Friday, July 11, 2008

Survival of the Fittest: V List Style

Charles Darwin described the process of natural selection, stating that the species that was best adapted once an ecological niche was filled would survive. Darwin got me thinking, what if we applied his logic to Hollywood films. There are only so many films that can be made on a certain topic before the audience is saturated (or the ecological niche is filled). What if there were two films made on the same topic in the same calendar year? According to Darwin, one of those films would do very well, while the other film would die out and become extinct, having a place on TNT or even worse, the CW. The "V" list presents a new concept called pop-culture natural selection where two films go in, but only one will survive.

5. Volcano versus Dante's Peak

This is a tough battle because neither one of these movies deserves to survive. To quote Lewis Black, choosing a better film from this pair is like, "choosing between two bowls of s#%t, the only difference is the smell." Let's break down the components of each title:

  • Volcano sports Tommy Lee Jones while Dante's Peak enlists the services of Pierce Brosnan. (Winner: Volcano)
  • Dante's Peak is set in the cascade mountains (population 20,000) while the "Volcano" is set in the middle of Los Angeles (population circa 4 million). (Winner: Volcano)
  • Finally, Volcano melts a dude alive while Dante's Peak involves a lot of hot ash. (Winner: Volcano)

If you're a sucker for outlandish films involving geothermal catastrophes, then both film might suffice, however for the sake of this list, Volcano is the clear survivor.

4. Finding Nemo versus A Sharks Tale

Not only did both of these films use fish as their main focus, but both utilized computer generated animations and "A"-List voiceovers. Both Dreamworks and Pixar Studios continue to battle for animation domination, however this round wound up being an easy decision:

  • Nemo was geared towards children, yet it enticed adults with its heartwarming and dramatic storyline. Shark's Tale was more sophisticated and its humor was geared for adults, it failed at being as inclusive to kids and adults like Nemo. (Winner: Nemo)
  • Both films used amazing talent when it came to voiceovers, however Sharks Tale felt compelled to flaunt its actors, while Nemo subtly let its story speak for itself. I don't need to know that your film has Will Smith, Robert De Niro, and Renee Zellweger if your story is good. (Winner: Nemo)
  • Sharks Tale seems like a fish out of water story, giving the fish way too many human qualities. While the fish in Nemo can speak and think rationally, they behave like fish the entire time. The fish in Sharks Tale are performing stunts and exhibiting mannerisms more like humans than sea dwellers. It kinda turned me off. (Winner: Nemo)
Unlike Volcano and Dante's Peak, these movies are both worth your time. While there are thousands of fish in the sea, Nemo is the only one meant for us here at the "V"- List.

3. Happy Feet versus March of the Penguins

Everybody (except for James Rolfe) loves Penguins. They're so cute and apparently they can tap dance like Fred Astaire when given the opportunity. Choosing a survivor out of these two films is like trying to choose which child is your favorite. You love them equally for their talents and qualities, but since we don't have room for social niceties here at the "V" List, one of them has to be put down.

  • Both movies have excellent actors. Happy Feet enlists the vocal talents of Hugh Jackman, Robin Williams, and Nicole Kidman, however March of the Penguins uses the voice of god himself, Morgan Freeman. Obviously we think that Freeman is the man (we did an entire blog on his talents), therefore the winner must be March of the Penguins.
  • Don't get me wrong, March of the Penguins is a fascinating movie, but it doesn't have the replay value of Happy Feet. Children would prefer to watch Happy Feet over and over again rather than sit through the "boring parts" of March of the Penguins. (Winner: Happy Feet)
  • Of the billions of Penguin movies that were released in this year, March of the Penguins was the most remarkable of the lot. It won an Oscar for best documentary, but was embraced by a much larger audience. Even though it was a documentary it was remarkable in the fact that it created a narrative often lacking from a National Geographic Channel. If more animal movies followed this format, then biology class would have seemed more interesting. Happy Feet was fun, but it didn't break any new ground in the film making department. Happy Feet will enjoy no distinction, but will remain one in a series of animated films released in the new millennium. (Winner: March of the Penguins)

This is a really close call, but March of the Penguins is more edifying and groundbreaking when compared with the animated goodness of Happy Feet. Sorry we had to drive one of these films to extinction, but how many movies about Penguins can there be?

2. Deep Impact versus Armageddon

The concept was so nice, they wanted to blow up the earth twice. There's just something about hitting the planet with giant rocks that rings true to moviegoers. What is it about catastrophe movies that draws us in like moths to a flame? Hollywood was banking on our obsession with death and destruction when they made both these films, but moviegoers embraced Armageddon and rejected Deep Impact, here's why:

  • If you compared casts, Deep Impact should win hands down with Morgan Freeman and Robert Duvall alone, however none of the characters were ever given a great chance to show off their talents. Armageddon excels at bringing a crew of misfits together and making them funny. Almost every character in Bay's Armageddon interacts with others and has the opportunity to develop a persona that you actually care about. I felt myself rooting for the rock in Deep Impact because I didn't care who died.
  • Armageddon is funny, while Deep Impact is mad depressing. While Armageddon is not a comedy, there are moments where you can forget the fact that the earth is about to be annihilated and just laugh. Deep Impact didn't have a single moment where you could feel good about what was happening on screen. What a downer!
  • Bruce Willis blows himself up! One male friend (who will remain nameless) once admitted to me at a Giants game that he cried when Bruce Willis sacrifices himself in Armageddon. Wow! I know that Robert Duvall made a similar gesture in Deep Impact, but like I stated before, by this point in the movie you don't give a damn about any of the characters and hope the rock crushes them all. Any movie that kills John McClane is Bad Ass!
1. The Illusionist versus The Prestige

Perhaps the only exception to Hollywood Darwinism are these two films. While both focus on magicians, each one took a unique path in telling its story. One is a love story (Illusionist), while the other deals with jealousy and unhealthy competition. It's going to be difficult to pick a winner with these two movies, but I'll try my best.

  • When it comes to casting, both films do a superb job. Edward Norton (Illusionist) is my homeboy, but Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman hold it down in The Prestige. While I would pick Edward Norton against any other single actor, it's difficult for me to choose him over both Bale and Jackman in this particular instance. While Norton is the bomb with his performance, the exchanges between Bale and Jackman are incredible and are the source of drama for The Prestige. Without their collective efforts, The Prestige may not have turned out so brilliant. (Winner: The Prestige)
  • The twists in both films are so well executed. While I won't ruin either film for you let me say that when it comes to this category, I have to go with The Illusionist because it's rooted in reality. While The Prestige had an amazing twist, yet I was kinda bothered by the fact that it defied so many scientific laws and left my head spinning. I can suspend my disbelief, but what they suggested happened was just crazy. I like the fact that The Illusionist worked within the framework of possibility and much like the magician that frequents the FOX network, it showed us that not all magic is real. (Winner: The Illusionist)
  • The storyline is a matter of personal preference, so my suggestion here might annoy some fans of either film. While I just railed against the fact that The Prestige uses crazy physics to accomplish its big payoff, it was way more engaging than the love story of The Illusionist. I dig the fact that Illusionist accomplishes so much with less, but when it come to movies I want to be dazzled. I really enjoy a great drama, but neither of these movies compare with No Country, so I want to be entertained. Which story entertained me more? The Prestige. Please don't let my preference alter your decision as my recommendation is that you rent both of these movies and then buy a home magic kit for yourself to impress the rest of your family. (Winner: The Prestige)

1 comment:

Bryce Zabel said...

The review on MOVIE SMACKDOWN also gave it to Armageddon over Deep Impact. There's a poll there, in case you want to weight in.