Surrounded by Enemies: What if Kennedy Survived Dallas? (2013) vs. 11/22/63: A Novel (2012)

October 18, 2013 Alan Caldwell

The date is indelibly etched in the memories of everyone who was alive then: 11/22/63. Until 9/11, it was the most shocking, tragic, unimaginably ghastly national event we had witnessed. In the half-century since, what Boomer hasn’t wondered how the Sixties might have improved if President Kennedy’d had the opportunity to complete two terms in office, and not just 1000 days. Sure, we still got the Beatles and the Apollo mission, and on LBJ’s watch the Civil Rights movement blossomed, but then we got mired in Vietnam and Watergate and even more, horrid assassinations.

The assassination also produced a cottage-industry of JFK-themed films and books, ranging from memoirs to analyses of his life and legacy, but by far the most prevalent have been those that (like Oliver Stone’s JFK) have questioned the Warren Commission’s report, which concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. Many of these works also speculate about JFK’s second administration and how it would have changed history.

For this special, bonus-edition Smackdown, we’ve got heavyweight champion Stephen King going mano-a-mano with none other than Señor Smackdown himself, Bryce Zabel. What makes this pairing especially juicy is that, though both contenders are no strangers to producing award-winning popular film/TV entertainment — a remake of King’s Carrie, based on his debut novel, is once again rattling theatergoers — we’re taking a rare detour into the universe of literature. […]

John Kennedy vs. The Conspirators

July 10, 2013 Eric Estrin

What really would have happened next if John Kennedy survived the ambush at Dealey Plaza?

That’s the intriguing premise of this ambitiously researched novel by award-winning TV writer/producer Bryce Zabel, who just happens to be the publisher of Movie Smackdown. In his new book out soon, Surrounded by Enemies: What If Kennedy Survived Dallas?, Bryce boldly reimagines a post-1963 political scenario that focuses on what we now know about the secrets of the Kennedy presidency in a way that shocks readers without resorting to sci-fi gimmicks. […]

Lincoln (2012) vs. Thirteen Days (2000)

November 8, 2012 Arthur Tiersky

You’ve heard about all the Kennedy/Lincoln coincidences by now. Some of them are even true. But did you know that Kennedy and Lincoln both have had movies made about pivotal moments in their presidencies? Yeah, I guess you probably did know that. The long list of movie Lincolns includes such notable stars as Henry Fonda, Walter Huston and now, in Steven Spielberg’s new film, Lincoln, Daniel Day-Lewis, while Kennedy has been assayed by, among others, Cliff Robertson, James Franciscus and Bruce Greenwood, who played our youngest President in the true-to-life political thriller, Thirteen Days.

But did you know that I just happened to watch both Lincoln and Thirteen Days in the same week? […]

The Conspirator (2011) -vs- JFK (1991)

April 23, 2011 Bryce Zabel

Two presidents get assassinated, a hundred years apart. Both assassins (alleged, anyway) get killed before they can face trial, and they go down in history firmly attached to their middle names, John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald.

In these two films, the main characters are lawyers, drawn into the fray by a sense of justice, who end up arguing unpopular positions (at least to the powers-that-be) in court — the earlier film on offense, this latest film on defense. Both men pursue their out-of-step sense of justice to the extreme, so much so that the women in their lives think they’ve gone quite insane.

At the end of the day, both viewing experiences cause you to consider that maybe it’s not the courts that really decide the winners anyway, maybe it’s just the movies we make about them. […]

The Bucket List (2007) -vs- Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)

January 18, 2008 Bob Nowotny

Both the hotly-promoted “The Bucket List” and the below-the-radar “Bubba Ho-Tep” feature a pair of geriatric geezers (one white, one black) undertaking adventure in the twilight of their lives in a search to give meaning to what went before. Both films are entertaining, but can the big budget, major studio offering with an “A List” cast and a big name director trump a small, independently-made gem based on a Bram Stoker Award nominated short story? Can Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman best Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis? Is gallimaufry globetrotting more poignant than fighting giant roaches in Nacogdoches? Will the Hollywood-based screenwriter from NYU’s film school hold his own against the Mojo Storyteller from the Big Thicket in East Texas? In short, will “The Bucket List” command as fervent and as loyal a following as “Bubba Ho-Tep?” Will the questions ever stop…
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