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. . […]

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011) -vs- Reign Over Me (2007)

December 23, 2011 Arthur Tiersky

I’d imagine a screenplay or a novel about grieving families of 9/11 victims must have been quite difficult and risky to write in the first few years following the attack. Now, having boldly faced the task of writing a snarky column comparing two movies about 9/11 grief, I can entirely sympathize with those intrepid, suffering screenwriters. Hell, someone had to write this Smackdown, and if I didn’t, who would? (A: Probably one of the other Smackers. There’s like a jillion of us now.) […]

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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Slumdog Millionaire (2008) -vs- The Kite Runner (2007)

December 27, 2008 Bryce Zabel

Childhood friendships can last a lifetime and have profound consequences. Both Slumdog Millionaire and The Kite Runner tell sweeping stories in the lives of two boys — a set of brothers in the former and a set of friends who act like brothers in the latter. They use narratives that cut back-and-forth across time, forcing them to use multiple sets of actors to portray their characters as boys turn to men. The contemporary story lines are deepened by the children’s experiences we see in flashback. Both films started as novels, force viewers (English-speaking ones anyway) to read a few subtitles and share settings — India and Afghanistan — that have been scarred by terrorism as deeply as the United States. And even though Slumdog Millionaire is assured of a “Best Picture” Oscar nomination this year (and currently, is the odds-on favorite to win), it’s still going to have to hold off The Kite Runner to win this Smackdown… […]

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) -vs- Forrest Gump (1994)

December 25, 2008 Bryce Zabel

When “Forrest Gump” hit the theaters in 1994, it was a pure original: nothing quite like it had come before. Tom Hanks got the title role and basically hit it out of the park playing a man-child with an IQ of 75 who manages to be involved in every major happening in America between the 1950s and the 1980s. As directed by Robert Zemeckis, the film manages to move forward relentlessly in its narrative scope and, before it’s over, Tom Hanks has taught Elvis, made JFK laugh, been a hero in Vietnam, opened up China with his ping-pong skills, run across America and had a girlfriend die of AIDS. The bases are covered every which way but it’s Hanks’s dignified, down-to-Earth performance that sets it totally apart. It might be a comedy or a drama, I’m not really sure.
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