‘The Worst Person In The World’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

As we grow older, we realize that there is no right way to live life. Sure, some decisions can feel right, but ultimately not everything goes according to plan. When work is going well, relationships can fall through and vice versa. There is no manual, and the sooner we realize that time is irrelevant when trying to build our lives, we will all have a healthier outlook. For years women have been conditioned that 30-years-old is a deadline instead of a new chapter in our lives. What everyone needs to accept is that everyone is at a different stage in their late twenties and it’s hard to get every single aspect of your life together. In Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person in the World we see a young woman who battles with her indecisiveness, as she traverses the troubled waters of her love life and struggles to find her career path.

Trier structures the film into a prologue, 12 chapters, and an epilogue. The way he showed Julie’s (Renate Reinsve) transformation throughout this film was very thoughtful and lively. We get to know Julie as this young woman who never follows anything through. She is in her mid-twenties and wants to see the world, she wants to explore and live life before she can’t anymore. She wants a relationship but sees marriage and children as the end of this chapter of exploration. Again, that is what we’ve been conditioned to think. That we are selfish and cater to ourselves when we are young and single; then become devoted to our partner and child that we tend to lose our own identity. Even through this exploration of femininity, relationships, and the possibility of being trapped, Julie still finds solace in her work and that’s important.

Julie has been in many relationships but she leaves when things get too hard. She then meets someone older, a comic book artist named Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie), who actually listens to her and they have deep conversations. The age gap between them worries Aksel because they are at two different stages in their lives. He wants children and she isn’t ready for children. They have minor arguments that definitely affect Julie’s perspective of the relationship. Due to the success of Aksel’s comic books, Julie took a back seat and felt like she was just living for him and not doing anything for her. So one night, she crashes a wedding and meets Elvind (Herbert Nordrum). They are both in a relationship; yet teeter on the idea of cheating with one another by doing intimate, non-sexual things. In those moments, you could feel Julie’s energy shift with Elvind. Which definitely contrasts the way she presented herself with Aksel.

The Worst Person in the World is a film that defines a new generation of women and how self-love can be more important than a relationship. Instead of choosing a partner, work can be much more fulfilling and peaceful. The final three chapters and the epilogue are filled with powerful, emotional moments that will really stay with you. Trier wanted to show that everything happens for a reason and it is better to just let go of things that do not serve you in any way. Renate Reinsve gives an incredible performance and carries this film on her back. The sequence where she pauses time and runs off to see Elvind is something that is truly movie magic and worked incredibly well for the escape Julie needed. This was such an incredibly thoughtful and emotional piece. All women, especially those in their twenties will definitely connect with this.

‘Drive My Car’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Not many understand that words carry so much weight and have emotional depth when trying to connect with another human being. What Ryusuke Hamaguchi does in Drive My Car is create a connection to the creation of stories and where these words stem from. What inspires others to connect with the words flowing out of their mouth to emotionally connect a string of thoughts? The structure of this film explores the meaning of understanding the text, whether it is a screenplay or a story being formed in one’s mind. We meet an aging, widowed actor Yûsuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima) who seeks a 20-year-old chauffeur Misaki Watari (Tôko Miura). Despite their initial misgivings, a very special relationship develops between the two.

The structure of this film is possibly one of the most impressive things about it, apart from the crisp cinematography and great soundtrack. The fact that Hamaguchi really took his time in telling this story without it feeling like it dragged on was impressive. We got to sit with these characters and understand where their pain stems from. Where their connection to their art and creativity is pulled from. It’s a cathartic way to express an actor’s journey especially when the play being performed is also a parallel to his own life. Within the first 40 minutes Kafuku experiences so much and it feels like when the opening credits role that the film is already over, meanwhile it had just begun. Hamaguchi shows the emptiness of an artist because of his grief and then has Kafuku find it elsewhere through teaching.

It is extremely hard to express oneself, especially after a traumatic event. It’s difficult to understand others and their emotions when you can hardly understand what you’re feeling inside. What begins as very internal performances by Nishijima and Miura becomes a very honest exchange of emotions between both actors through the reservation of their characters. The turning point of this film is when Kafuku and Watari meet Lee Yoon-a (Yoo-rim Park). There is a dinner scene that draws you in because her words are so powerful through her sign language. Which carries out into her performance in the play that Kafuku casts her in. Everything was set up perfectly by Hamaguchi, that every detail became important in order to understand Kafuku in his entirety by the end of the film. After meeting Lee Yoon-a, Kafuku then realizes that listening and understanding to the words being said by other people will help him connect to his own feelings.

Drive My Car is such a well-written film and has incredible dialogue that sets it apart from other films that came out in 2021. Even though the majority of the film takes place in the car, Hamaguchi also explores the power shift when it comes to control and how to slowly trust someone with the most intimate parts of you. It is a film that slowly creeps up on you and hits you when you least expect it. Each character had their own story and they were able to express themselves in different ways in order to connect with each of them. It’s a study of relationships and human connection through beautiful pieces of dialogue. Hamaguchi strips down these characters in order for them to heal and be reborn by the end of this film.

Oscar-Nominated Short Film ‘Bestia’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

What works the most with animation is an obscure story that can only be told through the use of imagination. There is so much that works through the lens of stop-motion animation, or any form of animation. Specifically, in Bestia we find ourselves connected with the lead character Ingrid, which is a porcelain doll, as she is lost in her own thoughts while travelling. There’s a small hole in her temple that symbolizes so much as the story progresses. Ingrid is a secret police agent working during the Chilean military dictatorship. Director Hugo Covarrubias shows the duality of one’s imagination when trying to keep stories straight.

It is always difficult to know everyone’s secrets while maintaining some sort of sanity. Especially when it comes to going undercover. Ingrid battles with her own mind and her career as the lines between her reality and nightmares blur because of the situation she’s in. As she continues her duty as a secret police agent, there are these really dark moments that she has with her dog. Some of the images are very obscure, others really concerning, but it does show how she is slowly breaking down. It almost felt like she was spiralling. There were normal moments that she shared during the day with her dog, but then at night, those pure moments of repetitive daily life turned into night terrors.

In a way, Covarrubias showed how people lived during the dictatorship. How even though there are these difficult moments filled with sorrow, there can always be a silver lining to the day. Almost like a fresh start; a new beginning to each day. There can be a positive way to look at Bestia even through all the darkness, but it makes sense to turn the page and understand how broken Ingrid’s mind became because of her work. The stop-motion animation allowed Covarrubias to explore this story on a different emotional level. He chose to show how broken the system was in Chile, while also showing how it broke the people living there at the same time.

Bestia is a stop-motion animated short film that explores the Chilean dictatorship and how the people who lived through it felt. If you view the emotional connection to Ingrid in an abstract way, you can see the gravity of the situation. Ingrid’s mind was being shattered because of everything that was happening and her need for normalcy. It’s a different way to use stop-motion animation and there is always an appreciation for it because animation can visually show something more than live-action can. It’s more experimental and can leave certain imagery to be interpreted by the viewer. Even though some images can be unsettling, it’s a very interesting watch and it places the importance on mental health.

Oscar-Nominated Short Film ‘Ala Kachuu’ Review And Interview With Director Maria Brendle

By: Amanda Guarragi

There comes a time in every woman’s life that defines them. That one moment where they realize the woman they want to become is in reach if they just keep pushing forward. However, different cultures value marriage and are set within their conditioned gender roles. Sometimes the traditional notion of being a housewife and dedicating your life to your husband and children can also seem like a loss of agency. In Maria Brendle’s Ala Kachuu she explores the difference in generations and the conditioned ideal of womanhood. As generations of women explore and evolve, the meaning of motherhood and female individuality change to the dismay of the previous generation.

We meet Sezim (Alina Turdumamatova), who wants to fulfil her dream of studying in the Kyrgyz capital. She abruptly gets kidnapped by a group of young men and then she is forced to marry a stranger. If she refuses the marriage, she is threatened with social stigmatization and exclusion. This is actually a tradition in South Asian countries and not many people know about it,

“It was so important for me when I learned about bride kidnapping and I learned that only a few people in the world knew about this tradition. And it was so important for me to give the victims of the war a voice and create awareness of this topic.”

– Director Maria Brendle, Ala Kachuu

This is still stripping a woman’s right to choose. It’s a heartbreaking story and the way Brendle presented it on screen was difficult to watch at times. You can feel Sezim slowly slip into despair, as the only good thing she had was her education. Once she does get kidnapped, we see a very different side of her. She does not know how to process any of this and why it’s even happening in the first place.

What was so interesting to see is how the difference in generation forms two ideas about how a woman should conduct herself. The elders believe that a woman is destined for marriage and to bear children. Due to the fact that education wasn’t as accessible to them, their mind-set is completely different,

“I think it’s important that each girl and woman in the world should support each other. This is very important for all of us. I learned in Kyrgyzstan, there’s a lot of female tradition. So a mother can say no when the son is bringing in a girl for marriage by kidnapping. I think it’s important to cut this cycle. Women must stand together and fight for their rights.”

Director Maria Brendle, Ala Kachuu

When Sezim sees that her friend has moved out of their village and she is living by making her own decisions, she dives headfirst into her schooling. She believes that education can definitely pull her out of this traditional lifestyle. Instead of changing the narrative, Brendle sits in the brutal truth about the women struggling through these traditions. She shows how damaging it can be to their mental state and how hopeless the situation might feel. The one thing Brendle does show is Sezim’s resilience and strength to push through this horrible period for her.

Ala Kachuu brings awareness to a subject that isn’t really touched upon in Western culture. It’s important to bring these stories to the forefront in the most authentic way possible, so everyone can understand how women are still being treated in other cultures. Maria Brendle hopes that by using her voice and her platform, her film can raise awareness in order to protect and save these young girls. Brendle is overwhelmed and humbled by the reception. This story is important and hopefully this can unite women everywhere in order to change these traditions and fight for a woman’s right to choose.

Amanda’s Picks: Oscars 2021 Predictions

Happy Oscar Sunday everyone! After a very long Oscar season, we are finally ready to award some great films. Truly never thought this season would be over. The work never stops though because we are always planning for the next season. I am very happy for all the nominees this year because there are some films that would normally fly under the radar and now they are getting recognition.

WHO WILL WIN WILL BE HIGHLIGHTED IN GOLD

WHO SHOULD WIN WILL BE HIGHLIGHTED IN PURPLE

So without further ado, here are my predictions:

Best Visual Effects

“Love and Monsters”

“The Midnight Sky”

“Mulan”

“The One and Only Ivan”

“Tenet”

PREDICTION: Tenet is the clear frontrunner here because of the practical effects. Love and Monsters is also something that could come in and swipe that away.

Best Director

Thomas Vinterberg (“Another Round”)

David Fincher (“Mank”) 

Lee Isaac Chung (“Minari”) 

Chloé Zhao (“Nomadland”) 

Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”) 

PREDICTION: Chloé Zhao has been sweeping award season and there is no doubt about it that she will be making history tonight with this win.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Sacha Baron Cohen (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”) 

Daniel Kaluuya (“Judas and the Black Messiah”) 

Leslie Odom Jr. (“One Night in Miami”

Paul Raci (“Sound of Metal”) 

Lakeith Stanfield (“Judas and the Black Messiah”)

PREDICTION: Daniel Kaluuya hands down. His performance in Judas and the Black Messiah is one for the history books.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Maria Bakalova (‘Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”) 

Glenn Close (“Hillbilly Elegy”) 

Olivia Colman (“The Father”) 

Amanda Seyfried (“Mank”) 

Yuh-jung Youn (“Minari”) 

PREDICTION: Yuh-jung Youn has had an incredible award season and her performance stole my heart!

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Riz Ahmed (“Sound of Metal”) 

Chadwick Boseman (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) 

Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”) 

Gary Oldman (“Mank”) 

Steven Yeun (“Minari”) 

PREDICTION: Chadwick Boseman is going to win and deserves to win because his performance was on another level this year. It was incredibly moving and very emotional. You could feel his passion for the words through the physicality in his performance.

Best Animated Feature Film

“Onward” (Pixar) 

“Over the Moon” (Netflix) 

“A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon” (Netflix) 

“Soul” (Pixar) 

“Wolfwalkers” (Apple TV Plus/GKIDS) 

PREDICTION: Soul is the obvious frontrunner because it is a beautiful Pixar film and the animation is stunning. However, Wolfwalkers is unique and there is an appreciation for the three-dimensional hand-drawn elements in its animaton. So it is a close one.

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Viola Davis (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) 

Andra Day (“The United States v. Billie Holiday”) 

Vanessa Kirby (“Pieces of a Woman”) 

Frances McDormand (“Nomadland”) 

Carey Mulligan (“Promising Young Woman”) 

Prediction: This is such a tough category and it is impossible to predict this year! I would be happy with either Davis or Mulligan winning but the edge on Mulligan.

Best Adapted Screenplay

“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.”
Screenplay by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Swimer, Peter Baynham, Erica Rivinoja, Dan Mazer, Jena Friedman, Lee Kern; Story by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Swimer, Nina Pedrad

“The Father,”
Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller

“Nomadland,”
Chloé Zhao 

“One Night in Miami,”
Kemp Powers 

“The White Tiger,”
Ramin Bahrani 

PREDICTION: The Father had a very strong script but I personally don’t think the execution elevated it at all. One Night in Miami is dialogue heavy and keeps you engaged from beginning to end.

Best Original Screenplay

“Judas and the Black Messiah.”
Screenplay by Will Berson, Shaka King; Story by Will Berson, Shaka King, Kenny Lucas, Keith Lucas

“Minari,”
Lee Isaac Chung 

“Promising Young Woman,”
Emerald Fennell 

“Sound of Metal.”
Screenplay by Darius Marder, Abraham Marder; Story by Darius Marder, Derek Cianfrance

“The Trial of the Chicago 7,”
Aaron Sorkin 

PREDICTION: The TOUGHEST category because they are all strong in their own way. Since Emerald Fennell has been getting traction off her WGA win, it’s only fair to assume that she has sealed the deal. Personally Judas and the Black Messiah had an incredible screenplay because of how intricate the story was and the dialogue.

Best Original Song

“Fight for You,” (“Judas and the Black Messiah”).
Music by H.E.R. and Dernst Emile II; Lyric by H.E.R. and Tiara Thomas

“Hear My Voice,” (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”). 
Music by Daniel Pemberton; Lyric by Daniel Pemberton and Celeste Waite

“Húsavík,” (“Eurovision Song Contest”)
Music and Lyric by Savan Kotecha, Fat Max Gsus and Rickard Göransson

“Io Si (Seen),” (“The Life Ahead”). 
Music by Diane Warren; Lyric by Diane Warren and Laura Pausini

“Speak Now,” (“One Night in Miami”). 
Music and Lyric by Leslie Odom, Jr. and Sam Ashworth

PREDICTION: Solely because of its Golden Globe win it is entirely possible that they follow suit. However, Leslie Odom Jr. created a beautiful song for One Night in Miami and if this movie wins anything, it needs to be this category.

Best Picture

“The Father”

“Judas and the Black Messiah”

“Mank”

“Minari” (SHOULD WIN)

“Nomadland” (WILL WIN)

“Promising Young Woman”

“Sound of Metal”

“The Trial of the Chicago 7″

PREDICTION: Nomadland has become the Oscar darling but it is not a well-rounded film. The technical aspects are the most important part of the film but the story was lacking. Minari was a well-rounded all American film with a beautiful family dynamic and it should be the winner this year.

Best Original Score

“Da 5 Bloods,” Terence Blanchard 

“Mank,” Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross 

“Minari,” Emile Mosseri 

“News of the World,” James Newton Howard 

“Soul,” Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Jon Batiste 

PREDICTION: Soul has it in the bag because of the mixture of jazz and electronic dance music. Truly some of Reznor and Ross’ best work.

Best Sound

“Greyhound”

“Mank”

“News of the World”

“Soul”

“Sound of Metal”

PREDICTION: Sound of Metal is a lock because of how they switched the frequency when Reuben was losing his hearing. You could understand what he was going through because you could heard the shift. Incredible work.

Best Costume Design

“Emma”

“Mank”

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”

“Mulan”

“Pinocchio”

PREDICTION: Realistically the competition is between Ma Rainey’s and Emma because they are period pieces and they looked beautiful on-screen. Do not keep Mank out of the conversation because it is old Hollywood glam.

Best Animated Short Film

“Burrow” (Disney Plus/Pixar)

“Genius Loci” (Kazak Productions) 

“If Anything Happens I Love You” (Netflix) 

“Opera” (Beasts and Natives Alike) 

“Yes-People” (CAOZ hf. Hólamói) 

Best Live-Action Short Film

“Feeling Through” 

“The Letter Room” 

“The Present” 

“Two Distant Strangers” 

“White Eye” 

Best Cinematography

“Judas and the Black Messiah,” Sean Bobbitt 

“Mank,” Erik Messerschmidt 

“News of the World,” Dariusz Wolski 

“Nomadland,” Joshua James Richards 

“The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Phedon Papamichael 

PREDICTION: As I said the technical aspects in Nomadland will take the gold for sure and the cinematography was beautiful. She really captured the scenic landscapes across the country. I did think Judas and the Black Messiah had such a unique style and camera work was very strong.

Best Documentary Feature

“Collective”

“Crip Camp”

“The Mole Agent”

“My Octopus Teacher”

“Time”

Best Documentary Short Subject

“Colette”

“A Concerto Is a Conversation”

“Do Not Split”

“Hunger Ward”

“A Love Song for Latasha”

Best Film Editing

“The Father”

“Nomadland”

“Promising Young Woman”

“Sound of Metal”

“The Trial of the Chicago 7″

PREDICTION: Again, it is Nomadland’s to lose because of the technical aspects. However, when it comes to editing pieces of music or instrumental scenes, I feel like Sound of Metal would be the better choice. Also, we can’t cancel out The Father either because of the cycle of consciousness fading in and out for the protagonist.

Best International Feature Film

“Another Round” (Denmark) 

“Better Days” (Hong Kong)

“Collective” (Romania) 

“The Man Who Sold His Skin” (Tunisia)

“Quo Vadis, Aida?”(Bosnia and Herzegovina) 

PREDICTION: Another Round has been taking the season by storm and the director is also nominated so that is saying a lot. However, after watching Better Days and interviewing the director, Derek Tsang, the execution and honest storytelling should give it the edge.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

“Emma”

“Hillbilly Elegy” 

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”

“Mank”

“Pinocchio”

PREDICTION: Viola Davis was completely transformed as Ma Rainey, so it’s only fitting that it would take this category. I can see Emma steal it here as it did have some good qualities about it.

Best Production Design

“The Father.” 

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”

“Mank.”

“News of the World.”

“Tenet.”

PREDICTION: The reason why The Father could win is because of how the production design changing paralleled the lead character’s descent into his illness. But, Ma Rainey’s design just felt rich in its colours and decoration with the only two rooms they had to work with. Again, do not count Mank out of the conversation.

If you haven’t voted yet, here is a prediction ballot link for the Oscars, thanks to The Academy. This is what it generated for me the other night. Yes, there are some changes but it’s still so difficult to choose.

Well there you have it! My full list of predictions. Let’s hope I get some right tonight. Let’s face it, even though we complain about the season, we always love to watch on Oscar Sunday.