Little Fires Everywhere Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Little Fires Everywhere is a Hulu Original series, that is adapted from Celeste Ng’s novel. The series explores the residence living in Shaker Heights, specifically the picture-perfect Richardson family but when a mother and daughter, move into their rental home nearby, things take a dramatic turn. It has a very strong narrative structure, it is well written and shows the complexities of each character extremely well. The show tackles racial discrimination, microaggressions, the meaning of motherhood and a woman’s right to choose.

We first meet Elena Richardson (Reese Witherspoon) who is standing on the sidewalk, staring at her mansion, burning to the ground. We can understand that something has gone horribly wrong and someone else has set her home ablaze. The opening title sequence is stunning as well, showing plenty of important objects and pieces that symbolize how materialistic the residence in Shaker Heights can be. The opening sequence, to any show, is the tipping point because it gives so much away and no one even realizes it, that’s why it is one of my favourite aspects in a series.

Elena had a perfect home, a perfect family, a picture-perfect life but she was unhappy with herself. She has always been confused about what she wanted. Did she want to have a career or did she want to have four children? Naturally people would say, that she could have both and live that picture-perfect life but it is unrealistic. No one’s life is perfect because people are not perfect. Elena wanted to have a family and have a career, but the more children she had, the more she resented the fact, that her journalism career was dwindling. This was such a perfect role for Reese Witherspoon because she plays the privileged, broken woman so well.

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Courtesy of Simpson Street & Hello Sunshine 

The idea of perfection is what causes the most harm in anyone’s life. The pressure to be perfect and to always make the right choices is exhausting. Everyone doubts themselves and if they made the right choices in their lives. At the end of the day, we never really know until ten years later, when you realize how much time has passed and you reflect on your life. This is the case with Mia (Kerry Washington) and Pearl Warren (Lexi Underwood) who have been relocating, their entire lives because Mia is an artist, with a very dark past.

Mia first meets Elena when she takes a look at her rental home, which is down the street from the Richardson house. When Elena speaks to Mia, she is very passive and delivers lines with a discriminatory undertone. Elena reeks of white privilege and Mia is very transparent, when having discussions with her. The racial issues, are not only discussed throughout the series, but they are planted in the very passive dialogue, from white characters and it shows the microaggressions quite effectively. It is all about the way things were said to Mia and to Pearl, it is almost hard to stomach at times because of how oblivious Elena is to her own vocabulary.

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Courtesy of Simpson Street & Hello Sunshine (left Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon) 

Elena makes the attempt to welcome Mia and Pearl into her home, they became friends and had discussions about motherhood. The flashbacks to their former selves, played by Tiffany Boone and AnnaSophia Robb, were placed properly as well, so the audience can come to their own conclusion of how “motherly” these characters were. What does it take to be a mother? Are all women fit to be mothers? How does one even define motherhood? Is it really a choice to even be a mother or is it more of an obligation to the gender role? These constructs have women in a box, in a cage, if you will and once they get locked into a role or a life, they did not plan on having, it leads to difficult decisions.

What was most interesting about this show, was the character dynamics, between Mia and Izzy Richardson (Megan Stott) versus Pearl and Elena. Pearl wanted to live a normal life, she wanted to attend school and go to homecoming dances, maybe even experience her first love and stay for a while. Izzy hated her small town life, she did not want to feel boxed in and her art was her freedom. Both Izzy and Pearl, essentially, wanted to switch lives and switch mothers. Izzy and Pearl, saw who they wanted to be when they were older. Izzy saw herself, as a free, artistic spirit like Mia and Pearl saw herself, in a huge home, with a picture-perfect husband and a family like Elena.

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Courtesy of Simpson Street & Hello Sunshine (top) Kerry Washington and Lexi Underwood (bottom) Reese Witherspoon and Megan Stott

The final three episodes of the series, is when all the demons and secrets, creep out and wreak havoc on everyone close to the Richardson family. Their perfect family is torn apart by lies and poor decisions made by Trip Richardson (Jordan Elsass), Lexie Richardson (Jade Pettyjohn) and Elena. The central story, eventually shifts, to a legal battle between Elena’s friend, Linda McCullough (Rosemarie DeWitt) and Mia’s coworker, Bebe Chow (Lu Huang), who fight for custody of young Mirabella/May Ling. It leaves everyone questioning, who is the right fit, to mother this child. Is it the birth mother or the adopted mother? As that heartbreaking storyline unfolds, we find out who Elena and Mia really are through flashbacks.

Little Fires Everywhere is one of the best series I have seen this year and it will keep you in it, until the very end. This cast is extremely strong, Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon are incredible in this! The show is very important because it is very subtle in its delivery, that you won’t even realize how many issues are boiling under the surface. It slowly creates this atmosphere of doom like a slow, burning fire, that will ignite at any second. The final episode shows the privilege literally burning to the ground and I think it is a wonderful metaphor.

 

Dads Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Dads had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2019 and it is Bryce Dallas Howard’s directorial debut. The documentary covers a wide range of diverse families, across the globe, that show the true meaning, of what it takes to be a father. Howard opens the film with home footage of her being born and then has her father, Ron Howard, shared his views of fatherhood. It integrated celebrity fathers and true stories, from every perspective imaginable, some stories were fun and light, others were heartbreaking to sit through. At the end of the day, parenting does not come with a manual and Dads shows that in a very candid way.

It was such a lovely film because it has fathers at the forefront. We all know women can do it all and a mothers love is extremely important. When a father is present and involved in the child’s life, it is wonderful to see that dynamic of a father with his children. I am extremely close to my dad and I often find that films or tv shows, rarely have a positive father/daughter dynamic. There is always some conflict or the father is not in the picture at all. So films that have a positive and loving relationship representing that fatherly bond is a step in the right direction.

It is important to show, how fatherhood has changed and how men, in general, change their perspective of what it means to be a man. Celebrity dads such as, Ron Howard, Patton Oswalt, Will Smith, Neil Patrick Harris, Hasan Minaj, Jimmy Kimmel, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Fallon, Ken Jeong, Kenan Thompson and Judd Apatow all had very insightful moments throughout the documentary. Howard had this steady flow when having the open discussions about fatherhood with each of them. It was candid because all of the anecdotes shared were realistic and grounded. You could feel Howard’s connection, to the men in her life and it was lovely.

Howard brought together different family units, that included diverse cultural representation, sexual orientation and economical backgrounds, in order to have viewers appreciate and understand what it means to be a father. The stories were truly special and to watch these fathers pull through, under their own health issues or financial issues was really moving. It had a very nice structure and it allowed the stories of Rance Howard, Reed Howard, Glen Henry, Robert Selby, Thiago Queiroz, Shuichi Sakuma, Rob Scheer and Reece Scheer to be the emotional centers of the documentary. The celebrity stories were used as the comedic relief, while these true stories shed light on so many different issues.

Dads is a documentary that shows the journey of the modern dad. There are plenty of heartfelt moments in this film and there is a perfect balance of humour, that counters the serious subject matter. Whether your child was adopted, or has gone through multiple surgeries, or has kept you up at night, causing you to be delusional, they have shaped you into the man you are today. Fathers are important and this documentary shows all the good dads, who have been there for their children. It is a really special film and a wonderful debut for Bryce Dallas Howard.

 

 

Revival Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Revival directed by Danny Green, is a mixture of every performance medium: a Broadway musical, Hollywood musical, animation, green screen technology, and sound stage. It is one of the most interesting and inventive films that has been released recently. Not only does it cover the spectrum of all art forms but it presents Catholicism in a different way. The story of Jesus is told in a humanistic way, with a wonderful book of songs to accompany it.

The way that it began as a stage play, with an introduction from Harry Lennix, who plays Pilate in the show and then slowly began to cycle through different performance spaces was really unique. There were moments of the film being on location in the mountains, or they made the choice to use a green screen for certain scenes. The special effects were quite good as well. It did seem overindulgent but it is probably because, there has never been a film that has tackled this many forms at once.

This cast was also really strong as well. There were many surprises but seeing Michelle Williams and Chaka Khan in the same film was awesome. The music was what held this film together and enhanced the story as it went on. The entire company did a great job with this passion play, both on the stage and on location. The costume design was strong as well because the vibrant colours made it visually stunning. The conversations about Jesus being a man first and a prophet second, were really thought provoking and challenged the ideology.

Revival is an innovative feature and I commend the film for being so bold. It crossed so many artistic mediums to present a story that we know, in a different way. The music will carry you through this journey and it will keep you locked in to the very end. It is a very refreshing film and they presented the story of Jesus in a more realistic way.

 

Case 347 Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Case 347 written and directed by Chris Wax, follows psychologist and UFO skeptic, Dr. Mia Jansen (Maya Stojan), and a team of documentary filmmakers who believe that alien abduction claims are forms of “mass hysteria”. The film uses found footage to tell its story, while integrating the live reactions of those filming and narrating the situation. On their journey they make some shocking discoveries and end up in a nightmare.

The film has pretty strong moments that peak your interest. The  different camera angles from the found footage, combined with security footage and night vision lenses, were used effectively to create a dark, sinister atmosphere. However, the film felt episodic and did not really flow from scene to scene that well. There would be an encounter and then dead air right after, it almost felt like we were waiting for something else to happen, rather than just being in the moment with the characters.

The film just seemed very mediocre and could have been a research paper, instead of a film. For a film that is relies so heavily on the footage they found, they don’t really make any of it plausible because of how mediocre it looked. For some reason it just did not feel believable. It just seemed messy and the performances were lacking any emotional depth. It emulated films that have dealt with paranormal activity and made it uninteresting.

Case 347 starts off strong and then loses its audience when it becomes over exaggerated. The found footage is not enough to make this film interesting and that is why it is difficult to sit through. It seemed very fake and majority of the scares were just used for shock value and it did not really make sense in relation to the the alien storyline. It had the potential to be a solid horror film but the performances were not strong enough to carry this through.

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.

Screen Shot 2020-06-15 at 5.01.00 PM

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.