TIFF ’21: ‘Spencer’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Pablo Larraín’s Spencer is a slice of the Princess of Wales that we have never seen before. As the film begins, Larraín labels it a fable of a tragedy. We have seen many projects where they depict the Royal family in a certain way but we have never gotten a character study on one in particular. It isn’t necessarily slandering the family but it highlights the mental state of Princess Diana in a three-day span over Christmas. Diana reached a point where she needed some sort of normalcy, she had played the persona for too long, and now the cracks within her marriage began to show.

Larraín kept the central focus on Diana and Kristen Stewart gave an incredible performance. The intimate camerawork framed her in ways that made her look like Diana from afar. The haunting score by Jonny Greenwood accompanied her descent into realizing that she was stuck. The screenplay was also well-written by Steven Knight, as it kept circling back to the notion that she wanted to go home, back to being a ‘Spencer’, equating that to the freedom of her childhood. In a way, it does act as a ghost story, seeing that she was fighting with the shell of who she became and the girl she once was.

The cinematography by Claire Mathon worked with Diana’s mind. In certain scenes it almost felt like a dreamlike sequence, like Diana was in a daze. The broken pieces of her mind were projected into the frame through every single aspect. It is heartbreaking to watch a woman who is so loving and wants to give her children the same life she had, not be able to live the way she wants. The important takeaway from Spencer is that there were very emotional, playful, and sweet moments between Diana, William and Harry. Larraín wanted to show her as a woman first, a mother second, a wife third, and a member of the Royal family last.

Larraín’s work in Spencer presents a woman who is trapped in her own body, living someone else’s life. Her freedom is defying the guidelines put in place and reverting back to her childhood self. He also visually experimented a bit more in this film and it worked well because he showed many possible outcomes when attempting to take her own life without making it too graphic. Stewart and Larraín truly felt like a match made in heaven. She was in full control of Diana’s persona and the internal struggle she needed to present.

Joshua Jackson And Liquid Media Group Make A Big Splash At TIFF

By: Amanda Guarragi

The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) has always been the talk of the town and been the center of the most exclusive and desirable parties. TIFF welcomes celebrities, top industry executives, influential media and other glamorous guests for a night of marvelous entertainment and fun. 

Monday evening’s gala event, “The Big Splash” hosted by entertainment business solutions provider Liquid Media Group, boasted a guest list that included the best and brightest of the entertainment crowd. 

Liquid Media Group has been shining the spotlight and sharing their expertise on important issues for independent producers through an exclusive series of TIFF panel discussions. Liquid’s Chairman Joshua Jackson (“Dr. Death,” “Little Fires Everywhere,” “The Affair”) and CEO Ronald Thomson were among the speakers on topics ranging from streaming in the new world and financing for independents to harnessing the power of media for social good. Their mission with Liquid feels wonderfully analogous with the aim of the non-profit cultural organization that operates the festival, which seeks to transform the way people see the world, through film.

TORONTO, ONTARIO – SEPTEMBER 13: (L-R) Katarzyna Kaczmarczyk, Paul Jun, Jon Fitzgerald, Joshua Jackson, Ron Thomson and Andy Wilson attend “Joshua Jackson and his Company Liquid Media Group host THE BIG SPLASH” held at Windsor Arms Hotel on September 13, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Sonia Recchia/Getty Images for Liquid Media Group/ Jane Owen PR)

The offering from Liquid Media Group is much needed to ensure independence for independents, explains Thomson, and will enable professional video (film/TV and video game) creation, packaging, financing, delivery, and monetization, empowering IP creators to take their professional content from inception through the entire process to monetization.

“Our company is addressing a significant challenge for independent creative professionals, “and there is no better way to celebrate the importance of that work and all that we have accomplished than to gather safely with the industry’s best and brightest.”

– CEO Ronald Thomson

“The Big Splash” took place at The Windsor Arms, an award-winning boutique hotel in the heart of the city. It included an open bar accompanied with tantalizing food to tempt any taste buds, and live entertainment. The Windsor Arms is known for hosting visiting royalty, aristocracy, stars of film and screen as well as heads of state and industry.

TORONTO, ONTARIO – SEPTEMBER 13: Joshua Jackson attends “Joshua Jackson and his Company Liquid Media Group host THE BIG SPLASH” at Windsor Arms Hotel on September 13, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Sonia Recchia/Getty Images for Liquid Media Group/ Jane Owen PR)

After walking the red carpet, guests gathered in the courtyard ballroom, one of the hotel’s most elegant spaces. Renowned DJ Samantha Michelle’s music enveloped the night as invitees were safely engaging with one another and enjoying their drink of choice at the grand bar. 

Gift bags for Liquid’s gala guests included:

  • House of Waris Elephant Friendly Black Tea
  • Massawippi Mercantile Granola
  • Maax Gum
  • David and Young Scarves
  • A Gift certificate from The Sailing Collective.

Also included in the gift bag were several digital gifts from the Liquid Media Group family of companies. These included Filmocracy One month free Indieflix gave guests a month complimentary access to their full expanse of virtual festivals. Slipstream gifted gift bag holders 45 days free access to their movies. iGems gave lucky guests both a discount on their renowned TV Film Festival mastery course as well as one month complimentary platinum membership. 

Ultimately, the lively party was a splendid and sensational hit. Liquid Media Group carefully balanced the perfect amount of glitz, dazzle, glamour and excitement for today’s times, enchanting its attendees as a noteworthy addition to the 2021 film festival’s most memorable occasions. 

To learn more about Liquid Media Group, please visit https://www.liquidmediagroup.co/

TIFF ’21: ‘Benediction’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Terence Davies Benediction is portrait of 20th-century English poet Siegfried Sassoon (Jack Lowden), and the first time the Davies has ever portrayed love and desire between men. Sassoon went through the war period with a pen and paper in his hand. Exploring the emotions from soldiers and the PTSD they face. The poems from Sassoon are visually executed in a beautiful way thanks to Davies and cinematographer Nicola Daley. It felt like Davies was drawing upon Sassoon’s memories throughout the film and he would use the poems to frame each section of his life. It’s an intimate and somber display of Sassoon’s life and you are transported to that period with him.

Sassoon’s attempt at conscientious objection to the war leads to his being committed to a Scottish hospital, where he meets and mentors fellow poet and soldier Wilfred Owen. Here he expresses his true feelings, as he finds comfort with Owen. They find consolation in each other in regards to their sexual identity and societal norms that have affected their growth as individuals. Davies shows Sassoon exploring different forms of love with different men. We see his relationships and the way he is treated the older he gets. There is Sassoon’s first experience with a man and it is full of love and genuine respect. Then because Sassoon feels he will never love again, the relationships he falls into after are more centred on infatuation and convenience.

Davies uses the poems to create flashbacks for Sassoon. Daley’s cinematography is set as an observational frame peeping into the life of Sassoon at first, but once we get to emotional moments, she paints an intimate, emotional portrait of scorned man trying to find some light in his life. The third act runs a bit long because of Sassoon’s relationship with his son. Or else the film is an interesting feat for Davies in honouring the life of Sassoon. Jack Lowden gives a very powerful performance and the final frame of Benediction is one that will stay with you long after it’s finished.

Benediction is a beautiful, intimate story of love and self-discovery. Davies explores Sassoon’s identity through different relationships, while adding the pressure of societal norms. There is such careful direction from Davies for Lowden’s emotional portrayal of Sasson to resonate with audiences. Period pieces manage to explore the desires and forbidden love between people. Almost everyone can resonate with these stories as these emotions are universal felt no matter the time period. Davies allows his audience to feel whatever Sassoon is feeling through the imagery and poetic dialogue throughout the film.

TIFF ’21: ‘Belfast’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Over the years Kenneth Branagh has worked on a variety of different projects. He brought Shakespeare, a Disney princess, and the God of Thunder to life. Branagh is very skilled in creating a contained world for all of these characters. His attention to detail and love for the material shines through every single time. His latest film, Belfast is unlike anything he has done before and that is what makes this film special. This was a passion project for Branagh. His personal life experiences made for an emotional story that will resonate with many. There are religious and political debates that fuel the background narrative, but his family life and love for moving pictures are what makes this one of the most heartwarming films of the year.

Belfast is a coming-of-age drama set during the late-1960s in Northern Ireland. The film follows young Buddy (Jude Hill) as he navigates the landscape of working-class struggle, cultural changes, and sectarian violence. Buddy dreams of a glamorous future that will whisk him far from his troubles. In the meantime, he finds consolation in his charismatic Pa (Jamie Dornan) and Ma (Caitríona Balfe), and his spry, tale-spinning grandparents (Ciarán Hinds and Judi Dench). This cast worked so well together and you could feel them united as a family unit. Their chemistry and genuine love for this story was definitely felt.

The reason why Belfast struck a chord with me had nothing to do with the political discourse. It was Branagh’s ode to cinema that made me incredibly emotional. Through the eyes of Buddy, we feel the excitement of watching a new motion picture on the big screen, or catching an old Western on the television. The wonderment and genuine love for cinema came through in the camerawork itself and the eyes of Buddy. Branagh also played with colour and texture on screen which I really loved. When Branagh does switch to colour, it’s pure magic because of Buddy’s reactions. Being able to recreate that feeling of watching something on the big screen for the first time is a beautiful thing.

Belfast is one of my favourite movies of the year! There are strong emotional moments between Balfe and Dornan to establish the working class struggles. There are conversations between Buddy and his grandparents that create that generational connection through the stories of the past. Each character in this cast shapes the story and shapes Buddy. The songs from Van Morrison and the pop culture references, especially one in particular, make this Branagh’s best feature to date. It’s a family film about respecting the stories of the past and moving forward for a better future, by never forgetting the streets that raised you.

TIFF ’21: ‘The Electrical Life Of Louis Wain’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

There are many biopics that do not capture the essence of the subject. In the case of Will Sharpe’s The Electrical Life of Louis Wain every characteristic filled the screen. Through his artistry and his spirited nature, Louis Wain’s story was presented in such a charming way. Louis Wain (Benedict Cumberbatch) brims with creativity, as he navigates building his career in the 1880s to support his widowed mother and five younger sisters. The academy-trained artist is skilled and his speedy portraiture has impressed many. However, his often stormy view of the world and those in it keeps him from engaging much with society. Sharpe showed Wain’s entire spectrum through unique framing and great use of flashbacks.

While watching this film, it seems that Benedict Cumberbatch was truly the perfect casting for Louis Wain. He embodied him extremely well, even down to his mannerisms. Cumberbatch had this warmth as Wain and he was very caring towards his sisters. Wain ends up hiring a curious governess, Emily Richardson (Claire Foy) for his sisters, and she brightens his life in a way even he’d never imagined. The awkward tension between the two of them carried the first half of this film, as Wain turns into a different person. He is much happier with Emily by his side and the world did not seem so dark.

As his story unfolds, you see the way that he lived and how his personal life was reflected in his art. Without saying much, the second half of this film is very emotional and Cumberbatch will move you to tears. It’s a slow, painful process for Louis Wain, but he expressed his grief and sorrow through his paintings. Sharpe beautifully framed scenes with Emily and Louis, he would blend the stillness of the scene with that of an actual painting. Sharpe just let the loving, intimate moments between the two of them breathe, so you could feel the same warmth.

The Electrical Life of Louis Wain is a beautiful portrait of his life and how he became one with his artistic side. Many things make up the mind of the artist. Through love, trauma, and grief, the pain is expressed through strokes on a canvas. The way Sharpe highlighted his life, using as much as his creative side as possible, made for a beautiful piece for Louis Wain. From the score, to the costume design, and the witty voice over from Olivia Colman, this film is a real treat and you will gain a new appreciation for Louis Wain.