What We Learned This Week: April 6-19

LESSON #1: TRUST YOUR AUDIENCE TO BE DISCERNING AND MATURE WHEN NECESSARY— As if you haven’t suspected such for a while, the prudish filter at Disney is thicker than cured concrete and more petty than your worst boss. For an odd and slightly depressing example, Disney+ recently felt the need to digitally edit some minor and non-sexual nudity from the classic romantic comedy Splash. Apparently, the sweet cheeks of a mermaid will burn children’s eyes alive. Grant your audience more discerning maturity, Disney. I get that profits and fandom demand that Disney champion and maintain a family-friendly brand image, but not everyone in every family needs the same cuddling and coddling. Between edits like this and quietly vaulting the harder Fox titles it acquired since last fall, Disney looks worse hiding it than they would embracing it. An easy fix is giving all of this content its own warning label shingle or (even better for the stockholders) its own paid gateway. You can’t tell me a restarted Touchstone Pictures wing (where Disney used to bankroll the PG-13 and further stuff) or Fox Studios-branded streaming service with the likes of Alien and Predator wouldn’t have an eager audience. Disney profits from putting that content out there and builds a future empire home for new projects down the road. All they would have is their name in the corner of the ownership deed in fine print. That sounds like a win to me. Instead, they’re too scared of Song of the South Daryl Hannah’s butt.

LESSON #2: THERE IS A POSSIBLE FUTURE WILL MAY HAVE TO EMBRACE— A fascinating editorial by Scott Mendelson in Forbes made the rounds on #FilmTwitter and our own Feelin’ Film Facebook group. It onlines the future of cinema with as many clouds and rays of sunshine. The potential truths are hard to swallow, but extremely possible. The senior contributor backs his conjecture with strong stats. It’s an outstanding read about the big picture that many may not want to hear but will have to admit is possible. 

LESSON #3: CHANGES COMMONLY START AT THE HIGHEST LEVEL— This pandemic industry shutdown is pushing more than just a few toes to be dipped into the streaming marketplace as a front-line option. Whole studio lower torsos are wading in those waters and some are making those waves from the top down. You may not notice change immediately, but keep an eye on Warner Media and the hire of their new CEO Jason Kilar, the 48-year-old former founder of Vessel and board member at Universal and Dreamworks. The IndieWire article link wants to call this the beginning of the death of Old Hollywood. He certainly has different experience and goals. Watch the shifts coming at the WB. 

LESSON #4: SOMEBODY PUSH MARTIN SCORSESE AWAY FROM THE BUDGET BUFFET TABLE— I don’t want to roll the first two lessons as a lead-in to this one, but a harsher version of this one could read “Change or Die.” Quintessential filmmaker Martin Scorsese is out there with his hat in his hand asking Apple and Netflix for money to make his next project Killers of the Flower Moon. Surely, the conglomerates could spare a few million for one of the finest artists of the century to continue his passion. The problem is Martin is holding out a 200-million-gallon hat. That’s the dollar amount he “needs.” Boomer, that’s too much. Trade some filet mignon for some mac-and-cheese. Trim a few excesses. Make a few more economical choices. I don’t blame Paramount one bit for balking at that dollar amount. They wouldn’t see a return on their investment and that’s exactly the same reason the wildly over-budget The Irishman landed on Netflix. Even kudos cost money. It will be very telling if even Netflix and their deep pockets say no.

LESSON #5: CAN WE GET A MORATORIUM ON ROBIN HOOD FILMS?— Look, I know the Robin Hood creation and character have been open to the public domain for five centuries, but that doesn’t mean we need to have some kind of bastardized film attempt every two years. Sure, the old foxy Disney animated folly is a cute one. However, even that movie getting the live-action “reimagining” treatment from Blindspotting filmmaker Carlos Lopez Estrada still counts as one more sloppy thing to stick to a wall to see if it sticks. Can we put some years in between the opportunities to beat this character to death? Go make another King Arthur, Spider-Man, or Batman incarnation… oh wait… 

LESSON #6: IF YOU’RE RUNNING OUT OF QUARANTINE RECOMMENDATIONS, HIT UP JAMES GUNN— The genre-fueled tastes of the Guardians of the Galaxy director would make any fanboy proud. What started as a gargantuan list of 140 films on Twitter was simmered down to 54 on SlashFilm. That’s a pocket full of gems and the article is kind enough to tell your coach potato self where to watch them.

DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) 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 member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#129)

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.