What We Learned This Week: April 15-21

LESSON #1: LEAVE SOME THINGS TO MYSTERY— We’ve reached the final week of hype before Avengers: Infinity War.  The anticipation is peaking, but so are the dumb think pieces and click bait articles trying to capitalize on the upcoming premiere.  If I see another article asking where the Soul Stone is or a poll prognosticating which characters are most likely to die, it will be the umpteenth one and already too soon.  They reach badly, kind of like this one talking about world domination.  As I’ve preached before, let the film come to you.  Pull off the tin-foil hats.  Take a breath and soak it in.  Have some patience.  You’ve come this far.  Don’t ruin your good feelings with swimming too far into guessing games.  Start avoiding reviews after Sunday’s night’s Hollywood premiere and Tuesday evening’s press embargo.  I promise you will enjoy the big opening more with more mystery and less overstimulation.

LESSON #2: COMIC BOOK ACTORS ARE NOT SELLOUTS— Speaking of Avengers: Infinity WarGuardians of the Galaxy star Zoe Saldana had the soapbox opportunity to clap back against the “elitists” out there that look down upon comic book films as comfort food trash and soulless acting.  Her full statements are absolutely outstanding and must-read.  She’s not the first to have this stance in the nearly two decades of this peak comic book film era.  More established and classical actors from comic book films, from Robert Redford and Kenneth Branagh to Patrick Stewart and Anthony Hopkins, have done this work for wonderful reasons like family connection, fan support, and as a door opener to more wider visibility and more opportunities.  Why would anyone frown upon someone who wants to have fun while making money or have something their children and grandchildren can see them in?  Those critical aren’t elite people anymore.  They are inflexible haters with lesser hearts.

LESSON #3: DUMB MOVIES DESERVE ROASTING AS LONG AS EVERYONE CAN KEEP A SENSE OF HUMOR ABOUT IT— I got a kick out of the story this week that Netflix finally got to return a little troll favor against popular scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson.  On more than one occasion, NDT has enjoyed tweeting and pinpointing the scientific inaccuracies of films. Armageddon was one of his favorite targets and it is now on Netflix.  For overly-committed fans of cheesy movies, Tyson’s commentary has been labeled as “ruining” by whiny uneducated fanboys.  I side with Tyson, though I enjoyed (see the article) the return rub of gamesmanship from Netflix.  Movies like Armageddon are stupefying when taken seriously, so I, for one, appreciate the extra level of shared smarts.  Good science fiction movies can make solid entertainment and still keep their science cred intact.  That said, if the enjoyment level is present (and it is most of the time for the Armageddon crowd), it’s OK to close the textbooks and kick back.  It’s good to see both sides laughing.  Halle Berry did it years ago when she accepted her Razzie in person.  Others can and should too.

LESSON #4: MOVIEPASS WAS DOOMED TO FAIL— Chalk this up in the “things that are too good to be true often are” column.  Business reports are auditors revealed that MoviePass has lost money for its parent company in the nine-figure department.  The original prediction was $7.4 million only to have that number balloon to over $150 million.  Good golly, that’s quite a haircut!  The company claims it can become profitable by 2019, but it will require seeking other forms of revenue, especially with another price drop shrinking the profit margin.  Good luck with that.  Current members, skip past wait-and-see and enjoy the service while you can.  You’re getting a heck of a deal.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  He is a proud member and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on FacebookTwitter, and Medium.

 

What We Learned This Week: April 8-14

LESSON #1: INFUSE HEART INTO HORROR FILMS FOR ELEVATED IMPACT— John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place is making a killing at the box office for a multitude of reasons.  First, from a business standpoint, it’s a well-marketed horror movie with a PG-13 rating to increase the potential audience compared to R-rating fare.  Second, and more importantly, Krasinski and company made an intelligent and resonating film compared to the usual shock value thrills of the genre.  I believe their secret ingredient was heart.  Strip away the monsters and you have a family survival film comprised of characters you care about and invest in, not a cast of hollow and unmemorable stereotypes occupying a buffet menu for carnage.  For most disposable horror films, you kind of root for the creative kills but once the surprises are gone, so is the repeat value.  In A Quiet Place, you dread any potential for loss and the journey of avoidance becomes more compelling than any swift action.  That’s a powerful draw worth revisiting.  You’ll find three over-the-moon reviews of A Quiet Place between Aaron White’s take, the main episode here on Feelin’ Film, and my own on Every Movie Has a Lesson.

LESSON #2: HOW DO YOU PROPERLY REPLACE DECEASED ACTORS?— The rumor is out there that Meryl Streep could replace Carrie Fisher as Leia in the next Star Wars film.  Naturally, the purists… errr… I mean… hardcore fanboys led the charge of torches and pitchforks against such an idea, forgetting needs and logistics of the story in place.  If you have noticed (as the cited article points out), each returning Original Trilogy great has led the main focus for each film (Han had The Force Awakens, Luke had The Last Jedi), and Leia was the planned centerpiece of the third in J.J. Abrams’s script before Fisher’s death.  If that is true, it’s going to take quite a rewrite.  With shooting due to start this summer, it’s going to be very interesting to see how filmmakers are going to modify the plan.  What would you do?

LESSON #3: HOW DO YOU PROPERLY REPLACE DISGRACED ACTORS?— Comic actor T.J. Miller keeps adding to his sh-tstorm and diminishing reputation.  After reports of sexual misconduct and violence and transphobic bigotry surfaced last winter, he’s added federal fake bomb threat charges this week.  Even before this week, many, including a film critic peer of mine Danielle Solzman and an excellent Scott Mendelson piece in Forbes magazine, have questioned why Miller hasn’t received the Kevin Spacey treatment and been replaced or cut from Ready Player One (a simple ADR replacement you would think) and the upcoming Deadpool 2.  I have to believe the answers aren’t always as simple as a replacement, between the hangups of effort, time, negative impact potential, contracts, or the sliding scale of morality trying to define punishments that fit crimes.  In the end, I’ll sound like a teacher to say “fair is not always equal.”  What worked for Ridley Scott and TriStar Pictures might not work for Steven Spielberg and Warner Bros.  The only part that is up to moviegoers is whether to support films with these questionable cast inclusions with your ticket money.  For a critic like myself, it’s about checking biases at the door and judging the film not the people.

LESSON #4: THE SECRETS OF NETFLIX— I can’t be the only person who wastes time scrolling Netflix menus looking for something the sparks my interest while running into the same promoted and retreading menu preferences.  Word is there are codes to unlock and directly navigate to the narrow subgenres appearing within the evolving algorithms on Netflix that contain thousands of underrepresented movies.  Has anyone tried these?!  Follow this link and let us know!


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  He is a proud member and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on FacebookTwitter, and Medium.

 

What We Learned This Week: April 1-7

LESSON #1: BUILDING A CINEMATIC UNIVERSE IS HARD— With the impending arrival of Avengers: Infinity War marking a peak as the seventh film of the planned ten-film third phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Patrick Shanley of The Hollywood Reporter asked the question “Can Anyone Besides Marvel Make a Cinematic Universe Work?” and it’s a good one.  We’ve seen Universal Pictures flop with its “Dark Universe” of movie monsters and Warner Bros. unable to find the same success with their DC Comics titles.  Franchises with sequels can be done (Transformers, Star Wars, Fast and Furious, etc.).  It’s the intertwining of standalone films and storylines that can exist on their own outside of the combinations that is key.  That requires developing more than one narrative and character.  Marvel did it right with by having patience with its unified vision.  Nothing was rushed.  The other attempts have not shown that level of patience.

LESSON #2: BELIEVE IN CINEMATIC GUILTY PLEASURES— The arrival of Pacific Rim: Uprising side-by-side with the nostalgic energy of Ready Player One calls to mind the idea of guilty pleasures.  Some movies are never going to win Oscars, but are just flat-out fun and garner repeat viewings for easy entertainment.  A fellow Chicago film critic buddy of mine always tries to assert that there are no such things as guilty pleasures.  If a film is good for someone to a pleasurable level, it must have some objective merit worth a higher rating without shame or the need to defend it.  I see his point, but I disagree.  I think it’s perfectly OK, realistically even-keeled if you will, to recognize the differences found between artistic integrity of a film and the fun value.  Honestly, we do the very same with the vice versa end of the highbrow other stuff.  For example, a film like Schindler’s List or any Terrence Malick film can easily be recognized for its artistic superiority and seriousness, but no one is going to Netlfix-and-Chill to a Holocaust film or an Emmanuel Lubezki slideshow of familial hate and trees.  If we’re going to put qualifiers on one end, why not the other?

LESSON #3: DON’T ALWAYS BELIVE FILM SNOBS— From guilty pleasures, we switch the gears to revered classics and faked bragging rights.  Film snobs exist in this world (I work amongst them constantly), but, let me tell you, the majority of them are full of sugar-honey-iced-tea.  First, they don’t admit to finding fun in those aforementioned guilty pleasures.  They were silly kids and teens once too, and I’ll put money on them geeking out to some adventure or playing princesses in a younger life.  They didn’t always watch French New Wave films on 35mm.  The second point of fakery stems from this Gizmodo article by James O’Malley presenting the top movies film snobs say they’ve seen but never actually have.  Those types of film snobs feel the need to rub our commoner noses with notions like “you’re not a true cinephile if you haven’t seen ____” or “you haven’t lived unless you’ve seen ___.”  If they are faking that, they deserve to be called out.  You have my permission to troll the hell out of these people with every meme of movie commercialism possible.

LESSON #4: AVOID PURVEYORS OF THE WORST CLICHES OF FILM REVIEW— Speaking of film snobs and piggybacking off of last week’s column, film critics are often guilty of hyperbole of their own.  Props to Feelin’ Film Facebook discussion group regular Jacob Neff for providing this Letterboxd list piece by Erik Bazjert on the worst frequently-used cliches in film reviews.  I adore this list and know too many film critics who fall for these and write with a pull-quote/pun methodology of little substance.  Worst of all, more often than not, these cliches are celebrated and even encouraged by every studio’s marketing departments to fill their posters, packaging, and signage with these overused and weak zingers.  Even if I never get to scratch off that bucket list item of having one of my reviews cited on a DVD/Blu-ray cover, I, for one, actively try to avoid every single one of these tired and ultimately meaningless expressions.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  He is a proud member and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on FacebookTwitterMedium, and Creators Media.

What We Learned This Week: March 25-31

SPRING BREAK AND EASTER EDITION!

LESSON #1: DEAR CHRISTIAN FILM COMPANIES AND DISTRIBUTORS, SPREAD YOUR RELEASE SCHEDULE OUT— Don’t get me wrong.  I get it.  Easter might as well be Christmas: Part II, the Super Bowl, and WrestleMania when it comes to public awareness on all things Christianity.  Just because all eyes are on the “reason for the season” (if they can put down the eggs, bunnies, and candy) doesn’t mean that Easter should be the most stacked weekend of the calendar year for Christian-themed films.  The presence of I Can Only ImaginePaul Apostle of Christ, and God is Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness makes for three films competing for your Easter weekend dollars against the inviting mainstream fare like Ready Player One.  Spielberg’s film is going to get its money, but your films have a hard enough time making money (as well as other problems) as it is to have to now compete with each other.  Share the wealth, space your calendar out, and that means more than the two-week head start I Can Only Imagine gave itself to great success.  The calendar is full of holidays.  Pick another couple go-to weekends and fallbacks other than Easter.

LESSON #2: STEVEN SPIELBERG STILL HAS THE MAGIC— As heard on this week’s main Feelin’ Film podcast and read in my own review on Every Movie Has a Lesson (among many others) as well, Ready Player One feels like a tremendous return to form for the 71-year-old director who has spent the better part of the last decade making safe and tidy historical Social Studies lectures on film.  Cinema has sorely lacked the full power of his signature sense of wonder after mere glimpses in films like War HorseLincoln, and others.  Cue the WWE chant!

LESSON #3: STEVEN SPIELBERG NEVER LOST THE MAGIC— No matter the moral history preaching that went on, Steven Spielberg never lost his technical prowess within the medium.  If anything his more reserved and refined projects sharpened it and modernized it to be ready for something like Ready Player One.  The craftsman-level maturity he and his frequent collaborators (editor Michael Kahn, cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, ILM guru Dennis Muren, and others) bring to a project like Ready Player One elevate the material and prevent what would be over-amplified noise and lazy fluff in lesser hands (yeah, I mean you Michael Bay and Tim Burton).  Rediscovered mojo or not, he never lost the talent.

LESSON #4: STEVEN SPIELBERG STILL LOST OTHER THINGS— Where Steven Spielberg might be slipping is with his rhetoric.  While doing press this week for his blockbuster’s big release, he commented that Netflix films shouldn’t qualify for Oscars, equating the streaming platform to a television outlet, making the filmmaker appear to be a little out of touch with the evolved marketplace film viewers operate within nowadays.  If you go to the official rulebook from the Academy, here’s the basics of what it takes for Best Picture eligibility:

I’ll grant the kicker of the Part D listed above as deal-breaker in my book to match Spielberg’s opinion.  Here’s the thing, Netflix has previously and does currently release some of its films in theaters for limited runs.  The trouble is, for the most part, their theatrical drops are a blip on the radar and the bare minimum similar to the “one-and-done” trend happening in NCAA Men’s Basketball with holding players in college for a year before making the leap straight to the NBA.  Neither practice really does much good and just delays the inevitable profitability (NBA money or Netflix reach) but, if the rule is followed eligibility is met, plain and simple.  This year’s prestigious Cannes Film Festival is already displaying an anti-Netflix power move by banning Netflix Original films from competing without a theatrical release.  I’ve said this before on other topics.  It’s all about price point, earning potential, and this being a business first now.  If a studio can make more money selling to Netflix (just ask Paramount with Annihilation) than it would the cost of printing it, marketing it, and putting it in limited theaters, I sure couldn’t tell them not to.

LESSON #5: “META” CAN’T GET WEIRDER THAN SHIA LEBOUF— In WTF news that could only come out of Hollywood, word hit the wire that Shia LeBeouf, at the young age of 31, has written (under a pseudonym) his own film autobiography and the casting has raised an eyebrow.  Signing Manchester by the Sea Oscar nominee Lucas Hedges to play the young Shia is a nice get, but what gets really weird is that LeBeouf himself will play his own father.  Yowzers!  Even if Shia is a dead ringer for his own father, I don’t know how big the grain of salt has to be to suspend the disbelief that the Shia you’re watching acting next to the other dude playing Shia isn’t the real Shia you see and recognize but his dad instead?!  That’s not going to be a good look for the continually growing deep end you’ve been leaping from, Mr. LeBeouf.  Dude, either play yourself (because you can) for the vanity or get another actor to separate the work behind-the-camera from the one on-camera.

LESSON #6: MORE OFTEN THAN NOT, NUDITY IS AN UNNECESSARY DISTRACTION IN MOVIES— As the former horndog pre-teen/teen who had no problem sneaking through his local video store to rent some Shannon Tweed Skin-a-max films back in the day, this lesson might be the most mature realization I’ve ever grown up to admit the truth on.  Get out the #adulting hashtag.  Jessica Chastain got herself a headline this week talking about nudity in film.  No stranger herself to nudity, the acclaimed actress made excellent points on discomfort, victimization, and whether the nudity in question matches what the characters themselves would really do.  The word “gratuitous” was never used by Chastain, but most of us adults can quickly label nudity in a movie (female and male, mind you) with that word pretty quickly.  She brings up valid points and I tip my hat with respect that someone wants to talk about it, especially during this #MeToo era.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  He is a proud member and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on FacebookTwitterMedium, and Creators Media.

 

What We Learned this Week: March 18-24

LESSON #1: BE SMARTER AND SEEK SMARTER FILM CRITICISM— This video from Patrick Willems is amazing.  He nails the topic like an industrial nail gun with the safety off installing a roof of shingles in a 11 minutes.  As a self-made critic, the ideals discussed here are where I strive towards.  Always seek improvement.

LESSON #2: THE FLOODGATES ARE NOW OPEN. BE PREPARED— In the extended wake of all things Harvey Weinstein, the bankruptcy announcement of his studio company, The Weinstein Company, did more than just sink production.  All legal contacts connected to the company are now voided and that includes non-disclosure agreements.  Yes, THOSE non-disclosure agreements.  If you think you’ve heard an unimaginable amount of names and victims, get ready.  A tabloid tsunami is coming.

LESSON #3: LET’S PROMOTE TENDER MASCULINITY— From a seedy history of emasculation from Lesson #1, let’s bring in optimism.  I cross-publish my Every Movie Has a Lesson film reviews on the social publication platform Medium.com where I have discovered a multitude of very good writers operating their own worthy stumps of commentary on any number of subjects.  I really appreciated this recent piece from Terra Liore of Electric Lit entitled “In Praise of Tender Masculinity, the New Non-Toxic Way to Be a Man.”  Liore examined some of our favorite movie and literary characters who exemplify a healthier and more nuanced manliness away from machismo.  She cites films like Moonlight and Magic Mike XXL and characters like Samwise Ganges from The Lord of the Rings trilogy and Remus Lupin from the Harry Potter series.  It’s a great piece that I encourage you to check out.  We need more of this.

LESSON #4: SEATS ARE FOR BUTTS— When this ScreenCrush story (oh, the puns!) of a man dying after having his head trapped in an electric theater seat crossed the Feelin’ Film Facebook group, I thought it had to be from The Onion.  There was no way it was true.  Alas, condolences are needed and a few lessons needs to be learned.  The culprit was a dropped phone and a malfunctioning seat.  Go ahead and fire up the PSA printing press for one more reason to put your damn cell phones away at the movies.  Those massively connected and dense seats are indeed a labyrinth.  If you have trouble, get some help from the theater staff before trying to take matters in your own hands.  Finally, society may have a reason for employing those senior citizen drug store staple products of the grabbing extender thingamabob.  I think it’s time to arm every theater usher in America! Think of the lives (and phones) we can save!

LESSON #5: THE NUMBERS ARE IN AND JUSTICE LEAGUE IS IN LAST PLACE FOR THE DCEU— In the latest chapter of the eternal lesson of “too big to fail,” the final box office numbers came in for Justice League with a total worldwide gross of $647,924,295.  Man of Steel is next with around $660 million.  While that is more than double its reported $300 million budget where no one is loosing any fortunes or stock options, the cloud of disappoint still looms.  The knee-jerk time period has cooled and we can better ask and advise where Warner Bros. will go from here.  Right now, it’s up to Aquaman and Shazam.  “The Rock” makes everything better, right?

LESSON #6: PHYSICAL MEDIA STILL HAS A PLACE— Today, the favorite film of 2017 for many Feelin’ Film followers (and hosts), The Greatest Showman, becomes available for digital download.  This is the first chance to own the successful and celebrated film for home viewing.  The Greatest Showman will still be available on Blu-ray and DVD on April 10th.  We’re coming to a time where that is not always the case.  I know I was bummed to hear that one of my favorite 2017 films, Wonderstruck from Amazon Studios, was not going to receive a physical disc release and only be available on streaming platforms for the immediate future. Has manufacturing discs really become that low in profitability?  Maybe so, that linked Flavorwire article researched that numbers for digital sales (subscriptions, rentals, VOD, downloads) totaled $13 billion in 2017 compared to $4.7 billion for packaged products.  Businesses are going to jump at that earning potential even if they can have both.  To me, that’s one sign of many to a slow extinction for physical media.  I think discs are going to be a Criterion-level niche like vinyl records soon.  How many folks out there have gone more digital?  How many people are still steadily buying physical media of current films (don’t count those Criterion keepsakes)?  I know my number has dropped precipitously in the last five years.  Both that cited Wonderstruck link and this recent story from Collider implore consumers to stave off the coming extinction.  If you’re like me and enjoy the feel of possessing something special, give them a read.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  He is a proud member and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on FacebookTwitterMedium, and Creators Media.

 

 

What We Learned This Week: March 11-17

LESSON #1: GIRLS SHOULD PLAY TOO— Setting off a firestorm of action on a Feelin’ Film Facebook group post this week was the announcement of a Rotten Tomatoes alternative specializing in female film critics.  Underserved and underrepresented, I’m all for a platform to celebrate and highlight different voices in film criticism.  The more the merrier.  Gender inequality is a rampant problem and opportunities like Cherry Picks (I hope a better name is coming) can only help the topic and add to the discussion.

LESSON #2: CAN WE BAN THE TERM “MADE IT FOR THE FANS” PLEASE?— Speaking of RT, over these recent ’10s years of Rotten Tomatoes gobbling up more public attention, the perceived backlash against low RT scores has set off soundbites from several stakeholders.  A prominent reaction a few years back was director David Ayers after Suicide Squad (video).  The latest is actor Joel Edgerton pushing back against the negative reviews bestowed upon the Netflix release Bright.  Both gentlemen used the term “made it for the fans” as a shield of righteousness for what they say was the intended purpose of their films.  Breaking news, Joel and David, critics are fans too.  They just have a wider and more published platform to voice their opinion.  Not all fans are going to like crappy films.  Want more fans, and therefore more critical, support? Make better films and earn more fans.

LESSON #3: HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT A DANNY BOYLE JAMES BOND FILM?— With director Sam Mendes not slated to return to the James Bond world after Spectre, audiences and news writers have been in a three-year guessing game of who will take over the helm of the spy franchise.  Word is that man could be Slumdog Millionaire Oscar winner and Trainspotting leader Danny Boyle.  Coupled with Trainspotting screenwriter John Hodge, I think the pair is an exciting fit for Bond.  Fun fact: Boyle directed Daniel Craig in a Bond-esque role opposite the Queen in his Opening Ceremony program of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.  Boyle and Hodge can add a pulpy edge and a different speed of kinetic energy to push the action and the character forward in interesting directions.  Whatever they concoct, you know it sure won’t be boring.

LESSON #4: HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT A JON FAVREAU STAR WARS SERIES OR EVEN A GAME OF THRONES-ESQUE ONE?— In similar news, news landed that Iron ManThe Jungle Book, and current Lion King director Jon Favreau has been brought on to write and executive produce a live-action Star Wars series in the near future.  Favreau follows the February announcement of Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss being tapped to write and produce a new film series.  Like Boyle, I think the powers that be have found great hires.  Favreau brings of engaging storytelling, humor, and blockbuster know-how while the Benioff/Weiss team brings edginess and world-building strengths. All of the qualities can have an effective place in this universe.  The task now is for Disney not to micro-manage and fire them like the other top-notch talent they’ve brought in before.

LESSON #5: DISNEY IS THE HOLLYWOOD PLAYGROUND BALL HOG— Why are they the selfish superstar that doesn’t pass? Because they can be.  This month, Disney announced the calendar of their intended release dates for the next five years.  Disney has retained Marvel’s traditional reservation of the first weekends in May, the Star Wars pre-Memorial Day tradition, Pixar’s usual third-week-of-June slot, and their own Thanksgiving animation slot.  More and more, they are squeezing for the Fourth of July weekends, that magical Presidents Day/Valentine’s Day weekend in February (thanks, Black Panther), and bigger chunks of Christmas.  Disney is Kobe Bryant, the “seat’s taken” kids from Forrest Gump, the manspreading subway rider, and bank-buying billionaire all rolled into one with zero f–ks given.  When they show up, everyone else runs for cover.

LESSON #6: NETFLIX DOESN’T HAVE ANY QUIT RIGHT NOW— Ambition is one thing.  Resources is another.  The wild thing is when a creative outlet has both.  That’s Netflix right now.  The volume of original content they are putting out is downright insane.  You would think they can only get so much be money to be had from new subscribers.  That number has to level out and slow production, right?  Not anytime soon, according to Netflix.  They’re booming to have around 700 original shows and movies in the 2018 calendar year.  That’s beyond machine-like.  You wonder how much is too much or how much isn’t profitable.

LESSON #7: THE SLIPPERY SLOPE OF AUDIENCE RESPONSIBILITY VERSUS STUDIO ACTIONS— Speaking of Netflix, Annihilation, filmmaker Alex Garland’s tepid box office loser and follow-up to Ex Machina, landed on Netflix only a few short weeks after a theatrical bow from big studio Paramount.  Indiewire’s Zach Sharf wrote an interesting take on the matter citing that part of the fault for the film’s failure is on the audience as much as it’s on Paramount.  He talks about “hard sells” and he’s right.  The general moviegoing audience pays for a more simpler fare than Annihilation.  That’s not a bad thing entirely, but that’s what’s making money.  Any diligent corporation should find the best scenario for earning and profit.  With Netflix throwing its money around, Paramount made an appropriate business decision and one, as it turns out, made more money than failing in the theaters.  I hate to say, but get used to these kinds of decisions and deals.  That’s the landscape.  They only people that can change that are the consumers and it’s going to take quite the unified and concerted effort to change trends.  Stop paying for Transformers films and give that money to risks like Annihilation if you want better products.  I’ve said this many times in this column and in the Feelin’ Film discussion group.  Whether we like it or not, this is a business first and an art exhibition second.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  He is a proud member and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on FacebookTwitterMedium, and Creators Media.

 

What We Learned This Week: February 25-March 10

LESSON #1: IN THIS WEEK AFTER THE OSCARS, LET’S COOL OUR JETS ON THE INSTANTANEOUS “MASTERPIECE” LABEL— During the recent awards season, one article stood out for me when it came to talking about “masterpieces,” and those FF Facebook group members out there know how I feel about those.  It preached the kind of temperance I’ve been begging for.  A general editorial discussion by Edward Douglas of The Tracking Board followed the high praise for Black Panther.  Douglas’s article nails it and matches my heart and mind on the topic.  I highly recommend the read.

LESSON #2: NO OSCAR JUGGERNAUT EXISTS GOING ON 14 YEARS— The Shape of Water, despite 13 nominations only won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture at the 90th Academy Awards.  No film has won double-digit Oscars since The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King at the 2004 ceremony.  The most Oscars won by a single film since was eight by Slumdog Millionaire.  If this was a sport, we would call the trend “parity.”  If this was civics or government, we would call it “spreading the wealth” and “depth of variety.”  I don’t know about you, but I think we need a massive awards winner every now and then to remind us how a truly great film (maybe even a future “masterpiece,” there I said it) can dominate and be the peak of artistic achievement in multiple areas at the same time.  Inflated box office number aside, if the last decade of film feels weak in the prestige department compared t the era before it, the lack of big Oscar winners creates that impression.

LESSON #3: CAN WE TRIM THAT LONG SHOW ALREADY?!— Did you notice the annual Honorary Oscar winners were omitted from appearing on the main show this year?  Remember when legends would grace the stage and preside over the ceremony in the high-end sideboxes?  Go back to this perfect moment of torch-passing and acknowledged respect at the 2002 Oscars when Denzel Washington won his Best Actor award for Training Day on the same night Sidney Poitier, one of his heroes, received his Honorary Oscar:

Moments like that beat Gal Gadot handing out treats to unsuspecting folks watching a movie.  Sure, it’s cute, but it’s beneath the importance of these awards.  I would have gladly traded any and all of the comedy bits and mostly purposeless montages the Oscars telecasts crams down our viewing throats each year for more genuine and unscripted moments like the Denzel/Sidney one.  Now watch Donald Sutherland’s acceptance speech for his Honorary Oscar received at a prior banquet this year.

That’s an Oscar moment better than Helen Mirren rubbing any sexy inanimate object.  Want to make the Oscars better?  Put the magic and emotion back into the show.  Make them important again, not a sideshow.

LESSON #4: POSTSCRIPT, HERE’S WHY THE BOSS BABY WAS AN OSCAR NOMINEE— I didn’t learn this until after the Oscars, but there was a rule change in the nominations process for Best Animated Feature.  The category can now be voted on by any Academy member, not just people from that department or discipline.  Previously, the only award that had that universal voting like that was Best Picture.  This Vox article explains how commercial reach watering down of the category could cause a slow death of independent animation, a small enough niche to be ignored or inaccessible to most general voters.  Keep that in mind next year.  That still doesn’t explain why The LEGO Batman Movie didn’t get the spot given to The Boss Baby.  

LESSON #5: THE NEXT AWARDS SEASON STARTS NOW, SO GET TO KNOW YOUR 2019 OSCAR CONTENDERS— Shameless self-promotion, but I love looking into the crystal ball at what movies coming this calendar year will be the ones standing tall with hardware in their hands at the 91st Academy Awards in 2019.  There’s always a Sundance Film Festival darling from January that tours the festival scene all year before a fall Oscar release.  Get Out reminded us that a February release can again make it a year to the next Oscars, just like The Silence of the Lambs years ago.  Will that film be Black Panther this time around?  Well, I’ve got your advance study checklist ready for you.  Here are 19 films to keep an eye on for the 2019 Oscars.  I see you Damien Chazelle and Steve McQueen!  Place your early bets now.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  He is a proud member and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on FacebookTwitterMedium, and Creators Media.

 

 

What We Learned This Week: February 11-24

LESSON #1: BLACK PANTHER IS THE REAL DEAL AND A GAME-CHANGING JUGGERNAUT— Black Panther is winning every battle it fights right now.  The critics are hailing it and shooting down the Alt-Right protests.  Audiences are flocking to it to the tune of a record-breaking opening holiday weekend gross of $242 million domestically and over $213 million in foreign countries.  Any remaining doubts and glass ceilings for C-level superheroes, Ryan Coogler’s talent, and the market for minority-led films are all shattered, and rightfully so.  What Disney/Marvel has to do is maintain this momentum and capitalize on the success properly.  It’s not milking it.  It’s gilding it.

LESSON #2: VOTER BIAS STILL EXISTS AND WILL ALWAYS EXIST— I could just about add any “in ______” ending to that lesson title from “Hall of Fame voting” to “Oscar voting” and the trueness of the lesson wouldn’t change.  We all hope for it but impartiality is impossible in large voting bodies, especially with the extensive rackets of voter manipulation sweetly labeled as “Oscar campaigning.”  People are bringing their biases and grudges.  A recent Deadline editorial from Peter Bart and Mike Fleming Jr. shared a debate on the reluctance to vote for a Netflix film on an Oscar ballot and who is on the wrong side of the argument.  I get all of the arguments of Netflix’s arthouse-killing claims, but I have long sees it as the new marketplace ahead of the curve.  In the end, a film’s merit should be the only thing folks vote on.

LESSON #3: I TOLD YOU TO KEEP AN EYE ON APPLE FOR A COUNTERPUNCH— We have a stiff jab right now. With Netflix trying to maintain its streaming dominance, Disney power-playing to gain controlling interest of Hulu and also start their own menu of streaming services, tech giant Apple wasn’t going to remain idle.  I reported back in January that Apple was angling to maybe acquire Netflix.  That mega-deal is not here… yet, but they are diving in creating original programming and found a perfect headliner to start with a series created and directed by La La Land‘s Oscar winning filmmaker Damien Chazelle.  Word is Apple is willing to spend $1 billion on scripted original works.  Heads up, we have a third player.  The war is just beginning.

LESSON #4: JOSS WHEDON CAN’T GET A BREAK— After creatively feuding with Marvel after the successful but maligned Avengers: Age of Ultrondirector Joss Whedon took the minor fall.  Swooping in to rescue Justice League after what we now learn was a Zack Snyder firing more than a family leave, Whedon looked like he was back in the saddle.  When Justice League went on to disappoint, Whedon took that fanboy blame too as fans clamored for a Snyder director’s cut.  Now, the guy can’t even accomplish what he always did best: write heroic stories for heroines.  Whedon exited the planned Batgirl film after not being able to crack the proper story, a project one would figure he would be perfect for.  Man, this guy’s on a monumental losing streak.  Somebody rescue Joss Whedon and his confidence.

LESSON #5: CAN THE TRAINSPOTTING VIBE TRANSLATE OVER TO JAMES BOND?— Much like imagining what a Quentin Tarantino Star Trek film would look like, Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, and Slumdog Millionaire Oscar winner Danny Boyle is rumored to be working on a James Bond script with his Trainspotting writing partner John Hodge.  Gosh, how trippy could that be?  I think Boyle has an ideal skill set to make a kinetic and compelling film that could play in the spy game landscape with a new pep and flair from Hodge’s devil-may-care style.  It could work.  What do you think?


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  He is a proud member and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on FacebookTwitterMedium, and Creators Media.

What We Learned This Week: Post-Super Bowl Challenge

Primo movie teasers have become an annual tradition connected to the Super Bowl.  The championship game is typically the most-watched global television event of the calendar year and movie studios, just like other brands and companies, target maximum eyes on their valuable offerings.  Back in the days before YouTube replays numbering the tens of millions in less than 24 hours, those coveted 30-second Super Bowl ads were shown ONCE.  That was it.  If you didn’t see it, POOF, it was gone.  Back then, the hype generated was real and the trailer-making marketers knew all it took to grab an audience was the right juicy single morsel.  Less was more and we were hooked on a mere 30 seconds.

Today, three trends have whittled away the effect of a good Super Bowl teaser.  First, in this marketing culture of #f1rst and scooping the competition, too many of these ads are available before the Big Game, sapping much of the surprise factor.  Second, we’ve reached a day and age where trailers regularly give away far too much of film.  As awesome as that Mission: Impossible Fallout teaser was last night, it showed too much (and the full trailer was even worse).  Film directors like Rian Johnson shouldn’t have to tweet a spoiler warning on his own film’s trailer.  Wolverine’s appearance should have been a well-kept surprise in X-Men: Apocalypse and not a stinger reveal in a trailer.  The same goes for Darth Vader in Rogue One, Hulk in Thor: Ragnarok, and, heck, even Michelle Monaghan for Mission: Impossible Fallout, among many others.  Third and finally, there isn’t the dazzle of the one-time viewing anymore and any hype is beaten to death by the buzzy over-saturation of click bait editorials that overanalyze every second of the teasers of teasers let along the real teasers or full trailers themselves.  Personally, I find it nauseatingly too much.

This all adds to unrealistic, messy, or improperly-fueled expectations that hang on a film all year.  The Super Bowl spots are the peak springboard of turning the calendar over to a new year of movies.  As soon as January hit, the flood of those “most anticipated films of 2018” lists and think pieces arrived and cropped up eager conversations over in the Feelin’ Film Discussion Group.  The wild use of the word “expectations” is another soapbox for a different day (and soon), but I long for a day when the repetitive spoiler blathering could go away, allowing patience to create real hype, not the over-marketed variety we have now, to create a higher form of anticipation.  A great example was this past holiday season.

I made it well known in the Feelin’ Film circles that I didn’t watch the final Star Wars: The Last Jedi trailer that dropped last October.  I avoided it like the plague, especially with the spoiler suspicions attached.  I wanted the mystery.  More importantly, I didn’t need to see a thing to be excited or sold on the film.  The existence of it from the moment Star Wars: The Force Awakens ended two years ago was all it took.  I didn’t need a synopsis.  I didn’t even need a title.  They had money.  An occupational perk/hazard for me as a press-credentialed critic is that my screenings don’t have trailers.  They’ve been easier for me to avoid to the point that I don’t watch them at all anymore for 90% of the films I see and review (and that’s over 150 films a year).  Such willpower can be done.

The resulting enjoyment of avoiding the Star Wars: The Last Jedi trailer made for an incredible viewing experience.  No silly hype tipped off any details or trained me to watch for certain anticipated moments.  The moments came to me.  Every twist and development was a surprise and the connections made were richer than ones that would have been pre-built for me because of marketing hype.

With that example and hope in mind, I have a challenge for all of you Feelers.

THE CHALLENGE

Pick ONE film on your “most anticipated list” for 2018 and avoid the marketing for it from now until its release. 

Don’t say Black Panther with only two weeks to go.  Don’t say Avengers: Infinity War coming in May because that’s an easy automatic.  Dig deep.  Pick a real long-term challenge for 2018.  Turn off the noise.  Don’t watch the trailers.  Don’t read the click bait and certainly don’t read reviews before finally seeing the film.  Go to the hallway and refill your napkins and popcorn butter at the multiplex.

My rationale is that if the film you pick is on your official or unofficial “most anticipated list” you already know enough about it and want to see it where you don’t need any more marketing.  You’re already hooked.  Knowing anymore about it only chips away at the final result.  I’m tired of hearing and reading the whining of supposedly ruined “expectations” by films that don’t turn out the way people were sold by from the trailers.  Remove that whining potential by removing the problem of over-selling marketing.

The challenge is to let the film speak for itself and not speak for the marketing.  Feel a different buildup.  Feel the patience of old school hype.  Leave something to the imagination.  Let the Super Bowl be the last peek.

Try it for one film and help out your peers.  Share your pick in the comments or in the Facebook discussion.  We’re a support group as much as we are a discussion spot.  Afterwards, evaluate that experience.  Was the anticipation better or worse?  Was the culminating film experience better or worse?

Call me confident, but I don’t think I’m going to get many “worse” admissions if you give this an honest try.

What We Learned This Week: January 14-27

OSCAR NOMINATIONS EDITION

LESSON #1: THREE YEARS LATER, THE SHAME FROM #OSCARSSOWHITE IS WORKING— Led last year by Moonlight, Fences, Loving, and Hidden Figures, a boost of respect for minorities led to historic wins.  This year, it’s Get Out and Mudbound.  Behind the scenes, the Academy invited nearly eight hundred new members—39% of which are female and 30% non-white.  That’s the bigger wake of change from #OscarsSoWhite that shows legitimate progress.  Recently, a piece in The New Yorker posed the question of whether or not the #OscarsSoWhite era is over thanks in part to such gains.  I don’t think so.  The movement is working incrementally for black performers, but more can be done for Hispanic and Asian performers as well.  Oh, and there’s that other new hashtag…

LESSON #2: THE #METOO MOVEMENT DESERVES TO ADD MORE SHAME AND CHANGE TO THE OSCARS— The state of respect and equality for women in the film industry has arguably needed the turnaround push it’s getting now from #MeToo movement longer than minorities have from #OscarsSoWhite.  The writing and directing nominations for Greta Gerwig are excellent and the formal nod to Mudbound‘s cinematographer Rachel Morrison is historic as the first woman in that category, but, again, more could be done.  I know I was rooting for Patty Jenkins and Wonder Woman to receive nomination honors.  Like #OscarsSoWhite, let’s come back in 3-5 years and see where the industry is at after this cataclysmic year.

LESSON #3: DON’T BELIEVE THE GOLDEN GLOBE AND SCREEN ACTORS GUILD HYPE FOR THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI— The Shape of Water led all films with 13 nominations, one short of tying the record of 14 shared by All About Eve, Titanic, and La La Land.  Dunkirk is a distant second with eight.  In third, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has seven.  That’s a great haul, but it’s missing one important one that makes it a genuine threat to win Best Picture.  Its celebrated director, Martin McDonagh, was left out of the Best Director raise.  Since the first Academy Awards ceremony in 1929, only four films have won Best Picture without a corresponding nomination for Best Director (Wings, Grand Hotel, Driving Miss Daisy, and Argo).  I don’t like the film’s chances.  Looking at the data on my 2018 Awards TrackerGet Out has won more Best Picture awards than any other film this season, followed by Lady Bird and then The Shape of Water.  You can virtually narrow the final vote to those three.

LESSON #4: COMEDY CONTINUES TO GET LITTLE RESPECT AT THE OSCARSLady Bird is carrying the flag for comedy at this year’s Oscars.  Greta Gerwig’s film stands far above the subtle dark comedy within Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Get Out.  In my opinion, there’s always room for more comedy representation at the biggest awards show of the year.  The Big Sick received a lone nomination for Best Original Screenplay, but was ignored in the acting categories for Kumail Nanjiani, Holly Hunter, and Ray Romano.

LESSON #5. THE ACADEMY APPARENTLY DOESN’T PLAY WITH LEGOS— This lesson is one of two repeats from my Oscar nominations reaction post on Every Movie Has a Lesson because it fits perfectly here this week.  A few years ago, the overwhelming Best Animated Feature frontrunner was The LEGO Movie and it was snubbed from being nominated in shocking fashion.  The LEGO Batman Movie doesn’t have Coco-level pull, but, gosh darn, it’s better than Ferdinand and The Boss Baby.  Expect one Alec Baldwin Trump joke and a tuxedoed stage appearance for WWE star John Cena as a presenter.

LESSON #6: NETFLIX HAS BROKEN THE GLASS CEILING WITH MUDBOUND— Here’s the final repeat.  Dees Rees, Virgil Williams, and Mudbound have made Netflix a new and legitimate player for quality film.  Their efforts mostly remain undiscovered treasure as the newfangled digital arthouse.  For every high-profile Bright, there are five other films like MudboundFirst They Killed My FatherOur Souls at NightWin it All, and War Machine.  Mudbound deserves this love and Netflix is just getting started.  Give it time and they have the money, talent draw, and ability to invade the Oscars the way they’ve already invaded the Emmy Awards for television.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  He is a proud member and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on FacebookTwitterMedium, and Creators Media.