Albert Nobbs: A Cross-Dressing Downton Abbey

February 14, 2012 Bryce Zabel

The film Albert Nobbs — a cross-dressing version of Downton Abbey — features Glenn Close dressed as a man the entire movie. She plays the title character, a 19th-century Dublin woman who passes as a man so she can work as a waiter. I’ll bet confused waiters all over the world are racing off to check the movie listings even as we speak.

The look is so bizarre that my daughter who attended the screening with me expressed her fear after the film that she’s going to have nightmares about the character. But the voting members of the film Academy gave Close an Oscar nomination. . […]

The Way We See it: Joe Rassulo on the Oscars

February 8, 2012 Joe Rassulo

The Artist is this year’s most talked about and most overrated film. Yes, it’s charming and filled with lovely, touching performances and indelible moments of black and white reveries of movies and times past. It is a wonderful homage to an era long gone. Its obvious relevance to today is its theme of technology leaving many obsolete in its wake. There’s a familiar resonance to the despair many feel in today’s technological storm, which has left so many jobless and even homeless. But the film touches on that theme in a broad, superficial way. “Modern Times” it is not. It’s a singular, gimmicky, almost-silent film that works on every level except one of true substance. And, I believe, a best picture of the year should do more than charm. […]

The Oscar as the Ultimate Smackdown

January 30, 2012 Bryce Zabel

Despite the major studios’ insistence on making primarily mega-budget, tent-pole, comic-book, sequel-remake, monster-alien-scifi films as their bread-and-butter, challenging and compelling original films do get made every year through alternative means. And, despite the harping and complaining we all do, there always seems to be a great crop that bridge the divide and are worth saluting. Those are the kinds of films that the Academy Awards gravitate to as their nominees. […]

What We Thought of The Golden Globes…

January 16, 2012 Movie Smackdown

If Hollywood were some dysfunctional family unit, then Ricky Gervais is the crazy drunk uncle who comes to your house and tells inappropriate jokes that horrify and crack everybody up in equal measure. You don’t know whether to throw him out or tolerate him, until he crosses the line and says something about grandma’s nasty bathroom habits, and when he gets called on it, he’s had too much to drink already, and he storms off to the nearest hotel to sleep it off. Then, the next year, you all assume he should never be re-invited, but the memories have dimmed of the off-color jokes and all you remember is how much fun you had. […]

The Return of the Kings: Gervais-Crystal Smackdown

January 13, 2012 Bryce Zabel

In our Hollywood family, Billy Crystal, in contrast to Ricky Gervais, is the really funny older brother or family friend who tells great stories, knows a couple of magic tricks for the kids, can lead with “Happy Birthday” or “Hava Nagila” when called upon and, when the kids are out of earshot, is renowned for his annual telling of some off-color joke that is perfectly calibrated to shock but not really offend anyone. You know he won’t cross the line, really, because he’s a good guest — he’s come to the last eight dinners and each one was a warm memory, even if you can’t quite remember one from the other. They all kind of blend together but he’s so nice and, besides, he’ll show up even if you ask him late because that cute guy from the office can’t make it after all. He’s Jay Leno-safe, except that he can also sing and dance. […]

Real Steel (2011) -vs- Rocky (1976)

October 9, 2011 Nicole Marchesani

Ah, the American dream. The hope that everyone, regardless of status, wealth or origin, has the opportunity to work for what they want and get it. One of the great ways Hollywood has represented the American dream in film is through boxing. Films like Cinderella Man, Ali, The Fighter and the most famous of all, Rocky. Rocky Balboa has been a symbol of the American dream for more than three decades. He continues to win the hearts of Americans by proving that the underdog from humble beginnings can go the distance.

Stepping into the smackdown ring to challenge Rocky is Real Steel, set to release in theaters Friday, October 6. Real Steel is a real contender, with a dynamic cast, stellar special effects and a sentimental story with heart. But does it have what it takes to defeat Rocky, the legendary, reigning champion? Let’s bring this fight to the ring and find out. There’s the opening bell… […]

Alice in Wonderland (2010) -vs- Avatar (2009)

March 16, 2010 Sherry Coben

I confess I’d happily watch Johnny Depp read a phone book, but even accounting for my extreme prejudice, his performance as the Mad Hatter is the linchpin of the piece. He is its heart, its Scarecrow, its Tin Man. Acting through crazily tinted contacts and a crowning frizz of unfortunate and unearthly ginger, Depp somehow manages to play a compelling leading man, a romantic lead, and an action hero. (His promised triumphant Futterwacken is a dire misfire and huge disappointment, a limp noodle of a magical victory dance.)
The rest of the cast performs admirably enough. Anne Hathaway Glindas it up as the White Queen, Crispin Glover plays the Knave of Hearts as elongated creepy courtier, and Helena Bonham Carter goes ghostly pale once again, this time a vain and giant-noggined Red Queen. She’s delicious and mordantly funny, and her decapitated head-filled moat provides enough nightmare food to keep kiddie nightlights burning for a good long time.
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Green Zone (2010) -vs- The Hurt Locker (2009)

March 16, 2010 Beau DeMayo

It’s not a good time for the American occupation of Iraq. The news from “over there” is that the followers of Moktada al-Sadr, the radical cleric who led the Shia insurgency against the American occupation, have emerged as Iraq’s equivalent of the 1994 Republican Party. Meanwhile, back in the United States, Americans voted about Iraq, too, refusing to give “Green Zone” any mandate whatsoever. And, keep in mind that the other Iraq film that just won the Best Picture Oscar, “The Hurt Locker,” basically was one of the worst-peforming winners in that category ever. Maybe it’s just the hot button political sensitivities, war-weariness, or that it is simply “too soon.” Other critics can decide that, however, because here at the Smack, we simply want to know which film about the Iraq War gets it most right, box-office be damned!
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And the Smacky Goes To…

March 6, 2010 Bryce Zabel

This year’s poll of the Oscar favorites attracted hundreds of our most intelligent readers (see how much we’re willing to pander to those activists?) and they have spoken. We asked them not to vote for the film they think will win but for the film they think should win. They’ve given us a statistical tie between…
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