‘Cruella’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Cruella is one of the best Disney live-action films to date. It has beautiful costume design, great camerawork, career-defining performances and a wicked soundtrack. This prequel is the one we didn’t know we needed. It is a bit darker than other Disney live-actions, but it’s so much fun to watch Stone dive into this character. The story is about young Estella (Tipper Seifert-Cleveland) who aspires to be a fashion designer. We see young Estella struggle with her identity, as she has a bit of a wild side that she doesn’t have control over. Estella has a tragic past and we get to see how she becomes Cruella.

Going into this film, I had very low expectations and I was pleasantly surprised with how much fun this film was. Cruella will have you hooked within the first ten minutes because of how fast-paced it is. We get a voiceover narration from Emma Stone and it sets the tone for the rest of Estella’s adulthood. The story was well-written and it worked for who Estella would grow into. Estella being a fashion designer worked perfectly and the wardrobe is absolutely stunning. We have Estella working for the Baroness (Emma Thompson), who takes her under her wing and uses majority of her designs.

The film unfolds quite nicely and the twists are perfectly placed. They aren’t over the top, or completely random, they really do work for the story and there are moments that will shock you. The cast is wonderful, Stone and Thompson are incredible together, their chemistry carried the film. It was so fun to watch them go back-and-forth and they give iconic performances. This is truly Stone’s best performance to date and she blew me away. Having two women on-screen, pull these performances out of each other was pure magic.

Craig Gillespie’s Cruella is one of the best films of the year! The London punk aesthetic works extremely well to give the visual edge to Estella and her world. What I found really interesting, is that the exterior world is so loud in its production design, that it feels like the characteristics of Estella’s alter ego, fills the screen, pulling her into this other world. The soundtrack works so well and some songs were reworked to fit certain scenes. The only issue is that it did run a bit long but this was such a treat. And make sure to stay for the post-credit scene, it will make you want a sequel even more!

Make sure to catch Cruella Friday, May 21st on Disney Premier Access or, if you’re lucky, on the big screen.

Amanda’s Picks: Oscars 2021 Predictions

Happy Oscar Sunday everyone! After a very long Oscar season, we are finally ready to award some great films. Truly never thought this season would be over. The work never stops though because we are always planning for the next season. I am very happy for all the nominees this year because there are some films that would normally fly under the radar and now they are getting recognition.

WHO WILL WIN WILL BE HIGHLIGHTED IN GOLD

WHO SHOULD WIN WILL BE HIGHLIGHTED IN PURPLE

So without further ado, here are my predictions:

Best Visual Effects

“Love and Monsters”

“The Midnight Sky”

“Mulan”

“The One and Only Ivan”

“Tenet”

PREDICTION: Tenet is the clear frontrunner here because of the practical effects. Love and Monsters is also something that could come in and swipe that away.

Best Director

Thomas Vinterberg (“Another Round”)

David Fincher (“Mank”) 

Lee Isaac Chung (“Minari”) 

Chloé Zhao (“Nomadland”) 

Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”) 

PREDICTION: Chloé Zhao has been sweeping award season and there is no doubt about it that she will be making history tonight with this win.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Sacha Baron Cohen (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”) 

Daniel Kaluuya (“Judas and the Black Messiah”) 

Leslie Odom Jr. (“One Night in Miami”

Paul Raci (“Sound of Metal”) 

Lakeith Stanfield (“Judas and the Black Messiah”)

PREDICTION: Daniel Kaluuya hands down. His performance in Judas and the Black Messiah is one for the history books.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Maria Bakalova (‘Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”) 

Glenn Close (“Hillbilly Elegy”) 

Olivia Colman (“The Father”) 

Amanda Seyfried (“Mank”) 

Yuh-jung Youn (“Minari”) 

PREDICTION: Yuh-jung Youn has had an incredible award season and her performance stole my heart!

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Riz Ahmed (“Sound of Metal”) 

Chadwick Boseman (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) 

Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”) 

Gary Oldman (“Mank”) 

Steven Yeun (“Minari”) 

PREDICTION: Chadwick Boseman is going to win and deserves to win because his performance was on another level this year. It was incredibly moving and very emotional. You could feel his passion for the words through the physicality in his performance.

Best Animated Feature Film

“Onward” (Pixar) 

“Over the Moon” (Netflix) 

“A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon” (Netflix) 

“Soul” (Pixar) 

“Wolfwalkers” (Apple TV Plus/GKIDS) 

PREDICTION: Soul is the obvious frontrunner because it is a beautiful Pixar film and the animation is stunning. However, Wolfwalkers is unique and there is an appreciation for the three-dimensional hand-drawn elements in its animaton. So it is a close one.

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Viola Davis (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) 

Andra Day (“The United States v. Billie Holiday”) 

Vanessa Kirby (“Pieces of a Woman”) 

Frances McDormand (“Nomadland”) 

Carey Mulligan (“Promising Young Woman”) 

Prediction: This is such a tough category and it is impossible to predict this year! I would be happy with either Davis or Mulligan winning but the edge on Mulligan.

Best Adapted Screenplay

“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.”
Screenplay by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Swimer, Peter Baynham, Erica Rivinoja, Dan Mazer, Jena Friedman, Lee Kern; Story by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Swimer, Nina Pedrad

“The Father,”
Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller

“Nomadland,”
Chloé Zhao 

“One Night in Miami,”
Kemp Powers 

“The White Tiger,”
Ramin Bahrani 

PREDICTION: The Father had a very strong script but I personally don’t think the execution elevated it at all. One Night in Miami is dialogue heavy and keeps you engaged from beginning to end.

Best Original Screenplay

“Judas and the Black Messiah.”
Screenplay by Will Berson, Shaka King; Story by Will Berson, Shaka King, Kenny Lucas, Keith Lucas

“Minari,”
Lee Isaac Chung 

“Promising Young Woman,”
Emerald Fennell 

“Sound of Metal.”
Screenplay by Darius Marder, Abraham Marder; Story by Darius Marder, Derek Cianfrance

“The Trial of the Chicago 7,”
Aaron Sorkin 

PREDICTION: The TOUGHEST category because they are all strong in their own way. Since Emerald Fennell has been getting traction off her WGA win, it’s only fair to assume that she has sealed the deal. Personally Judas and the Black Messiah had an incredible screenplay because of how intricate the story was and the dialogue.

Best Original Song

“Fight for You,” (“Judas and the Black Messiah”).
Music by H.E.R. and Dernst Emile II; Lyric by H.E.R. and Tiara Thomas

“Hear My Voice,” (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”). 
Music by Daniel Pemberton; Lyric by Daniel Pemberton and Celeste Waite

“Húsavík,” (“Eurovision Song Contest”)
Music and Lyric by Savan Kotecha, Fat Max Gsus and Rickard Göransson

“Io Si (Seen),” (“The Life Ahead”). 
Music by Diane Warren; Lyric by Diane Warren and Laura Pausini

“Speak Now,” (“One Night in Miami”). 
Music and Lyric by Leslie Odom, Jr. and Sam Ashworth

PREDICTION: Solely because of its Golden Globe win it is entirely possible that they follow suit. However, Leslie Odom Jr. created a beautiful song for One Night in Miami and if this movie wins anything, it needs to be this category.

Best Picture

“The Father”

“Judas and the Black Messiah”

“Mank”

“Minari” (SHOULD WIN)

“Nomadland” (WILL WIN)

“Promising Young Woman”

“Sound of Metal”

“The Trial of the Chicago 7″

PREDICTION: Nomadland has become the Oscar darling but it is not a well-rounded film. The technical aspects are the most important part of the film but the story was lacking. Minari was a well-rounded all American film with a beautiful family dynamic and it should be the winner this year.

Best Original Score

“Da 5 Bloods,” Terence Blanchard 

“Mank,” Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross 

“Minari,” Emile Mosseri 

“News of the World,” James Newton Howard 

“Soul,” Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Jon Batiste 

PREDICTION: Soul has it in the bag because of the mixture of jazz and electronic dance music. Truly some of Reznor and Ross’ best work.

Best Sound

“Greyhound”

“Mank”

“News of the World”

“Soul”

“Sound of Metal”

PREDICTION: Sound of Metal is a lock because of how they switched the frequency when Reuben was losing his hearing. You could understand what he was going through because you could heard the shift. Incredible work.

Best Costume Design

“Emma”

“Mank”

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”

“Mulan”

“Pinocchio”

PREDICTION: Realistically the competition is between Ma Rainey’s and Emma because they are period pieces and they looked beautiful on-screen. Do not keep Mank out of the conversation because it is old Hollywood glam.

Best Animated Short Film

“Burrow” (Disney Plus/Pixar)

“Genius Loci” (Kazak Productions) 

“If Anything Happens I Love You” (Netflix) 

“Opera” (Beasts and Natives Alike) 

“Yes-People” (CAOZ hf. Hólamói) 

Best Live-Action Short Film

“Feeling Through” 

“The Letter Room” 

“The Present” 

“Two Distant Strangers” 

“White Eye” 

Best Cinematography

“Judas and the Black Messiah,” Sean Bobbitt 

“Mank,” Erik Messerschmidt 

“News of the World,” Dariusz Wolski 

“Nomadland,” Joshua James Richards 

“The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Phedon Papamichael 

PREDICTION: As I said the technical aspects in Nomadland will take the gold for sure and the cinematography was beautiful. She really captured the scenic landscapes across the country. I did think Judas and the Black Messiah had such a unique style and camera work was very strong.

Best Documentary Feature

“Collective”

“Crip Camp”

“The Mole Agent”

“My Octopus Teacher”

“Time”

Best Documentary Short Subject

“Colette”

“A Concerto Is a Conversation”

“Do Not Split”

“Hunger Ward”

“A Love Song for Latasha”

Best Film Editing

“The Father”

“Nomadland”

“Promising Young Woman”

“Sound of Metal”

“The Trial of the Chicago 7″

PREDICTION: Again, it is Nomadland’s to lose because of the technical aspects. However, when it comes to editing pieces of music or instrumental scenes, I feel like Sound of Metal would be the better choice. Also, we can’t cancel out The Father either because of the cycle of consciousness fading in and out for the protagonist.

Best International Feature Film

“Another Round” (Denmark) 

“Better Days” (Hong Kong)

“Collective” (Romania) 

“The Man Who Sold His Skin” (Tunisia)

“Quo Vadis, Aida?”(Bosnia and Herzegovina) 

PREDICTION: Another Round has been taking the season by storm and the director is also nominated so that is saying a lot. However, after watching Better Days and interviewing the director, Derek Tsang, the execution and honest storytelling should give it the edge.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

“Emma”

“Hillbilly Elegy” 

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”

“Mank”

“Pinocchio”

PREDICTION: Viola Davis was completely transformed as Ma Rainey, so it’s only fitting that it would take this category. I can see Emma steal it here as it did have some good qualities about it.

Best Production Design

“The Father.” 

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”

“Mank.”

“News of the World.”

“Tenet.”

PREDICTION: The reason why The Father could win is because of how the production design changing paralleled the lead character’s descent into his illness. But, Ma Rainey’s design just felt rich in its colours and decoration with the only two rooms they had to work with. Again, do not count Mank out of the conversation.

If you haven’t voted yet, here is a prediction ballot link for the Oscars, thanks to The Academy. This is what it generated for me the other night. Yes, there are some changes but it’s still so difficult to choose.

Well there you have it! My full list of predictions. Let’s hope I get some right tonight. Let’s face it, even though we complain about the season, we always love to watch on Oscar Sunday.

‘The Father’ Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

The Father written and directed by Florian Zeller dives into the mind of an elderly man suffering with dementia. Anne (Olivia Colman) takes care of her father Anthony (Sir Anthony Hopkins) and begins to notice that he is slipping further away into this illness. She doesn’t know how to care for him properly, so she must find a way to make him as comfortable as possible and help him adapt to his surroundings. Zeller’s script would be interesting to read. After all, it is his play that he adapted to screen and I’m sure it is executed differently onstage. Even though the performances were absolutely brilliant, there was something that was lacking.

There were very strong moments between Coleman and Hopkins, very natural, emotional moments that candidly presented the illness. However, due to the execution of this script and the editing of the film, those moments got lost in the execution of the film. Of course, I can appreciate and understand what Zeller was attempting to do. He showed Anthony switch in-and-out of consciousness throughout the film but unfortunately, it hurt the narrative and the emotional connection to these characters. The film is more of a character piece than a clear narrative and that is completely fine but it doesn’t work as a film.

I truly would have loved to see this onstage because it would have had minimal production value and maybe even a smaller cast. It wouldn’t rely on the visual storytelling in regards to Anthony’s internalized mental struggle. The editing and the production design did work for the story Zeller was trying to tell and I commend him for trying something different. As we see Anthony fall into the depths of this illness, his surroundings begin to change; the flat that he lives in is slowly stripped away to reveal where he is actually living, in a care facility. It is a very interesting watch because of those elements, I just wish I could have connected to these characters a bit more.

The Father had incredible performances, especially from Sir Anthony Hopkins but the execution was flawed. The final scene of this film, where he attempted to explain what he was going through, was what should have been explored a bit more throughout. It felt like the conversations with his daughter Anne, took hold of his own emotional suffering and it would have been more effective to show that as well. That final scene brought me to tears and it is some of Hopkins’ best work as an actor. As someone who has seen what this illness can do firsthand, it did accurately show what happens to everyone involved in an interesting way and I respect what was done.

‘Yes Day’ Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

We have all experienced missed opportunities because we didn’t say ‘Yes’. We sometimes look back on our lives and regret dismissing certain opportunities because they didn’t feel right at the time. Depending on how adventurous you are, majority of people say ‘yes’, when they are eager to try something new. In Yes Day, we see Allison (Jennifer Garner) and Carlos (Edgar Ramirez) fall in love with each other because of their zest for life. At the beginning of their marriage, they went on adventures in the middle of the day, without a care in the world. Then… they had children and entered the world of ‘No‘.

Yes Day shows the shift from being a couple to being parents quite well. Children are a huge responsibility and once you have a child, or three in their case, your time and attention is no longer on the relationship. Allison and Carlos agree to do the ‘Yes Day’ challenge for 24 hours, where they have to say yes to everything. It is a fun concept with really wild moments throughout and the family dynamic worked really well. The Torres family go on their little adventure for the day and end up in situations they never would have imagined.

Courtesy of Matt Kennedy/Netflix Film

It was also great to see how there are different approaches to parenting and we see that when certain decisions are being made. For their children, Katie (Jenna Ortega), Nando (Julian Lerner), Ellie (Everly Carganilla) they all wanted the freedom to do what they want at a very young age. The main conflict of this film is that Katie wanted to go to a music festival, at fourteen with her close friend, without parental supervision. Now, we all know what happens at music festivals and her mom, does not want her to go at all. After a day of saying, ‘yes’ and realizing that her mother, is actually really fun and just wants the best for her kids, Katie ends up doing the mature thing.

Yes Day is a lot of fun, even with some pacing issues, it still has plenty of teachable moments for parents and children. The cast had great chemistry and they all brought something special to the table. The film drops on Netflix, Friday, March 12th and I challenge you to have a ‘Yes Day’ of your own this Friday! Say ‘yes’ to pampering yourself, for taking some time off and more importantly to have one day of fun! It is a light, wholesome film that is definitely needed to loosen everyone up during these crazy times.

Minari Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

For as long as cinema has been around, the theme of achieving the American Dream has always been evident. People come to America, thinking they could lead better lives, until they get there, and find that the system works against their people. What Lee Isaac Chung does in Minari, is show the struggle of one Korean-American family, trying to achieve the American Dream after moving to Missouri. Chung explores what goes into making a home, is it the location or the people you’re with? Both, Monica (Han Ye-ri) and Jacob (Steven Yeun) navigate their new life and explore the meaning of living.

The film begins with a beautiful scenic drive, capturing the beauty and richness of the land. Later showing that Jacob’s family would be living on farmland. The location of the farm was vibrant and showed the wonder of nature. Chung showed the roots of life, while Jacob’s family dealt with financial issues, family illness and an additional family member coming to live with them. The film highlights everyday situations that American families struggle with and Chung counters that with showing the importance of life’s natural resources.

The family dynamic consisting of Jacob, Monica, David (Alan S. Kim) and Anne (Noel Cho) worked really well. They were all great characters who had different connections with each other. We saw that Jacob and David were closer, Chung wanted to develop their connection in a very natural way and succeeded. The star of this film is little David. Alan S. Kim has such a wonderful presence on screen and added so much emotional depth to certain scenes. David has a heart condition that sets the viewer to worry about him during simple, everyday activities. David’s connection with his Korean grandmother, Soonja (Youn Yuh-jung) was the highlight of the film. We see how heritage can blend with American traditions and how a younger generations can learn to appreciate it.

Minari is a beautiful film that will keep you interested in their family dynamic with it’s very natural script. As the viewer you are examining the lives of this Korean-American family and learning how they approach living their everyday life. It is rooted in the American Dream but dives into the family structure about conforming to their surroundings. It isn’t until grandma Soonja comes in and changes their perception of what a home truly is. The family structure is challenged by financial and health issues but in the end, they realize there is nothing more important than the love shared between family.