LESSON #1: DAMIEN CHAZELLE IS A PRODIGY— We have seen young and fresh directors start out white hot and flame out. For example, Orson Welles made Citizen Kane when he was 25 and never matched high creative mark with the rest of his career. With First Man asserting itself as an entirely different scale, scope, and class of film compared to Whiplash and La La Land, no one can call Chazelle a one-hit wonder or a flash in the pan. He is a mere 33 years old and is primed to possibly have his third consecutive film be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Wes Anderson can’t say that and neither can Christopher Nolan. What Chazelle is doing with his craft and talent is quickly sprinting ahead of his peers and contemporaries. It’s boggling to imagine what he can accomplish before he’s 43 or 53. Projecting this guy’s career requires something stronger than the Hubble Telescope.
LESSON #2: IF YOU CAN’T BEAT THEM, JOIN THEM— Following the lead of Disney, AT&T and Warner Bros. have announced their intention to launch WarnerMedia streaming service to compete with Disney’s new platform and the existing giants of Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. The strong business reason is there: skip paying a competitor licensing fees to host your content when you can do it yourself. WB has the library depth to fill a service between their own brand and their HBO and Turner holdings. As always, the success will depend on price point. Make it competitive and attractive and people will come. People like paying for one-stop-shop convenience and, by the time they pay up for access to Disney, will people want to add one more service and one more hassle? I predict in a few years this column will have a future lesson that reads “The old adage of ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ doesn’t always work” because either Disney or Warner Bros. (or both) will pull back because they are not making their desired subscription numbers. Time will tell.
LESSON #3: MARVEL STILL KNOWS WHAT’S GOOD FOR THEM— Word just came through that Ryan Coogler officially put ink to paper to return to the director’s chair and writer’s desk for Black Panther 2. It’s only fitting because anyone less than Coogler returning to what he championed and built would be a backwards step for the billion-dollar smash. So far, as long as Marvel continues to allow Coogler to work with reasonable freedom, he will not be the next Joss Whedon to start strong and be burnt out by the micro-managing Marvel machine.
LESSON #4: JAMES GUNN WAS ALWAYS GOING TO BE FINE— Speaking of micro-managing, it didn’t matter to Disney, but James Gunn showed enough professionalism, contrition, and support from his peers to not have his career ruined for his old Twitter behavior that was revealed in bombshell headlines this past July. Warner Bros. has tabbed him to write a Suicide Squad sequel with the possible opportunity to direct. This counts as a positive rebound for Gunn and a coup of a hire for the DCEU. If you remember last year, Gunn was a elevated to become an inner circle member of the MCU creative core under Kevin Feige. He now brings that acumen and prowess to a place that could sure use more of both.
LESSON #5: TOM CRUISE DESERVES AN OSCAR SOMEDAY— IndieWire’s David Ehrlich put out quite a pitch this week say Tom Cruise deserves an Oscar nomination for Mission: Impossible – Fallout. I enjoyed the grounds of Ehrlich’s argument and I do think there’s something special about the level of star power and superhuman accomplishment Tom Cruise has done. Recognizing him for something that subverts his huge persona counts as honoring a departure from the norm, but when his “norm” is untouchably greater than anyone else’s, that greatness is the special achievement. I’m with the others on the Feelin’ Film Discussion Group who chimed in on this story. Maybe Tom doesn’t deserve an Oscar for this specific film or role, but, someday, his body of work and impact screams lifetime achievement.
LESSON #6: MOST CLASSICS DON’T NEED MODERN IMPROVEMENT— This week, Richard Dreyfus went on the record with Deadline’s Geoff Boucher to say that re-releasing a CGI-enhanced Jaws would rake in a ton of money and bring the classic to new audiences. The production troubles of Steven Spielberg’s mechanical shark are well-documented. I’m sure if he had the means then he has today, we would certainly see a different summer blockbuster. Call me old-fashioned, but Jaws like all other films are products of their eras and should stay themselves. It stands as a treasured time capsule for when practical effects, POV camerawork, and the stellar use of John Williams’s score could replace what couldn’t be done explicitly and still create a chilling effect. Jaws still works, even if some parts could be pretty cool with a little more teeth, texture, and speed. All I hear when Dreyfus talks though is a “cash grab.” The royalty checks must be coming in a little slow this year.
LESSON #7: KEEP AN EYE ON THE BOYS FROM SEARCHING— You hear Aaron White and me raving every chance we get about the August family thriller Searching. Both of us declared writer/Director Aneesh Chaganty and his writing partner Sev Ohanian as names to watch after their stunning debut. We now know what’s next for them, namely the Sarah Paulson vehicle Run from Lionsgate that starts production this month. Put me in the “can’t wait” line already. I know I’ll have some friends join me soon.
LESSON #8: IT’S OCTOBER, SO TREAT YOURSELF TO A HORROR MOVIE— In a quick finish, take a gander at this list of the best horror films on Netflix right now. The second one listed is an absolute must.
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.