What We Learned This Week: September 14-20

LESSON #1: THE LANDSCAPE IS NOT READY FOR BLOCKBUSTERS— This first lesson isn’t about desire. With all of the #firstworldproblem wishes, we all miss big event movies. It’s the setting and the earning potential that are not ready. Not enough states and locations are safely open to distribute something wide. Socially-distanced theaters don’t have enough takers or enough seats to make money. Studios either foresee that (and keep delaying) or don’t (and get their harsh baths and haircuts). Look no further than Warner Bros. and Tenet. Watch it fall tremendously short of its budget and maybe cause more harm than good. Watch the PR department spin their own numbers to save face.

LESSON #2: THE DIGITAL OPTION CONTINUES TO IMPROVE AND GRAB PEOPLE— As it stands now, Mulan has made more money than Tenet. Nine months ago, would you have ever thought that was possible? I sure didn’t. Conservative estimates have the Disney re-imagining earning north of $250 million and counting while Tenet just passed $200 million and is struggling to gain repeat business. That echoes Lesson #1. The cherry on top for Mulan is its Velcro to grab and keep new customers. So far in September, Disney+ is experiencing a 68% bump in app downloads coupled with a 193% surge in spending on the app. That follows a previous 79% boost in July attached to Hamilton’s debut on the steaming platform. Something is becoming better than nothing and more is more. Could digital be the new savior until this pandemic lifts. At Disney, let’s see what happens with Black Widow and Soul delays. At WB, we see them sharpening their HBO Max ax.

LESSON #3: HIGH-LEVEL SOCIAL MEDIA HARDBALL HELPS NO ONE— Speaking of Warner Bros., I don’t even know where to begin with the Ray Fisher vs. Warner Bros. fight. With the bold claims being laid and the hills-to-die-on being molded in both directions, this has gone past the stages of “spat” or “disagreement.” The trouble is this is one lower-level actor against a media giant. The success rate is low and the ostracization rate is high, but Ray Fisher strikes me as the kind of guy with that kind of conviction. He’s going to go down swinging. Who do you believe in this feud?

LESSON #4: PEOPLE OF GOOD TASTE OFTEN COME FROM GOOD TASTE— If I were to poll you folks and ask who makes the best American family films right now, I bet the #1 Family Feud survey answer would be Pixar. They make the consistent best storytelling and lesson-rich content. If you’ve ever wondered what people of good taste like Pixar found their taste, check out a pair of excellent Letterboxd lists of age-based recommendations collected from a team of their directors. Their 7-12 list and their 12-and-up list feature some of the absolute best family-friendly films. Indisputable perfection right there.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) 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 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. (#140)

What We Learned This Week: July 20-26

LESSON #1: WE ALL KNOW AND REMEMBER THE COLLECTIVE EXPERIENCE— I don’t want to get all Mufasa of The Lion King with a “Remember, who you are” or, worse, an Alan Jackson post-9/11 country song of “Remember When” because, in honesty, this whole “I haven’t seen a movie in forever” rant that gets tossed around has only been a few months. That’s a mere drop in our life’s bucket in the grand scheme of things. Look, I get it. Sitting at home on a TV or computer screen isn’t the same. We miss going to the movies, and the movies miss us too (or rather our money, more on that next). Nothing beats the collective and communal experience. Former Roger Ebert wingman Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times made it to very spaced-out Music Box Theatre in Chicago for a 70mm screening of Interstellar after 126 days since being in a theater. The joy and comfort came back to him and he poured that out in a lovely column. What happened for Richard, can and will happen for us. It will be wonderful when it does. It will just take time, namely the right time.

LESSON #2: NO STUDIO IS GOING TO LEAVE NINE FIGURES OF MONEY ON THE TABLE— Sigh. I feel like every week this summer here in WWLTW I have to keep talking about Tenet. Finally this week, it received the full “indefinite” delay that it should have gotten months ago. Was that enough to finally get Nolanites to chill and accept reality? Just like his mind-bending films, the answer was no. The hubris continued with speculation it would at least play in China or Europe or some newfangled staggered rollout. Let’s keep banging the table. Folks, it ain’t gonna happen because Warner Bros. is not going to release a movie, especially one that needs $800 million to make it to the black, without its biggest market. They won’t accept less. They would be asking for torrent piracy to swoop in and spoil their golden goose. You can wish all you want, but it’s time to move on. This is where our #firstworldproblems are at: 

LESSON #3: ANY DYING BUSINESS IS GOING TO DEMAND THEIR SURVIVAL EVEN IF IT IS BAD FOR BUSINESS—It’s ugly, yet understandable. The whole industry is swirling an ugly and uncertain drain to against an invincible threat that cannot be wished away or bought. Similar to the predicament schools are in (and, boy, as a teacher, let me tell you about this rocking boat) about what’s best for re-opening, movie theaters are weighing options and recommendations with desperation. For theaters, as evident by the sentiments of the National Association Theater Owners, their answer is anger and frustration with every studio delay like Tenet. “Urge” is becoming “should.” And “should” is starting to sound like “demand.” Things are looking like mid-2021 at best. Unlike schools, their direct survival at the industry level is on the line. They have a bankruptcy gun barrel either pushed to their temple or inserted in their own mouth. Schools, on the other hand, have viable alternatives. I’d hate to be in those budget meetings right now in Hollywood. 

LESSON #4: EMBRACE THE PARANOIA— Earlier during this COVID quarantine, the hot social distance water cooler movies to see where the virus-based thrillers like Outbreak and Contagion. Months later, more and more of the craziness is setting in and more tin foil hats are going on. Let some or your movie consumption dive into that. Blake Collier of Film Inquiry posted a recent piece on what paranoid cinema says about ourselves and society. It’s an excellent read and filled with stellar films to sample. Dip your toe in the loony waters and have fun.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) 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 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. (#138)

What We Learned This Week: June 27-July 12

LESSON #1: HUBRIS, MORE OFTEN THAN NOT, COSTS MONEY— No studio executive in their right mind is going to intentionally lose money versus a genius’s hubris. Filmbro golden calf Christopher Nolan can say he’s not worried about his future Tenet box office performance (now bumped to August 12th), but I guarantee you the pearly bean counters are. They’re not leaving earning potential on the table just to appease a filmmaker, no matter how virtuoso he is. They’ll let him walk, and he can’t take his movie with him. Patience, Christopher, patience. Just wait and let your biggest nation of audience get healthy.

LESSON #2: PREMIUM VOD WILL EMERGE AS A VIABLE OPTION— Family fare like Trolls: World Tour and Scoob! have tested the VOD waters for family attention. The King of Staten Island and Irresistible have tempted adult crowds. The question becomes what happens when a popular title for the masses becomes available for a premium rental. Who bites? If enough do, just as this recent Hollywood Reporter column suggests, expect this premium option (PVOD) to become a new go-to or must for craving audiences. The key is price point and the opponent is piracy.

It’s a matter of time when the right big title and the right price gets the customers to come running for a rental.

LESSON #3: IT’S WALLET DESTRUCTION WEEK— Speaking of money, this week is going to destroy the mattress money, nest eggs, swear jars, and piggybanks of physical media fans and cinephiles with low will power. It’s Barnes & Noble’s semi-annual 50% off Criterion sale. At the same time, the Warner Archives has opened its 4 for $44 sale. If you are someone survived the recent Arrow, Kino Lorber, and Target sales this summer without subsidizing your home or pawning your car, you’re so screwed now.

LESSON #4: THE OSCARS CANNOT GET AHEAD— There’s good news outnumbered by bad news. The good news is diversity keeps notching wins and the Academy recently added 819 new members with 36% of them being POC. That’s an ongoing shift they have long needed and each year will continue to bring new blood. As soon as they do that, they take two steps back when the MPA announced they are allowing agents the right to vote for Oscars. That’s beyond stupid and out of touch. That immediately inserts favoritism and more selfish and showy campaigning and placating that the Oscar cycle already has too much of. Agents are not artists, period.. They are not on the same level of industry professionals who make the movies. They should be removed from this arena.

LESSON #5: ONCE AGAIN, THERE IS NO BETTER TIME TO EDUCATE YOURSELF— In a callback to my last regular WWTW, the educational opportunity for our time at a social-distancing home with a buffet of media choice at our fingertips continues. While parents and schools mull what it’s going to take to go back to school buildings, you parents can be a homeschooler of film. If you need a “curriculum,” let PBS, Martin Scorsese, and Film School Rejects curate your content starting here. For more, PBS has a “Crash Course Film History” series on YouTube and Film School Rejects has a new “Cinephile Summer Camp” column. Get you some education!


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) 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 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. (#136)

What We Learned This Week: May 25-June 14

LESSON #1: THERE IS NO BETTER TIME TO EDUCATE YOURSELF— In this time of racial divide and protest, education is more needed than ever. Just as I tout with my website, movies can be a place to get it. Service after service, studio after studio, and platform after platform from Netflix and the Criterion Channel to Kino Lorber have begun to make films and documentaries by and/or featuring black artists free or readily available. Take this curated list from our own Erynne Hundley and pounce on this excellent recommendations: 

LESSON #2: SPIKE LEE IS ONE OF CINEMA’S BEST TEACHERS— When you watch a Spike Lee movie, you’re getting more than dramatic narrative for entertainment value. With his frequent use of archival footage lately in films like Chi-Raq, BlacKkKlansman, and the new Da 5 Bloods, Lee brings a marvelous ability to echo the lessons of the past into the topical present that still sorely needs education. The man sternly teaches as he preaches. Spike Lee may be a provocative and acquired taste for more than a few, but his contributions are nevertheless bold and vital. History can and should look fondly on what he’s done with his work for four decades and counting.

LESSON #3: OLD MOVIES ARE TIME CAPSULES FOR THEIR ERAS AND DESERVE TO BE SEEN FOR WHAT THEY ARE— Speaking of history, times change. Sensibilities change. The movies of those times and built with dated sensibilities age as well. Watch them, but do not censor them. The Gone With the Winds of history deserve to be seen, examined, and even still enjoyed. Watch them with fair and discerning lenses. Take notes and learn from them. Movies are one way we keep history from repeating itself. More than anything, some movies only get better with age. Take this list of pre-1967 movies fit for an modern audience from IndieWire and be amazed. 

LESSON #4: EVEN SAVIORS BLINK— Back in May in an op-ed in The Washington Post, filmmaker Christopher Nolan lobbied hard for the survival of movie theaters and wanted his Tenet to be the movie that could help revive the multiplex scene. Those “insiders” that believed a mid-July release was overly optimistic turned out to be right. Nolan and Warner Bros. blinked and moved Tenet (and other tentpoles like Wonder Woman 1984) two more weeks to July 31st. Watch the pandemic numbers move it again in another two weeks. Wisdom is winning over hubris. Everyone needs to keep their patience. This could take a while and I think we’ve all come find that out. Maybe someone needs to tell Christopher too.

LESSON #5: SOMETIMES MOVIES ARE BETTER THAN THEIR BOOKS— Early word around the campfire is saying Kenneth Branagh’s Artemis Fowl which debuted on Disney+ instead of theaters is quite the hollow husk compared to its source material. I will always be that critic that will implore anyone and everyone to separate the two mediums of written prose and visual filmmaking. That said, better is an easy measurement to make. It’s rare, but there are times the movie is better than the book. Collider made a nice list last summer of 30 such submissions, I would add a 31st of Field of Dreams. If you want Artemis Fowl this weekend and lament, seek a few of those classics out.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) 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 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.  (#134)

What We Learned This Week: March 16-22

LESSON #1: THIS IS WHAT CUTTING ONE’S LOSSES LOOKS LIKE— This sweeping social distancing (and so to be full sheltering orders) due to the COVID-19 virus has studios buckling on what to do with their current and upcoming movie releases. Most that were slated for theaters are “delayed” or “postponed” for the time being, but the question becomes how long can they wait or hold. Rumor has it Warner Bros. is considering a streaming release for Wonder Woman 1984. Could Black Widow be far behind from Disney? As for the current movies that have been frozen by closed theaters, studios are dropping them on streaming and VOD platforms early, as is the case with Onward, The Invisible Man, Emma, and The Hunt. Being released already, trying to squeeze some VOD rental money is their best chance. Price point will be the challenge, but you know those families of four would likely be OK spending $20 for a night at home versus the full theater trip for $9+ tickets and concessions. We’ll see how these tests of marketing and head honcho hubris patience turn out.

LESSON #2: LEARN WHAT THE PARAMOUNT DECREES WERE— I’ll put my school teacher hat on since I’m stuck at home without a classroom for the foreseeable future. Here’s a quick dose of movie history that faded in November with implications that could loom large with a shuttered theater system right now. There was something called the Paramount Decrees. Back in 1948 in the case of United States v. Paramount Pictures, a decision was made that “studios couldn’t withhold films from certain theaters while granting exclusive rights to others or outright buy theaters of their own.” That has kept top-to-bottom control away from studios. Far forward to now with the AMCs and Regals of the world closing their doors indefinitely without business. I hinted at this last week in WWLTW. Imagine a scenario where Disney buys/builds their own movie theaters to exclusively release their products. That would create an outlet arms race and likely kill indie cinema getting theater space. With weakened theater chains, this kind of turn is possible. Stay tuned to how we recover or don’t from this time period.

LESSON #3: BRING BACK DRIVE-INS– In an effort to avoid the possible bacteria cesspools that are crowded and sticky movie theater seats (don’t lie, we’ve all had our “ewww” moments at a movie theater), could old school drive-in movie theaters (and the dirtiness of our own cars, again, don’t lie) be a new alternative in the post-social distancing era? I think so and it’s a lovely thought. There was a great optimistic read this week published by The Los Angeles Times on the topic that talks optimism and relief. Build some big screens, bring your own concessions, fill the seats, and pipe the sound through the Bose-powered infotainment systems in some of our modern cars and you’ve got a renewed and joyous movie experience.

LESSON #4: EXPAND YOUR HOME VIEWING TO SHARE WITH OTHERS— I love the news of Netflix’s new Netflix Party extension. Turning shared movies into chat room opportunities with friends you’re separated from sounds like a blast. I think we need a Netflix Party with our Feelers ASAP. Let’s get on that, fellow admins.

LESSON #5: SOME STARS END UP BEING GENUINELY NICE PEOPLE— As a school teacher, I can speak to this new hurdler of at-home “e-learning” and the challenges of not just planning it, but delivering it to my students and also my own children as a parent. Everyone I see in my professional community is doing their part, and I’m loving those outside of it that are coming to help. And it’s as easy as reading a book for others to hear. What started with Frozen star Josh Gad nightly on Twitter has expanded to dozens of celebrities chipping in to connect and entertain. Grab a device, bring the kids together on the couch or at bedtime, and enjoy a hearty tale from a familiar and kind face.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) 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 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.  (#126)

What We Learned This Week: October 14-27

LESSON #1: THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON MAY BECOME THE MOST IMPORTANT FILM OF 2019— Look at me writing a clickbait headline.  I, and many others, think the world of this film (5-star review), but it is now making an impact far bigger in the grand scheme of things than another Scorsese masterpiece entry or Marvel blockbuster. Thanks to its emerging star Zack Gottshagen, The Peanut Butter Falcon has started a groundswell of hiring and representation for performers with intellectual disabilities, as outlined in a recent article in The Hollywood Reporter. That is absolutely huge and a benefit far greater to the industry than hardware and money. This is, without a doubt, the best industry story I’ve seen this month and maybe this year. Folks, see this film for how special it is and not just because of the “special” people in it. 

LESSON #2: GET THE BIG MONEY OUT OF THE OSCARS— I wonder if casual fans notice as much of the “For Your Consideration” stuff as a film critic like myself does.  I’m guessing people see the extra language on marketing materials and maybe the occasional magazine ad. Folks, let me tell you, the studio-powered promotion machines to get their films front-and-center for awards season are unchecked and on the same level as all the wild political campaigning you see in public life.  While I’m happily inundated with screeners and materials during this time of year as a critic in two awards-voting bodies, I can do the math on the sheer volume of money being spent just to get a name or two mentioned and it’s completely too much. Sadly, these full-court press tactics work on the weak groupthink voters at all the levels of this industry.  Voters should be more discerning rather than easily fickle and the pushiness should stop. More people are finally standing up to say something about it and I’ll join them.  

LESSON #3: THERE ALMOST ALWAYS COMES A POINT WHERE A FREE GOOD THING WILL SOMEDAY COST MONEY— I was as surprised and bummed as any other casual box office statistics fan when levels of the Box Office Mojo site where absorbed by the subscription-required IMDb Pro site. Amazon has owned Box Office Mojo since 2008, where I’m surprised it took this long for such a switch.  The basics are there, but the original site was so much tighter and immersive with its data. The new one is very watered down. Let’s see if it can evolve back into an industry leader.

LESSON #4: EASY ON THE INFLATED TROPHIES, HOLLYWOOD BEAN COUNTERS— Speaking of Box Office Mojo, the congratulatory headlines were inescapable this week that Joker will “officially” become the highest grossing R-rated film of all-time.  Child, please.  I do this often, but go to the inflation-adjusted numbers and slow your roll, folks.  Joker has earned over $250 million domestically and triple that overseas and deserves every success, no doubt.  But wake me up when it touches (let alone climbs near the top of) the Top 200 on the all-time inflation-adjusted list before you start handing out those title belts. It’s not catching The Exorcist at #9 or many more of the R-rated films on that list.  Dream on, Warner Bros.

LESSON #5: EVERYONE NEEDS A BREAK AND SHOULD TAKE ONE— I applaud 23-year-old Timothee Chalamat who spoke to Vogue about desperately needing to take a break from acting after a solid few years of constant work. Other actors have done it for years and it’s always a smart play for physical, mental, and emotional recharge and renewal.  As they say, “absence away makes the heart grow fonder.” Expect a committed and improved Chalamat when you see him after. More actors should do this, if even for the fact of not becoming overused and overexposed, let alone to recuperation.

LESSON #6: DON’T BEAT DEAD HORSES— In the latest log on the fire stoked by many of Hollywood’s creative bankruptcy, something that was ran into the ground will now be dusted off and run into the ground again.  Disney has tabbed Chernobyl creator Craig Mazin to join franchise writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio to reboot the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.  I know I’ve said it somewhere before in this column, but put some time between death and rebirth.  Sure, when you go all the way back to 2003, it will be nearly 20 years since the first movie, but it’s only been two years since its last one.  Wait twenty years after that instead and then dazzle us with a new take in 2037. Go away and try your own “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” We still freshly remember the s–t show.

LESSON #7: SLOW THE F–K DOWN, YOU BINGER— Speaking of taking a break, the entertainment you consume is supposed to be rich and entertaining experience.  Why would you speed it up just to get more? Word around the campfire is Netflix is experimenting with the possible setting of showing its content at 1.5x speed.  Come on, man.  Have some patience.  Part of the magic of film and TV shows is the editing of pace and timing.  Those are crucial and deliberate creative traits. Don’t ruin that because of your impatience.  

LESSON #8: IF YOU WANT CUSTOMERS, GIVE SOMETHING EXCITED AWAY— Verizon isn’t hurting for business or customers, but you know they’ve dropped the swag of swag in offering full-year Disney+ subscriptions to new and existing unlimited data home and wireless customers.  That sure beats a toaster or set of steak knives. Good luck topping that, Sprint and T-Mobile. Well played, Verizon.  

LESSON #9: TURN UP THE BRIGHTNESS ON THE THEATRICAL EXPERIENCE— I won’t jump to the alarmist “ruining the the theatrical experience” level that Edward Norton in implying in a recent interview in The Daily Beast, but the firebrand actor that never minces his words is right.  Improper brightness and poor sound in cheap and untrained theater chains can make a bad enough viewing experience to turn off ticket-paying moviegoers.  If you’re going to pay today’s full prices on the promises of a superior experience to the 4K and HD stuff capable from your couch, you should get it. The luminosity talk in his interview was fascinating.  I notice it too and he isn’t wrong.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) 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 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.  (#119)

What We Learned This Week: June 23-July 6

LESSON #1: WE ARE LIVING IN A GOLDEN AGE OF SPIDER-MAN— What was broken beyond repair a few years ago couldn’t be in a better place today.  Spider-Man: Far From Home is Tom Holland’s second solo film and fifth total movie appearance as Peter Parker and he is maturing and progressing the character just about perfectly.  The movie was given the responsibility of closing out the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe phase and it did not disappoint. Combine the live-action take with the stellar animated off-shoot of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and the character finds himself as popular as it has ever been.  If Marvel was looking for the next flagship character to lead the MCU after the departure of Robert Downey, Jr., look no further.

LESSON #2: GET FREE STUFF WHILE IT LASTS— Amid the streaming wars sits two wonderful services available for free with many public library cards.  Folks on this site and group have long sung the praises of Hoopla and Kanopy. The price of free is amazing and, possibly soon, too good to be true.  The usage tab on the library’s end of things might start putting limitations on Kanopy, which would be a damn shame.  Between its Paramount and A24 offerings, Kanopy is invaluable for open discovery.  It would be a shame to see it dropped at some libraries.  

LESSON #3: 30 YEARS LATER, BATMAN STILL HOLDS UPs— We’re all living today at the MCU buffet, but the older among us reminder the sensational time of frenzy and hype that came with 1989’s Batman from Tim Burton and Warner Bros. Pictures.  As a movie, it redefined superhero films and showed that dark could sell and camp could be corrected (albeit until Joel Schumacher digressed the franchise).  The lore of Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson have diminished little, even after Christopher Nolan’s reimagining nearly two decades after. As an event, it was a blockbuster that broke marketing models and changed the way Hollywood did business.  The MovieFilm Commentary team recorded a track you can play alongside the film and Gena Radcliffe of The Spool had a nice column piece.  I too hopped on Mike Crowley’s “You’ll Probably Agree” podcast recently to reminisce.  Like Seth Rogen in Neighbors talking to Zac Efron, Michael Keaton is still my Batman.  

LESSON #4: LOOK AT A CANDIDATE’S MOST CRUCIAL QUALIFICATIONS— Speaking of Warner Bros., the media giant hired its first-ever woman CEO recently.  Ann Sarnoff was a proven winner at the BBC, raising subscriptions, and she will work to do the same at WB.  It doesn’t matter that Ann is a woman. She’s good at what she does. The same can be said for Halle Bailey being cast as Ariel in the upcoming Little Mermaid re-imagining.  Just listen to that woman sing.  That’s the important trait for that role, not hair or skin color.  Disney made a fantastic hire and so did the WB.

LESSON #5: IF THINGS ARE TOO BRIGHT AND COLORFUL FOR YOU DURING THE SUMMER, LOOK TO THE SHADOWS— In the recommendation slot, I am surely aware summer is not everyone’s thing.  Some folks want nothing to do with the hot rainbow loudness of this season. If that’s you, might I suggest something colder and hard-boiled.  Look into this list of the top 100 noir films from Slant Magazine or 33 neo-noir selections from Vulture.  Use this summer heat for some home viewing that hard boils your plots and characters.  I call that perfect palette-cleansing counter-programming for this time of year.

 


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) 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 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.  (#106)

What We Learned This Week: June 2-22

LESSON #1: PERCEIVED RECORDS AND DISTINCTIONS MAKE PEOPLE GREEDY— The corporate greed monster of Disney strikes again with a blatant turnaround re-release of Avengers: Endgame. The goal of tacking on “new footage,” a tribute reel, and an end credits scene is to get the blockbuster over the final $50 million hump between its gross and the Avatar’s cumulative worldwide record of $2.788 billion. Apparently, there’s shame for being in second place so bad they have to employ cheap double-dip tactics. It will work, but it will also take screens away from other smaller movies that deserve more attention and chances. In my eyes, and I’ve taken this stump in this column before, this remains a hollow and fake victory fueled by inflation and high ticket prices. Avengers: Endgame remains outside of the Top 15 in both inflation-adjusted gross and, the best and most universal indicator of all, total ticket sales. Wake me up when it catches anything in that Top 5 or even the Top 10.

LESSON #2: DON’T TAKE A MOVIE AWAY FROM A CAPABLE DIRECTOR— A week after its disappointing debut at the box office, word on creative strife behind the scenes of Men in Black: International is coming to light. Clashes of story direction and final cut between veteran producer Walter Parkes and hired and extremely capable director F. Gary Gray nearly caused Gray to leave the project. Gray touted something edgier and Parkes’ sillier affair won final cut. This is explains a great deal as to why this movie looks way off and feels discombobulated, even by MiB standards. Sony, you’ve made these screwups before (and it sounds like you’re doing them again with Bond 25).  Trust the talent you hire and let them do their thing.

LESSON #3: DON’T PAY THE SAME GUY TO SCREW UP TWICE— There are many things wrong with Fox’s X-Men “culmination” movie Dark Phoenix, and just about every one of them can leveled to the writer/director Simon Kinburg, who was respectful enough to take responsibility. Once the powers-that-be announced that the X-Men: Apocalypse sequel was going to tackle the “Phoenix/Dark Phoenix” for a second time after Brett Ratner’s reviled X-Men: The Last Stand, they had to know the scrutiny was coming.  If you’re actually trying for renewed success, you don’t hire the same writer who made the first dumpster fire and then also give him the power to direct.  I get familiarity and I get that Bryan Singer is radioactive to employ, but go find an actual upgrade for your $200 million tentpole and franchise swan song.

LESSON #4: THE FEELINGS OF FATIGUE AND BLANDNESS FOR BLOCKBUSTERS ARE REAL— I know Toy Story 4 is fail-proof this weekend from this lesson, but, other than April’s Avengers: Endgame, this has been a rough spring and summer for blockbusters. I read two articles this week that tackled this issue in different ways. Medium.com writer Samuel Lenz poses the question of franchise fatigue of bland blockbusters. IndieWire’s Tom Brueggemann went deeper into the collapse to cite size, frequency, the loss of MoviePass, streaming preferences, and higher quality TV options. I think both together encapsulate the majority of the factors we’re seeing. The top reason to me is quality. These have been bland movie offerings. Better movies get better audiences and returns. Better movies with verified must-see buzz climb over other entertainment options an open wallets. It will always start with quality.

LESSON #5: IT WILL ALWAYS BE ABOUT PRICE POINT— The posturing of the streaming wars continue with WarnerMedia announcing the proposed price of its upcoming streaming service. The sticker of $16-17 monthly would include HBO (which is $15 by itself currently), Cinemax, and the sizable WB library of content. That may be a fair price on paper, but in the eyes of customers, that’s more than double Disney Plus and higher than Netflix, Hulu, and even Apple. Other than hardcore HBO fans and folks that miss the WB bulk that used to be backbone of the closing Turner Classic Movies, people aren’t going to bite for this. Now, if that $16 included Warner’s current standalone DC Entertainment as a match to all the Marvel stuff under the Disney Plus umbrella, the temptation and value would be closer.

LESSON #6: APPLE WANTS TO BE AN OSCAR PLAYER—Many in the industry watched with impressiveness at Netflix’s Oscar campaigns for Roma and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. They have broken the glass ceiling and Apple is looking to follow. News broke this week of their strategy to produce and back six modestly-budgeted films a year as sponsored Oscar hopefuls. This plan is independent from a recent multi-year agreement between Apple and indie darling A24 to make multiple features together, but you have to think that collaboration is a perfect source for this goal.  Watch out, folks. Fine apple wine is coming.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) 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 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.  (#104)

What We Learned This Week: September 2-22

LESSON #1: IF YOU CAN’T BEAT THEM, BUY THEM— We read a great deal about how Netflix, for example, will dabble with theatrical debuts of their original movies and how it’s a bit of a struggle to get screens and self-distribute to the theatrical level.  Amazon, who is no slouch in the original film department, might be finding their own power move around that. They’re angling for suitors to buy the Landmark Theatres chain. When you own the theater, you set the terms and get the screens.  I think that’s ballsy and kind of genius, if you have the money, which Amazon sure does. Disney is making their own exclusive streaming service. Could you see them building their own exclusive theaters and keeping those dollars for themselves and not splitting with the AMCs and Regals of the world?  I sure could. Let’s see how it works for Amazon if it comes to pass. This could be the start of a tectonic shift in distribution and rest of the film biz.

LESSON #2: MORE OFTEN THAN NOT, IT’S THE FILMS THAT ARE BROKEN, NOT THE CRITICISM— Leave it to warm-hearted and successful This Is Us showrunner Dan Fogelman to show what boiling over looks like when it comes to starting another Artists vs. Critics vs. Audiences throwdown.  His film foray Life Itself is getting panned to the tune of 14% and still moving on Rotten Tomatoes) and his quoted reaction begins “something is inherently a little bit broken in our film criticism right now.”  If all he said was that, he’d be making a fair statement for discussion since the landscape has flaws, ones it is doing a decent job of working through for inclusion and representation in my opinion.  However, Dan aimed a little more sharply with “There’s a disconnect between something that is happening between our primarily white male critics who don’t like anything that has any emotion.”  Ain’t that a broad brush from a broad brush of the same color!  Watch him become the next Colin Trevorrow with that kind of flippant opinion.   If he looked deeper he would see that plenty of other critics that aren’t male or white don’t like his movie either.  If he looked deeper than the headliners, he would also find many white male critics who absolutely love emotion in movies.  Am I right, Aaron, Patrick, Jacob, Steve, and Jeremy?

LESSON #3: THE PREDATOR WAS AND IS A MESS— As fun as it was at times, I’m one of many critics who shook his head at the silliness brought forth by Shane Black’s The Predator, one of the most uneven films I’ve seen in a long time.  I couldn’t believe the mess (and then add the sex offender hiring snafu as well).  When I read the story of its reshoots (spoilers inside), all was explained to me and it sounds ridiculous.  The movie was dead on arrival. No wonder why it wasn’t good enough for a summer opening or scary enough for a Halloween weekend.

LESSON #4: NO MATTER WHAT, HENRY CAVILL’S DAYS AS SUPERMAN ARE NUMBERED— A great deal of fuss and backlash was made to the published rumors of Warner Bros. cutting ties with Henry Cavill in their DCEU.  The outrage and disbelief was off the charts, but when it’s being reported in The Hollywood Reporter, that’s not click bait anymore.  That is sourced news for this industry.  Beans may have been spilled early for all we know, leading to all of the walkback apologies since.  Still, I don’t see a good ending to this. For how maligned the DCEU films are and how strained fan interest/disinterest has become where the studio is quietly blowing up and disassembling its current course, too many signs are pointing to a necessary change.  My money is on Cavill being replaced by someone or something else within five years. There’s too much smoke here, rumors be damned.  Besides, there are greener pastures.

LESSON #5: AN AMERICAN IS GOING TO FROLIC IN A SACRED BRITISH GARDEN AGAIN— Word just broke this week that American director Cary Fukunaga (True Detective, Beasts of No Nation) is now the new director of the 25th James Bond film after Trainspotting series director Danny Boyle exited the franchise last month.  Fukunaga, a Netflix admirer, has swam in this foreign pond before directing Jane Eyre in 2010.  I think he continues the more serious tone Sam Mendes has brought to the MI-6 spy.  The next shoe to drop will be Daniel Craig staying or going especially if some Man of Steel is all of a sudden available and rumored to take his place.

LESSON #6: KEVIN FEIGE IS THE RIGHT MAN FOR HIS NEXT JOB— With Fox deal now done, the Marvel dream fulfillment of mergers and combinations begins.  The largest acquisition is the X-Men franchise and Disney CEO Bob Iger confirmed that head Marvel Films producer Kevin Feige will oversee all future X-Men films.  That’s great news and the perfect landing place.  Some X-Men films have been very good and even great, but they have always had room for more fulfilled potential.  If Kevin Feige can sprinkle the dust he’s given to the likes of Iron Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, and more, the X-Men go back to the A-list.

LESSON #7: BOB IGER FINALLY FOUND THE BRAKE PEDAL ON THE BLOCKBUSTER ROLLER COASTER— Speaking of Mr. Iger, news broke Thursday that “some slowdown” is happening at Disney when it comes to saturating the market with the cash cow Star Wars films.  That’s fantastic news because there is such as thing as overdoing it (Marvel’s three-films-a-year is already quite a test).  Like many have said, there is more mystique and anticipation when there is more special rarity to their infrequency.  Force the patience and people will still come. 

LESSON #8: THE ACADEMY FINALLY LISTENED IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION— Finally, all is back to being right in the world with the news that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is postponing their plans to have a “Popular Film” category on the grounds of being too late in the year to start a new initiative and how more study is necessary to understand its purpose or implication.  Forbes columnist Scott Mendelson adds more logs to that fire of reasoning.  Bring out the Madea “hallejuler” Tyler Perry memes.  I can put my previous soapbox column away, but I sure won’t delete it.  “Postpone” only means temporary. They’re bound to pull this nonsense again.  


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 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.

What We Learned This Week: July 1-14

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.