Oscars Postponed to April 2021


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Since the beginning of this pandemic, the Entertainment Industry has been in constant motion and have been changing dates, for majority of the films slated for 2020. Earlier today, the Television Academy announced, that the ‘Creative Arts Emmys’ will go virtual, the annual Governor’s Balls that follow those shows and the Primetime Emmys will be canceled for the first time in history. Since the Emmys and the Oscars telecasts are both on ABC, negotiations had to be made for the Academy Awards as well.

The Academy tweeted out an information card with the changed date for the Oscars telecast, as well as a change in the eligibility dates for films that could meet the standard guidelines.

Screen Shot 2020-06-15 at 5.01.00 PM

courtesy of @TheAcademy on Twitter

 

First on the list of ‘Key 93rd Oscars Dates’ is the Awards Eligibility. So from January 1st, 2020 – February 28th, 2021 films released during that period, will have a fair opportunity to possibly get a nomination. Seems fair right? Well, extending the eligibility date, means that the films that came out earlier this year such as, The Invisible Man, Emma, The Way Back, The High Note, Capone and Da 5 Bloods will have a more difficult time campaigning because of their release date. The cut off is around November 20th, so films that are released past that date, would normally, never make the cut. So The Academy, is tacking on 3 extra months of content in that time frame.

Second on the list is the Shortlist Announcement on February 9th, 2021. This means that there will be a very long list of possible nominees, that will be condensed in to each category, eventually becoming official nominees. This also means that the campaigning will be very different for the rest of the year. Films that came out earlier this year, should not be forgotten and the hype for each of those films, needs to be mentioned, time and time again, closer to that date. The films that I listed above, by the time next year comes, will definitely be considered a long shot because now all the postponed films have been crammed into those months.

Third on the list is the Nominations Announcement on March 15th, 2021. Every year, the Oscar Nominations day is filled with plenty of snubs and actors nominated in the wrong category. It is always a messy day because films that should have been recognized, usually don’t make the cut and they are almost always, independent films (Honey Boy and Uncut Gems)  that fly under the radar. This day is going to be much different than previous years because of the extension and the bias towards films that were released on streaming platforms or VOD.

Fourth on the list is the Oscar Sunday telecast, now being held on April 25th, 2021. This is a massive jump from the regular February/March timeslot. It is so deep in the year, that it may cause issues for other award ceremonies that come before it. What does this mean for the Critics Choice Awards, Golden Globe Awards and the SAG Awards? How do they fit into the calendar that well all know so well? The BAFTAs have already changed their date to April 11th, 2021 but the rest of the pre-Oscars telecasts have not released a statement.

Lastly, the long awaited Academy Museum will officially open on April 30th, 2021. When it opens, the Museum will be the premier institution dedicated to the arts and science of movies. The Academy Museum will offer exhibitions and programs highlighting the world of cinema. They will also present year round calendar of screenings, film series, members programs, panel discussions and family programs. Programs will include retrospectives and thematic series that present the artistic and cultural contributions from filmmakers all over the world.

Many of us have already made a shortlist of the best films that could possibly be nominated, for Oscars in 2021. There are definitely more films to add but in this article How The 2021 Oscars Will Look, If It Doesn’t Get Postponed, I go into detail and breakdown the possible nominations list for the films that are eligible. There are plenty more films to watch, so it is time to start writing down the list of possible Oscar contenders because it is going to be a very long season.

Hot Docs 2020 Selection: Love & Stuff Interview with Judith Helfand


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Love & Stuff  is a deeply personal documentary on motherhood and the cycle of life. Peabody Award winning filmmaker Judith Helfand, documented her terminally ill mother’s final moments, at home-hospice before she passed. In this feature, Helfand continues the story that she began two decades ago, with Healthy Baby Girl (Sundance, Peabody 1997) through these films, Helfand adds emotional layers, by openly discussing her own traumas, addressing grief by using dark humour and reflecting on the power of family.

Judith and her mother, just wanted more time to spend with each other. Time is something so valuable and we often take it for granted. “There’s so many things that she probably wanted to tell me, that she couldn’t find the language for, it’s really hard to say, here is my life long lesson, here’s what I want you to know before I die, here’s what I think you need to know.” said Helfand about having discussions with her late mother. Watching a loved one pass away is extremely difficult and emotional. How do we even calculate time? We tend to get whisked away into our busy lives and forget what it is like to spend time with our loved ones. Then for some reason, we ask for more time when we know it’s too late.

It is something that I’ve often questioned about elders, all they want to do is pass down their knowledge and experiences before they leave us. Why do they feel the need to do this at the end of their life? Do we only start listening when they are about to pass because we did not think of paying attention to the stories before?

“They want to give you advice, the stuff that you never wanted to listen to, they were probably right about. They want to keep this connection possible and if they never had a chance to do that, whether they were working too hard or your relationship was on the rocks or something like that, I think that they want the time and the space to be able to try and fix that before they die.” – Judith Helfand 

That is the most wonderful thing about Love & Stuff it takes these conversations about death and turns them into life lessons, so others can understand how to approach the end of their loved ones life. It is a cathartic piece, not only for Helfand but for everyone that worked on the film. It presented a safe space for everyone who had lost someone. “I mean it just started out as a way, for me to not be alone with what I knew. What could be a very private universal moment and by private I mean, I’m not letting others into our life, and into this moment, and into our space, into our home and into our hospice, but I did the opposite.” Helfand wanted everyone to be present for her mother’s passing, in order to give them time to say goodbye.

Helfand’s mother, like every mother, wanted what was best for her daughter and it was revealed that Judith could not bear any children of her own. So the connectivity to motherhood, was the strongest part of this feature because at a time where Judith needed her mother, to guide her through the adoption process and in raising her daughter, she had passed away. “The thing that my mother wanted the most at the end of her life, was the thing my daughter wanted at the beginning of hers and that’s time. My mother just wanted time and my kid just wants to play, she just wants time.” Helfand believes that her daughters birth, was a gift from her mother after she passed and that full circle connectivity is the heart of Love & Stuff. 

This film helps viewers re-evaluate their own connection with their parents or loved ones. Helfand had 2 and a half years to prepare for her mother’s death and it was important to her, to find away to utilize that time. “I wanted to figure out how to keep her in my life and keep our conversation dynamic, even if it wasn’t current and present. It could be ongoing and I wanted to figure out how to be a mother, without having a mother and I felt like all that material was locked inside an archive, and I needed to get to it, as soon as I could.” This feature is incredibly emotional because of the raw, human connection the viewer has with Helfand, as she goes on this journey with her mother.

Helfand made a follow up video to Love & Stuff, called Absolutely No Spitting and it shows the journey of her, now 4 year – old daughter Theo taking a DNA test to discover her ancestry. What starts out as a factual journey, turns into a path of self discovery and acceptance for young Theo. The love shared between Helfand and Theo is very quirky and heartfelt. Helfand shared her own ancestry with Theo and she will continue to explore value in the people around her. She identifies her daughter’s Blackness and incorporates that into her Jewish ancestry.

 

 

‘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.

The Hollywood Shift: What Does The Future Hold For Movie Theatres?


By: Amanda Guarragi

For the past couple of years the film industry has been gradually shifting and we know where it’s heading. Streaming content has finally become a major player in the industry,  whether the films are on; Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO Max or Disney Plus, these major streaming platforms have acquired films from major studios, produced their own or found independent films to distribute. Streaming platforms have been silently progressing and they have changed the moviegoing experience entirely.

News broke out earlier this week that the Oscars will consider films that didn’t play in theatres as a part of the new Academy rules. However, there are guidelines as to how this would play out for Oscar season, Marc Malkin for Variety breaks it down, “To be considered, the streamed film must have already had a planned theatrical release. The film must also be made available on the Academy Screening Room member-only streaming site within 60 days of the film’s streaming or VOD release.” This is a welcomed change for independent films that only have a limited theatre release and head straight to streaming.

That wasn’t the only discourse the made headlines though. It was a huge week for the film industry as Trolls World Tour released it’s PVOD earnings, it took in $100 million in premium DVD rentals in its first three weeks of play in North America. The film apparently made more on VOD than the first instalment, which had a five month run in theatres. This raised a lot of eyebrows because of the profit it made in one month on VOD vs a 5 month run in theatres. CEO of NBCUniversal, Jeff Shell made this statement following the success of the film, “The results for ‘Trolls World Tour’ have exceeded our expectations and demonstrated the viability of PVOD. As soon as theaters reopen, we expect to release movies on both formats.” The reason why this is such a huge deal for studios is that they can create a bridge between theatrical releases and accessibility through streaming internationally.

However, the excitement of that news, was overpowered by movie theatre chains disagreeing with Universal’s decision to release their films on both formats. It first upset AMC, which is the largest theatre chain in the United States (who is also on the verge of bankruptcy) because they obviously want content to exclusively play at their theatres. They were clearly upset, they countered Shell’s statement and said that they would no longer show any Universal Studios pictures at their theatre. Not only did they decide to boycott Universal, but so did Regal, Odeon and now Cineworld in the United Kingdom. These are all major theatre chains boycotting a studio that has No Time to Die, Jurassic World: Dominion, Minions: The Rise of Gru and Fast & Furious 9 slated for a 2020/2021 release in theatres.

If you read the statement from Jeff Shell again, he did not say that there would be no theatrical release of the studios films. He just said, due to the success of Trolls World Tour on VOD, it would be a great business decision to do both. It’s a very simple statement that allows the rest of the studios to see how this formula could work moving forward. Warner Brothers is releasing Scoob! straight to VOD and Disney is moving Artemis Fowl to Disney Plus, are they also violating the code that AMC is apparently following? Why isn’t AMC going after them? What was so wrong in what Jeff Shell said?

I have been saying that we need to bridge theatrical and streaming together because it’s the future. The reason why people aren’t going to the theatres regularly is because the prices for tickets and concessions are way too high. Sure, it’s fine if you’re one person going to watch a movie, but the issue is that families are spending over $100 for one outing to the theatre. Majority of moviegoers only watch event/franchise films and those only come out once/twice a month. What Universal plans to do, will change the face of the industry and it has been a long time coming.

So, are movie theatres dying? The answer is no. The moviegoing experience will never die and it’s because people enjoy going out. Movie theatres will always be apart of the Entertainment experience. Whether it’s a date, a girls night, family movie night, alone time to catch that indie no one wants to watch with you or a massive event film that you want to experience in IMAX, movie theatres will never die, the studios just need to change their approach. If theatre chains don’t want to make their prices more affordable, then studios will create the accessibility to their films through VOD or streaming platforms.

This response from AMC and the rest of the theatre chains is just fear. It’s fear that the industry is changing and they feel like the entire experience will vanish. Were people scared to release talkies during the silent film era? Were people scared to switch over to Technicolour from black and white? Were people scared to film with IMAX cameras or in 3D? Were people scared to switch from film to digital? Were people scared to release their film on Netflix? The answer is yes, but look at how much the industry has accomplished. If the pioneers of cinema didn’t push the boundary, we wouldn’t have what we have now.

This is just the tip of the iceberg in regards to what movie theatres are going to go through during this period of time. Due to the COVID 19 pandemic, there is no date as to when this will be over and movie theatres will be open. It could take as long as a year to come up with a vaccine and the most important thing is to keep everyone safe. Opening theatres prematurely because you want to make money is a very inconsiderate thing to do. If studios can give people new content as a form of escapism from their reality, I think it would help so many people because then they have a little something to look forward to.