What We Learned This Week: March 24-30

LESSON #1: JORDAN PEELE KNOWS WHAT HE WANTS— …and what he wants is increased representation and opportunity.  The Get Out and Us director set off a debate for the ages this week (especially in the Feelin’ Film Facebook group) after an interview in The Hollywood Reporter where he discussed his casting preferences.  Jordan Peele knows the playing field is not equal.  He is his own man, brand, and creator. He can do something about it.  More power to him.

LESSON #2: RIDLEY SCOTT IS ONE COOL DUDE— In a minorly viral story, a New Jersey high school recently adapted Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic Alien into a daring school play.  Word got around about its success and it made it to the ear of Scott.  In responses, the legendary director wrote a really classy letter of praise to the school and even cut them a check to help them out.  I love seeing stories like this! I wish more of them happened.

LESSON #3: “SUBSCRIPTION FATIGUE” IS COMING— With the news of Apple’s new streaming service launch on Monday, the war for the consumer entertainment dollar just got more crowded.  I know it counts as a buzzword that will be way overplayed in rants and click bait to come, but I like term “subscription fatigue” used by David Lazarus in this Los Angeles Times piece on the swelling streaming marketplace.  All of these choices (including the opening lineup of the Criterion Channel) and ones that are bound to come from more studios matching Disney’s moves, could very well be proof of “too much of a good thing.”  Folks might have so many streaming bills pretending to be ala carte cable that they might be better off having a cable bill again. I always say price point is key.  These services by themselves are low and affordable, but when you have more than five of them, you’re going to feel the wallet pinch.

LESSON #4: DISCOVER THE LEGEND OF AGNES VARDA— We Americans have probably never heard of this woman who passed away on March 29th. Do yourself a favor and learn about Agnès Varda and her impactful work as an artist. She is a figurehead of documentary filmmaking and cornerstone of the French New Wave. Discover some of her available work on these streaming platforms. You will be well-rewarded.


 

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.

Episode 156: Us

Jordan Peele follows up his massively successful directorial debut with this creepy, layered thriller/horror (comedy?) that is also full of pretty strong social messages. Unpacking all of it is a challenge, though, and we’re joined by Emmanuel Noisette of Eman’s Movie Reviews and our newest Feelin’ Film team member, Caless Davis, for an in-depth conversation and analysis of the mysteries Us has to offer.

Us Review – 0:01:05

The Connecting Point – 1:45:35

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What We Learned This Week: March 17-23

LESSON #1: JORDAN PEELE IS THE FIRST JORDAN PEELE— I submit a new addition to the  off-cited list of movie review cliches from Letterboxd user Erik Bazjert.  I say it’s time to do away with labeling actors, actresses, or filmmakers as “the next _____ (fill in the blank with some classic performer or legend).”  I get the want of complement, praise, and respect, but, more often than not, distinctions like that become a pigeon-holing crutch to the current performer and/or an lessening admonishment to the classic performer being cited.  I say let people be themselves and stand on their own merit. For that reason, I love the clickbait headline clapback of Quartz film critic Adam Epstein.  Us director Jordan Peele isn’t the next Spielberg or Hitchcock.  He’s the first Jordan Peele. I love that strength and sentiment.

LESSON #2: FOR ONCE, A BIG COMPANY ADMITS A BAD DECISION— Disney absolution and re-hiring of James Gunn for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was not only best for business, but the right thing to do.  Sure, maybe they were scared of a imaginary bottom line of reduced profits or the rancor of upsetting their roster of valuable stars, but, somewhere in the deep dark legal departments and decision-making conference rooms of The Mouse House, cooler heads and wisdom prevailed.  It would be wonderful to have all of this be a Wikipedia footnote in the filmmaker and the future film’s past. But, you know all of this old noise will get drummed up again during the Vol. 3 press tour in two years when every soundbite-sucking microphone is going to want an opinion from all stakeholders on how this return came to be and ultimately turned out.  Expect courteous pleasantries from everyone. The expose level stuff will have to be saved for someone’s memoirs.

LESSON #3: RESTRUCTURING WAS ALWAYS GOING TO COME— Speaking of Disney and its officially completed purchase of 20th Century Fox, don’t be surprised about the layoffs and restructuring that is already beginning with the shuttering of the Fox 2000 shingle led by Elizabeth Gabler.  Click bait is going to call it an affront on women-led film and the death of another mid-budget production source.  This counts as wait-and-see and par for the course. This is just the start and acquisitions like these always lead to cutting duplicates and redundancies.  For example, watch Blue Sky get folded into Walt Disney Animation or Pixar or both. Changes like this were always going to happen. Be ready for more.

LESSON #4: YOU ARE LUCKY IF YOU LIVE NEAR AN ALAMO DRAFTHOUSE— One of the best movie theater outfits going just made their outstanding and classy niche even more attractive.  The Texas-based Alamo Drafthouse brand is starting a “Season Pass” service where $20-per-month will grant you a movie a day.  That pays for itself in three movies.  The Alamo Drafthouse’s eclectic offerings have always impressed and hooked cinephiles and casual fans alike.  One of the best just got better.  If you live near one of their locations, do check this out.

LESSON #5: TRY SOME UNCONVENTIONAL HORROR— Circling back to the upcoming wave of Us, the horror genre will get a great deal of attention from audiences this month, both at home and at the theatres.  If you’re like me and not a big horror fan, you probably need some offbeat horror suggestions to dip your toe into something different.  The now-defunct Alcohollywood podcast published a very nice ten-film of “unconventional horror” films.  Starting with the old James Whale/Boris Karloff Frankenstein, they have some great picks and buried treasures on there.  Keep building the queue and wish list for your streaming services and library.  

 


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.

MOVIE REVIEW: Us

Us is a solid film with an interesting premise, lots of laughs, and a stellar cast that proves Jordan Peele isn’t afraid to think outside the box and make films like no one else is currently doing.


 

Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on the emotional experience he has with a film. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.