What We Learned This Week: February 17-22

LESSON #1: THE CURRENT PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA DOES NOT HAVE GOOD TASTE WHEN IT COMES TO MOVIES— It’s rare this column space goes political but the reaction of Donald Trump to Parasite deserves admonishment. His jeer-laced and mocking misunderstanding of the South Korean Best Picture winner and his dog whistle call for returning to Gone With the Wind are just another chapter of his deplorable and ignorant public nature.  The man has no taste in movies, let alone much taste in anything else, but that’s for a different website. Meanwhile and by contrast, let’s long for the days where we had a POTUS with actual acumen and a discerning eye for good film. In case you missed it, Barack Obama made cinephiles proud with his eclectic and topical best of 2019 list of movies and television. Someday, intelligence and grace will return to the Oval Office.   

LESSON #2: GET YOUR KOREAN ON— Want to be smarter than the Cheeto-in-Chief, bone up on and absorb some fantastic international cinema. There are riches to be found and, thanks to Parasite, all things South Korea are hot right now. If you don’t know where to start, check out one of the many buzz-worthy and click-bait-sourced “must see” lists (one, two, three) that have been crafted for South Korean selections. The commonalities and picks are solid anywhere you look.

LESSON #3: SOMEWHERE IN THOSE BUTTONED KNICKERS, MICKEY MOUSE AND DISNEY MIGHT ACTUALLY HAVE BALLS— A large section of the entertainment audience has groaned for a long time, and not just with the company’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox and their catalog of darker material including Alien and Deadpool, that Disney does not have the courage to release or even create movies with stiffer ratings. They get called sanitized quite often. We have argued that they don’t realize worthwhile and solid stories fitting of their image can still have PG-13 and even R-rated content. That will change ever so slightly with Mulan at the end of March. It will be the first of Disney’s line of re-imaginings to carry a PG-13 rating. While our female Chinese warrior isn’t lopping off heads anytime soon, this is a step in the right direction and sign that Disney may be beginning to take some of these grander stories seriously.  

LESSON #4: CUT A GUY A BREAK— The interminable roller coaster production history of the DCEU has gotten a great deal of click bait, but not enough shared honest truths. Even when legit news comes out, it gets questioned and twisted like crazy by fan agendas and haters. Look no further than the Zack Synder saga of his departure from Justice League. People and speculation were far from kind. The next guy in that universe that needs to be cut a break is Ben Affleck. Reading him in The New York Times describe his personal struggles with alcohol and other vices while wearing the cap and cowl is eye-opening, sad, and humbling. Too many so-called fans shout and nitpick at every little detail and too often forget the people underneath and the inordinate pressures put on them. Speaking of Batman, let’s not do that next with Robert Pattinson over one snippet of test footage and some set photos.


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.  (#123)

What We Learned This Week: January 20-February 16

LESSON #1: IF YOU WANT TO LAUGH AT A FILM SNOB HISSY FIT, COME SEE THIS— If you think a few of my Feelin’ Film group social media posts about the work myself and others do is a big heap of #firstworldproblems and #whitepeopleproblems, groovy and uptight Californians have me beat. You have to see this and laugh. The Hollywood Reporter headline reads Hollywood Critics’ Groups Squabble Over Who Is a Hollywood Critic.” The story here is the former Los Angeles Online Film Critics Society has recently re-branded into the less-of-a-mouthful Hollywood Critics Association and the Critic’s Choice Association, who run the popular awards show of the same name are upset about confusing or inaccurate representation and potential dual membership. Lawyers are involved and everything. Face, meet palm. Inclusion should be the winner here, not selfishness. This is the kind of tiff and behavior that gives the rest of us critics a bad name. Let this Chicago Indie Critics founder and director guy over here tell you. There is room for two groups. There is room for a dozen groups. This should be “the more the merrier” for access, audience, and enjoyment and not a playground finger-pointing throwdown. Clean it up, Los Angeles, and unbunch your drawers.

LESSON #2: WE NEED MORE GENUINE BLACK STORIES— Folks, I have to open with a huge shout-out to the work of Feelin’ Film’s new “Black Label” podcast to bolster this lesson. The roundtable of Kolby Mac, Erynne Hundley, Caless Davis, and Emmanuel Noisette are two episodes into their presentation run and their conversations about representation, black voices, and overcoming tropes is essential listening. A victory of what they clamor for arrives in theaters this Valentine’s Day weekend in the form of The Photograph.  Starring Issa Rae and Lakeith Stanfield, we have a mature and honest ethnic romance free of the forced flaws of baited debates and hammy theatrics too often saddled on this demographic by mismatched voices.  See this movie immediately and give the new podcast a hearty listen. Demand more and we might just get more. We’ve got four vivacious critics doing that here. Join them!

LESSON #3: SAVE A LITTLE SOMETHING FOR THE MOVIE— For the last two years after the Super Bowl, I’ve used this “What We Learned This Week” space for a “No More Trailers” challenge and soapbox.  I’ll link those previous rants and shorten the sermon this year to this lesson.  Less is always more. When I watch the trailer for F9, I feel like I’ve already seen too much of the movie, surprises and all.  It’s the exact example why I advocate not watching trailers to things you know you’re already sold to see.  Save something for the movie. Likewise, Sony has already released Billie Eilish’s James Bond theme song “No Time to Die” nearly two months in advance of the film’s premiere. I understand the promotional aims and needs, but, sheesh, do that two weeks before the movie, not two months.  You’re going to overplay this song before it even gets its proper placement. Save something for the movie. The best tease of the week on the positive end was Matt Reeves’ “camera test” peek of Robert Pattinson in costume for The Batman. Imagine if that Michael Giacchino noir music taste and its scarlet-glow reveal comprised the ONLY teaser/trailer we would ever get for the future blockbuster. Mission f’n accomplished for tone setting and frenzied anticipation.  Your triggered curiosity alone destroys your wallet for the future $9. That would be amazing, but, sadly, we know more and likely too much is coming.

LESSON #4: LET’S SEE HISTORY MAKE A NEW FUTURE— It’s not too late to react to Parasite’s historic Oscar night victories. As the first foreign language film to win Best Picture, it’s name is now forever etched in movie history and trivia game cards.  The challenge to have this historic success actually forge a new direction going forward in the industry. If Parasite becomes a one-year wonder and a thrown bouquet outlier for the rest of the decade, the excitement, good will, and growth possible all fade. Let Parasite be your gateway to more independent and foreign cinema. Don’t be scared of subtitles whatsoever when there is a cognitive benefit to be had. There is a wealth to discover and love. Find it. Celebrate it. Let it make you a better lover of movies. If you need help with that, we’ve got friendly aficionados all over the Feelin’ Film Facebook group.

LESSON #5: THERE IS MORE BEYOND THE OSCARS— For true fans of movies, this was a very good year at the Oscars led by Parasite. Good films, wonderful performances, and eclectic talents were given their due by the Academy and our own Feeler’s Choice Awards that matched the Oscars frequently (Excellent recap show, Aaron and Patch!). But, there’s even more. Before 2019 fades more with the advancing calendar, look back to the Independent Spirit Award winners given the night before the Oscars. In many ways, the likes of The Farewell and Uncut Gems are honored films equal or better than the Oscar winners. Fill your watch list and future queue from the Spirit Award winners before the Academy’s and you’ll get some really good stuff. 

LESSON #6: THERE IS NO SHAME IN SOLITUDE— Lastly, this is Valentine’s Day weekend where it’s also “Singles Awareness Day” because you’re never more aware that you are single than on a cheesy holiday like this one alone. There’s no shame in that. In fact, there’s comfort to be found. Last year, I really enjoyed this piece by the blog Lucy Goes to Hollywood addressing the stigma of going to movies alone. No one who does that is a loser and the experience actually has its own strength and catharsis. I call it an occupational hazard, but it also counts a “me time.” An excellent article on The Stylist by Kayleigh Dray continues the idea of self-care that comes from going solo. Keep that in mind while chasing your couple-dom. You’re doing fine without that extra significant other.


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.  (#122)

What We Learned This Week: June 10-16

LESSON #1: STATISTICS DON’T LIE, SO WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO ABOUT IT— Riding the wave of examination and expansion for equality in the film industry, the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative from USC revealed the results of a very telling data study that examined the demographics of movie critics.  To no surprise to anyone paying attention, 78% of the reviews written on Rotten Tomatoes were done by white males.  The news of that data ignited plenty of torches and hushed excuses. At an awards show, Oscar-winning actress Brie Larson spoke wonderfully on those statistics, how they do not reflect the movie-going population, how critical exposure matters (just ask Colin Trevorrow or the notion further expanded by this strong piece in The Lily by Monica Castillo), and how some films are made for certain audiences beyond white males and that fair and matching reviews are needed.  She wasn’t a bit wrong, and I say that as a white male movie critic myself. There is room for more and room for better. The questions become what steps can be made to create a better balance.  One encouraging example is seeing both the Sundance and Toronto Film Festivals designate 20% of their press credential assignments to minorities. We can’t grow film critics on trees, but we can look deeper into the forest and grant more opportunities in that way.  That said, this is still a competitive field and talent still wins. If a minority critic can earn those gets and those publishing spots, more power to them. Competition raises everyone’s game.

LESSON #2: WHETHER WE LIKE IT OR NOT, MOVIES ARE A BUSINESS FIRST AND AN ART EXPOSITION SECOND— First Reformed star and upcoming Blaze director Ethan Hawke appeared and spoke at the Seattle International Film Festival accepting their annual Outstanding Achievement in Cinema award.  The buzziest outcome of that was his quote that movies are “an art form that’s completely eaten by business.”  I know this sparked a lively discussion in the Feelin’ Film Discussion Group on Facebook this week.  This longing for the art to shine over the monetary success comes up often and the wording of my lesson title is my usual reply to that topic or question.  From the day they started charging for tickets to see these things called movies, it was always from then on going to be about the business.  Once people made livings and livelihoods out of participating in this art form, those roots were going nowhere and now they’ve inflated to the millions and billions of dollars pumping through movies.  I know I’ve reached a point as both a mature movie fan and also an experienced consumer (make no mistake, we are all both) where I’ve become more selective with what I’m going to spend my money on and also more appreciative when I encounter something that stands out as the art form underneath the profit potential.  If we, as a collective movie-going public, ever needed to rebel against the business end to demand better from the art standpoint, the only way to do that is hit the industry in the wallet where it counts.  Don’t give garbage your money and every dollar given to a deserving piece of cinematic art supports their cause and future careers.  Indulge in this entertainment with that mindfulness and you’ll be a better viewer.

LESSON #3: DISNEY/STAR WARS WHINERS, BE THANKFUL YOU DIDN’T GET THE FULL GEORGE LUCAS— Likely still rolling in a Scrooge McDuck-level money pit filled with the billions of dollars he made selling off his properties, a George Lucas book quote made news this week because it shared what his post-Return of the Jedi sequels would have been based on.  Take a gander at his premise based on “a microbiotic world” and silly-sounding “Whills.”  Flawed as Episodes VII and VIII may be, if that stuff from Lucas sounds better than the compelling chapters of closure for old favorite characters competing with elevation of new characters from J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson, then I’m sorry.  You can’t be helped and your inflexibility ruins it for everyone (see last week’s WWLTW because now you sound like those a-holes that bully on social media).

LESSON #4: GET ONE THING RIGHT BEFORE STARTING ANOTHER— I don’t think anyone at Warner Bros. knows what they are doing or how to properly make up their mind, including new DC Films President Walter Hamada replacing comic-connected favorite Geoff Johns.  They now have two Joker-centered films coming down the assembly line, a Jared Leto standalone extending the current DCEU and a low-budget 1980s-set origin story take coming from The Hangover trilogy director Todd Phillips, producer Martin Scorsese, and starring Joaquin Phoenix.  Combine that with the reports that the upcoming Matt Reeves-directed The Batman will be a younger Batman likely eliminating Ben Affleck and you have to ask the WTF questions.  What’s going on here? Are we pushing forward post-Justice League or are we rebooting and trying again?  Both can’t exist credibly. Which one matters more?  Warner Bros. needs to pick a lane and stick with it.

LESSON #5: COMEDY IS THE MOST SUBJECTIVE FILM GENRE, PERIOD— An esteemed panel of film critics (including Scott Tobias, Bilge Ebiri, Brian Tallerico, and Amy Nicholson) collaborated for a list of the “50 Greatest Comedies of the 21st Century” for Rolling Stone magazine.  The results, topped by Christopher Guest’s Best in Show, could not be more all over the place between eclectic spirit and pretentious pandering.  The opening blurb of the article admits humor is a “seriously subjective topic.” Go right ahead and add the extreme hyperbole of “the most.”  This task was impossible without some criteria or metrics, which the list and article gleefully (and carelessly) neglect. The triggers for horror and even drama are so much more universal than the fickle tastes and randomness of comedy.  We may say laughs come easy sometimes but they don’t. Someone’s #1 film is going to be someone’s reviled trash of eye rolls or hate and everyone has an opinion.


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 elementary 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, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties on a podcast every now and then  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on FacebookTwitter, and Medium.