The Two Popes

Written by Michael Clawson

70/100

Terrific performances by Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins are the sole saving grace of The Two Popes, a fairly tedious, over-edited, and poorly shot dramatization of conversations between Pope Benedict and then Cardinal Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) in 2012, shortly after the papacy had become embroiled in scandal and unbeknownst to the world, Benedict was seeking a successor.

“I don’t agree with anything you say!” blurts Benedict, capping off one of his first discussions with Bergoglio, during which Anthony McMarten’s screenplay inelegantly delineates their opposing beliefs on matters such as abortion, communion, and celibacy. As is true of the dialogue elsewhere, the contrast between Benedict’s conservatism and Bergoglio’s progressivism is too plainly spelled out to be engrossing. Flashbacks to the events in Bergoglio’s native Argentina that burdened him with long-lasting guilt and that he and Benedict go on to discuss aren’t any more compelling.

Steadicam and handheld, wide shots and close ups, canted angles and bird’s eye views – director Fernando Meirelles rapidly and erratically varies his technique, and the jumbled syntax badly disagrees with Benedict and Bergoglio’s thoughtful back and forth in palatial gardens and Vatican halls. The cinematography is egregiously flat; it deepened my appreciation of Jorg Widmer’s work in A Hidden Life, whose camera seemed to worship the ornate detail of the churches it floated through. 

The tone of the film is casual and often incompatible with the weight of the material, such as when Pope Francis speaks about the migrant crisis and a clip of a migrant boat walloped by an giant ocean wave clashes with the enthusiastic vibe of the soundtrack. Details such as Pope Benedict liking ABBA, wearing a FitBit, and regularly watching some TV show about a German Shepherd are included as light comedy, but the humor isn’t all that inspired, and rather annoyingly seems to be saying, “Look, popes are people just like you and me!”

But to return to that one positive, Hopkins and Pryce both effectively convey their character’s convictions and doubts. I just wish they were in a better movie.

The Two Popes Trailer

The Two Popes is streaming on Netflix

MCU Retrospective: Thor: Ragnarok

Written by Anna Harrison

In these retrospectives, Anna will be looking back on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, providing context around the films, criticizing them, pointing out their groundwork for the future, and telling everyone her favorite scene, because her opinion is always correct and therefore her favorite scene should be everyone’s favorite scene. And now, for something completely different (again).

80/100

The Thor movies, historically, have been weaker entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: the first, while very near and dear to my heart, was uneven and showed the MCU’s growing pains, though it certainly had standout moments and performances; the second is widely regarded as one of the worst movies in the MCU. (For what it’s worth, director Alan Taylor doesn’t like it either, saying, “The Marvel experience was particularly wrenching because I was sort of given absolute freedom while we were shooting, and then in post it turned into a different movie,” which seems to be a common refrain among Creative Committee-era Marvel.) Even Chris Hemsworth was feeling burnt out, worried that his character was becoming static and uninteresting. Things were looking, if not dire—by this point, it would take a hell of a lot for any MCU movie to be in truly dire straits—then at least unexciting.

The solution, as it turned out, was to hire a New Zealand director best known for his wacky vampire mockumentary (yes, that’s correct) What We Do in the Shadows, which had a budget of about $1.6 million. Taika Waititi came in with a sizzle reel featuring Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” and suddenly found himself at the helm of a $180 million movie, where he gave the Thor franchise a much-needed makeover and suddenly found himself a bonafide celebrity in the process. Thor: Ragnarok serves as a soft reboot of the franchise, poking fun at its over-dramatic past exploits, introducing new characters for future stories, and injecting an enormous of humor and color into one of the more dour MCU series—to say that Waititi revived Thor both as a character and as a series sounds dramatic but would be entirely correct.

The tone shift becomes apparent from the first moment Thor opens his mouth. Trapped in a cage above a floor of lava, he says, “Now, I know what you’re thinking. Oh no! Thor’s in a cage. How did this happen?” This is a far cry from the exposition-heavy openings of Thor and Thor: The Dark World, which utilized ponderous flashbacks to explain their MacGuffins; instead, we are greeted with Thor talking to a skeleton and offhandedly mumbling about “Infinity Stone things.” No more flowery language, no more self-serious talk of duty and kingship: Waititi wisely lets Hemsworth play to his considerable comedic strengths, and the result is a movie that never lets up on the gas pedal of humor while leaning heavily into Waititi’s off-kilter Kiwi sensibilities. 

And so after Thor gets out of that cage and defeats fire giant Surtur (Clancy Brown), and after he receives ominous warnings about the impending doom of his home from Ragnarok, the apocalypse in Norse mythology, Thor arrives back on Asgard to chat with his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), whose mannerisms—and the fact that he’s staging a rather melodramatic play singing Loki’s (Tom Hiddleston) praises—tip off Thor to the fact that this isn’t his father but is, in fact, his adopted brother, who faked his death in The Dark World.

How fitting that Loki, who all his life longed for affection and acceptance he never got, would spend his time as king of Asgard running a PR campaign to make himself look like a hero, all so he can bask in adulation from the masses. As Tony Stark says in The Avengers, “And Loki, he’s a full-tilt diva, right? He wants flowers, he wants parades. He wants a monument built to the skies with his name.” Or, as Mobius puts more succinctly in Loki, “What an incredible seismic narcissist!”

If Thor’s confrontation with Surtur already toed the line of absurdity, we’ve now merrily leaped to the other side: Loki-as-Odin merrily eating grapes as he watches his own death, cameos from Luke Hemsworth, Sam Neill, and Matt Damon as actors in the play, and, as Matt Damon-as-Loki dies, a solemn choir singing Brian Tyler’s score that played as in Thor: The Dark World as the real Loki “died.” It’s fantastically different from anything that came before in Ragnarok’s predecessors: this is not your average Thor movie, and it’s much better for it.

Thor reveals Loki’s trickery, and the two go off to track down Odin with a little help from a certain Sorcerer Supreme (Benedict Cumberbatch in a fun and quick cameo). Odin has been laying low in Norway, his age catching up to him. Atop a stark cliffside, Odin blindsides his sons by revealing that they have a sister, Hela (Cate Blanchett), whom he locked away when she got too bloodthirsty, and then after this revelation, Odin promptly perishes.

It’s a small, intimate scene with beautiful visuals and strong performances, and it’s a good sendoff for Odin as he reminds us that he can have moments of kindness with his sons while also being the shittiest father in the MCU. He includes Loki when he says, “My sons,” which is nice considering that the last time he saw Loki he said, “Your birthright was to die,” but in the same breath divulges that he imprisoned his firstborn and never told his other children. Where the other Thor movies typically tried to pretend that Odin was a good father and a good king, Waititi mostly strips the veneer off him, laying his flaws on thick (though still never quite interrogating them enough).

So Odin dies, but his legacy does not: Hela immediately arrives in all her glory—and there’s a lot of it. Blanchett looks absolutely fabulous, and she chews on scenery with relish; there’s little complexity driving Hela, who simply wants to rule through bloodshed, but Blanchett has such a blast in the role (and, seriously, she looks amazing) that she vaults Hela up into the upper echelon of Marvel villains. If you squint, you can see a commentary on colonization—Waititi himself is half Maōri as well as the MCU’s first non-white director—in Odin and Hela’s conquest of the realms and the subsequent burial of Odin’s sins, and the way Odin and Asgard let the problems rot and fester so they are unprepared when they rears their ugly heads, but as has happened before, audience members are left with only breadcrumbs to form commentary from, though these breadcrumbs are pretty tasty. 

Hela handily destroys Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer, which sends both Loki and Thor into a tailspin; Loki, panicking, calls for the Bifrost to take them back, but Hela grabs ahold and tosses both Loki and Thor out of the Bifrost while she gets taken to Asgard. From there, the story becomes bifurcated: we cut between Loki and Thor navigating the colorful world of Sakaar and Hela beginning her reign of terror on Asgard. 

Read More of Anna’s Ongoing Marvel Retrospective Series Here

While in both Thor and The Dark World the scenes on Asgard stood a step or two above the scenes set elsewhere, here it’s the opposite. The time spent on Asgard with Hela is certainly still enjoyable due to both Blanchett and the addition of Waititi’s fellow Kiwi Karl Urban as Skurge, a lackey who gets roped into Hela’s bloodthirst rather unwillingly. It’s just that there’s not much to do other than reveal once again that Odin was terrible and summarily dispense with the Warriors Three (Zachary Levi, Ray Stevenson, and Tadanobu Asano)—Sif (Jaimie Alexander), it seems, was too busy filming Blindspot to attend the reunion. 

It’s not exactly a heartbreaking moment, as the Warriors Three had precious little screen time before (though Levi certainly hammed up his two minutes in The Dark World), and Hela dispatching them so easily establishes not only her threat but also Waititi’s willingness to turn the Thor world on its head. This disregard for the past is refreshing, and in some cases needed for this particular franchise, but the deaths of three of Thor’s closest friends perhaps should carry a bit more weight. Levi’s Fandral and Stevenson’s Volstagg barely get a word in edgewise before getting stabbed, and Asano’s Hogun fares only a little better before Hela promptly skewers him; Thor, when he does return to Asgard, does not acknowledge any of this, and so the inclusion of the Warriors Three simply to get killed in a very nonchalant manner sits a tad uncomfortably. To quote a different Disney franchise, “Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to,” but maybe not this quickly.

While Hela has been killing his friends, Thor has been having a hell of a day on Sakaar. First, a space wormhole deposits him in a pile of interdimensional trash. Next, an ex-Asgardian Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) shows up and captures him with zero regard for his social standing. Then, he is ushered to the being known as the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) as an instrumental, hellish version of “Pure Imagination” plays in the background. He learns that he has been dumped on a planet known as Sakaar, where the Grandmaster keeps everyone entertained by having slaves (though he prefers the term “prisoners with jobs”) fight each other to the death, à la panem et circenses; Thor, full of bluster and looking extremely ripped, has the honor to become the Grandmaster’s next pet fighter. Also, Loki has been there for weeks and has already ingratiated himself with the Grandmaster, being the sly trickster that he is, and he declines to assist Thor.

It’s a lot to take in, so Thor is understandably euphoric when he realizes that the ominous “champion” the Grandmaster has been praising and whom he has to fight is none other than the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). But Thor’s “friend from work” has no interest in playing nice, it seems, even smashing Thor up the way he did Loki in The Avengers (“Yes! That’s how it feels!” Loki holleres), though Thor puts up enough of a fight that the Grandmaster has to interfere lest his precious champion lose and become unpopular.

This Sakaar storyline, adapted from the Planet Hulk comics, is immense fun. It’s got Jeff Goldblum melting people with sticks and improvising jazz on an alien piano—what more could you possibly want? It also adds a dash of bright color into the MCU, and while its visuals don’t quite match Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, it’s a refreshing change of pace and shows the dividends that pay when Marvel plays outside its typical sandbox. Waititi’s voice can be heard loud and clear throughout Ragnarok (and not just because he does the voice and motion capture for Thor’s fellow gladiator Korg) in a way that’s hard to imagine happening while the Creative Committee was still around. Large chunks of the movie were improvised, allowing the actors’ natural humor to shine, and directorial freedom was nearly absolute. Oh, it’s definitely a Marvel movie with all the requisite fights and whatnot, but it’s definitely a Taika Waititi movie, too.

The Thor/Hulk buddy comedy that unfurls after their fight is a happy marriage of two characters who have had precious little previous screentime together despite sharing two Avengers movies. Thor tries to badger and pester Hulk into turning back into Bruce Banner, but Hulk, finally having found a group of people that accept and even adore him (as opposed to Earth’s frosty reception after he destroyed Johannesburg in Avengers: Age of Ultron), resists. Hemsworth and Ruffalo spit childish insults at each other with glee, and though the dynamic shifts when Hulk inevitably turns back into Bruce Banner after seeing a clip of Black Widow, it only increases in fun as Ruffalo gazes wild-eyed around at the chaos and stress of Sakaar, marveling at their love for his alter ego.

Thor and Bruce set off to go back to Asgard, and on the way, run into Valkyrie, who’s had a change of heart. She had left Asgard after Hela, years and years ago, slaughtered all her fellow Valkyries; disillusioned with Asgard and lamenting the loss of everyone she loved, this Valkyrie retreated to Sakaar to drink her remaining days away. But, as she says, “I don’t want to forget. I can’t turn away anymore. So, if I’m going to die, well… it may as well be driving my sword through the heart of that murderous hag.” Thompson is a fantastic addition to the MCU, and she and Hemsworth have great chemistry, though thankfully not of the romantic kind. (There is a deleted scene somewhere that reveals Valkyrie to be bisexual, as she is in the comics, and it adds another reason for Valkyrie to hate Hela so vehemently, but it was cut for, uh… reasons, I guess. Sure.)

The unlikely trio dub themselves the Revengers, snag and then lose a certain trickster god after another betrayal, start a revolution in the gladiator pits, steal the Grandmaster’s orgy ship, and head back to Asgard through the Devil’s Anus to stop Hela (imagine saying that sentence back in Phase One!). The confrontation between Hela and Thor in the throne room gets the film tantalizing close to truly dissecting Odin’s faults—“It would seem our father’s solution to every problem was to cover it up,” Hela comments—before brother and sister, the warring sides of Odin’s legacy, duke it out and leave conversation by the wayside.

Hela easily lays waste to Thor, blinding him in his right eye like his father before him, and things seem to be looking very dire for our seductive Lord of Thunder and his fellow Asgardians, who are trapped between Hela’s forces. Luckily for them, Loki, in his fully horned glory, reappears with a ship that dwarfs the Grandmaster’s, proclaiming, “Your savior is here!” It’s a move that redeems Loki while never letting him become a good guy: he’s still devious and narcissistic, but he cares for his brother and he cares for his people at the end of the day. (Of course, the completion of his redemption arc makes him excellent cannon fodder for Avengers: Infinity War.)

“What were you the god of again?” she sneers as her knives pin Thor to a balcony railing. As Thor’s bravado fades, his mind transports him back to Norway, where Odin waits. Falling to his knees, for perhaps the first time in his life Chris Hemsworth looks small(ish). He feels hopeless without Mjolnir and without Odin, but then his father asks him, “Are you Thor, god of hammers?”

What follows is just so damn satisfying. “What were you the god of again?” Well, Hela finds out, and quickly too, as Thor lets loose. Fireworks go off, Hulk fights a giant wolf, Loki flips his helmet in a cool way, and Thor proceeds to absolutely wreck Hela’s minions as Led Zeppelin plays in the background. Other MCU movies play up Thor’s physical strength, and so does Waititi, but he also allows his titular character to run wild with the true power of a god, and hot damn does it feel good. 

This is Thor as we have never seen him: battered and bloody, sans an eyeball, but at the height of his power with lightning crackling all around him, no hammer necessary. Finally, finally, Thor stands on his own two feet as a dynamic character in his own right, stepping out of the shadow cast by his charismatic, scene-stealing brother. It took six years to get there, but what a hell of a payoff.

But his newfound power still isn’t enough to defeat Hela, and Thor realizes that he has to destroy Asgard in order to destroy her, bringing about the Ragnarok he was trying so desperately to avoid. But, as he says, “Asgard is not a place. It’s a people,” and so Loki dashes to Odin’s vault to free Surtur (and steals an Infinity Stone in the process), all the remaining Asgardians are loaded onto a ship, and we all watch as Surtur and Hela obliterate Thor’s home and all its riches, technology, and history. But perhaps, given its bloodied history, it’s “easier to let it burn,” as Loki says earlier in the film. The past caught up, Asgard had to reckon with it, and in this reckoning it gets reborn looking very different, but now free of its past sins.

And then… Korg makes a joke about it, and so we arrive at the crux of the problem with Ragnarok, and why it doesn’t crack my top three: it’s too funny. “Wait,” I hear you clarmoing, “Anna, what’s the problem with that?” The jokes almost always land, after all, and they make Ragnarok one of the most memorable MCU entries with such lines as the improvised, “There was one time my brother transformed himself into a snake, because he knows how much I like snakes, and so I picked the snake up to admire it, but then he turned back and went, ‘Blergh! It’s me!’ And then he stabbed me. We were eight, at the time.” That is an absolute classic.

The problem, however, is that the abundance of jokes hampers the film’s burgeoning commentary on colonization and legacy because it all becomes couched in humor, which can certainly be effective at conveying messages but needs space in order to be so, and Ragnarok has precious little of that. When Waititi goes for the more serious moments, he can land them—both scenes with Odin on the cliffside, Loki saying, “I’m here” at the very end of the film—but the balance here skews far more towards humor, undercutting the emotional impact of, say, your home world getting destroyed by your secret imperialist sister. Waititi can certainly balance comedy with drama, and would go on to take home an Oscar for exactly that skill in Jojo Rabbit, but here the balance is off. There is no time to process anything: the Warriors Three get killed within seconds, a pedestrian reveals that Jane broke up with Thor in an offhand line. None of the mayhem promised by the revelation in The Dark World that Loki is now posing as Odin happens, and instead that and most of his deep-seated family issues get turned into jokes. Asgard gets destroyed, joke. Thor finally takes the throne as his theme from the first Thor movie swells, joke. 

As Marvel movie sins go, this is far from the worst one, and it’s no small feat to go from New Zealand indie movies to successfully revamping the image of one of the world’s most famous superheroes. But just a little more breathing room, just a little more time to get messier with the characters and give the emotional beats all the weight they deserve, would have been nice.

Groundwork and stray observations: Marvel has no big master plan; rather, they plant seeds wherever they can in the hopes that some of them might one day germinate. None of these were planned from day one, lest the whole ship sink, but the seeds germinated nonetheless:

  • Not much groundwork, since the whole point of Ragnarok is to blow up the Thor franchise and start over. The mid-credits scene does nicely set the stage for Infinity War’s opening, though. 
  • Natalie Portman does not appear in this film, presumably because her experience during The Dark World left a bad taste in her mouth, but Waititi’s remodeling of the franchise lured her back in for Thor: Love and Thunder, where she’ll be playing Thor, but also Jane. Jane gets cancer, but she can wield Mjolnir and get superpowers, but then that accelerates her cancer… it gets a bit weird in the comics, but it will be nice to have Portman back and not simply relegated to “love interest.”
  • I didn’t mention Heimdall (Idris Elba) in the bulk of the piece, but it’s very nice to see him get to do something other than ominously judge from afar. Elba is great.
  • When Thor sees Odin in a vision towards the end of the movie, Odin says, “Asgard is not a place. Never was. This could be Asgard.” The “this means Norway, a place which will in fact become Asgard come Avengers: Endgame, with Tønsberg (seen in both Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger) becoming New Asgard.
  • A statue of Beta Ray Bill’s head is on the outside of a building in Sakaar; when Christian Bale was cast for Thor: Love and Thunder, there was a lot of speculation he would play Beta Ray Bill, who has wielded both Mjolnir and Stormbreaker, the axe Peter Dinklage makes for Thor in Infinity War. Bale will instead be playing Gorr the God Butcher.
  • I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the only good thing to come out of Bruce and Natasha’s “relationship” in Age of Ultron is Thor attempting to calm down Hulk in this film by saying, “Sun’s getting real low.”
  • Fun fact for any What We Do in the Shadows fans out there: Carlo van de Roer, who played absolute legend Stu in the movie, helped create the lighting rig that makes this Valkyrie scene so cool.

Anna’s Favorite Scene: I mean… come on, it’s Thor absolutely wrecking shit while “Immigrant Song” plays. Can’t beat that. 

MCU Ranking: 1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier, 2. Captain America: Civil War, 3. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, 4. Thor: Ragnarok, 5. Guardians of the Galaxy, 6. The Avengers, 7. Spider-Man: Homecoming, 8. Captain America: The First Avenger, 9. Iron Man 3, 10. Iron Man, 11. Doctor Strange, 12. Ant-Man, 13. Thor, 14. Avengers: Age of Ultron, 15. Thor: The Dark World, 16. Iron Man 2, 17. The Incredible Hulk

Thor: Ragnarok Trailer

Thor: Ragnarok is currently available to rent and purchase on most digital storefronts, and is streaming on Disney+.

You can follow more of Anna’s work on LetterboxdTwitterInstagram, and her website.

MCU Retrospective: Thor: The Dark World

Written by Anna Harrison

In these retrospectives, Anna will be looking back on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, providing context around the films, criticizing them, pointing out their groundwork for the future, and telling everyone her favorite scene, because her opinion is always correct and therefore her favorite scene should be everyone’s favorite scene. Thor: The Dark World’s good scenes are a bit few and far between, however.

60/100

Thor: The Dark World often has the distinction of being labelled the worst MCU movie, a distinction which is not entirely unearned: Thor: The Dark World takes the worst aspects of its predecessor (unearned romance, too many things happening on Earth, not enough things on Asgard, boring non-Loki villain) and amplifies them. Instead of recognizing the inherent absurdity of the premise, director Alan Taylor takes his gritty Game of Thrones background and attempts to graft it onto the MCU, resulting in a gray-looking misfire that nonetheless has some good individual moments even as the film as a whole represents the first major misstep for a post-Avengers MCU. Luckily for the film, it still retains its stellar leads in Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston, who once again provide a saving grace here; at its worst, Thor: The Dark World is still a decent enough popcorn movie bolstered by a handful of standout scenes, and it remains more memorable than Iron Man 2 and The Incredible Hulk, the other two Marvel films that get relegated to the bottom of the heap. 

Like Thor, this movie starts with a flashback to Thor’s ancestors fighting some vague alien race, but this time instead of the Frost Giants we are introduced to the Dark Elves, led by Malekith (Christopher Eccleston). Eccleston has repeatedly complained (and rightfully so) about his Marvel experience: he was stuck in a makeup chair for hours upon hours, and on top of that, Malekith is underwritten and underutilized, giving Eccleston precious little to work with. Eccleston is certainly among the most talented performers the MCU has gathered, but all his talent gets wasted in a completely thankless role (other Marvel actors who will join Eccleston’s ranks include Lee Pace, Mads Mikkelsen, and fellow The Leftovers alum Carrie Coon). Malekith is just boring in a way that even bottom tier Marvel villains usually aren’t.

Malekith has a plan involving the mysterious substance known as the Aether, and wishes to use it to destroy the Nine Realms, something only feasible during the conjunction of the Nine Realms (yes, it sounds very much like The Conjunction of the Spheres from The Witcher). While Odin’s ancestors defeat Malekith, they can only bury the Aether, which will of course be foolproof and not come back to bite them in the ass. After this exposition dump, we get the title card, and off we go.

Back in present day Asgard, Loki gets imprisoned for the crimes he committed in The Avengers, including but not limited to: murder, attempted world domination, and stabbing his brother. Odin (Anthony Hopkins) continues to be the worst father imaginable, telling Loki that his “birthright was to die” and informing Loki that he will never see his mother, Frigga (Rene Russo), again. Honestly, this guy is supposed to be a wise and good king? He sucks. (Okay, yes, maybe Loki did some bad things. Odin is still terrible.) Meanwhile, Thor and his buddies Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander), Fandral (Zachary Levi, replacing Josh Dallas due to scheduling conflicts as Dallas once replaced Levi in the first Thor), Hogun (Tadanobu Asano), and Volstagg (Ray Stevenson) are pacifying the Nine Realms. Why are the Nine Realms in conflict? It’s rather unclear, but Thor makes them stop it, so no worries.

Even as he goes off quelling unrest and furthering Asgard’s imperialism, Thor is feeling pretty down without his love, Jane (Natalie Portman). Jane has been trying to get over her own heartsickness by going on dates and putting herself out there, but she, Darcy (Kat Dennings), and Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) are all still searching for a way to reach Thor. Upon arriving at a gravitational anomaly in London, Jane gets sucked into Asgard’s basement where the Aether is kept, and it latches onto her and alerts Malekith to the Aether’s location. “The convergence returns,” he intones prophetically, as if this should make us quake in our boots. Alas, it does not.

So Thor and Jane are reunited, and for a supposedly epic reunion of lovers, it’s pretty uninspiring. It does give us a chance to explore Asgard a bit more, and it’s nice to see the place given a bit more fleshing out. It also allows us to hate on Odin some more as he compares his son’s girlfriend to a goat. However, as nice as this worldbuilding is, the plot now hinges almost entirely on Jane, and the writing does no favors to either Jane or Natalie Portman.

Perhaps a reason for Portman’s middling performance comes from the director—not the one they hired, but rather the one they didn’t. Thor: The Dark World cycled through multiple directors, including Patty Jenkins—who would go on to direct Wonder Woman and its sequel—before landing on Alan Taylor. Jenkins was initially brought on to the project but ended up leaving after two months due to “creative differences,” which she would later elaborate on: “I did not believe I could make a good movie out of the script they were planning on doing,” she said, which is a fair assessment, judging from the finished product. Her idea for The Dark World involved a Romeo and Juliet-type plotline revolving around Thor and Jane, the star-crossed lovers separated by space, but the studio didn’t go for it; when Jenkins departed the project, Natalie Portman was apparently furious, upset that Marvel had driven away a female director whose focus on the Thor/Jane romance would have undoubtedly given Portman much more to do than the original Thor, and certainly more than The Dark World presents her.

So Portman gets saddled with little more than a damsel in distress, given importance only because the plot MacGuffin entwines itself with her. Her middling chemistry with Chris Hemsworth from Thor vanishes here, replaced instead by a relationship so flat it makes even Loki and Jane seem more palatable: when Thor leaves Asgard to reunite with Jane in the post-credits scene, the result is an eye roll rather than jubilation. (Due to scheduling conflicts, and probably lack of interest, Portman couldn’t film some of this scene; instead, Elsa Pataky of the Fast and Furious franchise—and Hemsworth’s wife—doubles as Jane.) It’s little surprise then that Portman does not reprise her role for Thor: Ragnarok; instead we are informed that Jane broke up with Thor, and that’s that. She will, however, reappear in Thor: Love and Thunder, lured back in by Taika Waititi’s fresh take on the franchise along with many other Marvel fans. This time, Jane is sure to have more to do, seeing as Love and Thunder will adapt the comics arc which sees Jane become Thor, but in this film Jane does exceedingly little other than faint at various inconvenient times.

Read More of Anna’s Ongoing Marvel Retrospective Series Here

She is still a far more interesting character than Malekith, whose Dark Elves are among the dullest villains Marvel has created (which says quite a lot, as villains have always been a weak spot for the MCU). They infiltrate Asgard and kill Frigga, though they fail to acquire the Aether. Frigga’s Viking-style funeral scene remains a touching and impactful spot amidst a movie with many forgettable elements, and its visuals and music are among the strongest in the MCU—they evoke emotions that otherwise wouldn’t have been felt for a character with very little screen time and even less dialogue.

Reeling over the loss of his mother and fearing for his kingdom, Thor wishes to seek out the Dark Elves on their home turf of Svartalfheim rather than risk another invasion of Asgard. When Thor presents this plan to Odin, Odin refuses and, his mind bent on the total annihilation of the Dark Elves, says he will fight “till the last Asgardian falls, till the last drop of blood is shed.” 

“What makes you so different than Malekith, then?” Thor counters, to which Odin responds, “The difference, my son, is that I will win.” Thor calls him out on this megalomania, but the chance to truly dig into Odin’s failings as a king and father goes undeveloped aside from this handful of lines. At the end of the day, the film still tries to frame Odin as a good and just king despite the fact that he has repeatedly shown his failings, and so it falls to me to berate him instead. He’s the worst.

Forced to resort to subterfuge, Thor enlists the help of Loki. The reunion of these two results in some of the best bits of the movie, and proves yet again the potency of the Hiddleston/Hemsworth pairing: they make these moments sing in a way the rest of the movie doesn’t purely from the force of their chemistry. Once again, Loki in particular shines, proving why he has become such an enduring character in the Marvel universe. Like Iron Man 2, what makes Thor: The Dark World passable are its character beats, the moments where the movie takes a breath and lets its actors do the heavy lifting. (Heavy lifting might be giving too much credit to the script, but they do some lifting, at least.) 

So Thor, Jane, and Loki go to Svartalfheim, the home of the Dark Elves. While they (or, rather, Malekith) get(s) the Aether out of Jane, Loki becomes fatally wounded. What follows is a touching little death scene between Thor and Loki, with Thor promising to tell Odin of Loki’s heroics and Loki replying, “I didn’t do it for him.” (15-year-old me was absolutely distraught watching this scene in theaters for the first time. And the second time. And the third time. And… you get the picture.) Though the scene will get excellently parodied in Thor: Ragnarok, it is a nice moment of emotion before the movie becomes a mess of gray-tinged fight scenes.

Of course, despite this redemptive death scene, Loki still lives, as hinted at by the green shimmer appearing over an Asgardian soldier searching Svartalfheim and confirmed by the reveal at the end of the movie. Initially, Loki was going to perish permanently here, completing his arc and dying a hero (of sorts). However, test audiences refused to believe that Loki, the consummate trickster, was actually dead, so Marvel reversed course and added the reveal that Loki faked his death and is posing as Odin. Marvel’s decision was helped, no doubt, by the monstrous fan base that Loki spawned; when Tom Hiddleston made his infamous appearance in character at the 2013 San Diego Comic-Con, bringing the audience to their feet as they chanted “Loki” (someone even shouted out, “My wife loves you!”), Marvel chief Kevin Feige realized the full extent of Loki’s impact on the MCU. He took on a life of his own, his importance to the fans far outstripping his actual screentime as he consistently outshone his heroic counterparts. In a cinematic universe populated by charismatic and attractive superheroes, to have the primary villain of its biggest movie so far, The Avengers, turn out to be one of the most popular characters is no small feat. It’s a testament to the character and to Hiddleston’s ever-perfect performance that he has thwarted death twice; first here, and later in Avengers: Endgame (sort of). 

But his fake demise in The Dark World does mean Loki is out of the picture for the rest of the movie, and The Dark World becomes far less interesting as a result. The trappings of the film—the performers (the ones actually given things to do, that is), the humor, the music—all provide entertainment and emotion enough (though the humor does occasionally undercut the more impactful moments, a critique that has been leveled at Marvel more and more as the years have gone by), but when the plot shifts to the paltry villains and generic magic liquid, The Dark World loses its way; this becomes especially obvious for the last third of the movie, as Loki ceases to bring his charm to the screen and the focus narrows down to Malekith vs. Thor and company.

Had this been an introductory movie, The Dark World would have been a disaster. However, the strength of Marvel’s foundation is such that they can make mistakes and still triumph. (Obligatory “of course, it’s your opinion if Marvel triumphs or just succeeds in damaging cinema.”) Audiences are already invested in Thor, in Loki, in their world, even if they aren’t invested evenly between all the characters (if you can’t tell, I might be a bit more invested in Loki than those around him), and so there is a base level of enjoyment to be had even if the particulars of the film are a bit weaker than other MCU entries. There’s still plenty of fun: Thor hanging Mjolnir on a coat rack, Thor taking the tube, Dr. Selvig running naked around Stonehenge, everything Loki says and does. The music, like in the first Thor film, stands out as one of the more memorable Marvel scores, this time composed Brian Tyler, who will go on to compose Avengers: Age of Ultron, adding to a resume already including Iron Man 3 and the revamped Marvel fanfare.

Audience goodwill can certainly help gloss over the errors of this movie; unlike The Incredible Hulk or other Phase One films, by now viewers have a certain trust in Marvel that allows the MCU to make mistakes, as in The Dark World, and not suffer huge box office or cultural consequences. Without the middling response of this movie, we might never have gotten the zany escapades of Thor: Ragnarok, which completely revamp Thor’s world and do away with the self-serious Shakespearan stylings in favor of something that more fully embraces its absurd comics roots. It certainly ranks towards the bottom of the Marvel universe, but Thor: The Dark World still has its saving graces, and its falters forced some very needed self-reflection upon Marvel Studios; from here on out, it only gets better. 

Well, some of the time. Most of the time? At least sometimes.

Yes, this is from Comic-Con.

Groundwork: Marvel has no big master plan; rather, they plant seeds wherever they can in the hopes that some of them might one day germinate. None of these were planned from day one, lest the whole ship sink, but the seeds germinated nonetheless:

  • The Aether turns out to be the Reality Stone: “It is not wise to keep two Infinity Stones so close together,” Vosltagg says in the mid-credits scene. Cue audience gasp.
  • Benicio del Toro’s character, called “The Collector” and only appearing in the mid-credits scene, will show up again in Guardians of the Galaxy, and then later in Avengers: Infinity War. The payoff is a bit small for such a setup, but perhaps he’ll show up again. Who knows. 
  • In the play that Loki stages in Thor: Ragnarok, while Matt Damon’s Loki dies, the choir sings the piece that plays in this movie during Loki’s death (and Frigga’s funeral). Top tier comedy.
  • Dr. Selvig’s chalkboard sort of alludes to the multiverse, but mostly just the Nine Realms, though he does write “616 Universe” on it, referring to Earth-616, the main universe in which the comics take place.
  • The whole “Loki is secretly posing as Odin and now de facto rules Asgard” stinger at the end is left open-ended, but certainly does not seem to bode well for Asgard. Had the Thor franchise continued down its somber path, the consequences could have been a bit more dire; however, when Taika Waititi took the reins for Thor: Ragnarok, it turns out that all Loki does with this newfound power is make statues and plays dedicated to himself. Sometimes Marvel’s seeds do not bloom where you think they will.

Anna’s Favorite Scene: Frigga’s funeral or the scenes of Thor and Loki attempting to pilot a Dark Elf ship. You could make a whole movie about their tense reconciliation, though here it’s only a handful of scenes; luckily, they’re among the best in the movie. (I still wouldn’t say no to more, though.)

MCU Ranking: 1. The Avengers, 2. Captain America: The First Avenger, 3. Iron Man 3, 4. Iron Man, 5. Thor, 6. Thor: The Dark World, 7. Iron Man 2, 8. The Incredible Hulk

Thor: The Dark World Trailer

Thor: The Dark World is currently available to rent and purchase on most digital storefronts, and is streaming on Disney+.

You can follow more of Anna’s work on LetterboxdTwitterInstagram, and her website.

MCU Retrospective: Captain America: The First Avenger

Written by Anna Harrison

In these retrospectives, Anna will be looking back on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, providing context around the films, criticizing them, pointing out their groundwork for the future, and telling everyone her favorite scene, because her opinion is always correct and therefore her favorite scene should be everyone’s favorite scene. Time to punch some Nazis!

75/100

Captain America has recently come under fire for a new comic from Ta-Nehisi Coates featuring the star-spangled man with a plan that criticizes the American Dream, with superhero actors Dean Cain and Kevin Sorbo accusing Marvel of politicizing Captain America. (This also comes after the villainous Red Skull was depicted with similarities to Jordan Peterson.) Yet, no matter where you stand on the controversies that have followed the Cap comics, from his conception Captain America has been a political construct: Joe Simon and Jack Kirby created Cap and had him punching Nazis in the face even before America had entered World War II. Pointedly, Cap has always tried to stand for what America should be, not what it is or has been (except for that arc where a Cap imposter was a Nazi, which caused no drama whatsoever). 

In the MCU, the movies have had to refrain from anything other than sweeping statements like, “Nazis bad,” or “government surveillance bad,” as they cater to a larger audience than the comics, but the spirit of Steve Rogers’ comic origins are still visible enough throughout his cinematic tenure, starting with the pleasantly old-fashioned Captain America: The First Avenger. (It’s also a lot easier to avoid issues of overly aggressive American exceptionalism when your bad guys are literal Nazis.) 

Part of its winsome charm comes from the 1940s setting, making The First Avenger Marvel’s first period piece—though don’t conflate it with the high-falutin dramas that usually populate the genre; it’s still first and foremost a superhero movie. Director Joe Johnston had already balanced these genres in The Rocketeer, so he seemed a natural fit for this MCU entry, and proves himself more than up to the job of balancing the time period with superheroics. It’s all very Indiana Jones. (While Johnston would only direct this film, screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely would become mainstays of the MCU.)

America has entered World War II, and Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers is raring to go fight the good fight but is hampered by his small frame (Leander Deeny acted as Evans’ body double for the first part of the movie, and the head grafting usually looks decent) and litany of health issues. His childhood friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) has already been drafted, and Steve’s frustration has grown to where he has begun to lie on his enlistment forms in an effort to somehow join up. His determination to help in any way he can attracts the attention of Dr. Erskine (Stanley Tucci), a German scientist helping the Allies’ war effort by providing them with a serum to create a super soldier. 

Steve gets whisked away to Camp Lehigh in New Jersey, where he meets the prickly colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) and the no-nonsense Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). Marvel often casts unknowns in leading roles, or, if not unknowns, at least someone unexpected; in this case, Chris Evans was mostly known for romcoms and non-MCU Marvel’s Fantastic Four duds. To compensate for their lesser-known leads, the MCU will populate the roles around their heroes with big names: Jeff Bridges in Iron Man, Anthony Hopkins and Rene Russo in Thor, and, in The First Avenger, Tommy Lee Jones and Stanely Tucci.

These casting choices generally pay off, giving the audience someone new to fawn over while the veterans keep the performance quality high. Here, Tucci and Jones give some of the most memorable one-off Marvel performances; Erskine in particular, while only appearing in the first third of the movie, has stayed fresh in the minds of audiences: he is, after all, the one who lays down the ethos of Captain America: “Not a perfect soldier, but a good man.”

This isn’t to say that The First Avenger’s leading man falls short—not by any means. Chris Evans, in addition to being ridiculously good looking, is ridiculously charming; it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role, though he initially turned down the role. Evans’ Steve is someone we all want to root for, representing that ideal American gumption and gusto without any of the country’s baggage. Yet while it could be easy to paint Steve Rogers as a goody two-shoes, as someone with a stick up his ass who probably goes to church each Sunday and buttons up his shirt all the way, the character we are presented in the MCU, and the one we are shown by Evans, is much more interesting than that (though Joss Whedon will fall slightly into caricature in The Avengers, unfortunately): the first thing Steve does in The First Avenger is lie. He lies on an enlistment form to boost his chances of helping the war effort, so the lie isn’t a nefarious one, but Steve still consistently bends or outright breaks the rules to follow his own largely unfailing moral compass; he has never been one to simply follow orders and do things by the book. He’s smart, too, and not just some tail-wagging Golden Retriever. If not quite as complex as Tony Stark or Loki, Steve still—to quote a certain green ogre—has plenty of layers. Good is not dumb, nor is it boring.

While Steve fails to impress physically, he proves himself worthy of the super soldier serum when he jumps on a grenade (unaware that it’s a dummy) to absorb its explosion while everyone else runs away, convincing even Colonel Phillips that he can handle the responsibility of Erskine’s super soldier serum. Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) arrives to assist, a mirror image of his son: smart, suave, self-important, though with less of the guilt and self-loathing. 

Steve Rogers then gets really, absurdly ripped. If Peggy has already been attracted to his innate goodness, this surely helps that attraction along. 

Unfortunately (though maybe fortunately, so America wouldn’t have a race of blonde-haired, blue-eyed super soldiers…), any chance of recreating this effect is dashed when an agent of Hydra (Richard Armitage, who definitely should get brought back for a bigger MCU role), an offshoot of the Nazis, kills Erskine. Steve, instead of getting to sock Nazis in the jaw on the front lines, is then used as a tool of the government to get more war bonds; his tenure as the government’s dancing monkey gives us a great musical number and a chance to lampoon the government: they stifle the real spirit of America, instead packaging some propagandic patriotic prattle in song and dance and costumes. (Again, this “real spirit of America” is much easier to portray during World War II, with clear-cut bad guys. Later on, it gets a little bit more complicated.)

Only with Peggy’s encouragement does he break out and begin to actually do something with his power. Arnim Zola (Toby Jones) and Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), aka the Red Skull, have been up to no good, capturing Allied forces—including Bucky Barnes—as part of their nefarious work for Hydra, so Steve ditches his role as senator attaché and goes to save his comrades. 

Where Marvel typically tries to tone down some of its comic book origins in order to make the movies more palatable, Red Skull’s design is ripped straight from the comic pages in all its campy, pulpy glory. The preceding MCU movies have all tried to ground themselves even as their subject matter gets more and more outlandish, resulting in something like Thor, which fails to commit fully to its otherworldly premise. The First Avenger marks the first time that Marvel fully embraces its source material: it’s good vs. evil, superhuman vs. superhuman, good old American boy vs. Nazi with a red skull. It throws any pretension away and basks in its absurd comic book glory, a much better movie for it.

To even out the absurdity, we have the very real relationships between the characters. Steve’s close connections with Bucky and the Howling Commandos (Neal McDonough as Dum Dum Dugan, Derek Luke as Gabe Jones, Kenneth Choi as Jim Morita, Bruno Ricci as Jacques Dernier, and JJ Feild as James Falsworth aka the superhero Union Jack, though only a normal guy in the films) give him an anchor; his relationship with Bucky in particular will remain important in the MCU and spark the imaginations of thousands of Tumblr and Twitter users, though it’s not given quite enough heft here.

The real heart of the movie, however, is Steve’s relationship with Peggy. Despite only being developed for one film, this relationship has proved to be one of the strongest in the MCU (perhaps too strong, but more on that with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Avengers: Endgame), and due to Hayley Atwell’s vibrant portrayal, Peggy received her own spinoff show, Agent Carter, and appears in Winter Soldier, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man, Avengers: Endgame, and two episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Peggy and Steve serve as the film’s beating heart, giving the ending a gut punch and real emotional heft that the MCU films have largely lacked so far. It’s a testament to the depth of these characters that they can carry such weight in a movie where the main villain looks like this.

Upon revisiting The First Avenger, it’s remarkable how well the film has aged; while Iron Man deserves props (or boos, depending on your view of the MCU as an entity) for kickstarting the MCU, it feels largely rote when compared against the slew of other films that come after. The First Avenger, on the other hand, has a unique setting, and while it still lays the foundation for future entries, the film is still largely self-contained. Reverberations from its events can be found all over the MCU, but it’s less concerned with setup for the future and more so with payoff for the now, making it a satisfying entry on its own. It can get a little too silly at times, but it’s always fun and upbeat, a reminder of what Captain America can look like without the 21st century cynicism he becomes riddled with in later entries. Looking back after ten years, this may hold up better than Iron Man—this is a spicy and hot take, I know—and certainly helped reset the trajectory of the MCU after some more lackluster entries, setting them on firm ground before they take a big risk with The Avengers.

Groundwork: Marvel has no big master plan; rather, they plant seeds wherever they can in the hopes that some of them might one day germinate. None of these were planned from day one, lest the whole ship sink, but the seeds germinated nonetheless:

  • Hey, it’s the Tesseract with an Infinity Stone inside. Wonder if that will be important later.
  • Hey, the Red Skull used aforementioned Infinity Stone and got sucked up into space. Wonder if he will show up later. (He will, but not as Hugo Weaving, who has been open about the pay disputes with Marvel that led to Ross Marquand appearing as Red Skull in Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame.)
  • Hey, no more super soldier serum exists. Wonder if anyone will make knockoffs and that will be important later.
  • Before the Hydra base is blown up, Zola rescues some blueprints for what looks like a robot, a nod to his comic look; in Winter Soldier, they will adapt this so that Zola lives through a computer program as a head on a screen.
  • Boy, sure hope hiring Zola and other Hydra members to help the United States doesn’t bite anyone in the ass.
  • There’s a common saying that “the only people who stay dead in comics are Bucky, Jason Todd, and Uncle Ben.” That has now been whittled down to only Uncle Ben, as Bucky gets revived as the Winter Soldier by Ed Brubaker, a fate that will befall our filmic Bucky as well (and Jason Todd is also alive now, coming back as the Red Hood in DC comics). No one knew at the time if The First Avenger would get a sequel or if it would even adapt the Winter Soldier arc, so they filmed two versions of Bucky’s fall: one where Sebastian Stan had a green screen sleeve on his arm, and one without. Though they ended up using the latter, Bucky will still appear sans an arm in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
  • Howard and the Howling Commandos show up in Agent Carter, and some Howling Commandos show up in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. with Peggy. Will I be able to bring up S.H.I.E.L.D. in every retrospective? Stay tuned!
  • Kenneth Choi, who played Howling Commando Jim Morita, shows up in Spider-Man: Homecoming as Mortia’s grandson.

Anna’s Favorite Scene: Dr. Erskine and Steve have a chat before the procedure, producing that classic MCU line: “Not a perfect soldier, but a good man.”

MCU Ranking: 1. Captain America: The First Avenger (I welcome your Twitter arguments), 2. Iron Man, 3. Thor, 4. Iron Man 2, 5. The Incredible Hulk

Captain America: The First Avenger Trailer

Captain America: The First Avenger is currently available to rent and purchase on most digital storefronts, and is streamable on Disney+.

You can follow more of Anna’s work on LetterboxdTwitterInstagram, and her website.

MCU Retrospective: Thor

Written by Anna Harrison

In these retrospectives, Anna will be looking back on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, providing context around the films, criticizing them, pointing out their groundwork for the future, and telling everyone her favorite scene, because her opinion is always correct and therefore her favorite scene should be everyone’s favorite scene. Time for space shenanigans.

70/100

So far, the burgeoning MCU has remained grounded—relatively speaking, of course, as they feature a man flying around in a gold-titanium alloy suit and another man who turns into a big green rage monster if he gets angry. However, Thor marks the first time that Marvel ventures off-world, and even if the movie tries to explain away the magical elements by quoting Arthur C. Clarke (“Magic is just science we don’t understand”), the film still represents a marked departure from the three previous entries, serving as a litmus test for the MCU’s burgeoning audience. However, the departure that occurred with Thor wasn’t entirely clean: to ensure that the film didn’t get too otherworldly and alienate its audience, a large chunk of the movie is spent on Earth, which ironically ends up as the weakest portion of the movie. The result is a decent first outing for our God of Thunder, but one hampered by its tethering to reality. 

It is helped, though, by excellent casting in Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Tom Hiddleston as Loki. Hiddleston had worked with director Kenneth Branagh before, and, as is well-known by now, initially auditioned for Thor before getting the role of Loki, and the titular hero went to Hemsworth. Both of these actors have become mainstays of the MCU, and for good reason; even before Hemsworth could flex his considerable comedy chops in Thor: Ragnarok (and before his eyebrows were unbleached), he was exuding charisma, and Hiddleston is, for my money, one of the best actors in the entire franchise. 

It’s a good thing these two are so talented, because both characters could have easily been annoying had they been in the wrong hands. Thor, as presented initially in this movie, is overconfident, cocky, and unwise, but even so Hemsworth manages to make him charming (it helps that he is just ridiculously, superhumanly attractive). When Thor’s coronation day on Asgard is interrupted by Frost Giants from Jotunheim, Asgard’s greatest enemy, Thor immediately rushes off to fight Laufey, king of the Frost Giants, and get revenge. He is accompanied by Loki and Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander) and the Warriors Three: Volstagg (Ray Stevenson), Hogun (Tadanobu Asano), and Fandral (Josh Dallas). Together, this merry group threatens to destroy the fragile peace between Asgard and Jotunheim, as well as get untold numbers injured or killed, until Odin shows up and prevents further catastrophe.

Apoplectic with rage, Odin casts Thor out, banishing him to Earth. “You are unworthy of these realms, you’re unworthy of your title, you’re unworthy of the loved ones you have betrayed!” he roars before stripping Thor of his powers and sending him away from Asgard. Finally, right before he throws Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, after its owner, Odin murmurs, “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.” A challenge, then, for Thor to rise towards: become worthy of Mjolnir, of his father, of Asgard.

Now stuck in New Mexico, Thor has to adjust; luckily, he conveniently runs into Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), a scientist studying atmospheric anomalies, unaware she is chasing the Bifrost, the Rainbow Bridge that allows Asgardians to travel between worlds. Jane is joined by Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) and intern Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings), and the trio take in a very dazed and confused Thor. Branagh mines this fish-out-of-water scenario for some good moments (Thor smashing a coffee cup on the ground and crying, “Another!”, Thor going into a pet shop and asking for a horse, Thor repeatedly getting hit or almost hit by cars because he has no idea what they are), but New Mexico drags compared to Asgard and all its cool costumes, production design, and royal intrigue. On top of that, the romance that brews between Jane and Thor is far too rushed to be believable (remember how I praised Marvel for going somewhat slowly with Pepper and Tony? Yeah, this is the opposite of that) and stunts Jane as a character by immediately saddling her with Thor. She certainly has potential (and is certainly more of a real character than, say, Betty Ross was), and Natalie Portman is good as ever, but stick her in the most boring aspect of the movie and immediately force her into the “love interest” box and you are heading towards failure.

Thank goodness for Asgard and Loki, then. Production designer Bo Welch had his work cut out for him, as he is tasked with the unenviable task of translating Asgard from page to screen, making it seem advanced enough to belong to gods but familiar enough not to alienate the audience, but he succeeds, making Asgard one of the most recognizable locations in the MCU and deftly straddling the line between the fantastic and the plausible. Frequent Marvel costumer and Oscar winner Alexandra Byrne manages a similarly impossible feat, clothing the Asgardians in regal fashion and crafting iconic looks that will last throughout the movies. This isn’t just a trip to the 1940s, as will happen in the next Marvel film, but a trek to an entirely new, alien world, and thus a lot hinges on its aesthetics; at this somewhat tenuous point in Marvel’s trajectory, a failure on the design fronts could have been catastrophic.

Back in Asgard, Loki finds out that he is adopted. What’s more, he is actually a Frost Giant; on top of that, he is Frost Giant King Laufey’s son. Understandably perturbed, he confronts Odin, who… falls asleep? Odin falls into the “Odinsleep,” a vague concept never truly explained, but essentially Odin gets very tired from all his troubles and must rest in a coma-like state to regain power. While the concept of Odinsleep is a) ridiculous and b) very convenient, the confrontation scene in the throne room stands out as one of the most affecting scenes in the whole film.

Marvel brought on Branagh partially due to his experience with Shakespeare, as the studio wanted to emphasize the family drama of Thor in order to make it more relatable, and no one does family drama better than Shakespeare, and no one does Shakespeare better than Kenneth Branagh. This scene shows why Marvel chose Branagh, and why Branagh sought classically trained actors like Hiddleston for this film. Hiddleston puts in the work here, cycling between rage, betrayal, jealousy, hurt, rolling a hundred different emotions into one performance. It’s good stuff.

As Odin has been knocked out of commission, the throne falls to Loki; with the added baggage of his backstory, Loki treks to Jotunheim, reveals that it was he who sabotaged Thor’s coronation, and agrees to let Laufey and his fellows into Asgard to kill Odin. Sif and the Warriors Three go to retrieve Thor from Earth to stop Loki, but Loki sends some faceless robot thing to kill Thor before he can come back. The faceless robot thing, called the Destroyer, nearly succeeds, but because Thor was ready to sacrifice himself to save innocents, he becomes worthy of Mjolnir, destroys the Destroyer, and heads back to Asgard to confront Loki. 

Well, it turns out that Loki only invited the Frost Giants to Asgard so he could kill them in front of Odin to make himself look heroic, and then Loki tries to destroy all of Jotunheim by using the Bifrost’s power. Thor, now against genocide (good job), prevents Loki from doing so, in the process destroying the Bifrost and preventing him from traveling back to Jane (the Bifrost is fixed with zero problems in the sequel). Thor is now worthy to be king, and Loki has fallen into the abyss of space.

The story beats in Thor trace a familiar arc dating back centuries: the unsuitable heir must go on a quest to prove himself worthy. The younger brother schemes to get the throne. So on and so forth. Even with Hemsworth’s winning performance (and Patrick Doyle providing one of the more memorable Marvel scores), were it not for Hiddleston, Thor would have easily been forgotten. 

Loki goes through far and away the most interesting arc in the film, an arc that has continued to this day with his titular Disney+ show, and one that very quickly captured the hearts and minds of Marvel’s audience. Marvel’s greatest strength lies with its characters; there are many instances where a weaker entry has been elevated by character work (see: Iron Man 2), and Loki is certainly a very strong contender for the title of “Most Psychologically Complex Marvel Character” even from his very first outing, boosting every film he appears in. The discarded son, never meant to rule but always feeling as if he is worthy of it—and in a family where “worthiness” is everything, of course that would twist him up inside. Then to discover that you belong to a different race entirely, a race hated by your home, your family, by everyone around you, and what’s more to learn that the only reason your so-called father adopted you was to use you as a pawn to broker a peace treaty? That would drive anyone to madness. (“Is it madness?” Loki asks, tears swimming in his eyes. “Is it? Is it?”) But instead of going after the father that lied to him his whole life, Loki only doubles down to prove himself a worthy son. (There’s that pesky “worthy” word again—it’s everywhere in this movie, haunting both Thor and Loki like shadows, always just out of reach. You have to be worthy of your hammer, of your throne, of your father. You have to prove yourself worthy of respect, even of love, even to your apparent family.) 

Of course, he tries to do this by committing genocide, which is admittedly not great—genocide against his own people, no less. You could easily dub Loki narcissistic, and in many ways he is, but at the root of all his posturing and peacocking runs a very deep thread of self-hatred, strong enough so that Loki is willing to kill his own race. Then, to cap it all off, the infamous exchange: “I could have done it, Father! I could have done it! For you, for all of us!”

“No, Loki.”

What a terrible thing to say to your son as he dangles off the edge of a bridge, the void of space yawning behind him. No wonder Loki lets go. Odin, in a cinematic universe full of bad fathers (Ego, Vulture, Howard Stark), might well take the cake, a sting made all the worse by the fact that Marvel has tried to paint him in if not an ultra-flattering light, at least a decent one. 

In the hands of a studio willing to get darker than Marvel, there is a hell of a lot to work with for Loki; even with the staunchly family-friendly MCU, it’s substantial. Thor only works as a character here because he has Loki to bounce off, and Thor only works as a movie because Hiddleston works overtime to make up for the boredom of New Mexico and the excessive Dutch angle shots that Branagh uses. Is this an exaggeration? Frankly, no. The movie might be called Thor, but it’s Loki’s show—and it’s a good thing, too, coming off the dull affairs that were The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man 2

Groundwork: Marvel has no big master plan; rather, they plant seeds wherever they can in the hopes that some of them might one day germinate. None of these were planned from day one, lest the whole ship sink, but the seeds germinated nonetheless:

  • Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) is here, I guess. Cool.
  • And there’s an after credits scene with the Tesseract, which contains the Space Stone, and will make its first chronological appearance in Captain America: The First Avenger, the next MCU movie. (In that film, the Tesseract appears in Tønsberg, Norway, the site of a Frost Giant attack in Thor and New Asgard in Avengers: Endgame.)
  • Speaking of Infinity Stones, there’s a (fake) Infinity Gauntlet in Odin’s vault. Hela knocks it over later in Ragnarok and makes a joke about it.
  • This marks the first appearance of S.H.I.E.L.D. agent/Hydra spy Jasper Sitwell (Maximiliano Hernández), who pops up in The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Avengers: Endgame (and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.!).
  • Dr. Selvig makes unnamed references to both Bruce Banner and, more importantly, Hank Pym; the latter doesn’t show up in the MCU until Ant-Man 2015.
  • Not groundwork, but the nametag on Thor’s borrowed shirt belongs to Donald Blake, Thor’s human alter ego in (some) comics. Cool!

Anna’s Favorite Scene: The confrontation between Loki and Odin in the throne room, purely because it cemented Loki as one of the best and most interesting characters in the MCU and because it cemented Tom Hiddleston as one of best performers in the MCU.

MCU Ranking: 1. Iron Man, 2. Thor, 2. Iron Man 2, 3. The Incredible Hulk

Thor Trailer

Thor is currently available to rent and purchase on most digital storefronts, and is streamable on Disney+.

You can follow more of Anna’s work on LetterboxdTwitterInstagram, and her website.

Oscars 2021 | 93rd Academy Awards Wrap Up

Written by Alexander Reams

After an extended awards season the 93rd Academy Awards have come and gone. While there were some very lovely moments in the show, the broadcast as a whole was a very mixed bag. Without further ado let’s dive into the last big awards show of the season.

I’m just going to address the elephant in the room immediately, putting Best Director in the middle of the show and not saving Best Picture for the end was one of the most idiotic moves The Academy has made in quite some time. The entire point of the broadcast is to celebrate individual fields first and then finish the night with one film being celebrated above all the others. By not doing that, the wins for Chloé Zhao and the entire Nomadland crew were snubbed. I get what The Academy was going for, wanting to end the night with a celebration of Chadwick Boseman’s life with his assumed win for Best Actor. However, as soon as Anthony Hopkins’ name was called, you could feel the collective embarrassment of the showrunners and rightfully so. Putting Best Actor at the end of the night, to only have the assumed winner lose was not only disrespectful to Chadwick Boseman and family, but to Anthony Hopkins as well. He delivered his career best work in The Father and was not celebrated because of the mess that was made by the Academy. 

With that out of the way I want to talk about some of my favorite wins of the night. Starting off with Erik Messerschmidt’s win for Mank. The cinematography of that film was one of the universal praises for that film, every frame is absolutely stunning and I was very glad to see him win. Joshua James Richards and Messerschmidt had been neck and neck all awards season. After the ASC awards that finally seemed to give someone an edge for the race to win Best Cinematography. 

Thomas Vinterberg’s acceptance speech is what won the night for me. I have listened to countless interviews about him talking about the making of this film and in every one of those interviews he discusses his daughter’s death during production which changed his outlook on the film. Vinterberg has been waiting a long time to take the stage to accept an Oscar and was long overdue to win one. You can genuinely see that he loves what he does and values it greatly, and when he began to talk about his daughter’s death I will admit I did shed a few tears. The film can be very disheartening but it’s theme about life as a whole is brutally honest but also hopeful. 

Overall the 93rd Academy Awards had few surprises but the surprises that did occur were near shocking. From Messerschmidt beating Richards for Best Cinematography, to Frances McDormand winning Best Actress, and Anthony Hopkins winning Best Actor over Chadwick Boseman. 

BAFTA 2021 Awards Wrap Up

Written by Alexander Reams

Well the last big awards show before the Academy Awards took place, and while most of the winners were expected, as always there were some surprises. Without further ado, let’s go through the winners. 

Nomadland took home Best Picture after taking home almost every single award thus far, and Chloé Zhao continued her win streak for Best Director. At this point I would say Zhao is a lock for the Oscar, but after last awards season, my confidence in the guilds was slightly broken so it’s hard to say anything is a lock, but Nomadland taking Best Picture and Director is as close to a lock as can be. 

Promising Young Woman expectedly took home the award for Best British Film, and to some surprise, Best Original Screenplay. While you can never count out Aaron Sorkin, I feel that he has lost a lot of steam in this awards season and Emerald Fennell has picked up what Sorkin has lost and is looking like she will be taking home the win for Best Original Screenplay at the Oscars.



After winning most of the awards for Best Adapted Screenplay, Nomadland’s winning streak did not continue here, instead Florian Zeller’s The Father took home the award, giving the film a big push to take home the award. Anthony Hopkins also took home the award for his performance in The Father, beating Chadwick Boseman for what seems to be the first time this awards season. While I am glad Hopkins has gotten some recognition, I don’t think it will be enough to push Hopkins over to win the Oscar against Boseman. 

For the rest of the acting categories, Frances McDormand took home the award for Best Actress for her role in Nomadland, Yuh-Jung Youn won for her role in Minari, who has now become the frontrunner to win at the Oscars. Daniel Kaluuya continued his winning streak for his thunderous role in Judas and the Black Messiah. Something to remember with the Best Actress race is that Andra Day won the Globe, Carey Mulligan won the Critics Choice, and Viola Davis won the SAG award, and none of these women were BAFTA nominees, so McDormand got a big push, but seeing as Davis won the SAG, I would go with her on my Oscar ballot. Thomas Vinterberg’s film Another Round won Best Film not in the English Language, and will most likely continue this streak at the Oscars. Best Animated Film went to Soul as expected, as well as Best Original Score. 

Best Cinematography went to Nomadland, pushing Joshua James Richards ahead of Erik Messerschmidt’s cinematography in Mank, the race is still close but after this I’m leaning toward Richards to take home the Oscar. Best Editing went to Sound of Metal surprisingly, Alan Baumgarten and Chloé Zhao have been battling it out for the award throughout the season, and now with Sound of Metal’s win, that pushes it as a more serious contender than before. Sound of Metal also won Best Sound, at this point I don’t know any other film that could take home the award at this point, the film has runaway with the award.

Mank won in Best Production Design, and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom won in Best Costume Design and Best Makeup and Hair, all of these were expected wins. Best Visual Effects went to the runaway winner, Tenet, Nolan films have always had an interesting history at the Oscars, but I think Tenet’s win is almost a lock.

BAFTA 2021 Awards Preview

Written by Alexander Reams

UPDATE 4/10/21

Finally, the endgame of award season approaches, and despite the elongation eligibility, the awards season rush has never left. If anything it has built up to even more excitement than usual, and without further ado, lets jump into the nominees and who I think will be taking home the BAFTA. 

I think it’s obvious by now that the Best Picture and Best Director races are entirely locked up at the BAFTAs. Nomadland has these awards almost entirely on lock. Be advised however, do not be surprised if Lee Isaac Chung or Thomas Vinterberg sneak in and take Best Director. 

The acting races however are a bit more complicated, especially best actress. After the SAG awards last weekend the race got even more complicated, the BAFTAs have seemingly taken out some of that complication however. Only Frances McDormand and Vanessa Kirby are nominees here and at the Oscars. Do not be surprised if McDormand takes home the award, but with Kirby being from England, she does have home court advantage so she is definitely a dark horse to win. 

Best Actor is almost entirely locked up, Chadwick Boseman has won almost every award possible for his performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and he will undoubtedly continue his streak here. Best Supporting Actress will probably go to the recent frontrunner Yuh-Jung Youn for her performance in Minari. Best Supporting Actor is almost entirely locked up by Daniel Kaluuya ever since Judas and the Black Messiah came out, and he will undoubtedly continue his streak. 

    Quick run through of the other categories, best original screenplay is definitely between Promising Young Woman and The Trial of the Chicago 7, and I would give the edge to Chicago 7. Best Adapted Screenplay will probably be going to The Father, however don’t count out the huge amount of love that Nomadland has. The best cinematography race has been between Mank and Nomadland the entire awards season, and I believe it will end up going to Mank. Film Editing will most likely be going to The Trial of the Chicago 7. 

As always take my predictions with a grain of salt and good luck with your ballots.


Original Article Below

Well, the BAFTA nominations have come out and saying there are some surprises, is quite an understatement. Just a quick show of what got snubbed mostly, or not even nominated; Da 5 Bloods, only nomination was supporting actor for Clarke Peters, Tenet, whose only nomination was for visual effects. While films like The Mauritanian, Rocks, and The Dig all lead with impressive nominations. Without further ado, let’s jump right in. 

Best film

  • The Father
  • The Mauritanian
  • Nomadland
  • Promising Young Woman
  • The Trial of the Chicago 7

    Well this is certainly an interesting batch of nominees, however, after the Golden Globes, Critics Choice, and its PGA nomination, I think that Nomadland will take home Best Picture at the BAFTA’s.

Outstanding British film

  • Calm With Horses
  • The Dig
  • The Father
  • His House
  • Limbo
  • The Mauritanian
  • Mogul Mowgli
  • Promising Young Woman
  • Rocks
  • Saint Maud

Unfortunately I have not seen as many of these I wish I had, such as Mogul Mowgli, The Mauritanian, The Father, and The Dig. This award seems to be between The Father, Promising Young Woman, and The Mauritanian. Most likely, Promising Young Woman will take home the win. 

Leading actress

  • Bukky Bakray: Rocks
  • Radha Blank: The Forty-Year-Old Version
  • Vanessa Kirby: Pieces of a Woman
  • Frances McDormand: Nomadland
  • Wunmi Mosaku: His House
  • Alfre Woodard: Clemency

    I will admit, I was a tad surprised when this batch of nominees was announced and the name “Carey Mulligan” was left off, as she seemingly had become the frontrunner. That being said, I think Vanessa Kirby of Frances McDormand will be the winner at the BAFTA’s. 

Leading actor

  • Riz Ahmed: Sound of Metal
  • Chadwick Boseman: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
  • Adarsh Gourav: The White Tiger
  • Sir Anthony Hopkins: The Father
  • Mads Mikkelsen: Another Round
  • Tahar Rahim: The Mauritanian

    1 Question: Has everyone forgot about Delroy Lindo? One of the best performances of 2020. Now, that has been addressed and I can gush about Mads Mikklesen, my favorite leading actor performance of 2020, being nominated for Best Actor, I am beyond thrilled to see him finally get some recognition for this beautiful performance. The winner will most likely be Chadwick Boseman, unless the BAFTA’s decide to go with Riz Ahmed. 

Supporting actress

  • Niamh Algar: Calm With Horses
  • Kosar Ali: Rocks
  • Maria Bakalova: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
  • Dominique Fishback: Judas and the Black Messiah
  • Ashley Madekwe: County Lines
  • Yuh-Jung Youn: Minari

    Yuh-Jung Youn will most likely be winning this award, as the Best Supporting Actress race has been tied up all awards season, and she has been the one to make her way to the front of the race. 

Supporting actor

  • Daniel Kaluuya: Judas and the Black Messiah
  • Barry Keoghan: Calm With Horses
  • Alan Kim: Minari
  • Leslie Odom Jr: One Night In Miami…
  • Clarke Peters: Da 5 Bloods
  • Paul Raci: Sound of Metal

    While I think Daniel Kaluuya has this award on lock, there were definitely a few surprises here, Clarke Peters for Da 5 Bloods, Alan Kim for Minari, and someone who had fallen behind in the awards race, but my favorite supporting actor performance of 2020, Paul Raci. Really glad to see him in here, and hopefully that boosts his Oscar chances. 

Director

  • Another Round: Thomas Vinterberg
  • Babyteeth: Shannon Murphy
  • Minari: Lee Isaac Chung
  • Nomadland: Chloé Zhao
  • Quo Vadis, Aida?: Jasmila Žbanić
  • Rocks: Sarah Gavron

    The only big Oscar frontrunners in this category are Lee Isaac Chung and Chloé Zhao, that being said, Zhao has this award on lock. Thomas Vinterberg getting this nomination made me so happy, Another Round has not been getting the acclaim it deserves, besides Best Foreign Language film, but its direction, performances, and screenplay are all incredible. 

Film not in the English language 

  • Another Round
  • Dear Comrades!
  • Les Misérables
  • Minari
  • Quo Vadis, Aida?

I’ll keep this short and sweet, Another Round has this award on lock, plain and simple

Animated film

  • Onward
  • Soul
  • Wolfwalkers

    Soul has been sweeping the animated categories wherever it goes, and I have no doubt it’ll be any different here. 

Original screenplay

  • Another Round 
  • Mank 
  • Promising Young Woman 
  • Rocks 
  • The Trial of the Chicago 7 

    Since Emerald Fennell was omitted from the directing category, I think she might win in this, however Aaron Sorkin is in this category, and you can never count him out. Be on the look for one of those 2 to win the award. 

Adapted screenplay

  • The Dig 
  • The Father 
  • The Mauritanian 
  • Nomadland 
  • The White Tiger 

    At this point I don’t know any film that can challenge Nomadland winning adapted screenplay.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter.

2021 Broadcast Critics Choice Awards Preview

Written by Alexander Reams

In recent years, the Critics Choice awards have been a great predictor on what will not only be nominated at the Oscars, but what might win. This year the awards are being given out almost a whole month before the Oscar nominations even come out, on the flipside, voting begins this Friday (March 5), two days later, the Critics Choice Awards happen, which could help the winners and the nominees that have fallen behind in the guilds and other respective awards shows.

BEST PICTURE
– Da 5 Bloods
– Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
– Mank
– Minari
– News of the World
– Nomadland
– One Night in Miami…
– Promising Young Woman
– Sound of Metal
– The Trial of the Chicago 7

After the (somewhat) surprise win for Nomadland at the Golden Globes, I think that win secured its win for the Critics Choice Awards this Sunday, the only other film I think that could challenge it would be The Trial of the Chicago 7 or Mank.

BEST DIRECTOR
– Lee Isaac Chung: Minari
– Emerald Fennell: Promising Young Woman
– David Fincher: Mank
– Spike Lee: Da 5 Bloods
– Regina King: One Night in Miami…
– Aaron Sorkin: The Trial of the Chicago 7
– Chloé Zhao: Nomadland

The Critics Choice awards have historically split Best Director and Best Picture, so if Nomadland wins Best Picture, then I think David Fincher will win for Mank, and vice versa. Also, quick rant, why is Emerald Fennell even being considered for this category, her direction is the entire reason I believe Promising Young Woman is a mediocre film. Either way, she’s nominated so that should show that she is in the running for Best Director, for some reason.

BEST ACTOR
– Ben Affleck: The Way Back
– Riz Ahmed: Sound of Metal
– Chadwick Boseman: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
– Tom Hanks: News of the World
– Anthony Hopkins: The Father
– Delroy Lindo: Da 5 Bloods
– Gary Oldman: Mank
– Steven Yeun: Minari

I think we all have the same winner in mind, Chadwick Boseman, he has been the runaway winner the entire awards season thus far. On the flipside, Riz Ahmed has been the critical darling, so he is definitely one to watch for.

BEST ACTRESS
– Viola Davis: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
– Andra Day: The United States vs. Billie Holiday
– Sidney Flanigan: Never Rarely Sometimes Always
– Vanessa Kirby: Pieces of a Woman
– Frances McDormand: Nomadland
– Carey Mulligan: Promising Young Woman
– Zendaya: Malcolm & Marie

The Best Actress race is still a little tied up between Frances McDormand, Vanessa Kirby, and Carey Mulligan, I believe that Mulligan will take it, as she has always been a critical darling.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
– Chadwick Boseman: Da 5 Bloods
– Sacha Baron Cohen: The Trial of the Chicago 7
– Daniel Kaluuya: Judas and the Black Messiah
– Bill Murray: On the Rocks
– Leslie Odom, Jr.: One Night in Miami
– Paul Raci: Sound of Metal

I think with Daniel Kaluuya suddenly emerging as the freight train frontrunner for the Oscar will undoubtedly be taking the award home. The only other competitor is Sacha Baron Cohen, but even he might be too far behind to take home the award.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
– Maria Bakalova: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
– Ellen Burstyn: Pieces of a Woman
– Glenn Close: Hillbilly Elegy
– Olivia Colman: The Father
– Amanda Seyfried: Mank
– Yuh-Jung Youn: Minari

This season’s Best Supporting Actress race has been a very complicated one, but Glenn Close is who I think will be taking it home as a career win. Possibly Yuh-Jung Youn for her role in Minari, but in America she is relatively unknown and this is an American critics group, I’d lean towards Close in my predictions.

BEST YOUNG ACTOR/ACTRESS
– Ryder Allen: Palmer
– Ibrahima Gueye: The Life Ahead
– Alan Kim: Minari
– Talia Ryder: Never Rarely Sometimes Always
– Caoilinn Springall: The Midnight Sky
– Helena Zengel: News of the World

Helena Zengel has been getting a lot of acclaim for her role in News of the World, and will most likely take home the win. Her only competition is Alan Kim, who also has been getting a lot of acclaim for Minari.

BEST ACTING ENSEMBLE
– Da 5 Bloods
– Judas and the Black Messiah
– Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
– Minari
– One Night in Miami
– The Trial of the Chicago 7

The Trial of the Chicago 7 has one of the best casts of the year, and all of them give fantastic performances as an ensemble, and will undoubtedly win the award.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
– Lee Isaac Chung: Minari
– Emerald Fennell: Promising Young Woman
– Jack Fincher: Mank
– Eliza Hittman: Never Rarely Sometimes Always
– Darius Marder & Abraham Marder: Sound of Metal
– Aaron Sorkin: The Trial of the Chicago 7

The original screenplay award is very tied up, but Aaron Sorkin just got a huge boost from his Golden Globes win, which I think will put him ahead of Promising Young Woman and Mank.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
– Paul Greengrass & Luke Davies: News of the World
– Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller: The Father
– Kemp Powers: One Night in Miami
– Jon Raymond & Kelly Reichardt: First Cow
– Ruben Santiago-Hudson: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
– Chloé Zhao: Nomadland

Nomadland has one of the best screenplays of the year, and will most likely be taking the award home, the only competition being One Night in Miami….

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
– Christopher Blauvelt: First Cow
– Erik Messerschmidt: Mank
– Lachlan Milne: Minari
– Joshua James Richards: Nomadland
– Newton Thomas Sigel: Da 5 Bloods
– Hoyte Van Hoytema: Tenet
– Dariusz Wolski: News of the World

While Joshua James Richards crafted some beautiful cinematography for Nomadland, you cannot ignore Erik Messerschmidt’s work in Mank, his gorgeous B&W cinematography of 1930s Hollywood I think will bring home the win for him.

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
– Cristina Casali, Charlotte Dirickx: The Personal History of David Copperfield
– David Crank, Elizabeth Keenan: News of the World
– Nathan Crowley, Kathy Lucas: Tenet
– Donald Graham Burt, Jan Pascale: Mank
– Kave Quinn, Stella Fox: Emma
– Mark Ricker, Karen O’Hara & Diana Stoughton: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Mank has some of the best sets of the year and most likely will easily take home this win.

BEST EDITING
– Alan Baumgarten: The Trial of the Chicago 7
– Kirk Baxter: Mank
– Jennifer Lame: Tenet
– Yorgos Lamprinos: The Father
– Mikkel E. G. Nielsen: Sound of Metal
– Chloé Zhao: Nomadland

The Trial of the Chicago 7 has the flashiest editing, and it’s only competition is Tenet, but Chicago 7 will probably be taking home the win.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
– Alexandra Byrne: Emma
– Bina Daigeler: Mulan
– Suzie Harman & Robert Worley: The Personal History of David Copperfield
– Ann Roth: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
– Nancy Steiner: Promising Young Woman
– Trish Summerville: Mank

Mank or Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom will be taking it as critics groups love a good period piece and they have the most lavish costume design.

BEST HAIR AND MAKEUP
– Emma
– Hillbilly Elegy
– Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
– Mank
– Promising Young Woman
– The United States vs. Billie Holiday

Most likely Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom will be taking this for transforming Viola Davis as the titular character.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
– Greyhound
– The Invisible Man
– Mank
– The Midnight Sky
– Mulan
– Tenet
– Wonder Woman 1984

The Midnight Sky or Tenet will be taking this one, no contest.

BEST COMEDY
– Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
– The Forty-Year-Old Version
– The King of Staten Island
– On the Rocks
– Palm Springs
– The Prom

Most likely Borat, will be taking this one because of the politics, but I’d love to see On the Rocks or Palm Springs win.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
– Another Round
– Collective
– La Llorona
– The Life Ahead
– Minari
– Two of Us

Another Round has run away with this award, plain and simple, and I am definitely okay with that.

BEST SONG
– Everybody Cries: The Outpost
– Fight for You: Judas and the Black Messiah
– Husavik (My Home Town): Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
– Io sì (Seen): The Life Ahead
– Speak Now: One Night in Miami
– Tigress & Tweed: The United States vs. Billie Holiday

Let’s just say if One Night in Miami… doesn’t take it, I will be shocked.

BEST SCORE
– Alexandre Desplat: The Midnight Sky
– Ludwig Göransson: Tenet
– James Newton Howard: News of the World
– Emile Mosseri: Minari
– Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross: Mank
– Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, and Jon Batiste: Soul

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross are ruling awards season with their scores for Mank and Soul. I think they will most likely win for Soul, however I would love to see Göransson win for his career best work in Tenet.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter.

2021 Golden Globes Preview

Written by Alexander Reams

Well folks, it’s that time of year, where all of Hollywood’s best and drunkest get together, have one big cocktail party, and hand out a few awards.

In all seriousness, the Golden Globes aren’t the most prestigious or serious awards show, but they can boost or take away from a film more than people realize. Thinking back to 2019 BC (Before COVID), 1917 did not have much steam, until the Golden Globes where it picked up the Best Director and Best Motion Picture: Drama awards and became the frontrunner to win those awards at the Oscars.

Now this Sunday, February 28, are the 2021 Golden Globes and I’ll be giving my predictions as well as my insight into the upcoming night. 

BEST MOTION PICTURE; DRAMA 
– The Father 
– Mank 
– Nomadland 
– Promising Young Woman
– The Trial of the Chicago 7


These nominees are very similar to what we’ve been seeing throughout the critics awards nominees, with the surprise addition of Promising Young Woman. I agree that Carey Mulligan gives a great performance, but in my opinion it has no place being in this category. Be that as it may, I still think that the HFPA will award The Trial of the Chicago 7 with Best Motion Picture; Drama. My personal pick would be Mank, as my other choice was not even nominated Da 5 Bloods

BEST ACTRESS; DRAMA 
– Viola Davis: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom 
– Andra Day: The United States vs. Billie Holiday 
– Vanessa Kirby: Pieces of a Woman 
– Frances McDormand: Nomadland 
– Carey Mulligan: Promising Young Woman


Full disclosure, I have not seen The United States vs. Billie Holiday and Nomadland yet, however I believe that the winner will be neither of those films, Viola Davis or Carey Mulligan are who I believe will take home the award, Viola Davis is (FINALLY) getting more and more recognized for her fantastic work, and while Ma Rainey, might not be her best performance, the HFPA has always been about those career wins, and I think this would be another one after her win for 2016’s “Fences”. On the flipside, this is Carey Mulligan’s second nomination for a Globe after a very impressive career filled with fantastic performances so the HFPA might award her since Viola Davis already has won before. My personal pick would be Vanessa Kirby for Pieces of a Woman. 

BEST ACTOR: DRAMA 
– Riz Ahmed: Sound of Metal 
– Chadwick Boseman: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom 
– Anthony Hopkins: The Father 
– Gary Oldman: Mank 
– Tahar Rahim: The Mauritanian


While I have not seen The Mauritanian yet, I think we can all agree that the Golden Globe Best Actor race is already done, with the late Chadwick Boseman locking it up. Some have said that he is only getting the buzz because of his untimely passing earlier this year, however I believe that whether or not he had passed, he would easily be winning the Globe for his performance in Ma Rainey.

BEST MOTION PICTURE: COMEDY/MUSICAL 
– Borat Subsequent Moviefilm 
– Hamilton 
– Music 
– Palm Springs 
– The Prom



I’m gonna take a quick minute and gush over the fact that a film like Palm Springs is nominated for (what will probably be) its biggest nomination this awards season. Palm Springs is one of my favorite Golden Globes nominations this year. Now the winner? I’m still on the Hamilton train, it took the world by storm, and while Borat might have more of an obvious political statement, I think that Hamilton will be taking the award home. 

BEST ACTRESS: COMEDY/MUSICAL 
– Maria Bakalova: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm 
– Kate Hudson: Music 
– Michelle Pfieffer: French Exit 
– Rosamund Pike: I Care A Lot
– Anya Taylor-Joy: Emma


I’ll keep this short and sweet, the only nominee who could challenge Maria Bakalova in my opinion is Rosamund Pike, whose nomination came out of nowhere.

BEST ACTOR: COMEDY/MUSICAL 
– Sacha Baron Cohen: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm 
– James Corden: The Prom 
– Lin-Manuel Miranda: Hamilton 
– Dev Patel: The Personal History of David Copperfield 
– Andy Samberg: Palm Springs

This Best Actor race is a bit more tied up than its other comedy/musical counterpart, between Baron Cohen, Miranda, and Samberg being the three vying for the award, but in the end I think that Baron Cohen will take it. 

BEST DIRECTOR 
– Emerald Fennell: Promising Young Woman 
– David Fincher: Mank 
– Regina King: One Night in Miami… 
– Aaron Sorkin: The Trial of the Chicago 7’ 
– Chloé Zhao: Nomadland 

The only person who could challenge Zhao at this point is Spike Lee, but seeing as he wasn’t nominated, Zhao is a lock, I’ll be shocked if anyone other than her wins. 

Thank you for checking out my Golden Globes preview, don’t forget to tune into it on NBC at 7PM EST/ 4PM EST.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter.