Sound of Metal Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Sound of Metal is another film that pleasantly surprised me this year. It is such an inspiring film and it explores the lifestyle of the deaf community. It brings such authenticity and uniqueness in telling a story about someone losing their hearing. The reason why this film is being received so well is because of the choices that were made through the sound design of the entire piece.

The film is centered around a heavy metal band, called ‘Blackgammon’, which is just a drummer named Ruben (Riz Ahmed) and his girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke) on lead vocals. The film opens with the two of them performing at a venue and the music was blaring. The camera is focused on Ruben, as he listens to the cues and drums his heart out. As the camera cuts to a close up, the sound changes, the music changes and we see something change within Ruben.

Riz Ahmed gave a fantastic performance because of how intune he was with his character and the importance of delivering this important story. The performance was more reactionary because his mind was going through a change. Everything surrounding him felt different, the sounds were different and his perception changed. This film heavily relies on cues and the incredible sound design. For the general audience to truly understand the deaf community, the execution of the story was crucial and Darius Marder did a great job in creating a strong atmosphere to explore this character.

Courtesy of Caviar Ward Four
(left) Riz Ahmed and Olivia Cooke

Having a musician, especially a drummer, gradually lose his hearing as we watch him play his set, was heartbreaking. Ahmed had so many layers to his performance because of Ruben’s troubled past as an addict and holding the persona of a rockstar. Olivia Cooke also gave a great performance as Lou because of how understanding and emotional she was in order to help Ruben. Cooke and Ahmed had great chemistry and they shared key emotional moments in the film that really made their love for each other so believable.

Sound of Metal is one of the most important films to come out this year. Marder told an original and very unique story, that gave the deaf community proper representation. Due to its brilliant sound design, the film allows audiences to be fully immersed in the story because they are experiencing the realization of loss through Ruben. It has wonderful performances, an educational, heartfelt story and great direction from Marder.

White Lie Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

White Lie co-written and directed by Yonah Lewis and Calvin Thomas, dive into a character study of undergrad student Katie Arneson (Kacey Rohl) who has been faking her cancer diagnosis, in order to pool money for her own benefit. It is a dark film that spirals into the depths of the lies and the consequences that come from it. The most interesting takeaway is that young Katie doesn’t stop herself and sikes herself out, as she continues to tangle this web of deceit.

First and foremost, the lie itself is pretty unsettling to watch unfold, as it snowballs into something so uncontrollable and bigger than Katie. Secondly, Rohl’s complex and nuanced performance makes this character study so intricate. It allows the viewer to feel uncomfortable with her decision, without fully knowing if she is telling the truth because she is so convincing. It is also the persona that she puts on in front of different people such as, her significant other, her father, the doctors and her peers. She used everyone around her for her own advantage as she was telling this lie.

Courtesy of Rock Salt Releasing

At first you are definitely turned off by the idea that someone could lie about having cancer in order to fund her own goals. Then you really think about what she did and you question, if she is the only one to think of something likes this. Especially considering the world with live in and the desperation that comes with surviving in this economy. Halfway through the film, you have accepted that she is going through this lie, full force and you are interested in seeing how far she is willing to go. This film is a rollercoaster of emotions because of the many complications Katie faces.

White Lie is an interesting character piece and will have you question if there are people out there who would actually do this. Rohl gave a great performance and she brought forth an entire emotional spectrum when handling the lies. The story structure, camerawork and score all bring this film together to create a character that is so chaotic, which makes this film incredibly thought-provoking until the very end.

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.

Mank Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

We have been waiting for David Fincher to grace us all with a new film. A Fincher film is always bold with its characters, meticulous in its camerawork and is always elevated by its score. Mank definitely had all of those aspects going for it but unfortunately something was missing. It did not feel like a Fincher film. If you look at his filmography and watch Mank, it just feels so out of place. When I say that Mank is the equivalent to Citizen Kane (as it should) it is not necessarily a good thing. Citizen Kane has the expectation of being the greatest film of all time and it is one of the most divisive film because of the argument surrounding the status of the film.

Fincher is extremely talented because he does his research. Mank is a film that pays homage to the Classic Hollywood studio system while modernizing it for today’s audience. However, the arguments Fincher raises in Mank are quite contradictory in how he views the cinema experience today. Fincher is a cinema purist, he has said so himself, yet he made a film for a streaming service. In Mank it is expressed that the studios needed to follow the money, that is the way of the future and it still is. Everything that is said in Mank is reflective of how this year went. Whether it be the cinema experience, the studio’s adapting to a different model or politics, Fincher seemed to wrap it all together in a nice little bow.

Mank exists as a parallel to Citizen Kane, it is literally its counterpart. If you enjoyed Citizen Kane then you will most definitely enjoy Mank. If you’re like me and understand that the technological aspects and narrative structure of Citizen Kane is something to be admired but the film does not really grasp you in anyway emotionally, then you will feel the same way about Mank. Fincher’s camerawork was beautiful, the cinematography was stunning and the lighting in true Welles’ fashion was captured perfectly. There were so many lovely aspects in Mank but the screenplay was just so dull, (I find this ironic because the story is about a screenwriter) there were moments where Gary Oldman woke himself up to speak a bit louder, so you could understand where the story was going but it just fell flat.

Courtesy of Netflix

When it was first announced that Fincher was going to shed some light on Citizen Kane I knew the kind of movie it would be. Fincher was trying to prove a point with this film, he wanted to make a film that presented the best of cinema, the golden age because he dislikes the current state of it. The film is a technical feat and will be up for Oscars but this is the most surprising entry in his filmography. For some reason it’s like he played it safe but he also boldly created a film that the general audience won’t even gravitate towards. This film was made with the intention to educate people on who Mank was but there is a hidden agenda in the way he presents this story.

David Fincher finally made the Oscar bait film that we have all been waiting for. It has the Classic Hollywood glam, detailed dialogue discussing the state of the studio system and political undertones that parallel the current state of America. It is a film that will leave you feeling cheated and confused because it has two sides of Fincher, instead of the one we all know and love. There are many wonderful aspects in Mank, there just should have been something more and I just can’t put my finger on it.

Cake Day: A Story About Recovery With Filmmakers Phillip Thomas and Cameron Crosby


By: Amanda Guarragi

Cake Day is a short film that authentically highlights the journey of an addict. Cameron (Cameron Crosby) emotionally deteriorates, as he contemplates the consequences of honesty, on a day of celebration during one of his meetings. It is a poignant film that is directed with such care and honesty from everyone involved. It is important to handle this subject matter with the utmost respect, when generally retelling an experience that you may, or may not have been directly affected by. The centerpiece of this film is the meeting itself and that is why it is so special.

Director Phillip Thomas really wanted to present an emotional story that would speak to everyone. He wanted to be able to create a sense of empathy and understanding for those who have been struggling with an addiction. He managed to create a community within the film itself. It was comforting to watch this short film, knowing that the people behind the camera wanted to create this support system for its viewers,

You can’t tell an experience like this without having the authenticity and people around you to teach you what it is or else you’re going to fail. That was the whole point of the process of doing this short film, it was to make sure that I could in fact speak on behalf of people, that I haven’t experienced what they’ve experienced.”

– Phillip Thomas, Director of Cake Day

Thomas did his research and he went to different meetings with Cameron Crosby to help get a better understanding in how to tell this story. They only had three days to shoot this film and the bulk of the film takes place in one of the meeting rooms they actually attended. Thomas made sure to keep the exact same setup to make it feel authentic because normally there is no documentation of any meeting. In order to create a sense of community for his audience he needed to accurately create the atmosphere as well.

When collaborating with filmmakers, especially when discussing difficult subject matter, there is a support system that builds, when working with everyone without even realizing it. There are friendships that form when going through a creative process with others, even more so when the subject hits close to home. When getting into character, Crosby found it a bit challenging to get into the that headspace again, “To go into the headspace of the what if, what if that would happen to me and how I would react to it and like whether to move forward and try to get better.” Crosby gave an emotional, internalized performance because it came from such a personal space.

Courtesy of Superfan Pictures and Image Nation Films

Crosby wanted to be apart of a film that would send a positive message to anyone struggling, he was happy to work with Thomas because of all the care that went into the story,

“I think that’s an important message of the film just bc you take one step back doesn’t discount the 20 steps you made forward. Nothing was really uncomfortable because Phil set up such a great atmosphere, where I just felt safe and protected, which allowed me to get deeper and allowed me to get into that dark headspace.”

– Cameron Crosby, Cake Day

It’s incredibly important to have these honest conversations, where the filmmakers can go even deeper into the psyche of the character, to fully form a story that can be so personal. There is definitely a right way to tell these stories and that is what Cake Day does, it just captures this one day and expands upon the internal conflict of its lead character. Every aspect of the film, from the atmosphere to the fantastic score elevated the performances from the actors. It’s an important film that accurately depicts the struggle of being honest, not only with those around you, but with yourself.