What We Learned This Week: March 17-23

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

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

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

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

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


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

What We Learned This Week: September 24-30

LESSON #1: HARASSMENT SHOULD NOT BE TOLERATED AT ANY LEVEL IN THIS INDUSTRY— This lesson could also read “PERPETRATORS GET THEY DESERVE.”  The recent allegations surrounding the Austin-based Alamo Drafthouse and Ain’t It Cool News website are disturbing and troublesome.  I couldn’t be more pleased to see workplaces all around several industries clean up their acts and seek greater integrity.  These inequalities shouldn’t be silenced anymore.

LESSON #2: AMBIGUITY IS A POWERFUL DISCUSSION STARTER— I’ve seen Blade Runner 2049 and I can say that it hits with the same mystery and rich uncertainty that surrounds the 1982 original. When it’s silent, Blade Runner 2049 can infer volumes of connotations. When it speaks in its guarded circles of exposition, it conversely shields and misdirects its real secrets.  Diving into all of the possible interpretations is brilliance and fun.  In many ways, mother! did the same a few weeks ago.  While I’m here, Denis Villeneuve has become the modern artistic authority on cinematic intensity.  There’s nothing flat or flimsy about his work.

LESSON #3: TOM CRUISE IS STILL TOM CRUISE— I know plenty of people that won’t watch the man anymore because they disagree with who he is and what he values off-screen, but, at his workplace, Tom Cruise still has gung-ho charisma.  He’s 100% committed to his roles from pre-production to selling the hell out of them with exhausting international press coverage and public appearances.  American Made has a candor and sizzle that fits him perfectly without turning him into an indestructible superstar.  Bonus points go to Cruise being credited as a stunt pilot in the film.  Often, that’s him on the stick and that POV authenticity adds to the film.

LESSON #4: IS THE HONEYMOON PERIOD OVER FOR THE LEGO MOVIE FRANCHISE?— Plenty of films would kill for a $20 million dollar opening weekend frame, but when you’re sailing for the Warner Bros. flagship and bearing The LEGO Movie name, you have to do better than $20 million and a distant third place finish.  Is The LEGO Ninjago Movie an outlier or the first sign of ho-hum market over-saturation.  Is all forgotten if Chris Pratt’s Emmet or Will Arnett’s Batman come back with monster sequels to their blockbusters?  Probably, but the lesson is worth asking.

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 directors 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.