Cloud Atlas (2012) vs. The Tree of Life (2011)

October 25, 2012 Eric Volkman

We at the Smack like a sprawling, epic movie about Big Themes as much as anyone else. So in this edition we’re throwing two big, brainy behemoths against each other in a ring-shaking Sumo contest.

In the challenger’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 man’s reflections on his upbringing and relationship with a tough, unhappy father. And, oh yeah, the origins of life and nature while we’re at it. […]

Where The Wild Things Are (2009) -vs- The Wizard of Oz (1939)

October 18, 2009 Sherry Coben

Both films adapt difficult and brilliant works of children’s literature and manage to exceed any expectations, evoking and exploring themes only hinted at in the original texts. Both films achieve a technical excellence and rare beauty that thrills and ignites our passion for storytelling on the silver screen. Both films accurately capture the complicated and often overlooked dark sides of childhood; adults see what they want to see and recall what they want to recall. Children can seem to them simplified little people, easy to control. Children feel their feelings deeply and powerfully though; the less they are seen, the more powerfully they ache to be seen clearly. Attention deficit is the usual diagnosis when children misbehave; children want to be seen and heard and attended.
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Public Enemies (2009) -vs- Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

July 7, 2009 Sherry Coben

Gangsters have occupied a rather over-elevated rung on the movie subject matter ladder since the first hand-cranked silents unspooled for the hungry hordes a century ago. Criminals lead such dramatic lives, so full of danger and tragedy and excitement that we naturally look to them for our movie myths and anti-heroes. We fantasize and fetishize these quintessential losers so dutifully that they continue to exude glamour and power some seventy-odd years past their reign of terror. Their Depression seemed more romantic, more photo-ready than our own, their poverty and hard times made picturesque by the passage of time. Criminal desperation and anarchic violence gets rendered literary and archetypal. So which film featuring the fall of which ill-fated bankrobber/lover makes the grade? Depp’s dapper Dillinger faces off squarely with Beatty’s Barrow.
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