One Night in Miami Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

One night, in 1960s Miami, four men come together from different professional backgrounds to discuss important social issues. Those men were Malcolm X (Kinglsey Ben-Adir), Cassius Clay (Eli Goree), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) and Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.). The majority of the film takes place in a motel room and the dialogue exchanged was gripping because of the incredible chemistry from the cast. The film is directed by Regina King and it is based on the stage play One Night in Miami written by Kemp Powers.

The structure of this film worked really well because it showed each character separately, living their lives and then they come together in Miami. That one night, the night Cassius Clay became the champ and beat Sonny Liston was a special night. Not only because Clay won, or Malcolm X joined him in front of the press, but the aftermath of that night and what it gave the world. It is a very simple film but the screenplay by Powers dives into many conversations and holds your attention the whole way through. The chemistry between the four of them was incredible and their performances were great.

(left) Leslie Odom Jr., Aldis Hodge, Kingsley Ben-Adir and Eli Goree
Courtesy of Amazon Studios

The conversations had between Sam Cooke and Malcolm X were interesting to listen to because they both approached Black power in a different way. Cooke wanted to learn the system and understand how to turn it inside out from the inside track, especially being in the music industry. Whereas Malcolm X wanted their community to unify and stand against the oppressor. Both ideals are right in their own way and it definitely created tension between the two of them. There were such strong moments from all four characters but Eli Goree stole the spotlight with his portrayal of Cassius Clay. We all know that Clay was cocky and outspoken but old footage doesn’t do him justice, so Goree’s performance was great to watch.

Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Regina King’s direction was subtle and effective. She took the stage play and made it her own. It felt effortless as everything flowed from scene to scene, even light conversations to deeper ones. Even though the film takes place in one room for majority of the runtime, it’s the dialogue that holds you and the way King focused on her actors. She brought out such fantastic performances and the way she moved them through each scene was strong. Plays that are adapted for the screen can sometimes be tedious and very static in their atmosphere but King explores every aspect of this one night.

One Night in Miami is a very strong directorial debut for Regina King. It highlights the Black experience and the history of these four important figures. The conversations shared between them are always necessary, even if they’re hard to discuss. Hearing them discuss their own experiences and what they wish for the future was very important. If you enjoy films with heavy dialogue and intellectual conversations about society then this is something that you will enjoy.

Promising Young Woman Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

This is the film of the year. This is a film that takes all of the typical “take a girl home” tropes and flips it on its head. It is bold, daring and incredibly dark but in all the right ways. Emerald Fennell’s screenplay and direction is impeccable. She knew the story she wanted to tell and how to execute it to perfection. Cassie Thomas (Carey Mulligan) has been seeking revenge for an incident that happened back in University and she is ruthless. Cassie has easily become one of my favourite characters of all time because of the way she carried herself in the film.

Promising Young Woman shows the treatment of women and the consequences that should come with it. We all figure that it is the year 2020 and well after the #MeToo movement, men would at least try to change their ways. But we continue to be disappointed, time and time again. This film is unlike anything I’ve seen and it is because of how the story is structured. It does slow down towards the middle of the film, only to pick back up and deliver one of the most controversial endings of the year. Some will agree with the ending and others will most definitely be infuriated. However, the ending of the film is the perfect reflection of how women are treated and what men deserve.

Carey Mulligan as Cassandra Thomas
Courtesy of LMKMEDIA and Focus Features

The story is just so well-written and the casting was perfect. We have never seen Carey Mulligan like this and that is why her name (and the film itself) deserves to be in the Oscar season mix. Mulligan gave such a thrilling, complex performance, she completely owned the role and understood Cassie so well. The supporting cast consisting of Bo Burnam, Alison Brie, Laverne Cox, Molly Shannon, Jennifer Coolidge and Connie Britton really brought so much to the table to make this film work. Everything about this film was perfect in my eyes and it will definitely spark a conversation, which is the most important thing.

Courtesy of Focus Features

There are moments in this film that have stayed with me long after I’ve watched it. These key emotional moments are placed perfectly to showcase Cassie’s talents and the underlying misogyny that is evident in society. The soundtrack that accompanies the film reflects Cassie’s journey and the songs are chosen extremely well. The score also juxtaposes what happens in certain scenes, which creates a sense of anticipation when watching Cassie have certain interactions with others. There is an undercurrent of tension prevalent throughout the whole film and it’s because every single aspect of this film works so well together.

Promising Young Woman is the film of the year. Carey Mulligan gives the performance of her career and should be highly praised for her work. The character of Cassie Thomas essentially symbolizes all women who have been treated poorly or have been involved in something much bigger. It felt like a gigantic middle finger to men everywhere and it is a film that will leave its mark on you. Emerald Fennell’s film is crafted incredibly well to give everyone a sense of empowerment while serving justice to all.

Nomadland Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

ChloĆ© Zhao’s Nomandland takes the audience on a journey through the American landscape, after Fern (Frances McDormand) loses everything in the Great Recession. She embarks on a journey of re-discovery as a van-dweller and finds solace in the community. Zhao’s direction and storytelling is mesmerizing and captures the subtleties of living.

What was so interesting about this film was the conversation surrounding the American economy and how retired workers choose to live, after they’ve been a slave to capitalism their entire lives. We, as people, lose sight of what is the most important because we are working in order to survive. Zhao choosing to focus on vandwellers was really eye-opening and hit such emotional chords. There’s such a human connection to this film and its characters, that the viewer will understand the decisions made by Fern and the rest of the community.

Frances McDormand as Fern
Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

The film is beautifully shot and the cinematography is the clear standout, the picturesque landscapes fill the screen, as we join Fern on her journey. It is a stunning film and it is understandable why so many people connected to it but it just was not for me. Frances McDormand carries this film and gives another wonderful performance but again, nothing really stood out for me. Zhao delivered on the technical aspects and her ability to ground her characters in a very humanistic story.

Nomadland is definitely the darling of the festival circuit and has every right to be. It has a strong story, beautiful imagery and a sense of peacefulness for its characters. Zhao is a beautiful filmmaker and has a great future ahead, she is a wonderful storyteller and raises strong questions about life after loss. The film is peaceful, yet draining because of the intimate, emotional conversations shared with its characters.

How Adult Themes Can Be Elevated Through Stop Motion Animation: An Interview With Josephine Lohoar Self


By: Amanda Guarragi

There are many ways filmmakers have incorporated themes of grief, love and loss in their films. In The Fabric of You, writer and director Josephine Lohoar Self uses stop motion animation, to create emotional connections through memories. The film is set in the Bronx, where we are introduced to Michael, a gay, twenty-year-old mouse, who hides his true identity, while he works as a tailor. When Isaac enters the shop one day, he changes Michael’s perspective and their relationship blossoms. The film is presented by the Scottish Film Talent Network and funded by the BFI and Creative Scotland. The film had its world premier at The 2019 Edinburgh Film Festival as part of The New British Animation 2 Strand.

The concept of the film was inspired by the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel Maus by American cartoonist Art Spiegleman. The novel recounts the experiences of the author’s father, during the Holocaust with drawn wide-eyed mice, representing Jewish people and menacing cats as Nazis. It spoke to Lohoar Self, “I used it as a catalyst for looking at stop motion animation as a way of telling more adult themes and seeing it as a vehicle for themes of grief and memory.” this is what the film does so well. The memories that Michael reminisces about throughout his day cut into his everyday activities. They can be happy memories or traumatic ones and it is all framed in how he processes those moments.

Michael

Lohoar Self has a Fine Arts background and wanted to incorporate her artistic knowledge as a painter through animation. She is skilled in telling stories through her paintings and wanted to combine that with her love for filmmaking,

“I enjoy working with like-minded creative people, so painting for me was sort of isolating. This was a great collaborative, creative experience with film and animation. That’s what it offers and I was particularly drawn to stop motion animation because of that.”

She felt that stop motion animation could explore different levels because of the endless possibilities that can be created in that space. There are moments that can be altered through memories in time and space, “I think I was really interested in exploring how grief affects memory and how memories are affected after someone passes on.” Lohoar Self said. There are moments in The Fabric of You that cut through Michael’s everyday activities to show that he misses his partner. Those were powerful moments because anyone who has suffered a loss will understand how Michael is feeling.

Michael and Isaac

There are waves of sadness that can hit you at the most random moments because a small thing could remind you have that person and that is what this film does so well. Lohoar Self wanted to present the complexities of those feelings through different plains, “I thought it would be fun to draw the parallels between people seeing objects and memory and also cutting between three different layers of reality, imaginary and fantasy.” She also used a singular object, a button, to create a profound moment between Michael and Isaac.

Lohoar Self wanted to create a deeper, emotional connection between Isaac and Michael by using the buttons as a representation of individuality. Fashion is something that can define you as a person, Lohoar Self goes onto say, “Fashion can be a form of expression, so I think for me, fashion as a concept in the film was quite important, as a way of revealing your identity and revealing who you are but also a way of hiding it and concealing it.” Isaac accepted Michael for who he was and the button symbolizes something entirely different halfway through the film. The importance of that particular object being tied to a memory is what makes this film emotional.

The Fabric of You uses stop motion animation to explore themes of love and grief through different plains. The narrative structure allows the audience to process the important memories as Michael does, his emotional spectrum is put on display and affects his everyday life. The film is assembled to draw in the viewer with its quick editing and fantastical elements, while retelling a traumatic story that can resonate with everyone. There is so much that can be done with animation and to be able to use a different form, to express adult themes, can really help audiences process their feelings.

How the Female Experience is Depicted in the Short Film “Twist”: An Interview with Aly Migliori


By: Amanda Guarragi

Women have shared so many similar experiences with each other for many years and there have been films that have truly captured the female experience. The short film Twist, written and directed by Aly Migliori, analyzes the loss of innocence in this coming of age thriller. It takes the female experience and tells a universal story that women know a little too well. Migliori gives a fresh take and elevates the experience through the use of colours, lighting, minimal dialogue and the score.

Migliori wanted to put these character in a space and in this heightened period all in one night, “I wanted to show the consequences, the learning, the growth and kind of feeling the loss of innocence without any kind of explicit blame or anything. It’s a pretty impactful moment for her, it’s pretty innocuous for the others.” The film takes place at night as a teenager named Hannah (Helena Howard), finishes work at her local ice cream parlour and she walks home alone at night. A car, with three boys pulls up right beside her and they convince her to get in, so they can drive her home.

She takes this universal story, this universal experience and makes a great thriller while addressing a young girls first encounter with the dangers of being a woman. Naming the film Twist was extremely clever because it’s an entendre. Migliori played with the idea of the expectations of the title, both literally and how everything unfolded at the ice cream parlour. She goes on to say that, “The ice cream parlour, this very Americana ice cream parlour has connotations with American nostalgia, American childhood and kind of American censorship. I think this story is kind of resisting that mythology, while playing with it.” That is why the ice cream parlour as the centerpiece of the film worked so well. It felt like a wholesome location because of the nostalgia tied to everyone’s childhood and then Migliori turned it into a place that has scarred its lead character.

Courtesy of First Hunt Films

What was most impressive was how the score elevated the moment Hannah realized what was happening and how this moment would affect her for the rest of her life. All women remember the one moment where everything changed, when their perception of the world, of boys, changed. The score had this teenage pop angst as Migliori described with a sinister undertone that completely worked with Howard’s performance. The connection was so raw and it forces the viewer to remember that specific moment in their own lives.

What really tied everything together was the cinematography and the use of lighting. The choice to light up the ice cream parlour and make that the standout while keeping everything else around the parlour in darkness worked very well. There were bright reds used at the beginning of the film and then as the film got deeper into the story, it got darker, “The red takes on a much darker meaning later on, as the story progresses we’re still using the same colour palette, we’re just shifting it darker and she’s kind of growing up and losing her rose coloured glasses on all of the elements of the female experience.” Watching Hannah go through that experience and having all of these elements change with her made a huge impact.

Twist is a short film that offers so much in such a short period of time. It dives into the female experience and leaves you questioning the moments in your own life. All women have a similar story and no, that is not an exaggeration. Aly Migliori delivers on all fronts and her biggest aspirational takeaway is that hopefully some people find a certain parallelism in their own experiences and feel heard, while also truly enjoying this story.