LESSON #1: FOR AT LEAST ONE FILM, DEFENDING OF INTEGRITY STILL EXISTS— I absolutely love Paramount Pictures’ statement of support for Darren Aronofsky’s mother! after its low box office debut and an “F” CinemaScore. Here it is:
This movie is very audacious and brave. You are talking about a director at the top of his game, and an actress at the top her game. They made a movie that was intended to be bold. Everyone wants original filmmaking, and everyone celebrates Netflix when they tell a story no one else wants to tell. This is our version. We don’t want all movies to be safe. And it’s okay if some people don’t like it.
Other studios in other situations could have gotten in the bus driver’s seat, made up excuses, or assigned blame to everyone but themselves. Love or hate the film (and plenty feel both), mother! deserves its chance for success and an audience no matter how large or small those results add up to be. Bravo to the balls on Paramount brass! That’s as forward an example of integrity as you’re going to see in a profit-driven business where art is secondary.
LESSON #2: BARRING HUGE UPHEAVAL, YOU CAN LOCK IN THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI AS ONE OF THE NOMINEES FOR BEST PICTURE AT THE UPCOMING 90TH ACADEMY AWARDS— Every year since 2008, the winner of the Grolsch People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival has gone on to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. Three eventual Best Picture winners since 2006 were TIFF champs. Go ahead and write in permanent marker the title of Martin McDonagh’s newest film to the field. I think you’ll also see star Francis McDormand’s name on the Best Actress short list as well. Any and all Oscar buzz will float through this column all season.
LESSON #3: STRONGER IS THE BOSTON MOVIE WE DESERVED MORE THAN PATRIOTS DAY A YEAR AGO— The resonance surrounding the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing has always been more about the people than the bravura. We deserved the real thing, not an overly convenient composite character in a Mark Wahlberg glamour project. The most and maybe only genuine portion of Peter Berg’s film came in its extended epilogue of testimonials given by the actual citizens and participants. Real respect and passion showed up after two hours of exploitative action. David Gordon Green’s Stronger flips that ratio to deliver and demonstrate true dignity and tribute. His film is outstanding.
LESSON #4: RESPECT WOMEN, PERIOD— On the heels of the metaphorical misogyny found in mother! arrives a debate-filled dramedy of a real-life climate of misogyny in Battle of the Sexes. The Emma Stone/Steve Carell duel is an unabashed crowd-pleaser and stand-up message film that inspires and challenges gender equality then and now. Someday, a time will come when the blazed trails of women like Billie Jean King will lead to a true level field. Until then, every measure of respect paid to women is a step toward an acceptance and understanding that should be commonplace. Make a greater effort, period. If you’re part of the problem, change your ways. Teach not only our daughters better, but our sons as well. The old Lauren Barnholdt axiom says “you have to give respect to get respect.” Women have been giving of themselves for far too long. It’s time to pay the respect back.
DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. He is also one of the founders and the current directors of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle. 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.