Pieces Of A Woman Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Pieces of a Woman is a heartbreaking film about the loss of a new life. It also puts into perspective how fragile we are as humans. Director Kornél Mundruczó shows the raw emotion and physical journey of a woman in labor. There are natural ways to give birth and Martha (Vanessa Kirby) wanted a home birth. There are horror stories that you often hear about, in regards to home births, but you never quite see the the aftermath. Mundruczó showed everything. It was uncomfortable, and rather painful to watch but the emotional connection established with Martha is incredibly strong.

The film is more of a character study centered on Martha. We see her quirkiness, energy and light in the beginning of the film. As she struggles to push the newborn out of her (for the first 20 minutes of the film) Kirby gives a very raw performance, one that you would see in acting classes. Mundruczó creates so much tension during the birth, that you feel something bad is about to happen, especially when the midwife begins to panic. There is a small moment of happiness, of complete elation when the birthing process is complete and then, it feels like someone rips your heart out and crushes it with their bare hands.

Vanessa Kirby
Courtesy of Bron Studios and Netflix

It has such a strong story and the performances from everyone, especially Ellen Burstyn were extremely strong. The structure and the pacing are the only issues with this film. It started off very strong and then there’s a lull in the middle. Kirby’s performance is internal and you can see the stages of grief as the film goes on. There are other issues that come up in regards to their child that move the story forward but it was extremely slow. Kirby’s performance carries the entire film until the very end, as she has minor confrontations with her mother Ellen Burstyn. The scenes are executed almost like a stage play, meaning the dialogue was heavy and the scenes were static.

The important thing that can be noted from watching Pieces of a Woman is that technology has allowed everything to be safer during the birthing process. There is a conversation between Martha and her mother, that was really eye-opening because they discuss how some mothers from older generations gave birth without the help of doctors in hospitals. They all had a midwife and had home births because there was no other option. The film explores the stages of grief, depression and anxiety from a mother’s perspective after the loss of her child. It is a very heavy film but it is a story that needs to be told in order to help further understand what can go wrong during the birthing process.

Soul Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Soul is the perfect film to end the year with. It is an animated film that reinstates the meaning of life and the purpose we serve in the world. It is beautifully animated because Pixar has perfected their rendering technology to make everything lifelike. The story is well-written and is incredibly heartfelt. Everyone has dreams or goals they want to accomplish at a certain time in their life. While trying to achieve those goals, they forget to live their lives.

This movie is one of the most important pieces to come out this year. I think everyone has lost themselves a bit during this pandemic. For the majority of this year people have reevaluated their lives and how they live. While watching Soul you will gain a new appreciation for life because director, Pete Docter shows us how wonderful the small things in life are through a character named, 22 (Tina Fey). We often question what our purpose in life is and as we try to navigate our way through this journey, we lose sight of the small things that can make us happy.

Courtesy of Pixar and Walt Disney Pictures

Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) is a music teacher at his local school and he has one student in his class that has soul when she plays the trombone. She loves playing and Joe can tell that it comes from such a special place. He knows that she was meant to play that instrument, much like his connection to playing piano. Joe is a wonderful music teacher because he believes in the connectivity and the artistic nature of music. There’s a feeling one has when connecting to art, it’s a special feeling and Docter presents it so well. The score from Reznor and Ross elevated the animation and will bring you into the atmosphere Docter created. It is a film that you will lose yourself in because of how stunning it is.

Courtesy of Pixar and Walt Disney Pictures

Soul is emotional and incredibly moving because it has conversations about the choices people make in their lives. What makes us fully formed people? Why do we have the need to find a purpose in life and if we don’t we consider ourselves failures? These are internal struggles that we have all faced, time and time again. There is one scene in a barbershop that I absolutely loved because of the conversation about career paths and life struggles. Life doesn’t always deal the best cards and everyone has to find a path that suits their situation, even if you stray away from your dreams.

The meaning of life isn’t something that can be explained, or even found, there is no answer to the age old question. Humans are placed on Earth to live, to simply exist, while experiencing the wonders life has to offer. Soul will make you appreciate all the memories you have, whether you remember your first bite of pizza ever, the first time waves crashed over your feet at the beach, or the first time you experienced a sunset, those small moments made an impact. That is why life is worth living. It’s not slaving away at your job, it’s not struggling to find your purpose, it’s simply living and that’s a beautiful sentiment.

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

Chloé 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.

Amanda’s Picks: Oscars 2020

Happy Oscar Sunday to my fellow cinephiles and casual moviegoers! Tonight is the night we’ve all been waiting for. The 92nd Annual Academy Awards are being televised, without a host this year for the second time. There are plenty of presenters that will be taking the stage and awarding their colleagues for their accomplishments this year.

It has been such a long journey for me, since I attended The Toronto International Film Festival in September and I made my early picks for Oscar Season. Fortunately for me, I made the right choices and majority of them are now nominated this year. Also, fun fact before I make my predictions… for the past couple of years the Grolsch People’s Choice Award winner at TIFF has won an Oscar, in this case Jojo Rabbit has a shot.

So here are my predictions…

BEST PICTURE

SHOULD WIN: Parasite 
WILL WIN: 1917

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Kathy Bates, “Richard Jewell”
Scarlett Johansson, “Jojo Rabbit”
Florence Pugh, “Little Women”
Margot Robbie, “Bombshell”
SHOULD WIN: Florence Pugh, Little Women 
WILL WIN: Laura Dern, Marriage Story 

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Anthony Hopkins, “The Two Popes”
SHOULD WIN: Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood 
WILL WIN: Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood 

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

South Korea, “Parasite”
Spain, “Pain and Glory”
France, “Les Misérables”
North Macedonia, “Honeyland”
Poland, “Corpus Christi”
SHOULD WIN: Parasite 
WILL WIN: Parasite 

DOCUMENTARY (SHORT)

“In the Absence”
“Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)”
“Life Overtakes Me”
“St. Louis Superman”
“Walk Run Cha-Cha”
SHOULD WIN: “Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)”
WILL WIN: “Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)”

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

“American Factory”
“The Edge of Democracy”
“Honeyland”
“For Sama”
“The Cave”
SHOULD WIN: For Sama
WILL WIN: American Factory 

ORIGINAL SONG

“I’m Standing With You,” “Breakthrough”
“Into the Unknown,” “Frozen II”
“Stand Up,” “Harriet”
“(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” “Rocketman”
“I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away,” “Toy Story 4”
SHOULD WIN: “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” “Rocketman”
WILL WIN: “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” “Rocketman”

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World”
“I Lost My Body”
“Klaus”
“Missing Link”
“Toy Story 4”
SHOULD WIN: Klaus/Missing Link
WILL WIN: Toy Story 4 

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

SHOULD WIN: Little Women 
WILL WIN: Jojo Rabbit 

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

SHOULD WIN: Parasite 
WILL WIN: Parasite 

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

Antonio Banderas, “Pain and Glory”
Joaquin Phoenix, “Joker”
Jonathan Pryce, “The Two Popes”
SHOULD WIN: Joaquin Phoenix, Joker 
WILL WIN: Joaquin Phoenix, Joker 

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

Cynthia Erivo, “Harriet”
Scarlett Johansson, “Marriage Story”
Saoirse Ronan, “Little Women”
Renée Zellweger, “Judy”
Charlize Theron, “Bombshell”
SHOULD WIN: Saiorse Ronan, Little Women 
WILL WIN: Renée Zellweger, Judy 

DIRECTOR

Martin Scorsese, “The Irishman”
Bong Joon-ho, “Parasite”
Sam Mendes, “1917”
Todd Phillips, “Joker”
SHOULD WIN: Bong Joon-ho, Parasite 
WILL WIN: Sam Mendes, 1917 

PRODUCTION DESIGN

SHOULD WIN: Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood 
WILL WIN: Parasite 

CINEMATOGRAPHY

SHOULD WIN: The Lighthouse 
WILL WIN: 1917

COSTUME DESIGN

SHOULD WIN: Little Women 
WILL WIN: Jojo Rabbit 

SOUND EDITING

SHOULD WIN: 1917
WILL WIN: Ford v Ferrari 

SOUND MIXING

SHOULD WIN: 1917
WILL WIN: Ford v Ferrari 

ANIMATED SHORT FILM

“Dcera (Daughter)”
“Hair Love”
“Kitbull”
“Memorable”
“Sister”
SHOULD WIN: Hair Love 
WILL WIN: Hair Love 

LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM

“Brotherhood”
“Nefta Football Club”
“The Neighbours’ Window”
“Saria”
“A Sister”
SHOULD WIN: Saria 
WILL WIN: Saria 

ORIGINAL SCORE

“1917,” Thomas Newman
“Joker,” Hildur Guðnadóttir
“Little Women,” Alexandre Desplat
“Marriage Story,” Randy Newman
SHOULD WIN: Hildur Guðnadóttir, Joker 
WILL WIN: Hildur Guðnadóttir, Joker 

VISUAL EFFECTS

“Avengers: Endgame”
“The Lion King”
SHOULD WIN: 1917
WILL WIN: 1917

FILM EDITING

SHOULD WIN: The Irishman 
WILL WIN: Ford v Ferrari 

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

SHOULD WIN: Bombshell 
WILL WIN: Bombshell 

As you can see there is only one pick for The Irishman. Does The Irishman deserve more than it’s getting this year? You bet! So I’m not voting based on preference, instead I’m voting with how award season went.
Would I want The Irishman, Joker and Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood to over perform and surprise all of us? Yes. Those were the films that stood out to me in 2019.
Would Parasite winning Best Picture be a historic moment that SHOULD happen in 2020? ABSOLUTELY.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the Oscars won’t be filled with surprises tonight! The red carpet starts at 6pm and the telecast starts at 8pm. Feel free to follow along on Twitter @amxndareviews.