Bad Education Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Cory Finley’s sophomore film, Bad Education is based off a real scandal that took place at the Roslyn school district in Long Island, New York. The Long Island superintendent Dr. Frank Tassone (Hugh Jackman) and his assistant Pam Gluckin (Allison Janney) are credited with bringing prestige to Roslyn. Finley’s masterfully directs this piece with precision and does not miss a beat when telling this story. The film shows fraudulent activity in the school system, while deconstructing the lives of these administrators.

Finley opens the film with Frank Tassone preparing to make his debut at the Roslyn school district. He walks through the halls and makes his way to the auditorium, where Big Bob Spicer (Ray Romano) introduces him. The moment we first see Frank, we get a sense that he’s going to do some good for this school district, his presence is inviting and he has a calm demeanor. As the story unfolds, we notice that Tassone is dedicated to make the school a better place for the children and wants to get feedback from the children. We see that Tassone’s friendship with Pam Gluckin is genuine and they have known each other for a long time. Finley plays off of subtleties on screen and allows the audience to calculate the subtext instead of spelling things out for them. I think that’s one of the reason’s he’s one of the most exciting directors working today.

He also chose to bookend the film and he did it by using the same sequence at the beginning of the film. The only difference is that Finley had Tassone walk out of a jail cell and up to the auditorium stage. In this moment, everything came full circle but his emotional connection to that memory has changed. Instead of feeling honoured that all these people were excited to have him in their school district, a wave of sadness came over him as he looked out into the crowd. In that moment, it felt like Tassone was trying to understand how it all started and why he did what he did. Hugh Jackman gave a fantastic performance and that final shot of him unleashing his pain was great. Life definitely throws curveballs and everyone wonders about the decisions they’ve made and if they’re the right ones.

Frank Tassone was also leading a double life and as the film went on, we begin to understand the life he had chosen to lead. Frank was very secretive and presented himself in the way he wanted others to see him. The same goes with Pam Gluckin, she had struggled in her own life with her family but with the way she carried herself, you couldn’t tell that anything was wrong. Allison Janney also gives another stellar performance alongside Hugh Jackman and their chemistry was very strong. The one thing that we can take away from this film, is that there are no bad people, just bad decisions based off of opportunity.

Bad Education is well written and executed with such finesse from Cory Finley. He has such a distinct eye when it comes to diving deep into the soul of his characters. It’s filled with dark humour, electric performances and leaves you thinking about how the education system can be flawed. Everyone can start out wanting to do the right thing, they would go to school and see what interests them enough to eventually pursue a career in that field. However, life does get in the way and opportunity and greed are things that often trump linear decisions.

 

The Longest War Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

The Longest War is directed by Emmy-winning director, Greg Barker and Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon. The documentary was televised right after the series finale of Homeland on Sunday night and unpacks the CIA’s long and morally complicated history in Afghanistan. This fight had been going on for two decades and the timeline that was shown, highlighting each President discussing the issue put the longevity of this war into perspective. The question that often arises is “Why were they there?” and this documentary definitely explores that jam packed question.

The documentary goes into the depths of the battle in Afghanistan by highlighting key moments, which made an impact for the trajectory of this war. It began with the United States stepping in, to get the Soviets out of the country by supplying them with weapons to fight extremist groups. After the Soviets left, Afghanistan had control of weapons and the country faced a Civil War with the Taliban emerging. Shortly after, Al Qaeda made its presence known and Osama Bin Laden was their leader.

During all this, President Bill Clinton was the Leader of the Free World and did nothing to stop this. It seemed as it was a domino effect because people question would question the aftermath of one decision. What if President Clinton went after him? Would things have been different? Would 9/11 have even happened? Would the U.S. Troops be there without cause or reason after 2 decades? These are the questions that are addressed in The Longest War and I was so invested in knowing the truth.

What I think was incredibly beneficial of the storytelling in this documentary was the detailed interviews on both sides of the fence. It was such a balanced discussion between CIA operatives, U.S Troops, Journalists and the Afghan people that it covered all the bases. At times, the editing allowed for two opposing answers, to counter each other and present an argument, without having those people face each other in the same room. The integration of stock footage was done seamlessly and showed the destruction of Afghanistan, by extremist groups and the United States.

Barker also highlighted the importance of Journalists and their bravery when reporting in warzones. Anyone who old the truth was at risk. The television station and media outlets that started production in Afghanistan after the US stepped in, were reporting on the Taliban and ended up losing thirteen people from their team to violence. The truth is, and always will be, a powerful tool and it’s up to Journalists and the media to cover history in the most honest way because their words will be remembered.

Afghanistan is a very young country and they are the future. They’ve only known what a war torn country looks like and have never been able to know peace with their own people. The battle in Afghanistan will forever be the most confusing, life altering and questionable battle that the United States had to endure. It doesn’t help that the CIA took matters into their own hands and made some very violent decisions when interrogating people in the extremist groups. What started out as a peace mission to redevelop Afghanistan, ended up being one of the most scarring events in U.S. history, which changed the way the United States was viewed by the world forever.

 

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.

How To Save Our Planet Through De-Extinction: An Interview With “We Are As Gods” directors Jason Sussberg and David Alvarado


By: Amanda Guarragi 

The world as we know it, has drastically changed and our planet has slowly deteriorated. There are so many aspects such as, industrialization, deforestation and pollution, which affect Global Warming and our climate is changing more rapidly than ever. It seems as if the vicious cycle of capitalism has made the global population forget about taking care of our planet. Recently I watched a documentary, which was supposed to premiere at SXSW this year, called We Are As Gods. It is an in depth look at Stewart Brand’s life and his interest in de-extinction. This documentary shows the reasons why our planet has been deteriorating and that humans are to blame for the current state we are in.

Co-Directors Jason Sussberg and David Alvarado wanted to shed light on Brand’s ideas of long-term thinking and how people could save the planet. “The idea of doing a feature film on Stewart’s remarkable life and controversial de-extinction project seemed so cinematic, fascinating, and urgent: we’re losing (and have lost) keystone species causing impoverished ecosystem; and humans are to blame.” It educates the viewers about the history of the Earth and the current state humans are living in. They showed that there is a possibility that useful sciences could eventually restore some sort of balance to our deteriorating planet.

The documentary shows the longevity of theories and that it takes one man, to create a hypothesis to counter scientists or environmentalists. I had asked Sussberg and Alvarado about their thoughts on the current state of the world, as we are living through a historical event with global pandemic COVID -19, causing panic and tragedy across the globe.

“It’s hard to answer this question while in the middle of a global pandemic and likely economic depression. It’s bleak and going to get a lot worse, before it gets better. We’ll lose friends and family to the virus, people will feel isolated and depressed, and then the economy is going to be destroyed for a while… Our minds are solely focused on survival in the immediate, but we need to think long-term to maintain civilization. All of the missteps so far (not testing early, not going on severe lockdown sooner, not mobilizing industry to build ventilators and protective equipment) were motivated by short-term thinking—making the markets happy and not grinding capitalism to a screeching halt. By thinking long-term, you make near-term sacrifices, knowing that the outcome will be better in the future—lives will be saved, the healthcare curve will be flattened, economies will rise again, and the overall health of civilization will be prosperous.” – Directors Jason Sussberg and David Alvarado

The title of the film, We Are As Gods is the opening line of The Earth Catalogue that Stewart Brand created in the late 60s. “As the title suggests, “We are as gods.” The second half of Stewart’s quote is “and we might as well get good at it.” Beyond environmentalism and conservation, this concept extends to the current crisis.” Sussberg and Alvarado link it to the current pandemic and how it came about, “Our global civilization created the ingredients for a pandemic to flourish. But our god-like powers (science and technology) will solve this problem. A COVID-19 vaccine is the only solution that will safeguard our civilization from a major contraction in life and prosperity.” It’s a simple quote that can be interpreted in so many ways and can definitely apply to anything.

We Are As Gods shows the future of biotechnology and how we, as a civilization, can move forward. As stated in the documentary, if we bring certain species back it will restore their own ecosystem and create a balance. Sussberg and Alvarado have put their faith in the restoration of these ecosystems and do believe de-extinction can work. This documentary about Stewart Brand’s life holds so much value because of his views on humanity, science and the entire planet.