Cry Macho as much as anything else seems to be a lingering look at those sleepy border towns that Westerns like those Clint got his start in are so often framed against. The year is 1978 and shortly after Howard Poak (played dreadfully by Dwight Yoakim) fires his old ranch-hand and bronco buster Mike Milo (played by Clint Eastwood) he barges into Milo’s home. While he stands absently fondling the nonagenarian’s trophies and awards Poak begins hemming and hawing his way through a narrative spew that’s goal is to guilt trip Milo into going down to Mexico to save his son from an alcoholic mother and abusive living situation. This is all predicated on the premise that, “Milo owes him one.” Which holds as much water as a fishing net after previously watching a coffee sipping Milo get fired by Poak in the first 5 minutes of the film.
Ultimately Milo agrees to bring Rafo up from Mexico. And heads south of the border in his old manual truck. There are moments along the multiple road sequences that Ben Davis’ cinematography capture the beauty and illustrious ecology and topography of the region. As he also worked with Chloe Zhao on Marvel’s forthcoming film The Eternals, I suspect that Ben Davis’ name will bring more notoriety in November than it does right now. His exteriors which are what the film is primarily sewed together with bring an ephemeral and majestic look that doesn’t come across as forced, so much as a communication to the audience of the place our characters are in.
Ultimately Milo makes it down to where Rafo is staying and is confronted and propositioned by Rafo’s mother Fernanda Urrejola. After a quick back and forth Milo, saunters on confident he can find the boy. Which he does by capturing and threatening to wring the neck of Macho. Rafo’s fighting chicken. Which eventually leads to a fireside chat where Clint’s Milo utters the seemingly timeless line: “If a man wants to name his cock Macho that’s fine with me.”
These two like in any road movie form an unlikely friendship. One is a man in his 90’s doing a favor for his old boss who fired him, and is now being chased by gunmen. The other, a teenager dreaming of more, unsure of his place in the world, and unsure of his place within his family. Represented clearly by the delineation of a border between the two halves. Eventually the two after some roadside meals and stolen cars end up at a sleepy border town. Where Clint’s Mike helps the townspeople with various ailments to their animals, sets to fixing things that don’t work and begins to swoon for Natalia Traven’s Marta, a local mother and restaurant owner who has taken them in.
Like all road movies eventually what you’re escaping catches up with you and after a nice time with Marta and her family our central characters are back on the road with the police on their heels. Along a small dusty road their pulled over by two officers and their cars luggage is strewn on the ground. It’s seats cut into by a knife. The police officers say they have a tip that these two are running drugs and were ordered to stop them. Which conjures that image of Clint on the roadside behind his truck in The Mule to mind. Ultimately they let the two go, and like the film itself it’s all a bit understated. A bit unceremonious.
Instead of a classic fetch quest narrative in which a renegade or run down lawman has to make one last trip south of the border to bring a person or object back to America and he along with it, Cry Macho opts instead, for Mike to show Eduardo Minett’s Rafo the North side of the border while he plants his cowboy heels firmly in Mexican soil. Cry Macho is slow road movie, about finding a new home when the old ones done in, and having the where with all to know it and return to it. I’m not ready for it to be Clint’s last film but of the last half dozen I’ve seen while he was an octogenarian it seems this first on the other side of 90 is the most contemplative and ultimately the most content.
Cry Macho Trailer
Cry Macho is currently playing in theatrical wide release and streaming on HBO Max.
Every time you get on a horse, you roll the dice. If it’s a good day, then you listen to each other, you forgive mistakes, you work in tandem; if it’s a bad day, well, you might find yourself with rattled nerves and a few bruises, or in an ambulance, or in a grave. For aging jockey Jackson (Clifton Collins Jr.) in Clint Bentley’s film Jockey, he’s had enough bad days for a lifetime, but while he knows his days are numbered, he refuses to face the fact. He lives in a trailer, he drinks, he smokes, his back has been broken more than once, and his right side occasionally goes numb, but still Jackson gets up before dawn to exercise trainer Ruth’s (Molly Parker) horses, riding and racing until the sun sets and then doing it all again.
Everything in Jackson’s life has a certain familiarity to it: he’s respected around the Arizona race track he calls home, he has a close relationship with Ruth, his friendship with his fellow jockeys—many of whom are played by real jockeys, in the same vein as Chloé Zhao’s The Rider—is steady and strong. He’s able to ignore his aches and pains and inevitable retirement until a jockey named Gabriel (Moises Arias) shows up, claiming to be Jackson’s son.
For being a “horse movie,” there’s remarkably little fanfare about the animals or sport. There’s a slight focus on a new filly Ruth has bought, one which spurs Jackson to get back into top shape and lose extra weight so he can sit light atop the horse. The races are either shown on a grainy TV in the jockey’s locker room or focus only on Jackson’s face, with Collins’ performance (and the amount of dirt hitting his face) letting us know the results. Bentley, the son of a jockey, focuses instead on the riders, avoiding the pageantry and fanfare often associated with racing movies and opting instead for a quieter, more introspective take on the jockeys.
Though initially hostile to Gabriel, Jackson begins to warm up to him, taking him under his wing and getting him a position with Ruth. There are no big revelatory or overly emotional moments between the potential father/son duo, though their relationship—tentative and halting—remains affecting nonetheless. This forms the emotional cornerstone of the film rather than Jackson’s relationship with the filly or his desires to win a certain race, and so while Jockey is a “horse movie,” it’s a character study for Jackson, and Collins provides ample material to parse with his stunning performance. Though Arias and Parker put in great performances, Collins wins this particular race by several lengths. Jackson’s not unlike the animals he rides: you have to tell a horse when to stop, as Ruth says, or else they’ll just keep running until they give out, and Jackson keeps pushing himself closer and closer to the edge.
It’s nothing particularly groundbreaking—an aging athlete grapples with his physical decline—but it deals with a corner of the world that typically gets the glossy Hollywood treatment, something that Jockey staunchly refuses to do. It treats the athletes and the sport with care, but never glamorizes their situation; they exist on the fringes of the American West, carving out their own existence in the lonely beauty of predawn Arizona racetracks, shot with care by cinematographer Adolpho Veloso. The narrative might be too thin at times, but the mood is rich, and Collins’ performance, all the more powerful for its understatement, makes Jockey a decent bet.
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. Ants!
Avengers: Age of Ultron was an ambitious, scrawling, sprawling mess, so worried with setting up the future MCU that it left its own plot to limp along. Ant-Man, on the other hand, switches gears, introducing a new cast and a new story, one that is largely self-contained outside of cameos from the likes of John Slattery, Hayley Atwell, and Anthony Mackie, and it’s a breath of fresh air after Age of Ultron’s world-ending robot hordes.
Yet for being such a breezy flick to watch, Ant-Man had a laborious birth. Edgar Wright was attached to an Ant-Man film as far back as 2006, though it was put on the backburner as Marvel began its plans for what would become the MCU proper and the leadup to The Avengers. In 2012, things finally got rolling: Wright shot some test footage, and by 2013 a script was ready. Casting soon became locked and loaded, but Marvel kept pushing back on the script; eventually, they even commissioned some in-house writers for rewrites without Wright’s knowledge, and this finally drove Wright away only two months before filming was supposed to begin.
“I think the most diplomatic answer is I wanted to make a Marvel movie but I don’t think they really wanted to make an Edgar Wright movie,” Wright said of the whole debacle. His firing is one of the nastier stories from the Creative Committee era; you can’t help but wonder what Wright’s film might have been like had he been given more creative freedom. Now free of Ike Perlmutter and his ilk, Marvel generally allows directors more creative control (to an extent, of course): Thor: Ragnarok very much feels like a Taika Waititi movie, just one with more action and starring the god of thunder, and Eternals is shaping up to closely resemble Chloé Zhao’s other directorial efforts, at least as much as a Marvel film can. Perhaps a post-Creative Committee Marvel would have been more willing to let Wright make an “Edgar Wright movie,” but who knows. (It would certainly make a great What If…? episode.)
Now with Ant-Man sans a director, Marvel had to scramble to find a replacement, courting directors such as David Wain, Ruben Fleischer, and Adam McKay before settling on Peyton Reed, previously a contender for the Guardians of the Galaxy gig. (McKay withdrew his name from directing consideration but helped out with the script enough to get a screenplay credit; he and Paul Rudd—also credited—used large chunks of Wright and Joe Cornish’s script, tweaking here and there but keeping roughly the same outline.)
Despite all the hullabaloo that occurred before shooting, the shoot itself was relatively smooth, and the finished product blends nicely into the rest of the MCU while still having enough merits on its own to make it a worthwhile, if slight, watch. It’s certainly a nice palette cleanser after Age of Ultron and gives everyone a bit of breathing room before the fisticuffs of Captain America: Civil War, the film which will kick off Phase Three.
In Ant-Man, our hero is just a dude: he’s Paul Rudd, America’s most likable everyman, funny and ageless but still a relatable guy. Scott Lang might have a master’s in electrical engineering, but he has to grind like everyone else. He’s not an uber-wealthy playboy, a genetically engineered super soldier, or a god from outer space. He’s… just a dude.
Well, not entirely. After blowing the whistle on embezzlement at his previous job, Scott hacked into his company’s bank account and distributed the money back to the customers, eventually getting arrested for his good deeds. Now out of prison and determined the walk the straight and narrow, he struggles to hold down even a job at Baskin-Robbins and is unable to see his daughter, Cassie (Abby Ryder Forston), as he can’t make the child support payments he owes his ex-wife, Maggie (Judy Greer). Parts of his backstory—the kid, the ex-wife, the struggle to provide for himself and his family—may be more relatable than, say, the playing Robin Hood and getting thrown in prison part, but Rudd’s charming presence makes it easy to pretend that a Scott Lang could be among us. After all, at his core, he’s just a man trying to be better for his family.
However, Scott quickly backslides and gets roped into a get-rich-quick heist as he becomes desperate to find a way to make his child support payments so he can visit his daughter. He joins ex-con and friend Luis (Michael Peña), along with Kurt (David Dastmalchian, who should be in everything) and Dave (T.I., as in the rapper, who should not be in everything with all his recent sexual assault accusations), and the four set out to steal from an unknown man’s safe while he’s out of town. There, Scott finds nothing but an odd motorcycle suit, which he takes home.
Well, it turns out that motorcycle suit allows Scott to shrink to the size of an ant, and was purposely planted by Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) for Scott to find. Hank, it turns out, was the first superhero known as Ant-Man (in the comics, Hank is also the creator of Ultron, a role which was given to Tony in the MCU), and he’s been looking for someone to pass the mantle to so he can take down his rogue protégé Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). That someone happens to be Scott.
Why Scott? There are the burglary credentials, of course, but there is also Hank’s desire to live vicariously through Scott. Hank too has a daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly), though their relationship has become frosty ever since the death of Hope’s mother, Janet, and Hank seems to believe that if he can help Scott redeem his relationship with Cassie, then Hank can salvage his relationship with Hope. The father and daughter relationships in Ant-Man drive the film—specifically, the sins of the father—as both Scott and Hank try to live up to what they should be so they can have their daughters look at them with pride and love once more, though the order is taller for Hank, who has isolated himself from his daughter for nearly 20 years and all but driven her away completely.
Other than the Thor franchise, few other Marvel films have such a focus on family, and the complicated dynamics at play here elevate the character relationships in the film. The “overprotective parent (usually a father) wants to shield their child (usually a daughter) from the world so they inadvertently stifle them” trope has been done a thousand times before, but Douglas and Lilly do excellent work here and make Hank and Hope’s relationship more than the sum of its stereotypes.
While Scott and Cassie’s relationship can’t have quite the same depth (she is a small child, after all), Cassie is just so damn cute that you might want to end up adopting her, and her presence succeeds in grounding Scott the way Whedon wished Hawkeye’s nameless spawn would have in Age of Ultron. Cassie isn’t just some random child inserted so we feel empathy for a character, she has a personality and plot function in her own right, and as a result this MCU family is one we actually care about. Take notes, Joss! (Also, as far as I know, Peyton Reed is a decent guy, so maybe take notes on that too, Joss…)
Hope, of course, will join Ant-Man as a titular character in her next film, Ant-Man and the Wasp, as the stinger at the end (pun intended) hints at. As she very rightly points out to her father in this Ant-Man, she has all the skills necessary to stop Cross from selling the Ant-Man technology to Hydra, yet her father won’t entrust her to do so. Finally trying to rectify the pain he caused his daughter, Hank eventually reveals the truth about Hope’s mom: Janet had been a compatriot known as the Wasp and, in order to stop a Soviet missile in 1987, had to go “subatomic,” meaning she was lost forever to the Quantum Realm (aka the microverse, but Marvel can’t say that for legal reasons, because nothing’s ever easy when you sold off a bunch of your IP to keep your company afloat), and so he never wanted his daughter to risk befalling the same fate. Now that she understands the reason behind Hank’s overprotective nature, Hope manages to forgive him.
Of course, as the sole female of the movie, Hope was bound to become romantically entangled with Scott, though this movie is more setup than payoff. And, to the movie’s credit, Hope stands far better on her own two feet than most other Marvel love interests, and she has relationships that are important to the plot other than the one she shares with Scott. Hope stands nearly side by side with our titular hero in Ant-Man and has her own grand ambitions outside of him, so it’s no surprise that she gets co-billing the next time around. It’s certainly a step in the right direction, even if Evangeline Lilly’s wig strains believability in certain scenes.
But, of course, it’s not Ant-Man and the Wasp yet, so Hope stays largely on the sidelines of the action as everyone prepares to stop Cross. Like Captain America: The Winter Soldier before it, Ant-Man attempts to cross genres, but where Winter Soldier went for political thriller, Ant-Man goes for heist movie, and the results aren’t as grand or elaborate as an Ocean’s Eleven, but they’re fun sojourns nonetheless (though why you wouldn’t go as balls to the wall as possible with your heists when your hero can control ants and get up to all sorts of shenanigans is beyond me).
The inevitable Ant-Man vs. Cross-in-the-Yellowjacket-suit showdown that we march towards is bolstered by the fact that it involves two men who can shrink to the size of insects, which results in some great set pieces and one excellent Siri joke. While he doesn’t play an overly memorable villain, Corey Stoll is quite good at creating a manic glint in his eye, and it’s enjoyable enough to watch his sanity slowly slip. (Does that make me sound psychopathic?) Gone are the masses of indistinguishable bad guys from the two Avengers movies so far; instead, we have two grown men running around a Thomas the Tank Engine playset, the life and death stakes with which they battle looking pretty meager when the camera zooms out and all we see is poor Thomas quietly falling off his tracks, accompanied by some pitiful sparks. The MCU has, historically, not been known for its creative fight sequences, so Ant-Man’s playful action provides an excellent dose of fun and makes full use of its hero’s unique and rather bizarre superpowers.
That said, Ant-Man is certainly not the most memorable Marvel movie, and falls pretty squarely in the middle. It’s certainly a good deal tighter than Age of Ultron’s unwieldy mess and the burgeoning relationship between Scott and Hope has more going for it than, say, Natasha and Bruce’s ogling of each other, but you’d be forgiven if you don’t remember specific plot details from the movie. This review isn’t as long as the others for a reason: there’s just not as much to discuss.
Ant-Man is perhaps the best example of your typical Marvel movie post-Phase One: it’s inoffensive fun bolstered by a game cast (Peña provides some of the best humor in the MCU) and an easy way to spend an afternoon. Like, really, it is a whole lot of fun. Marvel has finally become a well-oiled machine, and so Ant-Man comes off the assembly line ready to drive exactly how you expected (and how you like), but it’s not going to be winning races anytime soon. (Is that how car metaphors work? I don’t know.) For some, that’s an indication that Marvel is too stale, that it lacks creativity and too often plays it safe. And to a certain extent, that’s true: they’ve found a formula and they’ve stuck to it. But for others, that formula works even when it’s not firing on all cylinders, and maybe that’s enough.
If that’s good for movies as a whole, well, let’s wait until Avengers: Endgame to unpack Marvel’s prickly cinematic legacy.
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:
“Tales to astonish!” Cross says at one point, mocking the tales of Hank Pym’s time as Ant-Man. Tales to Astonish was the comic series that introduced Ant-Man. Not groundwork, but fun.
If Scott returned from the Quantum Realm/going subatomic, it stands to reason that the presumed-dead Janet van Dyne could too, no? And we see a shape that looks suspiciously like the Wasp while Scott’s in the Quantum Realm.
In the comics, Cassie Lang becomes the superhero known as Stature. With the casting of Kathryn Newton as an older Cassie Lang, it seems inevitable that Stature (and the Young Avengers) will soon make her MCU debut. (Kathryn Newton has consistently rubbed me the wrong way as a performer, and it was shitty of Marvel to recast Emma Fuhrmann—the older Cassie in Endgame—without telling her. But I should withhold judgement until Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania… I guess.)
Hank talks about how he never wants his work falling back into the hands of a Stark. Well, I hate to break it to you, buddy, but… that’s exactly what’s gonna happen in Endgame.
There was a whole theory that the TVA in Loki was actually located in the Quantum Realm. Technically that hasn’t been disproven yet, but it seems unlikely. Still…
Anna’s Favorite Scene: The Falcon vs. Ant-Man. The cameo is brief enough not to overshadow everyone else in the movie and keeps the MCU connected even when it’s not an Avengers movie, plus it’s funny to watch Sam get dragged around a bit.
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. Buckle up for some hot takes (mostly, that Iron Man 3 rocks).
“You know who I am.”
That’s the refrain that constantly dogs Iron Man 3: it’s written glibly by Tony Stark on a nametag in 1999, said by him in the voiceover that frames the film, broadcast by the supposed Mandarin as he threatens more terrorist attacks. And, of course, three movies in, we do know Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, and so does everyone else, from kids in a restaurant to a local news cameraman. He’s an even greater celebrity than he was in his pre-Iron Man days: he was the hero in The Avengers’ Battle of New York, after all. He’s the biggest box office draw since the Skywalkers, the best thing since sliced bread. Everyone knows Iron Man, whether you’re a citizen in the MCU’s world or our very own flesh and blood reality.
“You know who I am,” but this movie spends most of its runtime challenging that. We know Iron Man, but what of Tony, when you strip him down to his bare essentials? Who does he become? That’s the question at the heart of Iron Man 3, tackled in its own superhero movie way. Another question haunting the movie: how do you follow The Avengers, a movie that—like it or not—forever changed the cultural landscape? (Or, at the very least, altered for quite some time.) The door has been blown open in the cultural consciousness, and also in the MCU, where the populace has been rudely exposed to aliens and a god flying around with a hammer. Iron Man 3 addresses all these questions by, well, mostly ignoring them. The Avengers went big, so this goes small. Of course, there are superheroes beating up bad guys and plenty of cheap tricks and cheesy one-liners (“Sweetheart, that could be the name of my autobiography,” as Tony says), but our titular hero spends most of this movie without his armor and without a superhero team to back him up.
On the one hand, this is where the interconnected nature of the MCU starts to first show some of its fundamental flaws: logistically, not every superhero actor can show up in every movie. But if Tony is dealing with a terrorist threat, why don’t the other members of the Avengers show up? Where is Captain America, who could help? Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye? On the other hand, isolating Tony from his super friends and even his own suit makes for a better movie, one more interested in Tony than his other metal persona (though if you want to see Iron Man blow stuff up, there’s plenty of that, too).
Of course, Iron Man 3 doesn’t start with Tony separated from his suit, but just the opposite: since the events of The Avengers (where, to remind you, aliens came out of a wormhole in the sky and New York would have gotten nuked if Tony hadn’t made the sacrifice play and flown said nuke through said wormhole), Tony has been driven even deeper into his obsessive tendencies and holes himself up in his workshop, making new suits and avoiding sleep. Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) is at the end of her rope as she watches Tony circle the drain of self-destruction again, a different kind of destruction than Iron Man 2 but destruction nonetheless. Tony’s not sleeping, he’s having anxiety attacks at the mere mention of New York, he inadvertently sics a suit on Pepper. Things aren’t going great.
Tony’s declining mental state isn’t helped by the terrorist attacks going on lately, apparently carried out by a man styling himself as “The Mandarin” (Ben Kingsley), who sounds like John Goodman and Mick Rory had a child. Tony’s buddy Rhodey (Don Cheadle) gets rebranded as Iron Patriot, his own suit getting a nice new paint job to rally our crestfallen American spirits, and Tony stays to the sidelines: “It’s American business,” Rhodey tells him, though seeing as all our superheroes seem to have originated from or at least allied with America, the division between superhero business and American business is faint at best. Marvel doesn’t ever address this except obliquely, leaving any commentary on American exceptionalism to things like Watchmen and The Boys—which is probably for the best, considering Marvel’s lack of subtlety. (Though I don’t think anyone would call The Boys subtle…)
Regardless, Tony leaves this particular issue to the US military until former bodyguard/current head of security for Stark Industries and Downton Abbey fan Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau, no longer in the director’s chair but still producing) gets caught up in this plot and injured. Then it becomes personal: Tony provokes the Mandarin, the Mandarin’s people destroy Tony’s house, and Tony, presumed dead, ends up in Tennessee with a broken suit.
This would-be tale of woe is offset by a) the fact that this is a Marvel movie, so it’s probably not going to be too much of a downer, and b) writer and director Shane Black’s comedic sensibilities. (The movie is also set at Christmastime, a period that Black is rather fond of.) It’s got quips and banter for days, but they have a bit of a rougher edge to it than most MCU entries: upon landing in Tennessee, Tony meets precocious child Harley Keener (Ty Simpkins); upon learning that Harley’s dad left the family six years ago, Tony replies, “Dads leave. No need to be a pussy about it.”
For a big superhero movie, it seems odd that the best scenes would be set in the middle of nowhere in Tennessee, but Harley and Tony make for a great comedic duo as Tony tries to sniff out the Mandarin’s origins. Kids can certainly be a hindrance in films and tend to be cloying and/or annoying, but Shane Black eschews those pitfalls (as he does in The Nice Guys) and makes Harley endearing more than anything else, his clear-eyed optimism a good foil for Tony’s snark and cynicism.
Tony eventually connects the Mandarin plot back to businessman Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), whom Tony had rebuffed at a New Year’s party back in 1999, giving Killian a thirst for revenge and power. Killian, it turns out, created the character of “The Mandarin” and hired actor Trevor Slattery to portray him; the Mandarin conveniently serves as a scapegoat for the explosions Killian’s experiments with the regenerative drug Extremis causes. (The fact that most of these explosions are caused by disabled veterans who volunteered for this drug in order to regrow a limb is largely ignored, though it presents a potentially intriguing take on our treatment of veterans. However, the movie opts to sidestep this entirely by not addressing it.)
The villains of Iron Man 3 are, to put it lightly, controversial. The Mandarin twist—where the imposing terrorist figure is an actor, and the real villain is the corporate suit—has continued to be a sore spot for fans, largely those already familiar with Marvel comics, who complain that Iron Man 3 wasted an iconic villain, that the twist was juvenile, that it was an insult to the fans, etc. However, the Mandarin of the comics that fans were apparently foaming at the mouth to see has a rather sticky legacy, as the original Fu Manchu-type character plays on ideas of yellow peril; this solution neatly avoids those issues—or perhaps it lampshades them, seeing as Killian purposely orchestrates the Mandarin’s appearance to prey on fear of a vague Middle Eastern “other.” As he says, “Ever since that big dude with the hammer fell out of the sky, subtlety has kind of had its day.” Killian aiming to rile up the military-industrial complex by manipulating Western iconography and conjuring imagined, otherized threats dressed in non-Western clothing all so he can fill his own coffers is far more interesting than a character whose origins are rooted in actual racist caricatures.
Unfortunately, Killian himself, though played with a sinister suaveness by Pearce, is a bit too thinly sketched to handle the weight the Mandarin twist dumps on him. Had Killian’s motivations been more fleshed out, or his threat greater than breathing fire (yes, that happens), the twist might have been better received even by the comic fanboys. (Pepper, it should be noted, is the one to land the final blow on Killian, taking her revenge on him for nonconsensually injecting her with dangerous drugs. This marks the third Iron Man villain Pepper has dispatched: she was the one who powers up the arc reactor that killed Obadiah Stane in Iron Man, alerts the authorities to Justin Hammer’s illegal tendencies in Iron Man 2, and here directly kills Killian. Don’t get on her bad side.)
Initially, Killian wasn’t even the main villain: that task instead fell to Rebecca Hall, though whether Hall’s character was a female version of Killian or the character she would go on to play, Maya Hansen, remains unclear. However, this was nixed when a call from Marvel corporate came and informed Shane Black that a female villain wouldn’t sell toys, and therefore the villain had to be a man.
While Black says he doesn’t know who exactly placed the order, common speculation lands the blame at Ike Perlmutter’s feet. Perlmutter’s storied history with Marvel includes claiming that all Black people look alike and pushing back against the characters of Black Panther and Captain Marvel, so while this is all speculation, it doesn’t seem like a big leap to blame Perlmutter, at least in some capacity; in fact, Perlmutter is known to have limited Black Widow action figures for the same reason. (Black Panther and Captain Marvel would only get made after Perlmutter had been pushed away from Marvel Studios.) Rebecca Hall has voiced frustration at last minute changes to her character that made Maya little more than a footnote in the film, and given Killian’s just-okay-ness as a villain, more Maya could have been a welcome addition.
But a villain change isn’t the only alteration made to Iron Man 3 to appease investors and audiences (though, for the record, changing a villain’s gender because of toy sales is both frustrating and imbecilic). A different version of Iron Man 3 played in China, featuring Chinese actors Fan Bingbing and Xuqei Wang (only the latter appears in the film outside of China), though the added scenes largely serve as product placement. Apparently, there were even discussions around making Harley Chinese to flatter Xi Jinping. More diversity, especially within Marvel, is always welcome, but perhaps it’s better to have diversity to more accurately represent our current world rather than solely to appease a, uh, problematic figure, to say the least. Marvel has consistently courted China’s market in such a way that their films suffer for it, from Iron Man 3 to Doctor Strange, where Tilda Swinton was cast as the Ancient One, typically portrayed as Tibetan, so as not to ruffle any Chinese feathers.
Interestingly, Marvel’s upcoming Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, ostensibly a win for the China market as it features Chinese actors and is at least partially set within China, has received pushback for everything ranging from accusations of stereotyping to star Simu Liu not being attractive enough by Chinese standards, with some claiming that he looks too Western. (Liu was born in China but raised in Canada.) Director Chloé Zhao’s upcoming Eternals also faces an uphill battle, with Zhao’s critical comments on China (where she was born) potentially haunting her box office. Whether Marvel will take these setbacks in stride or try once more to appease remains to be seen.
Even with all this drama behind the camera, Iron Man 3’s finished product remains the best Iron Man film, even if it is a bit uneven. (Come for me with pitchforks, I beg you.) While at the time the first Iron Man was a fresh phenomenon, its novelty wears off after 20-plus similar films; Iron Man 3’s character-driven focus (character-driven for a big superhero movie, I should amend) gives it an edge over its predecessor; now that Tony has been established, the films can get meatier. Giving Tony PTSD and anxiety from the Battle of New York undercuts all Tony’s fake swagger, the persona that he crafts around himself like his suits; we are reminded that he is, at his core, painfully human, even if he is a superhero. When Harley asks for Tony’s name, he simply says, “The mechanic. Tony.” No big press conferences, no Stark Expo, just a mechanic trying to build things, trying to fix things. One of the best scenes comes from Tony assembling a prototype Iron Man repulsor from various items at a hardware store, fashioning everyday objects into something better. He doesn’t need the suit to be Iron Man.
Too bad Joss Whedon will toss much of this characterization out of the window in Avengers: Age of Ultron (more on that later), but that’s the thing with comic books and their adaptations: they’re all about what Stan Lee called “the illusion of change.” Robert Downey Jr. was still game for more films, so Tony has to bring his suits back. Still, Iron Man 3 remains perhaps the most pivotal movie for Tony’s journey and certainly the one that best defines his character, and that vaults it above its peers (as does the post-credits scene, because it’s just fun).
Oh, sure, there’s an argument to be made about the problems of latching onto a certain character at the expense of the rest of the film, and how that drags us a bit too close to the hideously toxic world of stan culture. There’s no doubt that Iron Man 3 zigs and zags a bit, but in a cinematic universe where every film ends with some big bad evil guy fight scenes, it’s the smaller moments that make something stand out, and that’s what puts Iron Man 3 above its fellows, if only slightly.
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 response to the Mandarin twist was bad enough that Marvel made a short in 2014, All Hail the King, which had Trevor Slattery taken by a “real” member of the Ten Rings who threatened to bring him to the “real” Mandarin. (Cowing to angry fans almost never works out, and while the short is fun, its existence is, well, stupid.) The Ten Rings and the “real” Mandarin, this time played by Tony Leung, will (re)appear in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
This marks the first verbal mention of Roxxon in the MCU. In the comics, Roxxon Corporation is a nefarious oil company that’s usually up to no good. In the MCU, its logo was shown in Iron Man and Iron Man 2; it doesn’t get namedropped until here. It’s mentioned in Agent Carter, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Daredevil and other members of Marvel’s now-apparently-forgotten non-Disney+ TV legacy. Roxxcart, presumably an offshoot of Roxxon, appears in the Disney+ show Loki.
Extremis is used in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., most notably on Bill Paxton’s John Garrett.
Not groundwork, but there was a lot of speculation that Harley would go on to become Iron Lad; this hasn’t happened yet, but his appearance at Tony’s funeral in Endgame at least proved Marvel hasn’t completely forgotten about him. We can pretty safely rule out Iron Lad, however, seeing as Iron Lad is actually a young version of Kang the Conqueror, and Jonathan Majors plays Kang, who (spoilers?) first appears in Loki.
Anna’s Favorite Scene: Tony has a panic attack on the side of the road and Harley has to bring him back down to earth. “You’re a mechanic, right? Why don’t you just build something?” Great acting, great character work, great scene.
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.
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.
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 theRocks 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.
Well, the Golden Globes have come and gone. However, they have planted some interesting seeds of what seem to be shoe in Oscar nominations, and added some dark horses to be watching for in the coming weeks.
The biggest surprises of the night were Jodie Foster winning in the Best Supporting Actress category for The Mauritanian, Andra Day winning in the Best Actress; Drama category for The United States vs. Billie Holiday, and my favorite win of the night, Rosamund Pike winning in the Best Actress: Musical/Comedy category for I Care A Lot. Jodie Foster was never in the running for an Oscar nomination, and even her Globes nom was a complete surprise, but now I think she will at least be a dark horse in the Best Supporting Actress race in the Oscars. Most everyone has seemed to forget Lee Daniels middling and juvenile, and quite frankly, terrible film The United States vs. Billie Holiday. Despite most people forgetting about it, Andra Day nonetheless took home the award for Best Actress: Drama, making her presence in awards season all the more prevalent, for some reason. I would’ve much preferred Vanessa Kirby or Frances McDormand take her place on the stage.
Nomadland winning Best Picture: Drama, and Chloê Zhao winning Best Director was not a big surprise. I was very happy to see her take home both awards, and will continue to root for her winning streak to continue on this awards season. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm winning Best Picture: Musical/Comedy was not a surprise, in the past the HFPA has loved Sacha Baron Cohen as the titular character, while he isn’t doing anything new here, what he does, he does well, and his win for Best Actor: Musical/Comedy was not a shock. Best Actor: Drama of course went to Chadwick Boseman for his career best work in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, for which I am very happy to see him getting all this acclaim for his magnificent work. Aaron Sorkin returned to the stage to take home the Best Screenplay Award for The Trial of the Chicago 7, which was one of my favorite films of last year. I’m happy to see him get more recognition as his directing career continues.
Best Supporting Actor winner Daniel Kaluuya won for his powerful and heartbreaking portrayal as “Fred Hampton” in Shaka King’s brilliant Judas and the Black Messiah, which hopefully after this coming weekends Critics Choice Awards, will pave the way for him to take home the Oscar. Disney’s last offering of 2020, Soul, took home two big awards, Best Motion Picture: Animated, and Best Original Score, now I wholeheartedly agree with its BMP: Animated win. I define a good score as something that sticks with me, and none describe that more than Ludwig Göransson and his phenomenal work for Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, which I believe should’ve taken home the Best Original Score award. Best Foreign Language film went to A24’s Minari. At the Oscars however, this film will not be competing for this award so expect Thomas Vinterberg’s film Druk/Another Round, will be taking the award home that night.
This week on Drink in the Movies Michael & Taylor discuss their First Impressions of: Sound of Metal & Minari. Followed by the VIFF 2020 and NYFF 2020 Titles: Undine, Nomadland, Time, and The Human Voice.
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