What We Learned This Week: January 1-18

LESSON #1: THE OSCARS CAN SURVIVE WITH NO HOST— I couldn’t be more content with the fact that ABC and MPAAS cannot pin down a proper host for the 91st Academy Awards.  Maybe this will mean fewer dumb monologues and bits.  Maybe the whole dang thing will get done in under three hours.  I can’t wait to see how this goes as a test case for no host and tighter schedule of things. Besides, how many Alfonso Cuaron acceptance speeches are we really going to hear (present answer: 3).  Be ready for those Oscar nominations on Tuesday after the MLK holiday.

LESSON #2: JAMES WAN IS KILLING IT— Thanks the swimmingly sweet returns of Aquaman, director James Wan has become the second filmmaker after James Cameron to lead a pair of films to surpass $1 billion in global earnings.  Cameron, of course, had Avatar and Titanic (two films north of $2 billion, mind you) and Aquaman adds with Wan’s Furious 7.  There’s a good chance that young man (42 is a baby in this business) gets to sign his own blank checks moving forward.  Studios would be lucky to acquire his services.  He is currently without a new directorial effort on the horizon.  

LESSON #3: AMERICANS DON’T TRANSLATE FRENCH VERY WELL— More than the year-long-plus delay caused by the fallout of The Weinstein Company, The Upside had been doomed for a while.  Dumping it in January was but one more sign.  The domestic filmmakers took what was a huge international hit of big time empathy (The Intouchables) and scrambled it with American gags and personalities.  Sure enough, it butchers the original and has tanked audiences and critics.  The Ringer recently did solid article looking back at Hollywood’s shoddy track record with French comedies.  Improvement is needed where filmmakers need to do better or audience just need to find and enjoy the original things, subtitles and all.

LESSON #4: EDDIE MURPHY NEEDS A COMEBACK— At 57, Eddie Murphy is too good and still too young of a celebrated entertainer to be forgotten and relegated to the sidelines.  I have long said he needs to put away the family films and go back to his hard-R roots.  The announced long-distance sequel for Coming to America could be the springboard for a resurgence.  Hustle and Flow director Craig Brewer is an ideal fit to squeeze a little more pulp from the low-hanging fruit.  While we’re here, go ahead and get Arsenio Hall back to work next to him.  With the pair, it’s only half of a good idea.  

LESSON #5: TREAT YOURSELF TO A GOOD SOUNDTRACK— Finally, we’re in Oscar season, so I advise you to soak in the good stuff available this time of year and not the defrosted junk that are called “January wide releases.”  Both The Film Stage and First Showing featured articles listing the best scores and soundtracks from 2018 films.  Of the year’s releases, I highly recommend If Beale Street Could Talk, Hearts Beat Loud, Mandy, Eighth Grade, Aquaman, A Star is Born, and Creed II.  The Film Stage article even imbeds some full Spotify playlists for easy sampling.  Make a few clicks and put the earbuds in at work or on the move.  Enjoy the Mozart effect!


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: January “Soapbox Special”

The edition is an extended look at how one new industry move sets off some big questions for the business landscape.

LESSON #1: JOHN LASSETER IS A TEST FOR CAREERS MOVING BEYOND THE #METOO MOVEMENT— I came on this column space a little over a year ago with my first “Soapbox Special” to address the uneven career assassinations that have occurred both before and after our present #MeToo landscape.  I shared my stances where I separate the person (their personal life) from the persona (their careers) and never boycott anyone.  Likewise, my consistent emotional response to cases like Kevin Spacey or Bill Cosby is one of patience and sadness.  I refuse to jump the gun with outrage and boycott on mere “allegations” and “claims”  These folks are innocent until proven guilty in my eyes, which seems to fly against the court of public opinion that immediately sinks people on the first click bait headline before we even know if they deserve it.  A year later, with former Pixar czar John Lasseter being hired by Skydance to lead their animation division, we have reached the decision points of who and what “gets to,” more or less, move on from #MeToo.  Lasseter comes to Skydance after a self-imposed leave of absence from Pixar amid claims of sexual harassment he deemed as “missteps.”  His resurrection hiring has been met with a great deal of adamant outrage from some sectors. 

LESSON #2: IT’S TIME FOR CONSUMERS TO BE REFLECTIVE AND FAIR— From John Lasseter all the way to Kevin Spacey and anyone else in between, people need to table the court of public opinion and get a better look at the whole situations beyond the outrage and headlines.  Here are the reflection questions that I think folks need to consider at this point:

1) What’s the proper waiting period between allegations and actual guilt?  MY ANSWER: When it gets its day in court and no less that that. Go ahead and hate the convicted Bill Cosby.  The evidence came and the ruling has come down.  Cool your jets on all the unproven stuff elsewhere.  Save your crucifixion nails until the gavel hits the block.  Until then, call it quarantine or something and be the discerning consumer you want to be with that right.  Reserve judgment because it’s not even your place to judge.  

2) What amount of contrition or correction is necessary in order for people to continue their careers?  MY ANSWER: That’s up to each case and each consumer, but the amount can’t be zero.  I’m a proponent of giving people chances to correct their wrongs.  Some stars have handled that better than others (Louis CK, Kevin Spacey).  This is just me, but I will gladly acknowledge and appreciate those who legitimately try to seek forgiveness and personal improvement.  I wish more viewers and fans could do the same.  

3) What are these people allowed to do with their rest of their careers?  MY ANSWER: Anything they want or anything a boss wants to hire to run their business.  This might have to circle back to old adage of the punishment fitting the crime.  If the person(s) in question come out of Question #1 with unfounded innocence and have completed the mea culpas of Question #2, they should be able to return to their field of profession.  Similarly, if the person(s) doesn’t get through Question #1 clearly yet have served their time or sentence of meted and legal punishment (think Michael Vick from the NFL), then they should be able to return to their field of profession.  That’s not to say all people are going to support either of those wishes.  Once again, folks can be whatever discerning consumer they want, but those returning people should be allowed the chances to try and correct their mistakes.  

I know if it were any one of us instead of them, we would want those same minimums and grace.  That’s how you find any possible empathy in these situations.  Try some of this reflection before pissing and moaning all over social media.  You’ll be a calmer and better person for it.


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.

MOVIE REVIEW: Glass


 

Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on the emotional experience he has with a film. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

MOVIE REVIEW: Buffalo Boys


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on the emotional experience he has with a film. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

MOVIE REVIEW: Untouchable


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on the emotional experience he has with a film. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

What We Learned This Week: New Year’s Resolutions for the Film Industry for 2019

Image by Muharrem Aner for Getty via The Daily Beast

Plenty of regular everyday people make New Year’s Resolutions, but I think bigger entities, namely movie makers and movie moguls, need to make them too.  Annually, including this eighth edition, have fun taking the movie industry to task for things they need to change, even if I get to do it every week in a different ranting way on “What We Learned This Week.” My cadence hasn’t changed.  I have no false internet courage to be a Twitter troll. As always, some resolutions come true while others get mentioned and reiterated every year. A great deal of last year’s list is still relevant.  Enjoy this year’s hopes and dreams.

#1: Don’t stop supporting minority voices.

2018 has been a banner year for indie film featuring themes, stars, and filmmakers of gender and racial diversity.  This list is impressive: Searching, If Beale Street Could Talk, Blindspotting, The Hate U Give, Sorry to Bother You, Roma, The Rider, Revenge, Crazy Rich Asians, Madeline’s Madeline, BlacKkKlansman, Burning, Roxanne Roxanne, Nappily Ever After, We the Animals, Private Life, Widows, You Were Never Really Here, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Border, Support the Girls, Minding the Gap, Shoplifters, Destroyer, RBG, Hearts Beat Loud, Boy Erased, The Favourite, Bohemian Rhapsody, Collette, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Love Simon, Disobedience, Blockers, and many many more.  Upvote your favorite films directed by women in 2018 on this Ranker.  Hollywood, keep these doors opening.  Don’t just do this for tokenism. The audiences will come.

#2: Disney, take your time with Fox properties you bought from Marvel.

A recent Kevin Feige interview became click bait when he said that Fox’s Marvel properties, mostly the Fantastic Four and X-Men universes, could be in their control within six months.  Everyone (well, expect me) got out their abacuses and calendars to calculate how fast those new incarnations would arrive. My advice and resolution preached patience. Don’t just make these films because you can.  Take your time and get them right. Fantastic Four has had two failed attempts. X-Men has had its soft reboot too and is already slipping. I have no doubt those characters are in the right place, but Marvel needs to hold off.

#3: Speaking of Disney, slow down with your own releases.

Have you seen the Disney release calendar for 2019?  It’s insane. Their dominance, as if we already didn’t know, is unquestioned and it shows.  I think it’s too much. When big releases are on top of each other like this, they feel more run-of-the-mill instead of special.  I remember a time when there was only animated Disney film a year. It was huge, important, and it mattered. It’s hard to multiply care when there are a half-dozen or more between Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and their own house brand choices.  Space them out. Build them up. Make them matter because they don’t come around all that often.

#4: Don’t show us another second of Avengers: Endgame

Those of you who follow my weekly column and the “soapbox specials” know that I’ve sworn off of trailers and have been encouraging people like a cinematic cult leader to do the same. I’ve simply seen too many and oversell their products and create unreasonable expectations which create the butthurt fans we have come to hate. Avengers: Endgame would be the perfect trailblazer. That movie doesn’t need a second of marketing to get our money. How awesome would it be if they stopped cold right now after the first trailer? Our frenzy of anticipation off of the small sample would create more buzz than any new footage. At the same time, the studio could pad their bottom with the reduced need to throw money into marketing, as well as merchandise too. Don’t even release an action figure until after the screaming and parent-tugging kids see the movie in April. Don’t hope for a frenzy. Create one.

#5: Vet your hosts and spokespeople

In the Twitter meltdown wake of James Gunn, Louis CK, Kevin Hart and more this past year, studio heads and showrunners need to do a better job background checking their hires. It shouldn’t matter as much as it turns out, but we’re seeing it does. Big outfits and corporations have too many PR employees and interns at their disposal to miss the large problems they have this year. When those flags come up, talk it out and have a plan before making final decisions and public comments.

#6: If you’re a celebrity, it’s time to get off Twitter

I think we’ve reached a point where we have to ask what the gain is from Twitter. Sure, it’s fun to see trends and maybe catch breaking news, but that’s for us anonymous people of the general public. If you’re a big star, do you really need the scrutiny just for a small PR and promotional bump that comes from social media accessibility? I don’t see the value if you’re an established celebrity or brand.

#7: Repackage the Oscars a better way

Speaking if Kevin Hart, the embarrassing panhandling for a new host and poor attempts to shoehorn new and silly categories creates the need for this resolution.  I say don’t do even have a host at this point. Reduce the bits and focus on the awards. Here’s some perfect and generous math even with a host. Give the 24 categories 5 minutes each (3 to introduce it gracefully with deeper montages than mere quick mentions and 2 full minutes for each winner’s speeches) and that’s 120 minutes. Tack on 5 minutes to open with a welcoming monologue, 5 minutes to close with a thankful prologue, 3 minutes for the annual dead people roll call, and 30 minutes for required commercials to pay the bills.  Easy peasy! You’re well under three hours, the awards are given rich room to operate, and nothing is forgotten except another hare-brained skit. As far as categories go, Best Casting and Best Stunt Work deserve inclusion. If you want to trade those for some technical awards being moved to the separate Science awards night, so be it, but don’t even try to devalue the whole show with a dumb and patronizing Popular Film award. Leave those awards for MTV.

#8: Respect Netflix

Speaking of the Oscars, much is being talked about on a perceived bias and beef the Academy has with Netflix films. They need to put it aside with tolerance for a new and viable distribution outlet that isn’t going away, especially if they keep landing high pedigree films like Roma and The Irishman. Movie moguls need to arrive at the learning curve television and their Emmy Awards have already put behind them where cable and streaming shows have equal footing and respect as network shows. Welcome the new guy better than you are.

#9: Netflix, please choose quality over quantity

Speaking of Netflix, you might need the same resolution as the one Disney got earlier. We get it. You have money and are spending it. You can freely drop films and splash any and every pot with them. The trouble is you have more bombs than winners. For every Roma and Bird Box, you have a dozen that never get attention because there are too many choices. I know, right? Who would have ever thought too many choices was a bad thing. Netflix, I see your strengths. You are revitalizing the midrange budget film market studios haven’t been making since the 1990s. You give indie films wider and better chances for visibility than they would at the shrinking number of arthouse screens. You have long championed documentaries. Do all that with a discerning eye and refined taste.

#10: Keep repackaging Adam Sandler

Speaking of quality over quantity, if you don’t count his voice work in Hotel Transylvania 3, 2018 was the first year in a long time without a theatrical release from Adam Sandler.  That alone made 2018 a glorious year answering one of this column’s longest repeating annual resolutions to stop that man’s redundantly bad career.  I say that while still being happy Adam Sandler’s recent unbound and R-rated Netflix comedy special has done so well. Give us that grown-up Adam Sandler.  Bury the man child. Since Netflix is writing him checks, it’s up to them to remake Adam Sandler. Someday, we’ll be glad he’s back in the spotlight as a new man.  The fear will always be him slipping back to the boorish slacker type that made him rich.

#11: Price point will always be the greatest trigger and hurdle simultaneously

This goes for all of the current streaming services out there and all of the ones still coming, especially Disney+.  Each streaming service’s standalone price makes it highly affordable compared to the price of theater tickets for the whole family year-round or a bloated cable TV subscription.  The devices like AppleTV, Roku, Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire, and more are all wonderfully affordable too. The hard part is if/when you feel like you need to have 4-5 streaming services in addition to the steadily increasing costs of high speed internet to make it all work.  Then that number balloons. At some point, the overabundance of services and higher prices will break a common person’s budget. The services have to make sure they don’t reach that point.


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.

Patch’s Top 10 Films of 2018

2018 was a stellar year for movies. More often than not, I found myself asking the question “Can this year get any better?” after finishing one of the many great films ranging from big blockbusters to upstart independents to non-fiction narratives. Anytime I do a top 10, wrestling with the ones that “didn’t make the cut” makes me feel like a coach that has to cut those players that were great, but just not great enough. That doesn’t negate the films’ impact on me by any means. Sometimes, you just have to make sacrifices. However, I’m not going to completely disregard them, so here are my honorable Top 5 Best of the Rest of 2018.


THE BEST OF THE REST

5. Annihilation
4. Upgrade
3. Green Book
2. Crazy Rich Asians
1. Sierra Burgess is a Loser


 

THE FEATURE FILMS

Now, for the all-star team of films that I chose, I was surprised at how varied my list was. That says so much about how great this year was in film-making. If you are reading this, I hope that you’ve had a chance to see these films, and if not, that this will encourage you to do so.


10. RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET – Sequels can be a high risk/high reward avenue when it comes to franchises. Honestly, I was content with Wreck It Ralph as a stand-alone feature. That story was told. What more needed to be said? Well, apparently, a whole internet’s worth of stories. What the first film did for my love of all things gaming, the sequel successfully pulled off the personification of the world of cyberspace. Not only that, but the message at the heart of Ralph 2 is one that I wasn’t expecting, one that speaks to the importance of what real friendship is.

9. FIRST MAN –  Damien Chazelle + Ryan Gosling + Space = Yes Please. I thought I knew what I was getting when I walked into the theater. Apollo 13, The Right Stuff, and From Earth to the Moon are staple space viewings for me. But I walked out of the theater saying, “Wow, that really was about Neil Armstrong.” I thought that I was going to get a movie about space and the guy who first set foot on the moon. Instead I got an intimate portrayal of a man who struggled with the weight of being a father, a husband, and an astronaut, all while dealing with grief over the loss of a child. Any nominations this film get are much deserved, and I hope to see that come awards season.

8. A STAR IS BORN – This was a movie that I had very little interest in. I hadn’t seen any of the previous iterations, and thinking about Lady Gaga in a theatrical performance where she may be out of her element (aka not dressed up as something obnoxious) didn’t give me a lot of hype value. But then I watched the opening performance by director/actor Bradley Cooper, a man who altered his whole persona (voice included) to own this role of Jackson Maine, and I was floored. Then Lady Gaga comes in and completely sells me on her character, Ally, not only with her singing chops (this I knew) but the way in which she and Cooper’s chemistry worked so well. This film did so much in helping me see that beauty and ugliness of a star’s life, how it can change you and turn you into something you aren’t proud of. It also showed me how the love two people have in the midst of that can not only survive, but succeed, and leave a lasting legacy.

7. THE ENDLESS – Imagine a movie that tells you one thing and then about half way through, shouts in your face “Gotcha.” Now imagine if that worked for you. I’ve had experiences like that, where I’m sold on a movies premise and then it completely goes sideways. More often than not, it spoils my movie experience. The Endless just ratcheted it up to another level of enjoyment. It’s drama and sci-fi, two things I love, but packaged together in a way that I have never seen before. I can’t say much more without spoiling it, but of any movie on this list, I would say see this as soon as you can.

6. READY PLAYER ONE – Book to movie adaptations can be a slippery slope. I’ve learned to extend a lot more grace as I’ve watched more of these as long as the central plot doesn’t change and characters don’t become inconsistent with who their book counterparts are (I’m looking at you Percy Jackson). But something interesting happened with Ready Player One for me. While those two character traits stayed intact for the most part, the book and movie became two different experiences because of the amount of changes that Spielberg and company implemented. Some will complain that the deviations from the source material detracted from the quality, I would make the opposite observation. The spirit of what the book was trying to do played out on the big screen, and the changes done made so much more sense in that medium. I love being able to have two unique experiences when it comes one of my favorite stories in the last decade.

5. AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR – Stakes. That’s what seemed to be missing for me in the massive success that is the MCU. Infinity War changed that. Finally, we had real consequences to a universe that has been growing for 10 years. Finally, we had significant sacrifices with the real possibility that some of our favorite heroes have been lost for good. And finally, the MCU gave us a villain that wasn’t as flat as a pancake. Infinity War got my superhero excitement revived and my hope is that Avengers: Endgame finds its way to this list in 2019.

4. THE HATE U GIVE – If I had to give a One Word Takeaway for this film, it would be “honest.” I’ll admit this was a hard watch for me. It’s a movie that finds a way to portray the ugly reality of what our current racial landscape looks like, to walk in the shoes of a young black teenager. To say this film is important is an understatement. It’s a conversation starter and a perspective changer. But it’s also a movie that, in the most subtle way, leaves me with a sense of hope, and it’s an honest hope. It’s a reminder that even though things are ugly and may always be that way, I don’t have to be a part of that ugliness. I can help be a voice that changes the conversation, the perception, and the landscape.

3.  EIGHTH GRADE – This movie and The Hate U Give were neck and neck in my final rankings, and on any given day I could switch the two. Eighth Grade hits all the emotional notes for me, a guy who never cries, enough to start sobbing in the middle of the gym while on a treadmill. I confess that I don’t have a middle school daughter. Currently, I’m experiencing what it’s like to live with a 6 year old boy. But the truths presented in this film still resonate with me. I was that awkward kid trying to figure out who I was, caught in the middle of elementary school and high school. I am also a dad that knows those experiences are going to befall my child one day and as a dad, I can’t even begin to know how to handle it. But that’s okay. This film is a fantastic depiction of the beauty that can exist in the messiness of life. It’s also one that leaves me feeling hopeful as a dad. Gucci!

2. SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE – My most anticipated movie of 2018 did NOT disappoint. From the animation to the narrative to the adaption of the comic event that, in and of itself is fantastic, this film helmed by the guys behind THE LEGO MOVIE and LEGO BATMAN brought exactly what I expected and more. Spider-Verse gave me, not only a fresh take on Marvel’s flagship character, but also opened the door for more stories that could come from this “spider-verse” and what that could mean for introducing more different kinds of spider characters. I would not be disappointed if I got to experience a new Spider-Verse film every holiday season. Merry Christmas to me.

1. HEARTS BEAT LOUD – Where did THIS film come from? Had it not been for my best friend pointing me to this movie, I wouldn’t have even considered it as a contender. And why would I. Independent movies have a hard time finding their way to my neck of the woods. Fortunately, I was able to see it and my goodness, I hadn’t felt the way I did since Sing Street. It hits all the right notes for me. Drama, family relationships, and music. Lots of great music. Kiersey Clemons and Nick Offerman make a fantastic father/daughter combination. It’s tender, funny when it needs to be, and doesn’t try to be anything more than it sets out to be. Movies like this, because of their quiet demeanor are not going to get a lot of recognition, and that’s sad. Nonetheless, it topped my list and I will gladly champion it as much as I can.


Patrick “Patch” Hicks calls Little Rock, Arkansas home with his family of four (his wife, son and three pets). When he’s not podcasting, he works as a multimedia designer and is also dabbling in the art of writing and directing. You can find him floating around the web on Twitter, Facebook, and his home on the web, ThisIsPatch.com.

 

 

What We Learned This Week: December 7-29

My apologies for the December sabbatical.  Work, holidays, and the awards season are spare time killers…

LESSON #1: WE’VE LOST KEVIN SPACEY— Wow. Just wow. How weird was that “Let Me Be Frank” video this past week? How miscalculated was it, especially on top of the newest charges against him? Contrition instead of glamor would have went a long way. I don’t see how he comes back from this any time soon. Man, I’m going to miss Kevin Spacey.  He was one if the best. Now if we could just lose Johnny Depp next, that would be super. He’s already off the next Pirates of the Caribbean movie.  I’d call that a start.

LESSON #2: STOP MANUFACTURING CONFLICT WHERE IT DOESN’T EXIST— Dramatic license is necessary to make a marketable and entertaining film, but it should be used carefully and even as a last resort. Every time that card is cashed, it chips away at the story’s core and truths. Do that too much and it’s either manipulation or disservice. What was nearly done in On the Basis of Sex is a disconcerting example of forcing strife just to have strife. It’s unnecessary and could have turned things negative.  I’ll never understand how “good for goodness sake” can’t sell on its own.

LESSON #3: EVEN BIG STARS DON’T KNOW HOW TO USE IMDB— To read this recent story of actor Seth Rogen’s (and his famous peers) monumental “discovery” that that gangster film, Angels with Filthy Souls, in Home Alone was a fake movie and not a real one makes me miss Jay Leno’s “Jay-Walking” segments on his old late night talk shows where this kind of lack of reasonable intelligence lives and breathes.  It’s title is likely a homage to the Michael Curtiz’s James Cagney vehicle Angels with Dirty Faces.  Sure, I get how small and inconsequential of a detail it is, but it’s a straight facepalm for me when tools of knowledge are readily available.  It doesn’t take a genius to go on IMDb and see Ralph Foody and Michael Guido’s name in the cast playing Johnny and Snakes.  Home Alone came out in 1990, the same year IMDb began though the noted database didn’t hit the web until 1993.  That’s only really three years of head-scratching, but I guess it’s 28 years of haze and missed problem-solving synapses for Rogen and company.  Alas, this counts as hot topic clickbait in 2018. Any time a celebrity farts with sprinkles, it gets a column and 400 words.

LESSON #4: ROMA IS GOING TO KEEP WINNING— Shine up the “Critical Darling” plaque and start printing the t-shirts.  Alfonso Cuaron’s 1970s domestic drama from his home country of Mexico is winning all of the shiny things that say Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Cinematography on them.  My website’s Awards Tracker shows it running away and hiding in this categories during this main stretch of regional critics groups handing out their annual awards. Sometimes, especially for a foreign film, it is hard to project all of this critical love into audience success and Oscar glory.  It’s not too often the regular, ordinary domestic viewing audience will drop an audible “Huh?” at Best Picture winners. This may be one of those years. The test will be the Golden Globes. Let’s see if Netflix can do its job and give Roma a wider audience, which is its own testy saga to read about.

LESSON #5: YOU KNOW YOUR FILM IS CRAP WHEN EVEN NETFLIX SAYS NO— The newest Will Ferrell-John C. Reilly teamup Holmes & Watson had bomb written all over it from the start.  First, the marketing didn’t help the effort, looking like one of those struggling comedies where all of the good jokes are in the trailer and not in the two-hour movie.  Once Sony decided not to screen the film for critics, that should have been the real warning. In a damning second warning, Netflix, which prides itself as the service that will take anything and spend frivolously, actually turned down buying Holmes & Watson from Sony.  Gosh, that’s when you know it’s bad.  That’s like a baseball team trying to trade a pair of pitchers for a bag of balls and getting turned down for even balls.  Good Lord, that’s a bad movie.

LESSON #6: LOOK AHEAD TO SUNDANCE TO THE SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL— Robert Redford’s baby turns Park City, Utah into Mecca. We may be looking at the 2019 Oscars, but, without fail, at least one or more future contenders for 2020 will debut there. Here’s the full lineup. From the competition films, keep an eye on Native Son and The Farewell.  Of the bigger-named gala premieres watch for Jake Gyllenhaal’s Velvet Buzzsaw (a new collaboration with his Nightcrawler director Dan Gilroy)Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams in After the Wedding from Moore’s husband Bart Freundlichand The Report with Adam Driver and Jon Hamm from Soderbergh writing partner-turned-director Scott Z. Burns.  You’ll sound cool if you can say you’ve heard of these films next year.


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.

Aaron’s Top 10 Films of 2018

Roma, If Beale Street Could Talk, Black Panther, Upgrade, Burning, A Quiet Place, First Reformed, Widows, Ralph Breaks the Internet, and Won’t You Be My Neighbor? These are just some of the wonderful movies released this year (out of 171 new films seen, up from 155 last year) which I couldn’t find room for in my Top 20, much less my Top 10, but still heartily recommend you seek out and see. The process of narrowing down my favorites to the top ten films of the year was a painful experience that required a lot of reflection and time. Just know that I harbor deep affection for many of the films you see listed earlier in this introduction and also below in the #11-20 special mention spots.

With regards to my criteria, when it comes to ranking films critically, I do that as part of my membership in the Seattle Film Critics Society (see our awards here). But here at Feelin’ Film we focus on matters of the heart, so my chosen films are often ones that I found the most affecting in 2018 – those movies that provided me an incredible emotional experience of some sort. Other things that factor strongly into my ranking are how likely I am to remember a film months down the road and rewatchability, so think of this list as leaning more favorite than best.

In order to make this a tad easier on myself, and also because they truly are a unique medium unto themselves, I have listed my Top 5 Documentaries separately. This was an incredible year for non-fiction filmmaking and more than one of these below would be featured in my Top 10 of the year if these lists were combined.


THE DOCUMENTARIES

5. SCIENCE FAIR – An entertaining, encouraging, and essential spotlight on some of the bright young minds that will be responsible for innovations and research that dictate the future of humanity. This inspirational, feel-good documentary follows a handful of brilliant multi-ethnic teenagers from around the world as they compete at the annual International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), the “Olympics of science fair”, and is a heartfelt celebration of both their drive to learn and the parents and teachers who support their ambition.

4. WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? – I knew very little about Fred Rogers, the iconic and innovative television personality, before seeing this story about his life. His heart for children and unwavering hope to see every person loved and respected for who they are, as well as his sense of ministry and passion for child development, led to an incredible career of service that the world sorely needed. It was a joy to learn about his life through those who knew him and a reminder that the world could sure use a solid dose of Mister Rogers again today.

3. MINDING THE GAP – Incredibly personal story of three skateboarding friends, one of which is documenting their lives over the course of many years Boyhood-style. The film takes unexpected turns in dealing with the realities of absentee fathers, the challenges of parenting, and domestic abuse, but the honesty and courage of director Bing Liu and his friends throughout the process creates an experience that is extremely important and potentially life-changing for viewers.

2. THEY SHALL NOT GROW OLD – An immersive documentary experience like nothing that has ever been made before. What Peter Jackson has done with previously unseen archival footage from the Imperial War Museum, restoring and colorizing it, then combining it with recorded interviews of the very soldiers who lived through World War I, is truly stunning and deeply intimate. The film is nothing less than a triumphant tribute to those who served and an impressive technical marvel that sets a new standard for the kind of storytelling that can be achieved in 2018 and beyond.

1. FREE SOLO – Real, raw, and intense as it gets. This story of Alex Honnold’s attempt to become the first person to ever free solo climb (that means with no ropes, y’all) Yosemite National Park’s 3,200 foot high El Capitan wall is stripped of Hollywood special effects, stuntmen, and safety measures, creating a truly unique voyeuristic experience. World-class photographer Jimmy Chin’s camerawork is amazing but it’s the intimacy of getting to know Alex, his girlfriend, and fellow climbers that makes this documentary truly special. This deeper connection with Alex as a person also makes watching his final ascent one of the most truly nail-bitingly stressful things I have ever witnessed. This film additionally inspired me to get back outdoors and commune with nature, so it impacted me in a potentially long-lasting way. (Hear my interview with 2018 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year & subject of Free Solo Alex Honnold in Minisode 53 here.)


THE FEATURE FILMS

20. GREEN BOOK – (Hear our discussion about Green Book in Episode 138 here.)

19. SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE – (Hear our discussion about Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse in Episode 140 here.)

18. ISLE OF DOGS 

17. SEARCHING – (Hear our discussion about Searching in Minisode 51 here.)

16. INCREDIBLES 2 – (Hear our discussion about Incredibles 2 in Episode 114 here.)

15. SHOPLIFTERS

14. ANNIHILATION – (Hear our discussion about Annihilation in Episode 099 here.)

13. CREED II – (Hear our discussion about Creed II in Episode 137 here.)

12. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT – (Hear our discussion about Mission: Impossible – Fallout in Episode 120 here.)

11. EIGHTH GRADE – (Hear our discussion about Eighth Grade in Minisode 48 here.)


10. THE HATE U GIVE – I was a complete wreck watching this film from start to finish. It provides perspectives on police violence and race that you just can’t get without intimately knowing people who’ve lived through the kind of experiences these characters do, and does so through expert filmmaking, performances, score, and script. It’s eye-opening, heartbreaking, and evocative. It is also entertaining in stretches, but engaging with the complex thematic material is challenging. The emotional experience I had watching The Hate U Give was likely the most powerful one I had all year, and if there is one film that I find vitally important enough to suggest families see it with their teenagers, this is the one.

 

9. AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR – We waited 10 years for this and the historic puzzle that the Russo Brothers have put together is nothing short of amazing, lending itself to multiple viewings and deeper analysis. Despite being 2.5 hours long, I never once felt that length, as the film hurtled me along toward an inevitable tragedy. I was shocked that Infinity War managed to live up to its incredible hype. It was as entertaining and emotional as a superhero film has ever been and sucked me back into MCU fandom right as I was starting to fall away from it from fatigue. (Hear our discussion about Avengers: Infinity War in Episode 107 here.)

 

8. THE RIDER – This Western slice-of-life story about real-life cowboy Brady Jandreau wrestling with what he wants versus what is best for him plays out in ways that are both painful and touching. Director Chloé Zhao’s choice to have the film acted by the actual Jandreau family added a layer of realism and created a level of personal connection to the characters that may not have been reachable otherwise. The film features a beautiful score and my favorite cinematography of the year. It is both a moving piece of storytelling and cinematic achievement that I won’t soon forget. (Hear me discuss The Rider with J.D. on InSession Film Podcast here.)

 

7. FIRST MAN – From the pulse-pounding opening scene, seeing this film in IMAX was an extraordinary, unique, and stunningly immersive cinematic experience. Damien Chazelle’s manner of storytelling, keeping the focus centered on one man and letting us experience Neil’s journey through both the intimacy of his personal life and the exhilarating flight challenges that give him purpose, was incredibly impactful. The performances and production design are phenomenal, but the technical mastery of this picture’s flight sequences is unlike anything I’d ever seen. Likewise, the sound design was so intense and score so awe-inspiring that you could feel them in your bones and soul. Chazelle’s film is breathtaking, while also being a fantastic history lesson, and is definitely both the best biopic of 2018 and one of the best films ever made about the space program. (Hear our discussion about First Man in Episode 131 here.)

6. HEARTS BEAT LOUD – Hearts Beat Loud is not just the witty title of this third feature film from Brett Haley, but also a prophetic description of the physiological response it evokes when I watch it. Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemons are stellar as a father and daughter bonding over a shared love of music, dealing with his mid-life crisis of sorts and her impending departure for college. The catchy tunes they create bring out the feels but it’s the thoughtful, realistic story about coping with the challenges that life brings us that keeps me emotionally invested throughout this charming, heartwarming exploration of parenthood, love, and facing the future. (Hear our discussion about Hearts Beat Loud in Episode 129 here.)

 

5. A STAR IS BORN – The first act of this film is a mesmerizing display of immersive, emotional storytelling and song, and one of the top five or so sections of any film in 2018. What Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga have created here in this 4th retelling of the classic Hollywood tale is not only the best version but also one of the most entertaining, memorable films of the year. Its songs and performances, its triumphs and tragedy, have grown on me with every viewing thus far, and the deeper my emotional connection gets the more closely I hold this film in my heart. (Hear our episode about A Star is Born in Episode 130 here.)

 

4. READY PLAYER ONE – My expectations for this film adaptation of a favorite book were sky high, and somehow the master of the adventure movie himself, Steven Spielberg, delivered. Seeing the OASIS come to life before my eyes had me in awe. I love the visual effects, the constant references that gamers and pop culture addicts like myself eat up, and the new version of a beloved story that stands on its own as equally (if not more) impressive than its source material. This film, like the book it is based on, was created with a very specific geeky target audience in mind. I am that audience and this film is a new favorite, bound to be joyfully revisited year after year. (Hear our discussion about Ready Player One in Episode 103 here.)

 

3. AQUAMAN – Do you remember the moment when you became a fan of something? My favorite superhero of all-time is Batman, and seeing Michael Keaton on the big screen is what kicked off a nearly 30-year love affair with the caped crusader. I also cannot forget the feeling inside me when I first witnessed Middle-earth in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I enjoyed the books before that, but seeing them realized in a cinematic way is what cemented my extreme fandom. Well, this year that happened again, and came from a completely unexpected place. Aquaman is a combination of things that I love. It is an underwater Star Wars, with the visual world-building of Tron: Legacy and Avatar, plus an adventurous quest for a relic a la an Uncharted video game, and topped off with epic Lord of the Rings-like battles. I had little to no knowledge of the character prior to this film, but I fell hard for the origin story of this king torn between two natures, wrestling with guilt, familial conflict, and mercy. The visuals, the score, the performances, the costumes, the amazing action, and the campy way in which this epic tale is constructed fit together perfectly for me. Thanks to this film, I am now an Aquaman fan and riding this rare wave of pure bliss as far as it will take me.

 

2. BLINDSPOTTING –  Rarely have I ever been been so floored by a film. This movie gave me one of the most emotionally visceral cinematic experiences that I’ve had this year, leaving me thoroughly exhausted and in need of both a hug and a nap. The performances by Diggs and Casal are phenomenal. The script, which the two friends/stars spent years developing, is the best of the year and brings absolute fire in every scene. There is so much heart in this funny, thought-provoking, entertaining picture that perfectly expresses a relevant rage about such topics as police violence, gentrification, post-traumatic stress, and more. The battle between #1 and #2 was very, very close, and I suspect that Blindspotting is the type of film whose genius ability to address these topics in an honest but healthy way will only be appreciated more as time passes.

 

1. PADDINGTON 2 – “If we are kind and polite, the world will be right.” Little did I know walking into a theater in early January that I would be seeing my #1 film of the year. The aforementioned quote is the most memorable line of dialogue from any movie in 2018. It, and many other wonderful pieces of Aunt Lucy’s advice, have stuck with me all year long. Technically the film is marvelous. Its flawless blending of live-action and CGI is special. The colorful, symmetrical cinematography is so vibrant and alive that it bursts off of the screen. No other film was quite as perfect a blend of artistic excellence in filmmaking, lovely performances, and emotional significance for me. In a world that often gives us plenty of reason to frown, Paddington brings kindness, hopefulness and pure delight. (Hear our discussion about Paddington 2 in Episode 112 here.)


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on the emotional experience he has with a film. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

MOVIE REVIEW: Bumblebee


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on the emotional experience he has with a film. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.