What We Learned This Week: August 18-24

LESSON #1: FIND COMPROMISE WHEN IT CLEARLY BENEFITS BOTH PARTIES— The thunderstorm combination of shock and disappointment rained down this week in the form of tirades (and endless memes) and laments towards Sony Pictures and Disney this week when negotiations between the two studio giants couldn’t settle on an extension of production credit and involvement for the Marvel character of Spider-Man.  Circling back to the original landmark deal from 2015, Marvel was set to only receive 5% of any box office revenue earned by their shared partnership.  Now that we have all seen the surging success built by Spidey’s rub of inclusion with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I can’t say I blame Marvel czar Kevin Feige asking for a bigger cut of the pie.  Still, this is Sony’s property to control and if they think they can make a profitable Spider-Man movie without MCU ties, they can sure try.  All in all, what’s missing is compromise and the fans as the losers. I know Feige asked for that 5% to go up to 50%.  Is that a shade greedy coming from the all-powerful Disney? Maybe. Is pulling the character away from the greater universe he belongs in a little bit of selfish hubris from the same Sony studio that ruined this precious character twice already?  Probably. What I’m calling for is compromise because this deal could be done and the billions can still be made if egos and dollar signs got a little more reasonable.

LESSON #2: “THE LASAGNA RULE”— Let me repeat a great Feelin Film Discussion Group thread over her in WWLTW.  Our follower Joseph Hamrick posted an excellent editorial piece from Steven Volynets on Quillette talking about joy being replaced by negativity in the field of film criticism.  As a credentialed critic myself, I’ve been seeing this among my peers and I liken some of them now to those huffy judges from food judging TV shows like Chopped.  The judges, or critics in this case, always seem to be looking for these impossibly superficial and hyper-personal standards when some dishes (or movies) are not built for excellence and still turn out delicious (or entertaining).  I have deemed this the “The Lasagna Rule.” There are very few ways to dress up lasagna. There’s no color variety or crunch quotient required. It’s a gooey and ugly stack of traditional cheesy, meaty, and pasta-y layers that are going to look like shit on any plate. But, damn, it’s tasty just the way it is. Plenty of movies are that way too and don’t need refinement to be good or successful.  Critics need to change their palette or lens to fit the cinematic dish or restaurant. Dare I say, be more objective…

LESSON #3: GO GET IMPRESSED WITH DIRECTOR’S CUTS OF MOVIES— Be it because of studio tinkering, failed budgets, second thoughts, or artistic purity, I am always fascinated by the origin, existence, and content of notable “director’s cuts” of films.  On the heels of the so-called “Final Cut” of Apocalypse Now hitting IMAX locations this week, the closing WWLTW recommendation slot goes to seeking out these extended visions. World of Reel has a list of six they call better than their originals and IndieWire has a list they consider best and essential.  While you could use my favorite streaming search engine JustWatch to find these titles, I’m betting most are only available on physical media.  Hunt down those libraries!


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#112)

What We Learned This Week: July 7-13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#107)

What We Learned This Week: June 2-22

LESSON #1: PERCEIVED RECORDS AND DISTINCTIONS MAKE PEOPLE GREEDY— The corporate greed monster of Disney strikes again with a blatant turnaround re-release of Avengers: Endgame. The goal of tacking on “new footage,” a tribute reel, and an end credits scene is to get the blockbuster over the final $50 million hump between its gross and the Avatar’s cumulative worldwide record of $2.788 billion. Apparently, there’s shame for being in second place so bad they have to employ cheap double-dip tactics. It will work, but it will also take screens away from other smaller movies that deserve more attention and chances. In my eyes, and I’ve taken this stump in this column before, this remains a hollow and fake victory fueled by inflation and high ticket prices. Avengers: Endgame remains outside of the Top 15 in both inflation-adjusted gross and, the best and most universal indicator of all, total ticket sales. Wake me up when it catches anything in that Top 5 or even the Top 10.

LESSON #2: DON’T TAKE A MOVIE AWAY FROM A CAPABLE DIRECTOR— A week after its disappointing debut at the box office, word on creative strife behind the scenes of Men in Black: International is coming to light. Clashes of story direction and final cut between veteran producer Walter Parkes and hired and extremely capable director F. Gary Gray nearly caused Gray to leave the project. Gray touted something edgier and Parkes’ sillier affair won final cut. This is explains a great deal as to why this movie looks way off and feels discombobulated, even by MiB standards. Sony, you’ve made these screwups before (and it sounds like you’re doing them again with Bond 25).  Trust the talent you hire and let them do their thing.

LESSON #3: DON’T PAY THE SAME GUY TO SCREW UP TWICE— There are many things wrong with Fox’s X-Men “culmination” movie Dark Phoenix, and just about every one of them can leveled to the writer/director Simon Kinburg, who was respectful enough to take responsibility. Once the powers-that-be announced that the X-Men: Apocalypse sequel was going to tackle the “Phoenix/Dark Phoenix” for a second time after Brett Ratner’s reviled X-Men: The Last Stand, they had to know the scrutiny was coming.  If you’re actually trying for renewed success, you don’t hire the same writer who made the first dumpster fire and then also give him the power to direct.  I get familiarity and I get that Bryan Singer is radioactive to employ, but go find an actual upgrade for your $200 million tentpole and franchise swan song.

LESSON #4: THE FEELINGS OF FATIGUE AND BLANDNESS FOR BLOCKBUSTERS ARE REAL— I know Toy Story 4 is fail-proof this weekend from this lesson, but, other than April’s Avengers: Endgame, this has been a rough spring and summer for blockbusters. I read two articles this week that tackled this issue in different ways. Medium.com writer Samuel Lenz poses the question of franchise fatigue of bland blockbusters. IndieWire’s Tom Brueggemann went deeper into the collapse to cite size, frequency, the loss of MoviePass, streaming preferences, and higher quality TV options. I think both together encapsulate the majority of the factors we’re seeing. The top reason to me is quality. These have been bland movie offerings. Better movies get better audiences and returns. Better movies with verified must-see buzz climb over other entertainment options an open wallets. It will always start with quality.

LESSON #5: IT WILL ALWAYS BE ABOUT PRICE POINT— The posturing of the streaming wars continue with WarnerMedia announcing the proposed price of its upcoming streaming service. The sticker of $16-17 monthly would include HBO (which is $15 by itself currently), Cinemax, and the sizable WB library of content. That may be a fair price on paper, but in the eyes of customers, that’s more than double Disney Plus and higher than Netflix, Hulu, and even Apple. Other than hardcore HBO fans and folks that miss the WB bulk that used to be backbone of the closing Turner Classic Movies, people aren’t going to bite for this. Now, if that $16 included Warner’s current standalone DC Entertainment as a match to all the Marvel stuff under the Disney Plus umbrella, the temptation and value would be closer.

LESSON #6: APPLE WANTS TO BE AN OSCAR PLAYER—Many in the industry watched with impressiveness at Netflix’s Oscar campaigns for Roma and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. They have broken the glass ceiling and Apple is looking to follow. News broke this week of their strategy to produce and back six modestly-budgeted films a year as sponsored Oscar hopefuls. This plan is independent from a recent multi-year agreement between Apple and indie darling A24 to make multiple features together, but you have to think that collaboration is a perfect source for this goal.  Watch out, folks. Fine apple wine is coming.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#104)

What We Learned This Week: May 12-18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a new member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#102)

What We Learned This Week: May 5-11

LESSON #1: EVEN POPULAR THINGS HAVE DIFFERING TASTES AND CRITICISMSAvengers: Endgame may be shredding box office records left and right (more on that in Lesson #2), but even something that universally-loved has its range of assessments.  Take legendary Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar and how he’d love to see sexier superhero films with less neutering.  Even with a great moment for women in the film, some writers’ scorecards wanted more.  Then there are those who speak on the state of the genre and franchise as a whole.  Michael Nordine of Indiewire thinks something that actually doesn’t really end is problematic.  The deepest (and most respected voice) take of all came from top Roger Ebert critic Matt Zoller Seitz who talks about the content label and sketchy present and future.  All are fascinating pieces. Even if I personally disagree with many of them, you won’t see me calling them haters or even contrarians or dissenters.  There’s just different strokes for different folks. See Lesson #3 later.

LESSON #2: DATA CAN SEPARATE FALSE AND TRUE ACCOMPLISHMENTS— I’m going to stretch your legs and brain for a bit on this one.  After its huge start and decent staying power, it’s a matter of “when” and not “if” for Avengers: Endgame to overtake Avatar for the all-time worldwide box office crown and possibly Star Wars: The Force Awakens for the domestic title.  These are nice “pat your yourself on the back” gold stars for Disney and their marketing department.  However, inflation is still very real and the modern numbers don’t tell the whole “biggest movie ever” story they want you to believe.  To echo Jason Segal’s great “Call me when LeBron has six championships/It’s the only argument I need, Shawn!” rant from Bad Teacher, call me when Avengers: Endgame can topple two particular inflation adjusted statistics ruled by Gone With the Wind, Titanic, and the films of eras past.  

Let me and the outstanding data of Box Office Mojo educate you and improve your short-sightedness.  First, here’s that inflation-adjusted domestic all-time box office list.  Currently, Avengers: Endgame is 36th.  How? Simply, the average movie ticket prices have changed and here’s that chart next.  They’ve doubled since the $4.50 times of 1997’s Titanic and exponentially since the 1930s.  If it’s not about the dollar signs to you, fine, then go look at the number of tickets sold, regardless of their era or price.  There’s a chart for that too and Avengers: Endgame is again 36th.  What’s even more amazing, as I put my social studies teacher hat on, is that there were 5.5 BILLION fewer people in the world to even see movies in 1939 and Gone With the Wind still put up numbers that triple-lap the movies of today.  That is true dominance and popularity. So, you can try you ranting argument about “different eras/competition/cultures,” but success is success.  Those historical measurements are undeniable and irrefutable. The success of Avengers: Endgame is truly wonderful.  Go, baby, go! Make that money.  But, it might as well be a participation ribbon for overpriced Girl Scout cookies.

LESSON #3: THERE ARE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN “SHADE” AND “HATE”— After a minor pot-stirring debate in the Feelin’ Film Facebook group on the genuineness (or lack thereof) of James Cameron’s congratulatory tweet towards the folks at Disney/Marvel for passing his Titanic on the all-time box office scoreboard, I feel that teacher hat coming on again.  This time, it’s about vocabulary. Just to be casual this time, I’ll let the Urban Dictionary do the defining of the lexicon on the table, so follow the links.  “Shade” is not “hate,” and “hate” is not “shade.”  “Salty,” by the way, is somewhere in the middle. There are nuances to both the sincerity of comments and the reactions that those words bring about.  Know the differences and seek context from people you’re arguing with.

LESSON #4: THERE’S A $700 MILLION BLOCKBUSTER ON NETFLIX THAT YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF— For my viewing recommendation that I end these posts lately, I’ll share buried treasure on Netflix.  Skipped by algorithms where you need to dig, China’s The Wandering Earth is a treasure chest is bigger than many movies you’ve heard of.  It’s a science fiction action film about global efforts to push our home planet out of the solar system away from a swelling sun and the pull of Jupiter’s gravity.  How, you ask? With rocket thrusters covering the whole globe. That’s sounds bonkers and aces. Eat your heart out, Michael Bay!


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 previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#101)

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: 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: June 4-10

LESSON #1: THE WONDER WOMAN EFFECT IS IN EFFECT— The groundswell of praise and celebration coming out of Wonder Woman is empowering, beautiful, and influential.  On the inspirational side, I absolutely love Heidi Stevens’ column in the Chicago Tribune about the wished future being laid for young girls thanks to Gal Gadot’s heroine.  Gorgeous piece and a must-read for new parents!  Best of all, word is new reshoots, three months worth overseen by Joss Whedon covering for Zack Snyder, are coming to Justice League before its November release.  Those begging DC/Warner Bros. to match Wonder Woman‘s virtuous tone might be getting their prayers answered.

LESSON #2: IS BILL MAHER OFF HIS ROCKER ABOUT SUPERHERO FILMS?— I get that superhero film fatigue is a real thing and that many claim the whole genre is exhausting and repetitively cookie-cutter.  However, is it a contributing cause to the state of America’s culture?  I love Bill Maher’s edge and I can understand the callouts for complacency within superhero films, but I think his “New Rule” rant dives too far.  These are films, and fantasy films at that.  I see people dressing in capes to have a good time.  I don’t see people dressing in capes to be lazy or callous to real-world problems.  Movies are escapes.  They can stay that way.

LESSON #3: THE AMBITION OF UNIVERSAL’S “DARK UNIVERSE” WILL EXCEED ITS GRASP— I love what Universal Pictures is proposing on paper with its new “Dark Universe.”  Their classic movie monster characters are timeless and fresh updates could do wonders.  The talent assembled, while a tad past their primes, is still powerhouse enough to put butts in seats.  Mark the date and my prediction that this franchise startup will not survive to full fruition.  Its opening volley arrival of The Mummy is receiving scathing reviews following impatient twists.  If it tanks at the box office, I wonder how strong Universal’s hubris is going to be to keep pushing this along.  If it was me, I wouldn’t have started with The Mummy because it’s been done.  Bring something new to the forefront and let The Mummy come in after.  Where’s Brendan Fraser when you need him?  Probably still spazzing and clapping drunk at the Golden Globes…


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  He is also one of the founders and the current directors of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  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 Facebook, Twitter, Medium, and Creators Media.

 

Episode 5: It Comes at Night

Raw, fully spoiled, instant reactions after leaving the theater. This film is not what trailers made it seem. Instead it is a deep, psychological family drama that had the potential to leave viewers seriously confused. Aaron and Don talk through their emotions and try to figure out exactly what this film means.

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What We Learned This Week: May 28-June 3

LESSON #1: WONDER WOMAN IS THE HEROINE AND FILM WE ALL DESERVE THIS SUMMER— It doesn’t matter how you feel about the DC Extended Universe or the stylings of Zack Snyder, you owe it to yourself to see Wonder Womathis weekend or soon.  Sure, it’s another origin story, but I guarantee this is one you haven’t seen before.  This isn’t the fourth time we’ve seen Bruce Wayne’s parents killed.  This is a hero that the movie writers got right and absolutely nailed.  Gal Gadot (and that smile of hers) is an absolute treasure.  She’s deserves the importance and pedestal people are assigning to her.  Wonder Woman matters to more than just women and feminism.  Anyone still ranting about any all-female favoritism needs to shut up.  Go see the movie.  It will earn your praise.

LESSON #2: JESSICA CHASTAIN IS A REAL HERO IN THE MAKING— Speaking of Wonder Womanwomen deserve improved treatment across the board and I’ll all for those for who stand up and call out the needs and problems.  Bravo to Jessica Chastain!  The A-list actress called the onscreen representation of women in this year’s lineup of Cannes Film Festival films “quite disturbing” during a press conference.  That is a woman of principles.  She’s right and more needs to be done.

LESSON #3: BLACK GIRL MAGIC EXISTS AND IS COMING SOON— Speaking of empowerment of women, the stars of awesomeness are aligning to turn the buddy movie template on its ear.  Recording artist Rihanna, Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, and Selma director Ava DuVernay are teaming up with Netflix for a new film that screens the title of this lesson.  It the words of former New York Jets linebacker Bart Scott, “can’t wait.”

LESSON #4: WAY TO GO, GEORGIA!— I am no southerner, but raise a glass of moonshine to the Peach State.  Recent film industry studies have tallied Georgia as the number one location in the whole world for film production.  The United Kingdom was #2.  Not New York.  Not California.  Be watching for their logo in film credits.  Chances are you’ve been seeing it more than you realize.

LESSON #5: DO YOU BUY MAINSTREAM VR AS A THING FOR MOVIES?— I don’t know about you, but I laugh when I see someone with their cell phone strapped to their face doing some kind of VR display or experience.  Talk about sitting too close to the screen like our mothers told us as kids.  I turn into Nelson from “The Simpsons” and secretly hope they walk into a wall or fall from small heights.  Apparently, VR might just be a new medium for film experiences.  Oscar winning Birdman and The Revenant director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu is bringing VR to the forefront and demonstrated the technology  and its film-viewing capabilities at the Cannes Film Festival in France this past month with his Carne Y Arena project.  So, what do you think of this?  Revolutionary tech or decadent fad?


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  He is also one of the founders and the current directors of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  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 Facebook, Twitter, Medium, and Creators Media.