What We Learned This Week: January 1-13

LESSON #1: EITHER BUSINESS IS BAD OR PEOPLE ARE FINDING THEIR ENTERTAINMENT ELSEWHERE— I have found that in the box office business, trends rarely lie.  Looking past inflation and price changes, the reported actual ticket sale counts are alarming according to the year-end news reported in several places.  A six percent drop is telling but not drastic.  “Lowest in 25 years” is a whole other thing.  To me, as I’ve stated in this column frequently, it’s all about the price point for family dollars.  The wave of unlimited TV and streaming options available at high quality and far lower costs than it takes to bring the average family of four to the multiplex with refreshments is becoming a no-brainer for those cost-minded folks.

LESSON #2: SPEAKING OF BUSINESS, APPLE MIGHT HAVE A COUNTERPUNCH TO DISNEY— Once Disney bought 21st Century Fox, they gained controlling percentage of Hulu Plus at the same time as they’ve been positioning to launch their own dedicated streaming platforms.  The target was placed on Netflixes back, especially after the Mouse House pulled all of their content off the platform to bring under their own roof.  Netflix might have found a benefactor and powerful one.  According to reports sourced by Citi, Apple is angling to buy Netflix with a billion dollar price tag.  Throw Amazon’s power in there, and this WWE triple threat match in a streaming ring just got big

LESSON #3: SPEAKING OF BUSINESS, KEEPING ADVOCATING FOR EQUAL PAY ACROSS GENDERS— You can try to slice it, refocus the points, or pretend to justify the reasons however you want, but the Mark Wahlberg/Michelle Williams All the Money in the World compensation disparity story that broke this week is kind of sh-tty no matter which way you play it.  It just flat-out looks bad.  I’m glad it’s getting investigated by the union (Screen Actors Guild).  I keep the benefit of the doubt going that good faith is out there or that contracts are this and other contracts are that.  For that to remain, a positive outcome (with a rolled head or two) must arrive or this will only incite more from an already fractured female demographic, and rightfully so.

LESSON #4: WE HAVE TO CONSIDER THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI A FULL-FLEGED OSCAR CONTENDER NOW— To me, the Golden Globes have been a joke, are a joke, and will remain a joke with some of their category distinctions, silly nominees, and oddball choices.  That said, the Golden Globes aren’t the only awards Sam Rockwell, Frances McDormand, and Martin McDonagh’s film are sweeping up.  The two actors have been surging and now stand as legitimate co-frontrunners with Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project) and Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water) who have dominated the Best Supporting Actor and Best Actress categories.  These dark horses aren’t so pitch black anymore.  By the way, you know which Golden Globe winner is not a real contender?  James Franco.  Via con dios, dude.

LESSON #5: THE STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI HATERS ARE GOING TO BE BUTTHURT FOR A LONG TIME— …and it’s going to be agonizing to deal with them.  Most of the haters are just harmless snobs and sub-trolls.  Their rants and forgettable and carry weak traction, like silly petitions to remove the latest film from canon.  However, some of them take it too far.  This recent story of Kelly Marie Tran dealing with racist and sexist comments is a prime example.  That’s the kind of crap that goes too far and isn’t “fansmanship” nitpicking over water cooler talk anymore.  That’s the hurtful garbage that needs to go and get a life.

LESSON #6: CIRCLE BACK TO THE BEST OF 2017— Rotten Tomatoes closed the 2017 calendar with their list of 100% Tomatometer films.  Seven titles never received a bad review.  Use JustWatch to seek them out in this boring and empty annual moviegoing wasteland known as January.  Liam Neeson flicks can only keep your attention so long.  If you want more films after those seven, you’ve got five top-ten lists right here on Feelin’ Film from your hosts and contributors.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  He is a proud member and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on FacebookTwitterMedium, and Creators Media.

 

Feelin’ TV: June 5-11

I’m not sure what I was expecting when I started watching Better Call Saul. As a fan of Breaking Bad who very much enjoyed Bob Odenkirk’s portrayal of the slimy lawyer Saul Goodman, I was all in no matter what. I guess I was expecting something resembling a modern lawyer show, only funnier because the main character doesn’t care about the rules or decorum or justice or, you know, the law. What I didn’t necessarily expect, though, was a more deliberate, thoughtful and, dare I say, better version of Breaking Bad.

In 1988, Alan Moore and Brian Bolland published the famous Joker origin story, Batman: The Killing Joke. The story of the birth of the Joker was told in flashbacks as the Clown Prince of Crime put Jim Gordon through the ringer in the present day. The Joker’s hypothesis was that, much like his experience, even the best of men could be rendered insane through just one bad day. That’s the nature of the story of Walter White. Sure, through five seasons of the show we saw White go deeper and deeper into the darkness, but the truth is that Walt broke bad after one really bad day. By the end of Breaking Bad’s pilot episode, Walt has purchased an RV for the purpose of manufacturing crystal meth and he and Jesse already have two dead bodies to deal with. It was a quick trip to moral bankruptcy for Walt. This is not a complaint about Breaking Bad. I love Breaking Bad. I think it’s brilliant. But with few exceptions it was loud and bombastic and in your face storytelling. Better Call Saul is completely different. If Breaking Bad was the story of how someone can go dark because of one really bad day, Better Call Saul is the story of how the every-man, disillusioned by the often-bitter reward of attempting to do the right thing, slowly learns to embrace compromise as the fruit of those decisions yield more desirable immediate results. Over the past two and a half seasons, Vince Gilligan and his team have succeeded in turning the Breaking Bad’s comic relief into a tragic figure. We’re slowly watching the young man who put himself through law school to earn his brother’s respect become the lawyer/con-man fans of the character already hated to love. There are two episodes left in this season that has been equal parts fun and devastating. If you’re not watching, I’d recommend you start. For my money, Better Call Saul is the best show on television. Breaking Bad and the first two seasons of Better Call Saul are currently streaming on Netflix.

Since we’re talking about shows that may or may not be the best shows on TV, it’s only fair that we bring Fargo into the conversation. The Coen Brothers are my favorite filmmakers. And Fargo is my favorite Coen Brothers movie. The setting, the juxtaposition between the brutal ineptitude of the hit-men vs the polite hyper-competence of Chief Gunderson and Jerry Lundegaard’s slow descent into madness all mixed together perfectly to create one of the best films in my lifetime. FX’s take on Fargo has been able to expertly take a lot of these ingredients and mix them together to form their own unique stories that definitely feel flavored by the Coen’s unique sensibilities. This past week’s episode was a Coen lover’s dream. We got beautifully brutal shots that looked like they could have come straight from its namesake film, a Serious Man style Jewish folktale, a call back to season 1 of the show and, for good measure, half of the episode takes place in a bowling alley where characters receive advice from a mysterious stranger with a velvety smooth voice a la The Big Lebowski. It was a standout episode in what has been a very solid season of television. Each individual episode has stood apart well on its own as well as slowly building a great story. On top of that, it’s themes about the way we perceive what is true and what is false being largely based on who it is that is telling the story are supremely relevant in the age of “alternative facts” and “fake news.” Seasons one and two of Fargo can be viewed on Hulu Plus.

Finally, we have a little bit of good news to end our column. This week it was announced that a 5th season of BBC’s Luther will begin filming next year. Long-time fans of the show have been waiting since December of 2015 for new episodes. I recently caught the first four seasons on Netflix upon the recommendation of a reader (Thanks Phillip!). So, I’ve only been waiting for new episodes since last Thursday. But that already feels like it’s taking too long. Luther is unlike any detective show I’ve ever watched. It’s so much more about Idris Elba’s John Luther than it is about any of his cases. He’s a detective who occasionally plays a little fast and loose with the law, but always in the interest of justice and not to serve his own interests. There’s something to be liked for people who like the whodunit style detective show as well as those who would rather know who the bad guy is and figure out how the detective is going to nab him. And it should go without saying, but Elba is great. All four seasons (or series, sorry BBC) are currently on Netflix.

As always, if there’s something we’re not covering that you’d like to see covered, let me know in the comments, on Twitter or in the Facebook group.