What We Learned This Week: June 11-17

LESSON #1: WHEN IMPORTANT DIVERSITY IS IN PLAY, EXTRA HYPE IS WARRANTED— Not understanding the important opportunities for diversity is equivalent to being tone deaf.  Recently some people tried to bash the female empowerment frenzy over the very existence of Wonder Woman, no matter if the film itself was any good.  After its trailer debut, pockets of ostriches with heads in the sand are doing the same with the new trailer for Black Panther and the fervid immediate and early hype from the black audiences.  Let me put it like this when it comes to Wonder Woman and Black Panther: “If you don’t understand why these films are important on principle alone, then you are part of the problem.”  The marketplace doesn’t just need these films, they deserve them.  Their importance assigned by their demographics and fanbases grants them warranted extra hype.

LESSON #2: NEW SOURCES WILL INVADE AWARDS RACES THIS WINTERIndiewire had a nice story recently talking about the Oscar chances of Get Out and Emmy chances of Netflix offerings.  I, for one, am all for it, but early-year films like Jordan Peele’s hit are going to need help coming November and December thanks to good old “out of sight/out of mind” syndrome.  More critics and voters need to keep these films in the conscientiousness of viewers and watchers.

LESSON #3: WHEN STEVEN SPIELBERG CALLS, YOU SAY YES— Speaking of the Oscars, just about everything the legendary Steven Spielberg touches becomes some kind of Oscar nominee or winner.  For his upcoming and fast-tracked December film The Papers (and no, it’s not about supplies from your weed guy), he is multiplying that Midas Touch with having fellow Academy darlings Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep headlining.  If that wasn’t colossal enough, take a gander at the supporting ensemble cast assembled by Spielberg behind Hanks and Streep.  If that’s not an eclectic “Murderer’s Row” of character actors, I don’t know what is.  The Spielberg clout is real.  Get Out and Netflix be damned, but say an early hello to your new Oscar frontrunner.

LESSON #4: STEVEN SPIELBERG APPARENTLY NEEDS TO CALL MORE WOMEN— Well-liked actress and emerging filmmaker Elizabeth Banks attempted to put Steven Spielberg on blast for not ever having directed a film with a female lead.  Her rant, which lead to a public apology, was quickly dispelled when she learned of The Color Purple.  That’s the only film it takes from Spielberg to negate the “never” in Banks’ words, but I think the crux of her argument remains fair.  Even when you add Sugarland Express and the little girl from The BFG, Steven is  more than a shade low in his percentages of female leading roles.  It wouldn’t kill him to rethink that.  Watch him follow in the footsteps of Banks and direct a Pitch Perfect sequel to shut everyone up.

LESSON #5: ARTSY-FARTSY PEOPLE APPARENTLY HATE JARED LETO— Academy Award winner and Suicide Squad actor Jared Leto was recently named the Chief Creative Officer of the film streaming service Fandor, pissing off film snobs everywhere.  Fandor fashions itself as a database for indie films, documentaries, international features and shorts.  Apparently to the high-end cinephiles, Leto has sold out and is not qualified.  People forget before he was Joker, the man won an Oscar and worked with off the beaten path with the likes of Fincher, Aronofsky, Malick, Toback, Mangold, Schumacher, Stone, Niccol, and Villeneuve.  Beyond his work resume, Leto has championed his own broadcast and social platform business VyRt for five years.  Dude, he’s quite qualified.  He’s not going to ruin the place.  In fact, watch it multiple with a driven guy at the helm.

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.

Feelin’ It: Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie

Welcome to our spoiler-free review where we talk about the newest DreamWorks Animation film, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie. Mike Ward of Should I See It? Reviews is here for this one and we do our best to give you both our own adult impressions as well as that of our kids, who range in ages from around 10-14. If you’re on the fence about seeing this one or curious what it’s all about, this is the episode for you.


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Minisode 15: Get Out

In this minisode, horror writer and superfan Blake Collier joins the show to discuss Get Out, the new hit film from freshman director Jordan Peele. Get Out is a special film that has managed to subvert the genre in many ways and become not only a fantastic thrill ride but also an important social commentary on race in America today. We do our best in this conversation to remain sensitive to those who truly do experience the fear that Peele’s film lets us have a glimpse of. So come along as we unpack the narrative choices in Get Out and how they might just teach us all something about life that we weren’t expecting.

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Intro/Outro Music – “Air Hockey Saloon” by Chris Zabriskie

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About eight months ago, I was riding in a car with a friend.  Jason, we’ll call him.  Jason is not a close friend.  We see each other a couple of times a year, on Facebook occasionally, but we do not converse regularly.  Jason is Black.  After exchanging the normal pleasantries, I took the conversation to what felt like an appropriate direction.  I asked him if he’d seen Straight Outta Compton.

Yeah.  I did that.

Jason is a good guy.  Turns out he had indeed seen Straight Outta Compton, and we had a robust conversation about it.  But for the last eight months, the fact that I asked him that question has bothered me.  Why didn’t I ask him if he had seen Sing Street?  Or Neighbors 2?  Instead, I asked my Black friend if he’d seen the NWA biopic, and regaled him in conversation about Gangsta rap and its influences on modern music, neither of which hold any interest for me.  I just subconsciously assumed it probably did for him.  It felt like a natural question at the time.  Ever since, I’ve felt kinda stupid for being so shallow.

Then, along comes Jordan Peele’s debut film, Get Out.

Racism is the central theme which drives Get Out, but I’m not convinced its purpose is to educate White people as much as it is Peele giving a wink and a nod to Black people, not in a tongue-in-cheek way, but in an “I get it” way. In a “this is for you” sort of way.  There are so many layers and metaphors in Get Out, we could have hours of conversation and never cover all of them.  I’m not sure we’re supposed to.  It would be insulting to Black people to even feign comprehension regarding their plight in America today.  Many of the narrative nuance in Get Out likely won’t even register with White people, because it simply can’t.  “I understand where you’re coming from”, proclaim many well intentioned White folk.  No.  No, you don’t.

Now, I’m not talking about Neo-Nazi, hang ’em from the trees, Jim Crow style racism here.  Not at all.  Get Out isn’t that forthcoming and isn’t going to make it that simple for you.  I’m talking about the White, “liberal racism” that permeates society; a construct by mostly young, well intentioned, social justice warriors that jump up on soap boxes to renounce racism, and to profess that they will champion our Black friends against the evil racist scourge.  Then they drop their bullhorns (or log off Twitter), jump into their Prius’ and drive back home to their suburban abodes where most Black folks don’t bother going,  because they live with an inherent fear that doing so will just result in having the police called on them, or worse.  Because being White still comes with its priveledges.  And Get Out, if nothing else, wants you to at least understand that much.

Most White people won’t see beyond the standard genre tropes, label Get Out a cool thriller, and never grasp the impact the film may be having on the Black people sitting right next to them.  On screen, they’ll see an innocent Black man get asked for his identification by a police officer for no discernible reason. It’s familiar, and it angers us because we know its supposed to.  And they will laugh at the ignorant old White people in the film that make statements like, “I know Tiger Woods” and “I would have voted for Obama a third time if I could have.”  That’s where I got it.  That’s when I understood what Peele was doing here.  There is no difference in those dumb statements than in me asking Jason if he’d seen Straight Outta Compton.  That’s when I finally understood that no matter how much outrage I felt over the horrors of racism plastered all over my television screen, I could never truly understand the impact, because it was not my reality.

As a filmmaker, Peele is sure-handed and confident in his vision.  Many of the requisite genre tropes are subverted in favor of scenes of social awkwardness.  A few jump scares are sprinkled in, but the true “horror” lies mostly within the subtext and has no inclination to coerce reactionary gasps and screams from the audience.  That doesn’t imply there aren’t plenty of payoffs to enjoy, especially in the climactic moments.  Just don’t go in looking for a white knuckle experience.

Daniel Kaluuya plays Chris, the protagonist, with a cautious skepticism that gets progressively more intense as he realizes things at his girlfriend’s parent’s home are not as inviting as they might have seemed.  His eyes widen fearfully with each passing frame.  Allison Williams is Rose, the girlfriend that insists their trip to introduce Chris to her parents will be a good time, because they “aren’t racist.”  I won’t give away any of the twists and turns that drive the narrative once Chris and Rose arrive at the family home…in the middle of nowhere…where there are no issues with privacy.  Read into that what you will.

I feel like Get Out may be a catalyst for a new generation of self awareness.  No film in recent memory stands out as more of a barometer for the current racial divide that continues to fester in this country.  And Peele gets away with it by disguising it as a horror film.  It’s an interpretive, cinematic dance, subtly unveiling the Black experience in our society, peeling back deeper revelations as it progresses, and leaves us with plenty to chew on.  White people are being schooled, never having known they’ve even stepped inside a classroom.


phpxnctheamSTEVE CLIFTON has been writing moderately well on the Internet at this blog, Popcorn Confessional, for the better part of the last decade.  His love for movies can be traced back to the North Park Cinema in Buffalo, NY circa 1972, when his aunt took him to see Dumbo.  Now living in Maine, Steve routinely consumes as much film, television, and books as time will allow.  He also finds time to complain about winter and Buffalo sports teams.  He is a big fan of bad horror films and guacamole, and mildly amused by pandas.