LESSON #1: SCARLETT JOHANSSON IS A THERMOMETER FOR CASTING HEAT— The Avengers star sparked social media fires the last two weeks by initially accepting a role as a transgender male for the film Rub & Tug. The movie is helmed by her Ghost in the Shell director Rupert Sanders, creating quite an echo to the whitewashing backlash she received there. Detractors rightfully cited the inequality of opportunities for transgender performers to be cast in transgender roles, or any mainstream role for that matter. Johannson’s callous comeback to the criticism did not help and the Twitterverse reacted with smite. Luckily, Scarlett thought the wiser, left the role, and offered a statement of contrition. Between this and Ghost in the Shell, this is two strikes for Johansson when most people barely ever get one. She needs to think before she signs or hire better management. On the bright side, she’ll always have Black Widow to save her Q rating and that long-planned solo film just picked up a director in little-known Aussie filmmaker Cate Shortland. At least that’s good news for her.
LESSON #2: MOVIE EXECUTIVES ARE AWARE OF OBVIOUS POINTS— Short-sighted armchair movie audiences (and people with their own outlets) like to throw their hands in the air and wonder how studios can honestly produce and release what they see to be terrible movies compounded from a mountain of bad choices. Guess what, the powers that be aren’t as blind as you think. “Candid” is just a nice way to say “bluntly honest” and solid example (other than the usual awesomeness of Kevin Feige) cropped up recently. In June, Warner Bros. film chairman Toby Emmerich opened up for a very frank interview with Entertainment Weekly. When asked about film performance and what types of films are working right now, Emmerich simply stated “I think the good movies work better. Somebody once said the best business strategy in motion pictures in quality.” Countering when Rotten Tomatoes was brought up on DCEU films, he followed that with “I would say no matter what, the better the movie is the more advantage it is.” See, that’s a guy who gets it and a classic case of “it’s easier said than done.” Even with the bottom line in mind, they know improvement is needed.
LESSON #3: IT’S NEVER TOO EARLY TO START AN OSCAR CAMPAIGN— It’s not arm-twisting “For Your Consideration” swag quite yet, but the PR firm that represents Emily Blunt and John Krasinski recently sent out a small and simple reminder package for A Quiet Place, complete with a letter of superlatives and copy of the film. Yes, the Oscars are almost eight months away, but if you’ve got a good film, flaunt it and shout it from the mountaintops. If a February release like Get Out can last over a year to remain in the minds of Oscar voters, so can March’s successful blockbuster surprise. You don’t have to push hard, but you do have to keep on pushing. Go get you some hardware, John!
LESSON #4: THE UGLY DETAILS ARE COMING— A Harvey Weinstein interview ran this week in The Spectator where he admits “I did offer them acting jobs in exchange for sex, but so did and still does everyone.” This was just a sitdown for a magazine. Imagine the court transcripts of sworn testimonies when the time comes. Names have been named all over, but when the ugly details get put into print or words, this deplorable chapter of Hollywood is going to get worse.
LESSON #5: ONLINE JOURNALISM IS BECOMING AN ENDANGERED SPECIES NEXT TO ITS PRINT ANCESTOR AND GOOD CREATORS ARE THE CASUALTIES— Because there are so many to choose from in a saturated internet, film and entertainment websites come and go all the time. Few notice because they move on to the next bookmark or scrolled headline. What people don’t realize is that closures (like The Dissolve) mean precious paying jobs for so many freelance writers and critics. I’ve had an outlet suddenly (Examiner.com) close on me before and now it’s happening to colleagues of mine over at The A.V. Club, whose parent company is financially sputtering to the point of putting its shingles up for sale. Other than deep-pocketed benefactors and advertising revenue, money has always been hard to scratch together on the free internet. Newspapers at least get your quarters and dollars every time you pick one up. Websites don’t unless you’re clicking away on their borders. Resources are scarce and when the money disappears, so do the opportunities. It’s a shame.
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.