Opinion: Why You Should Watch “Succession”

Arts & Entertainment

Anthony Pantalone, Editor

Header image credit: HBO

HBO’s hit show “Succession” returned for its fourth and final season a month ago to much anticipation from viewers. To quickly sum up the premise, “Succession” is about Logan Roy, an aging patriarch and CEO of a global media conglomerate, and his children who vie for power against him and each other. The Jesse Armstrong-written show has received heaps of critical and audience acclaim since first airing in 2018—including forty-eight Emmy nominations and thirteen Emmy wins. Among these accolades were the Outstanding Drama Series Emmy in 2020 and 2022 and Best Television Series-Drama Golden Globe in 2020 and 2022. 

via HBO

If the copious amounts of awards and accomplishments cannot convince the casual viewer to tune in, there are a myriad of other reasons why a person should give “Succession” a chance. In my opinion, it is the best show currently airing on television. It follows in the tradition of other prestige shows in the “Golden Age” of television—like “Breaking Bad” and “The Sopranos”—wherein it continuously challenges the expectations of its viewers and crafts characters far more compelling than relatable. There is no other program on cable or streaming quite like it. Between the acting, scripts, and score, “Succession” has everything to offer to a viewer looking to watch a show above the rest Here are some more assorted reasons to watch:

Left to Right: Kieran Culkin as Roman, Jeremy Strong as Kendall, Sarah Snook as Shiv, Brian Cox as Logan; via HBO

Family Matters and the Cycle of Abuse

A major theme permeating throughout the work is the continuing cycle of abuse based on perceived hierarchies of power. These cycles can also be passed on from generation to generation. References are made throughout the show to Logan’s harsh experience as a child living in Canada with his uncle Noah. The details of this uncle’s physical abuse are never described in detail, but Logan’s back is shown to be covered in deep brutal scars that had been seemingly given to him by this relative as a child. With his own children, Logan likes to think of himself as better than his uncle, but his own abusive behaviors and manipulations have only continued this cycle in different ways.

The cycle of abuse passes down from generation to generation, and the Roy siblings are imprisoned by their own love for their abusive father even whenever they try to break free. With Connor Roy, the eldest son who was interested in politics at a young age, he deeply loves his father and half-siblings yet is repeatedly forgotten. His mother received both physical and mental abuse at the hands of Logan, and Connor is constantly perceived as a disappointment and embarrassment by his father. With the other three younger siblings, their father’s abusive parenting is best summarized in a remark by their mother Caroline Collingwood: “He never saw anything he loved that he didn’t wanna kick it just to see if it would still come back.” This assertion can be heavily applied to Roman Roy—who tries again and again to justify the abuse suffered at the hands of his father. Roman is even physically hit by his father during the second season and then the next episode acts like it never happened. The marriage between Shiv and Tom is built upon an incredibly shaky foundation of emotional manipulation by both parties. Shiv is incapable of ever truly loving or respecting Tom and therefore finds herself ready and willing to hurt him. On Tom’s end, his relationship with Shiv only began when she was in an incredibly vulnerable state—which has substantially aided his career. When the first season begins, the audience is also introduced to Cousin Greg, a newcomer to the company, and Tom takes out his frustrations and insecurities about his own marriage on this relative—furthering the cycle.

Jeremy Strong as Kendall Roy; via HBO

Nicholas Britell’s Score

Already an Oscar-nominated composer, Nicholas Britell delivers with the score for “Succession” his magnum opus. His dazzling, intense work on the first season won him an Emmy Award, and he has been nominated for the seasons two and three scores as well. The main theme for the show perfectly captures the essence of the show while evoking a specific mood in the viewer. During the opening credits, one hears Britell’s music and is reminded of wealth, extravagance, and the upper class. Particular highlights include his score for the final scene of the season three episode “Chiantishire” and the entirety of his work for season four so far—which sounds far more grandiose and again perfectly matches the tone of the final season.

Matthew Macfayden as Tom Wambsgans and Nicholas Braun as Greg Hirsch; via HBO

Perfect Blend of Drama and Comedy

Again, while the show functions as a prestige drama, its comedic elements are so abundant that I would be remiss to not call it a comedy as well. So many different scenes and lines are either intentionally or unintentionally funny. The comebacks and insults offered by the characters are so sharp and genuinely witty—specifically Roman who is especially irreverent and played by Kieran Culkin to perfection. Entire characters are played off as a joke—an example being Connor and his political aspirations. Much of the comedy within the show comes from the Tom-Cousin Greg dynamic. Whether it is embarrassing themselves in front of Congress, talking about the “sog factor” of pizza, or worrying about a potential “attack child” breaching a panic room, these two are the comedic heart of the show.

Left to right: Strong, Snook, and Culkin as Kendall, Shiv, and Roman; via HBO

Award-Winning Performances

I cannot sing any higher praises of the Emmy-winning performances in this show. Every actor in the cast consistently delivers. Brian Cox as the patriarch Logan Roy offers his best angry/abusive King Lear/Rupert Murdoch and has again and again been nominated for the Best Actor Emmy. Jeremy Strong—through his intense method acting—has captured lightning in a bottle with one of the all-time great television performances as Kendall Roy. For his work in this role, he was awarded a Best Lead Actor Emmy, Golden Globe, SAG Award, and Critics’ Choice Award. Sarah Snook’s performances as Siobhan Roy have only gotten stronger and stronger as the seasons have gone on, and I would be surprised if she was not the frontrunner for the best Supporting Actress Emmy for season four. Kieran Culkin—playing Roman Roy—is very similar to Snook and is reportedly being submitted for Best Lead Actor for his season four performance in this year’s Emmys. Matthew Macfayden as Tom Wambsgans recently won a Best Supporting Actor Emmy last year for his work on season three. J. Smith Cameron has also consistently delivered great work as Gerri Kelliman and was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Emmy last year.

via HBO

Compelling Characters

One of the best things about this show is watching and growing attached to the characters. You could say that about almost any television show, but “Succession” is different. It’s a prestige drama that never wants to be taken too seriously, and the writing for almost every single character is indicative of that fact. Imagine you have a group of about ten or so people in a field, and that field is littered with rakes in every direction. Now, imagine every single person in that group says, “There aren’t any rakes here. I’m going to walk out and be CEO of a major media conglomerate.” And every last one proceeds to again and again step on rakes. And we laugh. And enjoy it. And love it. That’s what watching the characters on “Succession” attempt to do anything is like.

Kendall, to whom the audience is introduced as the protagonist, so consistently self-sabotages and self-destructs that he makes it look like a skill. Siobhan so desperately wants to cut herself off from her father and work in politics yet still feels herself intrinsically tied to the family business. Roman comes off as the sly sarcastic younger sibling yet in reality is emotionally repressed and desperate for love and approval from others to a shocking extent. Connor is the eldest unemployed son and needs you to know that he was interested in politics from a young age. Now, I want you to imagine a cartoon dog getting a pie thrown in its face. That sums up the character of Tom Wambsgans, and I am entirely serious. He is a big ball of insecurities, cunning, and repressed homoeroticism all bunched up in one man. Finally, Cousin Greg is our point-of-view character in the earlier seasons—an earnest naive twenty-something looking to coast purely on nepotism for a career despite his incompetence.

Review: “Citadel”

Arts & Entertainment

Anthony Pantalone, Editor

Header Image Credit: Amazon Studios

Last week, I had the opportunity to watch the first two episodes of “Citadel”—a show I had previously covered a few weeks ago after its trailer debut. “Citadel” is an action-thriller spy show consisting of six episodes, with the first two arriving on Prime Video on Apr. 28. Starring Richard Madden and Priyanka Chopra Jonas, “Citadel” follows two spies, Mason Kane and Nadia Sinh eight years after their spy organization, Citadel, fell at the hands of a secretive collective called Manticore. This show picks up on two former agents as they lead new separate lives with no memory of their past as skilled operatives. The show offers big action set pieces and a lot of fun for viewers looking to watch something exciting.

Richard Madden and Priyanka Chopra Jonas as Mason Kane and Nadia Sinh via Amazon Studios

Great Action

After the creative dud that had been 2022’s “The Gray Man”, the Russo Brothers returned to form to skilled, energetic action filmmaking with “Citadel”. Whereas that film’s editing, cinematography, and shot composition were so jarring, this show feels much more competently made. Before “The Gray Man”, the action and filmmaking in their political-action thrillers like 2014’s “Captain America: Winter Soldier” was so quick-paced and exhilarating. Hopefully, “Citadel” will signal a permanent return to this earlier style that earned the Russos popularity among film audiences.

Stanley Tucci and Richard Madden as Bernard Orlick and Mason Kane via Amazon Studios

The Cast

This show offers some fun performances from a really talented cast. Stanley Tucci portrays an older operator who must recruit Mason Kane back to save the world after retirement for eight years. Tucci—having starred in films like “The Hunger Games” franchise and “Easy A”—is always charismatic and a welcome sight in any film or show he is in. Also, Lesley Manville—who is known for her great performances in films like “Phantom Thread”—stars as the antagonist, a British ambassador who moonlights as the leader of a global terrorist organization. 

The first two episodes of “Citadel” premiere this Friday Apr. 28 on Prime Video and later episodes will be released weekly.


Arts & Entertainment

Jeriann Tripodi, A&E Editor Emeritus

Header image: landonconrath.com 

Landon Conrath is a singer, songwriter and producer from Minnesota. The indie-pop artist, who has a distinctive style of upbeat and feel-good choruses and hooks, made his debut in early 2020 and rose to fame after his track “Acetone” found viral success on Spotify. Conrath’s debut album, “Nothing Matters Anyway,” is now available on iTunes for download. Some fan-favorite tracks off this album are “Telluride,” “Casanova,” “Trader Joe’s” and “So, So.” 

Landon Conrath is currently on tour with pop band Yam Haus. Conrath took the time off from his busy schedule to answer a few questions. Let’s get to know him a little better. I hope you enjoy our Q&A session:

Q (JERIANN): Which song off your debut full-length, “Nothing Matters Anyway,” holds the most personal meaning for you?

A (LANDON CONRATH): I think this answer changes weekly, they’re obviously all important to me in some regard and they kind of ebb and flow. I think one of the tunes that has become an anthem for me in the last year was “Science Fiction.” There is a line in the song that says, “Believe me I’m messed up, my chemistry owns me.” These lines were one of the first times I felt successful in conveying the helplessness I was experiencing regarding struggles with anxiety/depression. I felt owned by my circumstances and helpless to defend myself against the thoughts that bounced around my own head. This song also continues to be meaningful to me since it’s one of my absolute favorites to play live. We always play it as the last song in the set and just absolutely thrash for the last chorus and instrumental. It’s so fun to play massive distorted guitar with my friends.

Q (JERIANN): What can the audience expect when they see you live in concert?

A (LANDON CONRATH): One thing that I believe really sets my set apart is that I am a solo artist that always travels with a full band! The finances of touring and live music, in general, are massively stacked against artists when it comes to traveling with a lot of people, but I truly believe that the sacrifice is worth it. My band is made up of my best friends in the world and I truly think that energy translates from our personal relationships straight through to our performance on stage. People always come up to us after shows and comment on how it looks like we’re having so much fun and that they enjoyed watching it so much. I really believe it makes a difference when a group of musicians have a long history of playing together, and we’ve known each other for a looooong time. I love it.

Q (JERIANN): Growing up, which artists did you listen to that inspired you musically?

A (LANDON CONRATH): I grew up as the youngest child with two older sisters who are almost 10 years older than me. I owe them my life in some ways because I was immediately listening to a ton of rockier bands when I was as young as 6 years old. My favorite bands growing up were Relient K and Switchfoot and they have been lifelong staples in my music listening career. As I got into high school, I transitioned into being the 1975 indie pop kid and throughout college, I was completely owned by artists like Bon Iver, Julien Baker, Hailaker, Novo Amor and others. Lately, I’ve been super into artists like The Beths, Slow Pulp, Indigo De Souza, Samia and Hippo Campus to name a few.

Q (JERIANN): What advice would you give to young aspiring musicians?

A (LANDON CONRATH): Get involved in music with other people. You can definitely develop great technical skill on your own (and personal practice time is obviously massively important) but I really think that the most growth comes from collaboration. I think when you marry the individual preparation with the group musical experience you can make leaps of progress in a short amount of time. All of the best production tricks and writing habits that I have learned have been gleaned from other people in a session or just watching from afar. Try and make friends with people in your local community of music and just put your head down and get involved. Also, side tangent, comparison is something that everyone (myself very much included) struggles with. Comparison will murder your music career; try to remember that you are an individual and you have something special to bring to the world that is different from everyone else. Lean into what makes you unique!!! It’s cliché, but true!

You can see Landon Conrath live in concert in Philadelphia on Thursday, Apr. 27, 2023 at Milkboy. The singer-songwriter will also appear at other US venues until Jun. 10, 2023. Below is the schedule of Landon Conrath’s remaining tour dates: 


Check out the official Landon Conrath website for merchandise and more information.

What I Watched at PFF SpringFest

Arts & Entertainment

Anthony Pantalone, Editor

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the Philadelphia Film Society’s SpringFest and see some of the most exciting movies coming out in the latter half of 2023. PFF SpringFest is the organization’s spring festival—the main Philadelphia Film Festival taking place in fall every year—that showcases some of the best works of cinema arriving in the next few months. The festival took place over the course of the past weekend with a lineup of eighteen total feature films and documentaries from Friday to Sunday. I was able to watch nine films at this event, and here are my reviews of what I covered this past weekend. 

“Somewhere in Queens” via Lionsgate

“Somewhere in Queens”

“Somewhere in Queens”, Ray Romano’s directorial debut, offers the story of a middle-class father who faces a crisis when his son is offered a potential basketball scholarship. Romano hits all the beats here in a sincere indie dramedy of a father who somewhat wants to live vicariously through his son. The emotional tension here and the presence of a great Laurie Metcalf performance reminds the viewer of a less-great “Lady Bird” but with high school basketball. Still, “Somewhere in Queens” is worth the watch if you are in the mood for a heartfelt comedy about family.

“Sisu” via Lionsgate


Set in Finland in 1944 during the Lapland War, “Sisu” takes on some of the best attributes of classic action B-movies, slasher films, and modern action films like “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “John Wick”. The movie was touted as the late-night showing for the festival on Friday and did not disappoint in that time slot. The word “sisu” can be roughly translated from Finnish to more or less mean courage in the face of indomitable odds, and the entire film thus centers on stoic old miner/retired veteran who must defend his newfound gold from Nazis enacting a “scorched earth” retreat tactic. What follows is an hour-and-half long tale of revenge and one man’s war of attrition against a squadron of Nazis who wish to rob and murder him. The film plays up the audience’s desire to see Nazis suffer for their evils—passing up any commentary on Finland during WWII to focus on the action. “Sisu” was an overall enjoyable time—a gnarly action film in which the viewer can naturally get behind this one-man army who looks to reclaim his gold and wipe out a Nazi squadron.

“Carmen” via Sony Pictures Classics


Benjamin Millepied’s modern adaptation of the classic opera “Carmen” is tough to bite into. The new take on a classic story is about a refugee and a border control agent that finds themselves together in dangerous circumstances. Being a big fan of Paul Mescal and composer Nicholas Britell, “Carmen” had been one of my most anticipated films of the weekend. The film boasts stunning cinematography and, of course, Britell delivers with a haunting, mesmerizing score. Mescal and Melissa Barrera both offer strong performances as the film’s two leads. Also, the dance and fight choreography were incredible and mesmerizing. Still, something felt lacking. There is not much of a clear, effective story here unfortunately. At least not one that draws the viewer into the film.

“The Eight Mountains” via Pyramide Films

“The Eight Mountains”

The directorial collaboration between Felix van Groeningen and Charlotte Vandermeersch “The Eight Mountains” likely won the weekend for me personally. Set in the Italian Alps, this film chronicles the decades-long friendship between Pietro and Bruno—who had first met as children and later reunite as adults. Simply put, this film and its cinematography gives you a breath of jolting, fresh air like its characters are given in the high altitude of the Alps. This film looks breathtakingly gorgeous while the slowburn tale of friendship slowly guides the viewer through decades in the lives of these two men. The performances from the two leads were especially convincing in their portrayals of meditative melancholy over the same father that so profoundly shaped their lives in distinct ways. This film achieved the hallmark of any great movie—which is both making me cry and want to leave everything to live in a tiny home deep in the mountains.

“Blue Jean” via Altitude Films

“Blue Jean”

A debut feature film from Georgia Oakley, “Blue Jean” is the story of a closeted lesbian and PE teacher who must conceal her sexuality in Thatcher’s England. In a period of so much repression for LGBTQ+ people under the Thatcher regime, the film does not shy away from the harsh reality for the protagonist, Jean. In a similar vein that echoes modern struggles for queer people in the United States, panic about “traditional moral values” is used as a political tool to quiet the existence and presence of LGBTQ+. The film’s screenplay smartly considers the internal struggle between identity and society. It offers a look into how queer people are forced to change themselves to fit within society and the intense feelings of alienation from the mere suspicion of nonconformity. That internal struggle defines “Blue Jean” and—along with Oakley’s direction—makes for a great film.

Jay Baruchel and Glenn Howerton in “BlackBerry” via Elevation Pictures


“BlackBerry” slyly tells the story of the rise and fall of the most popular phone of the early 00s—with substantial help from great performances by Glenn Howerton, Jay Baruchel, and Matt Johnson. With cinematography that reminds one of “The Office”, “BlackBerry” thrives when it does not take itself seriously as a business drama and leans in towards comedy. Film studios at a breakneck pace are pillaging any semblance of intellectual property they can get their hands on to make money. Business biopics worshiping materialism, IP and capital have become more and more prolific—a simultaneous sign of the times and foreboding harbinger of American consumer culture. Therefore, it is incredibly easy to be so tired of this genre. Going in, I did not want to like this movie, because I thought it would hop on those same trends. Thankfully, its comedic tones and show-stopping line deliveries by “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” star Glenn Howerton greatly benefit this film.

“Passages” via SBS Productions


“Passages” is the newest film from writer-director Ira Sachs and centers on the story of a film director whose budding romance with a woman causes strife in his marriage with his husband. All three leads provide great performances—especially Ben Whishaw who follows up his stellar turn last year in “Women Talking”. LGBTQ+ representation has been an important topic in culture for a long time, but recently many people also emphasize that representation does not always have to be perfectly clean and positive. True representation will highlight queer characters and people as complex, complicated, flawed, real people and not perfect. And that is what “Passages” accomplishes so well. Tomas is our protagonist, but this character from the very first frame is shown to be an incredibly manipulative, flawed individual—making “Passages” one of the most compelling pictures at the festival.

Joel Edgerton and Sigourney Weaver in “Master Gardener” via Magnolia Pictures

“Master Gardener”

As someone who wrote a ten-page research paper on “The Last Temptation of Christ” and considers “First Reformed” a perfect film, I would consider myself a fan of Paul Schrader. As someone who also wrote my senior Honors Project on recent growing trends of right-wing extremism in the United States, I have a myriad of thoughts and feelings on Schrader’s newest film. This director and famed screenwriter of “Raging Bull” and “Taxi Driver” returned this past year with “The Master Gardener” starring Joel Edgerton. Much like several other recent Schrader pictures (“First Reformed” and “The Card Counter”), “Master Gardener” follows a middle-aged man who has a haunting past, skills in a niche profession, and a diary. It is difficult not to feel decidedly mixed on this film. Schrader’s screenplays always feel so sharp and on the pulse of the dark realities of American existence, and “Master Gardener” is not an exception. Still, to call the subject matter of this movie complicated would be an understatement. Schrader does not want to paint the characters in this script to be uncomplicated. Throughout his entire filmography and career, it would be a mistake to say that Schrader has ever intended for his protagonists to be uncomplicated individuals. The stark difference with “Master Gardener” is that this writer/director takes on a much more optimistic stance on a person’s capacity for change and the future when compared to films like “First Reformed”. I am still unsure how to feel about this movie and am sure it will inspire discourse like any Paul Schrader movie does.

When writing about this film, one cannot refrain from thinking about the parallels between the flower motif and a certain line from “Garden Song” by Phoebe Bridgers.

And when your skinhead neighbor goes missing,
I’ll plant a garden in the yard then
“Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie” via Apple TV+

“Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie”

This Apple TV+ documentary sheds light on the famed star, his career, and his decades-long  battle with Parkinson’s Disease. From prior trailers, I went into the film with the preconceived notion that it would only be covering his long struggle with the degenerative disease. Directed by Davis Guggenheim, the documentary encompasses nearly the entirety of the great actor’s life and career—illustrating how the fluidity of movement had always previously defined his life and perspective on the world. It is also made with so much compassion and admiration for Fox—never looking to exploit his condition but instead allowing the star to tell his story as he sees it. The film conveys that, for Michael J. Fox, his Parkinson’s diagnosis never killed his spirit despite constant adversity over the decades.

The Philadelphia Film Society is a great member-run non-profit organization that promotes cinema in Philadelphia. This organization owns three different theaters in Center City—the Philadelphia Film Center, the PFS Bourse Theater in Old City, and the PFS East Theater near 2nd Street. For more information on this organization, upcoming events, and memberships, follow the link to https://filmadelphia.org

Rachel Weisz and Alice Birch discuss their new show “Dead Ringers”

Arts & Entertainment

Anthony Pantalone, Arts and Entertainment Editor

On Monday, Mar. 28, I had the opportunity to attend a virtual event where Academy Award-winning actress Rachel Weisz and Emmy-nominated writer Alice Birch spoke about and debuted the trailer for their new show “Dead Ringers”. This six-episode show is a remake/re-imagining of David Cronenberg’s 1988 classic film of the same name. Birch and Weisz in this show look to update the original film’s story of eccentric twin gynecologists, Beverly and Elliot Mantle, for modern audiences from a female perspective. Weisz—who won a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award in 2006 for “The Constant Gardener” and starred in box office hits such as “The Mummy”—pulls double duty as the twin protagonists of the series. Alice Birch, the creator and writer of the show, has amassed a successful career as a screenwriter and playwright—garnering an Emmy nomination for her work on Episode 3 of “Normal People” in 2020.

“Dead Ringers” via Prime Video

When asked about what “Dead Ringers” is, Birch and Weisz responded: 

Alice Birch: “It’s a reworking of David Cronenberg’s iconic film. It’s a twisted, darkly comedic thriller about these two dangerously codependent twins who are obsessed with each other. Have never spent a night apart for their whole life. Have always lived in the same city.”

Rachel Weisz: “They’re both obstetricians and gynecologists, and they’re very brilliant in their field. They’re professionally at the top of their game.”

When asked about the experience of playing two main twin characters, Rachel Weisz answered:

“This was without a doubt the biggest challenge of my acting life….No question about that. But also the most joyous in many ways. It was hard work….[I]t was thrilling. I mean, exciting as maybe learning to walk a tightrope.”

The creator/writer Alice Birch also was asked about the importance of telling this specific story from a female perspective. 

“It felt like it would just be really interesting to tell this story with two women at the center of it. But I don’t know that Rachel and I ever had conversations where we said, “okay, well, now that they’re women, how does that change it?” It, of course, changes everything, but it also changes nothing. That’s what I think we wanted it to be as fun and as wild as the film and let the series go in its own direction. And then setting it against a medical background that particularly focused on obstetrics and gynecology – that felt really right for the storytelling…It felt like that could have like this tone that we wanted could really sit in that space in a really interesting way.”

Here is the official trailer for “Dead Ringers”:

“Dead Ringers” will be available for streaming on Prime Video with the first two episodes premiering on Apr. 21.

Movie Review: “AIR” Takes Flight

Arts & Entertainment

Anthony Pantalone, Arts and Entertainment Editor

On Monday, Apr. 3, I had the opportunity to attend a VIP advance screening of “AIR”—the newest film from creative duo and best friends Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. The film tells the story of Sonny Vaccaro, a NIKE basketball guru who looks to gamble on signing a sneaker contract with up-and-coming rookie Michael Jordan. The screenplay—from newcomer Alex Convery is fairly straightforward, telling the story of one man’s perseverance through great adversity towards success. Vaccaro and Nike had consistently floundered in the basketball division in the past and stood little-to-no chance of landing Jordan. Only through Sonny’s unconventional and genuine approach does he eventually achieve success in this endeavor. Simply put, AIR is the feel-good movie of the spring—the type of film that could be enjoyed by both the most hardcore basketball fans and casual viewers who know the name “Michael Jordan.” 

via Amazon Studios

A Star-Studded Cast

“AIR” boasts an incredibly talented cast of iconic actors who all deliver great performances. While the film’s screenplay is generally tight and entertaining, this film is strengthened immensely by its casts and their performances. Matt Damon stars as the protagonist of the film, Sonny Vaccaro. Ben Affleck is the eccentric CEO of NIKE Phil Knight and actually flexes skills as a comedic actor in this role. The great two-time Academy Award winner Viola Davis portrays Deloris Jordan—the mother of the basketball legend—with a certain gravitas that would not be possible with any other actress. Jason Bateman and Chris Tucker play Rob Strasser and Howard White, two employees aligned with Vaccaro in pursuit of the Jordan deal. Both actors—who are incredibly well-known for their many prior roles—shine in adding sharp-witted humor and sarcasm to all their scenes. Marlon Wayans makes a brief cameo as George Raveling, the assistant coach for the 1984 US Olympic Men’s Basketball team.

Matt Damon as Sonny Vaccaro/via Amazon Studios

Damon and Affleck Together Again

The popular duo of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon first became a household name in 1997 with their iconic screenplay for “Good Will Hunting”—a movie in which they both starred—that would earn them the Best Original Screenplay Oscar. “AIR” sees the longtime friends reunite on a project together for the first time in almost two decades. In the twenty-six years since “Good Will Hunting”, Affleck has built up an incredibly successful career both in front and behind the camera. Affleck has been known for directing hit films such as “The Town” and “Argo”—the latter winning the Oscar for Best Picture and Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture-Drama and Best Director in 2012. Damon has also achieved considerable box office and critical success—starring in the Jason Bourne franchise and the Ocean’s Eleven films alongside George Clooney and Brad Pitt. The pair have been friends since they were eight and continue to this day. One of the best strengths of this film was their dynamic, a winning creative combination that highlights all the fun of being able to make movies with your closest friends.

Ben Affleck as Phil Knight/via Amazon Studios

The 80s and Cinematography

Two other strengths of AIR include the film’s cinematography and the setting of the 1980s. The director of photography for this film was Robert Richardson—a legendary cinematographer who has worked on several cinematic classics including “Casino”, “Inglourious Basterds”, “The Aviator”, “Kill Bill”, and “A Few Good Men”. With Richardson behind the camera,what could have been a pretty by-the-numbers sports business movie gets elevated into something much more substantive and entertaining. His great camerawork is especially noticeable in a scene during which Vaccaro and the rest of his team are huddled late at night at a small table discussing their game plan to win over the Jordans. The fashion, offices, and hairstyles all feel meticulously dated and accurate to the mid80s. The soundtrack utilizes hits from the time period that all make sense for the film and make each scene feel more important. Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” is specifically referenced—which works perfectly in the story as his album of the same name came out in 1984. One specific sequence in the opening credits of the film establishes this setting seamlessly as Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing” is played over clips of movies, shows, and events of the 80s.

“AIR” is now playing in theaters.

Movie Reviews: “John Wick Chapter 4”, “Cocaine Bear” and More

Arts & Entertainment

Anthony Pantalone, Editor

Header Image Credit: “John Wick: Chapter 4” via Lionsgate

For both blockbuster franchises and casual filmgoers, March and February were big months at the cinema. Major studios released new installments of franchises like Marvel—with the newest Ant-Man film—and the Creed films. American audiences somewhat rejected superhero franchises in the past few months as both “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantummania” and “Shazam: Fury of the Gods” failed to drum up momentum at the box office. Superhero fatigue has slowly become apparent while other franchise films—“Creed III”, “Scream VI” and “John Wick: Chapter 4”—have done remarkably well domestically.

“John Wick: Chapter 4” via Lionsgate

“John Wick: Chapter 4”

This movie has everything a viewer could want— “Lawrence of Arabia” references, Buster Keaton-level stunt comedy, and Laurence Fishburne delightfully overacting. The “John Wick” franchise is one of the only action series in the United States that remains exciting after each installment—mostly due to the incredible action and stunt work in these films. In a world where “The Gray Man” cost over two hundred million and was the worst thing an action movie could be—bland and boring—the “John Wick” films represent the opposite side of that spectrum. Each new entry in this story keeps raising the bar in terms of what these movies can realistically accomplish. Instead of huge CGI set pieces, its bigger budget is spent on large gorgeous sets and incredible practical stunts—along with some of the best lighting you could ever expect out of a major action franchise. This franchise has continuously felt like John Wick’s own personal Inferno into which he has been pulled deeper and deeper with each film, and “Chapter Four” finally offers a path out of hell. The three-hour runtime depicts this agonizing blood-soaked journey out of hell and into the light and does not waste a single minute doing so.

“Creed III” via Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

“Creed III”

“Creed III” is Michael B. Jordan’s directorial debut and offers a strong third entry into this Rocky spin-off. While reception for “Creed II” had been just lukewarm or somewhat positive, critical consensus remarked that “III” has revitalized this franchise. I would thus agree with that consensus. Jordan is good once again in this lead role he has portrayed since 2015. It is a shame that Jonathan Majors’ recent arrest will mar enjoyment of this film moving forward, because Michael B. Jordan’s skill as a new director is fully on display. The fights feel exciting in a different way than any previous Rocky or Creed movie. Jordan also tries to convey an important message about toxic masculinity and how people can process their childhood traumas in healthy or unhealthy ways. One major disappointment though is that Sylvester Stallone—who had a falling out with producer Irwin Winkler—is sorely missed.

“Cocaine Bear” via Universal Pictures

“Cocaine Bear”

“Cocaine Bear” offers an incredible premise—in which a black bear ingests cocaine and subsequently goes on a rampage—and a decidedly mixed execution. This movie wants to be funny, but not too funny. This movie wants to feel scary and gory, but not too scary. It feels woefully overproduced and watered down. The end result makes it appear that “Cocaine Bear” does not really know what it even wants to be. Is it a comedy? Is it a slasher film? It fails to simultaneously be both. Not even Ray Liotta—may he rest in peace—or the kid from “The Florida Project” can elevate it into a great film.

“Knock at the Cabin” via Universal Pictures

“Knock at the Cabin”

M. Night Shyamalan is a divisive screenwriter to say the least. Some people love a number of his films. Other people hate all his movies. As a member of the former, I felt excitement for “Knock at the Cabin”. Shyamalan—known for his infamous twists—somehow still subverts the expectations of his audience with this film. While the dialogue is too on-the-nose and feels wonky at times, “Knock at the Cabin” features one of Shyamalan’s stronger screenplays—a story about the personal tragedies of the apocalypse. The writer-director fails to trust his audience later in the film, but that fault does not detract from overall enjoyment of the story itself. One major highlight was Dave Bautista’s performance as this action star and former wrestler was able to show off his dramatic acting chops. Bautista has recently made an attempt to prove himself as a serious dramatic actor by taking on challenging roles and working with prolific filmmakers like Shyamalan, Denis Villenueve, and Rian Johnson. He achieves this feat with his performance as “Leonard”—a mild-mannered stranger who has experienced horrific visions of the apocalypse and must force a family to make an impossible sacrifice to save the world. A final point is that no filmmaker working today loves Philadelphia, and his love of the City of Brotherly Love should be appreciated more. 

The Russo Brothers, Richard Madden, and Priyanka Chopra Jonas discuss their new show “Citadel”

Arts & Entertainment

Anthony Pantalone, Editor

Header Image credit: Amazon Studios

On Tuesday, Feb. 28, I had the opportunity to attend a trailer launch event for the Prime Video television show “Citadel” during which executive producers Joe and Anthony Russo, stars Richard Madden and Priyanka Chopra Jonas, and showrunner David Weil all were in attendance and spoke. “Citadel” will stand as a first-of-its-kind spy show that will branch off into international spin-off shows set around different countries—two series currently being planned for India and Italy. The story takes place eight years after the secret international spy agency Citadel had fallen to the forces of an evil shadow organization called Manticore and follows Mason Kane—played by Richard Madden (Game of Thrones, Marvel’s Eternals)—and Nadia Sinh—played by Priyanka Chopra (Quantico, Baywatch)—two former Citadel operatives that had since lost their memories of their prior lives as spies. When Manticore attempts to assert a new world order, Bernard Orlick—played by Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games, Easy A)—brings Mason and Nadia back together on a mission that forces them to not only travel the globe but also face their shared history.

via Amazon Studios

Bringing Big-Budget Action to Television

The show represents a much-celebrated return to television for the Russo Brothers, who had first established themselves on shows like Arrested Development and Community before eventually directing colossal box office record-breaking hits like Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. These directors now get to carry over their experience with big action set pieces and skilled action filmmaking into the television world as these executive producers stated that they wished to bring cutting-edge action-oriented storytelling to streaming with this show. Richard Madden echoes this sentiment by describing the nature of the show’s action. For him, this show is clearly divided into 50 percent drama and 50 percent action—a departure from most shows which are 80 percent drama and 20 percent action. Citadel carefully infuses its action set pieces with heart and drama for this actor. Chopra builds upon Madden’s statement by remarking on how the action in a scene is often tied to how that character feels in a given moment.

Richard Madden as Mason Kane

Global Filmmaking

This show is being marketed as a landmark international initiative in television—a franchise that intends to interact directly with audiences in multiple countries across the world. While the main “Citadel” series was shot in locations spanning the United States, Valencia in Spain, Morocco, and London, spin-off shows set in India and Italy in the same universe are currently in production. The Indian and Italian “Citadel” series will then interweave with the main show at different times—with characters from each series at times appearing in another region’s “Citadel” show. These branches of the franchise will be in the languages of the region and will be made by cast and crew from that country. This initiative will celebrate the international filmmaking community in countries outside the United States and show how film and television are truly global mediums for art. For Joe Russo, the show represented a unique opportunity to make a global diverse group of storytellers crafting a narrative together. The Russo Brothers thus jumped at this opportunity to be executive producers for “Citadel” due to their love for the international film community and the globe-spanning ambitions for the show. They also emphasize that everyone invited in from various countries and regions hold equal weight of importance to the story and franchise. The recent rise in popularity of non-English films affords the ability of Amazon Studios and the creatives involved to create a television universe and a long-form narrative that transcends national borders and oceans with “Citadel”. Priyanka Chopra emphasized this point as she likened Citadel to a “social experience” in which the Indian, Italian, and American storylines will intersect and blend into each other in this franchise—perhaps allowing the regional audiences for each show to overlap.

Stanley Tucci as Bernard Orlick, Richard Madden as Mason Kane

“Original IP”

One of the biggest selling points of this show emphasized during the launch event was the originality of “Citadel”. While theaters and streaming services are overwhelmingly populated with films and shows of preexisting IP (intellectual property), this program intends to bring something wholly original to audiences. An original IP means a brand new original story that is not being adapted or remade for the screen. There is no existing or old property with a built-in audience or following being used here, and this fact was exciting for everyone involved in the show. Anthony Russo credited Amazon for being willing to try something this large and expansive with a new IP. For the Russos and showrunner David Weil, being able to create something from scratch was a thrilling experience. For Weil, this opportunity “gave him license to dream” and not be tied down to any type of source material. It also aided in the global nature of the shows as they can work with the “Citadel” teams in other regions like India and Italy and easily change things.

Here is the official trailer:

The first two episodes of “Citadel” premiere on Prime Video on Apr. 28, with episodes releasing weekly on the streaming service through May 26. 

Oscars 2023: Picks and Predictions

Arts & Entertainment

Anthony Pantalone, Editor

The Academy Awards are here, and The Collegian is here as well to walk you through who should win and who will actually win. Hollywood typically uses this night to pat itself on the back and give out awards to boring Oscar-bait films. This year seems to be different though. There are some great, interesting dramas nominated—like “The Fabelmans” and “Tár”. There are some really exciting blockbusters up for a number of awards—like “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Avatar: The Way of Water”. There is a foreign film from Germany—”All Quiet on the Western Front”—up for nine Oscars. With a wider variety of movies and multiple fan favorites among the ten Best Picture nominees, this year will prove to be the most exciting Academy Awards since 2019—where a non-English film, “Parasite”, took home the biggest award for the first time.

Best Picture


All Quiet On The Western Front

Avatar: The Way of Water

The Banshees of Inisherin


Everything Everywhere All At Once

The Fabelmans


Top Gun: Maverick

Triangle of Sadness

Women Talking

My Pick: Everything Everywhere All At Once

Who Will Probably Win: Everything Everywhere All At Once

“Everything Everywhere” is probably the strongest Best Picture frontrunner in the past twenty years—at least since “The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” in 2003. The film has so far won a clean sweep at the Golden Globes, BAFTAs, SAG Awards, Critics’ Choice Awards, Hollywood Critics Association Awards, Producers Guild of America Awards, Independent Spirit Awards, Directors Guild of America Awards and Writers Guild of America Awards. If it does not win Best Picture next weekend, I would be genuinely amazed.

Best Actor


Austin Butler, Elvis

Colin Farrell, The Banshees of Inisherin

Brendan Fraser, The Whale

Paul Mescal, Aftersun

Bill Nighy, Living

My Pick: Paul Mescal

Who Will Probably Win: Brendan Fraser

I love Brendan Fraser like everyone else, but I also do not wish to see anything related to Darren Aronofsky or his films be rewarded. I hope Fraser will eventually win an award for his acting skill, because I think he is a great actor. Just not for such a fake-deep Aronofsky movie. Paul Mescal’s performance in “Aftersun” bears so much emotional depth and is even more impressive when realizing that this film is his first ever performance in a leading movie role.

Best Actress


Cate Blanchett, Tár

Ana De Armas, Blonde

Andrea Riseborough, To Leslie

Michelle Williams, The Fabelmans

Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All At Once

My Pick: Michelle Yeoh

Who Will Probably Win: Michelle Yeoh

I have not watched “Blonde” or “To Leslie”, so I cannot comment on the performances of either Ana de Armas nor Andrea Riseborough. Michelle Williams was really good in “The Fabelmans. Cate Blanchett gave a career-best performance in “Tár”, and I think she is the only nominee with any chance of beating Michelle Yeoh. The frontrunner, Yeoh, will likely win though and deserves the Oscar. She gives a deep multifaceted performance to which no other performance in this category could compare.

Best Supporting Actress


Angela Bassett, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Hong Chau, The Whale

Kerry Condon, The Banshees of Inisherin

Jaime Lee Curtis, Everything Everywhere All At Once

Stephanie Hsu, Everything Everywhere All At Once

My Pick: Stephanie Hsu, Everything Everywhere All At Once

Who Will Probably Win: Angela Bassett, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Stephanie Hsu’s performance in “Everything Everywhere” was devastating. Therefore it was really disappointing to see her snubbed time and time again early on in awards season. I am happy to see her nominated and want her to win, but I think the Oscar will likely go to Angela Bassett. The “Wakanda Forever” actress has swept almost every major award this year aside from the SAG Awards—who gave the best Supporting Actress Award to Jaime Lee Curtis.

Best Supporting Actor


Brendan Gleeson, The Banshees of Inisherin

Brian Tyree Henry, Causeway

Judd Hirsch, The Fabelmans

Barry Keoghan, The Banshees of Inisherin

Ke Huy Quan, Everything Everywhere All At Once

My Pick: Ke Huy Quan, Everything Everywhere All At Once

Who Will Probably Win: Ke Huy Quan, Everything Everywhere All At Once

This category feels like a lock. Ke Huy Quan’s performance in “Everything Everywhere” is incredible, and this actor has such a feel-good comeback story. Gleeson, Henry, and Keoghan are all good in their roles, yet none stand a chance of beating Quan at this point. The only problem I have with this category is that I wish Paul Dano was nominated for “The Fabelmans” instead of Judd Hirsch.

Best Director


Martin McDonagh, The Banshees of Inisherin

Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Everything Everywhere All At Once

Steven Spielberg, The Fabelmans

Todd Field, Tár

Ruben Östlund, Triangle of Sadness

My Pick: Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Everything Everywhere All At Once

Who Will Probably Win: Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Everything Everywhere All At Once

While I would not be mad if Spielberg wins for his movie about his childhood, the Daniels—Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert—have also swept nearly every Best Director Award this year. I would be surprised if they lose the Oscar.

Here are some quick picks and predictions for other Oscar categories:

Best Original Screenplay


The Banshees of Inisherin

Everything Everywhere All at Once

The Fabelmans


Triangle of Sadness

My Pick: Everything Everywhere All at Once

Who Will Probably Win: Everything Everywhere All at Once

Best Adapted Screenplay


All Quiet on the Western Front

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery


Top Gun: Maverick

Women Talking

My Pick: Glass Onion

Who Will Probably Win: Women Talking

Best Score

All Quiet on the Western Front


The Banshees of Inisherin

Everything Everywhere All at Once

The Fabelmans

My Pick: Babylon

Who Will Win: Babylon

Note: Justin Hurwitz’ score for “Babylon” is easily one of the best scores of the past decade.

Best Production Design

All Quiet on the Western Front

Avatar: The Way of Avatar



The Fabelmans

My Pick: Babylon

Who Will Win: Avatar: The Way of Avatar

Best Visual Effects

All Quiet on the Western Front

Avatar: The Way of Avatar

The Batman

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Top Gun: Maverick

My Pick: Avatar: The Way of Avatar

Who Will Win: Avatar: The Way of Avatar

Best Sound

All Quiet on the Western Front

Avatar: The Way of Avatar

The Batman


Top Gun: Maverick

My Pick: The Batman

Who Will Win: Top Gun: Maverick

Note: In an ideal world, “Tár” would not only be nominated for Best Sound but win this category.

Best Costume Design


Black Panther: Wakanda Forever


Everything Everywhere All at Once

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris

My Pick: Everything Everywhere All at Once

Who Will Win: Elvis

Best Cinematography

All Quiet on the Western Front

BARDO, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths


Empire of Light


My Pick: All Quiet on the Western Front

Who Will Win: BARDO, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths

Best Animated Film

Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio

Marcel the Shell With Shoes On

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish

The Sea Beast

Turning Red

My Pick: Marcel the Shell With Shoes On

Who Will Win: Pinocchio

Best Make-Up and Hairstyling

All Quiet on the Western Front

The Batman

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever


The Whale

My Pick: All Quiet on the Western Front

Who Will Win: Elvis

Best Editing

The Banshees of Inisherin


Everything Everywhere All at Once


Top Gun: Maverick

My Pick: Everything Everywhere All at Once

Who Will Win: Everything Everywhere All at Once or Tár 

Who do you think will win? Do you agree with my picks? Let The Collegian know!

What Marvel Movies Get Wrong

Arts & Entertainment

Anthony Pantalone, Editor

With the recent release of “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” the Marvel Cinematic Universe now touts thirty-one movies and eight television shows released over a span of almost fifteen years. While its newest film, “Quantumania”, is being critically maligned for a variety of reasons, this article will not be delving into any critiques or analyses of that film. People can dunk on Marvel for many things. If you’re Martin Scorsese, these movies represent the creatively bankrupt capitalist commodification of cinema and the destruction of the independent theater industry. Also, how Joss Whedon’s tongue-in-cheek writing has nearly ruined humor for all big studio blockbusters, for others, the breakneck pace of film and television show releases has created fatigue in even the most avid follower of this global franchise. I am not here to offer any substantial contributions to Marvel discourse. Simply put, there is not much left to say that hasn’t already been said much more eloquently by another person. What I will discuss, however,  is a problem that has plagued these movies for the last decade: color and color grading.

Color grading can have a positive, creative effect on films of any genre. In many movies, it can help establish a certain mood or atmosphere or be used as a creative tool for filmmakers. The film industry has played with color in shots since the dawn of color in cinema. On film, the process was referred to as “color timing” and has always been an important element of the filmmaking process. With the rise of digital filmmaking in the new millennium though, color grading has seen a monumental shift. As Emily St. James writes, colors in many films and television shows all now “have been pulled way back, giving everything a slightly washed-out appearance.”

Now the desaturated, “slightly washed out” look in modern digital color grading does not always have to be a weakness towards a film. This look again can be effectively employed to have a profound effect on the viewer. Denis Villenueve’s devastating sci-fi thriller “Arrival” appears mostly devoid of color yet makes this creative choice with purpose. In an effort to not spoil a movie that came out seven years ago, I won’t say exactly what happens in the movie. The desaturated grading though makes the viewer feel like they are in an ethereal trance—a dreamy state in which they can become unstuck in time like a Vonnegut character.

via Paramount Pictures

Arrival (dir. Denis Villenueve, 2016)

Also, color grading has been utilized in the past decade to great effect when specifically used to emphasize certain colors. A good example of this idea is the use of yellow in “Magic Mike”.

via Warner Bros. Pictures

Magic Mike (dir. Steven Soderbergh, 2011)

Outdoor scenes in Magic Mike look like they were bleached yellow. Typically some of the only scenes in which this color grading is not noticeable is during performances at Mike’s club. Outside though, the yellow color palette bleeds through every shot and conveys the greed and instability of the recession era in which the film is set. The movie looking sun-bleached is supposed to make you as the viewer feel that something is off or amiss. It’s a creative choice to highlight the setting and themes of the story. For the protagonist Mike, his financial predicament prohibits him from doing what he truly wants to do, which is making furniture—even though he has the money to start a business. Instead he is forced to continue his life in the Florida male stripper scene where every single aspect of his life feels transactional and his body has been commodified by his employer. He therefore feels aimless and lost in this fast paced lifestyle. The color grading establishes that mood and feeling perfectly.

In the Coen Brothers’ “O Brother, Where Art Thou”, digital color grading was seen as revolutionary as this motion picture used it to make the feel like the era in which it was set: the Great Depression.

via Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

O Brother, Where Art Thou (dir. Joel and Ethan Coen, 2000)

In Sofia Coppola’s “The Virgin Suicides”, color timing successfully captures a feeling of nostalgia for the 1970s and a dreamlike trance that permeates throughout the film.

via Paramount Pictures

The Virgin Suicides (dir. Sofia Coppola, 1999)

The issue with the Marvel movies though is desaturation. These movies should feel colorful and vibrant, but Marvel Studios’ color grading makes them feel bland. Video essayist Patrick H Willems made a video delving into the color grading of this franchise back in 2016, but the problem has only been exacerbated in the years since. The reason why they depend on such strong gray color grading is pretty simple. Cutting CGI costs. 

via Marvel Studios

When a Marvel movie features messy or unfinished CGI, desaturating color in a shot is the method by which they get around this problem. It’s almost common knowledge at this point that Marvel overworks, underpays, abuses and even threatens to blacklist the VFX artists they contract. A lot of work is still being finished even up until the very day of release of a movie—and even in some cases after the film had already been released like with “Thor: Love and Thunder”. With a release schedule that has only continued to intensify in the past few years, unfinished CGI has become more noticeable in their films. Marvel utilizes it to help cover these costs while trying to make their films at least watchable still.

via Marvel Studios

A prime example of this color grading and CGI having a negative effect on a good Marvel film is “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” which came out in September 2021. In what is otherwise a great movie, the entire third act of the film feels entrenched in a dark gray confusing cloud. This creative decision that negatively affects the film is due to the excessive amounts of CGI. Now they could have simply spent more money to make it look better, but that decision would not have been financially advantageous even though it radically hinders the film and the viewer experience. This decision is contributing to why audiences are growing fatigued with Marvel. More and more products for audiences to consume but with increasingly lesser visual quality.

One of the worst offenders of this color grading is Avengers: Age of Ultron.

via Marvel Studios

via Marvel Studios

The grayish color added in post-production as an extra layer of protection for the CGI simply makes everything feel blander and boring. Hulk’s color looks more grayish than green. The reds in the outfits of Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man don’t pop visually on the screen even though they ideally should. Captain America’s shield looks almost completely gray. This shot of the main protagonists all together should feel exciting. And it doesn’t.

via Marvel Studios

This scene is set in Nigeria and purposefully is graded to play into racist notions of what African countries “must” look like according to Hollywood.