What We Learned This Week: 2019 Golden Globes Nominations Special

2019 GOLDEN GLOBE NOMINATIONS REACTION SPECIAL

LESSON #1: DON’T TAKE THESE AWARDS AND NOMINATIONS TOO SERIOUSLY— This has to be said every year.  The Hollywood Foreign Press Association is a very divergent organization of random different tastes.  The headscratchers you will read about from the full list of nominees is one-part limited scope and two parts popularity contest.  They have money and throw a heck of a party.  That’s it.  Honestly, this awards group and show has no business being the second most-touted and most-promoted awards show of the annual season.  It’s not a good bellwether anymore for prognostication either.  The Screen Actors Guild or Independent Spirit Awards deserve this level of primetime TV stage and attention.  

LESSON #2: A STAR IS BORN WANTS TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY— Much annual buzz is made about the Golden Globes’ loose split of drama and comedy/musical categories that doubles the names of a Best Picture field.  That division does tend to elevate things that probably shouldn’t be there in the first place just because it checks a comedy or musical box.  One clear frontrunner is A Star is Born and it is slotted right where it belongs as a drama.  The easy and lazy thing to do would have been for it to compete (and rake) in the comedy/musical half, but Warner Bros. wanted its prize possession in the drama field.  It’s nominations in the top categories for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Actress show its strength and respect.

LESSON #3: BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY CAN’T BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY— This is the absolute counterexample from Lesson #2.  Bohemian Rhapsody, a higher audience hit than critical favorite, is going to get crushed in the drama side of the categories.  It is completely outclassed by the other four nominees.  That is the exact kind of movie that should have taken the easier road in the comedy/musical category.  Rami Malek deserves the Best Actor nod he received, not matter which place he got it.  Admittedly, the competition for Malek against Bradley Cooper and Willem Dafoe in drama is probably a tad easier than Christian Bale, Robert Redford, and Viggo Mortensen in comedy, but he’s going to need quite the sentiment to win that popularity contest.

LESSON #4: AMERICAN INDEPENDENT FILMS DON’T PLAY WELL OVERSEAS— In order to be an American indie film that gets Golden Globe nominations, the film needs to play more of the festival circuits overseas.  Cannes Grand Prix winner BlacKkKlansman and Toronto darling If Beale Street Could Talk each Best Picture- Drama nominations and had connected acting nominations (John David Washington, Adam Driver, Regina King).  First Reformed with Best Actor frontrunner Ethan Hawke was shut out entirely.  Even though I look at Lesson #1 and say it’s OK, a film like that still needed a little bit of this TV stage to garner a few more voters for the future Oscar stage.

LESSON #5: VICE AND ROMA ARE POSITIONING THEMSELVES AS SLEEPING GIANTS— A Star is Born has reigned as a big public hit since October, but Adam McKay’s Vice is going to hit us like a ton of bricks come later this month.  Most people haven’t seen it yet, but it’s coming. Annapurna is slow-playing its ace-in-the-hole and the political dramedy leads all film nominees with six total Golden Globe nominations.  Watch out.  It will be interesting to see how this humor plays in red state USA.  On the softer end, Netflix’s Roma crossed over from Best Foreign Language Film to score strong mainstream nominations for Best Director and Best Screenplay.  The film is legitimately a dual-category threat for the future Oscars.  Let’s see how well general audiences embrace its heavy drama once it debuts on its streaming service.

LESSON #6: BEFORE OR AFTER THE OSCARS, WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT TOKENISM— I’m as happy as the next movie fan to see Black Panther getting its due respect as a Best Picture- Drama nominee at the Golden Globes.  It represents genre film and diversity on many levels.  We should celebrate that it has transcended stigmas to earn that seat at the table.  Unfortunately, the cliche is coming that the “nomination is its reward.”  It’s there, but it’s not going to win.  Casual fans need to come to terms with that in a few ways.  One, the film has its flaws that objectively keep it from being the outright Best Picture of the year.  Some folks can’t see that.  Second, until a genre film not named The Lord of the Rings can break the glass ceiling to win, these inclusions are going to pile up and feel like thrown bones to fans just for ratings.  They are going to feel like tokenism to appease people and, unfortunately, specific demographics.  Someday, the right film is going to surge, fantasy elements be damned, to a level of quality and critical praise that can’t be denied.  Black Panther isn’t that film, but it’s a huge step in the right direction.  That said, until a true victory comes, these can feel like steps on an unnecessarily endless ladder.


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: November 18-December 1

LESSON #1: ROMA IS A DUAL-LEVEL CATEGORY OSCAR CONTENDER— Every so often during the annual awards seasons a foreign language film surges ahead with praise to become a legitimate Best Picture Academy Award contender and not just a shoe-in for its own Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.  Think of Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Michael Haneke’s Amour, and Michel Hazanavicius’ 2011 Best Picture winner The Artist.  Those films are rare and special.  You’re going to see another one this year and that film is Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma.  Stunning, dramatic, and heartbreaking, Cuaron’s love letter to his upbringing just won the Best Picture award from the New York Film Critics Circle as well as director and cinematography, all for Cuaron.  With confidence, expect it to be one of the final five to eight films competing on February 24th next year.

LESSON #2: SPEAKING OF OSCARS, PADDINGTON 2 DESERVES TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY— You’ve been hearing Aaron White and I shout the praises of this charming sequel all year.  Both Aaron and me have grand slam 5-star reviews.  If a dramatic foreign film like Roma with few flaws and endless superlatives can be taken seriously as one of the best of the year, so can a spotless family film that has even more built-up appreciation.  Two separate articles this week, one from David Ehrlich in IndieWire and one from Gregg Killday in The Hollywood Reporter, called for due respect in the form of Oscar nominations for Paddington 2.  Killday celebrated the novelty of a Best Picture than can be flat-out enjoyable.  You have to go back to The Artist, The King’s Speech, or Slumdog Millionaire to find partially light-hearted Best Picture winners.  Even they still had their notes of heavy drama.  Ehrlich laid out seven categories where Paddington 2 should have Oscar consideration.  He’s not wrong on a single one of them.  Let’s hope voters have a heart this year.  

LESSON #3: A LITTLE LADY NAMED “OLIVIA” MIGHT DESERVE AN OSCAR TOO— The Academy was busy the year trying to bomb developing a “popular film” category (one more time, with feeling, just let Paddington 2 win straight up, end of discussion and need) when they could be making special awards elsewhere.  As stated in our Facebook discussion group, casting and stunts come to mind.  I think a little lady named “Olivia” makes quite a compelling case and she has four legs.  IndieWire blew my mind this week to educate me that the same dog, a female 15-pound West Highland White Terrier, starred prominently in three films: Game NightWidows, and Insatiable.  Her name is Olivia and she was excellent in the arms of Viola Davis hatching or scheme or getting drenched on blood from the hands of Jason Bateman.  Hand that pooch an honorary Oscar!

LESSON #4: LET THE LADIES CLOSE OUT YOUR “NOIR-VEMBER”— Speaking of Widows, while Steve McQueen’s film makes its theatrical run as a polished modern noir potboiler, turn back the hands of time to a few hidden gems to close our your November noir push.  Chicago-based film critic Angelica Jade Bastien of The Vulture published a dynamite little list of ten female-led noir films for fans of McQueen’s film.  Make it a weekend project to celebrate the end of November.  Let the JustWatch search engine tell you where the titles are available for streaming or rental.  


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: 2018 Thanksgiving Soapbox Special

(Image: Tekla Design)

For quite some time, I’ve noticed something off to me scanning through hot takes, sifting through click bait, and participating in many film discussion threads across social media, including right here in the Feelin’ Film circle.  It’s a lack of clear contrast between a pair of opposite hot button terms which manifest themselves as figurative hills people seem to go to die on. No, it’s not “masterpiece” this time.

I’m talking about “subjective” and “objective” when it comes to film criticism or evaluation.  Too often lately, I hear or read people, both professional and amateur in background mind you, put the -ly ending on either of those two terms to create what they think is an adverb of defense to strengthen some silly descriptive point of “good” or “bad” they are trying to make about a movie.  When I see it happen, I first think about that great Inigo Montoya quote-turned-meme from The Princess Bride of “You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.”  I second think about, because I can’t help myself as a schoolteacher that grades things, circling where the communicated flaws of logic or sense are with my invisible internet red pen.

The duel between objective and subjective is a gray area of thinking that doesn’t have a black-and-white answer of right or wrong.  It is more of a sliding scale between prudent and careless presentation of facts and opinions. I think this young podcaster and YouTuber named Houston Coley of Blockbusted really talked the surface of this debate out well.  Take a look:

I think the kid is spot on about a few things.  I agree with him that factual elements, particularly technical qualities, can be cited in film criticism, quality can be factual in nature, and, most of all, that a critic should define their terms.  Let’s do that. I love pulling from the dictionary to highlight a term in my film reviews, so let’s go there first as if I’m Inigo Montoya’s next step of offering correction.

SUBJECTIVE Dependent on or taking place in a person’s mind rather than the external world, based on a given person’s experience, understanding, and feelings; personal or individual (source)

OBJECTIVE— Existing independent of or external to the mind; actual or real, based on observable phenomena; empirical, uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices (source)

I lay all of that out for this soapbox because, maybe more definitively than Houston’s talk, I am one critic that wholeheartedly thinks there is room for both terms in film criticism.  With discretion, one can judge separately with one’s head as well as with one’s heart. It is a discipline I seek and I wish more people attempted to better clarify their thoughts.

Those of you frequent Feelin’ Film Discussion Group participants know I’m the “favorite” versus “best” guy.  That’s subjective (favorite) versus objective (best) at its simplest and I strive to delineate that often wherever I represent my work.  For example, I adore Anaconda knowing full well it’s a ridiculously cheesy movie.  At the same time, I can respect the hell out of Schindler’s List without ever wanting to watch it again as if it’s some cherished holiday tale.  One is a favorite. One is among the respected best of the art form. Rare movies for me are ever both and when that happens it’s beautiful, welcome, and earned.

Once I ever share this mentality or stir this debate in a discussion, I get the same pushbacks.  Even the mere introduction of the idea of “objective” criticism and its possibilities bring out the stalwart “all art (everything) is subjective” ranters.  They are often the kind of people that don’t listen to, care, or respect any opinion but their own. They lack an open mind of compromise or a listening ear or empathy.  Their frustration point, where they show the inability to explain their stance or the existence of opposing stances, normally rears its ugly head when a combative line like “don’t tell me what I can and cannot like” comes out.  If you hear or read that, they’re done trying, if they ever really attempted in the first place.

If you live and die on that subjective hill, so be it.  “To each their own,” as us pragmatic people say against your pushy dos and don’ts.  If you have made it this far in the editorial and are open and willing to listen, all I’m saying is step back and try some objectivity on for size, or at least the candor of it with your communication in discussions and debates.  Be balanced. Be even-handed. Be fair. Separate personal from impersonal. Step back for a second to see the other sides of things. Find common understanding and that goes back to defining terms.

What does the objective end look like when talking about a film?  Well, the easiest way to say it is: Look for the purpose. Circle back to the cited definition of “objective.”  One of its biggest distinctions is the clause about “based on observable phenomena.” Do some homework to learn the qualities of a great film.  If you’re a beginner there, start with this easy piece from Penny Flores of MS Films that highlights five basic elements.  Another nice and approachable take comes from the Now You See It channel on YouTube:

Here’s a quick sidebar of “buyer beware.” Even that term “great” is a loaded landmine in its own right, a word that is thrown around too flippantly and too easily in weak hyperbole.  Everything or too many things just have to be “great” for some reason. Have more nuance. Show more descriptive degrees. Get a thesaurus and use a more interesting and less ambiguous word.  I digress yet still plead for better while we’re here.

My teacher brain translates “based on observable phenomena” as having specific criteria in mind.  To me, that’s the quantifiable separator between “subjective” and “objective.” That’s also the thing most people who carelessly snipe the “objectively great” or “objectively bad” labels can’t present to backup their supposed take.  Those that can back up their words are the ones that walk the walk after talking the talk. I don’t see much of that and it’s a shame folks aren’t willing to put the minor amount of work in.

Criteria sounds like a grading scale to me, and a good teacher never uses the same grading scale for all assignments.  They specialize those rubrics for each assignment. I know I would grade a task in P.E. different than an essay in Language Arts.  We film lovers and armchair critics can bring those tailored approaches to different genres and disciplines in the very same way. Start with the technical side.  Use some of those elements Flores article or the qualifiers from the Now You See It video as the list of what to grade. Lay that out and cite those measures when you critique a film.  That becomes your intelligent and discerning spine which allows for purpose to be examined and craft to be respected.

After that, balance that with the subjective.  Shout from your stump all the feels, emotions, likes, and dislikes you encountered.  Those are the personal tingles and will always be the lasting good stuff. No one can take those away from you and they have their sprawling place.  But I’ll say it again. There’s room for both. Applying a little objectivity doesn’t take away from subjectivity, not in the least. If anything, their intelligent and mindful combination make for a more well-rounded overall opinion complete with a greater appreciation of multiple perspectives and, in the end, the film itself.  Try it sometime. Welcome a little head into your heart.

(Image: aecsoftware.com)

 


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: November 11-17

LESSON #1: BE RESPECTFUL OF THOSE WHO HAVE PASSED— Actor Armie Hammer stepped onto a Twitter turd of poor context and optical backlash when he somewhat sounded off on the tone of people’s tributes tributes to the last Marvel legend Stan Lee.  I get what he was trying to say in terms of making sure any tribute is about the departed and not the poster (similar to comedian Anthony Jeselnik’s legendary rant against “thoughts and prayers”).  That counts as fair and good advice, but there’s a gentler way and time to say that then Hammer did, and he caught a good bit of peer flack for it, lead by Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Armie has since deleted the tweets and apologized, but the lesson here remains.  Be respectful even when you’re asking for people to be respectful in return, especially during periods of mourning, reflection, and celebration.  Things have calmed down, but it could have been worse.  Someone could have brought up these unsettled stories.  It’s just a reminder that no one is perfect.  We take the bad with the good.  We do that with Stan Lee and we can do that with Armie Hammer.  Enjoy the genuine article before two actors, one younger and one older, will probably duel over the eventual Stan Lee biopic:

LESSON #2: WHEN IT COMES TO ACTING, POINTS SHOULD BE AWARDED FOR ACCURACY— Bohemian Rhapsody is looking to be this year’s The Greatest Showman, a movie with public popularity and a perception of prestige despite fair to middling critical response.  After the Bryan Singer firing fallout, the studio will gladly take the money, but even they know an Oscar campaign would have boosted that Bohemian Rhapsody bottom line even more.  Outside of costume design or hair/makeup, it’s best chance to make noise is Rami Malek’s outstanding lead performance.  It’s too early know how if they young man has the favor and clout to win, but I he should earn a ton of praise for the exactness of his emulation.  Accuracy impresses me, so you’ve got to see this side-by-side video of Rami matching Freddie Mercury’s moves from the climactic Live Aid concert performance.  I’m sure we’re going to be equally wowed by Christian Bale’s chameleon match of mannerisms in Vice next month, but give Rami some love until then.

LESSON #3: BEAUTIFUL BOY IS NOT ONLY ONE OF THE BEST FILMS EVER ABOUT ADDICTION, IT ALSO IMPRESSES FOR FATHERHOOD— I saw Beautiful Boy last month as the opening night film of the the Chicago International Film Festival and it blew me away.  It was one of the easiest 5-star reviews I’ve ever given, standing out as an outlier on Rotten Tomatoes where my rating is above the consensus.  Finally releasing wide, Beautiful Boy deserves a bigger audience and I will toot its horn all awards season.  If you need a corroborating source after me, this editorial piece from Thrive Global nails the second-level impact spoken by this lesson.  Steve Carell’s remarkable performance and the daddy feels might be better than all the exposure given to the ills of addiction.  I know it’s a rough watch, but seek out this film.

LESSON #4: CRITERION-LEVEL FILMS ARE GOING TO STAY IMMORTAL— I know there was a great deal of artistic trepidation by the shuttering of the FilmStruck service this month happening at the same time as constant decline of physical media.  I referenced that in this very column recently, but let me add this strengthening lesson to it.  Great films will never go extinct and, in a way, we have digital to thank for that after an era of decayed negatives.  There will always be an audience and forum for them because quality is remembered and celebrated.  It might not be FilmStruck, but Criterion will get its own cable channel soon as a potential/temporary replacement conduit to experiencing and discovering classic film.  The company is still churning out new discs.  Combine their brand with the catalog and Kanopy services possible through your local library and you have more classic film at your fingertips than you ever realized.  Put your money into the Criterion channel if you want, but you can do more good supporting public services like the library.  Make sure your tax dollars keep working in the right places.

 


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: November 4-10

LESSON #1: SOME FILMS DO NOT REQUIRE A REBOOT— Last week, the lesson was “Some films don’t require a sequel.”  This time, we have to clap that lesson back and trade the word “sequel” for “reboot.”  News spun across Variety this week that DreamWorks is planning to restart its Shrek and Puss in Boots franchises.  First, you need a true generational gap and eight years since its last chapter, Shrek Forever After, isn’t long enough, even for the rapid aging of its core audience demographic.  More importantly, I have to ask what I consider to be a necessary qualifying question when it comes to remakes and reboots.  Have the originals aged to the degree where they are obsolete?  Sure, Shrek was corny and dated as soon as the SmashMouth song comes on, but have the narrative fairy tale angles changed or the artistic technology that made the movie?  I say they haven’t and a new one will just retread over familiar ground and not be unique or worthwhile artistically.  I say let some films stay what they are as benchmarks and time capsules for their eras.  The ’00s have their Shrek the way the ’10s have their Despicable Me/Minions.  Let them stay there.  I’m at looking at you too, The Grinch.

LESSON #2: SAY HELLO TO DISNEY+ AND GET YOUR CREDIT CARD READY— After months of little here-and-there clues and rumored plans, Disney finally and formally announced the details for its vaunted new streaming service, Disney+, coming late next year.  Housing its entire artistic arsenal from Pixar to National Geographic with all of the heroic adventure in between, the lineup depth, including original films, is undeniably impressive.  The thing I’ve been waiting to hear this entire time is price point.  While that number isn’t defined exactly yet, the linked article references a $8-14 monthly price tag.  The closer that is to $8, the more successful it’s going to be.  Disney+ will be the test to see if a la carte single-studio entity services can work because the selling point of its Netflix and Hulu competitors is the ease of variety under one service roof.  If Disney+ succeeds, it will be like dedicated cable networks for single teams or schools like the New York Yankees.  Watch everything splinter because each studio will want to create and keep their own money.

LESSON #3: PARENTS NEED TO RESPECT AND FOLLOW FILM RATINGS— For fifty years now, the MPAA has championed the film rating system to warn, screen, and catalog film content for consumers.  They are proper and they have evolved to do their job better.  Whenever there is a breakdown of outrage over a film’s rating, like this recent story of content from A Star is Born triggering troubling reactions in New Zealand, it’s not the rating’s fault.  R is R for a reason and it was labeled correctly so.  The perceived outrage is the consumer’s fault.  They either didn’t listen to the rating or didn’t commit to the due diligence to properly screen or research a film before subjecting it to younger viewers. The loopholes of the MPAA are few and far between, whereas careless parenting is rampant.  This critic and school teacher implores all parents to see any questionable film for themselves before sharing it with their impressionable children.  That’s the bare minimum.  If you don’t do it, let some solid website like Common Sense and ScreenIt do it for you.

LESSON #4: TREAT YOURSELF TO “NOIR-VEMBER”— If you want to expand your film palette to one of the most interesting and entertaining film genres under the sun, scroll your way into some film noir.  Often imitated and rarely duplicated since its hey-day, experiencing film noir is essential understanding the full scope of the cinematic art form.  That and its comprised of simple damn good movies that can still put modern thrillers to shame.  Start with this list of ten essential noirs from the journal spot Oh Not They Didn’t.  They’re all gold bathed in stark black-and-white.


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: October 28-November 3

LESSON #1: NOVEMBER IS THE MOST EXPENSIVE MONTH OF THE MOVIEGOING YEAR— Three consumer stars align during this month that trigger the Futurama “take my money” GIF.  The first is the quality slate of films trying to peak for awards season and the holidays.  October started things early and more excellent films are on the way.  The second is Black Friday, where this lover of physical media adores the DVD/Blu-ray deals that stream across Best Buy, Amazon, Target, and more.  Yes, Best Buy, I will dive into your $2 bin covered in double-sided tape and buy everything that sticks to me.  Scope out the ads in advance as they leak.  Finally, for the refined cinephiles in the room, November is the month for the half-priced Criterion sale at Barnes & Noble.  Folks, it’s time to rack up that credit card debt before the actual holidays.

LESSON #2: SOME FILMS DO NOT REQUIRE A SEQUEL— Way back in 2012, I wrote an editorial on Every Movie Has a Lesson about the “most desired and long-awaited” sequels, a few of which have actually become reality in the six years since.  One movie that wasn’t on the list was Ridley Scott’s Gladiator.  It would have made the sub-list of “unnecessary” sequels, right there with The Shawshank Redemption and other movies that ended on perfect notes.  Lo and behold, Ridley Scott and his Paramount producers can’t seem to help themselves, because details have been updated on a future story being drafted by Top Gun: Maverick and The Town screenwriter Peter Craig.  I trust and enjoy Ridley’s talent work as much as the next fan, but has no serious chance of matching or topping the Oscar-winning original.  It’s only going to tarnish a legacy or two.  Add Bad Boys 3 to that same list.  

LESSON #3: CAN PARALLEL EDITIONS OF FILMS BECOME A NEW TREND?–Notice I didn’t say “will” in that lesson.  That’s assuming success that is already present.  Sure, the DVD era opened the storefront door for director’s cuts, unrated editions, and more of varying rating adjustments.  However, outside of something like Blade Runner (and maybe, to a milder degree, Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice), it’s hard to say many new post-theatrical cuts of films have go on to become definitive new standards.  They feel more like novelties for the sake of selling special features.  That’s what I see when I hear about the PG-13 cut coming for Deadpool 2.  It can brag about being a different experience with newly created scenes to be more “parallel” than “alternate,” but how many hardcore Deadpool fans or true completists are going to pay for a tamer second take?  

LESSON #4: TREAT YOURSELF TO A FOREIGN FILM— Feelin’ Film contributor Jacob Neff dropped the confessional challenge in our Facebook discussion group to ask how many of the BBC’s “100 Greatest Foreign Language Films” we have seen.  We had to fess up and some of us (myself including) got an Animal House-level GPA score from our lack of exposure, experience, or completion.  I recommend following Jacob’s “You Should Be Watching” column to see what titles from the list are available, especially with one month left of Filmstruck.  I recommend the huge depth of foreign films available on the Kanopy service connected to your everyday local library card.  In any case, don’t let Reverend Neff chastise you again.  If you need a shorter list, here are Martin Scorsese’s top 39 foreign language films.  Start there.  Get cracking, update the prescription of your glasses for the subtitles, and indulge in some of the classic and good stuff that world cinema has to offer.


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: October 14-27

LESSON #1: SUPPORT PHYSICAL MEDIA AND FILM PRESERVATION— The Friday announcement that the Filmstruck streaming service will close at the end of November is a blow to classic, international, and documentary films.  The vast Criterion Collection was previously occupying a shingle of Hulu Plus before Filmstruck can do be, and I’m sure that winning content will find a new home, likely something from its Warner Bros. parent looking to compete with Disney and Netflix.  Still, this is the equivalent of a museum loosing its walls boarding up its treasures.  Let this be a reminder call to support physical media, even if those Criterion discs are pricey.  I get that streaming is portable and convenient, but a top-shelf disc is worth every penny sometimes.  If discerning cinephiles should also look to local libraries for access to hard-to-find films.  I’ll echo fellow FF contributor Jacob Neff to promote the absolutely free Kanopy app that is connected to most library cards.  You can’t pass up free and make sure to follow Jacob’s “You Should Be Watching” column for recommended buried treasures.  If you need a checklist bigger than that, borrow Martin Scorsese’s.  

LESSON #2: FILMS MAY AGE, BUT THE MEMORIES AND IMPACT THEY CREATE WILL NOT— RogerEbert.com and New York magazine film critic extraordinaire Matt Zoller Seitz had a recent interview with The Last Picture Show filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich and the topic of superhero movies came up.  The respected armchair historian asserted that superhero movies (with few exceptions) are going to “date very badly.”  I think the guy enjoying the way-back machine can’t drive the way-forward machine with the same level of understanding.  It is almost a certainty, like every genre hey-day that has come before now, that comic book films cannot maintain their current market saturation level forever, but not before adding to the game-changing level of impact and entertainment that they have earned and enjoyed.  We’re going on 40 years since Superman: The Movie and nearly 20 years since their early-00s renaissance.  In that time, superhero movies have the fan following numbers that have already created multi-generational reach. That’s bigger than a phase or a fad. They have become too big to fade into forgotten nothingness.  Like western or noir, they will simply evolve with their times because even with tastes changing, we’re still making westerns and noirs too.

LESSON #3: THE FILM MEDIUM’S MIDDLE CLASS CONTINUES TO FADE— Speaking of blockbusters, tentpole films never used to be so big.  There was a time that a $100 million budget was seen as an excessive risk that could sink a studio.  Now, we’re talking about $200+ million films being too big to fail or overinflated comedies (like Adam Sandler flicks from a decade ago) that cost $80 million to make when they used to cost a tenth of that.  Many of the popular hits of the 1980s and 1990s that came before the gigantic budget price tags of today were these middle-budgeted studio programmers that cost between $25-$75 million.  They represented an entire economy of smart money staple.  They always had one or two big stars attached that ensured a loyal and steady audience across most any genre, from cop thrillers to romantic comedies.  Today, especially after the announced shuttering of Annapurna Pictures (excellent editorial piece from Next Best Picture), the “middle class” film nearly doesn’t exist.  Things are either huge or relegated or dismissed to indie fare.  For some parallel examples, Die Hard had a $28 million budget and Pretty Woman‘s was $14 million.  Today, one would be a Dwayne Johnson film with quadruple the sticker price and the other would be a low-level indie like The Big Sick with a scant budget of $5 million that has to beg for funding and distribution.  Like our own national economy, if you want a healthier marketplace and industry, boost the middle class.  Bring back the middle-budgeted programmers.

LESSON #4: TAYLOR SHERIDAN HAS EARNED THE CRED TO MAKE ANYTHING HE WANTS— Taylor Sheridan is one hell of a writer and emerging as a one hell of a filmmaker too.  He had me at Sicario‘s script.  If he didn’t impress you by the Oscar-nominated Hell or High Water, you’re dead to me.  Wind River spread his wings to director’s chair and now he’s preparing his follow-up under the Warner Bros. big top.  His thriller Fast, with franchise potential, is coming and it’s attracting the attention of Chris Pratt.  Make it happen, WB.  Make it happen.

LESSON #5: NO ONE IS GOING TO MISS A BOBA FETT MOVIE— LucasFilm producer Kathleen Kennedy declared Friday that James Mangold’s Boba Fett was dead in favor of Jon Favreau’s The Mandalorian TV series that will help open Disney’s exclusive streaming service.  I’ll be the guy that says it.  I never understood the fascination with the admittedly good-looking character after about four lines and faint presence in the original trilogy.  Fan fiction has made Boba Fett into a cult figure, but Solo shows that even legends can’t guaranteed a successful or profitable film.  The bounty hunter didn’t stand a chance on the biggest stage and James Mangold dodged a bullet.

LESSON #6: TALK TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT THE FILMS THEY WATCH— Notable semi-“granola” parent and actress Kristen Bell shared in an interview with Parent magazine that she’s not fully comfortable with some Disney animated classics.  She called out Snow White and the Seven Dwarves as one poor example, citing the failing to avoid taking food from strangers and, more astutely, the notion of consent when it comes to princes and their kisses to sleeping maidens.  Shrug all you want and dismiss Snow White and others as a harmless kids movies, but Bell is handling it right.  Bell shared in the interview how she makes sure to have discussions with her children after the movies they watch.  This school teacher over here writing this column highly approves of that parenting measure. Engaging in those talks elevates the experience from being time-killing entertainment into rich “teachable moments,” and they help correct misconceptions we might not even know kids had or picked up along the way.  The children will see your interpersonal example of the beginnings of critical thinking.  Make movies shared episodes of such enrichment and quality time.


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: October 7-13

LESSON #1: DAMIEN CHAZELLE IS A PRODIGY— We have seen young and fresh directors start out white hot and flame out.  For example, Orson Welles made Citizen Kane when he was 25 and never matched high creative mark with the rest of his career.  With First Man asserting itself as an entirely different scale, scope, and class of film compared to Whiplash and La La Land, no one can call Chazelle a one-hit wonder or a flash in the pan.  He is a mere 33 years old and is primed to possibly have his third consecutive film be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.  Wes Anderson can’t say that and neither can Christopher Nolan.  What Chazelle is doing with his craft and talent is quickly sprinting ahead of his peers and contemporaries.  It’s boggling to imagine what he can accomplish before he’s 43 or 53.  Projecting this guy’s career requires something stronger than the Hubble Telescope.

LESSON #2: IF YOU CAN’T BEAT THEM, JOIN THEM— Following the lead of Disney, AT&T and Warner Bros. have announced their intention to launch WarnerMedia streaming service to compete with Disney’s new platform and the existing giants of Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon.  The strong business reason is there: skip paying a competitor licensing fees to host your content when you can do it yourself.  WB has the library depth to fill a service between their own brand and their HBO and Turner holdings.  As always, the success will depend on price point.  Make it competitive and attractive and people will come.  People like paying for one-stop-shop convenience and, by the time they pay up for access to Disney, will people want to add one more service and one more hassle?  I predict in a few years this column will have a future lesson that reads “The old adage of ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ doesn’t always work” because either Disney or Warner Bros. (or both) will pull back because they are not making their desired subscription numbers.  Time will tell.

LESSON #3: MARVEL STILL KNOWS WHAT’S GOOD FOR THEM— Word just came through that Ryan Coogler officially put ink to paper to return to the director’s chair and writer’s desk for Black Panther 2.  It’s only fitting because anyone less than Coogler returning to what he championed and built would be a backwards step for the billion-dollar smash.  So far, as long as Marvel continues to allow Coogler to work with reasonable freedom, he will not be the next Joss Whedon to start strong and be burnt out by the micro-managing Marvel machine.

LESSON #4: JAMES GUNN WAS ALWAYS GOING TO BE FINE— Speaking of micro-managing, it didn’t matter to Disney, but James Gunn showed enough professionalism, contrition, and support from his peers to not have his career ruined for his old Twitter behavior that was revealed in bombshell headlines this past July.  Warner Bros. has tabbed him to write a Suicide Squad sequel with the possible opportunity to direct.  This counts as a positive rebound for Gunn and a coup of a hire for the DCEU.  If you remember last year, Gunn was a elevated to become an inner circle member of the MCU creative core under Kevin Feige.  He now brings that acumen and prowess to a place that could sure use more of both.

LESSON #5: TOM CRUISE DESERVES AN OSCAR SOMEDAY— IndieWire’s David Ehrlich put out quite a pitch this week say Tom Cruise deserves an Oscar nomination for Mission: Impossible – Fallout.  I enjoyed the grounds of Ehrlich’s argument and I do think there’s something special about the level of star power and superhuman accomplishment Tom Cruise has done.  Recognizing him for something that subverts his huge persona counts as honoring a departure from the norm, but when his “norm” is untouchably greater than anyone else’s, that greatness is the special achievement.  I’m with the others on the Feelin’ Film Discussion Group who chimed in on this story.  Maybe Tom doesn’t deserve an Oscar for this specific film or role, but, someday, his body of work and impact screams lifetime achievement.

LESSON #6: MOST CLASSICS DON’T NEED MODERN IMPROVEMENT— This week, Richard Dreyfus went on the record with Deadline’s Geoff Boucher to say that re-releasing a CGI-enhanced Jaws would rake in a ton of money and bring the classic to new audiences.  The production troubles of Steven Spielberg’s mechanical shark are well-documented.  I’m sure if he had the means then he has today, we would certainly see a different summer blockbuster.  Call me old-fashioned, but Jaws like all other films are products of their eras and should stay themselves.  It stands as a treasured time capsule for when practical effects, POV camerawork, and the stellar use of John Williams’s score could replace what couldn’t be done explicitly and still create a chilling effect.  Jaws still works, even if some parts could be pretty cool with a little more teeth, texture, and speed.  All I hear when Dreyfus talks though is a “cash grab.”  The royalty checks must be coming in a little slow this year.

LESSON #7: KEEP AN EYE ON THE BOYS FROM SEARCHING— You hear Aaron White and me raving every chance we get about the August family thriller Searching.  Both of us declared writer/Director Aneesh Chaganty and his writing partner Sev Ohanian as names to watch after their stunning debut.  We now know what’s next for them, namely the Sarah Paulson vehicle Run from Lionsgate that starts production this month.  Put me in the “can’t wait” line already.  I know I’ll have some friends join me soon.

LESSON #8: IT’S OCTOBER, SO TREAT YOURSELF TO A HORROR MOVIE— In a quick finish, take a gander at this list of the best horror films on Netflix right now.  The second one listed is an absolute must.  


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 30-October 6

LESSON #1: NOT WATCHING TRAILERS HAS BEEN WORTH IT— When I presented my no-more-trailers challenge to the Feelin’ Film group after the Super Bowl in February, I took it upon myself to lead that charge.  Even as a busy critic consuming an insane volume of films, I have my personal anticipation list too just like any fan.  Damien Chazelle’s First Man topped that list for 2018, and I avoided every piece of footage before seeing it early this past week.  I have to say seeing it fresh as possible made for an incredibly rich experience, a fulfilling sensation I’ve grown to enjoy with all films since quitting the trailer habit.  I’ll echo the challenge again to say pick one film and try it. You won’t be sorry.

LESSON #2: YOU CAN’T HAVE VENOM WITHOUT SPIDER-MAN— I’m going to sound like the Comic Guy on The Simpsons wearing his flag of toxic fandom, but if you’re going to make a Venom movie to introduce the Eddie Brock villain starring a beefy Tom Hardy that looks and moves like the monstrous Spider-Man opposition he should be, you have to start with Spider-Man as well, period. Thanks to blind studio and creative hubris, an incredible character is being pushed down audience throats too soon and with zero connection.  The new film fails is a disservice to a minor icon, a missed corrective opportunity, and a damn shame for the present and future of Sony’s Spider-Man franchise potential.

LESSON #3: BRADLEY COOPER CAN DO ANYTHING— The stories behind the many talents and performances of Bradley Cooper are going to fill books one day.  The four-time Oscar nominee and Master of Arts graduate from the Actors Studio Drama School has abstained from alcohol for 14 years and counting speaks fluent French.  Those are mere footnote nuggets compared to role preparation stories of workouts and training for The A-Team and American Sniper, dance lessons for Silver Linings Playbook, and character embodiment for The Elephant Man on stage.  His latest career chapter of A Star is Born might be his most impressive effort yet, directing for the first time and diving into 18 months of vocal training and guitar lessons.  The guy’s commitment and craft are becoming off the charts.  Someday soon with some successful arm-twisting and endearment, I have a feeling we’re going to call him the best active American actor working.

LESSON #4: FAKE REVIEWS DO NOT WORK TO DETER AUDIENCES— Two oddball stories about fake film reviews floated across the wire this week.  The first goes with A Star is Born where there are reports of Lady Gaga fans pushing fake negative reviews of Venom to chop down its box office competition.  The second is even stranger with the findings of an academic study suggesting that 50% of the online hate traffic for Star Wars: The Last Jedi originated from Russian trolls and non-human bots.  I know I probably shouldn’t, but I find both of these stories to be absolutely hilarious for two reasons.  First, the lengths people will go for their fandom is staggeringly silly.  Second, it’s funny that those participants actually think these schemes will work.  If anything, the opposing diehard fans against them will only work harder to clear their good names and prove the hate wrong.  In the end, all you get is a whole bunch of digital squawking and dumb hashtags.  


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 23-29

LESSON #1: WE CAN THANK ETHAN HAWKE FOR BEING HONEST, BUT HE’S WRONG— In this column’s September absence until last week, First Reformed actor Ethan Hawke has twice pinched his nose at blockbuster filmmaking.  First, he comes off high-brow and still pretentious calling superhero films overrated and not worthy of higher class. Next, he revealed his personal story about turning down and throwing out Independence Day with an ardent and profane dismissal. Thanks for sharing, Ethan. Your opinion is welcome, but you’re still wrong though too.

LESSON #2: BRAD BIRD IS RIGHT TO LAMENT THE BUSINESS END OF MOVIES— I’m a little late to report this, but Incredibles 2 director Brad Bird sounded off mightily on Twitter at the end of August with a string of warnings directed at the sequel trend and the lack of backing for original works at the blockbuster level.  He praised Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk as a truly original tentpole and how size and ambition deserve support equal to big money sequels and franchise.  He added more to that in a second interview for Science Fiction. The hard part is the business is going to flock to where the money is being made.  That said, Bird sure ain’t wrong. Give a few original films a chance to become their own big business.

LESSON #3: FOLKS CAN TAKE OR LEAVE THE BIG SCREEN EXPERIENCE— If you haven’t been noticing, and I don’t know you haven’t, but the communal theater experience is trickling away with the greater availability of streaming options, their competitive price points, and the affordability of home theater equipment compared to generations past.  Dueling sensibilities came down on that slow shift recently. 12 Years a Slave and upcoming Widows director Steve McQueen stepped up in an interview with Uproxx to declare his love and intent to seek out and add to the big screen experience.  Citing the big emotions and thrills, he said there’s “no point looking at a movie on your laptop on your own at home.”  On the other side of the coin in an interview with Indiewire, Mandy actor Nicolas Cage has begun to see the VOD viewership numbers for his films and sees money and success to be had in that format.  I, for one, admit to being completely on the fence. For the right movie, nothing beats the big screen experience, but it gets expensive and I have to enjoy the buried treasure and convenience of the VOD and streaming markets.  This looks like a place to have that adorable “why not both” internet GIF.

LESSON #4: THE 1990S ARE BECOMING A TIME CAPSULE— This lesson is spurred from two places, Feelin’ Film host Aaron White’s recent rewatch of Varsity Blues and a recent Unilad piece citing Millennial reactions to watching American Pie.  When you look back at popular teen-centric films like those two titles and compare them to the likes of Eighth Grade or The Edge of Seventeen now, the sentiments and tones couldn’t feel more antiquated or out of place.  People are actually getting offended by the sexist and male horndog tones of those films.  I get it, but I also call that par for the course akin to watching Blazing Saddles and taking the pause to understand its place in time.  I can’t get mad at out-of-touch films from out-of-touch times because their context fits its background.  Are the 2000s next? How will this list of that decade’s best from the Washington Post age? 


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson and also on Medium.com where he is one of the 50 “Top Writers” in the Movies category.  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.