Gemma Mastroianni: The Speed of a Zeitgeist


Pop culture analyst Gemma Mastroianni knows a thing or two about trends. Over on her website The Soundtrack, she tallies latest fads, fitting playlists, and the leisures of her featured guests. She likes to figure out what makes us all tick, whether it’s as a group (the fashionable way), or as a single person exploring their own tastes. With strong ties to Toronto’s music circuits, I figured it would be a bit different to see what Mastroianni thought about the cinematic side of things. This isn’t completely off-topic either, as she dabbled in cinematic studies in university, and has kept her focus on the medium since. As the weather changes and the trends begin, I caught up with her to see what her take was when it comes to film and its pop culture movements.

Films Fatale: As a pop culture analyst, how vital are the zeitgeists that film trends create
to the greater societal whole?

Gemma Mastroianni: I would say its’ pretty important. We have to document how we are progressing as a
society, and displaying this through the media and type of film we create absolutely
makes an impact.

FF: How, in your experience, does film shape societal politics? Is it stronger, or
weaker, than people insist?

GM: Film is a very powerful thing. People can so easily be swayed by any content in
media. I think it’s very strong, but I also think it depends on the filmmaker. Every
movie has a bias. Documentaries are made to display a ‘reality’ of the filmmakers
ideology. Many people don’t realize that documentaries are often only showcasing
one side of the story.

For instance, look at Michael Moore’s Michael Moore in TrumpLand and
Capitalism: A Love Story. Both very informative and educational, but also only
showing one side. If someone were to view these films they could be swayed to take
on his opinion and information, but if they were to view something from the other
side, they could also be very swayed to take on that side of things.

FF: Do you take part in viewing current films as often as you surround yourself
with modern music and trends? If not, do you have a preference of which older
films you stick with and why?

GM: Unfortunately I do not keep up with viewing current films as often as I surround
myself with modern music. It is something I have definitely kept up with more
consistently in the past however, it has been one of the busiest years to date for me.
It is easier for me to keep up with music because I can just play it in the background
while completing work but with film, I like to give that my full and undivided
attention. Unfortunately I have not had the time I once had to do so, but things
should be slowing down soon in which I’ll definitely be paying closer attention.
I would not say that I have a preference of which older films I stick to because I like
to explore all different types of film. I want to experience it all!


FF: As a trend observer, what is your take on the battle between veteran
filmmakers shunning the rise of streaming services (like Netflix)?

GM: I think its better that people are paying a monthly fee as opposed to illegally
downloading films. I know illegal streaming still occurs, but I feel like for younger
people they will resort to purchasing a Netflix membership as opposed to jumping
to download a movie.

It’s unfortunate that things have changed this way because it means less coin for
filmmakers, but we have to realize that media is constantly changing. It will
continue to change and we have to keep up with it.

FF: Is the pop culture surrounding film as big as it once was (in, perhaps, the
‘70s and ‘80s)? Are comic book films replacing that demographic, or
enhancing it?

GM: In a sense yes, because everybody wants to ‘Netflix and Chill.’ In another sense, no
because people don’t want to go to the theatre as much as they once did. I wouldn’t
say that it isn’t particularly as big, but rather that the culture has evolved into
something different- which is viewing it from your own couch. I don’t think it’s a
good thing because I don’t understand why we are encouraging everyone to isolate
themselves through streaming services- going to the movies is a completely
different experience. This goes beyond film!

FF: We like to send interviews off with the most basic question, based on why we are all cinephiles. What are your top five films of all time, and why?


500 Days of Summer
I’m in love with the way this story is told. I love how the film jumps between
different times in the story, so it automatically grabs your attention and holds it
there. If you aren’t paying attention to the timeline, you’re going to be pretty lost or
get the wrong idea of what is happening.

It’s a beautiful story that really shows you how easily people can take advantage of
others, through love. I feel something emotionally whenever I watch this. I also love
the soundtrack! Great mixture of tunes that matches each section of the film


American Beauty
Although I cannot watch this film in the same way I once did as a result of Spacey’s
wrongdoings, I’m in love with the story. There are so many ups and downs of this
film that lure you into an emotional rollercoaster.

On top of this, I love the utilization of the colour red and the symbolism of the rose.
There is a theme of lust throughout this film between Lester’s obsession with his
daughters friend, and his wife’s affair with the real estate agent. Red is a lustful
colour, and I love how this tied together.

Additionally, the story in itself is just insane. The actors in the film portrayed the
situation so well, in which I found the film extremely entertaining and touching in
some ways.


The Shining
This is by far the best psychological horror film I have ever seen. It plays with your
mind, creeps you out, makes you sit on the edge of your seat, and has you craving
what will happen next. Nicholson’s twisted character is absolutely spot on, and I am
incredibly fascinated by it. All characters were actually very spot on to what they
were trying to portray, making you feel as if you were watching something real. It’s
just amazing to me how a horror film from 1980 is better than a film that could be
made today considering the technology we now have, and I think that says it all.


I, Tonya
I love this film because of how well the story was told. I wasn’t actually familiar with
the original story until after seeing the film, but after seeing the original interviews
and media footage and comparing it to the film, it was just about spot-on.

Personality, wardrobe, makeup, was all as perfect as it could’ve been.
This story is absolutely insane. I love a movie that can literally make my jaw-drop,
and this one always does multiple times throughout a viewing. The emotional
intensity, the twists and turns, betrayals, and seeing her overcome her struggles was
all very empowering.


Some Like it Hot
GM: The light-hearted and fun nature of this film is fantastic to say the least. It’s
entertaining, dramatic, exciting, and hilarious all in one. I don’t think a film could be
made today joking about a topic like this, which is fascinating to me and definitely
relates back to zeitgeists.

Films Fatale thanks Gemma Mastroianni for her discussion! Check out her site The Soundtrack for pop culture perspectives, unique musical playlists, and a variety of favourites-lists that may inspire you to discover a new favourite niche in your own life.

Andreas Babiolakis has a Masters degree in Film and Photography Preservation and Collections management from Ryerson University, as well as a Bachelors degree in Cinema Studies from York University. His favourite times of year are the Criterion Collection flash sales and the annual Toronto International Film Festival.