La La Land (2016) vs. New York, New York (1977)

February 23, 2017 Arthur Tiersky

Classic Smackdown alert! L.A. vs. New York! East Coast vs. West Coast! Cars vs. Subways! Dark romantic hit ’10s musical vs. Dark romantic flop ’70s musical! Studly leading man De Niro vs. studly leading man Gosling! Winsome Stone vs. irrepressible Minnelli. […]

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. . […]

The Way We See it: Joe Rassulo on the Oscars

February 8, 2012 Joe Rassulo

The Artist is this year’s most talked about and most overrated film. Yes, it’s charming and filled with lovely, touching performances and indelible moments of black and white reveries of movies and times past. It is a wonderful homage to an era long gone. Its obvious relevance to today is its theme of technology leaving many obsolete in its wake. There’s a familiar resonance to the despair many feel in today’s technological storm, which has left so many jobless and even homeless. But the film touches on that theme in a broad, superficial way. “Modern Times” it is not. It’s a singular, gimmicky, almost-silent film that works on every level except one of true substance. And, I believe, a best picture of the year should do more than charm. […]

The Oscar as the Ultimate Smackdown

January 30, 2012 Bryce Zabel

Despite the major studios’ insistence on making primarily mega-budget, tent-pole, comic-book, sequel-remake, monster-alien-scifi films as their bread-and-butter, challenging and compelling original films do get made every year through alternative means. And, despite the harping and complaining we all do, there always seems to be a great crop that bridge the divide and are worth saluting. Those are the kinds of films that the Academy Awards gravitate to as their nominees. […]

In Praise of… 50/50

January 11, 2012 Bryce Zabel

50/50 deserves every bit as much Oscar love as The Descendants which is going to get its share. Both films are about dealing with terrible news and living through those stages of grief and 50/50 more than holds its own in that comparison.

Instead Academy members will probably see 50/50 as a diversion for people in their 20s, as light and comedic, and as another Seth Rogen getting stoned kind of movie. Well, it is actually those things within its frames, but it is so much more. […]

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.) […]

Real Steel (2011) -vs- Rocky (1976)

October 9, 2011 Nicole Marchesani

Ah, the American dream. The hope that everyone, regardless of status, wealth or origin, has the opportunity to work for what they want and get it. One of the great ways Hollywood has represented the American dream in film is through boxing. Films like Cinderella Man, Ali, The Fighter and the most famous of all, Rocky. Rocky Balboa has been a symbol of the American dream for more than three decades. He continues to win the hearts of Americans by proving that the underdog from humble beginnings can go the distance.

Stepping into the smackdown ring to challenge Rocky is Real Steel, set to release in theaters Friday, October 6. Real Steel is a real contender, with a dynamic cast, stellar special effects and a sentimental story with heart. But does it have what it takes to defeat Rocky, the legendary, reigning champion? Let’s bring this fight to the ring and find out. There’s the opening bell… […]

Remembering G.D. Spradlin

July 25, 2011 Bryce Zabel

You probably knew G.D. Spradlin best as Senator Pat Geary from The Godfather, Part II, where he played the corrupt politician blackmailed by by Michael Corleone after he wakes up and finds himself drenched in a dead prostitute’s blood.

I knew him as Elliot P. Grantham, the Idaho farmer who was Patient Zero, the first official victim of the alien Hive’s infestation in the NBC series Dark Skies.

My co-creator Brent Friedman and I knew we’d gotten lucky in casting. Who didn’t cringe a little in The Godfather, Part II when Spradlin’s Senator Geary treats Michael Corleone with contempt early in the film? You knew it wouldn’t go well. We had gotten lucky early on by offering a series lead role to J.T. Walsh to play Frank Bach and he said yes. We tried again with Spradlin, wondering if he would find the part too small or, given the alien angle, too silly. But he said yes, too. We were thrilled. As it turned out, Dark Skies was the last television he ever did and the second to last acting job (he also appeared in the feature film, Dick). […]

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