Canadian Film Fest 2020 Selection: Age of Dysphoria Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Age of Dysphoria is a short film the explores the issues of alcoholism and alzheimer’s in a very unique way. It is a disjointed narrative that pieces back the memory of one horrid night, that an elderly man, will remember for the rest of his life and will haunt his mind in the worst way. The film is about a young woman named Fin (Laura Vandervoort) who tracks down an elderly man, named Fred (Gordon Pinsent), in order to make amends for the tragedy that devastated his life.

Fin had been sober for a couple of months and feels ready to make amends with the person she hurt the most. The film addresses drunk driving and alcohol addiction. It shows the difficulty of coming to terms with an addiction and how it can not only affect your life, but others around you. It’s beautifully shot and it has great direction from Jessica Petelle for important scenes addressing addiction.

The most heartbreaking part of this film is the performance from Fred, he is an elderly man who lost his wife and is suffering from Alzheimer’s. The only thing he remembers is his late wife and the accident that occurred a while back. He associates every person he meets with his wife and calls them by her name, Stella. The conversation in the diner really got to me because Fred called Fin by his wife’s name during the difficult conversation. It’s very well written and as an all star team of female filmmakers that wanted to present this story in a realistic way.

Age of Dysphoria is a very emotional film, which speaks on the human condition and the importance of human connection. Humans are vulnerable creatures and everyone deserves to have that shoulder to lean on. The film is very candid with how it presents pain and suffering. People need to have difficult conversations to clear the conscience and cleanse their souls, in order to be move forward and that is what this film does.

 

TOTO Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Toto is a very inventive and sweet short film showing how dependant we have all become on technology. It is also quite humorous because the lead is 90 year – old, nonna Rosa (Rosa Forlano) who is having difficulty, adjusting to a robot being in her house. Toto is an ode to real life situations and how people can’t seem to function without technology. It brings together the older generation and the new generation in order to understand the complexities of technology.

Toto definitely hits close to home because I am seen as the “fix it, IT person” in the house. The film doesn’t only apply to seniors, but it also applies to middle aged people who never grew up with technology. All the Gen X and Millennials can understand how frustrating it can be to actually explain how to use technology to others, when it has become second nature to us. It was heartwarming and fun to see Nonna Rosa, who is also the grandmother of the director Marco Baldonado, interact with the robot.

It is a very simple story and shows a full day of a nonna adapting to living with a robot, that is programmed to help her. Toto is very similar in nature to Baymax, from Big Hero 6 but functions differently. The entire climax of Toto is the issue of charging its battery in order for it to help the nonna. That’s where the humour comes in because everyone knows an Italian nonna will always take matters into her own hands, when things go wrong.

The construction for Toto is well done and the robot is quite massive. It used lights and a “siri” like voice to attend to the nonna. Toto was trained to cook and clean, in order to help the nonna, but let’s face it robots can’t be compared to the will power of a nonna. It shows an important lesson of learning about technology but also still trying to do things on your own. When technology fails so many of us, we have to be able to work through situations on our own.

‘Always” Short Film Interview with Director Sam Zapiain and Writer/Producer Melissa Del Rosario


By: Amanda Guarragi

The 2nd Annual Desertscape International Film Festival in St. George, Utah is a festival that celebrates filmmakers around the globe. People are encouraged to submit their short films and student films to the festival. The festival normally runs from July 29th to August 1st. This year, the short film Always has been selected for the program. I spoke to the creators of the film, Director Sam Zapiain and Writer/Producer Melissa Del Rosario ahead of the festival.

Always is a short film, based on real life experiences. It incorporates horror elements to cope with the illness of diabetes. There is an urgency in the storytelling because no one really discusses the struggle of living with diabetes. Its experimental use of painted images and rough editing, combined with the haunting score, make this a truly special film.

The importance of making this film for Zapiain comes from a very personal place. He wanted to address the struggles of those who live with diabetes in a very realistic way. “About three years ago, I was diagnosed as a Type 2 Diabetic, and how I handled the symptoms that surfaced out of the blue and out of control felt like a horror story. Out of control.” It is a film that shows the numbness and fatigue through painted images, that come to life in the depths of Alex’s (David Kurtz) mind.

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The sketches were placed in Alex’s apartment to show that he was an artist and his designs allowed him to explore his inner thoughts. It was a spur of the moment idea, right as they were about to begin shooting the film Del Rosario says, “Sam had this idea right before we are set to shoot. I got some paper out and started sketching immediately and I’m happy it all worked out.” Zapiain also wanted to use the sketches as a creative outlet for him to understand what was happening to his body, while trying to understand the symptoms of being diagnosed with diabetes.

The most challenging aspect of filming this piece for Zapiain was learning to accept and acknowledge the presence of a disease. “For quite some time it was the idea of it being behind me, and somewhat in a state of denial or disbelief. Creating the film meant I knew it was here to stay, and it would make a statement on my life.” Zapiain also thanked his producer Del Rosario for helping him recognize the story, writing it, and gathering such a wonderfully talented cast and crew. “In a way, the people behind the film were my therapy. They helped me accustom.” 

It was important for Del Rosario to take on a project that was so personal to a close friend of hers. “For me, as someone who is not diabetic, I decided to learn more about this condition because someone I care about has it. It was truly terrifying to learn about. I believe it is important to raise awareness about this condition and the symptoms others may be experiencing.” It was a project Del Rosario wanted to work on because there are millions of people in the world that are diabetic, with many of the not knowing they are, undiagnosed.

The focus on the horror elements also enhanced the storytelling. Zapiain wanted to incorporate his love for horror and he did this through the use of repetition, quick edits and stunning monochromatic sequences vs the scenes with insulin that were in colour,

“From a technical standpoint, it was a field day for us to play with shadows, and utilize the horror aspect, exaggerating hallways, dark rooms, silhouettes, etc. Colour meant the reality of the situation. Realizing these horrifying images are in the main character’s perspective, (black and white), and what actually exists in color.

There’s such richness in these tones and the lighting was also extremely effective to punch up certain textures. It is a beautifully shot film and there are certain images that will stay in my mind for a while.

The film feels like a journey in such a short period of time. The repetition, rough cuts and haunting (but stunning) images are all utilized to properly highlight the struggle of living with diabetes. Always is very well written and executed, it’s a personal story and everyone should watch it. To learn more about the struggles of living with diabetes, go to the American Diabetes Association website.

 

A Love Letter to DCEU Fans: We Did It!


By: Amanda Guarragi 

To my fellow DC fans, I salute you, because we did it. The #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement is a massive success and in 2021, on HBO Max, we will finally see our beloved Justice League come together as it was intended. Zack Snyder hosted a Man of Steel watch party today on the platform Vero, which he uses quite often. In his commentary, he discussed the choices he made in each scene in a very detailed manner and it showed how dedicated he was to bringing fans the best version of Superman. It was so much fun to watch because he gave his audience important information and pointed out a couple of easter eggs.

Zack Snyder has always created beautiful films that are deeply rooted in the source material. Most importantly, he has fun on set because he loves the material so much. Zack Snyder is a great director because he is also a fan of the content. When he was describing Superman’s first flight and showing his storyboards, you could feel how much love went into those scenes. Today was a very special day because towards the end of the film, Henry Cavill made an appearance and talked about how he felt putting on the suit. It was a great moment, considering we haven’t really seen Henry Cavill, let alone him speaking about the Snyder Cut, but I always knew there was a plan in place.

After 4 long years of being extremely vocal about Warner Brothers releasing the Snyder Cut of Justice League, it was finally confirmed from the man himself. At the end of the livestream, Zack and Deborah Snyder had a couple of fans join their Zoom call with Henry. This also proved that Zack has a very close relationship with his fanbase and loves having discussions with them. He answered all their questions, including the one in regards to the Snyder Cut. At first Henry, Zack and Deborah laughed. Zack awkwardly said, “It’s out of my control. It’s not up to me.” then he started talking about a tiny flash drive, that he left in a bathroom stall somewhere, to try and divert the question.

At that point, I thought we were duped. I thought there would be no announcement because he was diverting the question, but Henry came to the rescue. It fell silent for a moment and then Henry said, “You know what, I think I’d like to see it.” and Zack answered, “Oh, really? Well I can’t just show it but I can do this.” Zack then turns the camera to his big screen, where he was watching Man of Steel on, and this showed up.

JL official

courtesy of HBO Max

Beautiful right? The moment we’ve been waiting for and he announced it in the most Zack Snyder way. Everything started with Man of Steel and Zack’s version of Superman. It all started with Henry Cavill. Superman hasn’t risen yet because Zack Snyder’s Justice League hasn’t been released. It was only fitting that Henry, Zack and Deborah would all join together to make this announcement. The internet pretty much exploded today and all DC fans are beyond happy. My Twitter timeline took me back to a time where we were gearing up for Justice League and it gave me that same feeling today. All the friends I have made in the DC community and the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement has truly been amazing. We went up to bat for our director and now his vision will finally be complete.

It is a very emotional day for so many people. This community has been through so many bad moments but our love for these characters and these films helped us push through. We have constantly been under fire and we have had to defend these films for the past 4 years. It has been a very long journey but it was definitely worth it because today, today we made history. To everyone that used the hashtag, to everyone who defended these films and these actors, this couldn’t have been possible without you guys. We have been a team since SDCC in 2015, ever since we saw the footage for Batman v Superman. We went through all the criticism and the hatred together, but we stuck to our guns and made the impossible happen. Today is for all of you.

To Zack Snyder, Deborah Snyder, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ray Fisher, Jason Momoa and Ezra Miller, on behalf of the whole fanbase, thank you a million times over for your love and dedication to these characters. The DCEU would not be the same without you guys. You have all made comic book films that deeply resonate with so many people around the world and with characters that have been iconic throughout history. You have all built the foundation for the future of the DCEU and we truly can’t wait to see what comes next.

Whether Zack Snyder’s Justice League, is a six episode television series, or a three hour epic released on HBO Max, we will all be there on the very first day it is released, watching it because it’s going to be a big moment. Hope is what got all of us here and that’s why today is overwhelming, especially by watching Man of Steel. It’s not an “S”, on Kal’s planet, it means hope. The definition of hope, the feeling of it and having it payoff, is what today is.

Desertscape International Film Festival 2020 Selection: “Always” Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Always is a short film, based on real life experiences, directed by Sam Zapiain and written by Melissa MJ Del Rosario. It incorporates horror elements to cope with the illness of diabetes. There is an urgency in the storytelling because no one really discusses the struggle of living with diabetes. Its experimental use of painted images and rough editing, combined with the haunting score make this a truly special film.

The film hooks you from the moment it begins. The close up shot of the needle in the center of the screen lures you in and then it abruptly cuts to our subject Alex (David Kurtz), who is laying in bed with hands all over his body, appearing to strap him down to the bed. The imagery in this film is quite stunning, as it uses hands and fingers to show the mental struggle in coping with the illness. The film also plays with colours, the anxiety and mental struggle is shown in black and white, while the insulin and needles are in colour. There’s such richness in these tones and the lighting was also extremely effective to punch up certain textures.

The film feels like a journey in such a short period of time. The repetition, rough cuts and haunting (but stunning) images are all utilized to properly highlight the struggle of living with diabetes. It’s a very important film and most of the images will stay with me for awhile. Always is very well written and executed, it’s a personal story and everyone should watch it.

How The 2021 Oscars Will Look, If It Doesn’t Get Postponed


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Every year there are films lined up for Oscar season and some films that are sprinkled across the year, hoping to be standouts in order to be in the running. In 2020, the world has faced a global pandemic which has changed the way we live. It has also changed the way most industries operate. The Entertainment Industry has definitely felt this shift, due to the fact that movie theatres are now closed and it is unclear as to when they will reopen. Everything is up in the air and only a handful of films will be released this year, so the big question is… how are the Oscars going to work?

In a recent Variety article, Marc Malkin says that the Oscars may be postponed. The sources, who chose to remain anonymous, stated that “Definitive plans are far from being concrete at this juncture. The telecast is currently set for Feb. 28, 2021, on ABC.” The sources, who have been close to the subject, said that it will most likely be postponed. There could be potential new dates but they haven’t been fully discussed yet or properly mapped out. There were new (temporary) rule changes for Oscar eligibility released in April because of COVID -19.

“The board of governors approved a temporary hold on the requirement that a film needs a seven-day theatrical run in a commercial theater in Los Angeles County to qualify for the Oscars.” says Marc Malkin from Variety. As long as the film had a planned theatrical release, it is still eligible for an Oscar nomination. It doesn’t mean that any film premiering on a streaming service is eligible. With this shift in the moviegoing experience, it seems fitting to change the guidelines temporarily, so films that had a planned theatrical release and are currently going straight to VOD, can have the same chance in getting nominated.

If the Academy already changed the guidelines, because they sympathized with the filmmakers, who worked so hard in getting their film out there and making the conscious choice to STILL release it on VOD, why are they planning on postponing it? What was the point in changing the guidelines, if you’re about to change the game entirely? How does postponing the Oscars benefit any of the films/filmmakers?

These are the questions that I’m curious to know the answers to. There are films that have been (and will be) released this year that are eligible and “worthy” enough of an Oscar run, so why not give them an even chance? If they choose to postpone the Oscars, won’t there be double the films to choose from, in order to hand out that golden statue? Are the categories going to include 10 nominees, instead of 5, because there are more films to cover? It doesn’t seem like the best move.

These are the films that could possibly be nominated for Oscars for the 2021 season:

  • Emma 
    Best Actress: Anya Taylor Joy
    Best Cinematography: Christopher Blauvelt
    Best Director: Autumn de Wilde
    Best Adapted Screenplay: Eleanor Catton
    Best Original Score: Isobel Waller-Bridge & David Schweitzer


  • The Way Back 
    Best Actor: Ben Affleck
    Best Director: Gavin O’Connor
    Best Original Screenplay: Brad Ingelsby


  • The Invisible Man 
    Best Picture: Jason Blum & Kylie du Fresne
    Best Actress: Elisabeth Moss
    Best Director: Leigh Whannell
    Best Original Screenplay: Leigh Whannell
    Best Original Score: Benjamin Wallfisch
    Best Editing: Andy Canny


    Best Visual Effects:
    The Invisible Man 
    Wonder Woman 1984
    Tenet
    Dune
    Sonic the Hedgehog


  • Never Rarely Sometimes Always 
    Best Actress: Sidney Flanigan
    Best Original Screenplay: Eliza Hittman
    Best Cinematography: Hélène Louvart
    Best Director: Eliza Hittman


    Best Animated Feature: 
    Sonic The Hedgehog
    Onward
    Scoob!
    Trolls World Tour
    Soul



  • Tenet 
    Best Picture: Christopher Nolan & Emma Thomas
    Best Director: Christopher Nolan
    Best Actor: John David Washington
    Best Supporting Actor: Robert Pattinson
    Best Original Screenplay: Christopher Nolan
    Best Original Score: Ludwig Göransson
    Best Editing: Jennifer Lame


  • The French Dispatch 
    Best Picture: Wes Anderson, Steven Rales & Jeremy Dawson
    Best Director: Wes Anderson
    Best Original Screenplay: Wes Anderson
    Best Original Score: Alexandre Desplat
    Best Cinematography: Robert Yeoman


  • Capone 
    Best Director: Josh Trank
    Best Original Screenplay: Josh Trank
    Best Actor: Tom Hardy
    Best Supporting Actress: Linda Cardellini
    Best Cinematography: Peter Deming


  • Da 5 Bloods (Netflix)
    Best Picture: Jon Kilik, Spike Lee, Beatriz Levin & Lloyd Levin
    Best Director: Spike Lee
    Best Cinematography: Newton Thomas Sigel
    Best Original Score: Terence Blanchard
    Best Editing: Adam Gough
    Best Adapted Screenplay: Danny Bilson, Paul De Meo, Spike Lee and Kevin Willmott


  • Mank (Netflix) 
    Best Picture: David Fincher, Ceán Chaffin, Eric Roth and Douglas Urbanski
    Best Director: David Fincher
    Best Adapted Screenplay: Jack Fincher
    Best Actor: Gary Oldman
    Best Supporting Actress: Amanda Seyfried
    Best Original Score: Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
    Best Cinematography Erik Messerschmidt
    Best Editing: Kirk Baxter


  • Dune
    Best Picture: Mary Parent, Cale Boyter, Joe Caracciolo Jr. and Denis Villeneuve
    Best Director: Denis Villeneuve
    Best Adapted Screenplay: Jon Spaihts, Eric Roth & Denis Villeneuve
    Best Actor: Timothée Chalamet
    Best Supporting Actress: Rebecca Ferguson
    Best Supporting Actor: Oscar Isaac
    Best Original Score: Hans Zimmer
    Best Cinematography: Greig Fraser
    Best Editing: Joe Walker


This list that I have compiled is solely based on what I believe to be possible Oscar contenders. Majority of these films are highly anticipated and have been adamant in not moving their release date, due to COVID 19. This is all hypothetical and if the restrictions are still in place from September onwards, they need to make the decision to send it straight to VOD or postpone their film entirely. I personally think it’s not the right decision to postpone the Oscars because all of the films listed above should be given the fair chance to be nominated, based on the slate of their year. If the Academy combines the 2020 & 2021 slates, it will be too much for anyone to handle.

“It is still unclear if postponing the Oscars will also mean that the Academy will allow films released after the year-end deadline to qualify for the 2021 Oscars.” says Marc Malkin for Variety. It is a very difficult decision to make, but it is also very premature to even consider postponing, if we are only half way through the year. At the end of the day, you don’t make pictures for Oscars, as the wise director Martin Scorsese has said, but it’s sure great to get recognized for your work.

SCOOB! Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Scooby Doo has been apart of pop culture since the early 70s and will always hold a special place in everyone’s heart. It doesn’t matter how old you are, you will always appreciate Scoob and the gang solving mysteries and unmasking bad guys. Scoob! gave audiences the origin story of Shaggy and Scooby, a story that we haven’t seen before, it made the transition to the gang, as adults, more effective. It was filled with nostalgia, it had the same humour and of course, it highlighted the power of friendship.

Scoob! directed by Tony Cervone, brought the gang together wanting to improve the business of Mystery Inc. Fred (Zac Efron), Daphne (Amanda Seyfried) and Velma (Gina Rodriguez) called Simon Cowell, to see how they could improve the team. Simon said that Fred was the muscle, Daphne was the empath and Velma was the brain, but Simon had an issue trying to figure out Shaggy (Will Forte) and Scooby’s (Frank Welker) place on the team. This little conversation tore the gang apart, it lead Scooby and Shaggy to find their favourite hero Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg) and Dynomutt (Ken Jeong). They ended up helping them find the evil villain Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs), who had plans to open the underworld.

Scoob! really incorporated all the stories from previous television episodes AND the live action films that we love. My favourite thing about the movie was how great the animation was. It was about time Warner Brothers started to use the Hanna Barbera characters again and what better way to bring them back to the big screen, than with Scooby Doo? It was so much fun from beginning to end, the writing was really strong and the journey of friendship was heartwarming. It was just so nice to see these characters interact again, with new content, new characters, and the same type of mysteries to solve.

The one thing Scooby and Shaggy’s friendship brought all of us, was light hearted jokes, interesting meals and loving your best friend. Shaggy had said, “Growing up doesn’t mean growing apart, it means growing together.” it’s such a great line and because they chose to show his journey with Scoob, it made them coming together at the end pretty emotional. Friendships are important and that’s always been the case with Scooby Doo, they might get annoyed with each other but in the end they always help each other out no matter what.

It’s one of the best family friendly films I’ve seen this year. The humour is definitely meant for the adults, but the kids will get a kick out of Scoob and his joyous spirit. They took the structure of the television episodes, the villains from the live action films and brought one of the best voice casts together to make a pretty fun movie. Scoob! will have you missing the gang the second you finish the film and naturally the ending is pretty open ended, so fingers crossed for a sequel.