Cannes Award-Winning Feature: ‘Dollhouse: The Eradication of Female Subjectivity from American Popular Culture’ Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

The ‘Cannes’ award-winning feature Dollhouse: The Eradication of Female Subjectivity from American Popular Culture is a satirical animated film, that dives deep into the stories of young Hollywood starlets and their treatment throughout the years. It is written, directed and produced by Nicole Brending, who also voices 14 characters in the film. It takes multiple tabloid stories from the lives of Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears and bluntly addresses the toxic, intrusiveness of the media, when it comes to young teenage girls, being forced into an industry standard.

It is extremely fitting, to have dolls symbolize the conformity of being a starlet in Hollywood and having to essentially become a clone, in order to become accepted by everyone. The first half of this film, explores the sexploitation of young women in the music industry and how they have been mentally abused, by the authoritative presence surrounding them. At the young age of 12, Junie Spoons was cast in the show Candy Castles, which very much resembles the Mickey Mouse Club and it was more of the journey Britney Spears went on at a very early age.

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Courtesy of Rock Salt Releasing

When taking serious subject matters and presenting them through a different medium, in this case, animation, it is much easier to express honesty in the toxicity of the subject. Brending was so honest in her storytelling and how the media, would always spin the lives of young starlets in a negative manner. The one thing I found worked really well was the depiction of men, through boyband member Zachary Wilderness, whose name oddly resembles Justin Timberlake’s. Bendring presented the journey of Zachary Wilderness, as this perfect fairytale and that’s how young men, are taken care of by the media in the industry.

The juxtaposition of the two, was really eye opening, especially because young starlets like Miley Cyrus and Demi Lovato, have been very outspoken about the treatment of women in the industry, specifically child stars. It is very well written and uses major tabloid stories, that viewers still remember to this day. It was hard to watch because of how in depth the film went into Britney Spears and her downward spiral, especially considering how much we know now. It was necessary to make a film like this, in all of it’s nastiness, while addressing the faux journalism that takes place when taking control of these narratives.

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Courtesy of Rock Salt Releasing 

The film does lose its way in the third act with a surprise storyline. There was a storyline that was placed at the end involving a transgender character and I think that’s where it lost its way a bit. It was difficult to understand why this storyline came up towards the end and I tried to find the symbolism behind it. It seemed that it was symbolic, in wanting to achieve perfection and the media’s idea of perfection, is the look of a young Hollywood star. This ideal is so incredibly damaging, that it leads to many eating disorders and plastic surgeries gone wrong. It still doesn’t make the case, as to why the sexual identity comes into play at the end but it’s definitely up for interpretation.

Dollhouse: The Eradication of Female Subjectivity from American Popular Culture is a film that allows viewers to understand and interpret how poorly treated these young girls are. They are exploited sexually, forced to grow up in a toxic environment and treated as a possession, until they are old enough to understand how authority figures abused their power over them. Nicole Brending does excellent work in delivering this subject matter with such brutal honesty, that the film should be studied for years to come.

Agatha Christine: Next Door Spy Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Agatha Christine: Next Door Spy is an animated film, that tells the story of a young girl, named AC (short for Agatha Christine) that wants to become a detective. She runs her own operation, out of her basement and constructs spy equipment on her own. Young AC wants to solve the crimes in her neighbourhood and comes across a possible burglary at her local grocery store. It has been difficult for AC because no one really takes her seriously as a detective, or even supports her throughout this endeavour.

Director Karla von Bengston wanted to show the journey of a 10 year old girl, trying to harness her true identity, while everyone around her was against her. It’s a touching film that shows the struggles of a young girl, trying to find her identity and attempting to fit a gender stereotype that she does not want to conform to. The animation style is a bit different and I enjoyed how the colouring would change, from dream like detective sequence in black and white, to her reality being in colour. It felt like an old timey, spy film and it worked extremely well.

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Agatha Christie has had trouble making friends in the past and moving to a new city has made matters a bit more difficult for her. As she investigates the burglary, she finds her first suspect, named Vincent, she tries to figure out why he’s stealing, which eventually leads to a weird form of friendship. AC tries to navigate this investigation, while learning about friendship, it’s almost an adult story, masked as a children’s narrative. It was an interesting watch and everything slowly unfolded, so audiences could process everything going on in AC’s mind.

It was almost hard to watch at times because of how her family was treating her and her passion for detective work. She wanted to do what she loved but there was always something mean spirited said against her. As he friendship with Vincent began to grow, she would also have setbacks because she was trying to figure out his mystery but in the end, the bond of going through this journey together, trumped the fact that AC cracked the case.

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It also shows that young girls can be whoever they want to be and how parents can guide them on their journey of discovering their identity. Bengston also used a lizard as AC’s conscience throughout the film and has she got deeper into the case, the lizard grew larger. She kept the lizard locked away and it symbolized her self-doubt in the back of her mind. It showed the dark corners of her mind, through the shading and colours used to design the lizard.

Agatha Christine: Next Door Spy is an animated film with so many important issues being addressed for womanhood. It has great animation, a strong character arc for AC and the value of developing a friendship. It was a long, fun journey to go on and it had some of the coolest gadgets for detective work. It will teach young children to fight for themselves and who they want to become.

Trolls World Tour Review


by: Amanda Guarragi 

Trolls World Tour is a colourful and heartfelt sequel, which brings Queen Poppy (Anna Kendrick) and Branch (Justin Timberlake) back together to discover the history of the Trolls Kingdom. They discover that there are six troll scribes that are scattered around the kingdom, devoted to six different genres of music: Funk, Country, Techno, Classical, Pop and Rock. Queen Barb (Rachel Bloom) from the land of Rock wants to take over the entire Kingdom, by converting everyone into rock zombies.

The story is very well written because each genre of music stems from a certain culture and each land is modelled after the genre of music. It’s a lot of fun to go on the journey with Branch and Queen Poppy because of how the music eventually blends together. It is a bit slow at times because the focus is mainly on the musical medleys and some drag on more than others, or else the mixture of all these sounds is quite refreshing. The reason why Trolls works is because of how they remix the songs while still giving credit to the original sound.

I have to admit I really loved the Rock Trolls because of how dark and edgy they were. Their song choices were awesome and having Ozzy Osbourne cast as Queen Barb’s father was genius. They really captured the essence of rock in a kids movie, which is hard to do without going full punk rock. They covered “Crazy Train”, “Barracuda” and “Rock You Like A Hurricane” so well and Rachel Bloom knocked each song out of the park.

The whole point of Trolls World Tour is that everyone is unique in their own way. Each genre of music is different but is needed to blend different sounds together to make another form of music. They have used music kingdoms to represent different cultures and they actually acknowledge their differences. They addressed that the Pop genre has taken credit for the music that has come before it. Queen Poppy struggles with the idea of wanting everyone to get along and be the same but each troll has a unique musical spirit that should be acknowledged based on their culture.

I loved the integration of different music and the animation from DreamWorks was top tier. They use different animation when retelling stories from the past from the Trolls Kingdom and it flows so nicely from scene to scene. The cast in this sequel was jam packed and it was great to recognize some familiar voices like Kelly Clarkson, Mary J. Blige, Kenan Thompson and Sam Rockwell. It’s such a fun film and it has a beautiful story that creatively addresses how we all need to come together and celebrate each other’s differences, so we can live in harmony with music.

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.