What We Learned This Week: May 19-June 1

LESSON #1: GEORGIA DOESN’T REALIZE THE BUSINESS INFLUENCE OF HOLLYWOOD— The fine Peach State has been near the top or at the top of the list of most popular movie filming locations annually for over a decade.  A ton of business comes to them and it has been a boom of tax credits and employment all the way down the list of credits you see at the end of a movie.  The golden gravy train is being threatened by unpopular politics due in part to Georgia’s recent anti-abortion “heartbeat bill” legislation. The same is happening on a smaller level in Alabama and Missouri where similar laws are in place.  Disney, Netflix, several production shingles, and many performers are rethinking, threatening, or have already ceased production or engagement plans in those states.  Gripe about celebrity agendas mixing with political agendas all you want, but this is business and people are prepared to punch wallets where it hurts.  Georgia and those other states can stand on their principles all they want, but the prospective customers are equally allowed to take their business elsewhere.  The true business victims here are the under-the-title workers from craftsman to craft services who could see a precipitous drop of employment opportunities. They are citizens and they need to let their voices heard at the ballot box during the next election.  Both sides will be voting their interests, but let’s see how far money talks.

LESSON #2: ROTTEN TOMATOES WILL IMPROVE ITS CREDIBILITY— Last year, Rotten Tomatoes widened its collective of film critics for its vaunted Tomatometer with new standards that welcomed product and personal diversity (myself included) beyond the field solely print journalism.  The bigger pool has helped make its ratings more aligned to the masses, and now its the mass’s turn for accountability.  In a story released this week, RT is seeking to change its method for the Audience Score part of its ratings to focus on verified ticket buyers and not just “reviewing bombing” internet trolls and haters.  I highly applaud this effort for more actionable accountability and credibility, the latter of which stands to improve greatly. We can clap all we want, but the smartest among us still know that MetaCritic is statistically better (thanks Quartzy).

LESSON #3: PORTRAYAL AND PERFORMANCE NEED TO GO FARTHER THAN REPRESENTATION— From my Aladdin review on Every Movie Has a Lesson: Yes, it is wonderful Disney sought people of color for this ethnic fairy tale, but the clout of their portrayals and the substance of their actions are not improvements. If you’re going to do the right thing by diversity, go all the way, not just halfway or selectively. Dare to combat stereotypes completely. For extensive look into the troublesome history of Arab representation in film, check out Omar Mouallem’s piece in The Ringer.

LESSON #4: EVERYTHING CAN BE RECAST— Less urgent or important than the stakes of Lesson #3 but in the same ballpark of casting is Harrison Ford’s recent assertion that Indiana Jones will die with him claiming no one will fill the role after him.  Hollywood is a place where remake and reinvention are ever-moving cogs of evolution.  Someday, even if no one wants it, someone is going to remake the Indiana Jones films or tell new stories of the character.  Disney didn’t buy LucasFilm just for Star Wars and they see another cash cow of name recognition. Within our lifetimes, we will see another fedora-clad archaeologist cracking a whip.

LESSON #5: CLEARLY, OLD PEOPLE ARE SLOW AND TAKE MORE TIME TO DO THINGS— Boy, this lesson is mean and vague, even when following the 76-year-old Harrison Ford.  Well, we have another delay on Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, the filmmaker’s hotly anticipated Netflix crime epic.  Apparently, the VFX to de-age the senior actors needs more time to refine its look without losing the facial expressions of performance underneath.  No date has been given, but let’s hope nobody dies before this film sees the light of a streaming device day.  

LESSON #6: INDULGE YOUR AUDITORY SENSES AT THE MOVIES— In the final lesson suggestion spot, allow me to share with you this top-notch research list from IndieWire’s Chris O’Falt.  He gathered the 23 films cited by the new documentary Making Waves that chronicled the art of sound design.  Nothing but choice content here. Impress your ears with some of these winners if you need a casual viewing experience this week.  Every one of these movie choices would be better than the cluttered noise of Godzilla: King of the Monsters this weekend.


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 two years, 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 previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#103)

What We Learned This Week: May 12-18

LESSON #1: SCARY BUSINESS DEALS ARE ALSO SMART ONES— Just as there are two sides to every story, there are two sides to every business deal.  On the surface, Walt Disney, which acquired controlling stake in Hulu as part of the Fox deal, looks like the corporate greed monster or the Borg from Star Trek lore many fear in buying the rest of the Hulu pie from Comcast.  Honestly, though, this was inevitable and necessary. Split between two opposing controllers, Hulu was going to die a slow death of futility and stagnation.  Comcast squeezed Disney for $5.8 billion (far more than it paid years ago for LucasFilm or Marvel) for something the Mouse House was likely going to dissolve anyway with their Disney+ service.  That’s like the movie business equivalent of an NBA trade for an expiring contract that will never play a game in his new uniform. Comcast laughs all the way to the bank and the marketplace loses something that would have become clutter.

LESSON #2: EVEN “NO SUCH THING AS TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING” MIGHT NEED LIMITS— Now that Avengers: Endgame has cleared the Marvel end of self-imposed radio silence, have you seen the release date reservations of Disney’s calendar for the next five years?  Look below:

That, my friends, is insane.  Welcome to “market saturation.” I get that they are too big to fail and I get that they still make successful and positive products, but, good golly, space a few things out.  I’ll tip my hat that no new Star Wars films are coming for three years after The Rise of Skywalker.  That’s a nice pause.  That’s only one slow pause on a much bigger machine of cycles.  Other studios see this calendar and avoid these dates in order to not get squashed as the feeble competition.  Still, with a calendar that thick, where can the others hope to go at some point? Yowzers!

LESSON #3: START YOUR RESURRECTION CLOCKS NOW— Gazing into that future of release dates, one could wonder two things.  First, when will inevitable character turnover occur and, second, how long will the dead really stay dead.  I say that second one because anyone who knows the parent medium of comic book films (the graphic novels themselves) knows that no one ever really stays dead.  Even Christopher Nolan couldn’t really “kill” Batman. At this big level, when you put profit-minded and impatient studio execs in charge, I have to think the turnover or resurrection window narrows.  Contributor Jonah Koslofsky over on The Spool did a nice editorial piece this week on this underlying angle.  Sure, Hugh Jackman is supposed to be done with Wolverine after Logan, but what happens if the MCU fame comes calling (especially after/if Dark Phoenix bombs)?  Do we really think Robert Downey Jr. wouldn’t at least be tempted to consider another monster paycheck to return?  If their integrity holds (and I hope it does so as to not cheapen their phenomenal on-screen sacrifices and exits), wonderful, but when do the reboots and recastings start to come (Henry Cavill?! No, dude), especially with Logan’s new MCU home under the Disney roof?  Rub that chin and begin to wonder.

LESSON #4: THERE IS AT LEAST ONE PLACE WHERE DISNEY IS STRIVING AGAINST CREATIVE BANKRUPTCY— Speaking of that lengthy release calendar and recurring characters, the repetitive trends are a little maddening.  Call it whatever kind of adjective-assisted fatigue you want, this steady-yet-successful pattern of franchises, sequels, re-imaginings, and reboots from Disney (and other studios too, let’s be fair) have led many observers to bring out the “creatively bankrupt” label.  A sliver of less of that came to light this week when Pixar producer Mark Nielsen confirmed that Pixar has no other sequels on their planning board after this summer’s Toy Story 4.  Expect, fresh ideas, new faces, and big ideas which are, namely, all the reasons Pixar became successful in the first place.  This counts as promising news!

LESSON #5: THE ARTHOUSE HAS AN INTERNATIONAL LIFELINE— We in the United States are living in big screen blockbuster era.  It’s rare to see little films blow up anymore. If they do, they still have a genre bend to them for cross-demographic appeal matching today’s moviegoers.  The decline of the arthouse scene of independent film has been very apparent for a long time. We’re seeing a market transition where streaming and VOD platforms become their best profit options with multiplexes full of the big cheese.  So, it’s really encouraging to see one more place where arthouse films are gaining audiences: OVERSEAS. Eric Kohn of IndieWire wrote a nice analysis piece that shows a movie like Capernaum opening #2 and early $12 million behind Avengers: Endgame in China.  Here in the states last year, the same movie earned a little over $1.6 million in its entire run.  Opportunity like this for Capernaum and Shoplifters is great news for this class of filmmaking and for the global industry in general.  Slowly but surely, good films will find an audience and tastes can evolve along the way.

LESSON #6: FEAST YOUR EYES ON PRODUCTION DESIGN— In the final lesson suggestion spot, allow me to re-share a YouTube essay from the fine folks at CineFix ranking (with several ties) the ten best production designs of all-time.  This stellar list covers all genres and periods with fairness and there’s not a dud in the bunch. If you don’t notice and appreciate production design when you watch a film, let a little study like this be a primer and have a discerning eye into that craft ingredient when you watch movies going forward.  Production design is absolutely vital, both visible and invisible.


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 two years, 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 previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#102)

Episode 141: Mary Poppins Returns

December and movie musicals go together like peanut butter and jelly. Did this long-awaited sequel satiate our hunger for enjoyable song and dance? We dig into Rob Marshall’s follow-up to the Disney classic and discuss one of our favorite topics, intertextuality, and whether MARY POPPINS RETURNS is really more of a sequel or remake.

Mary Poppins Returns Review – 0:01:28

The Connecting Point – 0:55:15

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MOVIE REVIEW: Mary Poppins Returns


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.

What We Learned This Week: December 10-16

LESSON #1: $54 BILLION DOLLARS IS AN ASTRONOMICAL AMOUNT OF MONEY— The huge Disney/Fox deal that has been rumored finally became official on Thursday.  If you thought the two $4 billion deals Disney paid years ago for Marvel Comics and LucasFilm properties was high, the price tag on this one is enormous, but consider the prizes being the list of holdings coming over in this merger (see the article).  As before in this column, I get the fanboy dreams possible with this (see the character rights breakdown picture below), but I am going to miss the separation of history.  Here’s a good article of the 102-history of Fox.  I remain questioning whether this really is a good thing.

LESSON #2: YOUR R-RATED DEADPOOL WILL BE FINE UNDER THE DISNEY UMBRELLA— Disney CEO Bob Iger already answered one fan uproar after the merger with a statement on the fate of R-rated content like Deadpool coming over form Fox.  His final line was “As long as we let the audiences know what’s coming, we think we can manage that fine.”  People forget Walt Disney used to own the Dimension Films brand from 1993-1999 responsible for films like From Dusk Till Dawn and the Scream franchise.  All Iger and company have to do is create another production shingle under another name just like Dimension.  Hell, just call it 20th Century Fox.  Easy peasy!  Disney’s not going to say no to hit-making money.

LESSON #3: THE GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS REMAIN AN ABSOLUTE JOKE— This is becoming a yearly rant, but so many of the Golden Globe nominations announced Monday reek of questionable voting, taste, and any semblance of intelligence.  Snubs happen with any awards, but there’s are always more dumbfounding.    The Hollywood Foreign Press never seem to get the category split between comedy and drama right in a believable way.  Zero comedy love for The Big Sick?  No women directors?  Come on.  We’ve always heard the hints that this is a pay-for-play popularity contest for foreign press to throw a party to see and be seen.  I’ve just about stopped watching them altogether.  Still, as always, their winners senselessly affect Oscar races and it stinks.

LESSON #4: SOME FILMS HAVE NOT AGED WELL— I’ve been meaning to do some retrospectives this year since this is the 20th year since I graduated high school in 1997.  This past week, I charted my reflective “10 Best” of 1997 and several other lists and categories on Every Movie Has a Lesson.  The topic came to mind of what films have aged well or poorly over time.  I certainly had some films from 1997 that went down in love and appreciation for me in twenty years.  ScreenRant recently did a piece on the topic and made some great picks.  What are some films that have not aged well for you?  What are some films you liked long ago but have changed your mind on now?  Comment and let’s hear some thoughts and titles.


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.  He is a proud member and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  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 FacebookTwitterMedium, and Creators Media.

 

 

What We Learned This Week: November 5-11

LESSON #1: SADNESS AND DISAPPOINTMENT SHOULD BE AMONG THE FIRST EMOTIONS EMERGING FROM UNEARTHED SECRETS— Let me just start this whirlwind week to state what will be my universal stance.   I choose to stand on a shorter and calmer soapbox than others on the topic of revealed allegations of sexual misconduct that are popping up all over.   I choose to speak to something different than the immediate damning outrage and knee-jerk reactions that are becoming the norm with these headlines.  When these headlines arrive, from Kevin Spacey to George Takei, my first emotions are not anger.  They are sadness and disappointment.  I am sad that a person whose talent I recognize and work I admire and respect is now being torn down by their potential mistakes.  Even larger than the sadness is my disappointment in common people and their uninformed hot-takes that pile on top of allegations and not facts.  More on that comes in Lesson #2.

LESSON #2: WHERE ARE THE LIMITS?— A great deal of Lesson #1 echoes a fantastic Facebook discussion thread started by Feelin’ Film co-founder Aaron White this week.  It asked the essential question: “…at what point do we require more than just an allegation to ruin someone’s life forever?”  I will always be an “innocent until proven guilty” believer.  I don’t condone the content of the claims, but I refuse to label people until the label is proven to be proper.  However, I fear we have a majority society that reverses it to “guilty until proven innocent” with no basis, conscience, or respect.  I’m beginning to hate that lack of empathy and patience in people, from the clickbait press on down to trolls on Twitter.  When someone is found to be innocent, how willing will a public be to move on and let that previous hate and disdain go?

LESSON #3: THERE MAY NOT BE A BOTTOM TO THIS PIT— This might sound overly obtuse, but sexual harassment and misconduct is nothing new.  Expect more names and confessions for years.  That’s how alarmingly pervasive the behaviors have been.  For example (forgive the Fox News link) actress Maureen O’Hara was brave enough 70 years ago to try and get her story and voice heard on potential crimes committed and it created career consequences.  If you talked, even in truth, you lost your standing.  What is new is the ability of the public to listen and the landscape becoming more progressive to seek the proper justice, and that remains a very good global change.  The guilty deserve the consequences coming to them, but, again, let’s establish that guilt first.

LESSON #4: RESPECT AND SEEK CONTRITION—  Circle back to Lesson #2 for a seed in this next lesson.  Is there ever a good way to admit or reveal these mistakes?  What would happen if an actor or actress came forward on their own and admitted past mistakes before a story of allegations broke?  How much of a career suicide would that be?  More importantly, would you respect such honesty?  That’s where my sadness and disappointment and patience for innocence becomes a heart that respects those that seek contrition.  I think that’s huge and a step to a level of forgiveness that other folks aren’t willing to seek while they tweet and judge. Of all people, Louis C.K.’s admissions this week were really something.  Again, I can’t condone the behavior he admits, but I can respect his honesty and attempt at contrition.  I call that more positive than most of the ways these stories are spiraling out of control and temperament.

LESSON #5: THE BOTTOM LINE STILL MATTERS MORE THAN IT SHOULD— Social media can have their flag-waving moments of championing this entire cause of stomping out the atmosphere where harassment and misconduct are no longer accepted.  But make no mistake, the studios and corporations care about that flag-waving unity a distant second to the almighty bottom line.  They can say replacing Kevin Spacey with Christopher Plummer in Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World is for the right reasons, but what they are really trying to do is save a costly project from getting a bloodbath haircut from box office protests.  They’re willing to spend millions in order to renew attention, save face, and, more selfishly important, save more millions.

LESSON #6: DISNEY IS NOT AFRAID TO THROW MONEY AND CLOUT AROUND— Disney has spent billions in the past to buy the worlds of Marvel and LucasFilm and has banked even more billions because of those properties.  With an air of “if you can’t beat them, buy them,” Disney has engaged business talks to flat out buy the majority of 21st Century Fox.  Fanboys go straight the dream of seeing the worlds of X-Men and The Fantastic Four welcomed into the MCU.  They miss what could lead to the erasure of 80+ years of proud studio history.  Put caution with the coolness of this.

LESSON #7: IN ADDITION, DISNEY IS GREEDY— As mentioned in this column earlier this year, theater companies are reeling.  AMC is losing a fortune and Regal is desperate to raise prices to cover box office bombs.  Yet, here comes Disney with an unprecedented profit grab focused on securing their take of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.  Read the details here.  Sure, Disney has the product everyone wants, but it’s the theaters that bring them in and sell the tickets.  This should be a partnership, not a dictatorship.

LESSON #8: DON’T F–K WITH JOURNALISTS— Speaking of studio bullying and big-wig hubris, even the supposedly unstoppable and untouchable Walt Disney Company can lose a staring contest with the First Amendment and public pressure.  After blacking out L.A. Weekly from screenings in retaliation to some previous bad press, several critics groups united to disqualify Disney properties from their upcoming year-end awards to back their fellow journalists.  The display of justified critical brotherhood drummed up the right public support.  Disney blinked and lifted its sanctions.  I guess like Midas, they can’t resist the urge for gold. Let that be a lesson to the big-wigs.  You can’t silence the newsmakers.

LESSON #9: DON’T COUNT YOUR CHICKENS BEFORE THEY ARE HATCHED— Universal Studios threw a whole of bunch of money and hullabaloo at their “Dark Universe.”  They secured high-end talent and made big plans, but forgot one thing we mentioned earlier: the almighty bottom line.  These plans and projects have to sell.  Tom Cruise’s The Mummy vehicle bombed at the box office and was ravaged with bad reviews.  Now, mutiple levels of sunk costs are lost and Universal has pulled the plug.  Studios, take your time and let connections grow organically.  Start small and pace yourself.

LESSON #10: LUCKILY, RIAN JOHNSON MADE OUR WEEK— This week has seen plenty of hate sent in Disney’s direction and endless scandal.  One really nice story of good news to come out of Disney, especially considering their recent string of disposable directors, was to hear that they are empowering Star War: The Last Jedi and Looper director Rian Johnson to create a new Star Wars series trilogy with original stories and characters away from the Skywalker/Solo universe.  In a day and age where many of us call out all of the sequels and remakes, something fresh applied to a big property is an exciting step.


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.