What We Learned This Week: March 17-23

LESSON #1: JORDAN PEELE IS THE FIRST JORDAN PEELE— I submit a new addition to the  off-cited list of movie review cliches from Letterboxd user Erik Bazjert.  I say it’s time to do away with labeling actors, actresses, or filmmakers as “the next _____ (fill in the blank with some classic performer or legend).”  I get the want of complement, praise, and respect, but, more often than not, distinctions like that become a pigeon-holing crutch to the current performer and/or an lessening admonishment to the classic performer being cited.  I say let people be themselves and stand on their own merit. For that reason, I love the clickbait headline clapback of Quartz film critic Adam Epstein.  Us director Jordan Peele isn’t the next Spielberg or Hitchcock.  He’s the first Jordan Peele. I love that strength and sentiment.

LESSON #2: FOR ONCE, A BIG COMPANY ADMITS A BAD DECISION— Disney absolution and re-hiring of James Gunn for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was not only best for business, but the right thing to do.  Sure, maybe they were scared of a imaginary bottom line of reduced profits or the rancor of upsetting their roster of valuable stars, but, somewhere in the deep dark legal departments and decision-making conference rooms of The Mouse House, cooler heads and wisdom prevailed.  It would be wonderful to have all of this be a Wikipedia footnote in the filmmaker and the future film’s past. But, you know all of this old noise will get drummed up again during the Vol. 3 press tour in two years when every soundbite-sucking microphone is going to want an opinion from all stakeholders on how this return came to be and ultimately turned out.  Expect courteous pleasantries from everyone. The expose level stuff will have to be saved for someone’s memoirs.

LESSON #3: RESTRUCTURING WAS ALWAYS GOING TO COME— Speaking of Disney and its officially completed purchase of 20th Century Fox, don’t be surprised about the layoffs and restructuring that is already beginning with the shuttering of the Fox 2000 shingle led by Elizabeth Gabler.  Click bait is going to call it an affront on women-led film and the death of another mid-budget production source.  This counts as wait-and-see and par for the course. This is just the start and acquisitions like these always lead to cutting duplicates and redundancies.  For example, watch Blue Sky get folded into Walt Disney Animation or Pixar or both. Changes like this were always going to happen. Be ready for more.

LESSON #4: YOU ARE LUCKY IF YOU LIVE NEAR AN ALAMO DRAFTHOUSE— One of the best movie theater outfits going just made their outstanding and classy niche even more attractive.  The Texas-based Alamo Drafthouse brand is starting a “Season Pass” service where $20-per-month will grant you a movie a day.  That pays for itself in three movies.  The Alamo Drafthouse’s eclectic offerings have always impressed and hooked cinephiles and casual fans alike.  One of the best just got better.  If you live near one of their locations, do check this out.

LESSON #5: TRY SOME UNCONVENTIONAL HORROR— Circling back to the upcoming wave of Us, the horror genre will get a great deal of attention from audiences this month, both at home and at the theatres.  If you’re like me and not a big horror fan, you probably need some offbeat horror suggestions to dip your toe into something different.  The now-defunct Alcohollywood podcast published a very nice ten-film of “unconventional horror” films.  Starting with the old James Whale/Boris Karloff Frankenstein, they have some great picks and buried treasures on there.  Keep building the queue and wish list for your streaming services and library.  

 


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: 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.