FF+ The Wedding Guest, Avengers, Aladdin & Cats

In this week’s episode of FF+, we review Dev Patel’s new thriller as well as documentary about the amateur boxing tournament known as Golden Gloves. We also react to two new Disney trailers and then share both our own picks, and some of our listeners’, for best movie cat.

New For You 

The Wedding Guest – 0:02:31

Cradle of Champions – 0:09:53

Trailer Talk

Aladdin – 0:15:43

Avengers: Endgame – 0:21:19

In the News

Best Movie Cats – 0:28:50

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Music: City Sunshine – Kevin MacLeod

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What We Learned This Week: February 10-16

LESSON #1: THE ACADEMY OF MOTION PICTURE ARTS AND SCIENCES WAS (AND STILL KIND OF IS) CARELESS, UNINTELLIGIBLE, AND DISRESPECTFUL TOWARDS THEIR OWN INDUSTRY— On Monday, Academy president John Bailey revealed that rumors were true.  In an effort to shorten a bloated show and improve ratings, four categories were announced to become relegated to commercial breaks.  At the last minute before the publishing of this post, they relented. The four that were getting the cold shoulder were Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Makeup and Hair-Styling, and Best Live Action Short.  The damage is done and they still deserve the lecture.  Let’s start a train of “to say it simply” sentences.  Begin with careful use of time.  You can’t tell me there weren’t smarter cuts of time possible in a hostless telecast.  Trim the gags, bits, montages, and other weak joke fluff.  Cut the half-hour red carpet show and just leave that to E! where it belongs.  How hard would that have been? Maybe they needed to consult an editor… oh wait… Second, look at optics. I was astonished that in the room of AMPAS decision-makers, a team of artists and industry professional peers, there was a lack of perception of what this kind of move looked like.  Did they not just get slammed this past year for the silly Popular Film category suggestion?  Does no one internally pay attention?  This became a double defeat in the court of public opinion before the awards even arrive and they stood down Friday.  The AMPAA looked like they can’t handle or put on their own show after 90 years and the subtraction immediately looked like disrespect.  Doing this wasn’t appeasing casual fans who are impatient with award shows more than it alienated the base of true fans.  It’s the cinephiles and movie lovers that bring in the casual fans, not the other way around.  Alienate them because you dumbfoundedly admonish your own people and you ruin the whole thing with bad press and social media outrage. 

LESSON #2: PUBLIC PRESSURE WINS BECAUSE IT CAME FROM THE RIGHT LEVEL OF PEOPLE— The pressure it took on the Academy to properly honor the people below the title was to rally people above the title.  I’m not the type to boycott anything, but I get why people weren’t going to watch the Oscars (and they still might not).  The group fixed it are the precious people the TV cameras beg to see: ACTORS.  They are the largest voting body in the Academy. If the #MeToo movement has taught us anything, they had clout and these were fitting politics to flex.  They look great and unselfish today to honor their fellow artists. The preening performers rallied get behind the craftspeople that make them look good and insisted on their proper inclusion. The Academy rightfully blinked.

LESSON #3: BAD CGI CAN KILL A MOVIE BEFORE IT STARTS— The latest new teaser of Disney’s Aladdin re-imagining gave viewers our highly anticipated first look of the special effects being used to morph the jovial Will Smith into the famed blue genie.  And holy cow did the internet react.  Memes for days!  The fallout calls to mind so many frequent and intersecting WWLTW lessons.  I could bring back my frequent plea for Disney corporate patience where the studio can avoid rushing these projects, but this one’s been in development with director Guy Ritchie for three years.  That’s more than enough time to spend money, go back to however many drawing boards, and get something to look right, especially with Disney’s deep pockets.  I could spout off about excessive and unnecessary marketing, but this trailer is actually the smallest amount of peek compared to other teasers.  It just looks like crap at this point and is going to need tricks under its sleeves.  I could try to preach to let Will Smith and this Aladdin incarnation be its own thing without comparisons to Robin Williams and etc, but that’s not possible when one its objectives and reasons for being is to blend and update the animated original.  I could try to stump for patience to see the full film before judgment, but the damage is done, echoing similar a unfinished-effects-buzzkill 2003 gave us for Ang Lee’s Hulk.  I’m calling it now.  This will be your Solo-level box office “underperformer” (I won’t say “bomb” because all of these movies are too big to fail) for the Mouse House in 2019.  This will set off a momentary pause button that makes the studio question how and why they do these re-imaginings in the same way they gave Star Wars some reorganization last year.  I say temporary because that feeling will only last 56 days, the amount of time between Aladdin‘s box office debut and the arrival of The Lion King on July 19, which has played its cards far better to make an absolute killing.

LESSON #4: SEE SOMETHING PRETTY— In honor of Valentine’s Day and as a celebration of the art of cinematography before Oscar bounces them like a football timeout, treat yourself to some of the finest artistic visual beauty that exists in cinema.  The American Society of Cinematographers recently published this list of the 100 best shot films of all-time.  Topping the list are Lawrence of Arabia, Blade Runner, and Apocalypse Now!, three damn worthy champions of cinematography.  Spanning vistas and shadows to color and monochrome, this films on this ASC list are sterling examples of why this art is important.  Create a new checklist for yourself with this one.

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.

Episode 4: Arabian Nights

In this episode of Tabletop Flix, we travel to the Middle East and explore movies and games based off of the popular One Thousand and One Nights compilation of Arabic folk tales. This rich setting provides for movies with plenty of adventure, and games in a wide variety of styles.

Games: Tales of the Arabian Nights, Istanbul, Five Tribes
Movies: The Adventures of Prince Achmed, Aladdin, Prince of Persia


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Intro/Outro Music – “Do the Pump” by Mr. Juan

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What We Learned This Week: March 5-11

LESSON #1: THE SUCCESS RATE OF INDIE DIRECTORS STEPPING TO BLOCKBUSTERS IS IMPROVING— Other than Marc Webb stepping up from “(500) Days of Summer” to the ill-fated “Amazing Spider-Man” double bill and “Moon” director Duncan Jones bombing on “Warcraft,” the recent push of larger studios’ farming of indie directors to helm blockbusters have gone pretty successfully.   All of the greats started small (take Christopher Nolan going from “Memento” to Batman), but the trend is swelling lately.   Colin Treverrow turned “Safety Not Guaranteed” into “Jurassic World” and J.A. Bayona will be moving from “The Impossible” and “A Monster Calls” into the dinotastic sequel.  “The Kings of Summer” director Jordan Vogt-Roberts cashed up to “Kong: Skull Island.”  This list goes on and on, and 2017 is full of more.  Rian Johnson flips “Looper” for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and Taika Waititi goes from “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” for “Thor: Ragnarok.”  Jon Watts of “Cop Car” hopes to not pull a Marc Webb with “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

LESSON #2: BIGGER IS BETTER— Speaking of “Kong: Skull Island,” the head honchos at Legendary Entertainment found the easiest and most irresistible route to selling a new Kong film: Make him bigger.   The powers that be have smacked an invisible label on the cinematic Cheez Whiz jar that reads “now bigger than ever,” jacking up the normally and plenty-imposing 25-foot gorilla into a gigantic 100-foot bipedal behemoth.  That changes everything when it comes to the monster’s capacity for destruction and man’s impossible chances of opposition.  Go see the film.  It’s a blast.

LESSON #3: KEEP AN EYE ON THE SXSW FILM FESTIVAL— For nine days and 125 features this month, Austin, Texas becomes the center of the independent film scene with the annual South by Southwest Film Festival that is starting to rival January’s Sundance Film Festival for exclusive films and a Hollywood-level red carpet.  This year, you’ll get the premieres of the latest films from Edgar Wright (“Baby Driver”), Terrance Malick (“Song to Song”), and Ben Wheatley (“Free Fire”).   SXSW’s merger of the arts is becoming a hot ticket with good gets.

LESSON #4: THE WHITEWASHED CASTING OUTRAGE IS STARTING TO SMARTEN STUDIOS UP— I think the combination of warranted complaints,  butthurt rants, and internet courage-fueled protests are starting to work.   Movie news reported this week that director Guy Ritchie will seek Middle Eastern lead performers for Disney’s live-action “Aladdin” re-imagining and Niki Caro looks to be doing the same for “Mulan.”   If you look past the animated curtain and beyond all of its inherent entertainment value, “Aladdin” is one of the worst perpetrators in film history for white-washing.  I’m intrigued to see something different and call these active attempts an initial victory towards improved diversity.

LESSON #5: LET’S MAKE UP A NEW WORD: “BRITWASHING”— Piggybacking from Lesson #4, race relations also have a national vs. international bend to them from time to time.  Samuel L. Jackson just stepped out in an interview to criticize the casting of black British actor Daniel Kaluuya to play an American African-American guy in “Get Out” and wonders about missed opportunities.  Honestly, the man isn’t wrong and, as I coin the term, “Britwashing” has been a quietly unsettling trend when you see the likes of Daniel Day-Lewis, Christian Bale, Henry Cavill, Andrew Garfield, Tom Holland, Benedict Cumberbatch, and David Oyelow playing real and fictional American heroes.  One has to wonder if there is a talent gap between the Brits and the Americans.  What do you think?  How do you feel about foreigners playing American figures and heroes?

DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  He is also one of the founders and the current President of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  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 Facebook, Twitter, Medium, and Creators Media.