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.

What We Learned This Week: September 2-22

LESSON #1: IF YOU CAN’T BEAT THEM, BUY THEM— We read a great deal about how Netflix, for example, will dabble with theatrical debuts of their original movies and how it’s a bit of a struggle to get screens and self-distribute to the theatrical level.  Amazon, who is no slouch in the original film department, might be finding their own power move around that. They’re angling for suitors to buy the Landmark Theatres chain. When you own the theater, you set the terms and get the screens.  I think that’s ballsy and kind of genius, if you have the money, which Amazon sure does. Disney is making their own exclusive streaming service. Could you see them building their own exclusive theaters and keeping those dollars for themselves and not splitting with the AMCs and Regals of the world?  I sure could. Let’s see how it works for Amazon if it comes to pass. This could be the start of a tectonic shift in distribution and rest of the film biz.

LESSON #2: MORE OFTEN THAN NOT, IT’S THE FILMS THAT ARE BROKEN, NOT THE CRITICISM— Leave it to warm-hearted and successful This Is Us showrunner Dan Fogelman to show what boiling over looks like when it comes to starting another Artists vs. Critics vs. Audiences throwdown.  His film foray Life Itself is getting panned to the tune of 14% and still moving on Rotten Tomatoes) and his quoted reaction begins “something is inherently a little bit broken in our film criticism right now.”  If all he said was that, he’d be making a fair statement for discussion since the landscape has flaws, ones it is doing a decent job of working through for inclusion and representation in my opinion.  However, Dan aimed a little more sharply with “There’s a disconnect between something that is happening between our primarily white male critics who don’t like anything that has any emotion.”  Ain’t that a broad brush from a broad brush of the same color!  Watch him become the next Colin Trevorrow with that kind of flippant opinion.   If he looked deeper he would see that plenty of other critics that aren’t male or white don’t like his movie either.  If he looked deeper than the headliners, he would also find many white male critics who absolutely love emotion in movies.  Am I right, Aaron, Patrick, Jacob, Steve, and Jeremy?

LESSON #3: THE PREDATOR WAS AND IS A MESS— As fun as it was at times, I’m one of many critics who shook his head at the silliness brought forth by Shane Black’s The Predator, one of the most uneven films I’ve seen in a long time.  I couldn’t believe the mess (and then add the sex offender hiring snafu as well).  When I read the story of its reshoots (spoilers inside), all was explained to me and it sounds ridiculous.  The movie was dead on arrival. No wonder why it wasn’t good enough for a summer opening or scary enough for a Halloween weekend.

LESSON #4: NO MATTER WHAT, HENRY CAVILL’S DAYS AS SUPERMAN ARE NUMBERED— A great deal of fuss and backlash was made to the published rumors of Warner Bros. cutting ties with Henry Cavill in their DCEU.  The outrage and disbelief was off the charts, but when it’s being reported in The Hollywood Reporter, that’s not click bait anymore.  That is sourced news for this industry.  Beans may have been spilled early for all we know, leading to all of the walkback apologies since.  Still, I don’t see a good ending to this. For how maligned the DCEU films are and how strained fan interest/disinterest has become where the studio is quietly blowing up and disassembling its current course, too many signs are pointing to a necessary change.  My money is on Cavill being replaced by someone or something else within five years. There’s too much smoke here, rumors be damned.  Besides, there are greener pastures.

LESSON #5: AN AMERICAN IS GOING TO FROLIC IN A SACRED BRITISH GARDEN AGAIN— Word just broke this week that American director Cary Fukunaga (True Detective, Beasts of No Nation) is now the new director of the 25th James Bond film after Trainspotting series director Danny Boyle exited the franchise last month.  Fukunaga, a Netflix admirer, has swam in this foreign pond before directing Jane Eyre in 2010.  I think he continues the more serious tone Sam Mendes has brought to the MI-6 spy.  The next shoe to drop will be Daniel Craig staying or going especially if some Man of Steel is all of a sudden available and rumored to take his place.

LESSON #6: KEVIN FEIGE IS THE RIGHT MAN FOR HIS NEXT JOB— With Fox deal now done, the Marvel dream fulfillment of mergers and combinations begins.  The largest acquisition is the X-Men franchise and Disney CEO Bob Iger confirmed that head Marvel Films producer Kevin Feige will oversee all future X-Men films.  That’s great news and the perfect landing place.  Some X-Men films have been very good and even great, but they have always had room for more fulfilled potential.  If Kevin Feige can sprinkle the dust he’s given to the likes of Iron Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, and more, the X-Men go back to the A-list.

LESSON #7: BOB IGER FINALLY FOUND THE BRAKE PEDAL ON THE BLOCKBUSTER ROLLER COASTER— Speaking of Mr. Iger, news broke Thursday that “some slowdown” is happening at Disney when it comes to saturating the market with the cash cow Star Wars films.  That’s fantastic news because there is such as thing as overdoing it (Marvel’s three-films-a-year is already quite a test).  Like many have said, there is more mystique and anticipation when there is more special rarity to their infrequency.  Force the patience and people will still come. 

LESSON #8: THE ACADEMY FINALLY LISTENED IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION— Finally, all is back to being right in the world with the news that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is postponing their plans to have a “Popular Film” category on the grounds of being too late in the year to start a new initiative and how more study is necessary to understand its purpose or implication.  Forbes columnist Scott Mendelson adds more logs to that fire of reasoning.  Bring out the Madea “hallejuler” Tyler Perry memes.  I can put my previous soapbox column away, but I sure won’t delete it.  “Postpone” only means temporary. They’re bound to pull this nonsense again.  


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.

What We Learned This Week: August 26-September 1

LESSON #1: SEARCHING SHOULD BE REQUIRED VIEWING FOR TEENS AND THEIR PARENTS EQUAL TO EIGHTH GRADE EARLIER THIS SUMMER— Standing as another dramatic dose of the perils of being a teenager and raising a teenager in this current times, Aneesh Chaganty’s electric Searching would make a heck of a twin-bill with Bo Burnham’s startling slice of truths from July.  If you have a son or daughter with a connected device and a digital footprint of apps and engagement, you need to be floored by this film’s stance as one-part cautionary tale and one-part family feels.  You’ll be diving to Protect Young Eyes and similar sites in a hurry afterwards.  Hear Aaron and I gush over this film in a recent Feelin’ Film minisode.  It’s my #1 film so far this year.  You NEED to see this one!

LESSON #2: WAIT AND SEE A FILM BEFORE PASSING JUDGMENT— Advance reviews, hot takes, and click bait web articles that stir up angles, tangents, and nonsensical conversations before a movie makes it to the general public are the wrong place to form an opinion on a film.  This lesson rears its ugly head today on the heels of the world premiere reviews for Damien Chazelle’s First Man and a Business Insider piece about whether or not the planting of the American flag during the Apollo 11 mission is shown or not.  People are already circling their wagons to either defend the assumed choice as an artistic or narrative decision or start lighting up the puff-chested patriotism-fueled “how dare you” revisionist opposition pitchforks.  First Man is not the first film to be bitten by this stuff and it won’t be the last.  Simply put, wait and see the film for yourself before falling for rumors and rants. 

LESSON #3: AWARDS SEASON STARTS RIGHT NOW— Speaking of all that early buzz, First Man is sounding pretty darn legit.  I’m remain on my “No Trailers Diet” to remain unspoiled and untarnished which includes reading advance reviews, especially for First Man which has been my #1 anticipated film all year.  It sounds like I’m going to like what I see in October.

LESSON #4: PUSHING BACK A RELEASE DATE TO MAKE A FILM BETTER SHOULD ALWAYS BE A WELCOME DECISION— Much like Lesson #2, other decisions shouldn’t always be met with gasps, groans, and uninformed opinions.  Release dates are one of them.  Too often, when a film has to blink from a planned release date to a later one, the first flags flying are the “lemon on their hands,” “it’s going to be a bomb,” and “obvious production troubles” ones from all the haters and doubters.  You know what, if a studio is actually stable enough and smart enough to not rush brilliance, they might just get rewarded with brilliance.  It was announced this week that the hotly-anticipated Top Gun sequel, which is still in pre-production before shooting, is going to delay a year from July 2019 to July 2020 to improve planned action sequences.  Like our own founder Aaron White said on this news in the Facebook group, it’s better to get it right than anything else.  I remember the boo-birds making all kinds of noise 20+ years ago when Titanic moved from a July 4th release to a holiday one.  I’d say that turned out pretty well.  I’ll take patience over hubris every time.

LESSON #5: LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY SHOULD BE TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT WHEN RANKING AND VOTING ON THE BEST FILMS OF ANY GIVEN YEAR— I’ve ranted on the “popular film” Oscar at length once already, but the reactions from within the industry are starting to develop in really strong and rightfully righteous directions.  This new category feels like a shorter hurdler being put on the race course for fluff films to clear.  Because of the comic film landscape and the Disney puppet strings behind-the-scenes, Black Panther is being labeled as a beneficiary of such a new award.  Don’t tell that to Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman.  Relayed by friend-of-the-podcast Emmanuel Noisette of The Movie Blog through LA Times and Hollywood Reporter sources, Marvel czar Kevin Feige and Boseman support the studio’s efforts to aim for the top prize and not the popular one.  Bozeman outlines a challenge for voters expressing: 

What is the difficulty of the thing that you did? And do people appreciate what you did; the quality of it, the difficulty of it. What we did was very difficult. Because we created a world. We created a culture. It doesn’t exist in a world that you already know. It’s a world that we had to completely…we had to create a religion, a spirituality, a politics.  We had to create an accent. We had to pull from different cultures to create clothing styles and hair styles. It’s very much like a period piece[…] So you can’t honor any period piece that you ever did, technically, more than you can this one. So as far as that’s concerned, I dare any movie to try to compare to the difficulty of this one.

I absolutely love that statement. You’ll hear Emmanuel and I talk about this within the Feelin’ Film Discussion Group on Facebook, but, more and more, we see room for the objective to be valued equal, if not higher, to the subjective when it comes to rating, ranking, and scoring films for review or awards contention.  I support that notion 100%.

LESSON #6: SPEAKING OF RECOGNIZING DIFFICULTY, MAYBE IT’S TIME WE CALL GENRES “DISCIPLINES” INSTEAD OF THE ORIGINAL TERM THAT HAS BECOME ATTACHED TO STIGMAS— Despite matching the definition of being of a different story type, the adjective of “genre” and term “genre film” have acquired negative connotations over these decades of blockbuster filmmaking.  It’s become a scarlet letter of supposedly fantasy and childish things that get looked down upon as lesser than some gilded ideal of theatrical drama and thespian brilliance.  This is where a guy like Ethan Hawke can be seen as the opposite of Chadwick Boseman from Lesson #5.  Instead of seeing what most of the masses see as the genre label pigeonholing superhero films, the First Reformed actor came out to call them “overpraised.”  I’m a firm believer that there is indeed true art to be found in ANY film genre, even the comfort food and dream fulfillment of comic book films.  Like Boseman alluded to, genre films like superhero films have their own unique degree of difficulty, one worthy of respect and admiration.  For me, I beginning to think of different “genres” of films to be more like martial arts disciplines.  Think of defensive karate versus the whirl of kung-fu or submissions of Brazilian jiu-jitsu.  Each are unique for their movement, execution, and overall purpose.  Each take a different degree of difficulty, skill sets, and work effort.  I think it’s time to put different film genres on that kind of plane.  I’m going to add “genre” to my personal list of “banned” words in film reviews, joining words like “great” and “masterpiece.”  I want to value what I’m talking about higher.


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.  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.

Connecting With Classics 008: Lawrence of Arabia

For this month, we’ve chosen to close out the dog days of summer with a classic worthy of the sweltering heat August is known for. 1962’s Lawrence of Arabia is an AFI Top 10 entry which turned 56 years old this year. The longest days of summer brought out one of the longest films we’ll watch for our podcast.  If you have yet to watch this, set aside the time and then join us for some history and conversation about this epic. 

One of the goals for “Connecting With Classics” is listener participation. We will be hosting prize drawings for a poster of the Connecting With Classics movie of their choice plus podcast swag and more at the end of each calendar year. Entries into the drawing can be earned for every episode by watching the film and posting your own review or thoughts about the podcast episode in the comments section of the episode announcement post in our Feelin’ Film Facebook Discussion Group. For listeners who do not wish to be a part of the discussion group, emailing reviews to feelinfilm@gmail.com will also be accepted. 

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What We Learned This Week: August 19-25

LESSON #1: NETFLIX DOES SOME GOOD THINGS— For this school teacher, it’s the end of the summer and I’ve been collecting little Netflix stories all summer for a seasonal round-up through this column.  The news pieces and editorials are pretty much split down the middle between positive and negative.  Let’s start with the good.  For one, they put their money where their mouth (and hubris) is as they plan to spend an astounding $13 billion this year on content, which includes contracts with studios and their own created productions.  That sheer volume of content on Netflix has caused many to call into question what gets premium position for promotion and placement.  I like the way director Ava DuVernay put it saying “My concern isn’t being lost, my concern is being somewhere, period.”  Earlier in the year, actress Elizabeth Olson expressed a similar forward-thinking compliment stating that the screening provider gives independent films a better chance at a wider audience than far more expensive limited theatrical release to a shrinking supply of art house movie theaters.  Netflix can be a permanent home instead of a two-week swing-and-a-miss to small crowds.  I don’t know what savvy producer would say no that for a fair price.

LESSON #2: NETFLIX DOES SOME BAD THINGS TOO— The piles of negative dings against the streaming giant is pretty tall too, spanning a range between content choices and business dealings.  Competition is coming in the form of Disney’s own branded streaming service with a rumored price point of $8/month, under Netflix’s current price tag.  The Mouse House has announced that all Disney content will gradually be off Netflix by March of 2019, which might cause a drop in subscribers who want their family content.  Speaking of kid-friendly stuff, the loudest piece came just this week from opinion writer Tim Winter of USA Today.  His bold claim was that Netflix, as proven by its supposedly racy volume of content choices, has turned its back on family programming.  Along the same lines, Netflix is buying fewer documentary titles than it used to after long being a welcome hub for that genre.  Echoing DuVernay’s take from Lesson #1, the home screen is only so big and what sells is going to get the premium space.  That’s good business even if its not pretty.  Discerning consumers need to be discerning and Netflix shouldn’t have to make excuses. 

LESSON #3: MOVIEPASS NEEDS A FORK STUCK IN IT IN THE WORST WAY— Another week bring another clownish fail from MoviePass.  This time its annual memberships being refunded and thrust into month-to-month subscriptions, limited ones at that, eliminating the savings that came from having a longer term.  I don’t what else can go south.  The crazy thing is we’ve been saying that about MoviePass for months and it keeps surprising us with more calamity and circus.  Seriously, they don’t need to adopt the Lenny Kravitz song line of “it ain’t over ’til its over.”  Just quit already.

LESSON #4: ON SOME LEVEL, DIRECTORS ARE IRREPLACEABLE— It was announced by Disney this week that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will be delayed from its scheduled winter shooting date indefinitely following the dismissal of director James Gunn, which disbanded the production crew he hired.  The comic sequel isn’t the first or the last (especially at Disney) film to go through a change or delay like this, but this one feels more a shade more problematic and temporary than just changing a tire or replacing a dead battery.  This is replacing the battery and all of the framework, wiring, and bolts because of how each film is a team approach.  If Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 ever does make it, we know it won’t be the same.  It will take a hit no matter what not just because of the public sentiment, but because of the reduction in quality from an entirely new team working on the film.  


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.  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: August 12-18

LESSON #1: MOVIEPASS IS A CARNIVAL OF BAD IDEAS— It was been wildly unpredictable and maddeningly entertaining to watch the swirling toilet that is MoviePass.  First, the company began limiting subscribers film choices.  Next, it was re-enrolling folks and forbidding cancellations. and then it was reporting a new $126 million dollar loss, prompting shareholders to sue.  Are we out of forks to stick in this beast?  That said, I enjoyed IndieWire’s David Ehrlich’s truthful parable this week defining the MoviePass clamor we feel as proof of loving the medium of film.  He’s dead on.  

LESSON #2: SPEAKING OF LOSSES, HULU ISN’T DOING MUCH BETTER— If you think $126 million is a ton of money, how worse does $1.5 billion sound?  Put on your Dr. Evil voice and say it to yourself.  The dollar amount is the annual loss staring Hulu in the face, one that follows $920 million loss last year.  That’s quite a haircut that stings like a beheading.  Even with that new Disney money and ownership stake arriving, are Hulu’s months numbered next?

LESSON #3: EVERYONE IS A LITTLE PRETENTIOUS OR A LITTLE MAINSTREAM. IT’S JUST TO WHAT DEGREE— I got a kick out of this score-generating quiz of sorts that made the rounds on social media. Enter a movie title on the Pretentious-O-Meter and see where it lands between pretentious and mass market.  The creators list their calculation and logic behind their metrics and it’s pretty brilliant.  Have fun on this little game for a few minutes (or hours)!

LESSON #4: WE’RE GOING TO MISS ROBERT REDFORD— The dashing 81-year-old redheaded founder of the Sundance Film Institute and icon of yesteryear announced recently his retirement from acting.  This September’s The Old Man & the Gun, his second collaboration with director David Lowery after Pete’s Dragon, will be his last.  To call it a “good” run is a gross understatement.  Redford had a GREAT run, a career of reverence and one with very few blemishes.  He’s always been high on my list of favorites and bests.  

LESSON #5: I BELIEVE AND TRUST MICHAEL CAINE— Even in ambiguity after eight years, I never really doubted my own drawn conclusion in theorizing the end of Christopher Nolan’s 2010 opus Inception.  Beloved actor Michael Caine went on record recently and cleared up the guessing game with a pretty trustworthy explanation, one of definitive fashion that might be as close to “once and for all” as we’re going to get.  

LESSON #6: IS JAMES BOND FUNNY ENOUGH ANYMORE?— Former James Bond franchise actor Pierce Brosnan remembers a time when 007 was as cheeky in tone as he was in smiles.  He commented recently about the brooding, solemn, and muscular current take on the classic character being portrayed by Daniel Craig.  Brosnan mildly bemoans the sharp decline in light humor that was a benchmark trait of his films as well as those that came before him.  Without naming names, he blames the straight-faced action hero types (think Jason Bourne and the tough guys played by Jason Statham, Liam Neeson, and Mark Wahlberg) competing with the Bond character in the action film marketplace.  I think Brosnan has a valid point.  As stellar and bold as Craig’s run has been, there is a noticeable measure of charm missing.

LESSON #7: DISNEY KNOWS HOW TO BEAT DEAD HORSES— Dwindling box office returns be damned! Walt Disney Pictures announced that the green light is still on for a sixth Pirates of the Caribbean film directed by Dead Men Tell No Tales helmer Joachim Rønning.  The sequel would like star the Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario characters recently introduced, but there’s no word yet on Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow or Bill Nighy’s return as the teaser-dropped Davey Jones.  I get these films play well overseas, but the series has run its mainstream course here domestically.  I’m telling you, unless your name is James Gunn, Disney doesn’t often know when or how to quit.


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.  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: August 5-11 – Oscar Rant Special

LESSON #1: WAIT FOR THE FULL DETAILS BEFORE JUDGMENT— This week’s column will be heavily centered on exploding all over the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science board of governor’s announcement of major changes to the Oscar categories, telecast, and format.  I had a whole batch of Netflix-related news, but they can wait and MoviePass will keep on dying to.  Let’s stay on the main event. To be nice, I might as well put my penance up front and say the positive lesson of patience and get it over with.  Without knowing the as-yet-unannounced or in-progress criteria for the controversial “Best Popular Film” category, it’s probably best to take as seat at the “wait and see” picnic table instead of joining the think piece parade of pitchforks and torches.  So, we can try to do that, but a better situation could have been created.

LESSON #2: DON’T ANNOUNCE A MAJOR CHANGE WITHOUT FULLY CALCULATING, ORGANIZING, OR SETTLING ON THE DETAILS OF SAID MAJOR CHANGE— Come on, AMPAS.  Did the entire room of out-of-touch decision makers elbow each other in the ribs in unison with a “guys, they’re going to love this idea, just you wait” cluelessness?!  Did no one there have the fart-in-the-wind thought in their mind that maybe dropping this undefined idea wrapped in undetermined ambiguity would be seen as problematic for potential public backlash?  Did no one ask how condescending this looks?  No wonder why your show has declined in prestige (predictable winners), viewership (slipping ratings), and respect (#OscarsSoWhite). You’re asleep at the wheel of hubris.

LESSON #3: LET’S BE CLEAR.  DISNEY IS THE BAD GUY HERE— Peachy products be damned, Disney continues to do thrust shady business moves left and right with a big billionaire smile across its face because it can, from shoving out publications, undercutting partners, and squeezing everything it can for more money and dominance.  This is another one of those questionable self-serving moves because they own ABC, the network the Oscars on, and it’s their declining bottom line (see the numbers), not the film industry’s or the artistic medium’s bottom lines.  And, which films do think have the best and most financially-armed chances to campaign heavily for that new “popular film” Oscar?  Their own, just like the last tailor-made category fell into their lap: Best Animated Feature. If that’s not gloryhounding and forcing the AMPAS to play ball, I don’t know what is.

LESSON #4: IF THE GOAL IS A SHORTER SHOW, CUT OUT THE SUPERFLUOUS FLUFF— Let me let Disney and ABC in on a not-so-little secret.  It’s not the obscure films that make the Oscars boring, it’s the unnecessary variety show bits and comedic crap the producers pack into the show that take away from the importance that should marvel with majesty.  For me, the Oscars should play like opening or closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games. The pageantry and the excellence of the moment is given the gravity it deserves and the results captivate us every time. Instead, we get late night talk show leftover monologues and dumb gags that inflate the running time more than any impassioned deadline-stretching speech.  Let’s do some generous math. Give 24 categories 5 minutes each (3 to introduce it gracefully with deeper montages than mere quick mentions and 2 full minutes for each winner’s speeches) and that’s 120 minutes. Tack on 5 minutes to open with a welcoming monologue, 5 minutes to close with a thankful prologue, 3 minutes for the annual dead people roll call, and 30 minutes for required commercials to pay the bills.  Bingo-bongo! You’re well under three hours, the awards are given rich room to operate, and nothing is forgotten except another hare-brained skit. For other outstanding suggestions, I must strongly recommend this editorial from my Chicago critic friend and colleague Jeff York on The Establishing Shot.  His list of smarter changes is outstanding.

LESSON #5: THERE ARE SO MANY OTHER WORTHY AREAS FOR NEW OSCAR CATEGORIES THAN THIS SILLY IDEA OF A POPULAR FILM ONE— Of all the new and unsung categories, it had to be blockbuster level cheese?  You can do better, Academy, to celebrate the real people that make any of these movies, large or small, special.  Jeff York’s column got the ball rolling with suggesting a Best Stunt Work award and excising the antiquated and watered-down Best Song category.  That’s a great place to start. IndieWire’s Zack Sharf listed seven possible category additions in a column on Thursday, all of them with more solid merit than the popular film one.  Praise is overdue, but not for the moneymakers. Give it to the hard workers behind the scenes.

LESSON #6: IF YOU WANT MORE POPULAR FILMS TO WIN AWARDS, MAKE BETTER POPULAR FILMS.  IT’S THAT SIMPLE— Again, without criteria, this new category reeks to be like the equivalent of a participation ribbon in some crappy youth sports league.  There have been more than enough times in the 90 years of Oscar history where the popular films are also thought of as among the best of the given year as well.  That distinction of quality and the integrity to maintain that are the whole point of the awards. They have to be earned. Want one? Make a better movie. Sure, any of these awards are given in the moment and years before we’ll ever know if the films fully deserved them or had the staying power to stand as the best they were deemed to be.  But that doesn’t mean you have to lower that level of quality just to endear some demographic you want to watch your silly, broken comedy variety awards show. That’s what the MTV Movie Awards are for.

LESSON #7: FINALLY, “FAVORITES” WILL ALWAYS BE MORE LOVED THAN THE SO-CALLED “BEST” ANYWAY— I say it all the time on the FF airwaves and social media walls.  There is sometimes a difference between “favorite” and “best.” When they are the same, that’s wonderful and special.  It earned that universal acclaim and deserves all the praise, be that awards or otherwise. However, if a “favorite” doesn’t win, that’s perfectly OK because the loyal love they generate cannot be taken away and will outlast any golden hardware it didn’t win.  The box office profits and, more importantly, the endearment and continuous place among the celebrated classics of the masses will always be a stronger justification than any trophy. Just ask every parent which films they pass on to their kids. I bet it’s more non-Oscar winning personal favorites than academic winners.  Just ask all of those filmmakers and actors who become permanent legends from non-Oscar-winning films and cult classics. They didn’t need an award to be loved. Their adored films and performances spoke for themselves. All of that is better than enough.


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.  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: July 29-August 4

LESSON #1: THIS PRESENT CULTURE OF HEADLINE NEWS NEEDS TO SLOW DOWNFeelin’ Film Facebook Discussion Group member Joseph Hamrick penned an outstanding editorial recently on his website Article Asylum entitled “We Need to Talk about the ‘We Need to Talk About’ Headline Culture.”  Joseph discusses the wayward directions and lack of due diligence taken in entertainment news nowadays where too many so-called discussion pieces are reactive rather than reflective, defeating the purpose and wearing out that headline trope.  James Gunn and even Chris Hardwick are recent examples where patience could have gone a long way before vilification and over-inflation.  I know I see this all the time researching for this weekly column and Joseph nailed it.  Kudos and my compliments on a great piece!

LESSON #2: TROPES ARE SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN IN THEIR EFFECTIVENESS— The concepts that we all call tropes become tropes because they are successful to a nearly automatic level more than not.  I greatly enjoyed an article in The Guardian this week that reported on findings compiled by a behavioral economics and data science team at the University of Birmingham.  They combed through over 6,000 scripts to show which story arcs made the most money at the box office.  The winner was the “man in the hole” arc, which might as well be your classic underdog story.  Enriching stuff!  Give it a read.

LESSON #3: TRAILERS TOO HAVE BECOME AN EFFECTIVE SCIENCE— Speaking of effectiveness, trailers know exactly what they are doing to get audiences to desire the product they are advertising.  The top trailer-makers have studied and refined the craft of provoking emotions and evoking the senses right down to the algorithms and triggers.  As you know I’ve ranted in this soapbox space before, they have still become formulaic with their own troublesome tropes in my opinion and should be avoided, or at least tempered.  Still, the entire addictive draw and the creativity behind the craft is fascinating.  Enjoy this interview and examination video from Vice News:

LESSON #4: EVEN MONUMENTAL BLOCKBUSTERS BECOME “LITTLE ENGINES THAT COULD”— It has taken six months after its huge February debut and spring box office dominance, but Marvel’s Black Panther, thanks to one final tickle of $15,000 becomes only the third film to earn $700 million or more domestically.  It joins Avatar ($760 million) and Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($936 million).  To be the highest grossing MCU film was already achievement, but to hit that benchmark is both impressive and special.  Congratulations to Ryan Coogler and company!

LESSON #5: NEED A LAST MINUTE HOT SUMMER BEACH READ? CONSIDER A SCREENPLAY— Are you a movie fan that wants to dive in and relive some classic stories?  Then get to read between the lines with their scripts.  Sure, they might have zero pictures and whole bunch of extra framing words, but I bet they’re better than another trashy hit-or-miss novel off the rack.  Last year, Script Reader Pro collected 50 of the greatest film screenplays of all-time and released them for free available downloads.  In July, Shore Scripts added 45 more, also completely for free.  The combined selections are extraordinary.  Search by genre in either stack and revisit some cinematic gold in its purest creative form.


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.  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.