What We Learned This Week: August 11-17

LESSON #1: “YOU KEEP USING THAT WORD. I DO NOT THINK IT MEANS WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS”— No, I’m not calling on Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride to talk about “masterpiece” again.  The word this week that is coming out all wrong from too many people is “monopoly,” as in “Disney is/has a monopoly and needs to be broken up.”  Let me boldface pieces of three variations of the word’s definition from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:exclusive ownership through legal privilege, command of supply, or concerted action,” “exclusive possession or control,” and “a commodity controlled by one party.”  Look, I’m not a fan of Disney’s dominance any more than the next discerning consumer, but what’s happening isn’t a monopoly.  No matter how many brands they own or manage, Disney not the exclusive or singular entity dictating any possession or control beyond their own property.  There are plenty of other entertainment providers, movie studios, merchandise makers, and whatnot. What’s really going on is sustained success. Monopolies of success aren’t illegal.  The competitors are just aren’t doing as good of business as Disney. If you want to beat Disney, make better products and do better business, plain and simple. So, until Disney buys Sony, Comcast (Universal), Warner Bros., Viacom (Paramount), Netflix, Amazon, and about a dozen smaller shingles where they are the only store on the block, stop calling what them a monopoly.  

 

LESSON #2: JUST MAKE A NEW OR REPACKAGED SPECIALTY BRAND ALREADY— Speaking of Disney and their monstrous image, their larger flaw of vanity is thinking everything with their logo on it has to be family-friendly.  Word around the campfire is that Disney investers are “worried” about the farcical and crude Nazi content of Taika Waititi’s awards season contender Jojo Rabbit and the negative optics it would bring to the brand.  Combine that with the Fox cuts listed in this column space last week and we’re seeing more buyer’s remorse than creative courage. Come on, Disney. You’ve reached a point where your brand is nearly untouchable.  And, if you’re so worried, take a page out of your own playbook from decades ago and revive/create a new brand or branch to launch the non-kiddie stuff that has potential. Disney used to start and own distributor hubs like Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood Pictures, Dimension Films, and, for a time, Miramax.  Bring one of those back or, hell, call it 20th Century Fox. Problem solved and the creators and audiences don’t lose out to the prudes.

LESSON #3: SMOKING SHOULD NOT BE PUT ON THE SAME LEVEL AS SEX AND VIOLENCE— Here’s a taller soapbox then Lesson #1.  Forty-three attorney generals from our nation of fifty recently composed a letter addressed to the major entertainment companies (including Disney, Amazon, and Netflix) urging a so-called “open dialogue” about the steps to “eliminate or exclude tobacco imagery in all future original streamed content for young viewers” and demanding “content with tobacco imagery should be rated R or TV-MA and be recommended only to adult viewers.”  Yes, tobacco is a national health problem, but not to this degree. Doing so would penalize many classic movies rather than make those films teachable moments with smoking’s inclusion.   The editorial staff from the Chicago area’s Daily Herald outlined several examples of movies, from Casablanca to Ghostbusters, whose value and messages supercede the superficially visible tobacco use.  I feel like the mistake in this, isn’t the movies. It’s the parenting that throws any movie on and doesn’t take interest or talk out what is being shown for entertainment or enlightenment.  Parents, this should be on us and not new ratings.

LESSON #4: BOX OFFICE DATA IS ANOTHER PIECE OF EVIDENCE THAT 2019 HAS BEEN A DOWN YEAR FOR BLOCKBUSTERS— Back in the day, a movie hitting $100 million domestically was considered a splashy hit.  Today, with inflation and bigger budgets being thrown around, that magic number feels more like $300 million.  According to data posted in The Hollywood Reporter for a story entitled “The Vanishing $200 Million Blockbuster” by Stephen Galloway, six movies so far in 2019 have topped $300 million stateside (some have of those have doubled it).  Oddly though, no movie has finished between $200-$300 million in their final tally after eight movies did a year ago.  Now you see where the story title comes from and the feast-or-flop vibe feels spot-on when you look beyond the top dogs to the rest of the 2019 spring and summer earning performances.   The duds outnumber the studs by a large margin. These are just the big totals, though. This has nothing to do with profit. There’s still a whole cottage industry of horror and genre films that triple their shoestring budgets in their opening weekends, let alone their entire run.  Still take this as a temperature check of box office health for this down year.

LESSON #5: SPIKE LEE HAS DAMN GOOD TASTE— In the recommendation slot, we go from Christopher Nolan last week to Spike Lee this week.  On his Kickstarter page, the BlacKKKlansman Oscar winner has a famed list of 100 essential films for every aspiring director.  It’s a doozy of a roster with wide representation and solid tastes. Make it your own college course at home like you’re online undergrad enrolled at NYU and let streaming services and library rentals take care of the rest.


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.  (#111)

Episode 153: BlacKkKlansman

We circle back to an Oscar-nominated film that we missed in 2018 and take a look at the Spike Lee joint many are calling his best since Do the Right Thing.

BlacKkKlansman Review – 0:00:48

The Connecting Point – 0:58:30

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Oscar Locks

It’s an annual tradition in my house. I spend 9 months of the year trying to convince myself that I don’t care at all about movie awards. I don’t need fancy, self-important awards shows to tell me what’s good. Sure, I’m not a critic, but I’m a dude who watches a whole lot of movies. I can decide for myself what’s good. Then, once December rolls around, I’m a triggered, angry mess for 3 long months as the awards roll in for all of the movies that I didn’t end up seeing. Well, not this year. This year, I’ve seen more movies than ever before and I’m ready to not be disappointed come time for Oscar’s big night. So for your reading pleasure, here’s a list of a few of the awards I’m looking forward to with a film/actor or two that should’ve been nominated but wasn’t, the nominee I want to win, and the nominee that I believe will win.


Animated Feature

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Incredibles 2, Mirai

Wreck-It Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks the Internet, Isle of Dogs

Should’ve been nominated: I’m going to start off here with a pretty boring opinion, but I think the nominations here were pretty good. I haven’t seen Ralph Breaks the Internet or Mirai, but all of the other three were great movies that I really enjoyed.

I want to win: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. This movie is a game changer in the world of animation. It’s funny, smart and gorgeous to look at. I can’t wait for my next opportunity to visit the Spider-Verse.

Will win: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Supporting Actor

Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born; Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Sam Rockwell, Vice; Mahershala Ali, Green Book; Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman

Should’ve been nominated: Hugh Grant, Paddington 2. The Paddington sequel was one of the first 2018 films I saw and Grant’s performance as aging villainous stage actor Phoenix Buchanan has remained my favorite throughout the entire year.

I want to win: Sam Elliott and his glorious mustache or Adam Driver. Sam Elliott because I love Sam Elliot and the small amount of time he gets in A Star Is Born is very, very good. Adam Driver is just dynamite in BlacKkKlansman. I’m always impressed when someone plays a role of someone who is playing a role and Driver does it about as well as anyone I’ve seen.

Will win: Richard E. Grant. I haven’t seen Can You Ever Forgive Me?, but he seems to be winning everything else.

Supporting Actress

Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk; Amy Adams, Vice; Rachel Weisz, The Favourite

Emma Stone, The Favourite; Marina de Tavira, Roma

Should’ve been nominated:Rachel McAdams, Game Night. She’s a total delight and boasts a comedic timing that is absolutely on point in the funniest movie of the year. “But she’s a lead, Jeremy,” you might say. And you’d be right, but so are Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone.

I want to win: Regina King. I haven’t seen the movie, but I hear she’s great and I think the Academy finally makes up for snubbing her work in Jerry Maguire in 1996.

Will win: Regina King

Actor in a Leading Role

Christian Bale, Vice; Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born; Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody

Viggo Mortensen, Green Book; Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate

Should’ve been nominated: Ethan Hawke, First Reformed. Paul Schrader’s film is criminally underrepresented in this year’s nominations. Sure it got a screenplay nod, but it very easily could have gotten a director and picture selection as well. Being left off of those lists is understandable. It was a strong year in film. What isn’t understandable is Ethan Hawke not being recognized for what is arguably the best work he’s done in a very long and storied career.

I want to win: Bradley Cooper

Will win: Christian Bale. Rami Malek does have momentum in this race, but for some reason, Hollywood is really keen on Vice. And Bale’s transformation just to get in character is easily the best part of Vice.

Actress in a Leading Role 

Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born; Glenn Close, The Wife; Olivia Colman, The Favourite

Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?; Yalitza Aparicio, Roma

Should’ve been nominated: The list here is really long. Regina Hall (Support The Girls) and Amandla Stenberg (The Hate U Give) both have strong arguments. But if you would’ve told me that Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade was simply video of an awkward teenage girl being filmed without her knowledge, first I would’ve thought that was super creepy, but second I totally would’ve believed you. That’s how amazing Elsie Fisher is in that film.

I want to win: Lady Gaga

Will win: Glenn Close. Because no one has seen The Wife and the Academy hates me.

Director 

Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman; Alfonso Cuarón, Roma; Adam McKay, Vice

Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite; Pawel Pawlikowski, Cold War

Should’ve been nominated: Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born. I don’t understand how Adam McKay got a nomination over Cooper in this race. Vice is fiercely adequate as a film, but from Adam McKay it’s hardly a stand-out. It’s an angrier The Big Short with the smugness turned up to 11. I don’t think it should’ve been shut out, there are some legitimately great performances that deserve to be recognized, but it doesn’t belong anywhere in the vicinity of this category or Best Picture.

I want to win: Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman. Some people might call a win for Lee a career achievement award. I think those people would be wrong. BlacKkKlansman is one of the most important films of the year and Lee presents it in a package that is funny, intriguing, intense, and uncompromising.

Probably will win: Alfonso Cuarón, Roma. I’m not sure if it’s the dog crap or the naked martial arts, but people are super into Roma. In all seriousness, it is a beautiful film and every moment feels crafted with love. I wouldn’t at all be upset to see Cuarón go home with the statue.

 

Best Picture

Black Panther, Green Book, BlacKkKlansman, Roma, A Star Is Born

Vice, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite

Should’ve been nominated: Blindspotting. It’s better than anything else on this list. Full stop. No snark, no quips, it’s better than anything else on this list.

I want to win: A Star Is Born is my favorite movie nominated, but as an unashamed lover of superhero movies, I’d love to see Black Panther go home a winner.

Probably will win: Roma. If I’m being honest, picture is the only category where I really don’t have any idea what’s going to win. I’d love to think that A Star Is Born would have a good chance because of how well it’s performed at the box office since it’s release in October, however that’s hardly an indicator of awards success. Roma is currently the odds on favorite, most likely due to it nearly sweeping the critic awards so far this year. But I think this is looking like a pretty tight race, so I’d keep checking in over there until you have to turn in your picks for the office Oscar pool.

 

There you have it. Those are my picks. Get your bets in on time. I’ll take 60% of your winnings and you can cover any losses (there won’t be any). And as a bonus for making it this far, I’ll give you one more quickie: I don’t want to be over-dramatic, but if “Shallow” doesn’t win Best Original Song, I’ll light myself on fire. Your move, Academy.


Jeremy Calcara is a contributing member of the Feelin’ Film team. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

 

MOVIE REVIEW: BlacKkKlansman

 

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 the emotional experience he has with a film. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.