LESSON #1: WE NEED TO REMEMBER TO THANK THE SPACE AGE FOR THE SCIENCE FICTION WE ENJOY TODAY— I’ll lead with the recommendations instead of end with them this week. July 20th marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, causing many of us to nostalgically appreciate the wonder of that monumental history. It was actualized science fiction that has only gone on the inspire even more since. We owe those pioneers a little thank you every time we watch a space movie made after 1969. First, educate yourself with the sharp documentary chronicle Apollo 11 from earlier this year. After that, go dreamy with more movies made before and after 1969 that gaze upon or point towards our celestial neighbor. These lists from Vox and DVD.com are perfect.
LESSON #2: YOUR BUZZ REFILL COMES THIS WEEKEND— Speaking of this third weekend of July, San Diego hosts its annual Comic-Con. Expect some outstanding trailers like the ones that have already dropped for Top Gun: Maverick, Cats, and It: Chapter 2. Disney/Marvel returns to Hall H after a year of radio silence to sell the post-Infinity War dire straits. Be ready for a windfall of announcements in many directions between Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the quickly-approaching trilogy caper Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, new previews and details on the Disney+ service, and likely a whole bunch more. Expect ballsy surprises and the other studios (WB and more) trying to resume their own chase of Mouse House.
LESSON #3: THE MOVIE OF THE SUMMER THAT WILL MAINTAIN A 100% ROTTEN TOMATOES SCORE ISN’T RUN BY DISNEY— You all know I’ve seen the vitriol possible when something big and popular gets criticized. Folks, you can keep all the supposed and righteous universal love due for Avengers: Endgame, Toy Story 4, and The Lion King. The most endearing and impenetrable movie this summer is going to be The Farewell. Whoever writes that excellent movie a negative review (and it wasn’t me this time) is going to have more explaining to do than some “douche nozzle” from Chicago who gave a low grade to Buzz and Woody. Lulu Wang’s bracing dramedy of love and loss within family circles is the movie that deserves a three-digit crown of vine-ripened internet fruit.
LESSON #4: HAVING THE RIGHT DOESN’T MAKE YOU RIGHT— Somebody needs to offer their superior publicist and image consultant services to Scarlett Johansson. A year ago, she wisely backed out of playing a transgender character after pushback and course correction from the studio. It didn’t sink in. Scarlett doubled-down recently in an interview saying “As an actor I should be allowed to play any person, or any tree, or any animal because that is my job and the requirements of my job.” Yes and no, Ms. Johansson and it might be as easy as swapping “should” with “could” instead. A hard maybe is all she, or any star, should get. We have reached a societal marketplace in entertainment where the strives for fair representation matter and a big star isn’t getting it. It’s ugly when this news has to follow and sour good news like Lashana Lynch gaining a callsign title for Bond 25.
LESSON #5: ONE MORE TIME, WITH FEELING, IT’S TIME FOR CONSUMERS TO BE REFLECTIVE AND FAIR— This final lesson of the week is a callback to a January “Soapbox Special” edition of “What We Learned This Week” and it goes back even deeper. The person of interest (or elephant in the room) that brings this one back is Kevin Spacey. News broke this week that the felony sexual assault charges against the Academy Award-winning actor were dropped this week after some nefarious measures with evidence came to light from the accuser’s side. We all know “not guilty” in the court of public opinion is different than the same label in the court of law. More wrongs or truths may still hover, but Kevin Spacey has a clearer name than he did last week. That said, I bring back the bullet points of that Soapbox lesson and ask that those be applied to Spacey:
1) What’s the proper waiting period between allegations and actual guilt? MY ANSWER REMAINS: When it gets its day in court and no less that that. The gavel has sounded the man is free to go. That’s the judgment that matters.
2) What amount of contrition or correction is necessary in order for people to continue their careers? MY ANSWER REMAINS: That’s up to each case and each consumer, but the amount can’t be zero. Spacey has made statements of contrition and, other than an odd YouTube video which probably went a little overboard, he has stayed respectfully away from spotlights.
3) What are these people allowed to do with their rest of their careers? MY ANSWER REMAINS: Anything they want or anything a boss wants to hire to run their business. Simply put, Kevin Spacey, for the moment, is clear and deserves a chance to be a professional again. He comes with risk, certainly, but I’ve never been a boycott list-maker (that’s a whole other “Soapbox” from days past) and I will welcome seeing him work again. Kevin will be an interesting reclamation case to follow in the coming years.
DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) 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 member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society. As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts. Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work. (#106)