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)

Episode 150: Alita: Battle Angel

This week we discuss the live-action/CGI film adaptation of a classic cyberpunk manga. The film, written and produced by James Cameron and directed by Robert Rodriguez, carries a giant budget of $170 million and is another hugely ambitious visual blockbuster from Cameron. We’re on record as generally being very big fans of his work thus far, and like every episode in our James Cameron Director Month of January 2019, we love digging into the themes he writes.

Alita: Battle Angel Review – 0:03:05

The Connecting Point – 1:04:23

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Episode 146: Avatar

We close out our James Cameron Director Month series with a conversation about a film that comes in just under 3 hours. It had a $250 million dollar budget and is still the current world box office record holder. This film has definitely made its mark on the cinematic world, enough to spawn eventual sequels, and its own bit of social controversy. We discuss!

Avatar Review – 0:02:26

The Connecting Point – 0:58:50

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Episode 145: Titanic

So, it’s week 3 of our James Cameron Director Month series, and with it comes a film of unsinkable size. Coming in at 3 hours and 15 minutes, and with a $200 million dollar budget, Titanic  set out to tell the story of one of the biggest tragic events in history. We welcome Seattle-based blogger, writer, and film critic, Erynne Hundley to the show for this discussion where we find out if this epic historical romance really does make our hearts go on, or if our opinion of the film sunk over the years.

Titanic Review – 0:01:50

The Connecting Point – 1:17:31

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Episode 144: True Lies

We roll on through James Cameron’s filmography, this week discussing his only movie in the spy genre. But like all of his films, Cameron goes big with this one, creating a balanced action comedy that has stood the test of time.

True Lies Review – 0:02:21

The Connecting Point – 0:53:44

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Episode 143: The Abyss

For the second week in a row we go underwater, this time to kick-off our Director Month series on the films of James Cameron. Much has been said about the production problems this film faced and we get into those, but also have a deep discussion about the incredible character development that drives this sci-fi thriller along. Don’t worry, we also have thoughts on the film’s controversial ending, too.

The Abyss Review – 0:04:53

The Connecting Point – 1:24:51

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What We Learned This Week: May 27-June 2

LESSON #1: MATCHES MADE IN HEAVEN— After rumors had been swirling for months, Slumdog Millionaire Academy Award winner Danny Boyle has been confirmed to direct the 25th James Bond film.  Daniel Craig will star and production will begin before the end of this year.  Word is Boyle’s go-to Trainspotting writer John Hodge pitched a screenplay idea the producers enjoyed, which will bump Neal Purvis and Robert Wade from their six-film and 16-year run as the long-time franchise screenwriters.  Not that Bond was getting stale, but the Boyle/Hodge tonic of energy and wit couldn’t be a better fit for elevating the franchise and Craig’s performances.  Another ideal match this week came with the announced casting of Jamie Foxx to step into the chains and cape of Al Simmons in a new film attempt from at Todd McFarlane’s comic staple Spawn.  The Ray Oscar winner has the right intensity, chops, and stature to elevate this film from the joke it was over 20 years ago with its first film.  Universal Pictures-backed Blumhouse Productions (Get Out, Whiplash, Insidious, The Purge) is perfect nest as well.  The one drawback is McFarlane insisting on directing.  He should really defer to experienced hand.

LESSON #2: MATCHES NOT QUITE MADE IN HEAVEN— Eyebrows were raised and heads were scratched this week when director Zack Snyder answered a social media question of what’s next for him with the answer of adapting Ayn Rand’s 1947 tome The Fountainhead. While nothing has been confirmed, for most armchair film producers and studio executives online (i.e. public fans), the Snyder M.O. of style doesn’t exactly match the visions and fiction of Rand.  I don’t care what their name is, from Martin Scorsese or Todd Haynes filming children’s novels or Patty Jenkins making a comic book film, directors can’t branch out, evolve, grow their talent, or spread their wings without the opportunities to do so.  I’ll be the kind of guy that says “give the guy a chance.”

LESSON #3: JAMES CAMERON IS A HYPOCRITE, BUT A REVOLUTIONARY HYPOCRITE— Another week passing on the calendar in 2018 equals another provocative entry of James Cameron industry commentary.  Speaking at an event in Australia, Cameron railed against the “disservice” that is the studio cash grab of converting films to 3D in post-production instead shooting them in full 3D intentionally like his own Avatar film.  Mind you, this is the same man who post-converted his own Titanic to make more money and pad his stats.  Cameron may be a phony talker, but he’s still a true radical pioneer looking for the next big thing.  He followed his admonishing words with his Avatar sequel goals of creating and capitalizing on glasses-free 3D.  If he pulls that off, he can bluff all he wants because he’ll talk the talk and walk the walk with that magical dazzlement.

LESSON #4: LEAVE SOME THINGS AS TIME CAPSULES AND TRIBUTES TO DIFFERENT ERAS— Ten years of pre-production musical chairs to remake James O’Barr’s graphic novel The Crow lost another song and set of players.  Financial woes have led Sony Pictures to call off the latest remake attempt planned by young director Corin Hardy (The Hallow) and motivated chosen star Jason Momoa.  Sure, today’s cinematic capabilities could make a heck of a film and Momoa is stellar dark hero type, but there’s something about the mystique of all things The Crow that belongs in the past.  The original 1989 mini-series and the ill-fated 1994 film feel like thematic testimonies for then not now.  Even with a Logan-like R-rating, The Crow wouldn’t play popularly or to the same effect today.  I say leave it as a monument to the era and the late Brandon Lee.  Along the same lines, please someone stop Kevin Smith and stick a fork in Jay and Silent Bob Reboot shooting this summer.  Now that’s something that belongs in the past.  That schtick was funny when they were in their twenties and has diminished ever since.  Watching Smith and Jason Mewes now in their forties likely dropping the same dated man-child snark is not going to go well.  Can you imagine if these two ended up as the next Lemmon and Matthau busting each other’s balls 40 years from now in their eighties?  Please no.  Leave Jay and Silent Bob buried.

LESSON #5: SOME TIME CAPSULES DESERVE TO BE OPENED— Going back a decade even earlier than the 1990s, I know I was one of many stoked by Tom Cruise’s tweet on Thursday declaring #Day1 to the long-desired and much-anticipated Top Gun: Maverick sequel, slated for a July 12, 2019 release.  As the years of Mission: Impossible films have shown (including Mission: Impossible – Fallout later this July), Tom Cruise remains an nearly-ageless action hero.  I also trust the top-shelf brand of action capable from director Joseph Kosinski (Tron: LegacyOblivionOnly the Brave).  Nostalgia rules and they can pull this off.  This will be worth the 33 years of unearthed dirt (or at least I hope so).


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 FacebookTwitter, and Medium.

 

Minisode 042: Terminator 2

It’s Judgment Day at Feelin’ Film. Our Patrons voted for us to cover Terminator 2 for May, because nothing celebrates Mother’s Day like talking about Sarah Connor. We honor the genius of this classic and dive into some of the bigger themes it presents like fatherhood and sacrifice. Come with us, if you want to live.


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Music: Going Higher – Bensound.com

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Episode 109: Score: A Film Music Documentary

Joining us for Episode 109 is a special first time guest – soundtrack superfan, and film music reporter and media reporter, Benson Farris. We discuss first-time director Matt Schrader’s Score: A Film Music Documentary, which was shot over a 2 1/2-year period after raising more than $160,000 through two crowd-funding campaigns. Matt has said, “I’ve always been a big fan of movie music, and as I realized a lot of people love film scores, I knew there would be an audience for this film,” and you can consider us and this episode proof that he’s correct. If you love film music already, this is an episode for you. And if you don’t, listen to this one and you might just change your mind.

Score: A Film Music Documentary Review – 0:02:17

The Connecting Point – 0:40:37


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Music: Going Higher – Bensound.com

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What We Learned This Week: April 29-May 5

LESSON #1: YOU NEED TO START FOLLOWING OUR GUY JACOB NEFF— This week, Feelin’ Film debuted its newest contributor Jacob Neff and his weekly “You Should Be Watching” column. Pulling from Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Filmstruck, Jacob presents a curated list of winners that I highly recommend.  The calendar portion of his column alone creates the perfect priority list.  Let his discerning taste, curious spirit, and stellar research help you get the most from your free entertainment time.  Follow him on Letterboxd as well!

LESSON #2: MARTIN SCORSESE IS WISE— Legendary director Martin Scorsese recently made some comments about the state of film criticism being marginalized by the aggregation and shallow examinations from sites like Rotten Tomatoes becoming the norm.  He called it the “devaluation of cinema,” and he’s not wrong.  This isn’t old-and-out-of-touch-man syndrome.  This is a true expert and historian for the medium.  I shared this story link in the FF Facebook discussion group and set off an excellent discussion any and all interested should check out.

LESSON #3: TRAILERS ARE FULL OF SUGAR-HONEY-ICED-TEA— Shocker!  A two-minute sizzle reel designed to market a film and sell tickets edited by different people than the original filmmakers turns out often to be a manufactured and even inaccurate portrait of the finished product.  You don’t say?!  The Ringer recently put out a dynamite PSA editorial on this topic of lying trailers. Welcome to another of many reasons why I, for one, do not much stock into trailers anymore.  I don’t feel sorry anymore for folks that build unrealistic expectations off of these marketing ploys.  The so-called think pieces called “trailer breakdowns” might just be even worse because they double or even triple the wasted energy to dissect something that is misdirection.  As always, I preach patience.  Let the movie stand for itself and come to you.  In the meantime, I hope the folks at Disney/Marvel take the advice of this Forbes article and don’t give us a shred or second of marketing between now and the untitled Avengers 4.

LESSON #4: JAMES CAMERON NOW CAN’T HELP HIMSELF— Last week, it was pining for superhero movie fatigue to help his own Avatar films down the road.  Now that the spotlight came over, more tape recorders and cameras are running in front of James Cameron.  This week, he’s dropping the hot take that 2001: A Space Odyssey lacks “emotional balls.”  Well, on some level (like Scorsese), he’s not wrong to a degree.  It’s all in a matter of how you say it and present it.  Louis Plamondon, a burgeoning film editor friend of mine, said it best:

“A tell-tale sign that artists have reached the end of their product life cycle in terms of pop culture relevance is whenever they desperately feel the need to drop attention-seeking controversies whose timing is meant to coincide with something they have to sell.” 

Cameron is clinging to relevance with a new AMC series to sell, biding time on Avatar sequels, and it shows.

LESSON #5: THE CANNES FILM FESTIVAL HAS BECOME A HOTBED FOR MORE THAN JUST PRESTIGIOUS FILM AND FANCY FASHION— The hoitiest and toitiest of the cinema world descend on the French Riviera beginning on May 8 for the Festival de Cannes.  The slate of high-profile films being screened both in-competition and out-of-competition is impressive (including Solo: A Star Wars Story).  What’s making more headlines than the lineup is what is NOT being allowed to join the competition.  Festival leaders have stated they will not accept Netflix films at the fest, which feels hypocritical when other TV platforms like HBO (Fahrenheit 451) have films there.  In a roller coaster of posturing and power plays, Netflix ended up going from threatening to withhold to flat-out skipping the Cannes Film Festival for consideration.  It’s good to see snobbery is still in full swing.  At least Netflix is self-aware, stating that they want to get in less fights this week with festivals, Oscar voters, and theater companies.  Someone or something needs to broker a compromise.

LESSON #6: WE WILL SEE IF “FIRST TO THE MARKET IS ALWAYS IMPORTANT” REALLY MATTERS— Mixing with the world of television and eager to beat Disney to the punch, Warner Bros. and DC Comics publicly finalized their plans to launch their own exclusive streaming service, named DC Universe, later this year, winning the #f1rst troll award.  Offerings will include exclusive new TitansSwamp Thing, and Harley Quinn series.  DC, in my opinion, has been superior to Marvel in the animated department (both film and television), but I will be curious to see how much film content makes the channel, since that’s where the big bucks are.  This is either going to be a benefit of being first or the set-up to being one-upped by the next guy who can now scout and ahead see what they have to beat.

LESSON #7: THE ACADEMY IS CONTINUING ITS PERSONAL IMPROVEMENT TO TAKE THINGS SERIOUSLY— First it was #OscarsSoWhite and now it’s been the #MeToo movement.  The old standards and blind eyes over at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences needed every bit of the criticism and urgency to modernize and change that it’s received the last few years.  The news this week that the Academy has expelled Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski from their membership is an encouraging sign that intolerance is becoming an expectation and new standard.  Coupled with saddness and disappointment at the errors of these men (and Polanski’s call for due process), this effort to re-vet the books is still overdue cleanup and I hope it lasts longer than spring and two men.


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 FacebookTwitter, and Medium.