Dallas Buyers Club (2013) vs. Philadelphia (1993)

October 30, 2013 Arthur Tiersky

As the anniversary of the release of Philadelphia approaches, let’s take a moment to consider just what the apparent requirements were for a major studio to be bold enough to make a movie about homosexuality and AIDS back in 1993:

Both leads had to be played by huge stars, and the villain played by one of our most beloved character actors. The director had to have come off an enormous smash that had just swept the Oscars. The opening theme song had to be supplied by the ultimate blue-collar, all-American pop star. The protagonist could be gay, but only if counter-balanced by the other lead being a raging homophobe, and the protagonist and his lover (played by an international star himself) could not only never be seen in bed together, but could never be seen sharing more than a chaste slow-dance.

So admittedly, as envelope-pushing on this topic goes, Philadelphia may not be viewed on the level of, say, Brokeback Mountain (2005), but it’s entirely fair to say that Philadelphia made Brokeback Mountain possible, as well as the current release, Dallas Buyers Club. So what better way for the newborn to pay tribute to its spiritual grandfather than to throw them into the ring for a face-off?
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Contagion (2011) -vs- Outbreak (1995)

September 8, 2011 Bryce Zabel

Remember all the panic and fear about the possibility of a bird flu pandemic a few years ago? Now take that fear and double it, triple it — no, that’s not enough — increase it by a power of ten. Now, maybe, just maybe, you can start to appreciate what might happen if the real thing hits and the worst case isn’t just a scenario.

Or, if that’s too disturbing, you could just go see Contagion or watch Outbreak.

In the mid-’90s, Outbreak was the movie that won a rush-to-film game of chicken after the publication of the book The Hot Zone that had everybody freaking out about how the microbes could inherit the Earth by taking down humankind. It took the sheer paranoia of that scare and tried to amp it up with personal story lines, evil government conspiracies and chases. This year Contagion takes another path, turning its actors into cameo appearances in what looks like a documentary as much as anything. […]

First Person: Going Viral Before Contagion

August 25, 2011 Bryce Zabel

While virtually everyone in the Internet world wants to go viral, back in the real world not everyone is so big on the concept. And for good reason.

Remember how lousy you felt the last time you had the flu? Now imagine that instead of getting better, well, that was it. The End.

The medical experts at the Centers for Disease Control think about such things all the time and, for over a year back in 2005-2006, we also obsessed about how a flu epidemic would change the world.

We came to the conclusion that it would be a pretty rough ride. Rather than expressing our opinions through a strongly worded letter-to-the-editor, though, we got to have our say in a multi-million dollar four-hour television miniseries.

Now, from what we can see of the new feature film Contagion, we feel like we were ahead of our time.

Although the final produced version of our project — Hallmark’s Pandemic — can’t compared to the brilliant production elements (fueled by studio cash and budget) that Steven Soderbergh brings to his version (written by Scott Z. Burns), our take Pandemic (written by Bryce Zabel & Jackie Zabel) won the Writers Guild of America award for “Outstanding Longform Original” in 2008. This means that multiple writers read our script that year and decided that, in our category, ours was the best of the bunch. We were pretty jazzed, we can’t lie about that one. […]