BLACK IS KING Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Black Is King is an intricate, personal and deeply moving visceral album, that revised the old tale of The Lion King. Beyoncé Knowles – Carter represents the roots of Black culture and history through the tale of Simba, a young Lion who is the heir to the throne. The representation of a young Black child, next in line, to be King, in his own bloodline, was incredibly moving. It is about family values, loving your heritage and passing all that down to the next generation.

Beyoncé is, and will always be, the best and most brilliant artist of our generation because she has developed a higher level of Entertainment. She is on another level of genius through the medium of music and as a visual storyteller. Her direction, among the other extremely talented directors that created this beautiful piece, including; Emmanuel Adjei, Pierre Debusschere, Jenn Nkiru, Ibra Ake, Dikayl Rimmasch, Jake Nava and Kwasi Fordjour. They all brought different styles and presented beautiful symmetry through dimensional art pieces throughout the film.

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Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios 

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Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios 

The songs are really empowering and uplifting, it is a wonderful way to tell different stories and it seems as if Beyoncé has mastered that, as we were first introduced to her style in Lemonade. She is a perfectionist and it shows through her art and the fact that she has presented this elevated level of storytelling, at this point in her career, shows that she is not stopping and will continue to excel. She has pushed the boundaries for Black creatives and has given a stunning visceral album about Black culture, that spans across the globe.

Black Is King is a perfect visual album and Beyoncé is the Entertainer of the Decade with everything that she has accomplished. This piece is so meticulous and vibrant because of her detail in the costume design and production for each video. It is pieced together with poems and voice overs from The Lion King  (2019) and it revamps the story to fit it’s true, original form, that it was intended to be through Black heritage.

Oscars Postponed to April 2021


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Since the beginning of this pandemic, the Entertainment Industry has been in constant motion and have been changing dates, for majority of the films slated for 2020. Earlier today, the Television Academy announced, that the ‘Creative Arts Emmys’ will go virtual, the annual Governor’s Balls that follow those shows and the Primetime Emmys will be canceled for the first time in history. Since the Emmys and the Oscars telecasts are both on ABC, negotiations had to be made for the Academy Awards as well.

The Academy tweeted out an information card with the changed date for the Oscars telecast, as well as a change in the eligibility dates for films that could meet the standard guidelines.

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courtesy of @TheAcademy on Twitter

 

First on the list of ‘Key 93rd Oscars Dates’ is the Awards Eligibility. So from January 1st, 2020 – February 28th, 2021 films released during that period, will have a fair opportunity to possibly get a nomination. Seems fair right? Well, extending the eligibility date, means that the films that came out earlier this year such as, The Invisible Man, Emma, The Way Back, The High Note, Capone and Da 5 Bloods will have a more difficult time campaigning because of their release date. The cut off is around November 20th, so films that are released past that date, would normally, never make the cut. So The Academy, is tacking on 3 extra months of content in that time frame.

Second on the list is the Shortlist Announcement on February 9th, 2021. This means that there will be a very long list of possible nominees, that will be condensed in to each category, eventually becoming official nominees. This also means that the campaigning will be very different for the rest of the year. Films that came out earlier this year, should not be forgotten and the hype for each of those films, needs to be mentioned, time and time again, closer to that date. The films that I listed above, by the time next year comes, will definitely be considered a long shot because now all the postponed films have been crammed into those months.

Third on the list is the Nominations Announcement on March 15th, 2021. Every year, the Oscar Nominations day is filled with plenty of snubs and actors nominated in the wrong category. It is always a messy day because films that should have been recognized, usually don’t make the cut and they are almost always, independent films (Honey Boy and Uncut Gems)  that fly under the radar. This day is going to be much different than previous years because of the extension and the bias towards films that were released on streaming platforms or VOD.

Fourth on the list is the Oscar Sunday telecast, now being held on April 25th, 2021. This is a massive jump from the regular February/March timeslot. It is so deep in the year, that it may cause issues for other award ceremonies that come before it. What does this mean for the Critics Choice Awards, Golden Globe Awards and the SAG Awards? How do they fit into the calendar that well all know so well? The BAFTAs have already changed their date to April 11th, 2021 but the rest of the pre-Oscars telecasts have not released a statement.

Lastly, the long awaited Academy Museum will officially open on April 30th, 2021. When it opens, the Museum will be the premier institution dedicated to the arts and science of movies. The Academy Museum will offer exhibitions and programs highlighting the world of cinema. They will also present year round calendar of screenings, film series, members programs, panel discussions and family programs. Programs will include retrospectives and thematic series that present the artistic and cultural contributions from filmmakers all over the world.

Many of us have already made a shortlist of the best films that could possibly be nominated, for Oscars in 2021. There are definitely more films to add but in this article How The 2021 Oscars Will Look, If It Doesn’t Get Postponed, I go into detail and breakdown the possible nominations list for the films that are eligible. There are plenty more films to watch, so it is time to start writing down the list of possible Oscar contenders because it is going to be a very long season.

Artemis Fowl Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Artemis Fowl is the title of a book series written by Eoin Colfer. This film adaptation has been completely altered to make it kid friendly. The book series was initially intended for children. There is nothing good to say about this film because it was difficult to understand the second it started. The special effects were terrible, script was very messy and the editing, was not fluid enough to make a cohesive narrative. The worst part, is that this film had so much potential to be great, it is not right to change the source material to the point of the story being unrecognizable.

The film is an Irish tale, filled with lore and mythical creatures that were never fully explained. Majority of the time it was hard to understand what was happening in the film, or even care, where the story was going because of how overstuffed it was. Artemis (Ferdia Shaw) used to believe in all this lore that his father, Artemis Fowl Sr. (Colin Farrell) instilled in him at a very young age. Once his father is captured by an unknown villain (because they’re probably planning for a sequel), Artemis must decode his father’s journal of these fantasy creatures. Pretty straightforward, right? Well, the script would say otherwise.

The entire film seemed rushed, the pacing was all terrible and scenes were cut short for some strange reason. Everything that was shared between characters, ended abruptly and nothing was added to the story. The fight scenes were poorly executed and it seemed that there was no clear direction for this film whatsoever. It is also extremely frustrating seeing actors like Colin Farrell and Judi Dench waste their talents on a film like this. Yes, it’s a children’s movie, but what happens when children, do not even want to sit through a film like this?

This is why changing source material, to make it more kid friendly, for their brand is very problematic. The story was perfectly fine the way it was. It blurred the lines between good and evil. This has been a theme used for a very long time and it is evident in other Disney films. This film had so much potential and it was wasted because they did not want to dive deeper into the mind of a 12 year old criminal mastermind. If the books were so well received, then why change it now? It is very hard to understand the logic behind the change.

Artemis Fowl is a film that has mediocre production value and a convoluted story. It is a messy, special effects ridden Disney channel movie that should have stuck to the source material. I am very disappointed in the way they handled this film and the cast deserved better than what they had to work with. The worst aspect is walking away from a completed project and knowing it could have been better.

 

The High Note Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

The High Note is a perfectly composed film that effortlessly shows the production journey in the music industry. It had an authentic feel and a nostalgic atmosphere because of Grace Davis (Tracee Ellis Ross) and her very long, successful music career. The film is about women in different places in the industry, one a superstar and the other an assistant/wannabe producer Maggie Sherwoode (Dakota Johnson). Their relationship appears strong but it is definitely tested throughout the film. It is written by Flora Greeson and directed by Nisha Ganatra (Late Night) who delivered one of the best films of the year.

It is one of the most interesting films that shows the musical journey in Hollywood. Grace Davis is a middle aged woman in the industry, who has locked a Vegas residency. Everyone loves the icon and her assistant Maggie wants to push for a new album, instead of extending the contract for another year. Maggie goes above and beyond her paygrade and ends up getting into arguments with Davis’ manager, Jack Robertson (Ice Cube) who keeps putting her in her place. Flora Greeson accurately tells the story of reinventing a brand and an artists story, through multiple perspectives from the people around her.

This cast is truly something special, they all had wonderful chemistry together, which made for a great ensemble piece for everyone involved. Tracee Ellis Ross was stunning. I don’t know any other way to put it but she just gave off this elegance and prowess in her performance as Grace Davis. Dakota Johnson was lovely in this role and really carried the story with her characters dream to be a producer one day. Ice Cube was cast perfectly as Davis’ manager and definitely had the quippy attitude down pat. While watching this film, the one that truly surprised me was Kelvin Harrison Jr. who played David Cliff in the film. The man is very talented but hearing him sing, just elevated my adoration for him and he should be the name on everyone’s lips after this film.

Everything about this film flowed beautifully from scene to scene. The sound design and soundtrack that accompanied each scene worked so well together, as if everything was placed to shed light on the power of music. It was so heartwarming and you could feel the passion for music from everyone who worked on this film. There was so much care and love into creating this story and you could feel it from the entire team. The direction was great and there were many humorous moments that released some of the tension.

It was important to shed light on the treatment of women in the music industry, especially Black middle aged women in the music industry. Tracee Ellis Ross presented such raw emotion when discussing the sexism, ageism and racial issues that plague the industry. It was also important to highlight the difficulty a female producer would face and the connection shared between Davis and Maggie was important to this story. They shared such a beautiful friendship and I think it’s one of the most rewarding aspects of this film.

The High Note is refreshing and one of the best films of the year. This was a film that needed to be made because it highlights the lives of women in the music industry, in a way that no other film has. This film is also filled with plenty of surprises, especially the twist at the end, which made for a pretty emotional final performance. It is a film that captures women in such a unique light and shows that they are strong enough to create a pathway, for everyone to follow suit. It is all about taking risks and putting in the hardwork, in order to achieve your goals in life.

 

 

Hot Docs 2020 Selection: Love & Stuff Interview with Judith Helfand


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Love & Stuff  is a deeply personal documentary on motherhood and the cycle of life. Peabody Award winning filmmaker Judith Helfand, documented her terminally ill mother’s final moments, at home-hospice before she passed. In this feature, Helfand continues the story that she began two decades ago, with Healthy Baby Girl (Sundance, Peabody 1997) through these films, Helfand adds emotional layers, by openly discussing her own traumas, addressing grief by using dark humour and reflecting on the power of family.

Judith and her mother, just wanted more time to spend with each other. Time is something so valuable and we often take it for granted. “There’s so many things that she probably wanted to tell me, that she couldn’t find the language for, it’s really hard to say, here is my life long lesson, here’s what I want you to know before I die, here’s what I think you need to know.” said Helfand about having discussions with her late mother. Watching a loved one pass away is extremely difficult and emotional. How do we even calculate time? We tend to get whisked away into our busy lives and forget what it is like to spend time with our loved ones. Then for some reason, we ask for more time when we know it’s too late.

It is something that I’ve often questioned about elders, all they want to do is pass down their knowledge and experiences before they leave us. Why do they feel the need to do this at the end of their life? Do we only start listening when they are about to pass because we did not think of paying attention to the stories before?

“They want to give you advice, the stuff that you never wanted to listen to, they were probably right about. They want to keep this connection possible and if they never had a chance to do that, whether they were working too hard or your relationship was on the rocks or something like that, I think that they want the time and the space to be able to try and fix that before they die.” – Judith Helfand 

That is the most wonderful thing about Love & Stuff it takes these conversations about death and turns them into life lessons, so others can understand how to approach the end of their loved ones life. It is a cathartic piece, not only for Helfand but for everyone that worked on the film. It presented a safe space for everyone who had lost someone. “I mean it just started out as a way, for me to not be alone with what I knew. What could be a very private universal moment and by private I mean, I’m not letting others into our life, and into this moment, and into our space, into our home and into our hospice, but I did the opposite.” Helfand wanted everyone to be present for her mother’s passing, in order to give them time to say goodbye.

Helfand’s mother, like every mother, wanted what was best for her daughter and it was revealed that Judith could not bear any children of her own. So the connectivity to motherhood, was the strongest part of this feature because at a time where Judith needed her mother, to guide her through the adoption process and in raising her daughter, she had passed away. “The thing that my mother wanted the most at the end of her life, was the thing my daughter wanted at the beginning of hers and that’s time. My mother just wanted time and my kid just wants to play, she just wants time.” Helfand believes that her daughters birth, was a gift from her mother after she passed and that full circle connectivity is the heart of Love & Stuff. 

This film helps viewers re-evaluate their own connection with their parents or loved ones. Helfand had 2 and a half years to prepare for her mother’s death and it was important to her, to find away to utilize that time. “I wanted to figure out how to keep her in my life and keep our conversation dynamic, even if it wasn’t current and present. It could be ongoing and I wanted to figure out how to be a mother, without having a mother and I felt like all that material was locked inside an archive, and I needed to get to it, as soon as I could.” This feature is incredibly emotional because of the raw, human connection the viewer has with Helfand, as she goes on this journey with her mother.

Helfand made a follow up video to Love & Stuff, called Absolutely No Spitting and it shows the journey of her, now 4 year – old daughter Theo taking a DNA test to discover her ancestry. What starts out as a factual journey, turns into a path of self discovery and acceptance for young Theo. The love shared between Helfand and Theo is very quirky and heartfelt. Helfand shared her own ancestry with Theo and she will continue to explore value in the people around her. She identifies her daughter’s Blackness and incorporates that into her Jewish ancestry.