What We Learned This Week: March 25-31

SPRING BREAK AND EASTER EDITION!

LESSON #1: DEAR CHRISTIAN FILM COMPANIES AND DISTRIBUTORS, SPREAD YOUR RELEASE SCHEDULE OUT— Don’t get me wrong.  I get it.  Easter might as well be Christmas: Part II, the Super Bowl, and WrestleMania when it comes to public awareness on all things Christianity.  Just because all eyes are on the “reason for the season” (if they can put down the eggs, bunnies, and candy) doesn’t mean that Easter should be the most stacked weekend of the calendar year for Christian-themed films.  The presence of I Can Only ImaginePaul Apostle of Christ, and God is Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness makes for three films competing for your Easter weekend dollars against the inviting mainstream fare like Ready Player One.  Spielberg’s film is going to get its money, but your films have a hard enough time making money (as well as other problems) as it is to have to now compete with each other.  Share the wealth, space your calendar out, and that means more than the two-week head start I Can Only Imagine gave itself to great success.  The calendar is full of holidays.  Pick another couple go-to weekends and fallbacks other than Easter.

LESSON #2: STEVEN SPIELBERG STILL HAS THE MAGIC— As heard on this week’s main Feelin’ Film podcast and read in my own review on Every Movie Has a Lesson (among many others) as well, Ready Player One feels like a tremendous return to form for the 71-year-old director who has spent the better part of the last decade making safe and tidy historical Social Studies lectures on film.  Cinema has sorely lacked the full power of his signature sense of wonder after mere glimpses in films like War HorseLincoln, and others.  Cue the WWE chant!

LESSON #3: STEVEN SPIELBERG NEVER LOST THE MAGIC— No matter the moral history preaching that went on, Steven Spielberg never lost his technical prowess within the medium.  If anything his more reserved and refined projects sharpened it and modernized it to be ready for something like Ready Player One.  The craftsman-level maturity he and his frequent collaborators (editor Michael Kahn, cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, ILM guru Dennis Muren, and others) bring to a project like Ready Player One elevate the material and prevent what would be over-amplified noise and lazy fluff in lesser hands (yeah, I mean you Michael Bay and Tim Burton).  Rediscovered mojo or not, he never lost the talent.

LESSON #4: STEVEN SPIELBERG STILL LOST OTHER THINGS— Where Steven Spielberg might be slipping is with his rhetoric.  While doing press this week for his blockbuster’s big release, he commented that Netflix films shouldn’t qualify for Oscars, equating the streaming platform to a television outlet, making the filmmaker appear to be a little out of touch with the evolved marketplace film viewers operate within nowadays.  If you go to the official rulebook from the Academy, here’s the basics of what it takes for Best Picture eligibility:

I’ll grant the kicker of the Part D listed above as deal-breaker in my book to match Spielberg’s opinion.  Here’s the thing, Netflix has previously and does currently release some of its films in theaters for limited runs.  The trouble is, for the most part, their theatrical drops are a blip on the radar and the bare minimum similar to the “one-and-done” trend happening in NCAA Men’s Basketball with holding players in college for a year before making the leap straight to the NBA.  Neither practice really does much good and just delays the inevitable profitability (NBA money or Netflix reach) but, if the rule is followed eligibility is met, plain and simple.  This year’s prestigious Cannes Film Festival is already displaying an anti-Netflix power move by banning Netflix Original films from competing without a theatrical release.  I’ve said this before on other topics.  It’s all about price point, earning potential, and this being a business first now.  If a studio can make more money selling to Netflix (just ask Paramount with Annihilation) than it would the cost of printing it, marketing it, and putting it in limited theaters, I sure couldn’t tell them not to.

LESSON #5: “META” CAN’T GET WEIRDER THAN SHIA LEBOUF— In WTF news that could only come out of Hollywood, word hit the wire that Shia LeBeouf, at the young age of 31, has written (under a pseudonym) his own film autobiography and the casting has raised an eyebrow.  Signing Manchester by the Sea Oscar nominee Lucas Hedges to play the young Shia is a nice get, but what gets really weird is that LeBeouf himself will play his own father.  Yowzers!  Even if Shia is a dead ringer for his own father, I don’t know how big the grain of salt has to be to suspend the disbelief that the Shia you’re watching acting next to the other dude playing Shia isn’t the real Shia you see and recognize but his dad instead?!  That’s not going to be a good look for the continually growing deep end you’ve been leaping from, Mr. LeBeouf.  Dude, either play yourself (because you can) for the vanity or get another actor to separate the work behind-the-camera from the one on-camera.

LESSON #6: MORE OFTEN THAN NOT, NUDITY IS AN UNNECESSARY DISTRACTION IN MOVIES— As the former horndog pre-teen/teen who had no problem sneaking through his local video store to rent some Shannon Tweed Skin-a-max films back in the day, this lesson might be the most mature realization I’ve ever grown up to admit the truth on.  Get out the #adulting hashtag.  Jessica Chastain got herself a headline this week talking about nudity in film.  No stranger herself to nudity, the acclaimed actress made excellent points on discomfort, victimization, and whether the nudity in question matches what the characters themselves would really do.  The word “gratuitous” was never used by Chastain, but most of us adults can quickly label nudity in a movie (female and male, mind you) with that word pretty quickly.  She brings up valid points and I tip my hat with respect that someone wants to talk about it, especially during this #MeToo era.


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.

 

What We Learned This Week: May 28-June 3

LESSON #1: WONDER WOMAN IS THE HEROINE AND FILM WE ALL DESERVE THIS SUMMER— It doesn’t matter how you feel about the DC Extended Universe or the stylings of Zack Snyder, you owe it to yourself to see Wonder Womathis weekend or soon.  Sure, it’s another origin story, but I guarantee this is one you haven’t seen before.  This isn’t the fourth time we’ve seen Bruce Wayne’s parents killed.  This is a hero that the movie writers got right and absolutely nailed.  Gal Gadot (and that smile of hers) is an absolute treasure.  She’s deserves the importance and pedestal people are assigning to her.  Wonder Woman matters to more than just women and feminism.  Anyone still ranting about any all-female favoritism needs to shut up.  Go see the movie.  It will earn your praise.

LESSON #2: JESSICA CHASTAIN IS A REAL HERO IN THE MAKING— Speaking of Wonder Womanwomen deserve improved treatment across the board and I’ll all for those for who stand up and call out the needs and problems.  Bravo to Jessica Chastain!  The A-list actress called the onscreen representation of women in this year’s lineup of Cannes Film Festival films “quite disturbing” during a press conference.  That is a woman of principles.  She’s right and more needs to be done.

LESSON #3: BLACK GIRL MAGIC EXISTS AND IS COMING SOON— Speaking of empowerment of women, the stars of awesomeness are aligning to turn the buddy movie template on its ear.  Recording artist Rihanna, Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, and Selma director Ava DuVernay are teaming up with Netflix for a new film that screens the title of this lesson.  It the words of former New York Jets linebacker Bart Scott, “can’t wait.”

LESSON #4: WAY TO GO, GEORGIA!— I am no southerner, but raise a glass of moonshine to the Peach State.  Recent film industry studies have tallied Georgia as the number one location in the whole world for film production.  The United Kingdom was #2.  Not New York.  Not California.  Be watching for their logo in film credits.  Chances are you’ve been seeing it more than you realize.

LESSON #5: DO YOU BUY MAINSTREAM VR AS A THING FOR MOVIES?— I don’t know about you, but I laugh when I see someone with their cell phone strapped to their face doing some kind of VR display or experience.  Talk about sitting too close to the screen like our mothers told us as kids.  I turn into Nelson from “The Simpsons” and secretly hope they walk into a wall or fall from small heights.  Apparently, VR might just be a new medium for film experiences.  Oscar winning Birdman and The Revenant director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu is bringing VR to the forefront and demonstrated the technology  and its film-viewing capabilities at the Cannes Film Festival in France this past month with his Carne Y Arena project.  So, what do you think of this?  Revolutionary tech or decadent fad?


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.

What We Learned This Week: May 14-20

LESSON #1: YOU’RE GOING TO LIKE WHERE THE ALIEN FRANCHISE IS GOING— Five years ago, after Prometheus, audiences were scratching their heads about the beating-around-the-bush purpose of the film and where any Alien  prequels were going.  For a bit there, I didn’t even think Ridley Scott knew.  Alien: Covenant builds on the mythology and world-building of Prometheus in a strong and effective way to add in the horror and suspense elements that Prometheus was missing.  These Scott prequels, with a few more possible installments, are planned to plug into 1979’s Alien.  After Alien: Covenant, I like their trajectory and I think Alien fans like yourself will too.

LESSON #2: CONTINUE KEEPING YOUR COOL AND PATIENCE WITH WONDER WOMAN— Two weeks ago in this column, I argued for people to cool their jets on movie marketing, particularly the example of the lack of it when it comes to Wonder Woman.  The first reactions are in and start inhaling for those sighs of relief.  I’ll repeat my rant: The number one marketing tool that costs zero dollars for any studio is WORD OF MOUTH.  Good movies sell themselves.  Make a good movie and people will come, period.  You’re going to thank me and yourself on June 3rd.

LESSON #3: A24 IS A BIG-TIME PLAYER WITH SMALL-SCALE FILMS— In four short years, A24 Films has gone from an indie shingle pushing Spring Breakers and The Spectacular Now to an industry leader and Oscar winner.  GQ wrote an excellent piece on their history.  2016 was a banner year led by Moonlight‘s Best Picture victory and a portfolio of Swiss Army ManThe Witch20th Century Women, and Green Room.  This year looks equally promising with A Ghost StoryThe Disaster ArtistsGood TimeKilling of a Sacred Deer, and more.  Remember the name and the logo.  You’ll be seeing them often.

LESSON #4: KEEP AN EYE ON THE CANNES FILM FESTIVAL THIS WEEK— Speaking of independent studios and film acquisitions that can turn into Oscar contenders, turn your eyes to the French Riviera for the world premieres, reviews, movie buzz, and deals being made at the annual Cannes Film Festival.  Execs and big-timers work hard and play hard while enjoying the finer things and patting their own backs.


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.

What We Learned This Week: April 16-22

LESSON #1: THE “FAST AND FURIOUS” FRANCHISE HAS BEEN FOR REAL FOR A LONG TIME— I was amazed this week how many casual movie fans (and uppity critics) were surprised by the record-breaking international success of “The Fate of the Furious.”  I wonder what rock they’ve been under because “Furious 7” was a $1.5 billion worldwide smash two years ago and each film of the four films since 2009 has surpassed the gross of the previous one.  The franchise has cross-gender and cross-racial appeal on multiple levels.   This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.

LESSON #2: OVER-ANALYZATION TAKES AWAY FROM ENJOYMENT— After a month of incredible trailer debuts for blockbuster after blockbuster, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” came in this past week and dropped its own microphone.  In my opinion, Episode 8 didn’t need to share a single second of footage to be hotly anticipated and successful.  The problem has been the endless mountain of clickbait websites and posts filled that have tried to analyze every second of the trailer since.  I get that pageviews and visits move the needle and anything “Star Wars” sells, but diving into every little theory and poorly educated guess is destined to take away the enjoyment of the future finished product.  Pump the brakes and just enjoy the hype.  Don’t buy into the rumor mill.

LESSON #3: THIS YEAR’S CANNES LINE-UP WILL BE SPECIAL— The hoity-toity-est of international film festivals celebrates 70 years this May with a killer lineup of potential future Oscar contenders.  New films premiere from Sofia Coppola, Noah Baumbach, Bong Joo-Hoo, Michael Haneke, Todd Haynes, Yorgos Lanthimos, Francois Ozon, Mathieu Almaric, Taylor Sheridan, Arnaud Desplechin, and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.  That’s some pedigree.  Take a trip to Europe.  I’m bet the plane tickets to the French Riviera and hotel prices are more than affordable.  Hit up United.  I’m sure they’ll have room.

LESSON #4: FILMS CAN ADD AS MANY POST-CREDITS SCENES AS THEY WANT— 50/50 cheers and jeers of “that’s so awesome” and “good Lord, WTF” rained down from social media keyboards when Marvel Films and director James Gunn announced that “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” would have no less than FIVE post-credits scenes.  These stingers have been a signature staple for Marvel Cinematic Universe films.  They are both entertaining and functional to solidify the continuity of their film franchises.  You know you were staying anyway.  What’s a few more?  Enjoy the film’s kicking soundtrack, power back on your phone, and have a little patience.  If you don’t like it, go to the lobby, pee, and leave.  No one is stopping you or forcing you to stay.

 

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.