Double Feature Duel:
Das Boot vs. Answer Man
New game! I decided in order to help me get the motivation to write on this blog, I’d come up with a little bit of a gimmick. Every time I watch two movies – no matter how long between them or what their genres are, etc. – I’ll rate them against each other in seven categories and rule one as the victor over the other. This will satisfy two of my favorite writing concepts: movies and competition. It’s an experiment and will likely change name and categories a number of times before settling in, but I like the idea, so here goes. And the inaugural two movies could possibly be the most polar opposite of any two movies that I watch in the next 50 entries.
After finally watching Schindler’s List, I got the bug to start watching a bunch of WW2 movies, and one of the most highly recommended was Das Boot. This is a WW2 film shot from the perspective of a German U-Boat. No, it didn’t end well. Up against this film was Answer Man with Jeff Daniels and Lauren Graham. It was not as historically significant, but it was about a man who wrote some very inspiring religious books who turned out to be a phony. Anyway, let the games begin!
Funnier: This was a no brainer since Das Boot was shot in German and if it contained any humor, it was lost in translation, possibly under the crushing weight of the impending death of the entire cast. Point, Answer Man. (0-1)
Better Turn: The “turn,” as I put it, is the transition from the first act to the second act, or the tension that must be solved which drives the plot. In Answer Man, Lauren finds out that Jeff has been forcing a small book store owner to take books from him in return for answering a “secrets of the Universe” type of question that he allegedly got from God according to his books, and she stops seeing him. It’s not quite as stupid as it sounds, but just barely. In Das Boot, it was when the entire crew finally docked after almost losing the entire boat only to find out that their request to come ashore was denied and they had to go back out on basically a suicide mission. Point, Das Boot (1-1)
Better Ending: The U.S. bombed the hell out of a bunch of Germans, leaving them all for dead. Point, Das Boot (2-1)
Better Message: If I told you that the God I claimed to have gotten all my answers from was really just my thoughts, does it make the answers you’ve put so much faith in any less correct? Oh. And let’s squeeze in a redemptive love story. OR… the people not actually in the battles are playing this war like a game. Yet the pawns are actually living, breathing people with feelings and a heartbeat. The love story almost lost it for Answer Man, but the point behind Das Boot isn’t anything revolutionary. Point, Answer Man (2-2)
Better Acting: Das Boot was entirely shot in German, but I watched it with English subtitles. So it’s tough to really say. However, Jeff Daniels was pretty good and Lauren Graham was just OK. But Lauren’s assistant had one of the stupidest hissy fits I’ve ever seen. It was probably poorly written plot, but I’m taking it away from the acting score. Point, Das Boot (3-2)
More Creative: Thought I really like the concept behind a man who writes books about answers that he claims to be from God, who he doesn’t actually believe in, the claustrophobic world that Das Boot created was very convincing and interesting. Point, Das Boot (4-2)
Watch again: Though all signs point to Das Boot, that movie was 209 minutes long. That’s one minute shy of 3 ½ hours. Point, Answer Man (4-3)
Overall: Well, the score ends barely in favor of Das Boot. It was definitely the superior film probably by a lot more than a 1/7th margin, but I don’t make the rules. Congrats to Das Boot for escaping the narrow victory over a pretty forgettable Answer Man.