Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is a fun Netflix Original Film, that takes Lars Erickssong (Will Ferrell) and Sigrit Ericksdottir (Rachel McAdams) on a musical journey, to the iconic Eurovision stage, in order for them to achieve their goals. The film captures the essence of Eurovision perfectly and shows the world united through music. Director David Dobkin, does some great work in this film with his musical numbers and song choices throughout. It is a typical Will Ferrell movie and that should be taken into consideration, before anyone watches it.

It starts out as a dream for young Lars, who hears ABBA on television for the first time ever and starts dancing in his living room in front of his family. He is so overjoyed by their music because of their Icelandic heritage, finally being represented on screen, at the Eurovision main stage. His family laughs at him and his dream but Lars stops at nothing to get what he wants. Lars and Sigrit have been together since they were kids and have been singing as a duo, named ‘Fire Saga’ for a very long time. Lars, as a middle aged man, finally thinks he has the perfect song to enter for Eurovision and Sigrit joins him on this crazy journey.

It is a simple story about a small town dreamer, making his way to the big stage, with some magical elves helping him along the way. It was pretty humorous to see Sigrit bringing goodies, to the magical elves and hoping they bring them luck for Eurovision. With the magical elves being a prominent spirit in this film, they conveniently placed disastrous events so Lars and Sigrit could advance in their journey. Yes, this movie is very unrealistic but it is so much fun and the humour definitely distracts you from impossible situations.

The entire cast is really strong and the chemistry between Lars and Sigrit was great! There were many surprises with the performances, especially Dan Stevens as Alexander Lemtov, who was the Russian singer in the competition. He was just so electric in this role and I don’t think he has ever been better. Rachel McAdams was also really strong in this and was stunning as per usual. Will Ferrell was being Will Ferrell, I missed seeing him in this kind of role because that’s where he truly shines. If you do not like his humour, then this movie isn’t for you.

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga has its comedic moments and will keep you intrigued because Eurovision is that exciting. There is plenty of drama, great song medley’s that will surprise you and a couple of cameo’s, that will make you do the Rick Dalton, pointing at the screen meme. The costume design was probably one of my favourite aspects about this as well because each country had their own design. It is vibrant, energetic, funny and what Eurovision is all about, bringing people together through music.

Da 5 Bloods Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Da 5 Bloods is one of Spike Lee’s most mature film to date. He has taken every little detail, theme and ideology, that he has used throughout his filmography and expertly incorporated them into one film. Lee is known to use archival footage, still photos and historical moments in his films to express the urgency in the story he chooses to deliver. Da 5 Bloods takes place in present day America and has 4 African American veterans, returning to Vietnam. They are on a mission to find the remains of their fallen Squad Leader and the gold fortune he helped them hide, all those years ago.

The wonderful thing about Spike Lee, is that he makes you fall in love with his characters in the first act of the film. In the second act, he shows you their pain, flaws and grievances. Then in the third act, he exposes his characters, like an open wound, to the world that has so deeply wronged them, time and time again. Paul (Delroy Lindo), Otis (Clarke Peters), Eddie (Norm Lewis) and Melvin (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) were veterans who understood, the battle they were fighting in Vietnam, was not theirs to fight because of the systemic racism that was oppressing their rights in America. Whose rights were they fighting for exactly?

It is a film, like every other Spike Lee film, that unloads accurate information about Black history. Lee has never shied away from telling it like it is and has always managed to show every perspective on racial ideologies. Paul, was a Trump supporter, MAGA hat and all. They discussed his decision in voting for the President, or as Spike Lee likes to call him, “Agent Orange” and his political stance quite openly. He has always addressed things head on and it is truly something to be admired in his films. He wants his audience to learn and to grow with him.

Apart from this script being perfectly written, Spike Lee really enjoys using his camera, he uses the lens to tell the story in such a unique way. My favourite thing about this film is the transitions to flashbacks. Normally, switching aspect ratios throughout the film can be taxing but Spike Lee made sure to make it as smooth as possible. The frame would change each time Stormin Norman (Chadwick Boseman) was on the screen and it worked so well! The colour grading and vintage, war time feel to the sequenced flashbacks were really effective as well.

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Courtesy of Netflix Film:  (left) Delroy Lindo and Clarke Peters

Many may question the events that unfold in the third act but it holds so much symbolism. These men fought in the Vietnam war, three tours and they made it out alive. They return to the forests of Vietnam, that are still filled with landmines and they have to navigate through them, in order to find the hidden treasure. These veterans suffer from severe PTSD, especially Paul. Delroy Lindo gave an exceptional performance and it is the best of the year. He was incredible. To go back to the place, that gave them nightmares and experience it all over again, was brutal and extremely emotional.

Another thing that may seem foreign to so many people, is that Spike Lee made the artistic choice in keeping his main actors for the flashback scenes. Normally, they would cast younger versions of their counterparts but in this case it worked very well. Spike Lee really wanted his audience to understand that these veterans, were going back to a time that broke them down. So to literally, see them fighting, at their current age, alongside their deceased friend, Stormin Norman felt more personal.

Da 5 Bloods holds so much emotional weight for Black veterans. They all show their pain and suffering in such powerful ways. Each character is very opened with their struggles and I think that is such an important thing for men to share with each other. Spike Lee breaks down toxic masculinity through brotherhood, loyalty and a shared wartime trauma. It is one of the most profound and deeply moving films of the year. This film will be broken down and analyzed for years to come.

 

How The 2021 Oscars Will Look, If It Doesn’t Get Postponed


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Every year there are films lined up for Oscar season and some films that are sprinkled across the year, hoping to be standouts in order to be in the running. In 2020, the world has faced a global pandemic which has changed the way we live. It has also changed the way most industries operate. The Entertainment Industry has definitely felt this shift, due to the fact that movie theatres are now closed and it is unclear as to when they will reopen. Everything is up in the air and only a handful of films will be released this year, so the big question is… how are the Oscars going to work?

In a recent Variety article, Marc Malkin says that the Oscars may be postponed. The sources, who chose to remain anonymous, stated that “Definitive plans are far from being concrete at this juncture. The telecast is currently set for Feb. 28, 2021, on ABC.” The sources, who have been close to the subject, said that it will most likely be postponed. There could be potential new dates but they haven’t been fully discussed yet or properly mapped out. There were new (temporary) rule changes for Oscar eligibility released in April because of COVID -19.

“The board of governors approved a temporary hold on the requirement that a film needs a seven-day theatrical run in a commercial theater in Los Angeles County to qualify for the Oscars.” says Marc Malkin from Variety. As long as the film had a planned theatrical release, it is still eligible for an Oscar nomination. It doesn’t mean that any film premiering on a streaming service is eligible. With this shift in the moviegoing experience, it seems fitting to change the guidelines temporarily, so films that had a planned theatrical release and are currently going straight to VOD, can have the same chance in getting nominated.

If the Academy already changed the guidelines, because they sympathized with the filmmakers, who worked so hard in getting their film out there and making the conscious choice to STILL release it on VOD, why are they planning on postponing it? What was the point in changing the guidelines, if you’re about to change the game entirely? How does postponing the Oscars benefit any of the films/filmmakers?

These are the questions that I’m curious to know the answers to. There are films that have been (and will be) released this year that are eligible and “worthy” enough of an Oscar run, so why not give them an even chance? If they choose to postpone the Oscars, won’t there be double the films to choose from, in order to hand out that golden statue? Are the categories going to include 10 nominees, instead of 5, because there are more films to cover? It doesn’t seem like the best move.

These are the films that could possibly be nominated for Oscars for the 2021 season:

  • Emma 
    Best Actress: Anya Taylor Joy
    Best Cinematography: Christopher Blauvelt
    Best Director: Autumn de Wilde
    Best Adapted Screenplay: Eleanor Catton
    Best Original Score: Isobel Waller-Bridge & David Schweitzer


  • The Way Back 
    Best Actor: Ben Affleck
    Best Director: Gavin O’Connor
    Best Original Screenplay: Brad Ingelsby


  • The Invisible Man 
    Best Picture: Jason Blum & Kylie du Fresne
    Best Actress: Elisabeth Moss
    Best Director: Leigh Whannell
    Best Original Screenplay: Leigh Whannell
    Best Original Score: Benjamin Wallfisch
    Best Editing: Andy Canny


    Best Visual Effects:
    The Invisible Man 
    Wonder Woman 1984
    Tenet
    Dune
    Sonic the Hedgehog


  • Never Rarely Sometimes Always 
    Best Actress: Sidney Flanigan
    Best Original Screenplay: Eliza Hittman
    Best Cinematography: Hélène Louvart
    Best Director: Eliza Hittman


    Best Animated Feature: 
    Sonic The Hedgehog
    Onward
    Scoob!
    Trolls World Tour
    Soul



  • Tenet 
    Best Picture: Christopher Nolan & Emma Thomas
    Best Director: Christopher Nolan
    Best Actor: John David Washington
    Best Supporting Actor: Robert Pattinson
    Best Original Screenplay: Christopher Nolan
    Best Original Score: Ludwig Göransson
    Best Editing: Jennifer Lame


  • The French Dispatch 
    Best Picture: Wes Anderson, Steven Rales & Jeremy Dawson
    Best Director: Wes Anderson
    Best Original Screenplay: Wes Anderson
    Best Original Score: Alexandre Desplat
    Best Cinematography: Robert Yeoman


  • Capone 
    Best Director: Josh Trank
    Best Original Screenplay: Josh Trank
    Best Actor: Tom Hardy
    Best Supporting Actress: Linda Cardellini
    Best Cinematography: Peter Deming


  • Da 5 Bloods (Netflix)
    Best Picture: Jon Kilik, Spike Lee, Beatriz Levin & Lloyd Levin
    Best Director: Spike Lee
    Best Cinematography: Newton Thomas Sigel
    Best Original Score: Terence Blanchard
    Best Editing: Adam Gough
    Best Adapted Screenplay: Danny Bilson, Paul De Meo, Spike Lee and Kevin Willmott


  • Mank (Netflix) 
    Best Picture: David Fincher, Ceán Chaffin, Eric Roth and Douglas Urbanski
    Best Director: David Fincher
    Best Adapted Screenplay: Jack Fincher
    Best Actor: Gary Oldman
    Best Supporting Actress: Amanda Seyfried
    Best Original Score: Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
    Best Cinematography Erik Messerschmidt
    Best Editing: Kirk Baxter


  • Dune
    Best Picture: Mary Parent, Cale Boyter, Joe Caracciolo Jr. and Denis Villeneuve
    Best Director: Denis Villeneuve
    Best Adapted Screenplay: Jon Spaihts, Eric Roth & Denis Villeneuve
    Best Actor: Timothée Chalamet
    Best Supporting Actress: Rebecca Ferguson
    Best Supporting Actor: Oscar Isaac
    Best Original Score: Hans Zimmer
    Best Cinematography: Greig Fraser
    Best Editing: Joe Walker


This list that I have compiled is solely based on what I believe to be possible Oscar contenders. Majority of these films are highly anticipated and have been adamant in not moving their release date, due to COVID 19. This is all hypothetical and if the restrictions are still in place from September onwards, they need to make the decision to send it straight to VOD or postpone their film entirely. I personally think it’s not the right decision to postpone the Oscars because all of the films listed above should be given the fair chance to be nominated, based on the slate of their year. If the Academy combines the 2020 & 2021 slates, it will be too much for anyone to handle.

“It is still unclear if postponing the Oscars will also mean that the Academy will allow films released after the year-end deadline to qualify for the 2021 Oscars.” says Marc Malkin for Variety. It is a very difficult decision to make, but it is also very premature to even consider postponing, if we are only half way through the year. At the end of the day, you don’t make pictures for Oscars, as the wise director Martin Scorsese has said, but it’s sure great to get recognized for your work.

The Half of It Review


BY: AMANDA GUARRAGI 

The reason why many of us find comfort in coming of age films, is because it takes us to a place of mutual understanding for the teenage experience. There’s always a sense of nostalgia and moments that will have you reminiscing about your high school crushes. Navigating adolescence is hard enough as it is, but when life throws you curveballs at that age, it shapes you into a different person. The Half of It, written and directed by Alice Wu is a journey of love and self acceptance in the modern age of adolescence. She draws from literature, films and paintings to express the concept of love in all its forms.

The film centers around an introverted, highly intelligent, Asian American teenager, Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) who is strapped for cash and tries to make some extra money, writing essays for her classmates. Majority of the school acknowledges that she is a strong writer, so one jock named Paul Musky (Daniel Diemer), plans to use her skills to write a love letter to his crush, Aster Flores (Alexxis Lemire). What started out as one love letter, in exchange for $50 to keep the power on at the Chu household, turns into weeks worth of letters and texts from Ellie, through Paul. 

The other half of this story involves Ellie slowly realizing that she is falling for Aster and yearns for her affection. It’s a hidden romance that has subtle glances and an acknowledged unspoken bond that comes to fruition in the final act. The friendship that blooms between Ellie and Paul is not enough to hold the first half of this film because of the gimmick that was used to make a modern coming of age story interesting. The realization of Ellie’s identity took a backseat to Paul’s ploys to capture Asters heart and that’s what bothered me about this film. There aren’t enough films that put a lesbian romance at the forefront and it’s always this unrequited, forbidden love that somehow doesn’t have an outcome at the end of the film.

The pacing of the film is what I found the most challenging because everything but the dialogue was moving very slow and it felt like the scene couldn’t catch up to what the characters were saying. It felt extremely dull and unimportant at times with what they were trying to say about love. I felt the focus was more on discussing the feelings of love instead of expressing it through affection or tender moments. It did not resonate with me at all and the way a heterosexual friendship took the forefront in this really disappointed me. I am very tired of coming of age films casting the LGBTQ representation as secondary, when it should be at the forefront right now, as a standard love story, with no hardships and a happy ending. 

 

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.