What We Learned This Week: November 4-10

LESSON #1: SOME FILMS DO NOT REQUIRE A REBOOT— Last week, the lesson was “Some films don’t require a sequel.”  This time, we have to clap that lesson back and trade the word “sequel” for “reboot.”  News spun across Variety this week that DreamWorks is planning to restart its Shrek and Puss in Boots franchises.  First, you need a true generational gap and eight years since its last chapter, Shrek Forever After, isn’t long enough, even for the rapid aging of its core audience demographic.  More importantly, I have to ask what I consider to be a necessary qualifying question when it comes to remakes and reboots.  Have the originals aged to the degree where they are obsolete?  Sure, Shrek was corny and dated as soon as the SmashMouth song comes on, but have the narrative fairy tale angles changed or the artistic technology that made the movie?  I say they haven’t and a new one will just retread over familiar ground and not be unique or worthwhile artistically.  I say let some films stay what they are as benchmarks and time capsules for their eras.  The ’00s have their Shrek the way the ’10s have their Despicable Me/Minions.  Let them stay there.  I’m at looking at you too, The Grinch.

LESSON #2: SAY HELLO TO DISNEY+ AND GET YOUR CREDIT CARD READY— After months of little here-and-there clues and rumored plans, Disney finally and formally announced the details for its vaunted new streaming service, Disney+, coming late next year.  Housing its entire artistic arsenal from Pixar to National Geographic with all of the heroic adventure in between, the lineup depth, including original films, is undeniably impressive.  The thing I’ve been waiting to hear this entire time is price point.  While that number isn’t defined exactly yet, the linked article references a $8-14 monthly price tag.  The closer that is to $8, the more successful it’s going to be.  Disney+ will be the test to see if a la carte single-studio entity services can work because the selling point of its Netflix and Hulu competitors is the ease of variety under one service roof.  If Disney+ succeeds, it will be like dedicated cable networks for single teams or schools like the New York Yankees.  Watch everything splinter because each studio will want to create and keep their own money.

LESSON #3: PARENTS NEED TO RESPECT AND FOLLOW FILM RATINGS— For fifty years now, the MPAA has championed the film rating system to warn, screen, and catalog film content for consumers.  They are proper and they have evolved to do their job better.  Whenever there is a breakdown of outrage over a film’s rating, like this recent story of content from A Star is Born triggering troubling reactions in New Zealand, it’s not the rating’s fault.  R is R for a reason and it was labeled correctly so.  The perceived outrage is the consumer’s fault.  They either didn’t listen to the rating or didn’t commit to the due diligence to properly screen or research a film before subjecting it to younger viewers. The loopholes of the MPAA are few and far between, whereas careless parenting is rampant.  This critic and school teacher implores all parents to see any questionable film for themselves before sharing it with their impressionable children.  That’s the bare minimum.  If you don’t do it, let some solid website like Common Sense and ScreenIt do it for you.

LESSON #4: TREAT YOURSELF TO “NOIR-VEMBER”— If you want to expand your film palette to one of the most interesting and entertaining film genres under the sun, scroll your way into some film noir.  Often imitated and rarely duplicated since its hey-day, experiencing film noir is essential understanding the full scope of the cinematic art form.  That and its comprised of simple damn good movies that can still put modern thrillers to shame.  Start with this list of ten essential noirs from the journal spot Oh Not They Didn’t.  They’re all gold bathed in stark black-and-white.

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: March 12-18

This week, it’s time to collectively put a firehose of truth and pragmatism to the flaming mountains of fake outrage that has been brewing for weeks on several fronts.  The targets today are remakes, reboots, and reimaginings.  A whole lot of fuss was made this week by the arrival of Disney’s reimagining of “Beauty and the Beast” (my full review) and the news of Warner Bros. eyeing a remake of “The Matrix.”  Sigh.  Pass the teacher’s chalk and let the rant begin.

LESSON #1: REMAKES ARE INEVITABLE— Old favorites are old favorites because they are exactly that: OLD.   New mediums and new art forms evolve with time.  Wikipedia will tell you that “La Belle et la Bete” has been adapted to film no less than 11 times.  Classic stories, whether in print or in film, have been retold by each generation for decades.   No one was bitching in 1991 when Disney made the fifth such film attempt, yet here are the butthurt today ranting about the 11th.  Guess what?  In another 10-25 years, you’ll see the 12th and maybe even the 13th version next.  I hate to tell you this, but in 50 years, some bloke is going to remake “Harry Potter” and “Star Wars.”

LESSON #2: MANY FILMS YOU ALL LOVE ARE REMAKES, REBOOTS, OR REIMAGININGS— In case you have all forgotten, the endless likes of “Mutiny on the Bounty,” “The Dark Knight,” “Ocean’s 11,” “The Departed,” “The Fly,” “The Magnificent Seven,” “The Thing,” “True Lies,” “Scarface,” “True Grit,” “Some Like it Hot,” “The Ring,” “Cape Fear,” “A Fist Full of Dollars,” “The Maltese Falcon,” and f–king “The Wizard of Oz” are all either remakes, reboots, updates, or reimaginings of early film adaptations.   If you’re going to play the purist card, then go ahead and try to deny the elements of greatness that followed.  Enjoy that island.

LESSON #3: REMAKES ARE HARMLESS— No remake ever replaces a film that came before it, period.  They don’t burn all of the previous copies of the original and say that you have to only receive and like the new one now.    Both versions exist in perpetuity.  Both versions are perfectly accessible to enjoy.

LESSON #4: NO ONE IS FORCING YOU TO WATCH ANY FILM, REMAKE OR OTHERWISE— No childhoods are ruined by any film remake.  Divorces ruin childhoods, not movies played through a device that has an OFF button.  If you don’t want to see a remake or new version of something you love, then don’t see it.  Don’t waste your two hours.  Don’t waste your money.  Go get that unburned copy from Lesson #3 and enjoy the one you love.  No one is stopping you.  To go another angle, here’s a great quote from Arizona Republic film critic Bill Goodykoontz in his “Beauty and the Beast” review: “Does it need to exist? No, not really. Neither does ice cream, but you don’t hear many complaints about that. Don’t question it, or look for controversy where it doesn’t exist. Instead, do something better: enjoy it.”

LESSON #5: DON’T MAKE COMPARISONS— This is my best advice.  Let the original and remake be different, whether that’s better or worse, because they are different.  View them separately and independently.  Judge them separately and independently.  It’s that easy.  In the end, every audience has their own taste and that’s the whole point.  There is room for each person’s enjoyment and we all get to pick what we choose to enjoy.  Some teenager is going to adore the “Power Rangers” movie next week.  Let him or her have it.  You have yours.

LESSON #6: THIS HAS BECOME A BUSINESS FIRST, AND AN ART EXPOSITION SECOND— I can rant all day about “how” remakes, reboots, and reimaginings exist and thrive, but the question of “why” always remains after.  That answer is easy as well: MONEY.  “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Matrix,” and properties like Spider-Man and James Bond have name recognition and built-in audiences that sell movie tickets.  Why does Disney reimagine their animated classic films?  Because they can afford it and the results are supremely profitable.  Even if the films are not necessary, people will still pay to see them. Good luck stopping them from doing it and watch them laugh all the way to the bank.  The only way an audience can tell a studio how to do its business is by either giving them or not giving them your business.  If you don’t like it, go back to Lesson #4 and keep your money.

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 President 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.