LESSON #1: NOT WATCHING TRAILERS HAS BEEN WORTH IT— When I presented my no-more-trailers challenge to the Feelin’ Film group after the Super Bowl in February, I took it upon myself to lead that charge. Even as a busy critic consuming an insane volume of films, I have my personal anticipation list too just like any fan. Damien Chazelle’s First Man topped that list for 2018, and I avoided every piece of footage before seeing it early this past week. I have to say seeing it fresh as possible made for an incredibly rich experience, a fulfilling sensation I’ve grown to enjoy with all films since quitting the trailer habit. I’ll echo the challenge again to say pick one film and try it. You won’t be sorry.
LESSON #2: YOU CAN’T HAVE VENOM WITHOUT SPIDER-MAN— I’m going to sound like the Comic Guy on The Simpsons wearing his flag of toxic fandom, but if you’re going to make a Venom movie to introduce the Eddie Brock villain starring a beefy Tom Hardy that looks and moves like the monstrous Spider-Man opposition he should be, you have to start with Spider-Man as well, period. Thanks to blind studio and creative hubris, an incredible character is being pushed down audience throats too soon and with zero connection. The new film fails is a disservice to a minor icon, a missed corrective opportunity, and a damn shame for the present and future of Sony’s Spider-Man franchise potential.
LESSON #3: BRADLEY COOPER CAN DO ANYTHING— The stories behind the many talents and performances of Bradley Cooper are going to fill books one day. The four-time Oscar nominee and Master of Arts graduate from the Actors Studio Drama School has abstained from alcohol for 14 years and counting speaks fluent French. Those are mere footnote nuggets compared to role preparation stories of workouts and training for The A-Team and American Sniper, dance lessons for Silver Linings Playbook, and character embodiment for The Elephant Man on stage. His latest career chapter of A Star is Born might be his most impressive effort yet, directing for the first time and diving into 18 months of vocal training and guitar lessons. The guy’s commitment and craft are becoming off the charts. Someday soon with some successful arm-twisting and endearment, I have a feeling we’re going to call him the best active American actor working.
LESSON #4: FAKE REVIEWS DO NOT WORK TO DETER AUDIENCES— Two oddball stories about fake film reviews floated across the wire this week. The first goes with A Star is Born where there are reports of Lady Gaga fans pushing fake negative reviews of Venom to chop down its box office competition. The second is even stranger with the findings of an academic study suggesting that 50% of the online hate traffic for Star Wars: The Last Jedi originated from Russian trolls and non-human bots. I know I probably shouldn’t, but I find both of these stories to be absolutely hilarious for two reasons. First, the lengths people will go for their fandom is staggeringly silly. Second, it’s funny that those participants actually think these schemes will work. If anything, the opposing diehard fans against them will only work harder to clear their good names and prove the hate wrong. In the end, all you get is a whole bunch of digital squawking and dumb hashtags.
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.