What We Learned This Week: May 19-June 1

LESSON #1: GEORGIA DOESN’T REALIZE THE BUSINESS INFLUENCE OF HOLLYWOOD— The fine Peach State has been near the top or at the top of the list of most popular movie filming locations annually for over a decade.  A ton of business comes to them and it has been a boom of tax credits and employment all the way down the list of credits you see at the end of a movie.  The golden gravy train is being threatened by unpopular politics due in part to Georgia’s recent anti-abortion “heartbeat bill” legislation. The same is happening on a smaller level in Alabama and Missouri where similar laws are in place.  Disney, Netflix, several production shingles, and many performers are rethinking, threatening, or have already ceased production or engagement plans in those states.  Gripe about celebrity agendas mixing with political agendas all you want, but this is business and people are prepared to punch wallets where it hurts.  Georgia and those other states can stand on their principles all they want, but the prospective customers are equally allowed to take their business elsewhere.  The true business victims here are the under-the-title workers from craftsman to craft services who could see a precipitous drop of employment opportunities. They are citizens and they need to let their voices heard at the ballot box during the next election.  Both sides will be voting their interests, but let’s see how far money talks.

LESSON #2: ROTTEN TOMATOES WILL IMPROVE ITS CREDIBILITY— Last year, Rotten Tomatoes widened its collective of film critics for its vaunted Tomatometer with new standards that welcomed product and personal diversity (myself included) beyond the field solely print journalism.  The bigger pool has helped make its ratings more aligned to the masses, and now its the mass’s turn for accountability.  In a story released this week, RT is seeking to change its method for the Audience Score part of its ratings to focus on verified ticket buyers and not just “reviewing bombing” internet trolls and haters.  I highly applaud this effort for more actionable accountability and credibility, the latter of which stands to improve greatly. We can clap all we want, but the smartest among us still know that MetaCritic is statistically better (thanks Quartzy).

LESSON #3: PORTRAYAL AND PERFORMANCE NEED TO GO FARTHER THAN REPRESENTATION— From my Aladdin review on Every Movie Has a Lesson: Yes, it is wonderful Disney sought people of color for this ethnic fairy tale, but the clout of their portrayals and the substance of their actions are not improvements. If you’re going to do the right thing by diversity, go all the way, not just halfway or selectively. Dare to combat stereotypes completely. For extensive look into the troublesome history of Arab representation in film, check out Omar Mouallem’s piece in The Ringer.

LESSON #4: EVERYTHING CAN BE RECAST— Less urgent or important than the stakes of Lesson #3 but in the same ballpark of casting is Harrison Ford’s recent assertion that Indiana Jones will die with him claiming no one will fill the role after him.  Hollywood is a place where remake and reinvention are ever-moving cogs of evolution.  Someday, even if no one wants it, someone is going to remake the Indiana Jones films or tell new stories of the character.  Disney didn’t buy LucasFilm just for Star Wars and they see another cash cow of name recognition. Within our lifetimes, we will see another fedora-clad archaeologist cracking a whip.

LESSON #5: CLEARLY, OLD PEOPLE ARE SLOW AND TAKE MORE TIME TO DO THINGS— Boy, this lesson is mean and vague, even when following the 76-year-old Harrison Ford.  Well, we have another delay on Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, the filmmaker’s hotly anticipated Netflix crime epic.  Apparently, the VFX to de-age the senior actors needs more time to refine its look without losing the facial expressions of performance underneath.  No date has been given, but let’s hope nobody dies before this film sees the light of a streaming device day.  

LESSON #6: INDULGE YOUR AUDITORY SENSES AT THE MOVIES— In the final lesson suggestion spot, allow me to share with you this top-notch research list from IndieWire’s Chris O’Falt.  He gathered the 23 films cited by the new documentary Making Waves that chronicled the art of sound design.  Nothing but choice content here. Impress your ears with some of these winners if you need a casual viewing experience this week.  Every one of these movie choices would be better than the cluttered noise of Godzilla: King of the Monsters this weekend.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson 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 new 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.  (#103)

What We Learned This Week: May 12-18

LESSON #1: SCARY BUSINESS DEALS ARE ALSO SMART ONES— Just as there are two sides to every story, there are two sides to every business deal.  On the surface, Walt Disney, which acquired controlling stake in Hulu as part of the Fox deal, looks like the corporate greed monster or the Borg from Star Trek lore many fear in buying the rest of the Hulu pie from Comcast.  Honestly, though, this was inevitable and necessary. Split between two opposing controllers, Hulu was going to die a slow death of futility and stagnation.  Comcast squeezed Disney for $5.8 billion (far more than it paid years ago for LucasFilm or Marvel) for something the Mouse House was likely going to dissolve anyway with their Disney+ service.  That’s like the movie business equivalent of an NBA trade for an expiring contract that will never play a game in his new uniform. Comcast laughs all the way to the bank and the marketplace loses something that would have become clutter.

LESSON #2: EVEN “NO SUCH THING AS TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING” MIGHT NEED LIMITS— Now that Avengers: Endgame has cleared the Marvel end of self-imposed radio silence, have you seen the release date reservations of Disney’s calendar for the next five years?  Look below:

That, my friends, is insane.  Welcome to “market saturation.” I get that they are too big to fail and I get that they still make successful and positive products, but, good golly, space a few things out.  I’ll tip my hat that no new Star Wars films are coming for three years after The Rise of Skywalker.  That’s a nice pause.  That’s only one slow pause on a much bigger machine of cycles.  Other studios see this calendar and avoid these dates in order to not get squashed as the feeble competition.  Still, with a calendar that thick, where can the others hope to go at some point? Yowzers!

LESSON #3: START YOUR RESURRECTION CLOCKS NOW— Gazing into that future of release dates, one could wonder two things.  First, when will inevitable character turnover occur and, second, how long will the dead really stay dead.  I say that second one because anyone who knows the parent medium of comic book films (the graphic novels themselves) knows that no one ever really stays dead.  Even Christopher Nolan couldn’t really “kill” Batman. At this big level, when you put profit-minded and impatient studio execs in charge, I have to think the turnover or resurrection window narrows.  Contributor Jonah Koslofsky over on The Spool did a nice editorial piece this week on this underlying angle.  Sure, Hugh Jackman is supposed to be done with Wolverine after Logan, but what happens if the MCU fame comes calling (especially after/if Dark Phoenix bombs)?  Do we really think Robert Downey Jr. wouldn’t at least be tempted to consider another monster paycheck to return?  If their integrity holds (and I hope it does so as to not cheapen their phenomenal on-screen sacrifices and exits), wonderful, but when do the reboots and recastings start to come (Henry Cavill?! No, dude), especially with Logan’s new MCU home under the Disney roof?  Rub that chin and begin to wonder.

LESSON #4: THERE IS AT LEAST ONE PLACE WHERE DISNEY IS STRIVING AGAINST CREATIVE BANKRUPTCY— Speaking of that lengthy release calendar and recurring characters, the repetitive trends are a little maddening.  Call it whatever kind of adjective-assisted fatigue you want, this steady-yet-successful pattern of franchises, sequels, re-imaginings, and reboots from Disney (and other studios too, let’s be fair) have led many observers to bring out the “creatively bankrupt” label.  A sliver of less of that came to light this week when Pixar producer Mark Nielsen confirmed that Pixar has no other sequels on their planning board after this summer’s Toy Story 4.  Expect, fresh ideas, new faces, and big ideas which are, namely, all the reasons Pixar became successful in the first place.  This counts as promising news!

LESSON #5: THE ARTHOUSE HAS AN INTERNATIONAL LIFELINE— We in the United States are living in big screen blockbuster era.  It’s rare to see little films blow up anymore. If they do, they still have a genre bend to them for cross-demographic appeal matching today’s moviegoers.  The decline of the arthouse scene of independent film has been very apparent for a long time. We’re seeing a market transition where streaming and VOD platforms become their best profit options with multiplexes full of the big cheese.  So, it’s really encouraging to see one more place where arthouse films are gaining audiences: OVERSEAS. Eric Kohn of IndieWire wrote a nice analysis piece that shows a movie like Capernaum opening #2 and early $12 million behind Avengers: Endgame in China.  Here in the states last year, the same movie earned a little over $1.6 million in its entire run.  Opportunity like this for Capernaum and Shoplifters is great news for this class of filmmaking and for the global industry in general.  Slowly but surely, good films will find an audience and tastes can evolve along the way.

LESSON #6: FEAST YOUR EYES ON PRODUCTION DESIGN— In the final lesson suggestion spot, allow me to re-share a YouTube essay from the fine folks at CineFix ranking (with several ties) the ten best production designs of all-time.  This stellar list covers all genres and periods with fairness and there’s not a dud in the bunch. If you don’t notice and appreciate production design when you watch a film, let a little study like this be a primer and have a discerning eye into that craft ingredient when you watch movies going forward.  Production design is absolutely vital, both visible and invisible.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson 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 new 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.  (#102)

What We Learned This Week: May 5-11

LESSON #1: EVEN POPULAR THINGS HAVE DIFFERING TASTES AND CRITICISMSAvengers: Endgame may be shredding box office records left and right (more on that in Lesson #2), but even something that universally-loved has its range of assessments.  Take legendary Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar and how he’d love to see sexier superhero films with less neutering.  Even with a great moment for women in the film, some writers’ scorecards wanted more.  Then there are those who speak on the state of the genre and franchise as a whole.  Michael Nordine of Indiewire thinks something that actually doesn’t really end is problematic.  The deepest (and most respected voice) take of all came from top Roger Ebert critic Matt Zoller Seitz who talks about the content label and sketchy present and future.  All are fascinating pieces. Even if I personally disagree with many of them, you won’t see me calling them haters or even contrarians or dissenters.  There’s just different strokes for different folks. See Lesson #3 later.

LESSON #2: DATA CAN SEPARATE FALSE AND TRUE ACCOMPLISHMENTS— I’m going to stretch your legs and brain for a bit on this one.  After its huge start and decent staying power, it’s a matter of “when” and not “if” for Avengers: Endgame to overtake Avatar for the all-time worldwide box office crown and possibly Star Wars: The Force Awakens for the domestic title.  These are nice “pat your yourself on the back” gold stars for Disney and their marketing department.  However, inflation is still very real and the modern numbers don’t tell the whole “biggest movie ever” story they want you to believe.  To echo Jason Segal’s great “Call me when LeBron has six championships/It’s the only argument I need, Shawn!” rant from Bad Teacher, call me when Avengers: Endgame can topple two particular inflation adjusted statistics ruled by Gone With the Wind, Titanic, and the films of eras past.  

Let me and the outstanding data of Box Office Mojo educate you and improve your short-sightedness.  First, here’s that inflation-adjusted domestic all-time box office list.  Currently, Avengers: Endgame is 36th.  How? Simply, the average movie ticket prices have changed and here’s that chart next.  They’ve doubled since the $4.50 times of 1997’s Titanic and exponentially since the 1930s.  If it’s not about the dollar signs to you, fine, then go look at the number of tickets sold, regardless of their era or price.  There’s a chart for that too and Avengers: Endgame is again 36th.  What’s even more amazing, as I put my social studies teacher hat on, is that there were 5.5 BILLION fewer people in the world to even see movies in 1939 and Gone With the Wind still put up numbers that triple-lap the movies of today.  That is true dominance and popularity. So, you can try you ranting argument about “different eras/competition/cultures,” but success is success.  Those historical measurements are undeniable and irrefutable. The success of Avengers: Endgame is truly wonderful.  Go, baby, go! Make that money.  But, it might as well be a participation ribbon for overpriced Girl Scout cookies.

LESSON #3: THERE ARE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN “SHADE” AND “HATE”— After a minor pot-stirring debate in the Feelin’ Film Facebook group on the genuineness (or lack thereof) of James Cameron’s congratulatory tweet towards the folks at Disney/Marvel for passing his Titanic on the all-time box office scoreboard, I feel that teacher hat coming on again.  This time, it’s about vocabulary. Just to be casual this time, I’ll let the Urban Dictionary do the defining of the lexicon on the table, so follow the links.  “Shade” is not “hate,” and “hate” is not “shade.”  “Salty,” by the way, is somewhere in the middle. There are nuances to both the sincerity of comments and the reactions that those words bring about.  Know the differences and seek context from people you’re arguing with.

LESSON #4: THERE’S A $700 MILLION BLOCKBUSTER ON NETFLIX THAT YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF— For my viewing recommendation that I end these posts lately, I’ll share buried treasure on Netflix.  Skipped by algorithms where you need to dig, China’s The Wandering Earth is a treasure chest is bigger than many movies you’ve heard of.  It’s a science fiction action film about global efforts to push our home planet out of the solar system away from a swelling sun and the pull of Jupiter’s gravity.  How, you ask? With rocket thrusters covering the whole globe. That’s sounds bonkers and aces. Eat your heart out, Michael Bay!


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson 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 new member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over a year, 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.  (#101)

What We Learned This Week: April 28-May 4

THE 100TH EDITION OF WHAT WE LEARNED THIS WEEK

LESSON #1: SATISFACTION IS BEAUTIFUL WHEN YOU GET IT— It’s been a week and we can certainly talk about Avengers: Endgame details.  As many of the over-300 comments in our Facebook group page reaction thread will tell you, the movie delivered on its Infinity War setup, surprises of secrecy, and hype of finale performance.  Reviews big and small are overwhelmingly stellar. It’s a great feeling when a series can stick its landing.  There’s both catharsis and satisfaction to be had where a viewer will always celebrate and connect to the giving film in question.  Folks, what we have here is a rare instant classic, a movie we will be talking about and remembering for a long time from Day 1. Behind the scenes, these endearing stars, especially Robert Downey, Jr., are getting P-A-I-D.

LESSON #2: PLOT HOLES ARE PROBLEMATIC IN MULTIPLE WAYS— Some of the minority points of dissatisfaction towards Avengers: Endgame (including those from this critic) have typically cited the broad term of “plot holes.” For me, once you dive into time travel, plot holes become nearly automatic.  The question becomes at what point do plot holes matter? Which ones are worth citing and which ones are petty to complain about? Nearly a year ago, friend-of-the-page YouTuber Patrick Willems did an outstanding video testimony on plot holes and I think it’s a fitting rewatch for Avengers: Endgame.  His light side of “worry about the things that matter” is balanced by the overarching notion of “mainstreamed nerd culture” and the need to get “back to quality criticism.”

LESSON #3: PLOT HOLES BE DAMNED, ANSWERS ARE AVAILABLE— With the Endgame secrecy lifted in most places (Disney itself opens things up on Monday), the movie’s directors and screenwriters have been responding to theories and questions all over the place in exclusive sit-downs on the post-premiere press tour.   Fandango chatted with writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely.  So did The New York Times.  The directing Russos talked at length in China and in Entertainment Weekly.  For me, hearing directly from the sources like this beats clickbait fan theories any day.

LESSON #4: LET’S ADD SOME NEW FAN THEORIES ANYWAY— Between the scope, importance, and even the plot holes of Avengers: Endgame, there’s room for the internet masses to apply their own guess work and prognostication.  Take the time travel as one place and hidden Easter eggs as another.  There’s even some guessing going on for who the next villain will be and when we’ll see the X-Men, despite no springboarding post-credits scenes or direct clues.  Maybe some of the big dangling ideas of Avengers: Endgame can join this Collider all-time list of some of the best and most famous fan theories.

LESSON #5: KEEP AN EYE ON UNIVERSAL PICTURES— With all the success and eyes on everything Disney, there are other power plays being made out there.  Long-time Sony producer Amy Pascal is leaving Sony for Universal Pictures.  The woman who steered the old Raimi Spider-Man boom, reignited James Bond under a new studio, survived The Interview fiasco with grace, and brought a range of successes spanning The Social Network and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is quite a get for Universal.  Sony now has a big hole to fill.  

LESSON #6: WHEN FANS MAKE ENOUGH NOISE ACTION CAN SOMETIMES HAPPEN— This week, new Sonic the Hedgehog movie coming in November debuted its first full trailer and look at the titular video game speedster.  The reactions were overwhelmingly negative. When that happens for a live-action movie, reshoots can sometimes be possible or fresh tries at editing a few tonal changes.  That’s not as simple for an animated film where that end of creative work takes years to render. Amazingly, the film’s director Jeff Fowler heard the complaints and vowed to redesign the character in time for November.  I call that ballsy and brave to say out loud.  You don’t see Disney doing that publicly after the Aladdin jeers.  Let’s see how it turns out.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson 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 new member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over a year, 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.  (#100)

What We Learned This Week: April 14-27

LESSON #1: THERE ARE CASES WHERE FAN SERVICE IS NECESSARY— Folks, with a universe and property as big as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we have reached a saturation point and commitment level where fan service is warranted. That’s right and here’s a paraphrase from my Avengers: Endgame review.  What some have called pandering should actually be seen as one of the many objectives in an invested and vetted blockbuster like this one. It is to a point where the course of things is thematically and tonally misaligned without those inclusions. Avengers: Endgame is unabashedly a three-hour festival of celebrating all the dream fulfillment of past and present for this deep roster of beloved characters. The wow moments come often and hit both the jaw-drop and stand-up-and-cheer levels.  Not every piece of fandom has earned that. Star Wars has and this one has too.

LESSON #2: PREPARATION IS KEY— Thanks need to go out to Feelin’ Film host Aaron White for spurring the one-movie-a-week #RoadtoEndgame.  Those rewatches since the first week of December have been outstanding for adding to the build-up and, more importantly, refreshing us to all the ins-and-outs of the MCU at it reaches its pinnacle.  If it’s too late for you to watch all 22 films before Avengers: Endgame, let our man and friend-of-the-podcast Emmanuel Noisette of E-Man’s Movie Reviews shortcut you to five must-see movies:

The movies are how you enrich your mind.  Now, you need to prepare your body. Eat a good meal before Avengers: Endgame to avoid expensive concessions and the distraction to snack.  Be mindful of your bladder power and your body will remember how it survived Titanic and six Tolkien films at the theater.  Honestly, when your mind is engaged in the movie, you won’t need a potty break.

LESSON #3: A GOOD FRANCHISE NEEDS TO CREATE A CODA— The final spoiler-free celebration note I can post about Avengers: Endgame in this column comes from the last life lesson of five from my review and it speaks to the purpose beyond the fun of fan service.  The range of the definition of “coda” can be merged into “a concluding part of a dramatic work that is formally distinct from the main structure” and “serves to round out, conclude, or summarize.” Avengers: Endgame is not a pivot point, but a grand finale eleven years in the making. True to the blueprint, it is hard to imagine a more gratifying and rewarding summit.  I wish every franchise could craft something this fitting or even have the chance to crescendo with all the energy they can muster.

LESSON #4: WHAT’S NEXT FOR MARVEL REMAINS A PLEASANT MYSTERY— Normally, thanks to the constant Disney push and bragging, we normally know every little forthcoming detail possible about their dominating calendar of coming attractions.  At this moment, a year of somewhat “radio silence” after Infinity War, you have to tip your hat to Kevin Feige and company for holds their cards close to the vest.  Sony can’t help but admit to and tout Spider-Man: Far From Home, which is regrettable, but understandable.  They have a rare blockbuster to sell. Meanwhile, Feige recently hinted at a 5-year Phase 4 MCU plan that didn’t name names, but shared the usual ambition and confidence.  Naturally, the big question remains the character acquisitions from Fox. To that question, Feige has used the vague measurement of “a very long time” as to when we’ll see the likes of the X-Men or the Fantastic Four saving the day next to the established Avengers.  Feige’s absolutely supreme planning and patience should not be questioned. He’s earned our trust that the slow play is the right play. They’ll be worth the wait.

LESSON #5: LITTLE FILMS NEED HELP— As much as we are here this weekend to celebrate the big stuff, smaller films need audience too.  When they don’t get them, a part of the industry weakens and even dies. A spotlight example of that came through the news wires this week of the cuts happening behind the scenes after Disney’s acquisition of Fox.  The Mouse House is killing off or jettisoning several unreleased Fox projects with earning potential and the bottom line in mind. It’s a creative bummer but an unfortunate reality of business. I’ve said this often in this column space: Once you start charging for tickets, this becomes a business first and an art exposition second.  Like any owner targeting profit and returns on investment, Disney is making those tough decisions. Honestly, it’s likely bad business deals that made Fox vulnerable for sale. Do better and the predicament doesn’t come.

LESSON #6: HULU’S DAYS ARE NUMBERED— As you may know, one of the components of Disney’s purchase of Fox was controlling interest in Hulu.  The remaining 30% of that stake is owned by Comcast who, according to reports this week, is in talks with Disney to broker a lucrative deal.  No matter where that bidding ends up, a dissolution in the near-future feels inevitable.  Disney, should it gain that final portion, is pushing its own brand of Disney+ as its streaming flagship.  You would think they wouldn’t push or carry two. Comcast, if they stand pat, was planning on starting their own streaming shingle to add to the marketplace since they don’t own enough of Hulu to compete.  Either way, it doesn’t look promising.

LESSON #7: THE ACADEMY IS STARTING TO WISE UP— In other distant news away from Infinity Stones and Corporate Greed Monsters, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences actually announced a few minor changes and rulings this week that didn’t immediately make them Public Enemy #1 with the social media torches and pitchforks they were met with the last two press releases between the hosting screw-ups and the Popular Film category in 2018.  First, they affirmed their eligibility rules that didn’t take an anticipated shot at streaming services like Netflix, keeping the playing field fair.  Secondly, they showed modern wisdom with a redefined International Feature Film category and expanding their last three-nominee category (Best Makeup and Hair-Styling) to a proper and full five.  It’s refreshing to see them get a few things right. Keep it up, AMPAS!

LESSON #8: FINALLY, IF BIG, DUMB SUPERHERO MOVIES AREN’T YOUR THING, WE STILL HAVE STUFF FOR YOU— For my parting viewing recommendations this week with all things super raining down on us, I think I have just the thing for those abstaining from heroics.  Here’s a list on Ranker of the “Most Pretentious Movies Ever Made,” topped by, what else, a Stanley Kubrick film.  If those are too blunt or obvious, try this nice little selection from Taste of Cinema of ten great movies meant to challenge your intelligence, topping by Richard Linklater’s Waking Life.  Finally, here are the May additions to the Criterion Channel with choices galore!  Call these three lists counter-programming.  Enjoy!


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson 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 new member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over a year, 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.  (#99)

What We Learned This Week: April 7-13

LESSON #1: MARK YOUR CALENDARS FOR NOVEMBER 12TH WITH PIXIE DUST AND MOUSE EARS— Circle the 12th of November on your calendar for the debut of Disney+, the entertainment giant’s new exclusive streaming service we’ve been hearing about for the better part of a year.  And, man oh man, did they announce a menu of old and new content that looks like the binder you get at The Cheesecake Factory.  The list is jaw-dropping. And that’s not even the best part. See Lesson #2.

LESSON #2: PRICE POINT ALWAYS WINS— The best part is the price. It’s a cool $6.99 per month with no ads and the future ability to bundle ESPN+, Hulu, and more.  $7 is a game-changing price. Even better, if you buy the whole year at once, it’s $69.99. That’s $5.83 per month. Excuse my language, but the smell and thundering rumble you hear is Netflix sh-tting bricks and staring down an $8 billion market value drop.  They just announced a price hike a few months back and now will be playing chicken against the company they relied on the most for top content.  Watch their member numbers begin to drop with the financials, but they knew this had to be coming. Their shift to developing their own unique branded content is how they will stand out.  No matter what, folks, I’ve been saying this now for years in this column. The price tag is always the biggest mover of an audience.

LESSON #3: STAR WARS WILL NEVER LET YOU FORGET ABOUT STAR WARS— Maybe this lesson should read: “Disney isn’t done because they’re never really done.”  In the words of Steve Jobs, Disney did their own “one more thing” this week with the head-exploding title reveal and first trailer for Episode IX at the Star Wars Celebration Convention in Chicago on Friday. Now officially called Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the gates are now open and the levees are broken for every theory, reaction piece, and clickbait column imaginable. I get it.  Grab those web traffic pennies where you can, publishers.

LESSON #4: [INSERT OBLIGATORY “TRAILERS ARE MANIPULATIVE” LECTURE FROM THE MOVIE CRITIC]— I’ve been saving this informational video for a while for a choice teachable moment.  The Rise of Skywalker is the perfect time.

Admittedly, much of this video doesn’t apply to Star Wars, but the misdirection and overhype have been proven before in this franchise. You know me. I’ll always say less is more.  Not just for trailers, but be a discerning news-and-trends consumer. Don’t overthink a movie before it gets here, especially one still eight months away.  If you want homework, go backward instead of forwards. Hop on the ambitious canonical rewatch schedule that is already in progress. Let history get you hyped instead of silly theories.

LESSON #5: THE SLOW DEATH OF PHYSICAL MEDIA CONTINUES— Through all this one-upmanship in the streaming world, the marketplace of discs has continued to fade.  We’ve reported in this column in February how companies like Samsung are halting the manufacturing of Blu-ray players, but we’ve never seen hard numbers of the perceived decline. This week, the MPAA hit us with those statistics in a wide-ranging report. Physical media sales are down a steep 50% in the last five years and the new 4K upgrades account for only 5.3% of business. That’s a niche, not a replacement the way DVD was to VHS a generation ago.  The kicker is that home entertainment spending was up 16% last year.  That’s digital sales and subscription services.

LESSON #6: LEARN SOME BETTER SCIENCE FICTION— Don’t let your science fiction taste and acumen stop at Star Wars and other big names. Dive into some headier things (and still plenty of blockbusters) with high critical regard.  Pick away at this Top 100 list from Business Insider and find some new films for your to-do list. Heck, maybe you’ll even watch one on a disc from a library.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson 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 new member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over a year, 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 special “Connecting with Classics” podcast program.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#98)

What We Learned This Week: March 31-April 6

LESSON #1: DIGITAL CHECKOUTS CAN BE LIKE THE OKLAHOMA LAND RUSH SOMETIMESAvengers: Endgame pre-sale tickets went on sale this past Tuesday and, of course, set records on sites like Fandango and broke others.  Some folks reported ease or even went the old fashioned route of walking up to the box office window in person (where there theaters were open early) while others were stuck in virtual traffic jams. The online rush, escalating wait times, and fast sellouts were not unlike when a highly sought after play or concert goes on sale only multiplied by every city in America.  If you survived, congratulations. Go sell your tickets on eBay like some others and make some coin on a sucker or two!

LESSON #2: DISNEY IS BIGGER THAN YOU REALIZE— Feelin’ Film host Aaron White posted this excellent little piece from Cartoon Brew showing everything Disney now owns after its acquisition of 21st Century Fox.  The visual infographic is astounding:

The organization and color-coding are fantastic and informative.  If the entertainment holdings and properties inside the shape weren’t already humongous, I look at all of the little single-circle corporations on the periphery and my eyes open even wider.  I don’t know whether to be fearful, impressed, or both.

LESSON #3: SUCCESSFUL MOVIES DESERVE THE FINANCIAL REWARDS THEY EARN— Well, it’s been a month since the trolls tried to badmouth and boycott Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel.  How did that turn out?  The movie soared past the billion dollar earnings mark this week.  So much for the haters holding people back.  In the March 15th edition of this column, I called this eventual success declaring “it seems like the louder they piss and moan, the larger the amount of success and love gathers in the other direction to put the ugly folks back in their place.” I’ll say it again.  With loyalty and support like this, all toxic fandom is ever going to win is comeuppance.

LESSON #4: SCREENWRITERS NEED TO CRAFT MORE CREATIVE ENDINGS— I really enjoyed this column from Cracked by Daniel Dockery.  He calls out a dumb, repetitive ending trope we’ve been seeing far too often for a long time.  He summarizes and defines that ending as “The overwhelming enemy force is instantly thwarted via a very obvious, easily-exploited weakness.”  Dockery is dead right.  Look at A Quiet Place, War of the Worlds, Independence Day, The Avengers, Edge of Tomorrow, Mars Attacks!, Signs, and just about every Star Wars movie.  I’m sure the list goes on.  I’m with the author.  Let’s get these endings right and better.  I’m looking at you, Avengers: Endgame.  

LESSON #5: TREAT YOURSELF TO A SCREWBALL COMEDY— With Shazam! yucking it up this weekend, might I suggest staying in the comedy genre with some old classics of the genre’s purest form.  Dig through your disc and screaming sources for these gems from the 1930s listed by Netflix’s blog site.  You deserve a treat, so indulge in a few with that checklist.

 


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson 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 new member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over a year, 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 special “Connecting with Classics” podcast program.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.

What We Learned This Week: March 24-30

LESSON #1: JORDAN PEELE KNOWS WHAT HE WANTS— …and what he wants is increased representation and opportunity.  The Get Out and Us director set off a debate for the ages this week (especially in the Feelin’ Film Facebook group) after an interview in The Hollywood Reporter where he discussed his casting preferences.  Jordan Peele knows the playing field is not equal.  He is his own man, brand, and creator. He can do something about it.  More power to him.

LESSON #2: RIDLEY SCOTT IS ONE COOL DUDE— In a minorly viral story, a New Jersey high school recently adapted Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic Alien into a daring school play.  Word got around about its success and it made it to the ear of Scott.  In responses, the legendary director wrote a really classy letter of praise to the school and even cut them a check to help them out.  I love seeing stories like this! I wish more of them happened.

LESSON #3: “SUBSCRIPTION FATIGUE” IS COMING— With the news of Apple’s new streaming service launch on Monday, the war for the consumer entertainment dollar just got more crowded.  I know it counts as a buzzword that will be way overplayed in rants and click bait to come, but I like term “subscription fatigue” used by David Lazarus in this Los Angeles Times piece on the swelling streaming marketplace.  All of these choices (including the opening lineup of the Criterion Channel) and ones that are bound to come from more studios matching Disney’s moves, could very well be proof of “too much of a good thing.”  Folks might have so many streaming bills pretending to be ala carte cable that they might be better off having a cable bill again. I always say price point is key.  These services by themselves are low and affordable, but when you have more than five of them, you’re going to feel the wallet pinch.

LESSON #4: DISCOVER THE LEGEND OF AGNES VARDA— We Americans have probably never heard of this woman who passed away on March 29th. Do yourself a favor and learn about Agnès Varda and her impactful work as an artist. She is a figurehead of documentary filmmaking and cornerstone of the French New Wave. Discover some of her available work on these streaming platforms. You will be well-rewarded.


 

DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson 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 new member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over a year, 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 special “Connecting with Classics” podcast program.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.

What We Learned This Week: March 17-23

LESSON #1: JORDAN PEELE IS THE FIRST JORDAN PEELE— I submit a new addition to the  off-cited list of movie review cliches from Letterboxd user Erik Bazjert.  I say it’s time to do away with labeling actors, actresses, or filmmakers as “the next _____ (fill in the blank with some classic performer or legend).”  I get the want of complement, praise, and respect, but, more often than not, distinctions like that become a pigeon-holing crutch to the current performer and/or an lessening admonishment to the classic performer being cited.  I say let people be themselves and stand on their own merit. For that reason, I love the clickbait headline clapback of Quartz film critic Adam Epstein.  Us director Jordan Peele isn’t the next Spielberg or Hitchcock.  He’s the first Jordan Peele. I love that strength and sentiment.

LESSON #2: FOR ONCE, A BIG COMPANY ADMITS A BAD DECISION— Disney absolution and re-hiring of James Gunn for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was not only best for business, but the right thing to do.  Sure, maybe they were scared of a imaginary bottom line of reduced profits or the rancor of upsetting their roster of valuable stars, but, somewhere in the deep dark legal departments and decision-making conference rooms of The Mouse House, cooler heads and wisdom prevailed.  It would be wonderful to have all of this be a Wikipedia footnote in the filmmaker and the future film’s past. But, you know all of this old noise will get drummed up again during the Vol. 3 press tour in two years when every soundbite-sucking microphone is going to want an opinion from all stakeholders on how this return came to be and ultimately turned out.  Expect courteous pleasantries from everyone. The expose level stuff will have to be saved for someone’s memoirs.

LESSON #3: RESTRUCTURING WAS ALWAYS GOING TO COME— Speaking of Disney and its officially completed purchase of 20th Century Fox, don’t be surprised about the layoffs and restructuring that is already beginning with the shuttering of the Fox 2000 shingle led by Elizabeth Gabler.  Click bait is going to call it an affront on women-led film and the death of another mid-budget production source.  This counts as wait-and-see and par for the course. This is just the start and acquisitions like these always lead to cutting duplicates and redundancies.  For example, watch Blue Sky get folded into Walt Disney Animation or Pixar or both. Changes like this were always going to happen. Be ready for more.

LESSON #4: YOU ARE LUCKY IF YOU LIVE NEAR AN ALAMO DRAFTHOUSE— One of the best movie theater outfits going just made their outstanding and classy niche even more attractive.  The Texas-based Alamo Drafthouse brand is starting a “Season Pass” service where $20-per-month will grant you a movie a day.  That pays for itself in three movies.  The Alamo Drafthouse’s eclectic offerings have always impressed and hooked cinephiles and casual fans alike.  One of the best just got better.  If you live near one of their locations, do check this out.

LESSON #5: TRY SOME UNCONVENTIONAL HORROR— Circling back to the upcoming wave of Us, the horror genre will get a great deal of attention from audiences this month, both at home and at the theatres.  If you’re like me and not a big horror fan, you probably need some offbeat horror suggestions to dip your toe into something different.  The now-defunct Alcohollywood podcast published a very nice ten-film of “unconventional horror” films.  Starting with the old James Whale/Boris Karloff Frankenstein, they have some great picks and buried treasures on there.  Keep building the queue and wish list for your streaming services and library.  

 


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson 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 new member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over a year, 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 special “Connecting with Classics” podcast program.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.

What We Learned This Week: March 2-16

LESSON #1: TOXIC FANDOM WILL NEVER WIN— There’s a remarkable silver lining I love seeing shine through the unfortunate trend of toxic fandom.  Whether it’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, some polarizing DCEU movie, or Captain Marvel this past week, more often than not, all of the negative ranting and raving of those factions loses emphatically and embarrassingly.  Look at Captain Marvel garner positive reviews and score at the box office as it was out of public spite for troll culture.  Toxic fandom still causes its unnecessary amount of damage (and wasted clickbait time), but it seems like the louder they piss and moan, the larger the amount of success and love gathers in the other direction to put the ugly folks back in their place.  I love seeing that public comeuppance.

LESSON #2: WOMEN BRING HOME THE BACON— Let’s keep the Captain Marvel and Brie Larson love going.  Despite the ugly headline-making misogyny in Hollywood and that disparaging long-time data of male-speaking roles dominating Best Picture Oscar winners, a new study charted by the powerful CAA talent agency shows that movies led by female characters have earn more money in the last five years.  Make that money, ladies! Pay attention and give the people what they want, studio execs!

LESSON #3: CONTENT COMPETES WITH PRICE POINT— We’ve seen the rumors of Apple’s entry into the video streaming marketplace to battle Hulu, Amazon, and Netflix.  We’ve seen their reports of spending $1 billion on shows and content, including a solid lineup of existing networks.  Clarification on what exactly this newfangled thing is going to be may be arriving with their March 25 company event.  As I say in this column space often, I think the greatest consumer motivator is price point.  If the rumors of a $10/month price tag are true, that’s legitimately competitive and head-turning.  If it’s the other rumor of $30-40 monthly, then start listening for crickets. The second motivator is content.  With the number of ala carte streaming services growing by the months of the year, you have to offer some can’t-miss content or exclusive gets to make people want to shell out those extra ten bucks and device exchange.  Without knowing Apple’s buffet menu, so to speak, that motivator is up in the air. More clarity and competition is hopefully coming on the 25th.

LESSON #4: DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE CRITERION CHANNEL TOO— Much like the movies carrying the badge, the spring standalone debut of The Criterion Channel is still on schedule for an April 8th launch.  The service will be a tidy and very worthwhile $10 per month.  Think of it as a library of classics for the price of one first-run movie ticket a month.  Filmstruck breakup victims rejoice! When its arrival comes, Guillermo del Toro has a pretty sweet must-see list of Criterion films to get you started and improve your taste in movies.  Did I mention price point? Did I mention it’s getting crowded? Well, follow the money and see the next lesson.

LESSON #5: STREAMING WILL BECOME THE NEW MARKETPLACE LEADER SOONER THAN YOU THINK— Speaking of Apple’s steaming to enter the streaming seas, the truth the pattern of this lesson title is become more true with each passing day and revenue report.  At the end of last year The Hollywood Reporter published the results of a study by Ampere Analysis that forecasted that this year, 2019, will be the first time global streaming revenue will add up higher than box office receipts.  No matter the “essence of cinema” debates high (Steven Spielberg) and low (old men shouting at the wind), the bottom line isn’t lying and traditionalists are missing the momentum staring at them in the face.  There’s room for both marketplaces, but to call the eventual leader inferior any more is going look ridiculous. Bend, adapt, and improve.

LESSON #6: TREAT YOURSELF SOME ASIAN MASTERPIECES— These are belated recommendations to follow up the semi-recent Chinese New Year.  And yes, there I go dropping the “M-word” on behalf of this 2015 list from Taste of Cinema.  From there picks, I’m a big In the Mood For Love fan, but from Kurosawa to Kiarostami, there are gems here.  Use the JustWatch app or website to find where these are available to stream or rent.  


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson 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 new member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over a year, 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 special “Connecting with Classics” podcast program.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.