World Cup 2010

It began with 32 films from around the world. Those films represented the greatness that each country has either on display every week at the box office or hidden away inside the potential of fresh young filmmakers. There were heavy-hitters like Return of the King who fell and virtually unknown contenders like Slovenka that surprised. There were westerns and dramas and comedies and movies that defy description. There were some neck-and-neck battles and there were blow outs. All of that deposits us here on the doorstep of the championship with two films who have earned the right to call themselves champions going head to head. In this case, it’s the cowled head of The Batman and the giant, unsupported-by-a-neck head of a witch. The Dark Knight versus Spirited Away. Two films to celebrate, but only one can be crowned champion.

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By making it all the way to the Final Four, these films have proven their supremacy, but only one can survive through to the Championship for a chance at eternal glory (that comes around every four years). Spirited Away is already coming into the round as the giant slayer by taking down Return of the King, but City of God took down a favorite of its own in Pan’s Labyrinth. Two underdogs that have proven victorious. Now, one of them has to go home before the big dance. Who will it be?

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Still sweating from a back and forth bout with Amelie that saw no fewer than 6 lead changes (and ended with a score of 53-47), the once heralded favorite Dark Knight comes into the next round gasping for air and holding on to its life. But it’s here. Barely. It now faces the German representative The Lives of Others which fended off A Serbian Film with ease. Two fantastic films. Only one will make it to the Championship Round. You decide.

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So far, the representative from Spain has bested the films it has gone up against with relative ease – seeing some of the largest margins of defeat in the entire tournament. In this round, Pan’s Labyrinth goes up against a bit tougher competition in the highly acclaimed City of God from Brazil. Both films are imaginative and desperate as dramas, but they are world’s apart in the final product. The wild black market of Movie World Cup betting (which is still illegal in the US) still favors Pan’s Labyrinth, but as we’re learning with the other matches in Round Three – the competition is now completely up in the air.

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Some are surprised that the Serbian representative has made it this far in the competition. Some of that is the luck of the draw, and some of that is a testament to the strength of just how strange and impacting the film can be. A Serbian Film faces the surprise winner The Lives of Others who fans have proven to be still in love with after all these years. These films have almost nothing in common – which should lead to a great (and possibly confusing) fight. It’s porn stars versus spies in this battle, and the winner will make it to the Final Four.

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After the bout between Amelie and The Dark Knight, the most anticipated fight of this round is without a doubt Spirited Away and Return of the King. Both have huge followings, both are critically acclaimed, and both are truly brilliant works of art. The experts are stumped as to what will be the magic bullet in choosing one film over the other, except the fanboy aspect that remains loyal to Middle Earth. However, there’s also a fanboy aspect that remains loyal to Miyazaki. Going in, it’s anyone’s game.

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The first two rounds of competition were a great warm up, but the competition gets ugly now as the wins come harder. No contest in that round exemplifies that more than the battle between the French representative and the USA rep. Amelie defeated District 9 in a surprise victory, and it goes into its round against The Dark Knight with momentum and the status as a fanboy killer. It will still have an uphill battle, because the US representative is (unlike the real World Cup) picked to win it all.

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Wow. What a ride. After a full week of heated competition, we’ve been deposited here at the threshold of Round Three. The teams that survive what promises to be a brutal round of competition will be the final four standing, and will be only one more victory away from standing strong in the Championship Round. Many great films have fallen, and what remains includes a meddling French girl, a haunted hero in a cape and cowl, a man who spies on others, an ex-porn star, a young girl working for a witch, a man who would be king, impoverished youths in Brazil, and a girl caught between the horrors of WWII Spain and a giant faun.

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After earning its slot in Round Two by defeating Amor y Frijoles in the first match, Mandrill now finds its super spy in the fight of his life against heavy favorite Pan’s Labyrinth. Spain was favored going in, and then delivered a 95-5 crushing victory against Switzerland. There are more than a few Mandrill fans out there, but will they be enough to see the movie go on to the next round of contests?

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Out of the few favorites in this competition, City of God and Os Imortais, despite both being fantastic films from down South America way (that’s a joke) remain underdogs in the overall competition. However, fans of drama and international cinema should rise up in defense of both of them. It’s a tough draw that they see each other in Round Two because one of them will be knocked out, but one will live on to face the big boys in the intensifying battle when only 8 films are left. Which one will it be?

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Italy grew to be a powerhouse in the 1960s and 1970s when Italian cinema became a rite of passage, but the powerhouse has lost a step since then. Luckily, it is represented by a fantastic film in Il Divo. Unfortunately, it had the luck of drawing against Lord of the Rings: Return of the King – a heavily favored film in this competition. The New Zealand representative easily defeated historical drama Bathory, and the Italian politician beat the Cannes selection Paraguayan Hammock in Round One. We may be saying “Ciao” to Italy unless they can pull off a stunning upset.

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In what might be my favorite pairing of the entire tournament just for the sheer double feature potential, the legendary Miyazaki sees his masterpiece Spirited Away boldly represent Japan against the iconic Danish filmmaker Lars Von Trier and his Antichrist. Child-like wonder and abject terror. A perfect pairing. Chaos reigned over the cult gross-out of Human Centipede and the spirit-filled animated adventure beat the lesser-known film Moolaade, but both films actually have a fight this round. Let’s see what happens.

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The sheer amount of debauchery in this round is astounding. Granted, a healthy percentage comes directly from A Serbian Film, but Slovenka has its fair share of sex and political intrigue. The Serbian representative took down Sankofa in the first round, and Slovenka earned a surprise victory over the Algerian Days of Glory. Unfortunately, people are still getting it confused with Slovakia. That’s the price of success. Which sex-filled perversion will win this round? The political satire with the former porn star or the political satire with the young girl selling herself on the streets?

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There may be no stopping The Dark Knight, but the murder thriller Secret in Their Eyes might be the best poised to give it a run for its money. After the juggernaut beat out fanboy and zombie favorite Shaun of the Dead, it faces the Argentine film that easily beat Small Boy in Round One. The USA is the heavy, heavy favorite here, but if there’s one thing that the Movie World Cup has represented in all of its hallowed years, it’s the grand tradition of the upset.

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The second match of Round Two finds a Korean favorite up against a German award winner. The Good The Bad The Weird earned its spot with its sweeping beauty and strange cast of characters, as well as the defeat of Brides in Round One. Meanwhile, The Lives of Others got here by delivering politics and strong characters, and by eking out a victory against the favored The Proposition It’s a pairing that even the experts are having trouble predicting, so it’s really anybody’s ball game. Who will make it to Round Three?

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Here were are in the first match of Round Two. The Elite Eight is at stake with every pairing, and this might prove to be a tough one. District 9 defeated Sin Nombre in Round One, and Amelie blew Whisky out of the water, but now they face off against each other. Two heavy-weights in a bare-knuckle brawl for supremacy, and we’re not even to the finals yet.

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We’ve had an astounding time so for here at the Movie World Cup. There have been close calls, blow outs, and a few torn ACLs, and we emerge now on the other side of Round One. You voted, and the teams you wanted have advanced to the next stage – just a bit closer to winning the coveted Movie World Cup trophy (which may or may not just be an Iron Man statue that we spray-painted gold). Here’s who will be going on to Round Two.

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Switzerland already upset Spain in the real World Cup, so it could be possible that we’ll see an upset here today in the Movie World Cup as the fan favorites Pan’s Labyrinth goes up against the fantastic storytelling in Vitus. Both great movies, both with strong followings, but of course Guillermo del Toro’s film is far more known on the international stage, especially in the United States. That should give him and his fawn and edge over the young piano prodigy.

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In another fantastic match up, the foothold of Honduran cinema as it enters the modern era goes up against the ass-kickery of Mandrill. Amor y Frijoles is a slice of life (and beans), and the Chilean challenger is a 1960s-style send up of the contract killer. Two completely different genres from two countries separated by a continent. Will voters be hungry for love or hungry for a beat down?

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In the underdog match of the day, Ivory Coast and Portugal (two countries not known for the strength of number of films they put out each year) go head to head, ensuring the possibility of surprises in Round Two. The sweaty reality of Adanggaman tries its luck against the high-intensity crime of Os Imortais. It’s anyone’s ball game at this point, so the winner will depend heavily on which country (and which fans) show up to make their voices heard. For those who haven’t seen them, they are both great films that deserve a spot on your rental queue.

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