What We Learned This Week: July 29-August 4

LESSON #1: THIS PRESENT CULTURE OF HEADLINE NEWS NEEDS TO SLOW DOWNFeelin’ Film Facebook Discussion Group member Joseph Hamrick penned an outstanding editorial recently on his website Article Asylum entitled “We Need to Talk about the ‘We Need to Talk About’ Headline Culture.”  Joseph discusses the wayward directions and lack of due diligence taken in entertainment news nowadays where too many so-called discussion pieces are reactive rather than reflective, defeating the purpose and wearing out that headline trope.  James Gunn and even Chris Hardwick are recent examples where patience could have gone a long way before vilification and over-inflation.  I know I see this all the time researching for this weekly column and Joseph nailed it.  Kudos and my compliments on a great piece!

LESSON #2: TROPES ARE SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN IN THEIR EFFECTIVENESS— The concepts that we all call tropes become tropes because they are successful to a nearly automatic level more than not.  I greatly enjoyed an article in The Guardian this week that reported on findings compiled by a behavioral economics and data science team at the University of Birmingham.  They combed through over 6,000 scripts to show which story arcs made the most money at the box office.  The winner was the “man in the hole” arc, which might as well be your classic underdog story.  Enriching stuff!  Give it a read.

LESSON #3: TRAILERS TOO HAVE BECOME AN EFFECTIVE SCIENCE— Speaking of effectiveness, trailers know exactly what they are doing to get audiences to desire the product they are advertising.  The top trailer-makers have studied and refined the craft of provoking emotions and evoking the senses right down to the algorithms and triggers.  As you know I’ve ranted in this soapbox space before, they have still become formulaic with their own troublesome tropes in my opinion and should be avoided, or at least tempered.  Still, the entire addictive draw and the creativity behind the craft is fascinating.  Enjoy this interview and examination video from Vice News:

LESSON #4: EVEN MONUMENTAL BLOCKBUSTERS BECOME “LITTLE ENGINES THAT COULD”— It has taken six months after its huge February debut and spring box office dominance, but Marvel’s Black Panther, thanks to one final tickle of $15,000 becomes only the third film to earn $700 million or more domestically.  It joins Avatar ($760 million) and Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($936 million).  To be the highest grossing MCU film was already achievement, but to hit that benchmark is both impressive and special.  Congratulations to Ryan Coogler and company!

LESSON #5: NEED A LAST MINUTE HOT SUMMER BEACH READ? CONSIDER A SCREENPLAY— Are you a movie fan that wants to dive in and relive some classic stories?  Then get to read between the lines with their scripts.  Sure, they might have zero pictures and whole bunch of extra framing words, but I bet they’re better than another trashy hit-or-miss novel off the rack.  Last year, Script Reader Pro collected 50 of the greatest film screenplays of all-time and released them for free available downloads.  In July, Shore Scripts added 45 more, also completely for free.  The combined selections are extraordinary.  Search by genre in either stack and revisit some cinematic gold in its purest creative form.


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.

What We Learned This Week: November 19-27- Thanksgiving Hangover Edition

Folks, holidays off of work will derail any routines you have, be it parenting or writing and publishing film reviews and online content.  I had a week and my world went lazy in a happy and welcome hurry.  Super-sized to match our post-Thanksgiving “muffintop” bellies, here’s a late edition of “What We Learned This Week!”


LESSON #1: YOU REALLY NEED TO SEE LADY BIRD— There is a five-star and potential best-of-2017 film sitting right under your noses with Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird.  My review glows like the California sun and you will find much more like it from my peers on Feelin’ Film and the pros on Rotten Tomatoes. In fact, take a look at this distinction, one even greater than the RT buzz given to Get Out‘s high score earlier this year:

LESSON #2: WHILE YOU’RE AT IT, GO SEE WONDER TOO— So often, we ask where are the quality family films in this current Hollywood marketplace.  I can’t be the only parent out there who asks for something better than made-for-TV ABC Family and Hallmark channel movies and the endless string of mindless noise coming out of blockbusters like MinionsSing, and etc.  Disney scaling things down with Pete’s Dragon and The Queen of Katwe last year gave me hope that a legitimate live-action family film could still be made and be mildly successful.  Wonder is that exceeding hope this year.  Its messages are virtuous and heartwarming.  Add Stephen Chbosky’s film to your shortlist for holiday viewing.  It’s a keeper.

LESSON #3: SPEND EXTRA TIME IN THE LOBBY, BATHROOM, TRAFFIC, OR AT DINNER BEFORE SEEING COCO (BUT DON’T FORGET TO STILL SEE COCO)— Disney/Pixar’s Coco is another family-friendly keeper right there with Wonder, but the animated “short” before it the opposite.  I don’t know about you, but I was done with Frozen when it came out.  Subjecting a (hopefully) diverse family audience to 21 minutes of repetitive Olaf silliness on top of previews and other advertisements before a hearty and heavy 109-minute film is too much.  Dear Disney, save that crap for your own TV channel and future streaming service.  Dear Pixar, we come to a Pixar film for your brand of superior original shorts, not Disney’s extra product placement.  Future Coco audiences, use article guide from Slate to calculate how much time to stall and cut right to the feature.

LESSON #4: BE MINDFUL OF WHO IS IN BED WITH WHO WHEN IT COMES TO THE BUSINESS OF HOLLYWOOD— Rotten Tomatoes was applauded before the release of Justice League for its stance to hold its first official rating designation until the opening day of Friday, four days after publication embargoes for critics ended that Tuesday.  It was seen as a move of patience and a step in the right direction away from the immediacy of rash judgment.  When you learn Warner Bros. owns Flixster, the parent company of Rotten Tomatoes, you might realize it was a selfish move of shielding flack instead of championing temperance.  Let me continue to join many other voices, including this great piece from Hype, begging for the general public to loosen their obsession with the broken math of Rotten Tomatoes.  Find critics you trust and appreciate and separate from the pack mentality of pitchforks and/or circle jerks.

LESSON #5: YOU GET WHAT YOU GET WITH JUSTICE LEAGUE— I’d love a Zach Snyder or Joss Whedon “director’s cut” (hell, even both) of Justice League, but conflicting reports make it sound like it can’t or won’t happen.  No matter what, too many folks play amateur armchair film editors.  If we get a bonus, that’s great.  If we don’t, take what the film gives you.

LESSON #6: SPEAKING OF SUPERHEROES, IT’S TIME FOR EVEN MORE DIVERSITY REPRESENTATION— Seeing the strength of the Amazons in Wonder Woman and Justice League as well as the badassery of Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok, it’s time additional diversity in comic book films.  This Collider column and list lay out six places inclusion of LGBTQ characters could have been made and it’s a good blueprint for more.  Heck, just start with women in general, let alone the other special demographics of the acronym.  The Guardian recently outlined a primer for a full “women’s canon” foundation.  It’s impressive.    Let’s see Hollywood continue to get progressive and build on the good starts and new energy.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, Medium, and Creators Media.