The White Ribbon (2009) -vs- The Last Station (2009)

February 23, 2010 Sherry Coben

Over the fifteen months preceding the first world war, a series of increasingly strange events unfold in a tiny German town. (In this hamlet, something’s rotten in the state of Germany, not Denmark.) The denizens are not individual characters so much as monstrous archetypes; the landed baron a controlling overlord who gradually loses control, the doctor a cold, cruel, and sexually perverse father, the pastor sexually repressed and physically abusive to his many children, the schoolteacher ineffectual, romantic, and somewhat distracted. The children are beaten and tortured, molested and abandoned, mistreated and punished for every infraction. The women are muzzled, abused, and dispatched with not much fanfare. Even the crops suffer brutal beheadings, and the pets savagely killed. In revenge, they act out their dark fantasies, traveling in a creepy Children-of-the-Corn-style pack, walking in an ominously straight line, visiting mysterious cruelties on the different, the Other. All this ritualized punishment rains down on the entire town; initially, the town looks normal, but soon the bucolic vistas yield to a slow motion horror movie, all portent and unease.
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An Education (2009) -vs- Say Anything (1989)

February 16, 2010 Bryce Zabel

Listen up, ‘rents. Being a father is never easy, but being the father of a teenage girl, and trying to get that one right is a true challenge. Both of these films — two decades apart in production dates and period settings — show fathers who, with the best of intentions, get it all wrong, but they get it wrong in exactly opposite ways.

You can care too little and you can care too much. When you’re in the middle of things, it’s not always so easy to see which is which. Believe me, as a father of girl who has just left her teenage years behind, these are matters I’ve thought a little bit about. I keep thinking of the famous Kenny Rogers’ song (“The Gambler,” written by Don Schlitz) that you gotta know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em. Like that’s easy. Still, what we have here to consider are a couple of fathers who don’t know best, not by a long shot… […]

VOTE NOW: Writers Choose One of Their Own as Host!

January 28, 2010 Bryce Zabel

No one could ever call the Writers Guild Awards predictable. Even the most enthusiastic Avatar booster admits to having some issues with that film’s script (or at least, with the occasionally clumsy dialogue). The brilliantly scripted In the Loop makes for a glaring omission that can be explained; the film was not included in the list of candidates for nomination.
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An Education (2009) -vs- A Single Man (2009)

January 28, 2010 Sherry Coben

It’s 1962, stylishly retro and way cool. TV’s Mad Men have paved the cultural way for two more stellar entries in the Sex And The Sixties pantheon. With the swinging sixties looming right on the horizon, Los Angeles college literature professor George (Colin Firth) and sixteen year old suburban London student Jenny (Carey Mulligan) fumble their un-merry ways through the rough-and-tumble terrain of love, loss, secrets, and sexual experience. Both lead performances have stirred up considerable Academy Award buzz, but they’re unlikely to compete head to head anywhere but right here. Dewy Maiden with Distinct Audrey Hepburn Echoes takes on World-Weary Confirmed Bachelor with a Not-So-Secret Secret. The winner? A grateful arthouse (and beyond) audience.
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The Hurt Locker Defuses Top Award from the Producers Guild

January 24, 2010 Bryce Zabel

If you haven’t seen it, the film is about a bomb-defusing unit in Iraq, a job that comes with a guarantee of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder when you go home. Although it won at the Critics’ Choice Awards, it lost ground when the Globes chose “Avatar” as best dramatic film and then SAG gave its film ensemble award to Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds.”
What’s it all mean? Well, for starters, this PGA award always gets looked at as an indicator for which way the wind’s blowing in the race for the Academy Award for best film. During the past two decades, a baker’s dozen (13) of previous PGA winners have gone on to win the best film Oscar. The last time they didn’t connect was when the producers gave “Little Miss Sunshine” the win while the film academy went with “The Departed.”
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VOTE NOW: Smackdown Poll on DGA Nominees

January 15, 2010 Bryce Zabel

The Directors Guild of America nominations traditionally predict the Academy Award nominees (and winners) with considerable and uncanny accuracy. DGA nominees are also traditionally and almost exclusively white males. This year, in a more-than-welcome break with that longheld and too-infrequently broken tradition, Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”) and Lee Daniels (“Precious”) are crashing the extremely prestigious party. Vote here for your favorite nominee:
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Up In The Air (2009) -vs- It’s Complicated (2009)

December 30, 2009 Sherry Coben

Finally, it’s awards season again, when the really big guns take aim for our hearts, minds, and pocketbooks. Coming out swinging for the bleachers are two movies made for adults of a certain (middle) age, the demographic that lopes through the rest of the year nearly forgotten, begging for scraps at a table set for callow youth and action figures. George Clooney and Meryl Streep both navigate the rough and increasingly muddied waters of love and commitment, and it’s a thrill to watch them struggle.
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The Young Victoria (2009) -vs- Sherlock Holmes (2009)

December 27, 2009 Sherry Coben

Calling all Anglophiles! England’s longest reigning monarch takes on the cleverest subject of her (fictional) realm in this All-Union-Jack Smackdown. Both repackaged and reimagined for the new millennium’s theatergoing audience — the usually buttoned-up Victoria gets unstuffed and sexed up in a lush period romance/political drama, and Sherlock gets the no-holds-barred no-punches-pulled Guy Ritchie/Joel Silver treatment. Both title characters make formidable contenders for the Smackdown crown; there’s nothing I appreciate more than a really good makeover.
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