rom-com genre, Woody Allen’s Annie Hall. Maybe that’s what got the screenplay nominated this year by the Writers Guild of America.

What unites both films here is their exploration of male feelings. Yes — guy feelings — and not just lust. Both men have a desire to connect with a woman that goes beyond plugging into a sexual electric socket (although both celebrate first plug-ins, as it were), but really these guys want a relationship based also on meeting emotional needs as well as their romantic visions of love.

Here’s the Smackdown question: Has Annie Hall aged well enough to still hold onto its crown, or is it just an aging fighter, great in its day, but no match for the moves of a younger, better-trained opponent? Let’s go to the movies and find-out… […]

Sunshine Cleaning (2009) -vs- Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

April 2, 2009 Bryce Zabel 1

When I first saw it, I thought Little Miss Sunshine was a true original. Three years later, from several of the same producers, came another film shot in New Mexico, with a precocious kid in the center, Alan Arkin as the outspoken grandfather, a dysfunctional family that ultimately rallies around each other no matter how weird or hard it is, and the word “sunshine” in the title.

But Sunshine Cleaning is no clone and certainly no comedy. Still, it’s strong enough to step in the ring with the champion and throw a few hard punches of its own. Both are a breath of fresh air (well, the air in Cleaners can get a little putrid), because the only super-heroics are done by damaged people just trying to get by.

From a Dad’s point-of-view, Alan Arkin’s expert timing provides some of the comic high points for both films, and his soulful screen presence as family patriarch gives them heft. In Little Miss Sunshine, his social inappropriateness is more extreme and, because of that, more hilarious. But he’s funny in Sunshine Cleaning, too and, as in the earlier film, we can see that his comedic missteps are motivated by love for his family. […]

Enchanted (2007) – vs – Penelope (2006)

August 3, 2008 Lauren Zabel 3

You gotta love a good ole’ fashioned fairy tale!

Despite centuries of far-fetched stories involving glass shoes that don’t shatter when you run down a flight of stairs and women who can sleep for a hundred years and not age a day (if only!), audiences still love to be swept off their feet with tales of romance, villainy, and happily ever after.

Today’s fairy tales are a twisted version of these Grimm stories, complete with cynicism, satire, sarcasm, and tongue-in-cheek delivery — like the Shrek films but with real actors. Penelope (2006) and Enchanted (2007) duke it out one fairy-tale stereotype at a time. […]

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