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.) […]

Hollywood in Wartime: Remembering the 2001 Emmy® Awards

September 4, 2011 Bryce Zabel

Since the Emmy Awards came into existence in 1949, they had never been postponed or canceled until 2001. In that year it happened twice.

I was elected Chairman/CEO of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in August 2001, almost a month to the day before 9/11. The Emmy broadcast was scheduled for September 16 of that year. Five days from the worst act of terrorism in history to a walk down the red carpet with Hollywood celebs was simply impossible to imagine.

As everyone re-plays the “Where were you?” moment that the horrific events became for all of us, my own memories combine the moral outrage at such a hideous act of mass murder with the POV of show business struggling to cope with this new reality of terrorism. It was a terrible time for the nation, one that I still think about often, and the most challenging professional moment in my career. […]

Battle: Los Angeles (2011) -vs- Transformers (2007) -vs- War of the Worlds (2005) -vs- Independence Day (1996)

June 1, 2011 Bryce Zabel

There are alien invasions and then there are alien invasions.

This Smack is about the ones where the aliens swoop in, lasers blazing, hell-bent on some balls-to-the-wall human ass-kicking. No demands, no negotiations, just straight-ahead mayhem where the Earth is torn up with no regard whatsoever. It’s as if they’re treating our planet like a condemned building that just needs to knocked down as fast as possible so the new construction can get started. I know some folks think we’re already doing that ourselves but let’s skip the politics and just define this as apocalyptical visitation.
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The Most Popular Movie President of All-Time Is…

May 11, 2010 Bryce Zabel

It was Ford in a landslide. Nope, not Ford as in Gerald who lost to Jimmy Carter, but Ford as in Harrison who walked away with our Movie Smackdown presidential poll, taking 26.4% of the votes in a ten-man race.

Ford played President James Marshall in the 1997 film, “Air Force One.” Marshall has just gone to Moscow where he’s told the entire world he will not negotiate with terrorists. Then, on the flight home, Russian neo-nationalists hijack Air Force One forcing an ugly decision on Marshall: give in to terrorist demands or sacrifice not only the country’s dignity, but the lives of his wife and daughter. Well, there is one thing in his favor. He’s a military guy, a winner of the Medal of Honor, and he’s going to fight back.

Apparently we liked this version of the Marshall Plan a lot because when given ten of the top performances by an actor as a president to choose from, our Movie Smackdown voters gave a clear and convincing mandate to Harrison Ford. Here’s our results:
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Deja Vu (2006) -vs- Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

June 18, 2009 Bryce Zabel

If people from the future could travel back to the past, wouldn’t they have already done it? Would it be better to see into the past or into the future? Do they both exist simultaneously, along with the present, because time is relative to where you are? If you like these kinds of questions, we have a couple of films to really put your through Olympic-sized paces in the Suspension of Disbelief event. We’ve put a couple of major star vechicles in the in our time travel machine, both of them about scooting back through the years in order to change the future, both directed by major directors with reputations for getting the action up there on the screen. “Deja Vu” is the more cerebral — “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” is the more literal — but both of them cause your brain to short-circuit if you think too much about twists-and-turns of time travel as they would have you believe it works. But this is an entertainment site, not a physics lecture, so let’s get to it.
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United 93 (2006) -vs- World Trade Center (2006)

September 11, 2007 Bryce Zabel

It’s been years, but if you close your eyes, all those horrific images are still with you. Both of these 9/11 films were released in 2006 during the run-up to the five-year anniversary of the events of that terrible day. At the time critics kept wringing their hands about whether or not it was too early to tell these stories. Looking back, the better question could easily have been what took so long? Making films is how we increasingly begin to process events like these. It doesn’t have to trivialize them or make them less important, although that can be the danger.

We’ll use box office stats to name our opponents. With that as the standard, World Trade Center becomes our champ with 163-million dollars worldwide. United 93 comes in as the challenger with only 76-million dollars. But, especially when it comes to material like this, the box office is only a point of reference and nothing more. Let’s say that you have the heart to re-live 9/11 on film with just one of them as we approach the 10th anniversary with Osama Bin Laden finally having paid with his own life. Which film should you watch? […]