What We Learned This Week: October 6-13

LESSON #1: PEOPLE ARE NOT GETTING ALL OF JOKER, INCLUDING TOP CRITICS— There is a whole bunch more going on in the Todd Phllips hit than people are understanding.  Anyone who is calling that movie empty, meandering, or plotless doesn’t know what they are watching.  Watching is one thing and absorption is another. Some viewers are good at processing movies quickly or fully and others are not.  You can see that at every level, from a Letterboxd fanboy to a headlining critic.  I’ll be one that says those folks are definitely missing out.  Our guy Emmanuel Noisette lays it all out, so get your Kool-Aid glass ready! 

 

LESSON #2: WILL SMITH NEEDS A NEW AGENT— Dammit, Big Willy.  Even north of 50 years old, you still have charisma for days.  You are a joy in just about every movie you grace with your presence, including Aladdin and Gemini Man this year, but you are picking lackluster and even terrible projects to waste your glowing talent on.  Feelin’ Film host Aaron White recently posted the last decade of Will’s resume via the Silver Screen Riot podcast:

Yikes! That is one heck of a losing streak.  Will, you are rarely the problem, but you need to make some better business and professional decisions.

LESSON #3: MARVEL ARE NOT DIMINISHING ACTING OPPORTUNITIES— Former Friends icon Jennifer Aniston ranted a little this week in Variety and poked the anti-Marvel bear when she cited available roles diminishing in this era of blockbusters.  While she’s plenty right that the “midbudget original movie” market has shrunk and shifted to the streaming platforms (she should know, she makes those movies on Netflix all the time), Marvel is not the problem.  If anything, look at the sizes of the ensembles they bring together. Look how much cache those actors and actresses earn, even for being a bit player. The raised Q-rating they get for being in a fan-friendly movie does wonders for their career.  The wave isn’t missing you, Ms. Aniston. You’re missing the wave. Maybe you need a new agent like Will Smith.

LESSON #4: LEARN A LITTLE MORE ABOUT CINEMA AND SEEK OUT SOME GREATS OF PRODUCTION DESIGNS— All the green screens in the world cannot beat a legit practical set or location that has been artfully created into something fabulous and unique.  Enjoy this stellar video on some of the best production designs ever and seek out where to see some of these movies on the JustWatch app, which has now merged with Letterboxd!  My vote is The Grand Budapest Hotel.  


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#118)

What We Learned This Week: September 22-October 5

LESSON #1: BE CAREFUL WITH OPEN INTERPRETATION— Had I written this column last week, this first lesson would have be titled “We’re Not Ready for Joker.” I saw all the lead-up buzz, all the fearful theories, and all the wild labels and had to turn it off. I wanted to stop and see the movie before adding more guesswork. After seeing it, I hunkered down in my review to stick to the film as much as possible and I’m glad I did. Too many reviews I’m seeing are diving straight to commentary interpretation and not to the critique of what’s on screen. That’s feeding the buzz monster in my opinion. That’s making a review about theory and not evidence. World of Reel nailed this by saying the hoopla can become the media’s fault and not the movie. Worse, those writers lock that opinion in my-opinion-is-the-only-opinion-that-matters cement and throw the openness of interpretation out the window. Including personal takes in a review is fine, but it can’t be the whole thing and it has to be flexible for discussion or be able to acknowledge other opinions are possible. Be careful, critics (and all fans for that matter). Know that you’re stepping out there for judgment when you go about it with a closed mind to accepting other opinions.

P.S.– Since we’re talking about Joker, here’s my extra plea to #FilmTwitter:

LESSON #2: MARTIN SCORSESE IS OUT OF TOUCH— Storied director and historical film connoisseur Martin Scorese isn’t a fan of comic book movies. Normally, that’s a “to each their own” place, but he went further to say they are are not cinema. More specifically, his damning line in an Empire interview was “It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.” Dammit, Marty. I love you and I’m not supposed to use this word, but you’re “wrong.” See Lesson #1 about open interpretation. Try telling that to all of us blubbering in our popcorn during the MCU’s most dramatic moments or being inspired to be better people watching Christopher Reeve or Gal Gadot. Sorry, Mr. Scorsese, but you’re out of touch. If you don’t believe all of us fans, Marty, take the word of peers.  I think Joss Whedon and James Gunn said it best on Twitter:

LESSON #3: WE DESERVE MORE G-RATED MOVIES— I love this article from The Sydney Morning Herald shared in the Feelin’ Film Facebook group (shout out to Caless Davis) on Friday. Family-friendly films on this entry rating level are an endangered species. It’s fair that modern progressive times have created more thematic infusion of heavier themes, but we cannot abandon the base and entry level. We need to demand more all-ages offerings and use our attendance to see that they become successful enough for more to be made. 

LESSON #4: HAND-DRAWN ANIMATION AT THE HIGHEST LEVEL HAS A CHANCE— Speaking of G-rated movies, Walt Disney Animation’s newly installed president (and film director) Jennifer Lee was asked what changes could be coming during her regime.  One of the possibilities was a return to hand-drawn animation.  “Being open” is good enough where we can put the Lloyd Christmas GIFs to good use.  The hope is music to my ears and what a treat a traditional animated film would be!


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#117)

What We Learned This Week: September 15-21

LESSON #1: JUST BECAUSE A FILM PRESENTS A MAN WITH STRONG FEELINGS DOESN’T MEAN IT’S AUTOMATICALLY A SLICE OF TOXIC MASCULINITY— I’ll share a little inside chatter as a film critic who watched a closed screening of Ad Astra with just critics, no public audience.  Even though we all will go home and hope to write our slice of brilliant and engaging criticism, we all still talk shop.  Color me crazy as, admittedly, a white middle-aged male, but I was surprised and even a little rubbed the wrong way when I heard a few peers vehemently drop the toxic masculinity card on Ad Astra.  Sure, parental issues can be overplayed in movies.  When that happens, I look to the approach it took before I label and curse.  For me, I saw a movie that showed the stresses saddled on men. I don’t go too deep on that tangent in my own review, but I highly recommend my Chicago peer Leo Brady’s review of Ad Astra on AMovieGuy.com.  He hits the topic hard and pushes back.  When you see the movie, I’d love to read or hear your take and vibe.

LESSON #2: NO AUDIENCE MEMBER WANTS MORE ADVERTISEMENTS— After a recent Hollywood Reporter poll revealed the majority of moviegoers want fewer trailers before a movie, a nearly universal declaration, a story arrived this week of two theater companies adding even more pre-movie advertisements.  The Regal and Cinemark chains are proposing to add business advertising before the already excessive trailers.  AMC, the nation’s top chain, is staunchly against it.  I get that advertising pays the bills for these studio-squeezed theater chains that lose more and more of the windfall cut each year, but the top loser here is still the consumer.  No one needs more of this stuff.  This only creates more incentive to come into movies late and not spend your concession dollars on site.

LESSON #3: DIGITAL PERFORMERS HAVE RIGHTS— I love, love, love what Lord of the Rings and Planet of the Apes performance capture star (and future Venom 2 director) Andy Serkis is stumping for.  Serkis is rallying for compensation and renumeration for reusing digital performances, especially those that are no longer with us.  His core questions were: ““When your performance becomes data it can be manipulated, reworked or sampled, much like the music industry samples vocals and beats. If we can do that, where does the intellectual property lie? Who owns authorship of the performance? Where are the boundaries?”  He went further to talk about actors being unethically used against cultural sensitivities since they can be replaced and manipulated with other imagery.  Top to bottom, Andy brings up an outstanding issue that deserves attention.  I look forward to seeing where this story goes and who steps up to listen.

LESSON #4: YOUR OPENING DAY MENU OF DISNEY+ IS IMMENSE AND AMAZING— The full list of content starting on Day 1 of Disney+ is obscene.  Click on this link for the whole list and put on a football helmet with a chin-strap.  The buttoned up strap will hold your jaw and the helmet itself could stave of a concussion when you fall from wherever you’re standing or sitting reading that list.


 

DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#116)

What We Learned This Week: September 1-14

LESSON #1: MY FELLOW FILM CRITICS, CHECK YOUR PRIVILEGE— As a press credentialed and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic myself, I’m sorry in advance, but I need to partially call out a one of my own. The first is Alex Billington of First Showing for being too much about being F1RST.  His work is solid and his site is one of the more dependable websites for actual movie news and less click bait, but, simply put, he broke the rules he agreed upon when he put on the Venice Film Festival press badge.  He was upset when one of his reviews broke embargo rules.

Here’s the link to the “open letter” editorial that followed. For those of you playing at home, we critics are bound to something like reverse deadlines, namely firm times requested by the studios that are the earliest reactions and reviews are allowed to run.  I don’t like them anymore than Alex does, but they are the rules and the studios or festivals have the right to control thier message and product.  Abiding by embargoes are part of the deal of being so damn lucky enough to be in Venice, Telluride, Cannes, or Toronto seeing a huge movie for free before everyone else.  Access is the reward before your page clicks.  Be happy you have it in the first place.  We are spoiled every week by an embarassment of riches for shiny pieces of entertainment.  Besides, we critics get to cheat with social media before full reviews:

This is where I can agree with Alex.  However, that small shout-out should be enough to keep business and attention going.  Harmony and health take patience.  I don’t like it, but I respect the rules.  People that break them can ruin things for the rest of us lower down the ladder.

LESSON #2: THE ASSIGNED DESCRIPTORS OF “GARBAGE” OR “TRASH” IS NOT PROFESSIONAL FILM CRITICISM— I’ll take another shot at my own kind, but I’ll leave the name out this time.  Call this a general warning for anyone who sounds even close to this, even at at the Letterboxd level.  If, as a supposedly professional film critic, all of your learned expertise, curated reflection, and skillfull high-mindedness within the medium of film, lead you to the molehill peak of calling a film “trash” or “garbage,” then, I’m sorry, you’re not a professional film critic.  You are BS artist of hyperbole and click bait.  You haven’t learned tact.  You haven’t met a thesaurus.  You haven’t learned creativity in putting substance into opinions.  Using that poorly formed wording in what is supposed to be a professional piece is a careless and irresponsible trigger.  And when you don’t back it up, you’re just asking for folks to call into question the quality of your writing, if not the quality of your personal character as well.  Aim higher.  Write better.

LESSON #3: STREAMING SERVICES DESERVE BETTER— Just when I thought the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences put a positive public gavel down for the inclusion of films from streaming services in year-end awards for the whole industry to follow, we digress to a story like what came out of the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival this week.  Certain theater vendors would not welcome Netflix or Amazon-backed films to screen for competition during the festival.  This has been silly and elitist for too long.  Have the likes of Roma taught us nothing? Let the art compete.  Source shouldn’t matter.

LESSON #4: YOU NEED TO BE TAKING ADVANTAGE OF IMDB TV— In the recommendation slot of this week’s column, I, a new Amazon Fire Stick owner, have discovered the IMDb TV app.  Their selection of streamable films and shows, which includes award winners like La La Land and Silver Linings Playbook and classics like Dune, High Noon, and The Karate Kid, is outstanding for the free price of sitting through some occasional ads.  Seek it out on your devices and players at home.


 

DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#115)

What We Learned This Week: August 25-31

LESSON #1: THERE’S PRICE POINT AND THEN THERE’S STEAL OF A DEAL THAT YOU SIMPLY CANNOT PASS UP— You regular readers know my usual stance on price point.  It is the ultimate decision-maker and motivator of consumerism and it always wins.  Just when you couldn’t think Disney could sweeten the pot more for its Disney+ streaming service, they drop another bombshell.  It’s price by itself AND with the ESPN+ add-in already beat Netflix.  Now, they hit us with the special rate for D23 fan club members that drops the price to under $4 per month when you commit to three years.  If this was a cell phone contract, we would all be wary of being locked into something for that amount of time.  That’s not the case here.  That’s a locked-in price for three years in a streaming business era that just loves to get you signed up early and then jack up the rates.  For less than the price of one expensive cup of exotic coffee a month, you get all of Disney+.  Folks, that’s a regret-free and zero excuse steal.

LESSON #2: ROTTEN TOMATOES DESERVES TO WIN A “MOST IMPROVED” AWARD— For all the Rex Reeds and David Ehrlichs that sink hopes and skew audiences with imagined power, the critical community of Rotten Tomatoes needed an infusion of new voices.  Last August, the Flixster-controlled site drastically updated their Tomatometer Critic Criteria and opened its ranks to a new breed of critics (myself included) that go beyond print journalism and stress inclusion of diversity.  One year later, they have reported their resulting data.  Adding 600 critics was huge. To have 55% of them be women, 60% of them be freelancers, and 10% come from video and podcast sources is even more huge.  Thank you, Rotten Tomatoes, for the impactful initiative and impressive follow-through.  What a facelift!

LESSON #3: THOSE WHO CANNOT DO, TEACH— Quite likely for just about every movie fan who has ever seen Matthew McConaughey work or talk about his craft, “scholarly,” I’m betting, was not the first or even the 100th word to come to mind.  Alas, after four years as a “visiting instructor,” the coolest of cool Academy Award winner has become a full-time film “professor of practice” at the Moody College of Communication within the University of Texas-Austin.  This looks like a true commitment and not a gloryhounding publicity stunt in any shape or form.  From one teacher to another, good for you!  The classroom can use your inspiring energy and voice of experience.  Now, all I picture are the hot-for-teacher students from Raiders of the Lost Ark that faun over and derail Professor Henry Jones with their eyelid mesages.

 

If that starts happening to you, Matt, that’s how you know you’ve made it.  I can hear it now: “I just love these college girls.  I get older and they stay the same age.”

LESSON #4: GERARD BUTLER IS A POOR MAN’S LIAM NEESON— The weekend box office victory of Angel Has Fallen has reminded us that Gerard Butler has a certain successful niche that people pay money to see.  Like the matinee idols of the 90s that came before him and kicked and punched (Van Damme, Seagal) their way victoriously through raucous R-rated action flicks, the 300 star and an arsenal of fireams can do the same thing.  He’s beginning the Liam Neeson route early, right before turning 50 this November.  Make a few more winners like the Fallen series and Butler can hope to equal and maybe supplant Neeson.  He’s found a fan romance in Vulture writer and critic extraordinaire Bilge Ebiri after his “I Think I Love Gerard Butler” editorial this past week.  Great read!

 


 

DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#114)

What We Learned This Week: 40th Birthday Soapbox Special

Today, August 26th, I turn 40 years old and I can tell you this. I am quite susceptible to the “mid-life crisis” I know is coming or already happening.  Weirdly though, while fully feeling every measure of mortality and all the uncertainty that comes with that, I can happily say that I’m rarely alone.  When I’m not a school teacher on the job or a devoted husband and father, I have the movies and the urge to flex the creative muscle to write about them.  I can never see “everything” and never will, but I value what I get and pull every intellectual and emotional strength I can from the art and entertainment that I’m lucky enough to see and enjoy.

So, in true “Every Movie Has a Lesson” and “What We Learned This Week” fashion, this week’s lessons will be 40 birthday candle movie favorites of formative and favorite films for me made me who I am today.  I’d watch every single one of them right now instead of heading into my first day of school at a new job as we speak and read this column on August 26, 2019.

1. CASABLANCA taught me how a great movie is the sum of many parts coming together in all the right ways and the value of classic films.

2. THE WIZARD OF OZ taught me to love whimsical fantasy in a way that few films have ever equaled or topped since.

3. SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE taught me wholesome Midwestern values and true-blue heroism.

4. GHOST taught me how much I will always love melodrama and pine for fantasy fulfillment in many shapes and forms.

5. E.T.: THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL taught me how to have an empathetic heart at a young age.

6. TOP GUN taught me way too much about adult things at an impressionable young age and how to watch a movie over and over to celebrate that.

7. REAR WINDOW taught me the focus and value of suspenseful storytelling and the ramifications of voyeurism.  

8. THE MASK OF ZORRO taught me that swashbuckling and practical stuntwork should always have a place in the movies.

9. RUDY taught me that even as a little guy I can have the same or greater heart as those bigger, stronger, and faster than me.

10. BACKDRAFT taught me how me about hero worship and how to be a good big brother at a young age.  

11. THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK taught me about value of a damn good cliffhanger and the character investment that comes with one.

12. L.A. CONFIDENTIAL taught me about the intoxicating genre of film noir that I never discovered up to that point.

13. SHANE taught me about father-figures and how I longed for them to come along in my life like Little Joe did.

14. BACK TO THE FUTURE taught me how to love just about any time travel movie you’ll ever put in front of me.

15. DESPERADO taught me Robert Rodriguez and how no one makes a good sexy shoot ’em up anymore.

16. INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE taught me how to ride off into the sunset.

17. BATMAN taught me that the comic book heroes of my youth could go dark and become endlessly interesting and still entertaining at the same time.

18. TWISTER taught me how to turn my brain off and have a blast in a loud, dark, and air-conditioned movie theater

19. THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION taught me the most about human dignity than just about any other movie to date.

20. FIELD OF DREAMS taught me how to a better dad than my own.

21. SLEEPING BEAUTY taught me how to love old Walt Disney movies.

22. INDEPENDENCE DAY taught me how to cheer at the movies.

23. GHOSTBUSTERS taught me how to have fun while been spooked at the movies.

24. JAWS taught me how to good suspense is built with patience and tone.

25. WHIPLASH taught me how to never be a mean teacher again.

26. CONTACT taught me to ponder and blend spirituality and science.

27. LEGENDS OF THE FALL taught me natural cinematography, James Horner, and more of that melodramatic brother strife from Backdraft.

28. MEMENTO taught me Christopher Nolan and the value of nonlinear stories better than Pulp Fiction did.

29. JURASSIC PARK taught me the merger of scientific wonder and silver screen entertainment.

30. THE PHILADELPHIA STORY taught me how dialogue and romantic comedy from that era absolutely eclipses the stuff that came after it to this day.

31. TOMBSTONE taught me how cool westerns are why their movies get the best tough-talking lines.

32. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE taught me how to never consider suicide as a husband and father.

33. PULP FICTION taught me that all things retro can be cool in the right measures.

34. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD taught me that not all heroes where capes or uniforms.

35. OFFICE SPACE taught me how to deal with authority and leave work at work.

36. CHRISTMAS VACATION taught me what it would be like to be the hapless and overachieving father I will probably turn out to be in the next decade.

37. NORTH BY NORTHWEST taught me that Hitchcock can be breezy fun and not always odd and twisted.

38. UP taught me how much I look forward to loving my wife for the rest of my life.

39. THE LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY taught me the true meaning of “epic” that isn’t going to be topped any time soon.

40. FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF taught me to love the city I call home.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#113)

What We Learned This Week: August 18-24

LESSON #1: FIND COMPROMISE WHEN IT CLEARLY BENEFITS BOTH PARTIES— The thunderstorm combination of shock and disappointment rained down this week in the form of tirades (and endless memes) and laments towards Sony Pictures and Disney this week when negotiations between the two studio giants couldn’t settle on an extension of production credit and involvement for the Marvel character of Spider-Man.  Circling back to the original landmark deal from 2015, Marvel was set to only receive 5% of any box office revenue earned by their shared partnership.  Now that we have all seen the surging success built by Spidey’s rub of inclusion with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I can’t say I blame Marvel czar Kevin Feige asking for a bigger cut of the pie.  Still, this is Sony’s property to control and if they think they can make a profitable Spider-Man movie without MCU ties, they can sure try.  All in all, what’s missing is compromise and the fans as the losers. I know Feige asked for that 5% to go up to 50%.  Is that a shade greedy coming from the all-powerful Disney? Maybe. Is pulling the character away from the greater universe he belongs in a little bit of selfish hubris from the same Sony studio that ruined this precious character twice already?  Probably. What I’m calling for is compromise because this deal could be done and the billions can still be made if egos and dollar signs got a little more reasonable.

LESSON #2: “THE LASAGNA RULE”— Let me repeat a great Feelin Film Discussion Group thread over her in WWLTW.  Our follower Joseph Hamrick posted an excellent editorial piece from Steven Volynets on Quillette talking about joy being replaced by negativity in the field of film criticism.  As a credentialed critic myself, I’ve been seeing this among my peers and I liken some of them now to those huffy judges from food judging TV shows like Chopped.  The judges, or critics in this case, always seem to be looking for these impossibly superficial and hyper-personal standards when some dishes (or movies) are not built for excellence and still turn out delicious (or entertaining).  I have deemed this the “The Lasagna Rule.” There are very few ways to dress up lasagna. There’s no color variety or crunch quotient required. It’s a gooey and ugly stack of traditional cheesy, meaty, and pasta-y layers that are going to look like shit on any plate. But, damn, it’s tasty just the way it is. Plenty of movies are that way too and don’t need refinement to be good or successful.  Critics need to change their palette or lens to fit the cinematic dish or restaurant. Dare I say, be more objective…

LESSON #3: GO GET IMPRESSED WITH DIRECTOR’S CUTS OF MOVIES— Be it because of studio tinkering, failed budgets, second thoughts, or artistic purity, I am always fascinated by the origin, existence, and content of notable “director’s cuts” of films.  On the heels of the so-called “Final Cut” of Apocalypse Now hitting IMAX locations this week, the closing WWLTW recommendation slot goes to seeking out these extended visions. World of Reel has a list of six they call better than their originals and IndieWire has a list they consider best and essential.  While you could use my favorite streaming search engine JustWatch to find these titles, I’m betting most are only available on physical media.  Hunt down those libraries!


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#112)

What We Learned This Week: August 11-17

LESSON #1: “YOU KEEP USING THAT WORD. I DO NOT THINK IT MEANS WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS”— No, I’m not calling on Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride to talk about “masterpiece” again.  The word this week that is coming out all wrong from too many people is “monopoly,” as in “Disney is/has a monopoly and needs to be broken up.”  Let me boldface pieces of three variations of the word’s definition from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:exclusive ownership through legal privilege, command of supply, or concerted action,” “exclusive possession or control,” and “a commodity controlled by one party.”  Look, I’m not a fan of Disney’s dominance any more than the next discerning consumer, but what’s happening isn’t a monopoly.  No matter how many brands they own or manage, Disney not the exclusive or singular entity dictating any possession or control beyond their own property.  There are plenty of other entertainment providers, movie studios, merchandise makers, and whatnot. What’s really going on is sustained success. Monopolies of success aren’t illegal.  The competitors are just aren’t doing as good of business as Disney. If you want to beat Disney, make better products and do better business, plain and simple. So, until Disney buys Sony, Comcast (Universal), Warner Bros., Viacom (Paramount), Netflix, Amazon, and about a dozen smaller shingles where they are the only store on the block, stop calling what them a monopoly.  

 

LESSON #2: JUST MAKE A NEW OR REPACKAGED SPECIALTY BRAND ALREADY— Speaking of Disney and their monstrous image, their larger flaw of vanity is thinking everything with their logo on it has to be family-friendly.  Word around the campfire is that Disney investers are “worried” about the farcical and crude Nazi content of Taika Waititi’s awards season contender Jojo Rabbit and the negative optics it would bring to the brand.  Combine that with the Fox cuts listed in this column space last week and we’re seeing more buyer’s remorse than creative courage. Come on, Disney. You’ve reached a point where your brand is nearly untouchable.  And, if you’re so worried, take a page out of your own playbook from decades ago and revive/create a new brand or branch to launch the non-kiddie stuff that has potential. Disney used to start and own distributor hubs like Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood Pictures, Dimension Films, and, for a time, Miramax.  Bring one of those back or, hell, call it 20th Century Fox. Problem solved and the creators and audiences don’t lose out to the prudes.

LESSON #3: SMOKING SHOULD NOT BE PUT ON THE SAME LEVEL AS SEX AND VIOLENCE— Here’s a taller soapbox then Lesson #1.  Forty-three attorney generals from our nation of fifty recently composed a letter addressed to the major entertainment companies (including Disney, Amazon, and Netflix) urging a so-called “open dialogue” about the steps to “eliminate or exclude tobacco imagery in all future original streamed content for young viewers” and demanding “content with tobacco imagery should be rated R or TV-MA and be recommended only to adult viewers.”  Yes, tobacco is a national health problem, but not to this degree. Doing so would penalize many classic movies rather than make those films teachable moments with smoking’s inclusion.   The editorial staff from the Chicago area’s Daily Herald outlined several examples of movies, from Casablanca to Ghostbusters, whose value and messages supercede the superficially visible tobacco use.  I feel like the mistake in this, isn’t the movies. It’s the parenting that throws any movie on and doesn’t take interest or talk out what is being shown for entertainment or enlightenment.  Parents, this should be on us and not new ratings.

LESSON #4: BOX OFFICE DATA IS ANOTHER PIECE OF EVIDENCE THAT 2019 HAS BEEN A DOWN YEAR FOR BLOCKBUSTERS— Back in the day, a movie hitting $100 million domestically was considered a splashy hit.  Today, with inflation and bigger budgets being thrown around, that magic number feels more like $300 million.  According to data posted in The Hollywood Reporter for a story entitled “The Vanishing $200 Million Blockbuster” by Stephen Galloway, six movies so far in 2019 have topped $300 million stateside (some have of those have doubled it).  Oddly though, no movie has finished between $200-$300 million in their final tally after eight movies did a year ago.  Now you see where the story title comes from and the feast-or-flop vibe feels spot-on when you look beyond the top dogs to the rest of the 2019 spring and summer earning performances.   The duds outnumber the studs by a large margin. These are just the big totals, though. This has nothing to do with profit. There’s still a whole cottage industry of horror and genre films that triple their shoestring budgets in their opening weekends, let alone their entire run.  Still take this as a temperature check of box office health for this down year.

LESSON #5: SPIKE LEE HAS DAMN GOOD TASTE— In the recommendation slot, we go from Christopher Nolan last week to Spike Lee this week.  On his Kickstarter page, the BlacKKKlansman Oscar winner has a famed list of 100 essential films for every aspiring director.  It’s a doozy of a roster with wide representation and solid tastes. Make it your own college course at home like you’re online undergrad enrolled at NYU and let streaming services and library rentals take care of the rest.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#111)

What We Learned This Week: July 28-August 10

LESSON #1: PRICE POINT ALWAYS WINS— I’ve brought out this lesson often over the years here on WWLTW because it’s continuously true.  The latest case is the ocean of drool and the shipwrecks of dropped jaws this week when Disney revealed the initial bundled price to add ESPN+ and Hulu to their upcoming Disney+ streaming service.  As if the bulk year price of $69.99 or $5.83 per month wasn’t already amazing (and with this opening lineup menu), the triple-service package will only cost $12.99.  That’s the wealth of Disney, the range of Hulu, and the top network for all-things sports for LESS than the price of just Netflix.  Sure, Disney might (and certainly will) raise that price within the first year or two, but, by golly, they are playing hardball with price point and competition.  $13 for all that will make digital lines around the download block come November 12th.  Your move, Amazon (who re-upped with Bleecker Street’s content) and Netflix, especially for the latter which just had its first drop of subscribers in company history and a recent $26 billion fall in market value.  Yikes!

LESSON #2: WHEN ONE DOOR OPENS, ANOTHER ONE CLOSES, AND THEN ANOTHER ONE GETS REPAIRED— Before Disney becomes even more flush with steady cash this November, the Mouse House did announce what they consider a business loss this week.  According to reports, the Fox movies they acquired from their buyout under-performed to a $170 million quarterly loss.  Even for a profitable place like Disney, that’s haircut that still stings.  The Disney brass announced they will scale back film development under the Fox label while rebooting/remaking key properties and franchises like Home AloneNight at the MuseumDiary of a Wimpy KidCheaper by the Dozen, Planet of the Apes, and giving the Marvel titles to Kevin Feige.  I can’t say I’m surprised by Disney’s lack of effort to support their Fox wing.  I think we all knew an eventual and full dissolution was possible.  Some of that starts here.

LESSON #3: INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS REQUIRES INTERNATIONAL FLAVOR— Speaking of streaming services, I discovered this little story that may cause potential hazards for the likes of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Apple, and Disney.  Last year, the European Union passed a ruling requiring that VOD services have 30% of their content sourced in Europe, with Australian interested in a similar measure.  That’s a bold “buy local”-ish mandate that may have those streaming companies scrambling to stay within new requirements.  I think that counts as a powerful effort to retain and promote homegrown products next to the shiny imports.  This is a fascinating and fortunate victory for foreign filmmakers and entertainment entities.

LESSON #4: BELIEVE THAT SHIA LEBEOUF IS A NEW MAN— How many of us wrote off Shia LeBeouf in the last five to ten years?  Between social media rants, odd acting choices, and a tail-spinning personal life, the Transformers star hit rock bottom.  I am pleased to announce that he is back and has come through wise beyond his 33-years.  Variety has an excellent interview where the LeBeouf calls himself “softer.”  If you need evidence, seek out The Peanut Butter Falcon debuting this coming week in limited release.

It might be the best I’ve ever seen Shia LeBeouf act.  Yet, he looks like he’ll top himself in the semi-autobiographical film Honey Boy coming this fall that outlines a child actors tragic ups-and-downs with Noah Jupe and Lucas Hedges ostensibly playing Shia while LeBeouf plays the hard father.

The guy is showing his talent and laying his soul bare.  Come and witness this because we don’t see resurrections like this often and I couldn’t be happier for him.

LESSON #5: CHRISTOPHER NOLAN HAS DAMN GOOD TASTE— In the closing recommendation slot, the verbiage of this lesson shouldn’t be a surprise among those here in the Feelin’ Film circle of Christopher Nolan worshipers.  While you all wait and over-analyze every shred of possibility for his upcoming Tenet before it arrives next year, build a playlist of thirty Nolan-recommended favorites and improve your palette and nose for damn good movies.  Compiled by Indiewire from interview quotes over the years, this list could fill a one-a-week education between now and Tenet.  Enjoy!

 


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#110)

What We Learned This Week: July 21-27

LESSON #1: IT’S TIME TO ACCEPT FAN SERVICE AT ALL LEVELS— I’m finding, more often than not no matter the size and prestige of the film in question, that nods, homages, and little shout outs work 90% of the time.  It’s time to stop frowning upon them unless it’s really, really fruitless. I’m borrowing a paragraph from my Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood review on the topic: 

“Do this critic a favor. If you read one pretentious person bitching about the so-called “fan service” of a popcorn Star Wars movie in one place while praising the throwback accuracy, endless references, and the buffet of cultural callbacks of this or other Tarantino movies, punch them in the face for being a hypocrite (or write them a mean tweet, either one). Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood has massive nostalgia for fan service aimed a different generation at quadruple the rate of the younger genre fare those cinephiles frown upon. Geeky, blatant homage has always been the part of the hodgepodge of Tarantino. It’s an expected calling card, a borrowed ladder, and part of what makes him brilliant. If it’s standing ovation praiseworthy for a so-called auteur like Quentin, then it should be for other filmmakers.”

LESSON #2: BECOME A BETTER MOVIE FAN— Seeing the splashy mix of pop culture and auteur chops dropping from Quentin Tarantino reminds me of this recent short, encouraging article from Matt Goldberg in Collider in Collider pleading “How to Graduate to Being a Better Movie Fan” and another from Tim Dirks called “Tips on Film Viewing” on AMC’s Filmsite  You can’t come into Once Upon a Time.. In Hollywood without a little homework and a wider eyes compared to just another popcorn blockbuster with low, spoon-fed stakes and basic style.  His whole filmography is a great entry-level course in being a better fan and viewer. The more attuned and learned you are to the craft at hand, the more you will notice and appreciate, especially in an epic like the new Tarantino film.  Goldberg’s article gives the modern, social media-connected crowd of today accessible starting steps that don’t require taking some college film class, and Dirks’ column gives easy nuts-and-bolts steps to follow as well. Give both short articles a look.  In Tarantino is too hard, take a step to channel your newfound advice of watching bad films right on over to Patrick Willem’s new reflection on the Joel Schumacher Batman films from his latest video piece:

 

LESSON #3: ADJUST YOUR TECHNICAL SETTINGS ALONG WITH YOUR VIEWING EXPERIENCE— If you’re going to start watching movies better, make sure they look and sound right.  Renowned Willems-recommend film critic Bilge Ebiri wrote an outstanding column entitled “Motion Smoothing is Ruining Cinema” for Vulture.  This echoes Tom Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie’s PSA hoping viewers see their newest Mission: Impossible film properly last summer.  Ebiri and Cruise offer the “why” and the article and embedded video tutorials offer the how.  Follow the tips, especially if you have newer televisions. Do right by the experiences you’re absorbing.  

LESSON #4: TURN UP THE HEAT ON YOUR “NETFLIX AND CHILL” MOVES— Before or after adjusting your TV set, here in the recommendation slot of my weekly column, I got a hearty kick out an article discovery this week from Bustle magazine that floated across the social media currents on the number of “dirty movies” that are on Netflix.  Writer Katherine Cusumano highlights eleven top picks that are kinky and steamy enough versus the streaming service’s porn-free policy.  From Magic Mike (aw yeah!) to Gaspar Noe’s Love (yowzers!), the steam is waiting for your rising thermostat.  Raise your game, couch gymnasts, with some titillating cinematic inspiration.  

 


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#109)