Eternals

Written by Anna Harrison

70/100

“In the beginning…”

Thus Eternals, the latest offering from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, opens. It’s not very shy about its Biblical inspirations, as the opening scroll revamps the Book of Genesis by recasting God the Celestial Arishem (voiced by David Kaye) as God, and the Eternals as his angelic children; its grand ambitions become clear from the first, though whether it lives up to them will be another question.

As we learn through extensive flashbacks, the titular Eternals were there to guide and shape mankind as they progressed, showing them smithing and plowing techniques but ordered by Arishem never to interfere too much (hence their lack of presence in the first three phases of the MCU); now in the 21st century, they have disbanded and scattered across the universe until the threat of the Deviants, a malevolent group of quadruped aliens, forces them to gather together again. It’s the age old “gang getting back together again” story, except we barely know the gang, and the reunion process is laborious at best. Where The Avengers built up its cast of characters over the course of four years, giving them their own solo movies, here the Eternals are all thrust together with zero prior establishment, and even the many flashbacks don’t quite provide enough information about these characters’, well, characters. 

As everyone comes together, we are fed information on their backstories and powers through heavy-handed exposition and stilted dialogue that even Eternals’ game cast stumbles with. Sersi (Gemma Chan) and Ikaris (Richard Madden), the two ostensible leads, supposedly have an epic love story for the ages (one which involves Marvel’s first sex scene), yet Chan and Madden, despite being talented performers in their own right, have little chemistry here as they tell rather than show the beginnings of their relationship; when Ajak (Salma Hayek), the Eternals’ leader, discusses the psychological break Thena (Angelina Jolie) experiences (called “Mahd Wy’ry” and pronounced, um, “mad weary”), it feels clinical rather than personal, despite the thousands of years the two have shared together. Even in a film series that relies on awkward exposition more often than not, Eternals stands out, as the characters speak only to advance the plot or explain a concept, never to further their own personalities.

This is where recent Best Director winner and Eternals helmer Chloé Zhao comes in. Her first three films—Songs My Brothers Taught Me, The Rider, and Nomadland—all received praise (and rightfully so) for their intimacy and for the way the camera and composition conveyed complex internal processes while the characters themselves stayed silent. When Zhao is allowed to do the same thing in Eternals, and lets the camera do the talking, the movie is utterly unlike any Marvel film before it: the sweeping vistas of South Dakota and Australia, the soft, natural lighting, and the wordless moments where we simply sit and watch the actors do their job create some of the most interesting and beautiful scenes in the MCU, marked by a level of directorial prowess rarely (if ever) seen with Marvel Studios.

Yet as the Eternals slowly make their way towards a conflict with the Deviants and grapple with their role in Arishem’s intelligent design, it becomes apparent the biggest conflict in Eternals is between its director and the studio behind it.

Read More of Anna’s Ongoing Marvel Retrospective Series Here

Marvel has, by now, figured out a very specific formula, and it usually works. Variations are needed here and there, such as with Thor: Ragnarok, but even while Taika Waititi’s Kiwi sensibilities shone in that film, there was still the requisite Marvel fast-paced plot, big action scenes, and ill-timed quips. Zhao’s subtler humanist tendencies become muddied in Eternals’ need to over-explain everything, and while Eternal-cum-Bollywood-star Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani) and his valet Karun (Harish Patel) give some excellent comedy, it feels out of place within Zhao’s more serious take on the MCU, as if they only exist to fulfill Marvel’s comedy quota. Zhao is at her best when she lets her camera take charge, but here her characters are forced to explain everything about themselves for the sake of the audience, relying too heavily on clumsy dialogue; where Zhao excels at coaxing out real and naturalistic performances from non-actors, the MCU’s bombastic nature requires its performers to ham it up a bit when the scope is so large, and as a result there are no true standouts, aside from perhaps Barry Keoghan as Druig, despite an extraordinarily talented (and wonderfully diverse) cast. 

This isn’t to say Zhao is the wrong choice for the MCU—far from it. There is an excellent, sweeping epic hidden underneath all the clunky lines, and there are deep philosophical ideas waiting to be pondered more deeply: What happens when your belief system gets turned upside down? Who do you become? What does “the greater good” mean? Zhao has gracefully examined all the intricacies and contradictions of humanity in all her other films, and here and there are glimmers of that same complexity in Eternals, but they remain only glimmers amidst the mandated Marvel beats. The problem is less that the cast is too big, or the story is too large and sprawling, and more that the script feels the need to explain all of these things, rather than respect that its viewers can, with Zhao’s help, infer information on their own. The delicacy with which Zhao handles her stories and characters seems incongruous with the in-your-face, Marvel-y script of Eternals, which keeps viewers at arm’s length even while Zhao’s strengths lie in holding them close; with four credited writers (including Zhao herself), it’s hard not to see conflicting aims in the finished screenplay.

Eternals is certainly, definitely, positively not—though its recent press would suggest otherwise—Marvel’s worst film. It has more emotional heft and a stronger directorial voice than most MCU films, and the fact that it even tries to differentiate itself at all shows a huge step in the right direction if Marvel wishes to stay artistically relevant post-Avengers: Endgame; Eternals’ third act, which succeeds at being both intimate and operatic at the same time, is one of Marvel’s strongest and certainly its most unique, and shows the enormous potential of this Zhao/Marvel team-up. But that’s all it is: potential. Eternals could have been great, and indeed it has tantalizing moments of sublimity, but if you’re going to go to the trouble of hiring someone like Zhao, the least you could do is trust her. 

Eternals Trailer

Eternals is currently playing in wide theatrical release.

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

The Green Knight

Written by Alexander Reams

86/100

Honor is what we all search for at some point in our lives. Whether this is honor in your work, family, or hobbies, there is something we all desire honor in. Our first look at this study in honor came over 15 months ago. Then the world seemingly came to a stop and also lost its honor during the pandemic. Trading it for fear, miscommunication, and distrust. Such is the case with Gawain, played masterfully by Dev Patel. After entering into a game with a mysterious character who calls himself “The Green Knight”. He only wants to be indulged in a game. One that Gawain quickly, perhaps too quickly, accepts, and eventually sheds any facade of honor for these traits that the world did as well. David Lowery’s The Green Knight is an indulgence in a genre that once populated cinemas while also feeling modernized and old school at the same time. 

Through most of the runtime the film does not focus on the game between Gawain and the titular Green Knight. Lowery chooses instead to focus on the journey that Gawain undergoes to finish his game with him. The film skips through time, though never haphazardly, always acquainting the viewer with the new period within a few minutes of being in that environment. Something that cannot be praised enough to Writer/Director David Lowery. Always keeping the focus on a film that is not only grand in scale but rich in character. From the various scenes showcasing the superb production design along Gawain’s year-end journey to his mythic opponent. To the fantastical and surreal cinematography by Andrew Droz Palermo. Who utilizes the technique “camera obscura” to put the viewer at ease. 

Dev Patel has been on the rise for quite some time now, my favorite performance of his was in the 2016 film Lion. He is delivering at his full potential along the films runtime. His narcissistic, egotistical performance fits the role and brings a new level to his skill as an actor. He took the text that Lowery adapted and met it graduating their vision to another level. This can also be said for the entire cast, filled with a star studded lineup, but from the opening shot it’s easy to forget about them. It is Dev Patel’s film, they are just in it. For a film with grand scale, it is very quiet. With spurts of loud, grandiose moments at times. These larger moments shine brightly, and have stuck with me. This is a picture that reminds me why I not only love films, but why I want to make them. Masterclass independent filmmaking on a grand scale is a genre that is not witnessed often.

The Green Knight Trailer

The Green Knight is currently in theatrical wide release.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.

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.

Episode 81: Fantasia 2020 Part 2 / Survival Skills / PVT Chat / You Cannot Kill David Arquette

“I don’t want to lie. I dislike dishonesty. And I work in Hollywood, a town and a business that relies on a lot of falsehoods with people hiding behind different facades. I don’t want to be a part of that.”

David Arquette

Links: Apple Podcasts | Castbox | Google Podcasts | LibSyn | Spotify | Stitcher | YouTube

This week on Drink in the Movies Michael & Taylor discuss their First Impressions of: The Batman & Ammonite. Followed by the Fantasia Film Festival Titles: Survival Skills, PVT Chat, and You Cannot Kill David Arquette.

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PVT Chat is currently unavailable to rent.

Episode 78: Bad Education / Ema / Putney Swope

“Even with the lowest budget in the world, you better get some names in there; that calms people down. Then be sure your leading character is in a hurry.”

Robert Downey Sr.

Links: Apple Podcasts | Castbox | Google Podcasts | LibSyn | Spotify | Stitcher | YouTube

This week on Drink in the Movies Michael & Taylor discuss their First Impressions of a duo of Dev Patel led films in The Green Knight & The Personal History of David Copperfield. Followed by a discussion of the Titles: Bad Education, Ema, and Putney Swope.

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Streaming links for titles this episode

Bad Education on HBO Max

Putney Swope on Prime Video

Ema is currently seeking distribution