Onward Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Onward the magical tale of two teenage elf brothers, Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley (Chris Pratt) Lightfoot, who embark on a journey to see if there is any magic left in their city, all while spending one last day with their late father. Ian finds out he has magical powers (like his father) and uses his father’s staff and a magical stone, to bring half of him back for one day. Writer and director Dan Scanlon wanted to create a film based off of his own experiences with his brother and the loss of his father. It had the right heart but not the right execution. Even though the film centered around finding magic, it was severely lacking the Pixar magic we all know and love.

This was the first Pixar movie that I’ve been seriously disappointed in because of how dull they made Ian and Barley. Chris Pratt’s whimsical voice and Tom Holland’s nerdy babbling couldn’t save this empty journey. The sentiment was there, two brothers wanting to spend one magical day with their deceased father but the simple journey they went on had no payoff at the end of this film. The entire film Ian and Barley spent time with only HALF of their father, the bottom half. They couldn’t talk to their own father for the entire day, they only communicated through touch and morse code. Again, the sentimental value was there because Barley had spent a couple of years with their father but Ian never got to know him.

The animation was also unimaginative and lacked the Pixar touch. I keep saying Pixar because their rendering technology was far superior, before Disney even picked them up. It just didn’t feel like a Pixar film and I can’t explain why, it just didn’t, I can’t put my finger on it. You just know that you’re watching a Pixar film, instead of a Disney film, you can’t explain it, you just know. Pixar’s animation was so incredibly special when it began all those years ago, but now with Disney’s influence, I’m afraid the type of calibre films that we are used to from Pixar, will begin to fade away. I know that Disney bought Pixar in 2006 and they gave us such incredible films, but the more powerful Disney gets, I’m afraid that the creative licensing with the acquired subsidiaries will suffer greatly.

Onward tries to make a heartfelt film between two brothers. The little brother Ian, realizes that even though he grew up without a father, he still shared his life with a father figure and he finds that in his older brother Barley. The simple quest they were on, was way too simple and nothing really exciting happened. The magic was basic and lacked flare. Also, there was no connection to the father, who also had these powers. Ian and his father had a connection through magic, yet he never had an emotional moment with his father. There was a disconnect because there was no conversation being had between father and son.

As you watch this film and sit through the dry humour, you wonder if Ian and Barley will eventually get to see the top half of their father. The ending left a bitter taste in my mouth and I’m not one for spoilers, but it was infuriating to watch what happens to these brothers and their father. It could have been such a beautiful moment but it was ruined by a very strange moral choice based off of a new realization.

I wanted this to be better but the story lacked direction and meaning. Yes, it’s sentimental but when you throw it together and try to interfere those key emotional moments with humour that is so dense, it just ends up being a forgettable film. Other than a half magical man walking around, Onward was just another film on the slate with two actors that should have had more chemistry than they did.

CandidxCinema Podcast: Episode #1 – Oscars 2020

As we all know, Oscar season is almost over. It has been such a long ride since last September, when I watched majority of the nominees at The Toronto International Film Festival. I decided to start my own podcast ahead of Oscar Sunday and share some wisdom about how the Academy works.

In the following podcast, I discuss the major snubs and the politics behind the nominations/wins. I talk about the lack of female representation in the Best Director category AND the lack of nominations for people of colour. I also didn’t forget to go on a rant, highlighting how every Oscar season has been fairly questionable, over the past decade.

The links are below, The CandidxCinema Podcast is now live on Spotify, Soundcloud and Apple Podcasts:

Please subscribe and follow along on Twitter @amxndareviews for more updates!

Martin Scorsese v. Marvel: Dawn of Justice

Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman is in theatres today and will eventually be released on Netflix November 27th. The past month, the media has been in a frenzy over Mr. Scorsese’s comments about Marvel films and how he considers them a different form of cinema.

In my personal opinion, Scorsese is just reiterating what many people have been saying for the past five years. Disney has been pumping out these films year after year and they have been lacking in many departments. It’s killing the moviegoing experience for general audiences. He has compared the MCU to theme park rides because the entire franchise consists of EVENT films. Disney brings in the entire family, whether it be a Marvel film or a remade Disney live action, they have been able to make money on nostalgia and comfort.

The Future of Netflix Distribution Analytical Podcast
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The film critics, cinephiles and movie lovers count down the days for independent films like The Irishman but the general audience has been conditioned to spend money on event films because of the rising ticket prices. No one will spend the money to watch a film that they are taking a gamble on. The podcast that is linked on the right is an in depth analysis of the new age of movie watching. In the podcast the discourse of film distribution, local movie theatre chains and streaming are all discussed. The general audience mainly goes to the theatre for a comedy or an action film and that’s the sad reality that Mr. Scorsese is addressing in this new age of filmmaking. He was never dismissing the hard work and dedication that has gone into each of these films but instead, how it has altered the thought process when deciding which film to watch in theatres and which films to watch at home.

(from left) Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Ray Romano in The Irishman (2019)

The Irishman is a gigantic film because of the calibre of actors, the streaming deal with Netflix AND he is delivering another classic mob film. There have been so many comments about who he is as a person and as a filmmaker, it seems that people haven’t done their research on what Scorsese has been doing for the past four decades. He has been pushing cinema forward with his own filmography and he has been preserving the history of cinema since 1990. Martin Scorsese genuinely loves every single aspect of this industry and for people to undermine him and disrespect his dedication to his craft is ridiculous.

It’s also incredible to me that journalists, who have studied for their degree, are pushing this discourse, while Scorsese is doing promo for The Irishman. You have one of the most renowned directors in front of you, with a massive film, which is a culmination of his entire filmography and you decide to get a soundbite for clickbait, rather than any film related content? Are his thoughts about a franchise really more important than the film he’s promoting? Also, why are you asking the Marvel actors/directors their thoughts about Scorsese’s comments, knowing full well that they have contracts with Disney?

The moviegoing audience has shifted and the way people watch films has also drastically changed. Martin Scorsese has been able to transcend generations with his filmmaking because he moves with the technological climate. When 3D came out, Scorsese made Hugo and the film was nominated because of his heartfelt story and homage to cinema history.

Asa Butterfield in Hugo (2011)

When movies were being shot on digital, Scorsese gave it a shot with the bombastic The Wolf of Wall Street and it was also nominated. It only made sense for Scorsese to head to a streaming platform for this gangster epic.

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

The reason why it’s so important that big filmmakers take a chance on Netflix, is so we can finally bridge the gap between streaming and theatrical distribution. A film like The Irishman in this current climate won’t even make a profit in a local movie theatre BUT showcasing this type of film on a streaming service, allows a guaranteed international release on multiple screens. Scorsese attempted to bridge the gap but movie theatres did not want to show a 3.5 hour gangster film, with older actors, when they could fill their screens with the latest action flick or Disney film.

If you really think about it, it took a director like Scorsese, to express everyone’s thoughts about the destruction of the moviegoing experience, for people to actually question Disney’s conditioning. There is original content that should be thriving and that’s the only point Martin Scorsese was trying to make.

Joker: The Controversy Behind the Clown Prince of Crime

In the past six years, DC Comics has released films, that go against the grain of the comic book universe, in which audiences are accustomed to. Release after release, DC and Warner Brothers have been faced with countless (pointless) controversies that are still being discussed today. With the release of the Joker, the discourse surrounding it has reached new levels of ignorance and bias.

The first form of controversy came directly from CNN and other news sources claiming that there would be an uprising after the release of Joker. They continued to spread paranoia across the United States, by warning people that there could be a possible shooting at any of the screenings. They carried this narrative out because of the violence that is depicted by a villain in his own standalone.

This is the same argument that has been plaguing single shooter video games, such as Call of Duty. Media does not influence anyone to kill, the access to weapons does. The media continues to blame art and media in different mediums, rather than blaming their own corrupt system. As opening weekend for the Joker approached, undercover cops and extra security were placed at multiple screenings across the country for Joker. This narrative was completely forced by the media, it was almost as if they wanted this particular narrative to unfold, AGAIN, in order to fit their narrative of blaming the media for the violence in their country. There were even extra security guards placed in theatres in Canada and statistically, Canada does not have the same gun violence percentage as the United States.

The fictional character of the Joker has been a staple in pop culture for decades, so why are people finding an issue with him now? There have been multiple films that included violence, from John Wick to Rambo: Last Blood and every basic action movie in between. The controversy behind the Joker, lies with it being a DC character. With the rise of formulaic action films or comforting live action remakes, audiences are not used to a different moviegoing experience, especially ones that don’t leave you feeling all warm and toasty inside.

DC has and always will be the dark knight of the live action comic book universe, but they are the only ones putting out humanistic stories for audiences to reflect on. Man of Steel was a symbolic immigrant story, Batman v Superman was about unity over differences, Wonder Woman displayed love for humanity, Aquaman showcased power struggles between land and sea, Shazam showcased bullying and Joker depicted the treatment of those who suffer with mental illnesses in the most raw and brutal form we could have ever imagined.

The reason why audiences are turned off by Joker, is because they feel disgusted with how society treats people. Joker puts everyone who has every treated someone horribly at the forefront because of how Arthur Fleck’s internal pain fills the screen. People will constantly treat others poorly but they will never know how much their cruel acts truly affect them. People do not walk out of the Joker feeling uncomfortable from the violence, they are uncomfortable with the treatment of Arthur Fleck, or how terrible the world can be. No one sympathizes with the killing aspect of the Joker, the film showcases the mind of someone who has been so traumatized and feels so much pain because the world has treated him unfairly.

Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck

The lesson in Todd Phillips’ Joker is to be kind to everyone because they could be going through anything. That’s the real tragedy of life in general, no one considers their fellow person, it’s always for personal gain. There are moments in the Joker that are very emotional or even frustrating to sit through because of Arthur’s condition. It’s hard to watch him lose himself and come to terms with the fact that his whole life was a lie. He takes his suffering and transforms into this character of the Joker, he feels safer putting on the facade of a clown because clowns are unpredictable.

Lastly, since the Joker won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and has been getting major Oscar buzz, Joaquin Phoenix is a lock for Best Actor and articles like these will not and SHOULD not stop him for getting the Oscar gold. Headlines such as these are laughable for multiple reasons. The headline on the right, does not match the article whatsoever because it resorts to clickbait. How have we gotten to the point where a film that amasses such success does not deserve the box office revenue that it receives? There have been many films that have not been good, and still made billions of dollars, but I didn’t see an article questioning the success of those films. Unfortunately, it has become a thing to piggyback off of controversies in order to gain clicks without having anything beneficial to add to the film and its process after it’s released.

As we head into Oscar season, the Joker has every right to be nominated because it changes a genre that has gotten very tiresome in the past 11 years. Todd Phillips truly changed the game and no matter the controversy, Joker belongs in the race. If we take away Joaquin’s brilliant performance, we are still left with unique direction, a haunting score, stunning cinematography, an in depth character piece, many references and nostalgia, many social issues being brought to the forefront, and a well rounded film overall. Joker will most definitely be nominated, not only for the reasons stated above BUT because the Oscar telecast hasn’t been doing well and they have been gaining viewers due to relevant films with the 18-34 demographic AND of course, the magic word, controversy.

The Joker is a film that demands to be seen and the message is booming throughout. People are afraid to feel terrible after a film because it’s a reflection on their own behaviour and how society actual treats people. It’s raw, realistic and a painful watch but it is definitely necessary.

Disney & Film Criticism

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This is what we’ve come to?

It’s acceptable to just claim that a movie is just “fine”?

There’s a reason why Captain Marvel can’t be critiqued as “fine” and the reason is because it’s the TWENTY FIRST superhero film in a franchise.

It has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that it’s a female led cbm or that it’s written by a female or that it’s CO-DIRECTED by a woman. The film as a whole was not up to par with other films in the MCU and they are in Phase 04.

So because it’s under Disney we’re supposed to give a mediocre Marvel film a free pass? No.

Captain Marvel should not have been as mediocre as it was at this stage in the MCU, especially ahead of Endgame. 

Please tell me why there was more pressure on Patty Jenkins and Wonder Woman? The answer is blatantly obvious and it’s because it’s a DC film.

Captain Marvel did not reinvent the genre, it did not change the formulaic structure and it was extremely underwhelming. As a woman, there were moments where I understood Carol Danvers but I did not feel a connection to her. Also, how doesn’t it upset anyone that Captain Marvel was literally used as a stepping stone to Endgame? She’s being used as a device to further a narrative that is already in place because of the shared universe. The placement of Captain Marvel is odd and the only link to Endgame is the post credit scene which also makes this film disjointed among the MCU. I’m sure if you watch Captain Marvel before The Avengers it’ll fit better.

In the article from Variety, this is what Alicia Lutes says, “You’re still enabling the narrative that women have to be twice as good, all the time, to maybe get 1% of the pie. Whether you thought “Captain Marvel” or any of these movies was good, or even an affront, is entirely beside the point.”

I’m sorry but I don’t understand how any viewer has put women on a pedestal in regards to filmmaking? Women need more opportunities in the industry but when it comes to their work, they need to be critiqued like every other filmmaker. When you make claims that “it’s okay for this film, that is directed by a woman to fail because we need more of that”… no one wants their film to be mediocre or a failure, so why are we giving this film a pass?

You’ve already categorized Captain Marvel as a female led film and completely pushed aside the fact that it’s a DISNEY MARVEL MOVIE. It doesn’t matter who is behind the lens and that’s what people have to start realizing when critiquing films in the future. You have to be able to watch it for what it is and not put the film on a pedestal because it’s a female led film or directed by a woman. It’s damaging to female filmmakers, yes they struggle more than the average males in the industry but their content needs to be critiqued the same as everyone else.

How do we, as critics, say it’s acceptable that a movie is just “fine”? There have been thousands of films that have been mediocre and forgotten, where people have critisized every single aspect of the film, but this one, gets a free pass because female directors need to make some bad movies? Do people know what they’re saying?

This is proof that Disney owns the critics. Forget about Captain Marvel for a second and think about the critical acclaim Mary Poppins Returns received…. it didn’t deserve any of that hype and it was a disappointment in my eyes but it got plenty of nominations. Disney has known how to market their films since day one and now they’ve become greedy and power hungry. They own the box office year round and the critics are biased and fall to their knees as if they’ve made another masterpiece.

The new age of film criticism is not objective anymore, there is no singular voice that breaks down the film for what it is, there’s no balance. Ratings have become more important than reviews and critiques because a percentage from a consensus is more powerful than a credible writer expressing their opinion.

There should be no mediocrity when it comes to a Disney Marvel movie at this stage in the game because of it’s longevity. They have a “perfected” formula, so why not use it properly? That’s the issue with this kind of criticism for the film. At the end of the day, it’s not about female filmmakers at the box office but it’s about a standalone film apart of a larger universe.