What We Learned This Week: July 7-13

LESSON #1: DECORUM AND CIVILITY HAVE SLIPPED AT THE COMMUNAL THEATRE EXPERIENCE— I think every single one of us has more than one story of a crappy theater patron that we’ve had to share a movie with.  I bet, combined, we’re seen it all across any and all possible loud, messy, and disrespectful behavior. I ran into a sharp column from Rebel Without a Pause Button blogger Robert Salusbury on this topic entitled “Cinema Slobs.”  Reading it (nice media inserts, by the way) makes me wonder not just the extent, which we all know is too much, but the causes of how there is more of this that what many of us remember from past generations.  It can’t all be cell phones. A spoiled culture of entitlement, born from increased costs and a negative shift of personal discipline and accountability, has to be in there somewhere. Am I right? Don’t be one of the people we all hate when you go to the movie.  Be cool and a good neighbor.

LESSON #2: SONY ISN’T STUPID AND DISNEY IS OVERCONFIDENT— With the same fervor as rooting for the chaos of NBA free agency, I got a kick out of hearing that Marvel could love its MCU rights to the Sony-controlled Spider-Man character if Spider-Man: Far From Home does not crack $1 billion of global box office.  I mean, go figure that this is even a risk, but it’s going to be closer than you think.  Spider-Man: Homecoming fell far short of a billion at about $880 million, so Disney is gambling on big growth.  This makes me laugh for two reasons. The first is the shared horror we all have knowing Sony would f–k up this character for a third time without Marvel’s champion support.  The second is how Disney might be shooting its own foot with this necessary milestone by putting The Lion King in theaters right in Spider-Man’s wake in third week.  That’s careless hubris right there.

LESSON #3: THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A REMAKE AND A REIMAGINING— Speaking of The Lion King, folks, I know I wrote about 1100 words on the movie, but I honestly don’t know what to truly tell you about The Lion King.  Disney calls these reimaginings, but, to me, that term means updates, modifications, and new infusions.  Jon Favreau’s has that on the outside with the stunning photo-real animation, but that’s it. There is an awful lot of shot-for-shot replication after that, which feels more remake than reimagining.  Granted, if that’s the goal, then mission accomplished because the music is there and the nostalgia is there to make a zillion dollars. Creatively, I still think it’s a shame and a missed opportunity to evolve more than the exterior.

LESSON #4: IT PAYS TO BE AN AVENGER— Here’s one more thing on Disney money.  We’ve seen Robert Downey, Jr. score fat paydays for being Tony Stark, but, goddamn, was Avenger: Endgame a golden parachute.  The top dog got $20 million up front, which is lucrative and more than the $15 million given to Chris Evans, Scarlet Johansson, and Chris Hemsworth.  For RDJ, it’s the 8% back-end deal that fills his vault with another $55 million.  That’s a handsome jump from the $500K paycheck from the first Iron Man movie.  Studs and studettes, back-end deals are where it’s at (“that’s what she said”) and they’ve been a part of the business for a long time.  Jack Nicholson’s Batman deal from 30 years ago scored like RDJ did.  Even Bradley Cooper doing just a voice took a 1% deal and walks away from Avengers: Endgame with $7 million.

LESSON #5: NETFLIX MIGHT BE GETTING SMARTER— Frequent WWLTW readers and followers have seen in this column the many instances where Netflix really throws money around (click on the tag and you’ll see).  Well, I think the teenager finally maxed out mommy and daddy’s credit card and have learned to live and spend a little leaner. Reports say the streaming giant will be more “cautious” with budgets after dropping nine figures on projects like Ben Affleck’s Triple Frontier and Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman.  Welcome to big studio problems, Netflix.  It’s the paychecks they’re writing to talent, not the production costs.  Unlike an MCU film, they aren’t getting ticket sales. As renewable and reliable as the monthly subscription rake can provide, Netflix will always have a growth cap.  Heaven forbid, they lose customers.

LESSON #6: REEVALUATING THE POLITICS OF A MOVIE IS ALMOST ALWAYS PROBLEMATIC— In my short 39 years in this world, I am fully educated and aware that some movies are not going to age well and that, matching my own website of Every Movie Has a Lesson, I believe every movie has a bias or political root of some size.  Zero is impossible. To me, each movie becomes a time capsule for the era in which is was made (double if it’s a period piece), slant and all. I get the feeling IndieWire’s Eric Kohn doesn’t see things the same way. For Forrest Gump’s 25th anniversary, the journalist wrote a takedown article heaping a whole lot of conjecture and reaching political blame.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t go there. Forrest Gump was always neutral to me because it’s steep realistic fiction.  Aging is aging. I get that some movies will fit and fall with the times, but it’s not worth burning things to the ground.

LESSON #7: GUILLERMO DEL TORO HAS GOOD TASTE— For the finishing recommendation slot, enjoy this list of The Shape of Water Oscar winner’s 25 favorite films.  It’s an outstanding balance of cinema history and modern cornerstones.  Build that Letterboxd checklist from this and begin a little journey of appreciation and education.


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)

What We Learned This Week: May 12-18

LESSON #1: SCARY BUSINESS DEALS ARE ALSO SMART ONES— Just as there are two sides to every story, there are two sides to every business deal.  On the surface, Walt Disney, which acquired controlling stake in Hulu as part of the Fox deal, looks like the corporate greed monster or the Borg from Star Trek lore many fear in buying the rest of the Hulu pie from Comcast.  Honestly, though, this was inevitable and necessary. Split between two opposing controllers, Hulu was going to die a slow death of futility and stagnation.  Comcast squeezed Disney for $5.8 billion (far more than it paid years ago for LucasFilm or Marvel) for something the Mouse House was likely going to dissolve anyway with their Disney+ service.  That’s like the movie business equivalent of an NBA trade for an expiring contract that will never play a game in his new uniform. Comcast laughs all the way to the bank and the marketplace loses something that would have become clutter.

LESSON #2: EVEN “NO SUCH THING AS TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING” MIGHT NEED LIMITS— Now that Avengers: Endgame has cleared the Marvel end of self-imposed radio silence, have you seen the release date reservations of Disney’s calendar for the next five years?  Look below:

That, my friends, is insane.  Welcome to “market saturation.” I get that they are too big to fail and I get that they still make successful and positive products, but, good golly, space a few things out.  I’ll tip my hat that no new Star Wars films are coming for three years after The Rise of Skywalker.  That’s a nice pause.  That’s only one slow pause on a much bigger machine of cycles.  Other studios see this calendar and avoid these dates in order to not get squashed as the feeble competition.  Still, with a calendar that thick, where can the others hope to go at some point? Yowzers!

LESSON #3: START YOUR RESURRECTION CLOCKS NOW— Gazing into that future of release dates, one could wonder two things.  First, when will inevitable character turnover occur and, second, how long will the dead really stay dead.  I say that second one because anyone who knows the parent medium of comic book films (the graphic novels themselves) knows that no one ever really stays dead.  Even Christopher Nolan couldn’t really “kill” Batman. At this big level, when you put profit-minded and impatient studio execs in charge, I have to think the turnover or resurrection window narrows.  Contributor Jonah Koslofsky over on The Spool did a nice editorial piece this week on this underlying angle.  Sure, Hugh Jackman is supposed to be done with Wolverine after Logan, but what happens if the MCU fame comes calling (especially after/if Dark Phoenix bombs)?  Do we really think Robert Downey Jr. wouldn’t at least be tempted to consider another monster paycheck to return?  If their integrity holds (and I hope it does so as to not cheapen their phenomenal on-screen sacrifices and exits), wonderful, but when do the reboots and recastings start to come (Henry Cavill?! No, dude), especially with Logan’s new MCU home under the Disney roof?  Rub that chin and begin to wonder.

LESSON #4: THERE IS AT LEAST ONE PLACE WHERE DISNEY IS STRIVING AGAINST CREATIVE BANKRUPTCY— Speaking of that lengthy release calendar and recurring characters, the repetitive trends are a little maddening.  Call it whatever kind of adjective-assisted fatigue you want, this steady-yet-successful pattern of franchises, sequels, re-imaginings, and reboots from Disney (and other studios too, let’s be fair) have led many observers to bring out the “creatively bankrupt” label.  A sliver of less of that came to light this week when Pixar producer Mark Nielsen confirmed that Pixar has no other sequels on their planning board after this summer’s Toy Story 4.  Expect, fresh ideas, new faces, and big ideas which are, namely, all the reasons Pixar became successful in the first place.  This counts as promising news!

LESSON #5: THE ARTHOUSE HAS AN INTERNATIONAL LIFELINE— We in the United States are living in big screen blockbuster era.  It’s rare to see little films blow up anymore. If they do, they still have a genre bend to them for cross-demographic appeal matching today’s moviegoers.  The decline of the arthouse scene of independent film has been very apparent for a long time. We’re seeing a market transition where streaming and VOD platforms become their best profit options with multiplexes full of the big cheese.  So, it’s really encouraging to see one more place where arthouse films are gaining audiences: OVERSEAS. Eric Kohn of IndieWire wrote a nice analysis piece that shows a movie like Capernaum opening #2 and early $12 million behind Avengers: Endgame in China.  Here in the states last year, the same movie earned a little over $1.6 million in its entire run.  Opportunity like this for Capernaum and Shoplifters is great news for this class of filmmaking and for the global industry in general.  Slowly but surely, good films will find an audience and tastes can evolve along the way.

LESSON #6: FEAST YOUR EYES ON PRODUCTION DESIGN— In the final lesson suggestion spot, allow me to re-share a YouTube essay from the fine folks at CineFix ranking (with several ties) the ten best production designs of all-time.  This stellar list covers all genres and periods with fairness and there’s not a dud in the bunch. If you don’t notice and appreciate production design when you watch a film, let a little study like this be a primer and have a discerning eye into that craft ingredient when you watch movies going forward.  Production design is absolutely vital, both visible and invisible.


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 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.  (#102)