What We Learned This Week: January 1-18

LESSON #1: THE OSCARS CAN SURVIVE WITH NO HOST— I couldn’t be more content with the fact that ABC and MPAAS cannot pin down a proper host for the 91st Academy Awards.  Maybe this will mean fewer dumb monologues and bits.  Maybe the whole dang thing will get done in under three hours.  I can’t wait to see how this goes as a test case for no host and tighter schedule of things. Besides, how many Alfonso Cuaron acceptance speeches are we really going to hear (present answer: 3).  Be ready for those Oscar nominations on Tuesday after the MLK holiday.

LESSON #2: JAMES WAN IS KILLING IT— Thanks the swimmingly sweet returns of Aquaman, director James Wan has become the second filmmaker after James Cameron to lead a pair of films to surpass $1 billion in global earnings.  Cameron, of course, had Avatar and Titanic (two films north of $2 billion, mind you) and Aquaman adds with Wan’s Furious 7.  There’s a good chance that young man (42 is a baby in this business) gets to sign his own blank checks moving forward.  Studios would be lucky to acquire his services.  He is currently without a new directorial effort on the horizon.  

LESSON #3: AMERICANS DON’T TRANSLATE FRENCH VERY WELL— More than the year-long-plus delay caused by the fallout of The Weinstein Company, The Upside had been doomed for a while.  Dumping it in January was but one more sign.  The domestic filmmakers took what was a huge international hit of big time empathy (The Intouchables) and scrambled it with American gags and personalities.  Sure enough, it butchers the original and has tanked audiences and critics.  The Ringer recently did solid article looking back at Hollywood’s shoddy track record with French comedies.  Improvement is needed where filmmakers need to do better or audience just need to find and enjoy the original things, subtitles and all.

LESSON #4: EDDIE MURPHY NEEDS A COMEBACK— At 57, Eddie Murphy is too good and still too young of a celebrated entertainer to be forgotten and relegated to the sidelines.  I have long said he needs to put away the family films and go back to his hard-R roots.  The announced long-distance sequel for Coming to America could be the springboard for a resurgence.  Hustle and Flow director Craig Brewer is an ideal fit to squeeze a little more pulp from the low-hanging fruit.  While we’re here, go ahead and get Arsenio Hall back to work next to him.  With the pair, it’s only half of a good idea.  

LESSON #5: TREAT YOURSELF TO A GOOD SOUNDTRACK— Finally, we’re in Oscar season, so I advise you to soak in the good stuff available this time of year and not the defrosted junk that are called “January wide releases.”  Both The Film Stage and First Showing featured articles listing the best scores and soundtracks from 2018 films.  Of the year’s releases, I highly recommend If Beale Street Could Talk, Hearts Beat Loud, Mandy, Eighth Grade, Aquaman, A Star is Born, and Creed II.  The Film Stage article even imbeds some full Spotify playlists for easy sampling.  Make a few clicks and put the earbuds in at work or on the move.  Enjoy the Mozart effect!


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: New Year’s Resolutions for the Film Industry for 2019

Image by Muharrem Aner for Getty via The Daily Beast

Plenty of regular everyday people make New Year’s Resolutions, but I think bigger entities, namely movie makers and movie moguls, need to make them too.  Annually, including this eighth edition, have fun taking the movie industry to task for things they need to change, even if I get to do it every week in a different ranting way on “What We Learned This Week.” My cadence hasn’t changed.  I have no false internet courage to be a Twitter troll. As always, some resolutions come true while others get mentioned and reiterated every year. A great deal of last year’s list is still relevant.  Enjoy this year’s hopes and dreams.

#1: Don’t stop supporting minority voices.

2018 has been a banner year for indie film featuring themes, stars, and filmmakers of gender and racial diversity.  This list is impressive: Searching, If Beale Street Could Talk, Blindspotting, The Hate U Give, Sorry to Bother You, Roma, The Rider, Revenge, Crazy Rich Asians, Madeline’s Madeline, BlacKkKlansman, Burning, Roxanne Roxanne, Nappily Ever After, We the Animals, Private Life, Widows, You Were Never Really Here, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Border, Support the Girls, Minding the Gap, Shoplifters, Destroyer, RBG, Hearts Beat Loud, Boy Erased, The Favourite, Bohemian Rhapsody, Collette, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Love Simon, Disobedience, Blockers, and many many more.  Upvote your favorite films directed by women in 2018 on this Ranker.  Hollywood, keep these doors opening.  Don’t just do this for tokenism. The audiences will come.

#2: Disney, take your time with Fox properties you bought from Marvel.

A recent Kevin Feige interview became click bait when he said that Fox’s Marvel properties, mostly the Fantastic Four and X-Men universes, could be in their control within six months.  Everyone (well, expect me) got out their abacuses and calendars to calculate how fast those new incarnations would arrive. My advice and resolution preached patience. Don’t just make these films because you can.  Take your time and get them right. Fantastic Four has had two failed attempts. X-Men has had its soft reboot too and is already slipping. I have no doubt those characters are in the right place, but Marvel needs to hold off.

#3: Speaking of Disney, slow down with your own releases.

Have you seen the Disney release calendar for 2019?  It’s insane. Their dominance, as if we already didn’t know, is unquestioned and it shows.  I think it’s too much. When big releases are on top of each other like this, they feel more run-of-the-mill instead of special.  I remember a time when there was only animated Disney film a year. It was huge, important, and it mattered. It’s hard to multiply care when there are a half-dozen or more between Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and their own house brand choices.  Space them out. Build them up. Make them matter because they don’t come around all that often.

#4: Don’t show us another second of Avengers: Endgame

Those of you who follow my weekly column and the “soapbox specials” know that I’ve sworn off of trailers and have been encouraging people like a cinematic cult leader to do the same. I’ve simply seen too many and oversell their products and create unreasonable expectations which create the butthurt fans we have come to hate. Avengers: Endgame would be the perfect trailblazer. That movie doesn’t need a second of marketing to get our money. How awesome would it be if they stopped cold right now after the first trailer? Our frenzy of anticipation off of the small sample would create more buzz than any new footage. At the same time, the studio could pad their bottom with the reduced need to throw money into marketing, as well as merchandise too. Don’t even release an action figure until after the screaming and parent-tugging kids see the movie in April. Don’t hope for a frenzy. Create one.

#5: Vet your hosts and spokespeople

In the Twitter meltdown wake of James Gunn, Louis CK, Kevin Hart and more this past year, studio heads and showrunners need to do a better job background checking their hires. It shouldn’t matter as much as it turns out, but we’re seeing it does. Big outfits and corporations have too many PR employees and interns at their disposal to miss the large problems they have this year. When those flags come up, talk it out and have a plan before making final decisions and public comments.

#6: If you’re a celebrity, it’s time to get off Twitter

I think we’ve reached a point where we have to ask what the gain is from Twitter. Sure, it’s fun to see trends and maybe catch breaking news, but that’s for us anonymous people of the general public. If you’re a big star, do you really need the scrutiny just for a small PR and promotional bump that comes from social media accessibility? I don’t see the value if you’re an established celebrity or brand.

#7: Repackage the Oscars a better way

Speaking if Kevin Hart, the embarrassing panhandling for a new host and poor attempts to shoehorn new and silly categories creates the need for this resolution.  I say don’t do even have a host at this point. Reduce the bits and focus on the awards. Here’s some perfect and generous math even with a host. Give the 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.  Easy peasy! You’re well under three hours, the awards are given rich room to operate, and nothing is forgotten except another hare-brained skit. As far as categories go, Best Casting and Best Stunt Work deserve inclusion. If you want to trade those for some technical awards being moved to the separate Science awards night, so be it, but don’t even try to devalue the whole show with a dumb and patronizing Popular Film award. Leave those awards for MTV.

#8: Respect Netflix

Speaking of the Oscars, much is being talked about on a perceived bias and beef the Academy has with Netflix films. They need to put it aside with tolerance for a new and viable distribution outlet that isn’t going away, especially if they keep landing high pedigree films like Roma and The Irishman. Movie moguls need to arrive at the learning curve television and their Emmy Awards have already put behind them where cable and streaming shows have equal footing and respect as network shows. Welcome the new guy better than you are.

#9: Netflix, please choose quality over quantity

Speaking of Netflix, you might need the same resolution as the one Disney got earlier. We get it. You have money and are spending it. You can freely drop films and splash any and every pot with them. The trouble is you have more bombs than winners. For every Roma and Bird Box, you have a dozen that never get attention because there are too many choices. I know, right? Who would have ever thought too many choices was a bad thing. Netflix, I see your strengths. You are revitalizing the midrange budget film market studios haven’t been making since the 1990s. You give indie films wider and better chances for visibility than they would at the shrinking number of arthouse screens. You have long championed documentaries. Do all that with a discerning eye and refined taste.

#10: Keep repackaging Adam Sandler

Speaking of quality over quantity, if you don’t count his voice work in Hotel Transylvania 3, 2018 was the first year in a long time without a theatrical release from Adam Sandler.  That alone made 2018 a glorious year answering one of this column’s longest repeating annual resolutions to stop that man’s redundantly bad career.  I say that while still being happy Adam Sandler’s recent unbound and R-rated Netflix comedy special has done so well. Give us that grown-up Adam Sandler.  Bury the man child. Since Netflix is writing him checks, it’s up to them to remake Adam Sandler. Someday, we’ll be glad he’s back in the spotlight as a new man.  The fear will always be him slipping back to the boorish slacker type that made him rich.

#11: Price point will always be the greatest trigger and hurdle simultaneously

This goes for all of the current streaming services out there and all of the ones still coming, especially Disney+.  Each streaming service’s standalone price makes it highly affordable compared to the price of theater tickets for the whole family year-round or a bloated cable TV subscription.  The devices like AppleTV, Roku, Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire, and more are all wonderfully affordable too. The hard part is if/when you feel like you need to have 4-5 streaming services in addition to the steadily increasing costs of high speed internet to make it all work.  Then that number balloons. At some point, the overabundance of services and higher prices will break a common person’s budget. The services have to make sure they don’t reach that point.


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: September 2-22

LESSON #1: IF YOU CAN’T BEAT THEM, BUY THEM— We read a great deal about how Netflix, for example, will dabble with theatrical debuts of their original movies and how it’s a bit of a struggle to get screens and self-distribute to the theatrical level.  Amazon, who is no slouch in the original film department, might be finding their own power move around that. They’re angling for suitors to buy the Landmark Theatres chain. When you own the theater, you set the terms and get the screens.  I think that’s ballsy and kind of genius, if you have the money, which Amazon sure does. Disney is making their own exclusive streaming service. Could you see them building their own exclusive theaters and keeping those dollars for themselves and not splitting with the AMCs and Regals of the world?  I sure could. Let’s see how it works for Amazon if it comes to pass. This could be the start of a tectonic shift in distribution and rest of the film biz.

LESSON #2: MORE OFTEN THAN NOT, IT’S THE FILMS THAT ARE BROKEN, NOT THE CRITICISM— Leave it to warm-hearted and successful This Is Us showrunner Dan Fogelman to show what boiling over looks like when it comes to starting another Artists vs. Critics vs. Audiences throwdown.  His film foray Life Itself is getting panned to the tune of 14% and still moving on Rotten Tomatoes) and his quoted reaction begins “something is inherently a little bit broken in our film criticism right now.”  If all he said was that, he’d be making a fair statement for discussion since the landscape has flaws, ones it is doing a decent job of working through for inclusion and representation in my opinion.  However, Dan aimed a little more sharply with “There’s a disconnect between something that is happening between our primarily white male critics who don’t like anything that has any emotion.”  Ain’t that a broad brush from a broad brush of the same color!  Watch him become the next Colin Trevorrow with that kind of flippant opinion.   If he looked deeper he would see that plenty of other critics that aren’t male or white don’t like his movie either.  If he looked deeper than the headliners, he would also find many white male critics who absolutely love emotion in movies.  Am I right, Aaron, Patrick, Jacob, Steve, and Jeremy?

LESSON #3: THE PREDATOR WAS AND IS A MESS— As fun as it was at times, I’m one of many critics who shook his head at the silliness brought forth by Shane Black’s The Predator, one of the most uneven films I’ve seen in a long time.  I couldn’t believe the mess (and then add the sex offender hiring snafu as well).  When I read the story of its reshoots (spoilers inside), all was explained to me and it sounds ridiculous.  The movie was dead on arrival. No wonder why it wasn’t good enough for a summer opening or scary enough for a Halloween weekend.

LESSON #4: NO MATTER WHAT, HENRY CAVILL’S DAYS AS SUPERMAN ARE NUMBERED— A great deal of fuss and backlash was made to the published rumors of Warner Bros. cutting ties with Henry Cavill in their DCEU.  The outrage and disbelief was off the charts, but when it’s being reported in The Hollywood Reporter, that’s not click bait anymore.  That is sourced news for this industry.  Beans may have been spilled early for all we know, leading to all of the walkback apologies since.  Still, I don’t see a good ending to this. For how maligned the DCEU films are and how strained fan interest/disinterest has become where the studio is quietly blowing up and disassembling its current course, too many signs are pointing to a necessary change.  My money is on Cavill being replaced by someone or something else within five years. There’s too much smoke here, rumors be damned.  Besides, there are greener pastures.

LESSON #5: AN AMERICAN IS GOING TO FROLIC IN A SACRED BRITISH GARDEN AGAIN— Word just broke this week that American director Cary Fukunaga (True Detective, Beasts of No Nation) is now the new director of the 25th James Bond film after Trainspotting series director Danny Boyle exited the franchise last month.  Fukunaga, a Netflix admirer, has swam in this foreign pond before directing Jane Eyre in 2010.  I think he continues the more serious tone Sam Mendes has brought to the MI-6 spy.  The next shoe to drop will be Daniel Craig staying or going especially if some Man of Steel is all of a sudden available and rumored to take his place.

LESSON #6: KEVIN FEIGE IS THE RIGHT MAN FOR HIS NEXT JOB— With Fox deal now done, the Marvel dream fulfillment of mergers and combinations begins.  The largest acquisition is the X-Men franchise and Disney CEO Bob Iger confirmed that head Marvel Films producer Kevin Feige will oversee all future X-Men films.  That’s great news and the perfect landing place.  Some X-Men films have been very good and even great, but they have always had room for more fulfilled potential.  If Kevin Feige can sprinkle the dust he’s given to the likes of Iron Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, and more, the X-Men go back to the A-list.

LESSON #7: BOB IGER FINALLY FOUND THE BRAKE PEDAL ON THE BLOCKBUSTER ROLLER COASTER— Speaking of Mr. Iger, news broke Thursday that “some slowdown” is happening at Disney when it comes to saturating the market with the cash cow Star Wars films.  That’s fantastic news because there is such as thing as overdoing it (Marvel’s three-films-a-year is already quite a test).  Like many have said, there is more mystique and anticipation when there is more special rarity to their infrequency.  Force the patience and people will still come. 

LESSON #8: THE ACADEMY FINALLY LISTENED IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION— Finally, all is back to being right in the world with the news that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is postponing their plans to have a “Popular Film” category on the grounds of being too late in the year to start a new initiative and how more study is necessary to understand its purpose or implication.  Forbes columnist Scott Mendelson adds more logs to that fire of reasoning.  Bring out the Madea “hallejuler” Tyler Perry memes.  I can put my previous soapbox column away, but I sure won’t delete it.  “Postpone” only means temporary. They’re bound to pull this nonsense again.  


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: March 25-31

SPRING BREAK AND EASTER EDITION!

LESSON #1: DEAR CHRISTIAN FILM COMPANIES AND DISTRIBUTORS, SPREAD YOUR RELEASE SCHEDULE OUT— Don’t get me wrong.  I get it.  Easter might as well be Christmas: Part II, the Super Bowl, and WrestleMania when it comes to public awareness on all things Christianity.  Just because all eyes are on the “reason for the season” (if they can put down the eggs, bunnies, and candy) doesn’t mean that Easter should be the most stacked weekend of the calendar year for Christian-themed films.  The presence of I Can Only ImaginePaul Apostle of Christ, and God is Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness makes for three films competing for your Easter weekend dollars against the inviting mainstream fare like Ready Player One.  Spielberg’s film is going to get its money, but your films have a hard enough time making money (as well as other problems) as it is to have to now compete with each other.  Share the wealth, space your calendar out, and that means more than the two-week head start I Can Only Imagine gave itself to great success.  The calendar is full of holidays.  Pick another couple go-to weekends and fallbacks other than Easter.

LESSON #2: STEVEN SPIELBERG STILL HAS THE MAGIC— As heard on this week’s main Feelin’ Film podcast and read in my own review on Every Movie Has a Lesson (among many others) as well, Ready Player One feels like a tremendous return to form for the 71-year-old director who has spent the better part of the last decade making safe and tidy historical Social Studies lectures on film.  Cinema has sorely lacked the full power of his signature sense of wonder after mere glimpses in films like War HorseLincoln, and others.  Cue the WWE chant!

LESSON #3: STEVEN SPIELBERG NEVER LOST THE MAGIC— No matter the moral history preaching that went on, Steven Spielberg never lost his technical prowess within the medium.  If anything his more reserved and refined projects sharpened it and modernized it to be ready for something like Ready Player One.  The craftsman-level maturity he and his frequent collaborators (editor Michael Kahn, cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, ILM guru Dennis Muren, and others) bring to a project like Ready Player One elevate the material and prevent what would be over-amplified noise and lazy fluff in lesser hands (yeah, I mean you Michael Bay and Tim Burton).  Rediscovered mojo or not, he never lost the talent.

LESSON #4: STEVEN SPIELBERG STILL LOST OTHER THINGS— Where Steven Spielberg might be slipping is with his rhetoric.  While doing press this week for his blockbuster’s big release, he commented that Netflix films shouldn’t qualify for Oscars, equating the streaming platform to a television outlet, making the filmmaker appear to be a little out of touch with the evolved marketplace film viewers operate within nowadays.  If you go to the official rulebook from the Academy, here’s the basics of what it takes for Best Picture eligibility:

I’ll grant the kicker of the Part D listed above as deal-breaker in my book to match Spielberg’s opinion.  Here’s the thing, Netflix has previously and does currently release some of its films in theaters for limited runs.  The trouble is, for the most part, their theatrical drops are a blip on the radar and the bare minimum similar to the “one-and-done” trend happening in NCAA Men’s Basketball with holding players in college for a year before making the leap straight to the NBA.  Neither practice really does much good and just delays the inevitable profitability (NBA money or Netflix reach) but, if the rule is followed eligibility is met, plain and simple.  This year’s prestigious Cannes Film Festival is already displaying an anti-Netflix power move by banning Netflix Original films from competing without a theatrical release.  I’ve said this before on other topics.  It’s all about price point, earning potential, and this being a business first now.  If a studio can make more money selling to Netflix (just ask Paramount with Annihilation) than it would the cost of printing it, marketing it, and putting it in limited theaters, I sure couldn’t tell them not to.

LESSON #5: “META” CAN’T GET WEIRDER THAN SHIA LEBOUF— In WTF news that could only come out of Hollywood, word hit the wire that Shia LeBeouf, at the young age of 31, has written (under a pseudonym) his own film autobiography and the casting has raised an eyebrow.  Signing Manchester by the Sea Oscar nominee Lucas Hedges to play the young Shia is a nice get, but what gets really weird is that LeBeouf himself will play his own father.  Yowzers!  Even if Shia is a dead ringer for his own father, I don’t know how big the grain of salt has to be to suspend the disbelief that the Shia you’re watching acting next to the other dude playing Shia isn’t the real Shia you see and recognize but his dad instead?!  That’s not going to be a good look for the continually growing deep end you’ve been leaping from, Mr. LeBeouf.  Dude, either play yourself (because you can) for the vanity or get another actor to separate the work behind-the-camera from the one on-camera.

LESSON #6: MORE OFTEN THAN NOT, NUDITY IS AN UNNECESSARY DISTRACTION IN MOVIES— As the former horndog pre-teen/teen who had no problem sneaking through his local video store to rent some Shannon Tweed Skin-a-max films back in the day, this lesson might be the most mature realization I’ve ever grown up to admit the truth on.  Get out the #adulting hashtag.  Jessica Chastain got herself a headline this week talking about nudity in film.  No stranger herself to nudity, the acclaimed actress made excellent points on discomfort, victimization, and whether the nudity in question matches what the characters themselves would really do.  The word “gratuitous” was never used by Chastain, but most of us adults can quickly label nudity in a movie (female and male, mind you) with that word pretty quickly.  She brings up valid points and I tip my hat with respect that someone wants to talk about it, especially during this #MeToo era.


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.

 

2018 Oscars and Feeler’s Choice Awards Reaction

Patch and Aaron hop on the mic directly after the Oscars for a conversation about the show and all its winners. They also announce the 2018 Feeler’s Choice Award winners. Don’t miss this fun conversation.

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2018 Oscar Predictions

Ready for the Oscars this Sunday? The Feelin’ Film team — Aaron White, Patrick Hicks, Steve Clifton, Don Shanahan, and Jeremy Calcara — are here to tell you just who will be taking home those glorious golden statues. Below you will find five definitive lists of who will win at the 2018 Oscars, followed by a brief explanation by one team member of why they made that choice. We believe that these are all objectively correct predictions. Do with that as you will, and if you’re in an Oscar pool this year – GOOD LUCK!


 

Best Picture


Aaron – GET OUT

Patrick – THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

Steve – THE SHAPE OF WATER

Don – GET OUT

Jeremy – THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

 

Best Actor

 

Aaron – Gary Oldman

Patrick – Gary Oldman

Steve – Gary Oldman

Don – Gary Oldman

Jeremy – Gary Oldman

 

Best Actress

 

Aaron – Frances McDormand

Patrick – Frances McDormand

Steve – Frances McDormand

Don – Frances McDormand

Jeremy – Sally Hawkins

 

Best Supporting Actor

 

Aaron – Sam Rockwell

Patrick – Sam Rockwell

Steve – Sam Rockwell

Don – Sam Rockwell

Jeremy – Willem Dafoe

 

Best Supporting Actress

 

Aaron – Allison Janney

Patrick – Allison Janney

Steve – Allison Janney

Don – Allison Janney

Jeremy – Allison Janney

 

Best Director

 

Aaron – Guillermo del Toro

Patrick – Guillermo del Toro

Steve – Guillermo del Toro

Don – Guillermo del Toro

Jeremy – Guillermo del Toro

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

 

Aaron – CALL ME BY YOUR NAME

Patrick – CALL ME BY YOUR NAME

Steve – CALL ME BY YOUR NAME

Don – CALL ME BY YOUR NAME

Jeremy -CALL ME BY YOUR NAME

 

Best Original Screenplay

 

Aaron – GET OUT

Patrick – GET OUT

Steve – GET OUT

Don – GET OUT

Jeremy – GET OUT

 

Best Cinematography

 

Aaron – BLADE RUNNER 2049

Patrick – BLADE RUNNER 2049

Steve – BLADE RUNNER 2049

Don – BLADE RUNNER 2049

Jeremy – BLADE RUNNER 2049

 

Best Costume Design

 

Aaron – PHANTOM THREAD

Patrick – PHANTOM THREAD

Steve – PHANTOM THREAD

Don – PHANTOM THREAD

Jeremy – PHANTOM THREAD

 

Best Film Editing

 

Aaron – I, TONYA

Patrick – DUNKIRK

Steve – DUNKIRK

Don – BABY DRIVER

Jeremy – BABY DRIVER

 

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

 

Aaron – DARKEST HOUR

Patrick – DARKEST HOUR

Steve – DARKEST HOUR

Don – DARKEST HOUR

Jeremy – DARKEST HOUR

 

Best Original Score

 

Aaron – THE SHAPE OF WATER

Patrick – THE SHAPE OF WATER

Steve – THE SHAPE OF WATER

Don – THE SHAPE OF WATER

Jeremy – PHANTOM THREAD

 

Best Original Song

 

Aaron – “This is Me” from THE GREATEST SHOWMAN

Patrick – “This is Me” from THE GREATEST SHOWMAN

Steve – “This is Me” from THE GREATEST SHOWMAN

Don – “Remember Me” from COCO

Jeremy – “Remember Me” from COCO

 

Best Production Design

 

Aaron – BLADE RUNNER 2049

Patrick – THE SHAPE OF WATER

Steve – THE SHAPE OF WATER

Don – THE SHAPE OF WATER

Jeremy -THE SHAPE OF WATER

 

Best Sound Editing

 

Aaron – DUNKIRK

Patrick – DUNKIRK

Steve – BABY DRIVER

Don – DUNKIRK

Jeremy – BABY DRIVER

 

Best Sound Mixing

 

Aaron – DUNKIRK

Patrick – DUNKIRK

Steve – DUNKIRK

Don – DUNKIRK

Jeremy – DUNKIRK

 

Best Visual Effects

 

Aaron – WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

Patrick – WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

Steve – WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

Don – WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

Jeremy – WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

 

Best Animated Film

 

Aaron – COCO

Patrick – COCO

Steve – COCO

Don – COCO

Jeremy – COCO

 

Best Foreign Language Film

 

Aaron – A FANTASTIC WOMAN

Patrick – A FANTASTIC WOMAN

Steve – A FANTASTIC WOMAN

Don – A FANTASTIC WOMAN

Jeremy – THE SQUARE

 

Best Documentary Feature

 

Aaron – FACES PLACES

Patrick – FACES PLACES

Steve – ICARUS

Don – FACES PLACES

Jeremy – FACES PLACES

 

Best Documentary Short

 

Aaron – HEROIN(E)

Patrick – EDITH + EDDIE

Steve – EDITH + EDDIE

Don – EDITH + EDDIE

Jeremy – HEROIN(E)

 

Best Animated Short

 

Aaron – NEGATIVE SPACE

Patrick – DEAR BASKETBALL

Steve – DEAR BASKETBALL

Don – DEAR BASKETBALL

Jeremy – DEAR BASKETBALL

 

Best Live-Action Short

 

Aaron – DEKALB ELEMENTARY

Patrick – DEKALB ELEMENTARY

Steve – THE SILENT CHILD

Don – DEKALB ELEMENTARY

Jeremy – WATU WOTE: ALL OF US


BEST PICTURE: How did I get this draw? LADY BIRD was my favorite film of 2017, but it’s too benign for Oscar voters. GET OUT would be a statement win, especially in our current social climate, but I just don’t think older voters are going to push a horror film to the top. For me that leaves THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI and THE SHAPE OF WATER. The preferential ballot and lack of a directing nom for Martin McDonough indicate to me that THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI is vulnerable, even though it keeps hanging around and over performing everywhere. I’m counting on enough voters dropping it low on their ballots, where I think THE SHAPE OF WATER will garner enough top votes to push it over the top. Ask me again tomorrow and I’ll probably tell you something different. – Steve

BEST ACTOR: As much of a lock as there has ever been, Gary Oldman’s transformative performance as Winston Churchill in the Best Picture-nominated DARKEST HOUR is sure to be recognized for its greatness. This performance feels like total immersion into the character with his veins seemingly about to pop at any time, and his stutters and pauses perfectly capturing the enormous pressure weighing Churchill down. Oldman has already won almost every major award for Best Actor thus far and will rightfully take home the Oscar, too. – Aaron

BEST ACTRESS: If you were to add up all the lead-up awards (as I have), this would be a neck-and-neck contest between Sally Hawkins of THE SHAPE OF WATER and Frances McDormand for THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI. The way I see things shaking out, this might be the one Oscar Martin McDonagh’s film wins all night and it’s probably the right one in this Year of Women. Slot McDormand over Hawkins in a race closer than we’ll ever see. – Don

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Willem Dafoe’s Bobby Hicks was the glue that held life at the Magic Castle Inn and Suites together. His presence there not only kept the place in business, but his character brought a paternal presence to it’s residence. I’m glad he got a nod for the nomination, but it’s hard to beat out a film with two strong supporting leads. Sam Rockwell edges out Woody Harrelson for the win. – Patrick

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: I would argue that this is Oscar’s toughest category this year. All five women nominated gave performances that commanded the screen every time they appeared. Given what we’ve seen in awards season thus far, all signs seem to point to Allison Janney winning her first Academy Award for her portrayal of Tonya Harding’s mother LaVona Fay Golden in Craig Gillespie’s I, TONYA. Janney has long been one of Hollywood’s most reliable actresses and she absolutely becomes Golden in a darkly funny role as the unrelentingly awful mom (and lover of tropical winged creatures). If there’s any justice in the world, she’ll agree to share the trophy with that bird. – Jeremy

BEST DIRECTOR: In a very deep category, it’s wonderful to see Hispanic (Guillermo del Toro for THE SHAPE OF WATER), black (Jordan Peele for GET OUT), and female (Greta Gerwig for LADY BIRD) diversity.  That’s promising for the state of film, but there can only be one winner and it’s going to be Guillermo del Toro.  Since January, him winning the Golden Globe, the BAFTA, and, most importantly, the DGA Award from his Directors Guild peers seals his Oscar victory. – Don

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Earlier in this awards season, THE DISASTER ARTIST was running away and hiding with this category as the preordained choice of cult and niche cinephile fans. As soon as that Hollywood in-joke of a film hit general audiences, it died a death about as quick as the film it’s based on. Surging ahead instead is CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, adapted by veteran screenwriter James Ivory, who has never won the Big One after years of Merchant-Ivory awards bait offerings. This is the place for voters to throw this topical LGBT message film a bone and to cap a respected career for Ivory. – Don

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: This was once wide open, but it seems to have settled into a two horse race between GET OUT and THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI. As much as I really want to see Greta Gerwig on that Oscar stage, I fear support for LADY BORD is starting to wane, and it could get shut out completely. I really believe Jordan Peele and GET OUT are going to squeak by with this one. THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI is pesky, but with no persons of color considered a threat for an acting win, you can bet the Academy will want to honor their commitment to squashing #OscarsSoWhite in some fashion, and Peele is very deserving here.  – Steve

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Roger Deakins has been nominated for Best Cinematography 14 times and somehow, inexplicably, he has gone home with empty hands 13 of them so far. This has to be the year the Academy finally recognizes his staggering greatness, right? BLADE RUNNER 2049 was sadly skimmed over in major categories, but my thinking is that the critically acclaimed film will still win some technical awards, including this one. The one contender that has performed well on the award circuit and could yet again spoil Roger’s party is most likely Dan Laustsen for his gorgeous work in THE SHAPE OF WATER. But that film will win plenty of other awards. This one goes to Deakins. – Aaron

BEST COSTUME DESIGN: Um, really? Was there ever any doubt as to what film was going to win Best Costume Design. The movie is called PHANTOM THREAD for goodness sake. Besides that, the stunning costumes add to the overall tone of the entire film and make it the most worthy recipient of the Oscar. – Patrick

BEST FILM EDITING: Last year, Patrick defined Film Editing this way: “Pacing would be the operative word to describe the quality of a well-edited film. Did it flow? Did each scene lead well into the next? Were there abrupt changes to the tone of the film as a result of the way it was pieced together?” Well, this year there are a few films that likely good take home the award, chief among them being DUNKIRK, BABY DRIVER, and I, TONYA. I wouldn’t be surprised if any of these win, but the award circuit buzz seems to favor I, TONYA and this feels like a year when we’re going to see several films taking home multiple statues. – Aaron

BEST MAKEUP/HAIRSTYLING: As the bald man of the group, it is my absolute honor to judge and handicap this category. I know my sugar-honey-iced-tea. For me, the fact this is the one remaining Oscar category to still skate by on three chincy nominees instead of a full field of five is ridiculous. Surely two more films could have been honored to compete. Of the three, this is duel for “Best Lead Character Transformation” more than anything else, and Gary Oldman’s disappearance into Sir Winston Churchill for DARKEST HOUR will win over making Jacob Tremblay as ugly as he is cute in WONDER. – Don

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: 2017 seemed to be the year of what has come to be known as modern minimalist music in film. BLADE RUNNER 2049 and DUNKIRK, scored by Hans Zimmer, really dive deep into this style. Desplat’s THE SHAPE OF WATER, however, takes a different approach, and really becomes another character in the film. Beautiful and haunting, and a lock to take home the award. – Patrick

BEST ORIGINAL SONG: Sigh, the best song never seems to win the Oscar, and the frontrunner all along has been “Remember Me”, from COCO. It’s nice and sentimental, but it isn’t particularly memorable outside the confines of the film. I’m expecting the Academy voters to finally honor the true best song and go with “This is Me”, from THE GREATEST SHOWMAN. This song has become a global anthem of inspiration, and has made a star out of powerhouse singer, Keala Settle. – Steve

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN: This award could easily go to THE SHAPE OF WATER, but like with Best Cinematography this seems like the proper place to recognize BLADE RUNNER 2049 and in a year with so many worthy nominees of high quality, this one goes to the futuristic world over the fairy tale one.  – Aaron

BEST SOUND EDITING: It might seem a little odd that a film that was repeatedly criticized in its initial release for having dialogue that was hard to hear is now the odds on favorite to win the award for best sound editing. But upon further examination audiences realized that they were hearing exactly what Gregg Landaker, Gary Rizzo and Mark Weingarten wanted them to hear in Christopher Nolan’s DUNKIRK. Nolan’s completely immersive film makes the viewer feel like they’re on the beach at Dunkirk largely because of the deft hand with which this crew recreates the sounds of war. BABY DRIVER may sneak up and take this one, but my money is on DUNKIRK. – Jeremy

BEST SOUND MIXING: Every year we talk about how the difference in Sound Editing and Mixing is so small that usually the same film wins both. While I do think BABY DRIVER’s unique style could change things up this year by winning Sound Editing, ultimately I believe both awards will go to the relentlessly visceral sound of DUNKIRK. Honestly, in any other year DUNKIRK would be a slam dunk, but BABY DRIVER does give me pause due to how integral sound is to it as well.  – Aaron

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: I’m not going to apologize for supporting what I think is the runaway pick in this category. That’s not to say the other four nominees aren’t worthy. They clearly are. But when you can get me to cry from watching a digital ape act on screen, you’re doing something right. I also believe this will be Andy Serkis’ indirect Oscar for his performance as Caesar because both need each other to make this success story what it is.  – Patrick

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM: Pixar typically has a stranglehold on this category, and this year is no different. The first of their films set south of the border is a celebration of family and following your dreams, with all of the classic Pixar bells and whistles thrown in. They have no competition here. COCO it is. – Steve

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: There was some trading going on among Feelin’ Film contributors regarding who would be given the opportunity to highlight this category and after a long fight that ended in Patch struggling but ultimately succeeding in yelling “UNCLE” through his tears, I won the opportunity. I’m picking Ruben Ostlund’s THE SQUARE here. Why? Because I saw the trailer and I like Elizabeth Moss. The Swedish film, which is about an art installation at the X-Royal Art Museum in Stockholm, has received rave reviews and won the Palme d’Or at Cannes. It’s going to win. – Jeremy

BEST DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE): The odds on favorite to take away this year’s statue for best documentary feature is Agnes Varda’s FACE PLACS. The doc, that follows the famed director and the artist known only as JR while they travel the countryside of France and take large photos of the people they find there, has stolen hearts of viewers everywhere it has played. This will be Varda’s second Oscar in less than a year after having been given the Academy Honorary Award back in November. – Jeremy

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT: The dreaded “short” categories will make or break your Oscar ballot. This year is a toss up, but I’m leaning toward EDITH + EDDIE, a story about physical abuse of the elderly, sure to tug at a few heartstrings and anger a few people along the way. – Steve

BEST ANIMATED SHORT: This year’s nominees were all strong contenders, and my favorite isn’t even the one I think SHOULD win. GARDEN PARTY stands above as a visually stunning display of animation on top of a left field plot (if you could call it that) with an ending that is the perfect exclamation point to its tale. But I think my favorite of the five will take home the statue this year. DEAR BASKETBALL is a fantastic balance of words, visuals and music, wrapped up in a visceral experience that isn’t forgettable, at least not to me. (This may end up being first time an NBA player will have won an Oscar which will be crazy in and of itself). – Patrick

BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT: As a nice get with press credentials, I’ve actually been lucky enough to see all five of these obscure films. I don’t have to throw a dartboard and guess like most everyone else. In this unfortunate era of mass shootings, the absolutely harrowing experience that is DEKALB ELEMENTARY reenacting at true story of a school secretary talking down a would-be school gunman is, far and away, the best of this bunch. – Don

Agree with our picks? Disagree? Want to share your own? Leave us some feedback. We’d love to discuss them with you. Thanks for reading!

MOVIE REVIEW: 2018 Oscar-Nominated Short Films

2018 Oscar-Nominated Short Films

ANIMATED SHORT FILMS

DEAR BASKETBALL: An animated telling of Kobe Bryant’s poem ‘Dear Basketball’.

Aaron – Full disclosure: Kobe Bryant is my favorite basketball player of all-time. DEAR BASKETBALL highlights the passion that he played the game with, which is what inspired my fandom. Beautifully and uniquely animated, this brief love poem reminds me of the joy his career brought me and so many others.

Rating:

Patrick – This was the surprise favorite of the animated shorts for me. Of the five it had the most visceral reaction in that I connected with the duality of joy and sorrow that Kobe’s narration expressed. That, combined with the simplistic and beautiful sketched animation provided me with a personal connection that this love letter wanted to provide. Wonderfully made.

Rating:

 


GARDEN PARTY: In a deserted rich house, a couple of amphibians explore their surroundings and follow their primal instincts.

Aaron – “WOW!” “This looks like a Disney Nature documentary!” “This can’t be animation, can it!?” All actual things that came out of my mouth in the first few minutes of this short. So colorful and alive. So funny, so adorable, so… dark. Captivating from start to finish.

Rating:

Patrick – I echo the sentiment of “WOW,” but for completely different reasons. I absolutely loved the slow reveal of this environment that these creatures were occupying. Two minutes in and I thought, “Wait, did I just see? Hold on.” What starts out as a simple amphibian hangout turns into something completely unexpected, and the last 10 seconds are the perfect exclamation point.

Rating:

 


LOU: A Pixar short about a lost-and-found box and the unseen monster within.

Aaron – Another sweet, bright-colored short from Pixar that offers up life lessons using a setting we can all relate to (recess on the playground at school). LOU moves fast, as does its title character in remaking itself into many interesting forms. Perhaps wonderfully animated emotional shorts by Pixar are something we take for granted now because despite being great this one just didn’t wow me or scream memorable.

Rating:

Patrick – Standard fare from the company that brought you everything else wonderful and fuzzy feeling. There’s nothing wrong with this animated short, but from someone who sees this type of story more often than not, the wow factor goes down. Worthy to be nominated but the weakest of the field due to its safe play storytelling.

Rating:

 


NEGATIVE SPACE: Even though Sam’s father is hardly ever home because he is often away on business trips, he is able to connect with his son by teaching him how to pack a suitcase.

Aaron – Incredibly poignant story about a man remembering his father through a specific activity they shared together. Not only is this fantastic stop-motion animation work, but the adaptation of Ron Koertege’s poem packs an emotional punch, as well. The film’s final line is particularly powerful and will leave a lasting impression.

Rating:

Patrick – I love weird stuff, and when you can take something as ordinary as packing a suitcase and attaching a father/son relationship to it, that’s money in the bank for me. Thank you for being original :).

Rating:

 


REVOLTING RHYMES: Two half-hour animated films based on the much-loved rhymes written by Roald Dahl and illustrated by Quentin Blake.

Aaron – Too long and only decently animated, but Roald Dahl’s witty words feel right at home coming out of cartoon characters (especially the rather excellent Wolf). It’s an interesting enough story with some dry humor but forgettable in most every way and easily the weakest of the nominees.

Rating:

Patrick – The length of this film proves to be its weakest element, as my attention span was already locked into the 4-6 minute format. Still it’s entertaining and typical Roald Dahl weird. I would have liked more from the story as a narrative, and like my counterpart, I agree that the animation wasn’t tops among the other nominees.

Rating:

 

 


LIVE ACTION SHORT FILMS

DEKALB ELEMENTARY: Inspired by an actual 911 call placed during a school shooting incident in Atlanta, Georgia.

Aaron – Stunning depiction of a true story. Stripped down of any score or sound editing, the film is completely raw and allows the viewer to feel entirely present. Such a strong emotional connection is developed with its characters, which is so rare for a short film, and despite the horrific nature of the issue it deals with there is a focus on empathy and understanding of mental illness. DEKALB ELEMENTARY is a short film with no agenda and no unnecessary exploitation or exaggeration. I am wrecked, but grateful for the moment of exhalation needed to collect myself and reflect on what this must be like for the far too many people school shootings have come to affect.

Rating:

Patrick – Honest and raw are the two words that I think best describe this short. The lack of theatrics like music or sound editing make this feel like an “in the moment” experience. Everything about the situation felt unpredictable, especially the last two minutes. Incredibly powerful.

Rating:


THE ELEVEN O’CLOCK: The delusional patient of a psychiatrist believes he is actually the psychiatrist. As they each attempt to treat each other the session gets out of control.

Aaron – When your film is 13 minutes long, set in a single location, and revolves entirely around a mystery, the dialogue has to be perfect; and in THE ELEVEN O’CLOCK it is. This quick little vignette captures the attention and keeps you guessing while bringing a smile to the face from that clever writing. Even if the ending is telegraphed, discovering whether the characters themselves figure out the twist is very satisfying.

Rating:

Patrick – Oh. My. Word. One of the funniest stories I’ve seen in a while. It hearkens back to the days of the Abbot and Costello “Who’s On First?” bit. This is one of those pieces of film where the screenwriting is the star. Engaging, entertaining, and worthy to be on this short list.

Rating:


MY NEPHEW EMMETT: At 2:30AM on August 28, 1955 in the most racially divided state in the country, 64 year-old Mose Wright tries to protect his 14 year-old nephew Emmett Till from two racist killers out for blood. Based on the true story of the 1955 murder of Emmett Louis Till.

Aaron – Doing “based on a true story” well in short form is tough because there just isn’t much time to get to know characters and inevitably many details have to be left out. L. B. Williams is fantastic capturing the personal terror of violent racism in 1950’s Mississippi as Emmett’s Uncle, Mose Wright, and the film has some gorgeous cinematography despite being overly dark at times inside the house. A solid short that is yet another reminder of our country’s dark history.

Rating:

Patrick – I’m in agreement that short films are challenged with creating rounded characters in their subject matter due to time constraints, and while I had a bit of a rough start with getting into the first half of the film, the second half more than made up for it. It’s incredibly visceral in its portrayal of racial hatred and the tragic reality of where our country claims part of its history is birthed from.

Rating:


THE SILENT CHILD: The Silent Child centers around a profoundly deaf four year old girl named Libby who is born into a middle class family and lives in a world of silence until a caring social worker teaches her the gift of communication.

Aaron – How is one “profoundly” deaf? I don’t think you can be intensely deaf. You either are, or you aren’t. You can be partially deaf, sure, but not profoundly deaf. Anyway, this grammar debate was more interesting and entertaining than THE SILENT CHILD. I’m glad a little girl learned sign language, but this is not enough material even for a short story. Feels kind of like a period piece and is beautifully shot, though, which explains why the Oscars nominated it.

Rating:

Patrick – Edcuational first, entertaining second. That’s what I took away from this short. It got it’s point across but almost to a fault. I was emotionally connected to the characters and the overall story, but by the end it felt like I was watching an advertisement more than a short film. Still, it effectively put together and one that to me is memorable. Plus, British accents FTW.

Rating:


WATU WOTE: ALL OF US: For a decade Kenya has been targeted by terrorist attacks of the Al-Shabaab. An atmosphere of anxiety and mistrust between Muslims and Christians is growing. Until in December 2015, Muslim bus passengers showed that solidarity can prevail.

Aaron – A bit slow to get going, it spends too much time with the main character trying to get us connected. It’s weird to say about a short film, but I think it was a little too long. The event itself plays out in an extremely powerful scene where people of conflicting faiths choose acts of love/humanity over religion. For a student film this is incredibly well made and packs an emotional punch that lingers.

Rating:

Patrick – A great depiction of what it means to value life above beliefs. Having not heard of this incident despite my faith background, I was overwhelmingly surprised at the the beautiful depiction of what it means to look at someone beyond what they represent.

Rating:

 

DOCUMENTARY SHORT FILMS

EDITH + EDDIE: Edith and Eddie, ages 96 and 95, are America’s oldest interracial newlyweds. Their love story is disrupted by a family feud that threatens to tear the couple apart.

Aaron – I’ve got some pretty mixed feelings on whether or not this documentary should even exist. While it offers us a uniquely personal view into the lives of this adorable couple and the challenges they face having someone with guardianship over them, it also puts a few things on screen that I find tasteless and exploitative. This definitely got me thinking (and angry) about the way in which elderly care is at times managed in America, but it also provided a hopeful look at two people loving each other regardless of age, color, or circumstances.

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Patrick – Delightful and devastating are the words that I took away from this doc. I found myself adoring the couple and overly frustrated with the depiction of how their relationship was being managed. I’m not sure what message to take away from this was.

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HEAVEN IS A TRAFFIC JAM ON THE 405: Mindy Alper is a tortured and brilliant 56 year old artist who is represented by one of Los Angeles’ top galleries. Acute anxiety, mental disorder and devastating depression have caused her to be committed to mental institutions undergo electro shock therapy and survive a 10 year period without the ability to speak. Her hyper self awareness has allowed her to produce a lifelong body of work that expresses her emotional state with powerful psychological precision. Through interviews, reenactments, the building of an eight and a half foot papier-mache’ bust of her beloved psychiatrist, and examining drawings made from the time she was a child, we learn how she has emerged from darkness and isolation to a life that includes love, trust and support.

Aaron – Moving and heartfelt story about the effects of mental illness and the struggle many face in overcoming not only illness itself but the social stigma that accompanies it. Alper’s creative output is incredible and her art provides a deeply personal look into her psyche, telling the story of how she has come to beat the illnesses that once defined her.

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Patrick – Pills. Abuse. I just want to hug Mindy and tell her how much she is loved. I guess this doc did it’s job in making me feel something because my heart broke for her and her circumstances. It hurts knowing all that she has to do to manage being “normal” and why that is the way it is. It’s a tragic story, and one that reminds me more of how much people matter. And her artistry: incredible.

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HEROIN(E): Three women fight to break the cycle one life at a time.

Aaron – “Getting high on heroine is like what it would be for you to kiss Jesus. That’s how powerful heroine is.” Set in Huntington, West Virginia, the city with the most opioid overdoses and deaths in the country, this documentary follows a fire chief, a judge and a street missionary as they battle the epidemic in different ways. These three women show heroism in a way not often considered, but that is truly life-changing (and saving) for many of the people they touch. The clever title and poster of this film are also the best of this group.

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Patrick – I can’t claim to know anything about what drug abuse can do to a person, and I don’t say that with pride. Life can be incredibly brutal, and when something is available as a coping mechanism, it has the power to transform someone into the worst version of themselves. Seeing these three women, in their own unique ways, look at this problem as an opportunity to move people closer to hope is inspiring and necessary.

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KNIFE SKILLS: What does it take to build a world-class French restaurant? What if the staff is almost entirely men and women just out of prison? What if most have never cooked or served before, and have barely two months to learn their trade? We follow the hectic launch of Edwin’s restaurant in Cleveland. In this improbable setting, with its mouth-watering dishes and its arcane French vocabulary, we discover the challenges of men and women finding their way after their release. We come to know three trainees intimately, as well as the restaurant’s founder, who is himself haunted by his time in jail. These men and women all have something to prove, and all struggle to launch new lives, an endeavor as pressured and perilous as the ambitious restaurant launch of which they are a part.

Aaron – I am a sucker for redemption stories, especially when they are true.  Brandon Chrostowski’s dedication to providing formerly incarcerated individuals an opportunity to restore purpose in their lives through employing them at a fine dining restaurant is inspiring. This is raw, real life. Some succeed, others fail. But the program itself is thriving and going strong, offering not just a marketable skill but hope to those often forgotten and written off by society.

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Patrick – “In every ounce of everybody there’s a little bit of hope, a little bit of belief, and if you can feed that, anything is possible.” This doc was already going to win me over by default seeing as how it centers around cooking. But add the layer of redemption for released convicts, a chance to reset and do something new. That’s inspirational, and needed at a time like this.

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TRAFFIC STOP: Traffic Stop is an HBO Documentary Film currently airing on HBO NOW, HBO GO and HBO On Demand that tells the story of Breaion King, a 26-year-old African-American school teacher from Austin, Texas, who was stopped for a routine traffic violation that escalated into a dramatic arrest. Caught on police dashcams, King was pulled from her car by the arresting officer, repeatedly thrown to the ground and handcuffed. En route to jail in a squad car, she engaged in a revealing conversation with her escorting officer about race and law enforcement in America. The documentary juxtaposes dashcam footage with scenes from King’s everyday life, offering a fuller portrait of the woman caught up in this unsettling encounter.

Aaron – What sticks out here the most is actually Breaion’s refusal to submit to authority or take any responsibility for her actions. Was the force used on her excessive? Possibly. Since she fights and screams and will not comply it becomes difficult to tell. I don’t doubt that racist behavior happens in the police force, but this was not compelling evidence of it. This felt like a very manipulative documentary that spends only a portion of its 30 minutes showing actual events and the rest trying to make us empathize with Breaion outside of her actions during the arrest.

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Patrick – It’s difficult to watch the events take place because a lot is happening on both sides, and there is truth in bits and pieces. The message is true, that there is an unfairness and slant towards abuse against people of color. But I also get that this event says more about the abuse of one officer equally as much as it does about it’s bigger message. Documentaries, despite what I would like to believe, have a bias to them. Truth is embedded, but it needs to be discerned beyond a half hour story.

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Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on how his expectations influenced his experience. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

 

 

 

Patrick “Patch” Hicks is an Arkansas-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. When he’s not podcasting, he’s working on various design projects as a freelance multimedia designer and is also dabbling in the art of writing and directing. You can find him floating around the web on Twitter, Facebook, and his home on the web, ThisIsPatch.com.

What We Learned This Week: January 14-27

OSCAR NOMINATIONS EDITION

LESSON #1: THREE YEARS LATER, THE SHAME FROM #OSCARSSOWHITE IS WORKING— Led last year by Moonlight, Fences, Loving, and Hidden Figures, a boost of respect for minorities led to historic wins.  This year, it’s Get Out and Mudbound.  Behind the scenes, the Academy invited nearly eight hundred new members—39% of which are female and 30% non-white.  That’s the bigger wake of change from #OscarsSoWhite that shows legitimate progress.  Recently, a piece in The New Yorker posed the question of whether or not the #OscarsSoWhite era is over thanks in part to such gains.  I don’t think so.  The movement is working incrementally for black performers, but more can be done for Hispanic and Asian performers as well.  Oh, and there’s that other new hashtag…

LESSON #2: THE #METOO MOVEMENT DESERVES TO ADD MORE SHAME AND CHANGE TO THE OSCARS— The state of respect and equality for women in the film industry has arguably needed the turnaround push it’s getting now from #MeToo movement longer than minorities have from #OscarsSoWhite.  The writing and directing nominations for Greta Gerwig are excellent and the formal nod to Mudbound‘s cinematographer Rachel Morrison is historic as the first woman in that category, but, again, more could be done.  I know I was rooting for Patty Jenkins and Wonder Woman to receive nomination honors.  Like #OscarsSoWhite, let’s come back in 3-5 years and see where the industry is at after this cataclysmic year.

LESSON #3: DON’T BELIEVE THE GOLDEN GLOBE AND SCREEN ACTORS GUILD HYPE FOR THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI— The Shape of Water led all films with 13 nominations, one short of tying the record of 14 shared by All About Eve, Titanic, and La La Land.  Dunkirk is a distant second with eight.  In third, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has seven.  That’s a great haul, but it’s missing one important one that makes it a genuine threat to win Best Picture.  Its celebrated director, Martin McDonagh, was left out of the Best Director raise.  Since the first Academy Awards ceremony in 1929, only four films have won Best Picture without a corresponding nomination for Best Director (Wings, Grand Hotel, Driving Miss Daisy, and Argo).  I don’t like the film’s chances.  Looking at the data on my 2018 Awards TrackerGet Out has won more Best Picture awards than any other film this season, followed by Lady Bird and then The Shape of Water.  You can virtually narrow the final vote to those three.

LESSON #4: COMEDY CONTINUES TO GET LITTLE RESPECT AT THE OSCARSLady Bird is carrying the flag for comedy at this year’s Oscars.  Greta Gerwig’s film stands far above the subtle dark comedy within Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Get Out.  In my opinion, there’s always room for more comedy representation at the biggest awards show of the year.  The Big Sick received a lone nomination for Best Original Screenplay, but was ignored in the acting categories for Kumail Nanjiani, Holly Hunter, and Ray Romano.

LESSON #5. THE ACADEMY APPARENTLY DOESN’T PLAY WITH LEGOS— This lesson is one of two repeats from my Oscar nominations reaction post on Every Movie Has a Lesson because it fits perfectly here this week.  A few years ago, the overwhelming Best Animated Feature frontrunner was The LEGO Movie and it was snubbed from being nominated in shocking fashion.  The LEGO Batman Movie doesn’t have Coco-level pull, but, gosh darn, it’s better than Ferdinand and The Boss Baby.  Expect one Alec Baldwin Trump joke and a tuxedoed stage appearance for WWE star John Cena as a presenter.

LESSON #6: NETFLIX HAS BROKEN THE GLASS CEILING WITH MUDBOUND— Here’s the final repeat.  Dees Rees, Virgil Williams, and Mudbound have made Netflix a new and legitimate player for quality film.  Their efforts mostly remain undiscovered treasure as the newfangled digital arthouse.  For every high-profile Bright, there are five other films like MudboundFirst They Killed My FatherOur Souls at NightWin it All, and War Machine.  Mudbound deserves this love and Netflix is just getting started.  Give it time and they have the money, talent draw, and ability to invade the Oscars the way they’ve already invaded the Emmy Awards for television.


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.