Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

The Banshees of Inisherin, or: We Are Not A-mulesed

Even though, as usual, this year’s Oscar nominations reflect some bullshit, there are always a few films genuinely worthy of recognition. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Everything Everywhere All at Once to go home with as many awards as it can…though I won’t be too upset if this week’s film picks up some wins.

The Film:

The Banshees of Inisherin


Martin McDonagh

The Premise:

Following years of friendship, a man living on a small Irish island finds his world rocked when his best friend abruptly decides to end their relationship.

The Ramble:

Pádraic is a happy, laid-back fellow content to lead a rather routine existence on a small island off the coast of Ireland. Though it’s 1923 and we’ve really only scratched the surface on all of the horrors unfolding in 20th century Ireland, life on the island seems so removed, wrapped up in its own everyday affairs.

While not renowned for his smarts (and frequently responding to questions with a clueless “Huh?”), Pádraic considers his reputation for being a nice guy more important. This makes it all the more shocking when, out of the blue, his best friend Colm upends their friendship by deciding it’s no longer worth his time. Perhaps equally upsetting, he disrupts their long-observed tradition of heading to the pub for a 2:00 drink.

For quite a while, Pádraic refuses to believe Colm is entirely serious, or that this matter can’t be resolved. After all, the two have always gotten along well despite their different personalities, and there’s no identifiable disagreement that has come between them. Pádraic’s sister Siobhán assures her brother the two bffs will patch things up, even temporarily overlooking Pádraic’s insistence on allowing their donkey, Jenny, inside the house for a cuddle.

As Inisherin is a tiny island, everyone knows everything going on–and has an opinion on it. The bartender at the local pub sympathizes, while scary old woman in a cloak Mrs. McCormick (my favorite character, honestly) offers only vaguely menacing predictions. With Colm no longer his friend, Pádraic has only police officer’s son Dominic to pal around with, despite him being somewhat of a creep.

Pádraic even goes so far as to encourage the local priest to intervene, leading to a memorable scene in which he refuses to absolve Colm following confession. From this point on, things really escalate as Colm puts down a hard boundary: any time Pádraic talks to him, Colm will cut off one of his own fingers and send it to him. Counterintuitively, this seems to be the only way for Colm to ensure he has the time to create a legacy: the fiddle music he will compose.

As the two men stubbornly draw their battle lines, their feud ripples across the island in unexpected ways, causing irreversible changes…and even death.

The Rating:

4.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

For such a sad story that in many ways stands in for the Irish Civil War, this is a surprisingly funny film–admittedly very darkly funny. There’s some excellent dialogue here, which more often than not reveals the absurdity of small-town life in Inisherin. I genuinely laughed at some of Pádraic’s interactions with Mrs. McCormick, and a scene where he convinces a student of Colm’s that a bread van has left his father in critical condition that is hilarious…if mean-spirited.

Both of our protagonists are vividly drawn, and despite their reputations undergo a tragic sort of reversal. Pádraic’s existence as a nice person who wants to quietly maintain the status quo is upended as he becomes cruelly calculating. Meanwhile, Colm’s standing as one of the island’s cleverest is questionable as he self-sabotages his plan for posthumous renown through song composition what with the finger severing. In exchanges with Siobhán, Colm also proves himself not to be as insightful or well-read as others on the island may believe.

It does hit close to home to imagine being confronted with the horrible reality that, all along, those closest to you can’t stand you. As much as I feel for Colin Farrell’s Pádraic with his big, sad eyebrows, Colm’s preference for something truthful and long-lasting over the status quo rings true as well. It does seem tragic that the answers lie somewhere in the middle, and there are some moments of tension when it seems things could be resolved. Yet both men ultimately take an extreme stance from which they will not budge.

As much as I enjoyed this one, though, I could have happily watched a movie exclusively focused on Jenny the donkey.

Would my blog wife cuddle this one like an indoor donkey or refuse to even sit in the same pub? Read her review to find out!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Emergency, or: White Girl Wasted

Though I don’t typically watch the Oscars, or even a significant number of the nominees, awards season still brings its own sort of fun. On the Blog Collab, it’s a time to revisit the films we meant to cross off the list, as well as those we’re surprised didn’t receive wider recognition. This week’s film falls into the latter category…though it’s not actually too shocking this one was largely ignored by critics. Do I need to say it at this point? #OscarsSoWhite

The Film:



Carey Williams

The Premise:

Hoping to make history with an epic night out, college seniors experience unexpected detours when they find a girl passed out in their living room.

The Ramble:

Sean and Kunle, college seniors with just a few months left to party, intend to go out in style. Black students attending a primarily white institution, the two are determined to make a name for themselves on the wall of Black firsts for the school. Never before accomplished? The completion of a legendary tour, going to seven different frat parties in one night.

While studious Kunle, child of immigrants, cares for his lab specimens and plans to begin a PhD program at Princeton after graduating, free-spirited Sean only takes partying seriously. Both frequently experience being the only students of color in class, keeping quiet when professors use trigger warnings as a blanket excuse for using racist language and then asking for Black student perspectives.

Despite the everyday experiences of racism on campus, Sean and Kunle are eager for the night out, though their gamer geek roomie Carlos is very much not invited. However, before the evening can even get started, Sean and Kunle find an extremely drunk white girl passed out on their floor. Carlos, obliviously gaming the whole time, has no clue how to explain the situation either. The only thing the group knows is that calling the police will result in more questions they can’t answer, and very likely put them in danger.

After some persuasion, Sean convinces Kunle and Carlos of their best course of action: find the closest frat party and leave the girl, Emma, there to be found. When this plan backfires, the three are left with the extremely suspicious circumstances of driving around with an unconscious girl in their car and a busted tail light. Attempting to switch cars, keep Emma hydrated, and make their way to the hospital, the group encounters obstacles consistently.

Meanwhile, a group led by Emma’s sister attempts to track her down based on the cell phone hidden in her dress. It seems inevitable that a major misunderstanding will occur when the two groups finally meet; will Sean and Kunle have a chance to explain before anyone else is hurt?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

This is billed as a comedy, and there are genuinely funny moments and lines of dialogue (the detail where residents of a white neighborhood threaten to call the police on the “suspicious” group while a BLM sign stands on their lawn; likewise, the nice touch that someone on the wall of fame is recognized as the “first Black man to 3D print”). However, the themes are quite serious, investigating police violence, respectability politics, and the racism of liberal white spaces. The film’s uneven tone, and the plot that is stretched a bit thin at times, are most likely why it didn’t receive more critical attention. I would be shocked if we don’t see even better work from director Carey Williams in the future.

There’s a lot to like here that’s worthy of recognition. It’s an original story, somewhere between Get Out and Dear White People. The differences between Sean and Kunle’s experiences with race are explored well, as Sean’s childhood while growing up poor and with significant police interaction diverges from Kunle’s as a child of immigrant doctors. Kunle himself is actually quite uncomfortable with Sean’s cousins, as he has internalized the mentality that distinguishing himself as not like other Black people will protect him. In the film’s conclusion, Kunle directly encounters a terrifying challenge to this assumption.

Shout out to Carlos, who makes time to call out sexist usage of the words pussy and bitch even during a highly stressful situation.

Would my blog wife offer this one a granola bar or throw up all over its original hardwood floors? Find out in her review!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Causeway, or: I’ll Stand Bayou

Ahead of the Oscars, we’re crossing off some of the nominees this January–along with a few films that failed to secure a nomination. Not for lack of trying in some cases. Always a promising sign when you have a young Oscar winner, a story of a soldier returning to civilian life, and critical reviews that praise the understated performances…much like this week’s pick.

The Film:



Lila Neugebauer

The Premise:

Struggling to return to life in New Orleans following a traumatic brain injury, a soldier focuses on being cleared for redeployment as quickly as possible.

The Ramble:

Following an IED explosion while serving in Afghanistan, soldier Lynsey returns home with major trauma–physical, mental, and emotional. Her recovery is slow, as she is initially unable to walk, get dressed, or brush her teeth without assistance. On top of this, Lynsey has trouble with her memory, forgetting details from her childhood and having difficulty recalling new information.

Moving back in with her mother in New Orleans is…difficult. Lynsey’s mother was never the most responsible person, and her shortcomings seem even more glaringly obvious in the present. Telling herself it’s only short-term helps Lynsey cope; she’s determined to recover as quickly as possible for redeployment.

In the mean time, Lynsey finds work as a pool cleaner. As she’s dealing with an unreliable old truck to get around, she also makes friends with car mechanic James. A fellow born and raised New Orleanian, James has his own troubled past to contend with.

As Lynsey struggles to grapple with traumas both old and new, she becomes increasingly impatient to get the all-clear from a doctor for redeployment, despite the risk to her mental health in particular. But Lynsey’s narrow focus on this goal causes harm to those around her, especially James. Will Lynsey

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

As a slow-paced character study, this film is interested in examining the impacts of different types of trauma. It’s very much a showcase for Jennifer Lawrence and Brian Tyree Henry as our leads, who both do fantastic work.

Unfortunately, films where the performances are the focus aren’t always my jam. There’s not much happening in terms of plot, and some of the dramatic reveals are done in a way that I don’t find effective. What’s especially challenging about this as a character study is that our protagonists, given their trauma, are quite aloof. I don’t know that I empathized with the two as much as I expected to as I didn’t get to appreciate their inner workings. Particularly since James is such a good friend, while Lynsey seems to take him for granted, I found it difficult to invest in their friendship, which is very much at the core of the film.

The performances of our leads are compelling, though, and the film’s refusal to wrap things up neatly is appreciated.

Would my blog wife buy this one a sno-ball or leave it alone to clean rich people’s pools? Read her review to find out!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

The Menu, or: Rich the Eats

Is there any way to kick off a new year than with a dark comedy/horror/satire that doesn’t fit well into any one genre? First film of the week, month, and year brings us all of these elements, and gives us the eating our veggies feeling of crossing off a resolution. Sort of. We’re dedicating the month to films with awards buzz before the season begins properly, so we can at least sound extremely sophisticated when people ask for film recommendations at parties. You know–at all of those parties we attend.

The Film:

The Menu


Mark Mylod

The Premise:

A group of wealthy diners look forward to an evening at a highly exclusive restaurant, though its head chef has more sinister intentions.

The Ramble:

If you’re obscenely wealthy, sailing to a private island with no cell phone reception just seems like a necessary part of a luxury dining experience, and not at all like a horror setup. Margot and her date Tyler are two of the lucky twelve set to savor a dinner at the exclusive Hawthorn, where the meal is prepared specifically for the guests in attendance and will cost upwards of $1,000 each.

Just like the high school clique breakdown, you’ve got your classic rich people crowds: the rich older couple, the food critics, the business bros, and the former Hollywood A-lister. Margot seems to be the only member of the party not familiar with how the other half lives, though she plays it cool as…an oyster with lemon caviar. She’s also the only one not particularly impressed with the prestige of the head chef and his highly conceptual dishes.

Following a tour of the island where all of the staff live and work (in a setting that feels very much like a penitentiary), the guests look forward to their meal. Tyler is among the most insufferable of the bunch, which is a tall order. He takes so much pride in being a true appreciator of Chef Slowik that he feels the need to show off and gain the chef’s approval. Naturally, the chef instinctively disdains Tyler–though he shows similar levels of condescension to all of the guests.

Starting things off with the mean but hilarious breadless bread plate, Chef Slowik’s only remaining joy seems to be disappointing and belittling his guests. The chef is keenly aware of all requests and every criticism, taking an inquisitor’s delight in responding quite sadistically.

If you’ve seen any promotions for this film, it’s perhaps not shocking when it turns out the chef’s intentions to torture his guests move far beyond cutting words. How many of those on the island will live to see the dessert course?

The Rating:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

Given the timing of this film, The Menu has gotten a lot of comparisons to Glass Onion. Some of these are valid, though I would argue The Menu is significantly darker. In my personal opinion, this also makes it a bit more fun to watch–though admittedly Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Fiennes, and Nicholas Hoult is dream casting and a major reason the film works. Any time Ralph Fiennes smiles and calmly explains something, I am terrified. Nicholas Hoult’s Tyler is by far the most insufferable of our leading characters, however.

What I appreciate about this is that, like Glass Onion, it does draw some inspiration from Agatha Christie; I’m reminded in particular of And Then There Were None. Except in this update, we know quite early on who the murderer is and are eagerly awaiting quite a few of the deaths. The importance of etiquette carries over too, as if from a bygone era–and it sort of is. While the kitchen is rather autocratic and cultish, so too is the behavior of the guests, who even pay their checks after an evening of psychological and physical torture.

The humor is pitch black, and I laughed out loud pretty consistently. Some of my favorite quotes out of context:

“I usually don’t like foam, but…”

“The memory of your face in that film…haunts me.”

“As Dr. King said, ‘We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor. It must be demanded by the oppressed.'”

I will say some of the elements do come together a bit too conveniently, particularly for our girl Margot, but this isn’t enough to lessen my enjoyment of the film.

Would my blog wife savor this like a deconstructed taco complete with blackmail tortilla or flip the table following the breadless bread plate? Find out in her review!