What We Learned This Week: February 25-March 10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



2018 Oscars and Feeler’s Choice Awards Reaction

Patch and Aaron hop on the mic directly after the Oscars for a conversation about the show and all its winners. They also announce the 2018 Feeler’s Choice Award winners. Don’t miss this fun conversation.


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2018 Oscar Predictions

Ready for the Oscars this Sunday? The Feelin’ Film team — Aaron White, Patrick Hicks, Steve Clifton, Don Shanahan, and Jeremy Calcara — are here to tell you just who will be taking home those glorious golden statues. Below you will find five definitive lists of who will win at the 2018 Oscars, followed by a brief explanation by one team member of why they made that choice. We believe that these are all objectively correct predictions. Do with that as you will, and if you’re in an Oscar pool this year – GOOD LUCK!


Best Picture

Aaron – GET OUT






Best Actor


Aaron – Gary Oldman

Patrick – Gary Oldman

Steve – Gary Oldman

Don – Gary Oldman

Jeremy – Gary Oldman


Best Actress


Aaron – Frances McDormand

Patrick – Frances McDormand

Steve – Frances McDormand

Don – Frances McDormand

Jeremy – Sally Hawkins


Best Supporting Actor


Aaron – Sam Rockwell

Patrick – Sam Rockwell

Steve – Sam Rockwell

Don – Sam Rockwell

Jeremy – Willem Dafoe


Best Supporting Actress


Aaron – Allison Janney

Patrick – Allison Janney

Steve – Allison Janney

Don – Allison Janney

Jeremy – Allison Janney


Best Director


Aaron – Guillermo del Toro

Patrick – Guillermo del Toro

Steve – Guillermo del Toro

Don – Guillermo del Toro

Jeremy – Guillermo del Toro


Best Adapted Screenplay








Best Original Screenplay


Aaron – GET OUT

Patrick – GET OUT

Steve – GET OUT


Jeremy – GET OUT


Best Cinematography


Aaron – BLADE RUNNER 2049

Patrick – BLADE RUNNER 2049

Steve – BLADE RUNNER 2049


Jeremy – BLADE RUNNER 2049


Best Costume Design








Best Film Editing


Aaron – I, TONYA

Patrick – DUNKIRK





Best Makeup and Hairstyling








Best Original Score








Best Original Song


Aaron – “This is Me” from THE GREATEST SHOWMAN

Patrick – “This is Me” from THE GREATEST SHOWMAN

Steve – “This is Me” from THE GREATEST SHOWMAN

Don – “Remember Me” from COCO

Jeremy – “Remember Me” from COCO


Best Production Design


Aaron – BLADE RUNNER 2049






Best Sound Editing



Patrick – DUNKIRK





Best Sound Mixing



Patrick – DUNKIRK



Jeremy – DUNKIRK


Best Visual Effects








Best Animated Film


Aaron – COCO

Patrick – COCO

Steve – COCO

Don – COCO

Jeremy – COCO


Best Foreign Language Film








Best Documentary Feature




Steve – ICARUS




Best Documentary Short


Aaron – HEROIN(E)

Patrick – EDITH + EDDIE



Jeremy – HEROIN(E)


Best Animated Short








Best Live-Action Short







BEST PICTURE: How did I get this draw? LADY BIRD was my favorite film of 2017, but it’s too benign for Oscar voters. GET OUT would be a statement win, especially in our current social climate, but I just don’t think older voters are going to push a horror film to the top. For me that leaves THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI and THE SHAPE OF WATER. The preferential ballot and lack of a directing nom for Martin McDonough indicate to me that THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI is vulnerable, even though it keeps hanging around and over performing everywhere. I’m counting on enough voters dropping it low on their ballots, where I think THE SHAPE OF WATER will garner enough top votes to push it over the top. Ask me again tomorrow and I’ll probably tell you something different. – Steve

BEST ACTOR: As much of a lock as there has ever been, Gary Oldman’s transformative performance as Winston Churchill in the Best Picture-nominated DARKEST HOUR is sure to be recognized for its greatness. This performance feels like total immersion into the character with his veins seemingly about to pop at any time, and his stutters and pauses perfectly capturing the enormous pressure weighing Churchill down. Oldman has already won almost every major award for Best Actor thus far and will rightfully take home the Oscar, too. – Aaron

BEST ACTRESS: If you were to add up all the lead-up awards (as I have), this would be a neck-and-neck contest between Sally Hawkins of THE SHAPE OF WATER and Frances McDormand for THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI. The way I see things shaking out, this might be the one Oscar Martin McDonagh’s film wins all night and it’s probably the right one in this Year of Women. Slot McDormand over Hawkins in a race closer than we’ll ever see. – Don

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Willem Dafoe’s Bobby Hicks was the glue that held life at the Magic Castle Inn and Suites together. His presence there not only kept the place in business, but his character brought a paternal presence to it’s residence. I’m glad he got a nod for the nomination, but it’s hard to beat out a film with two strong supporting leads. Sam Rockwell edges out Woody Harrelson for the win. – Patrick

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: I would argue that this is Oscar’s toughest category this year. All five women nominated gave performances that commanded the screen every time they appeared. Given what we’ve seen in awards season thus far, all signs seem to point to Allison Janney winning her first Academy Award for her portrayal of Tonya Harding’s mother LaVona Fay Golden in Craig Gillespie’s I, TONYA. Janney has long been one of Hollywood’s most reliable actresses and she absolutely becomes Golden in a darkly funny role as the unrelentingly awful mom (and lover of tropical winged creatures). If there’s any justice in the world, she’ll agree to share the trophy with that bird. – Jeremy

BEST DIRECTOR: In a very deep category, it’s wonderful to see Hispanic (Guillermo del Toro for THE SHAPE OF WATER), black (Jordan Peele for GET OUT), and female (Greta Gerwig for LADY BIRD) diversity.  That’s promising for the state of film, but there can only be one winner and it’s going to be Guillermo del Toro.  Since January, him winning the Golden Globe, the BAFTA, and, most importantly, the DGA Award from his Directors Guild peers seals his Oscar victory. – Don

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Earlier in this awards season, THE DISASTER ARTIST was running away and hiding with this category as the preordained choice of cult and niche cinephile fans. As soon as that Hollywood in-joke of a film hit general audiences, it died a death about as quick as the film it’s based on. Surging ahead instead is CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, adapted by veteran screenwriter James Ivory, who has never won the Big One after years of Merchant-Ivory awards bait offerings. This is the place for voters to throw this topical LGBT message film a bone and to cap a respected career for Ivory. – Don

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: This was once wide open, but it seems to have settled into a two horse race between GET OUT and THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI. As much as I really want to see Greta Gerwig on that Oscar stage, I fear support for LADY BORD is starting to wane, and it could get shut out completely. I really believe Jordan Peele and GET OUT are going to squeak by with this one. THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI is pesky, but with no persons of color considered a threat for an acting win, you can bet the Academy will want to honor their commitment to squashing #OscarsSoWhite in some fashion, and Peele is very deserving here.  – Steve

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Roger Deakins has been nominated for Best Cinematography 14 times and somehow, inexplicably, he has gone home with empty hands 13 of them so far. This has to be the year the Academy finally recognizes his staggering greatness, right? BLADE RUNNER 2049 was sadly skimmed over in major categories, but my thinking is that the critically acclaimed film will still win some technical awards, including this one. The one contender that has performed well on the award circuit and could yet again spoil Roger’s party is most likely Dan Laustsen for his gorgeous work in THE SHAPE OF WATER. But that film will win plenty of other awards. This one goes to Deakins. – Aaron

BEST COSTUME DESIGN: Um, really? Was there ever any doubt as to what film was going to win Best Costume Design. The movie is called PHANTOM THREAD for goodness sake. Besides that, the stunning costumes add to the overall tone of the entire film and make it the most worthy recipient of the Oscar. – Patrick

BEST FILM EDITING: Last year, Patrick defined Film Editing this way: “Pacing would be the operative word to describe the quality of a well-edited film. Did it flow? Did each scene lead well into the next? Were there abrupt changes to the tone of the film as a result of the way it was pieced together?” Well, this year there are a few films that likely good take home the award, chief among them being DUNKIRK, BABY DRIVER, and I, TONYA. I wouldn’t be surprised if any of these win, but the award circuit buzz seems to favor I, TONYA and this feels like a year when we’re going to see several films taking home multiple statues. – Aaron

BEST MAKEUP/HAIRSTYLING: As the bald man of the group, it is my absolute honor to judge and handicap this category. I know my sugar-honey-iced-tea. For me, the fact this is the one remaining Oscar category to still skate by on three chincy nominees instead of a full field of five is ridiculous. Surely two more films could have been honored to compete. Of the three, this is duel for “Best Lead Character Transformation” more than anything else, and Gary Oldman’s disappearance into Sir Winston Churchill for DARKEST HOUR will win over making Jacob Tremblay as ugly as he is cute in WONDER. – Don

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: 2017 seemed to be the year of what has come to be known as modern minimalist music in film. BLADE RUNNER 2049 and DUNKIRK, scored by Hans Zimmer, really dive deep into this style. Desplat’s THE SHAPE OF WATER, however, takes a different approach, and really becomes another character in the film. Beautiful and haunting, and a lock to take home the award. – Patrick

BEST ORIGINAL SONG: Sigh, the best song never seems to win the Oscar, and the frontrunner all along has been “Remember Me”, from COCO. It’s nice and sentimental, but it isn’t particularly memorable outside the confines of the film. I’m expecting the Academy voters to finally honor the true best song and go with “This is Me”, from THE GREATEST SHOWMAN. This song has become a global anthem of inspiration, and has made a star out of powerhouse singer, Keala Settle. – Steve

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN: This award could easily go to THE SHAPE OF WATER, but like with Best Cinematography this seems like the proper place to recognize BLADE RUNNER 2049 and in a year with so many worthy nominees of high quality, this one goes to the futuristic world over the fairy tale one.  – Aaron

BEST SOUND EDITING: It might seem a little odd that a film that was repeatedly criticized in its initial release for having dialogue that was hard to hear is now the odds on favorite to win the award for best sound editing. But upon further examination audiences realized that they were hearing exactly what Gregg Landaker, Gary Rizzo and Mark Weingarten wanted them to hear in Christopher Nolan’s DUNKIRK. Nolan’s completely immersive film makes the viewer feel like they’re on the beach at Dunkirk largely because of the deft hand with which this crew recreates the sounds of war. BABY DRIVER may sneak up and take this one, but my money is on DUNKIRK. – Jeremy

BEST SOUND MIXING: Every year we talk about how the difference in Sound Editing and Mixing is so small that usually the same film wins both. While I do think BABY DRIVER’s unique style could change things up this year by winning Sound Editing, ultimately I believe both awards will go to the relentlessly visceral sound of DUNKIRK. Honestly, in any other year DUNKIRK would be a slam dunk, but BABY DRIVER does give me pause due to how integral sound is to it as well.  – Aaron

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: I’m not going to apologize for supporting what I think is the runaway pick in this category. That’s not to say the other four nominees aren’t worthy. They clearly are. But when you can get me to cry from watching a digital ape act on screen, you’re doing something right. I also believe this will be Andy Serkis’ indirect Oscar for his performance as Caesar because both need each other to make this success story what it is.  – Patrick

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM: Pixar typically has a stranglehold on this category, and this year is no different. The first of their films set south of the border is a celebration of family and following your dreams, with all of the classic Pixar bells and whistles thrown in. They have no competition here. COCO it is. – Steve

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: There was some trading going on among Feelin’ Film contributors regarding who would be given the opportunity to highlight this category and after a long fight that ended in Patch struggling but ultimately succeeding in yelling “UNCLE” through his tears, I won the opportunity. I’m picking Ruben Ostlund’s THE SQUARE here. Why? Because I saw the trailer and I like Elizabeth Moss. The Swedish film, which is about an art installation at the X-Royal Art Museum in Stockholm, has received rave reviews and won the Palme d’Or at Cannes. It’s going to win. – Jeremy

BEST DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE): The odds on favorite to take away this year’s statue for best documentary feature is Agnes Varda’s FACE PLACS. The doc, that follows the famed director and the artist known only as JR while they travel the countryside of France and take large photos of the people they find there, has stolen hearts of viewers everywhere it has played. This will be Varda’s second Oscar in less than a year after having been given the Academy Honorary Award back in November. – Jeremy

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT: The dreaded “short” categories will make or break your Oscar ballot. This year is a toss up, but I’m leaning toward EDITH + EDDIE, a story about physical abuse of the elderly, sure to tug at a few heartstrings and anger a few people along the way. – Steve

BEST ANIMATED SHORT: This year’s nominees were all strong contenders, and my favorite isn’t even the one I think SHOULD win. GARDEN PARTY stands above as a visually stunning display of animation on top of a left field plot (if you could call it that) with an ending that is the perfect exclamation point to its tale. But I think my favorite of the five will take home the statue this year. DEAR BASKETBALL is a fantastic balance of words, visuals and music, wrapped up in a visceral experience that isn’t forgettable, at least not to me. (This may end up being first time an NBA player will have won an Oscar which will be crazy in and of itself). – Patrick

BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT: As a nice get with press credentials, I’ve actually been lucky enough to see all five of these obscure films. I don’t have to throw a dartboard and guess like most everyone else. In this unfortunate era of mass shootings, the absolutely harrowing experience that is DEKALB ELEMENTARY reenacting at true story of a school secretary talking down a would-be school gunman is, far and away, the best of this bunch. – Don

Agree with our picks? Disagree? Want to share your own? Leave us some feedback. We’d love to discuss them with you. Thanks for reading!

MOVIE REVIEW: 2018 Oscar-Nominated Short Films

2018 Oscar-Nominated Short Films


DEAR BASKETBALL: An animated telling of Kobe Bryant’s poem ‘Dear Basketball’.

Aaron – Full disclosure: Kobe Bryant is my favorite basketball player of all-time. DEAR BASKETBALL highlights the passion that he played the game with, which is what inspired my fandom. Beautifully and uniquely animated, this brief love poem reminds me of the joy his career brought me and so many others.


Patrick – This was the surprise favorite of the animated shorts for me. Of the five it had the most visceral reaction in that I connected with the duality of joy and sorrow that Kobe’s narration expressed. That, combined with the simplistic and beautiful sketched animation provided me with a personal connection that this love letter wanted to provide. Wonderfully made.



GARDEN PARTY: In a deserted rich house, a couple of amphibians explore their surroundings and follow their primal instincts.

Aaron – “WOW!” “This looks like a Disney Nature documentary!” “This can’t be animation, can it!?” All actual things that came out of my mouth in the first few minutes of this short. So colorful and alive. So funny, so adorable, so… dark. Captivating from start to finish.


Patrick – I echo the sentiment of “WOW,” but for completely different reasons. I absolutely loved the slow reveal of this environment that these creatures were occupying. Two minutes in and I thought, “Wait, did I just see? Hold on.” What starts out as a simple amphibian hangout turns into something completely unexpected, and the last 10 seconds are the perfect exclamation point.



LOU: A Pixar short about a lost-and-found box and the unseen monster within.

Aaron – Another sweet, bright-colored short from Pixar that offers up life lessons using a setting we can all relate to (recess on the playground at school). LOU moves fast, as does its title character in remaking itself into many interesting forms. Perhaps wonderfully animated emotional shorts by Pixar are something we take for granted now because despite being great this one just didn’t wow me or scream memorable.


Patrick – Standard fare from the company that brought you everything else wonderful and fuzzy feeling. There’s nothing wrong with this animated short, but from someone who sees this type of story more often than not, the wow factor goes down. Worthy to be nominated but the weakest of the field due to its safe play storytelling.



NEGATIVE SPACE: Even though Sam’s father is hardly ever home because he is often away on business trips, he is able to connect with his son by teaching him how to pack a suitcase.

Aaron – Incredibly poignant story about a man remembering his father through a specific activity they shared together. Not only is this fantastic stop-motion animation work, but the adaptation of Ron Koertege’s poem packs an emotional punch, as well. The film’s final line is particularly powerful and will leave a lasting impression.


Patrick – I love weird stuff, and when you can take something as ordinary as packing a suitcase and attaching a father/son relationship to it, that’s money in the bank for me. Thank you for being original :).



REVOLTING RHYMES: Two half-hour animated films based on the much-loved rhymes written by Roald Dahl and illustrated by Quentin Blake.

Aaron – Too long and only decently animated, but Roald Dahl’s witty words feel right at home coming out of cartoon characters (especially the rather excellent Wolf). It’s an interesting enough story with some dry humor but forgettable in most every way and easily the weakest of the nominees.


Patrick – The length of this film proves to be its weakest element, as my attention span was already locked into the 4-6 minute format. Still it’s entertaining and typical Roald Dahl weird. I would have liked more from the story as a narrative, and like my counterpart, I agree that the animation wasn’t tops among the other nominees.





DEKALB ELEMENTARY: Inspired by an actual 911 call placed during a school shooting incident in Atlanta, Georgia.

Aaron – Stunning depiction of a true story. Stripped down of any score or sound editing, the film is completely raw and allows the viewer to feel entirely present. Such a strong emotional connection is developed with its characters, which is so rare for a short film, and despite the horrific nature of the issue it deals with there is a focus on empathy and understanding of mental illness. DEKALB ELEMENTARY is a short film with no agenda and no unnecessary exploitation or exaggeration. I am wrecked, but grateful for the moment of exhalation needed to collect myself and reflect on what this must be like for the far too many people school shootings have come to affect.


Patrick – Honest and raw are the two words that I think best describe this short. The lack of theatrics like music or sound editing make this feel like an “in the moment” experience. Everything about the situation felt unpredictable, especially the last two minutes. Incredibly powerful.


THE ELEVEN O’CLOCK: The delusional patient of a psychiatrist believes he is actually the psychiatrist. As they each attempt to treat each other the session gets out of control.

Aaron – When your film is 13 minutes long, set in a single location, and revolves entirely around a mystery, the dialogue has to be perfect; and in THE ELEVEN O’CLOCK it is. This quick little vignette captures the attention and keeps you guessing while bringing a smile to the face from that clever writing. Even if the ending is telegraphed, discovering whether the characters themselves figure out the twist is very satisfying.


Patrick – Oh. My. Word. One of the funniest stories I’ve seen in a while. It hearkens back to the days of the Abbot and Costello “Who’s On First?” bit. This is one of those pieces of film where the screenwriting is the star. Engaging, entertaining, and worthy to be on this short list.


MY NEPHEW EMMETT: At 2:30AM on August 28, 1955 in the most racially divided state in the country, 64 year-old Mose Wright tries to protect his 14 year-old nephew Emmett Till from two racist killers out for blood. Based on the true story of the 1955 murder of Emmett Louis Till.

Aaron – Doing “based on a true story” well in short form is tough because there just isn’t much time to get to know characters and inevitably many details have to be left out. L. B. Williams is fantastic capturing the personal terror of violent racism in 1950’s Mississippi as Emmett’s Uncle, Mose Wright, and the film has some gorgeous cinematography despite being overly dark at times inside the house. A solid short that is yet another reminder of our country’s dark history.


Patrick – I’m in agreement that short films are challenged with creating rounded characters in their subject matter due to time constraints, and while I had a bit of a rough start with getting into the first half of the film, the second half more than made up for it. It’s incredibly visceral in its portrayal of racial hatred and the tragic reality of where our country claims part of its history is birthed from.


THE SILENT CHILD: The Silent Child centers around a profoundly deaf four year old girl named Libby who is born into a middle class family and lives in a world of silence until a caring social worker teaches her the gift of communication.

Aaron – How is one “profoundly” deaf? I don’t think you can be intensely deaf. You either are, or you aren’t. You can be partially deaf, sure, but not profoundly deaf. Anyway, this grammar debate was more interesting and entertaining than THE SILENT CHILD. I’m glad a little girl learned sign language, but this is not enough material even for a short story. Feels kind of like a period piece and is beautifully shot, though, which explains why the Oscars nominated it.


Patrick – Edcuational first, entertaining second. That’s what I took away from this short. It got it’s point across but almost to a fault. I was emotionally connected to the characters and the overall story, but by the end it felt like I was watching an advertisement more than a short film. Still, it effectively put together and one that to me is memorable. Plus, British accents FTW.


WATU WOTE: ALL OF US: For a decade Kenya has been targeted by terrorist attacks of the Al-Shabaab. An atmosphere of anxiety and mistrust between Muslims and Christians is growing. Until in December 2015, Muslim bus passengers showed that solidarity can prevail.

Aaron – A bit slow to get going, it spends too much time with the main character trying to get us connected. It’s weird to say about a short film, but I think it was a little too long. The event itself plays out in an extremely powerful scene where people of conflicting faiths choose acts of love/humanity over religion. For a student film this is incredibly well made and packs an emotional punch that lingers.


Patrick – A great depiction of what it means to value life above beliefs. Having not heard of this incident despite my faith background, I was overwhelmingly surprised at the the beautiful depiction of what it means to look at someone beyond what they represent.




EDITH + EDDIE: Edith and Eddie, ages 96 and 95, are America’s oldest interracial newlyweds. Their love story is disrupted by a family feud that threatens to tear the couple apart.

Aaron – I’ve got some pretty mixed feelings on whether or not this documentary should even exist. While it offers us a uniquely personal view into the lives of this adorable couple and the challenges they face having someone with guardianship over them, it also puts a few things on screen that I find tasteless and exploitative. This definitely got me thinking (and angry) about the way in which elderly care is at times managed in America, but it also provided a hopeful look at two people loving each other regardless of age, color, or circumstances.


Patrick – Delightful and devastating are the words that I took away from this doc. I found myself adoring the couple and overly frustrated with the depiction of how their relationship was being managed. I’m not sure what message to take away from this was.


HEAVEN IS A TRAFFIC JAM ON THE 405: Mindy Alper is a tortured and brilliant 56 year old artist who is represented by one of Los Angeles’ top galleries. Acute anxiety, mental disorder and devastating depression have caused her to be committed to mental institutions undergo electro shock therapy and survive a 10 year period without the ability to speak. Her hyper self awareness has allowed her to produce a lifelong body of work that expresses her emotional state with powerful psychological precision. Through interviews, reenactments, the building of an eight and a half foot papier-mache’ bust of her beloved psychiatrist, and examining drawings made from the time she was a child, we learn how she has emerged from darkness and isolation to a life that includes love, trust and support.

Aaron – Moving and heartfelt story about the effects of mental illness and the struggle many face in overcoming not only illness itself but the social stigma that accompanies it. Alper’s creative output is incredible and her art provides a deeply personal look into her psyche, telling the story of how she has come to beat the illnesses that once defined her.


Patrick – Pills. Abuse. I just want to hug Mindy and tell her how much she is loved. I guess this doc did it’s job in making me feel something because my heart broke for her and her circumstances. It hurts knowing all that she has to do to manage being “normal” and why that is the way it is. It’s a tragic story, and one that reminds me more of how much people matter. And her artistry: incredible.


HEROIN(E): Three women fight to break the cycle one life at a time.

Aaron – “Getting high on heroine is like what it would be for you to kiss Jesus. That’s how powerful heroine is.” Set in Huntington, West Virginia, the city with the most opioid overdoses and deaths in the country, this documentary follows a fire chief, a judge and a street missionary as they battle the epidemic in different ways. These three women show heroism in a way not often considered, but that is truly life-changing (and saving) for many of the people they touch. The clever title and poster of this film are also the best of this group.


Patrick – I can’t claim to know anything about what drug abuse can do to a person, and I don’t say that with pride. Life can be incredibly brutal, and when something is available as a coping mechanism, it has the power to transform someone into the worst version of themselves. Seeing these three women, in their own unique ways, look at this problem as an opportunity to move people closer to hope is inspiring and necessary.


KNIFE SKILLS: What does it take to build a world-class French restaurant? What if the staff is almost entirely men and women just out of prison? What if most have never cooked or served before, and have barely two months to learn their trade? We follow the hectic launch of Edwin’s restaurant in Cleveland. In this improbable setting, with its mouth-watering dishes and its arcane French vocabulary, we discover the challenges of men and women finding their way after their release. We come to know three trainees intimately, as well as the restaurant’s founder, who is himself haunted by his time in jail. These men and women all have something to prove, and all struggle to launch new lives, an endeavor as pressured and perilous as the ambitious restaurant launch of which they are a part.

Aaron – I am a sucker for redemption stories, especially when they are true.  Brandon Chrostowski’s dedication to providing formerly incarcerated individuals an opportunity to restore purpose in their lives through employing them at a fine dining restaurant is inspiring. This is raw, real life. Some succeed, others fail. But the program itself is thriving and going strong, offering not just a marketable skill but hope to those often forgotten and written off by society.


Patrick – “In every ounce of everybody there’s a little bit of hope, a little bit of belief, and if you can feed that, anything is possible.” This doc was already going to win me over by default seeing as how it centers around cooking. But add the layer of redemption for released convicts, a chance to reset and do something new. That’s inspirational, and needed at a time like this.


TRAFFIC STOP: Traffic Stop is an HBO Documentary Film currently airing on HBO NOW, HBO GO and HBO On Demand that tells the story of Breaion King, a 26-year-old African-American school teacher from Austin, Texas, who was stopped for a routine traffic violation that escalated into a dramatic arrest. Caught on police dashcams, King was pulled from her car by the arresting officer, repeatedly thrown to the ground and handcuffed. En route to jail in a squad car, she engaged in a revealing conversation with her escorting officer about race and law enforcement in America. The documentary juxtaposes dashcam footage with scenes from King’s everyday life, offering a fuller portrait of the woman caught up in this unsettling encounter.

Aaron – What sticks out here the most is actually Breaion’s refusal to submit to authority or take any responsibility for her actions. Was the force used on her excessive? Possibly. Since she fights and screams and will not comply it becomes difficult to tell. I don’t doubt that racist behavior happens in the police force, but this was not compelling evidence of it. This felt like a very manipulative documentary that spends only a portion of its 30 minutes showing actual events and the rest trying to make us empathize with Breaion outside of her actions during the arrest.


Patrick – It’s difficult to watch the events take place because a lot is happening on both sides, and there is truth in bits and pieces. The message is true, that there is an unfairness and slant towards abuse against people of color. But I also get that this event says more about the abuse of one officer equally as much as it does about it’s bigger message. Documentaries, despite what I would like to believe, have a bias to them. Truth is embedded, but it needs to be discerned beyond a half hour story.


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 how his expectations influenced his experience. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.




Patrick “Patch” Hicks is an Arkansas-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. When he’s not podcasting, he’s working on various design projects as a freelance 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.