What We Learned This Week: August 12-18

LESSON #1: MOVIEPASS IS A CARNIVAL OF BAD IDEAS— It was been wildly unpredictable and maddeningly entertaining to watch the swirling toilet that is MoviePass.  First, the company began limiting subscribers film choices.  Next, it was re-enrolling folks and forbidding cancellations. and then it was reporting a new $126 million dollar loss, prompting shareholders to sue.  Are we out of forks to stick in this beast?  That said, I enjoyed IndieWire’s David Ehrlich’s truthful parable this week defining the MoviePass clamor we feel as proof of loving the medium of film.  He’s dead on.  

LESSON #2: SPEAKING OF LOSSES, HULU ISN’T DOING MUCH BETTER— If you think $126 million is a ton of money, how worse does $1.5 billion sound?  Put on your Dr. Evil voice and say it to yourself.  The dollar amount is the annual loss staring Hulu in the face, one that follows $920 million loss last year.  That’s quite a haircut that stings like a beheading.  Even with that new Disney money and ownership stake arriving, are Hulu’s months numbered next?

LESSON #3: EVERYONE IS A LITTLE PRETENTIOUS OR A LITTLE MAINSTREAM. IT’S JUST TO WHAT DEGREE— I got a kick out of this score-generating quiz of sorts that made the rounds on social media. Enter a movie title on the Pretentious-O-Meter and see where it lands between pretentious and mass market.  The creators list their calculation and logic behind their metrics and it’s pretty brilliant.  Have fun on this little game for a few minutes (or hours)!

LESSON #4: WE’RE GOING TO MISS ROBERT REDFORD— The dashing 81-year-old redheaded founder of the Sundance Film Institute and icon of yesteryear announced recently his retirement from acting.  This September’s The Old Man & the Gun, his second collaboration with director David Lowery after Pete’s Dragon, will be his last.  To call it a “good” run is a gross understatement.  Redford had a GREAT run, a career of reverence and one with very few blemishes.  He’s always been high on my list of favorites and bests.  

LESSON #5: I BELIEVE AND TRUST MICHAEL CAINE— Even in ambiguity after eight years, I never really doubted my own drawn conclusion in theorizing the end of Christopher Nolan’s 2010 opus Inception.  Beloved actor Michael Caine went on record recently and cleared up the guessing game with a pretty trustworthy explanation, one of definitive fashion that might be as close to “once and for all” as we’re going to get.  

LESSON #6: IS JAMES BOND FUNNY ENOUGH ANYMORE?— Former James Bond franchise actor Pierce Brosnan remembers a time when 007 was as cheeky in tone as he was in smiles.  He commented recently about the brooding, solemn, and muscular current take on the classic character being portrayed by Daniel Craig.  Brosnan mildly bemoans the sharp decline in light humor that was a benchmark trait of his films as well as those that came before him.  Without naming names, he blames the straight-faced action hero types (think Jason Bourne and the tough guys played by Jason Statham, Liam Neeson, and Mark Wahlberg) competing with the Bond character in the action film marketplace.  I think Brosnan has a valid point.  As stellar and bold as Craig’s run has been, there is a noticeable measure of charm missing.

LESSON #7: DISNEY KNOWS HOW TO BEAT DEAD HORSES— Dwindling box office returns be damned! Walt Disney Pictures announced that the green light is still on for a sixth Pirates of the Caribbean film directed by Dead Men Tell No Tales helmer Joachim Rønning.  The sequel would like star the Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario characters recently introduced, but there’s no word yet on Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow or Bill Nighy’s return as the teaser-dropped Davey Jones.  I get these films play well overseas, but the series has run its mainstream course here domestically.  I’m telling you, unless your name is James Gunn, Disney doesn’t often know when or how to quit.


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.

You Should Be Watching: August 9-15

Welcome to You Should Be Watching, my weekly opportunity to introduce you to a variety of great films, gems of the past and present, available for you to stream from Netflix, Amazon Prime, FilmStruck, and anywhere else streams are found.

This week I’m recommending a 2017 film that happens to be one of the best Westerns in years, transcending the genre itself. Next, a classic Japanese film that is as deep in meaning as the sand dunes its protagonist is trapped at the bottom of. Finally, a Robert Redford-led government conspiracy crime caper.

As always, be sure to check out the list of all the notable films that are expiring soon and newly arriving.


STREAMING PICKS OF THE WEEK


Hostiles

  — Available Aug. 15

Year: 2017

Director: Scott Cooper

Genre: History, Drama, Western, Adventure

Cast: Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, Wes Studi, Jesse Plemons, Adam Beach, Rory Cochrane, Ben Foster, Stephen Lang, Timothée Chalamet, Jonathan Majors, Q’orianka Kilcher, Paul Anderson, Ryan Bingham, Peter Mullan, Robyn Malcolm, Scott Wilson, Bill Camp, John Benjamin Hickey

From the shocking opening where the serenity of a mother in her home schooling her children is shattered in a flurry of sudden and vicious gunfire and brutality, the tone is set for this very bleak but somehow hopeful film. Christian Bale plays Native American-hating Army captain Joseph Blocker. His duty, against his will is to escort Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) and his family through deadly territory back to their reservation. While the setting makes this a Western, deep themes run throughout that echo the entire history of human relations, cycles of violence and resulting prejudice and attempts to overcome it all. It’s a very unique film in that it shows compassion for all peoples but doesn’t hold back on showing how cruel and violent anyone can be, regardless of race. It also explores the nature of doing one’s duty despite how one feels about it and learning to forgive the worst wrongs.

In a film full of fantastic performances and colorful characters representing many types and races of people, Rosamund Pike (Rosalie) and Christian Bale stand above the rest. The pair’s relationship could have easily been abused for the sake of cheap romance, but instead through the trauma they share from their past, they take a fascinating and heart-wrenching emotional and spiritual journey together. They both have to struggle to overcome the pain of their past and the grief it is causing them as well as current danger and try to maintain their faith despite God having seemed to turn a blind eye to them.


Woman in the Dunes

  

Year: 1964

Director: Hiroshi Teshigahara

Genre: Thriller, Drama

Cast: Eiji Okada, Kyôko Kishida, Ginzô Sekiguchi, Kôji Mitsui, Sen Yano, Hiroko Itô

Tokyo teacher and entomologist Jumpei Niki (Eiji Okada) is on a three-day vacation and gets tricked into going down a sandy cliff side from which there is no way out. The only way to survive and keep the house down there from collapsing is to shovel sand every night along with the unnamed woman (Kyôko Kishida) who lives in the house. Despite this relatively simple plot, Hiroshi Teshigahara has created a film incredibly dense with meaning.

Is it a nightmarish retelling of the Sisyphus myth? Is it a glimpse of a man in hell? Is it a commentary on the dehumanization of slavery or the nature of our innate lustful and voyeuristic attitudes? Is it a cautionary tale inspiring us to live with purpose rather than merely live to survive? Is it an homage to the allegory of Plato’s cave? Yes and much more. Hiroshi Segawa’s masterful cinematography along with claustrophobic editing serves to amp up the hopeless conditions. And Toru Takemitsu’s tense musical score gets at the sense of unease and downright fear at what’s happening.


Sneakers

Year: 1992

Director: Phil Alden Robinson

Genre: Crime, Drama, Comedy

Cast: Robert Redford, Sidney Poitier, Dan Aykroyd, David Strathairn, River Phoenix, Timothy Busfield, Mary McDonnell, Ben Kingsley, James Earl Jones, Donal Logue, Denise Dowse, Eddie Jones, Time Winters, Bodhi Elfman, Stephen Tobolowsky, George Hearn, Lee Garlington, George Cheung, Michael Kinney, Gary Hershberger

With Robert Redford’s confirmation just days ago that he is retiring from acting after his next film is released this fall, now’s a great time to go back to Phil Alden Robinson’s (Field of Dreams) early Mission: Impossible-lite government conspiracy crime caper that put the NSA on the map of the public’s consciousness. Redford plays Martin Bishop, an affable former hacker who heads a security team of eccentric characters with dubious pasts. They get pressured into doing a favor for the government and soon find themselves caught in a massive conspiracy that could get any or all of them killed.

While the film is dated in its look and technology, the plot is entirely relevant to modern concerns of online privacy. It’s also far more entertaining than it has a right to be thanks to its clever writing, abundance of twists and turns, and light-hearted adventurous tone, and inspired casting, combining such disparate actors on the team as Dan Aykroyd as Mother, Sidney Poitier as Crease, and David Strathairn as Whistler, the blind guy who uses his other senses to greater effect than anyone else. Mary McDonnell adds a feminine presence as Martin’s ex-girlfriend Liz and along with Stephen Tobolowsky in a bit part creates one of the most memorable sequences of the movie. And last but not least, Sir Ben Kingsley gets to be a misguided, all-too-powerful villain, with a ponytail to boot.


COMING AND GOING


LAST CHANCE (last date to watch)

NETFLIX

August 15
The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005)
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012)
Sweet Bean (2015)

August 24
The Road (2009)

FILMSTRUCK

August 10
Altered States (1980)
The Decline of Western Civilization (1981)
Dogtooth (2009)
Falling Down (1993)
Magnolia (1999)
Nights of Cabiria (1957)
Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
Them! (1954)

August 12
The Last House on the Left (1972)

August 17
The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989)
The Draughtsman’s Contract (1982)
Escape from New York (1981)
The Falls (1980)
Hairspray (1988)
A Zed & Two Noughts (1985)

August 20
Frances Ha (2012)

August 24

Act of Violence (1949)
Boy (2010)
Casablanca (1942)
The Freshman (1925)
From Here to Eternity (1953)
Get Carter (1971)
The Little Foxes (1941)
A Man for All Seasons (1966)
Mildred Pierce (1945)
Nine Queens (2000)
Now, Voyager (1942)
The Producers (1967)
Stella Dallas (1937)
Swing Time (1936)
Top Hat (1935)
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

August 31
Badlands (1973)
Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
Diary of a Lost Girl (1929)
The Exorcist (1973)
Gun Crazy (1950)
Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)
Kameradschaft (1931)
Reservoir Dogs (1992)
The Searchers (1956)
They Live by Night (1948)
Tootsie (1982)
Westfront 1918 (1930)
You Only Live Once (1937)

HULU

August 31
Across the Universe (2007)
A Beautiful Mind (2001)
The ’Burbs (1989)
Clue (1985)
Dead Man Walking (1995)
Escape from Alcatraz (1979)
Event Horizon (1997)
Hellboy (2004)
My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown (1989)
Primal Fear (1996)
Rain Man (1988)
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
Trainspotting (1996)


JUST ARRIVED

NETFLIX

Paid in Full (2002)

AMAZON PRIME

The Haunted Palace (1963)
High Noon (1952)
Hoosiers (1986)
Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
Joe (2013)
Rich Hill (2014)
A Star Is Born (1937)
The Uninvited (1944)

FILMSTRUCK

Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
Barry Lyndon (1975)
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
The Emigrants (1971)
The Exorcist (1973)
The New Land (1972)


COMING THIS WEEK

NETFLIX

August 10
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – NETFLIX FILM (2018)
The Package – NETFLIX FILM (2018)

August 11
No Country for Old Men (2007)

August 15
Hostiles (2017)

HULU

August 10
Borg vs McEnroe (2017)

August 16
Role Models (2008)


Jacob Neff is a film enthusiast living east of Sacramento. In addition to his contributions as an admin of the Feelin’ Film Facebook group and website, he is an active participant in the Letterboxd community, where his film reviews can be found. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with his latest thoughts and shared content.

Connecting With Classics 001: All the President’s Men

Welcome, listeners new and old, to the first episode of our new series “Connecting With Classics.” In this initial episode, Aaron & Don discuss the #77 film on AFI’s Top 100 10th Anniversary list, and one which is closely connected to current new release The Post. If All the President’s Men isn’t the best journalism film ever made, it’s certainly in the conversation. Join the guys for some history, some lessons, and as always some emotional connection.

One of the goals for “Connecting With Classics” is listener participation. We will be hosting prize drawings for podcast swag and more at the end of each calendar year. Entries into the drawing can be earned for every episode by watching the film and posting your own review or thoughts about the podcast episode in the comments section of the episode announcement post in our Feelin’ Film Facebook Discussion Group. For listeners who do not wish to be a part of the discussion group, emailing reviews to feelinfilm@gmail.com will also be accepted. 

Contact

Join the Facebook Discussion Group

Download this Episode 


Music: Going Higher – Bensound.com

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