After a weekend full of hemming and hawing, nervous nail biting, and heartbreaking decisions (maybe I’m being dramatic), we’ve arrived at the moment you’ve all been waiting for—our first round Movie Madness winners.
**Note: This is an exceptionally long post. How could it not be with 32 matches to get through? We promise, they won’t all be this long.
Without further ado (and we do love a good ado), here are Rob’s picks:
CIVIL WAR MOVIES
In the top part of the bracket, Gone With the Wind and Glory move on with relative ease. Ride With the Devil (Ang Lee) takes down Andersonville (John Frankenheimer) in a battle of little known 90’s movies by well known directors, and for a second it appears that all the top seeds will advance. But then Cold Mountain saunters in, overconfident with its #4 seed and its seven Oscar nominations. But Cold Mountain has not aged well. And, in fact, it’s kind of a lousy movie. Meanwhile, who doesn’t love Buster Keaton? (Other than critics and the general public in 1926 who deemed the movie a huge flop. Now it’s widely considered one of the great movies of the silent film era.) When you really delve into the advanced statistics (like having to listen to Jude Law and Mrs. Keith Urban do bad southern accents for two hours), this isn’t an upset at all.
The lower half of the bracket is chalk. Gettysburg easily dispatches its prequel, Gods & Generals. Like I always say, if you’re going to watch a nearly four hour movie based on a Civil War book by a Shaara, make it Gettysburg. There’s no contest between Dances With Wolves and Conspirator. One is a spellbinding triumph; a grand, sweeping journey about acceptance and the tragedy of human nature. The other is The Conspirator. Actually, The Conspirator just makes me mad. How could it be so boring? Solid cast. Solid director. Solid story. Snoozefest. Let’s move on. Clint Eastwood takes down Clint Eastwood in a battle of, well, Clint Eastwoods. I’ve got to tell you, I never would have guessed this during the seeding process, but The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly could do some serious damage in this bracket. And finally, in the last matchup of a jam-packed day, two totally different depictions of our nation’s 16th President face off. Really, this all comes down to whether or not you think Abraham Lincoln was a vampire hunter and if the true cause of the Civil War was that some really bad vampire wanted to turn our great country into a land of the living dead. On AL:VH’s IMDB page there is a listing of the film’s anachronisms. Things like: “When Will loads his revolver on the train, he places a ball in the breach side of the cylinder. Civil War era revolvers were muzzle loaders and required a percussion cap to ignite the powder charge. The pistol is clearly chambered for cartridges, not as cap and ball.” Not mentioned? That Abraham Lincoln wasn’t a vampire hunter! Easy win for Lincoln – even if it is overrated Oscar bait.
This bracket allows us to answer the age old question: Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly. The winner is Gene Kelly. You’re welcome, America. And does it really matter who wins between Grease and Chicago? Whoever moves on is going to get blown out by Singin’ In the Rain in the next round anyway. You know what? I’m just going to write in Annie. It’s ten times the musical. My daughters will be very happy.
On paper, Les Miserables vs. 1776 should be an easy win for the most popular musical of all time. And if were talking strictly stage musicals, it would be. But while the movie adaptation of Les Mis gets a lot right, it gets just as much wrong. (The opening CGI boat that might be the worst CGI boat in history. Russell Crowe. 1830’s Paris looked like a fanciful wonderland – not the kind of place where people were dying in the streets. Russell Crowe. Hugh Jackman not having the falsetto for “Bring Him Home.” Did I mention Russell Crowe?) Meanwhile, 1776 was my favorite childhood musical movie and it has Mr. Feeny as John Adams! I can’t believe I’m doing this, but 1776 wins in a shocking upset.
I’ve never quite understood the love for Mary Poppins. The American Film Institute has it as the 6th best of all time! It has a few good songs but the actual character of Mary Poppins terrified me as a child. The Sound of Music wins easily. If I had my druthers, I’d take Meet Me In St. Louis over The Wizard of Oz, but people are ready to riot after 1776/Les Mis pick, so I better play it safe. The Wizard wins.
Do you know what I really want to see? The Muppets do a remake of Cabaret. Miss Piggy could be Sally Bowles, dancing at the Kit Kat Klub. (Gonzo would be the iconic Master of Ceremonies and Camilla and the rest of the chickens would be the other dancers. Tell me you wouldn’t want to see Gonzo and a bunch of chickens doing “Willkommen.”) Kermit would be the reserved academic giving English lessons and working on his doctorate in Philosophy. Some Hollywood actor could play the rich German playboy (Neil Patrick Harris?). Of course, we’d have to change the ending a bit (okay, okay, quite a bit) – but it would work, right? Anyway, the Muppets win. Why? Because the Muppets always win.
The last four movies provide some interesting matchups: two Disney animated musicals going up against two iconic, all-time-greats. In the first, it’s a battle of headstrong females trying to be something they’re not. In the second, we’re trying to find the best musical based on a Shakespeare play. The Little Mermaid is really a wonderful film, but it’s not match for My Fair Lady. And after defending the choreography of West Side Story for the majority of my life (yeah, yeah, I get it – the snapping is ridiculous), I’ll actually pick The Lion King over it in an upset.
And, to finish out the other half of the bracket, here are Rachael’s picks:
BOOKS TO MOVIES
This was difficult. My first order of business was to decide the criteria by which I would judge these movies. Was it more important for a film to stay true to the book or was it enough that the movie be exciting? Should I factor in overall popularity or simply pick my personal favorites? Should I add or take away points for sparkly supernatural creatures? (That was a test—you add points.)
In the end, I decided on one main element: watch-ability. For good measure, I’ll consider the film’s literary accuracy, but only slightly. I wouldn’t count a movie out simply because it took liberties with the source material, but neither would I give it credit if it stayed 100% true to the book (is that possible?) Basically, what I’m saying is that I made my choices almost entirely on personal preference. I tried to be reasonable. I really did. But, well, you’ll see. Sometimes a girl just can’t resist the lure of princesses and Counts, regardless of the opposing choice.
A couple matches were far too easy to decide. The Harry Potter series or Charlie & the Chocolate Factory? Mr. Potter wins that round every time. It’s a similar situation for The Shawshank Redemption vs. To Kill a Mockingbird. While both are excellent films, Shawshank is so deliciously satisfying that I’m not sure it can ever lose. Finally, if you can show me another baseball movie that I will willingly watch on repeat, I’ll advance it to the next round. As it stands, the only movie with that distinction goes to Field of Dreams.
Whilst basking in the glory of my awesome decision-making, I began to feel a growing sense of dread. I had just made several stellar picks. What could be bothering me? Oh, I don’t know…maybe deciding between Pride & Prejudice and The Princess Bride? Forcing either Romeo & Juliet or High Fidelity to pack their bags and go home a loser. Don’t even get me started on the impossible task of choosing between a film legend like The Godfather and my personal (if not popular) favorite, The Count of Monte Cristo.
In the end, I did the impossible, I chose The Princess Bride over the perennial troubles of Ms. Bennet and Mr. Darcy, the classic tale of Romeo & Juliet over High Fidelity, and (even though I expect some strong opinions about this choice) The Count of Monte Cristo over the tale of the Corleone family. Turns out, they had an offer I could refuse.
I finished the category with two relatively simple choices. Jurassic Park over Life of Pi (dinosaurs, you guys!) and the undeniable popularity of the Twilight Universe over The Hunger Games. Although The Hunger Games is a wonderful movie and outstanding book, the popularity and staying power of Twilight (those kids waited four years and five movies for that series to wrap up) won in the end. My apologies to Katniss.
Every so often, if you are lucky, you are given the opportunity to be part of something special. Maybe it’s witnessing your child’s first steps, maybe it’s discovering the cure to the common cold, and maybe it’s being part of the ultimate showdown of great cinematic beards. This, ladies and gentleman, is my honor (The beard part. I have nothing to do with the cure, or lack thereof, for the common cold.)
I’d like to start off by saying that the movies represented in this category are all entertaining movies in their own right. The addition of facial hair just made them better. These two facts made it easy to decide the criteria on which I would judge this category. Although I have watched and enjoyed these movies, my like or dislike of any particular film had no bearing on my choices. I chose the victors based entirely on beard strength and impressiveness.
So, exactly who are we deciding between? Glad you asked. Here are the specific actors/characters from each movie that made the bracket:
1. Argo/Ben Affleck
2. Anchorman/Will Ferrell
3. Good Will Hunting/Robin Williams
4. The Lord of the Rings/Gandalf
5. The Amityville Horror/Ryan Reynolds
6. Rocky III/Mr. T
7. The Life Aquatic/Bill Murray
8. Harry Potter Series/Hagrid
9. Harry Potter Series/Dumbledore
10. The Big Lebowski/Jeff Bridges
11. 300/Gerard Butler
12. The Amityville Horror/James Brolin
13. Kill Bill/Pai Mei
14. Cast Away/Tom Hanks
15. The Hangover/Zach Galifianakis
16. The Fugitive/Harrison Ford
A couple choices were clear almost immediately. Harrison Ford’s The Fugitive beard beats Ben Affleck’s Argo beard for sure. It’s the same story for Tom Hanks and James Brolin—those guys are clearly beard winners.
Then it got complicated. I chose Mr. T from Rocky III because his is the only stylized beard in the group. How long must it take him to maintain such a beard? It has to require at least 2 hours of maintenance per week. That’s dedication. Thus, he moves on to the next round.
The two matches that gave me the most trouble were Bill Murray vs. Jeff Bridges and Will Ferrell vs. Zach Galifianakis from The Hangover. I felt the beards were very similar in impressiveness. Ultimately, I chose Bill Murray’s Life Aquatic beard for neatness and Will Ferrell’s Anchorman beard for the exact opposite reason. Mr. Ferrell’s beard perfectly portrayed a man who had lost it all. Exactly right for his character.
Early on I figured this whole thing might come down to either Dumbledore or Gandalf (isn’t it obvious?) But, after careful reflection, I determined that Hagrid deserved to win his match. That man’s face is mostly beard. Sorry, Professor Dumbledore. You played a good game.
Gandalf wins mostly because Pai Mei has an unfair inclusion of ridiculous eyebrows. Without the eyebrows, his beard is nothing. Therefore, Gandalf advances to the next round.
Day one is in the books! Time to regroup, drink lots of Gatorade, and, if you read this whole thing, rest your eyes! We’ll be back tomorrow to unveil the Sweet 16.