What We Learned This Week: December 7-13

LESSON #1: MILLIONAIRES LIKE TO ARGUE WITH BILLIONAIRES AND VICE VERSA— The wake of the Warner Bros. HBO Max initiative raised all kinds of holy Hollywood hell this past week. You’ve got production houses suing the studio for possible breach of contract. You’ve got agents and guild members from actors to filmmakers calling for a boycott or demanding their same box office-based pay rates. You’ve got film prominent film directors, most notably Christopher Nolan, Patty Jenkins, and Denis Villeneuve, lambasting the decision and, naturally, you have people in return lambasting the lambasters. Is this the death of cinema or movie theaters? No, it’s a pause and a pivot. Could things have gone smoother for the studio in terms of communication for all involved? Certainly, but I continue to be stunned that anyone is all that shocked and couldn’t see a move like this coming. The business goal at the core for WB is still sound and necessary for the current landscape of the industry, period. Tough decisions were coming, and a media communication company (AT&T) that bought an expensive big studio made one will still propel itself forward to remain sustainable. Also, last time I checked, everyone pissing and moaning is still filthy rich. Gal Gadot still cashed a fat check. No one is going from the penthouse to the outhouse with these changes. The smart and savvy among them will keep on profiting. I said it last week here and I’ll say it again. This is just the beginning. Watch others follow suit in time, and by time I mean 

LESSON #2: DISNEY RUNS THIS MF-ING BLOCK— Warner Bros. moves their whole 2021 theatrical slate to HBO Max and the industry outrage is trumpeted from the mountaintops. By contrast, Disney holds their “Investor Days” presentation (a slick D23 replacement in the time of COVID) that stacks up how Disney+ will become home to 10 Marvel series, 10 Star Wars series, 15 Disney live-action, Disney Animation, and Pixar series and 15 Disney live action, Disney Animation, and Pixar films and everyone cheers. All of WB’s movies are including in the HBO Max subscription price and they still get slammed. At Disney, several titles will have “Premium Access” price tags like Mulan and no one bats an eye. What a telling (and nearly hypocritical, if you ask me) difference! The big-stack-bullying at the poker table of Hollywood is real and Disney is the bull shark. Their execs said it’s about “quality over quantity,” but, hot damn, did that splash the streaming wars pot with an awfully lot of quantity aimed at making a fat quantity in return.

LESSON #3: TOXIC FANS GONNA BE TOXIC— Still, all is never peaceful, even for Disney. Kudos to the success of The Mandalorian stewarded by Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau. They have reinvigorated both the quality and the canon of the Star Wars franchise. However, haters are still gonna hate. There’s a petition going around to remove the sequel trilogy from Star Wars canon. Not liking the trilogy is one thing. I get that, but the entitlement and false sense of ownership from this cross-section of fandom is always off-the-charts and it ruins it for everyone else. Any and all of these things, from prequels and old fan fiction novels to the corporate-controlled new stuff, can be enjoyed just as they are and separately if necessary. The Skywalker Saga sequels are not going away. Let them be. No one is forcing you to watch them if you don’t want to. The entirety of Star Wars isn’t going away either. New creators are going to add and grow the universe as it goes. Just look at all that dropped at Investor Days. Look further than the big screen and discover all the tangential creativity that has been going for over 40 years and beyond.

LESSON #4: SOME MERGERS MAKE PERFECT SENSE IF THEY WOULD JUST PULL THE TRIGGER— When Disney bought out Fox a few years ago, they gained controlling majority ownership of Hulu and planned to buy Comcast out of the rest. They acquired that property right around the time they were already in development of their planned Disney+ platform. The smart play then would have had Disney+ slide right into the existing functions of Hulu Plus, but Disney wanted their own family-minded brand identity separate from Hulu’s adult-skewing content. They went with the “why not both” GIF instead of combining strength in numbers. Now, nearly two years later, that merger may finally happen according to sources on Collider. If it finally comes to pass, it would be a smart play and one I predicted in this column last week with the ongoing streaming wars. Hulu gives Disney a mature arm to finally get some use out of their not-so-family-friendly Fox acquisitions. It would be damn nice to see Alien or Predator in some streaming 4K instead of being locked in a radiation vault at the Mouse House. In other purchases and acquisitions news, you have to love Sony buying anime streamer Crunchyroll. That’s an apt match as well, hopefully giving anime a higher profile. Oh, and who got that $1.175 billion from Sony? AT&T, the parent company of Warner Bros. and HBO Max. The rich get richer.

LESSON #5: MANK IS A SPRINGBOARD TO EXPANDED LEARNING— Love or hate the newest David Fincher film (feelings are certainly mixed here at Feelin’ Film), the legend surrounding Citizen Kane has filled cinema history now for nearly 80 years. If Mank stupefied you a little or if it inspired you to learn more about Orson Welles, movies studios, and more, then it worked as the fable and springboard it sought out to be. Now, if you don’t know where to start, check out this excellent piece from Chicago-based writer/critic Nick Allen writing for Vulture. His comprehensive article outlines what to watch, read, and listen to after Mank, and the curated selections range from feature films and documentaries to books and podcasts. Enjoy a deep dive in Golden Era Hollywood history.

LESSON #6: SURPRISE, SURPRISE, THE OSCARS DON’T UNDERSTAND PRESENT LANDSCAPES— Speaking of golden things, while the hiring of the dextrous and cinema believer filmmaker Steven Soderbergh counts a modern and inspired choice to produce the Oscar, the Academy still can’t read the room or, in this case, the who damn country. Word around the campfire is they are still insisting on doing an in-person awards show. Imagining that scenario begs a couple of superficial questions. Does Hugo Boss design masks for tuxedos? Can Cartier affix gemstones to masks to match gowns? What would the Dolby Theatre look like with socially distant seating? Then there’s the serious question. Who in their right mind is going to encourage a fan-less crowd and red carpet just to celebrate themselves with some awards in an asterisk year? Soderbergh loves to shoot movies lately on iPhones. Maybe he can get Zoom to sponsor the shindig and leave everyone at home. 

LESSON #7: IF YOU THINK AMERICANS ARE SENSITIVE, GO CHECK ON CHINA— This country just finished a very combative presidential election that culminated years of snowflake-y and facist-ish labels slung by both political slides. Public relations teams for any missteps tended to outrun the #cancel culture, where Twitter kept on churning and nothing really got shelved or banned. If you think we’re harsh, go look at China. One off-color reference in Paul W.S. Anderson’s Monster Hunter and an entire country shuts the movie out after its premiere. That’s a level of strict conservatism and backlash that we’re not even close to here in the U.S. Thank your lucky stars-and-stripes you live here.

LESSON #8: EDUCATE YOURSELVES ON FILM NUDITY— In the closing recommendation slot this week, I’ll shuck the prudent content massively filling holiday time airwaves right now to talk about some hot and sexy bodies instead. Amazon Prime has a new expansive two-hour-plus documentary entitled Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies. It’s a fascinating look at that aspect of entertainment and art. Ian Simmons, a YouTube and podcast colleague of mine who hosts Kicking the Seat, gave the doc a spin and came out with high appreciation. Shoo away the censors, call off the morality police, and learn something about movies while you Netflix-and-chill your way from Christmas snuggling to melted snow.


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), Horror Obsessive, 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. (#149)

What We Learned This Week: November 30-December 6

LESSON #1: #TRANSISBEAUTIFUL IS ALIVE AND WELL— First and foremost, bravo to Elliot Page and his future in Hollywood. May his story inspire others and fulfill those who live under undue fears. Page stands tall as a worthy figure to celebrate and deservedly so. I was happy to update the history of my Every Movie Has a Lesson website content to make the proper name and pronoun changes. There will be no deadnaming there or here. Educate yourself and add that responsibility to your own social media and conversation practices.

LESSON #2: THE THEATER-TO-HOME WINDOW IS JUST ABOUT DEAD— I have long cited in this column the shrinking amount of time between a movie’s theatrical release and its availability on home media. Back in the day, it used to be six months to a year. Somewhere in the advent of streaming platforms and VOD, it shrunk to 90 days and sometimes less. In huge industry news, Warner Bros. just made their own window zero days. For all of their planned upcoming 2021 film releases (not just Wonder Woman 1984 to end 2020), the studio will make them available in theaters and on their coveted HBO Max streaming platform on the same day. That’s a monumental shift in business, something definitely spurred by the present COVID-related circumstances where theaters are strapped, empty, dying, and immediately pissed by this move. Just like Disney+’s goal a year ago when it debuted, watch this bring a huge surge of new subscriber business to HBO Max when you’re promising chances to see the likes of Dune, The Batman, and more from the comfort of their own home. 

LESSON #3: THIS IS A PIVOT AND PIVOTS ARE NOT PERMANENT— Call this big business move what it really is: a pivot, and one certainly necessary considering societal circumstances. Mark me in the group that wonders why it took this long for some large entity with their own streaming service to pull this trigger. Disney dipped its toe with Hamilton, Mulan, and Soul, but to say ALL for an entire year like WB is commitment to the pivot. Expect more moves to follow. Watch Universal put their stuff on their Peacock subsidiary. Maybe WB lets HBO Max absorb their DC Network and put everything under one service. Maybe Disney does more. Maybe Disney uses their controlling ownership of Hulu Plus to be the “adult” place for all the non-family-friendly content and the entire Fox library they bought. In any case, pivots are reversible. When theaters are viable again, business can pivot back to include them better. They are still the #1 place to make billions. When people can return to them, business will return to them too. They’ll be back. They just won’t be, and can’t afford to be, the same.

LESSON #4: MARK YOUR CALENDARS FOR AUGUST 2022— I’ve called it all year and I’m going to keep calling it now. If this pandemic keeps going longer, people stay away, and studios pivot to streaming, the large theater distributors are going to die off. As I’ve noted often in this column, they already are shutting down or circling bankruptcy. Theaters as we know them are not going to come back the same. What will they look like? Well, I think you need to mark your calendars for August 2022. With the old Paramount Decrees rescinded as of August 2020, studios can open and run their own theaters after a two-year sunset period. That’s August 2022. The WBs and Disneys of the block can pivot to streaming, sit back, and watch the AMCs, Cinemarks, and Regals bleed to death. They can buy them at their lowest point and rebrand them as their own with no old rules. They will look triumphant in 2022 when it’s the studios that “bring theaters back” with their own labels.  Best of all for them, they buy out or shove away the middle-man profit sharing they’ve tried to squash for decades. Every dollar goes back to them. This column may not be here in August 2022, but, mark my words. If the landscape is able to re-open, this scenario is happening.

LESSON #5: INVEST A LITTLE MORE INTO YOUR HOME SETUP— In the recommendation closing slot this week, I’m going to turn to the home and not the watch lists. With all of this time spent now at home, improving your home theater setup is something you probably should have been doing since March. Add all the new streaming opportunities coming and now is the time to upgrade, even if you just missed the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. You don’t have to go full Magnolia quality, but there are many little DIY and piecemeal things you can do on the cheap.  I currently have a 1080p projector that cost about $800 at the time. It gives me over 100 inches of screen size and has lasted longer than any physical monitor I’ve ever had. Projection is an awesome effect, and I’ll never buy another actual TV again. Even those new 4K-capable projectors in the $1200-1500 range will give you just as great of visuals as a TV of the same price and likely double the screen size. I know the prices of high quality TVs haven’t been better, but spring for the projector. You won’t regret it. After that, choose an accent wall and use flat paints with less sheen instead of buying a projector screen. A good affordable soundbar with HDMI input can blow plenty of sound versus the old expensive multi-channel towers, receivers, and setups. Use Monoprice to buy longer wholesale cables and learn how to hide the sea of wires. The DIY furniture setups ideas are endless. From palettes to pillows, you can make a little paradise den and not break the bank.


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), Horror Obsessive, 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. (#148)

Episode 259: Bolt

Continuing on this week in our cinematic exploration of that special bond between human and canine, we take a look at a rather underrated piece of the Disney movie collection. We also briefly discuss a dog-centered award-winning short film that now has an even more special place in Aaron’s heart.

Bolt Spoiler Review – 13:06

The Connecting Point – 44:17

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Episode 255: Frankenweenie

This week begins a stretch of episodes celebrating man’s best friend, in honor of Aaron becoming a first-time puppy parent. We start with the perfect dog film to discuss around Halloween, as it is filled with homage to classic monster and horror films of the past, but still has a sweetness to it that all pet owners can feel.

Frankenweenie Spoiler Review – 05:35

The Connecting Point – 49:11

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What We Learned This Week: September 21-October 4

LESSON #1: THE WORLD CAN USE A DOSE OF BORAT RIGHT NOW— The rumors were always present that a Borat sequel was in the works from Sacha Baron Cohen. After a few months of secret shooting during the pandemic, Borat: Gift of Pornographic Monkey to Vice Premiere Mikhael Pence to Make Benefit Recently Diminished Nation of Kazakhstan will be unleashed to the world via Amazon Prime just in time for Election Day. Yes, you read that right. Expect the Vice President to be made an easy mark. In this election year, the world is ready for this kind of scathing laughter and cringe comedy. Bring it on.

LESSON #2: WE LIVE IN A WORLD WHERE EVEN THE BEST ARTISTS NEED PAYCHECKS— Barry Jenkins has quickly gained legendary auteur status with his Oscar-winning Moonlight and equally vibrant follow-up If Beale Street Could Talk. Word broke Tuesday with a headline that looked out of We Got This Covered or The Onion if it didn’t say Deadline above it. Jenkins has been tabbed by Disney to helm a follow-up to the CGI-reimagining of The Lion King. Before you dust off your The Lion King 1½ and The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride DVD collectors items, word is this will be a new direction and even a prequel highlighting a young Mufasa. Begrudge him or shake your head all you want, but I say this all the time in this column space: This is a business first and art exposition second. That happens the second you put a price tag on anything. Dozens of indie-level directors have done this in our recent history (David Lowery, Ava DuVernay, Colin Trevorrow, Gareth Edwards) and even more have done it for decades (Nolan, Spielberg, Scorsese). It’s “one for them and two for you.” It becomes about, 1) the effort you put in the big one, and 2) what that paycheck allows you to do next. Take DuVernay. She flipped that A Wrinkle in Time money into When They See Us, an upcoming Colin Kaepernick bio series on Netflix, infused money into her ARRAY distribution company for black artists, and helped launch the Evolve Entertainment Fund to promote inclusion. That’s not the worst aftermath and use of taking the big money. Let’s see what Jenkins can do both with the project and the cache. 

LESSON #3: AWARDS SEASON STARTS NOW– Film lovers, it’s October and, even during a reduced year of overall releases, the season of golden harvest is upon us. Oscar season! The virtual and drive-in versions of the usual top-notch film festivals are highlighting some early contenders to watch for. The early buzz leader is Nomadland from celebrated director Chloe Zhao (another indie darling like Jenkins who took the Disney/MCU money with The Eternals). The Frances McDormand starrer won the People’s Choice award at the Toronto International Film Festival, the top prize of the Venice Film Festival, and is slotted as the centerpiece of the New York International Film Festival. Close on its tail are the rave reviews for Regina King’s One Night in Miami. Keep an eye on the upcoming Netflix debut of Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 for another potential frontrunner. Folks, after months of random cast offs and C-level films landing on VOD and streaming sites, the top shelf stuff is coming. Now, the new diversity measures for the Oscars are a whole other (and wonderful) thing. We’ll save that for another WWLTW.

 


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. (#141)

FF+ The Social Dilemma and Enola Holmes

This week on FF+, Caless Davis joins Aaron for reactions to two new upcoming films – one of which is the adaptation of a young adult mystery novel and the other an essential and timely documentary about the dangers of social media.

New For You 

Enola Holmes – 01:10

The Social Dilemma – 14:16

 

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Music: City Sunshine – Kevin MacLeod

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FF+ Mulan

In this episode of FF+, we take a look at Disney’s re-imagining of their classic animated film “Mulan”.

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Music: City Sunshine – Kevin MacLeod

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FF+ The One and Only Ivan, Desert One, Tesla, and Peninsula

For this week’s FF+, Don Shanahan (Chicago Indie Critics) of Every Movie Has a Lesson and 25YL joins Aaron to share thoughts on an award-winning documentarian’s new film and the latest Disney+ release. Marc Morin (Seattle Film Critics Society) of TwoOhSix also joins Aaron to discuss Ethan Hawke’s new indie picture and the sequel to one of last decade’s greatest zombie films.

New For You 

Desert One – 02:14

The One and Only Ivan – 13:55

Tesla – 26:43

Peninsula – 34:59

 

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Music: City Sunshine – Kevin MacLeod

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