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: December 7th “Soapbox Special”

THIS SPECIAL “SOAPBOX SPECIAL” IS A LESSON TOPIC THAT IS LENGTHY ENOUGH TO BE ITS OWN EDITORIAL.  THIS ONE IS GOING TO TAKE A BIT TO SPELL OUT.  HERE GOES.  COME AT ME, BRO!

LESSON #1: IF YOU MADE A LIST OF ALL THE FILMS TO BOYCOTT BECAUSE OF PEOPLE WITH UNCLEAN RECORDS AND REPUTATIONS (FOR WHATEVER REASON), YOU WOULDN’T HAVE MANY FILMS LEFT TO WATCH— The arrival of Woody Allen’s latest film Wonder Wheel brought on an editorial over on RogerEbert.com written by Olivia Collette entitled “Why I Stopped Watching Woody Allen Movies.”  I feel like this sentiment comes around each year and with each new Allen film, yet the narrative doesn’t change.  People talk of boycotting his films, yet here he is still making films on an annual basis in his 80s.   Maybe his checkered history is amplified even more this time around by the recent epidemic wave of attention being given to the seemingly endless sexually-centered wrongdoings in Hollywood.

Even so, I hate to tell you this, but Woody Allen’s talent is not moot or erased by his transgressions.  His films still exist and are worthy of their regard.  He still wins awards and people flock to work with him because, bad person or not, the man is one of the greatest to ever gaze through a camera and yell “action” and “cut.”  This isn’t old baseball record book behaviors.  Annie Hall, Midnight in Paris, and any other respected Woody Allen film don’t carry asterisks because they were made by “he who must not be named or celebrated.”  The work should and does speak for itself.

The very same goes for any of the names that have been mentioned this year or those from decades past that didn’t get the ferocity of today’s news cycle headlines. Go look up the skeletons in the closet of Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Alfred Hitchcock, or any other of the forgotten scandals from this Ranker list.  They did plenty that would break the internet if it happened today.  Formerly recent names like Allen, Bill Cosby, Tom Cruise, Sean Penn, Roman Polanski, Mel Gibson, and more have well-documented histories that have had their attached hate subside to some degree with time.  Hell, Gibson was a multiple Oscar nominee last year with Hacksaw Ridge.  Ignoring how many of this new rumors ever end up with guilty sentences and substantiated claims and how many don’t, will time soothe the reputations of new names like Harvey Weinstein, Casey Affleck, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., and others?

Current and short-sighted torch-carrying folks, fueled by all of this news cycle and Twitterverse of newly surfaced rumors and claims, seem to want to ignore and/or remove all of the work done by these new names.  Just look at what’s happening to Kevin Spacey.  When the current generation does that to Spacey and does not do the same to any of those aforementioned names of yesteryear who did more and plenty worse, I find them to be absolute hypocrites.  If you’re going to feign concern for social justice and make those selective lists to boycott, be complete about it.  Execute real integrity.   Turn back the hands of time and add everyone.  If you’re not going to do that, then don’t make the list at all, because a selective one just looks preachy and petty.

This is where the title of the lesson/rant comes in.  If you took away every actor or actress that (*pick the laundry list sin item that irks your armchair sensibilities*) ever used illegal drugs, got a DUI, committed homosexual or heterosexual adultery, had a child out of wedlock, had an abortion, married multiple times with or without proper annulment or divorce, committed a crime of physical or verbal assault/abuse, or acted in a derogatory way to a person of differing race, gender, or orientation, you wouldn’t have many people left, period.  If you truly don’t condone all of that, then you shouldn’t be watching movies or TV shows.  This lesson applies to athletes too.  They makes millions because people pay millions for their work.  That doesn’t mean they are better or worth idolizing in a warped way.

I, for one, have made it a point, going back to the beginning of my love and work with movies two decades ago, to strongly and consistently separate the public persona from their work and craft.  They are two entirely different things to judge.  The films are inanimate and subjective pieces of art and entertainment to judge.  The same cannot be done with people.  Those are different judgments that, frankly, are rarely ours to pass.

We hardly ever hear or learn of the whole story behind any of these rumors, so any definitive judgment from us would be incomplete and irrational.  That said, audiences and fans are allowed to make choices and preferences from the information they know or think they know.  That’s fine.  Be a selective consumer.  Be an informed fan as best that you can.  Have discerning taste suitable for your comfort levels.  All of that is fair, but we are not in charge of their courtrooms, boardrooms, bedrooms, spouses, or places of worship where real judgment takes place.  We’re outside of that and we should stay outside of that.  You wouldn’t want someone passing incomplete judgment on you, so don’t do it to strangers you blindly placed on entertainment pedestals.

To outline examples of my mentality, I can dislike Tom Cruise’s beliefs and still enjoy a Tom Cruise film with no reservations because it’s about the work and not the person when the lights go down and the movie starts.  I can never remove Kevin Spacey or O.J. Simpson from the movies I watch and enjoy.  I will have Alfred Hitchcock films on my all-time best lists without hesitation or a second thought because the films deserve those merits even if the man behind them doesn’t.  If anything, their places and appearances become a reminder and a time capsule for a woulda-coulda-shoulda cautionary tale.  If we are really going to reflect on the individual acts of wrong, learn something, grow from observing these mistakes, that’s how those defamed people should be looked at and remain in Hollywood history.

I highly encourage others to seek or at least entertain the same.  Separate the person from the art.  Open your mind to more objective rationales.  If you can’t, then you can’t.  Everyone has their limits and I get that, but there is a point where you’re doing the medium a disservice to think you can ignore talent and achievement.

Where do we go with this?  Last month on this column, I shared that sadness and disappointment should be among the first emotions that arrive well before outrage and judgment when these shocking claims and stories come to light.  I made that my universal stance statement to purposefully choose to stand on a shorter and calmer soapbox.  In that same column, I expanded on Feelin’ Film co-founder Aaron White’s discussion thread question of “at what point do we require more than just an allegation to ruin someone’s life forever?”  I echoed his mentality to properly practice “innocent until proven guilty” and not the other way around.

Empathy and patience need to be preached, especially if those accused and even those that have been proven guilty have sought contrition or have paid whatever proper price was assigned for their mistakes and/or crimes.  A way to do that concretely and consistently is to separate the person from the work.  You then bring the right respect and reflection to the art and become part of the healing, not the hurt.  Try it.  I think you’ll feel better.


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 FacebookTwitterMedium, and Creators Media.

What We Learned This Week: November 19-27- Thanksgiving Hangover Edition

Folks, holidays off of work will derail any routines you have, be it parenting or writing and publishing film reviews and online content.  I had a week and my world went lazy in a happy and welcome hurry.  Super-sized to match our post-Thanksgiving “muffintop” bellies, here’s a late edition of “What We Learned This Week!”


LESSON #1: YOU REALLY NEED TO SEE LADY BIRD— There is a five-star and potential best-of-2017 film sitting right under your noses with Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird.  My review glows like the California sun and you will find much more like it from my peers on Feelin’ Film and the pros on Rotten Tomatoes. In fact, take a look at this distinction, one even greater than the RT buzz given to Get Out‘s high score earlier this year:

LESSON #2: WHILE YOU’RE AT IT, GO SEE WONDER TOO— So often, we ask where are the quality family films in this current Hollywood marketplace.  I can’t be the only parent out there who asks for something better than made-for-TV ABC Family and Hallmark channel movies and the endless string of mindless noise coming out of blockbusters like MinionsSing, and etc.  Disney scaling things down with Pete’s Dragon and The Queen of Katwe last year gave me hope that a legitimate live-action family film could still be made and be mildly successful.  Wonder is that exceeding hope this year.  Its messages are virtuous and heartwarming.  Add Stephen Chbosky’s film to your shortlist for holiday viewing.  It’s a keeper.

LESSON #3: SPEND EXTRA TIME IN THE LOBBY, BATHROOM, TRAFFIC, OR AT DINNER BEFORE SEEING COCO (BUT DON’T FORGET TO STILL SEE COCO)— Disney/Pixar’s Coco is another family-friendly keeper right there with Wonder, but the animated “short” before it the opposite.  I don’t know about you, but I was done with Frozen when it came out.  Subjecting a (hopefully) diverse family audience to 21 minutes of repetitive Olaf silliness on top of previews and other advertisements before a hearty and heavy 109-minute film is too much.  Dear Disney, save that crap for your own TV channel and future streaming service.  Dear Pixar, we come to a Pixar film for your brand of superior original shorts, not Disney’s extra product placement.  Future Coco audiences, use article guide from Slate to calculate how much time to stall and cut right to the feature.

LESSON #4: BE MINDFUL OF WHO IS IN BED WITH WHO WHEN IT COMES TO THE BUSINESS OF HOLLYWOOD— Rotten Tomatoes was applauded before the release of Justice League for its stance to hold its first official rating designation until the opening day of Friday, four days after publication embargoes for critics ended that Tuesday.  It was seen as a move of patience and a step in the right direction away from the immediacy of rash judgment.  When you learn Warner Bros. owns Flixster, the parent company of Rotten Tomatoes, you might realize it was a selfish move of shielding flack instead of championing temperance.  Let me continue to join many other voices, including this great piece from Hype, begging for the general public to loosen their obsession with the broken math of Rotten Tomatoes.  Find critics you trust and appreciate and separate from the pack mentality of pitchforks and/or circle jerks.

LESSON #5: YOU GET WHAT YOU GET WITH JUSTICE LEAGUE— I’d love a Zach Snyder or Joss Whedon “director’s cut” (hell, even both) of Justice League, but conflicting reports make it sound like it can’t or won’t happen.  No matter what, too many folks play amateur armchair film editors.  If we get a bonus, that’s great.  If we don’t, take what the film gives you.

LESSON #6: SPEAKING OF SUPERHEROES, IT’S TIME FOR EVEN MORE DIVERSITY REPRESENTATION— Seeing the strength of the Amazons in Wonder Woman and Justice League as well as the badassery of Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok, it’s time additional diversity in comic book films.  This Collider column and list lay out six places inclusion of LGBTQ characters could have been made and it’s a good blueprint for more.  Heck, just start with women in general, let alone the other special demographics of the acronym.  The Guardian recently outlined a primer for a full “women’s canon” foundation.  It’s impressive.    Let’s see Hollywood continue to get progressive and build on the good starts and new energy.


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.

What We Learned This Week: October 29-November 4

LESSON #1: SCOUTING THE RIGHT TALENT IS KEY TO MARVEL’S SUCCESS— How does this low-risk MCU blueprint keep coming up with winners? One way is by scouting comedic talent in front of and behind the camera. Look first at the casting of Marvel’s core leads: Robert Downey, Jr.Chris EvansChris PrattPaul RuddBenedict Cumberbatch, and, in Thor: Ragnarok‘s case, Chris Hemsworth. Each of them (follow the links) bring an easily-activated range of humor to not take themselves so seriously. If you’re shooting for overall levity, you call on the nimble and agile.  The same search for farce can be said for many of Marvel’s directorial choices: Jon Favreau, Joss Whedon, Anthony and Joe Russo, James Gunn, and Peyton Reed. All have witty and wisecracking credits on their resumes. Add director Taika Waititi’s name to that list. The peppy New Zealander behind Hunt for the Wilder People and What We Do in the Shadows merges his wholesome storytelling sensibilities with a frisky and playful side of sarcasm to sharpen the camp of the comic book content of Thor: Ragnarok.

LESSON #2: NETFLIX CAN STILL BE A BIT OF A BALLHOG— Jeff Huston of “I Can’t Unsee That Movie” has an excellent editorial piece recently talking about the day-and-date release strategy of Netflix.  Thanks to their deep pockets to win some distribution bids on prominent international film festival performers like The Meyerowitz Stories, First They Killed My Father, and Our Souls at Night, high caliber independent films are available on their streaming service at the same time as a soft and limited theatrical release.  The article calls into question how this practice actually does a disservice to the theater end of things and I happen to agree, though I celebrate Netflix plenty (see next lesson) for getting the “gets.” While it’s nice that the arthouse theater scene is being filled with something, the Netflix availability dramatically shortens any helpful effect of attendance the arthouse could really use.  There’s got to be a middle stagger of compromise in there.  Give the arthouse 4-8 weeks of exclusivity and then Netflix gets it forever, something to that effect where both benefit.

LESSON #3: NETFLIX IS ALL-IN ON ORIGINAL PROGRAMMING— We’ve been seeing Netflix’s not-so-quiet surge all year with their self-financed original feature film offerings and have been amazed.  They keep getting bigger, especially with Will Smith’s Bright around the corner.  Now the ambition and push have a target number and it’s bigger than we thought.  Recently, the streaming giant said their 2018 goal is 80 original films.  That is an astounding number that runs circles around Hollywood studios that maybe put out a quarter of that into the multiplexes.  Love them or hate them, Netflix is quadrupling down on being a big-time player.

LESSON #4: DEMAND-BASED PRICING IS GOING TO BE AN INTERESTING EXPERIMENT— We filmgoers don’t often see the business dealings happening behind the curtain and multiplex doors.  For a taste of it, read the strict details Disney is placing on theater chains for the upcoming Star Wars: The Last Jedi and you’ll get an idea of the bitter competition for the almighty dollar.  All we see is ticket prices going up and wondering why while we shake our heads and still open up our wallets.  In an effort to earn a little extra, the Regal Cinemas chain recently announced a trial of demand-based/surge pricing where the hits will cost more than the flops on your receipt.  Seeing the business end of that Last Jedi example, I get theaters trying to squeeze, but one has to wonder if such practice will work.  I don’t like its chances.  All I see are movie studios then asking for a bigger cut on top.


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.

What We Learned This Week: October 8-14

LESSON #1: THE PREVALENCE OF HARASSMENT IS WORSE THAN WE THINK IT IS— The Harvey Weinstein allegations just keep getting worse with every new name that comes forward and every new story that comes to life.  The word “rape” is now being dropped and that’s a new level of seriousness.  I’m reading many comments on threads that will state “I’m not surprised,” but saying that (and I’m guilty too) slightly lowers the level of necessary outrage.  This stuff has been tossed aside too long.  It’s not the time for more dismissiveness or shoulder shrugs.  It’s time to expose this in each place (including Screen Junkies) and stomp it out.

LESSON #2: OUR FOUNDER/HOST AARON WHITE SPEAKS FOR ME AND OTHER FATHERS ON THIS TOPIC— I had to get my “preach” emoji out for Aaron yesterday on Facebook.  I’m going to quote his post verbatim:

Apparently, it’s not okay for a Dad to reference his daughters when condemning sexual abuse. Newsflash: people will ALWAYS relate to something through that which is closest to them. We’re not somehow less against sexual abuse because having a daughter made it more real for us. Sick of the generalizing and judging going on.

Aaron, I couldn’t agree more and guys like Matt Damon don’t deserve the crap they’re getting in the wake of Weinstein.  Bravo, boss!

LESSON #3: MANY CLASSICS BEGAN AS FLOPS.  WILL THAT BE BLADE RUNNER 2049 OR MOTHER! WHEN WE LOOK BACK AT 2017— Martin Scorsese recently celebrated Darren Aronofsky’s mother! and referenced it next to classics like The Wizard of Oz, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Vertigo that started as misunderstand and maligned disappointments.  The much-hyped Blade Runner 2049 is looking like it’s going to follow the trajectory of its predecessor as a niche favorite and not an instant blockbuster.  As the expression goes, time will tell and it happens every year.  Big hits can become more like also-rans as they age and devoted fans and experts can come to create a cult classic.  Which 2017 films will pass the test of time and become classics?


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  He is also one of the founders and the current directors of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  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.

What We Learned This Week: October 1-7

LESSON #1: THERE ARE LIKELY MORE SKELETONS IN MORE CLOSETS THAN WE WILL EVER KNOW— Last year, it was the allegations surrounding Casey Affleck.  Last week was the culmination of old indiscretions from Ain’t It Cool News and Alamo Drafthouse.  This week, it’s the unearthed disgusting behavior from mega-producer Harvey Weinstein.  I wish this story would be the last on the topic of unchecked sexual harassment, but I think any law of averages from any statistical measure will tell us this is the tip of an iceberg and not the finale.  I’ll repeat my plea from last week to remove the silence and dish out the overdue consequences.

LESSON #2: HARRY DEAN STANTON DESERVES TO WIN THE THIRD POSTHUMOUS ACTING OSCAR EVER AWARDED— You can call Lucky a capstone, a eulogy, or whatever you want, but the late Harry Dean Stanton deserved serious Oscar consideration for Best Actor even before his death.  His legend will only grow with the public seeing the film. Starkly present in both the character and the actor himself, every wrinkle hides a layer, a story to be told, or a touchstone to an unseen memory. You cannot stare deep enough into his sullen eyes without being captivated by his plight.

LESSON #3: THE MONEY PEOPLE EARN MAKING A MOVIE— Mark me down as a guy who never knew how much the folks you see listed in the end credits of a film got paid.  We hear about the big paychecks of actors and directors, but rarely the “little people.”  Check out this article from TIME magazine. File this under the “You Learn Something Every Day” department.

LESSON #4: IS THE THEATRICAL PRODUCT GETTING SLOPPY?— I recently enjoyed the perspective written up by Sonny Bunch in The Washington Post.  I found the technical details behind projection, sound, and lights to be fascinating.  The more I think about my theatrical experiences every week, the more I see what Bunch is referring to.  Calling it a “scapegoat” to attendance I think is a little too strong, but discerning fans are right to expect and want better from their premium ticket prices.

LESSON #5: GEORGE CLOONEY IS TOO YOUNG TO BE GETTING LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS— The American Film Institute announced that George Clooney will be receiving their 46th Lifetime Achievement Award next June.  Mr. Clooney is only 56-years-old.  I don’t want to turn into Don “TMasterpiece” Shanahan, but George’s career is far from full or even complete.  Let’s put the “lifetime” in lifetime achievement awards.  The guy could work at the top of his game for another quarter-century.  Come back when the guy is 76 instead of 56.  Next thing you know, Jennifer Lawrence is going to win the thing before she turns 30.  Jeez!


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  He is also one of the founders and the current directors of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  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.

What We Learned This Week: September 24-30

LESSON #1: HARASSMENT SHOULD NOT BE TOLERATED AT ANY LEVEL IN THIS INDUSTRY— This lesson could also read “PERPETRATORS GET THEY DESERVE.”  The recent allegations surrounding the Austin-based Alamo Drafthouse and Ain’t It Cool News website are disturbing and troublesome.  I couldn’t be more pleased to see workplaces all around several industries clean up their acts and seek greater integrity.  These inequalities shouldn’t be silenced anymore.

LESSON #2: AMBIGUITY IS A POWERFUL DISCUSSION STARTER— I’ve seen Blade Runner 2049 and I can say that it hits with the same mystery and rich uncertainty that surrounds the 1982 original. When it’s silent, Blade Runner 2049 can infer volumes of connotations. When it speaks in its guarded circles of exposition, it conversely shields and misdirects its real secrets.  Diving into all of the possible interpretations is brilliance and fun.  In many ways, mother! did the same a few weeks ago.  While I’m here, Denis Villeneuve has become the modern artistic authority on cinematic intensity.  There’s nothing flat or flimsy about his work.

LESSON #3: TOM CRUISE IS STILL TOM CRUISE— I know plenty of people that won’t watch the man anymore because they disagree with who he is and what he values off-screen, but, at his workplace, Tom Cruise still has gung-ho charisma.  He’s 100% committed to his roles from pre-production to selling the hell out of them with exhausting international press coverage and public appearances.  American Made has a candor and sizzle that fits him perfectly without turning him into an indestructible superstar.  Bonus points go to Cruise being credited as a stunt pilot in the film.  Often, that’s him on the stick and that POV authenticity adds to the film.

LESSON #4: IS THE HONEYMOON PERIOD OVER FOR THE LEGO MOVIE FRANCHISE?— Plenty of films would kill for a $20 million dollar opening weekend frame, but when you’re sailing for the Warner Bros. flagship and bearing The LEGO Movie name, you have to do better than $20 million and a distant third place finish.  Is The LEGO Ninjago Movie an outlier or the first sign of ho-hum market over-saturation.  Is all forgotten if Chris Pratt’s Emmet or Will Arnett’s Batman come back with monster sequels to their blockbusters?  Probably, but the lesson is worth asking.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  He is also one of the founders and the current directors of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  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.

What We Learned This Week: September 17-23

LESSON #1: FOR AT LEAST ONE FILM, DEFENDING OF INTEGRITY STILL EXISTS— I absolutely love Paramount Pictures’ statement of support for Darren Aronofsky’s mother! after its low box office debut and an “F” CinemaScore.  Here it is:

This movie is very audacious and brave. You are talking about a director at the top of his game, and an actress at the top her game. They made a movie that was intended to be bold. Everyone wants original filmmaking, and everyone celebrates Netflix when they tell a story no one else wants to tell. This is our version. We don’t want all movies to be safe. And it’s okay if some people don’t like it.

Other studios in other situations could have gotten in the bus driver’s seat, made up excuses, or assigned blame to everyone but themselves.  Love or hate the film (and plenty feel both), mother! deserves its chance for success and an audience no matter how large or small those results add up to be.  Bravo to the balls on Paramount brass!  That’s as forward an example of integrity as you’re going to see in a profit-driven business where art is secondary.

LESSON #2: BARRING HUGE UPHEAVAL, YOU CAN LOCK IN THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI AS ONE OF THE NOMINEES FOR BEST PICTURE AT THE UPCOMING 90TH ACADEMY AWARDS— Every year since 2008, the winner of the Grolsch People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival has gone on to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.  Three eventual Best Picture winners since 2006 were TIFF champs.  Go ahead and write in permanent marker the title of Martin McDonagh’s newest film to the field.  I think you’ll also see star Francis McDormand’s name on the Best Actress short list as well.  Any and all Oscar buzz will float through this column all season.

LESSON #3: STRONGER IS THE BOSTON MOVIE WE DESERVED MORE THAN PATRIOTS DAY A YEAR AGO— The resonance surrounding the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing has always been more about the people than the bravura.  We deserved the real thing, not an overly convenient composite character in a Mark Wahlberg glamour project.  The most and maybe only genuine portion of Peter Berg’s film came in its extended epilogue of testimonials given by the actual citizens and participants.  Real respect and passion showed up after two hours of exploitative action.  David Gordon Green’s Stronger flips that ratio to deliver and demonstrate true dignity and tribute.  His film is outstanding.

LESSON #4: RESPECT WOMEN, PERIOD— On the heels of the metaphorical misogyny found in mother! arrives a debate-filled dramedy of a real-life climate of misogyny in Battle of the Sexes.  The Emma Stone/Steve Carell duel is an unabashed crowd-pleaser and stand-up message film that inspires and challenges gender equality then and now.  Someday, a time will come when the blazed trails of women like Billie Jean King will lead to a true level field.  Until then, every measure of respect paid to women is a step toward an acceptance and understanding that should be commonplace.  Make a greater effort, period.  If you’re part of the problem, change your ways.  Teach not only our daughters better, but our sons as well.  The old Lauren Barnholdt axiom says “you have to give respect to get respect.”  Women have been giving of themselves for far too long.  It’s time to pay the respect back.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  He is also one of the founders and the current directors of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  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.

What We Learned This Week: September 10-16

LESSON #1: DARREN ARONOFSKY IS AS AUDACIOUS AS THEY COME— Love or hate his films (and there is a lot there for both emotions), but Darren Aronofsky has cajones, talent, and personal integrity to make bold films his way and for his own artistic expression.  mother! is the latest chapter of a brazen filmography of NoahBlack SwanThe Wrestler, Fountain, Requiem for a Dream, and Pi.  The guy is operating at another level and uses a different elevator of crazy.  Recognize the skill through any love or hate you harbor to his films.

LESSON #2: GUILLERMO DEL TORO’S THE SHAPE OF WATER IS YOUR FIRST OSCAR CONTENDER— The master of creature creation’s romantic fantasy film won the prestigious Golden Lion award as the top film of the Venice Film Festival.  Put it at the top of the standings while it also competes at the ongoing Toronto International Film Festival.  If The Shape of Water were to win at TIFF, hot damn, you can switch the word from “contender” to “frontrunner.”  In other categories, Venice awarded its acting prizes to Kamel El Basha for The Insult and Charlotte Rampling for Hannah, its screenplay award to Martin McDonagh for Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri, and the best director prize to Xavier Legrand for Custody.  Within the next week or two, I will report the TIFF winners in this very column.

LESSON #3: “WHITE PRIVILEGE” WILL BE THE MOST POLARIZING SUBJECT MATTER AND NARRATIVE THIS AWARDS SEASON— I screened and reviewed the Ben Stiller vehicle Brad’s Status this week and if I had to retitle the film, it would be White Privilege: The Wake-Up Call.  The movie has a strong introspective quality about it, but its message is going to fall on so many deaf ears to any demographic that’s not a middle-aged white male.  Consider that a crutch and a hindrance, even if the film was good.  I fear the same thing will happen to an even higher profile film this awards season, namely George Clooney’s Coen brothers collaboration Suburbicon.  Clooney was stumping for the film and Venice and found himself answering the sticky white privilege labels and questions.  To his great credit, he’s sticking to his guns about the purposeful satire and commentary of this film.  The film may work, but does that mean it will play that way to general or even voting audiences?  I’m betting the white privilege labels aren’t far behind for Alexander Payne’s Downsizing and even mother! too.

LESSON #4: PATTY JENKINS DESERVES THE SUCCESS COMING HER WAY— Warner Bros. made it official this week signing Patty Jenkins to return as the director of the Wonder Woman sequel.  The first film’s runaway success netted her a $7-9 million payday, the highest ever for a woman director, and a little percentage of the back-end profits for good measure.   Slowly but surely, the pay gap can and should close.  Patty Jenkins deserves this reward and I’m glad she’s one of the leaders for equal professional standards.  Kudos!

LESSON #5: THE IMPORTANT THING IS TO GET A FILM DONE RIGHT— I’ve talked in this column over the summer about the many news items of production ups-and-downs.  Instances include when Justice League called on Joss Whedon to step in for extensive reshoots or the dismissals of two different Star Wars directors.  This week, all signs point to J.J. Abrams returning to the director’s chair for Episode IX and delaying the film an additional seven months to reshuffle the deck.  On the smaller side, ace composer Johann Johannsson is leaving Blade Runner 2049 less than a month before its release.  We take those breaking stories as signs of trouble and possible evidence of a lemon to come.  We’ve been doing it in the internet age since Titanic was delayed from a July 4th weekend opening to Christmas in 1997.  Sometimes those fears become justified.  Maybe, just maybe though, the delays are the right moves to ensure a proper finished product.  Maybe a little more patience and extra time used to fine tune a film can finally win in the age of instant gratification, manic buzz, and “what have you done for me lately.”  We are a voracious audience sometimes, myself included, but maybe we can soften our Chicken Little-level overreactions.  Call this an early New Year’s resolution for this writer.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  He is also one of the founders and the current directors of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  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.

What We Learned This Week: August 27-September 2

LESSON #1: THERE’S A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN “FAVORITE” AND “GREATEST”— I’ve used this very lesson’s line quite often in the Feelin’ Film discussion group over the year.  As a credentialed film critic who is still a starving fan of cinema, I cannot help but wear two hats and grade with two scales, and I’m completely at peace with that.  However, thanks to sites like Letterboxd, we rank things to death and I, for one, get hung up on the labeling because there is a stark difference between “favorite” and “greatest.”  “Favorite” is personal taste while “greatest” is more objective and reflective in measurement.  It’s beautiful when they are the same film, but there are many cases when that doesn’t happen.  The most recent topic that reminded me of the necessity for separate distinctions was the recent BBC poll ranking the 100 greatest comedies of all time.  Comedy is the most subjective of all film genres, where the divide between “favorite” and “greatest” is both distant and touchy from one person to the next.  Comedy also has the proclivity to not age well.  Combine those reactions together and the dissection comments of “what about ____,” “why isn’t ____ higher,” and “I can’t believe ___ isn’t on there ” reminded me that comedy is personal and even the trolls have room for a say.  Then, I looked at the years and it led me to the next lesson.

LESSON #2: MILLENNIALS DON’T REALLY CARE ABOUT CLASSIC FILMS— For the multitude of younger audiences circulating the web today, the BBC’s top 10 was entirely comprised of films older than 1993’s Groundhog Day, topped by 1959’s Some Like it Hot (a completely deserving top film IMO).  I wonder how many of the butthurt Millennials who were dropping those comments from Lesson #1 have even seen a Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton film.  This lesson title is lifted from a recent New York Post article that hit the truth of wonderment with a ton of bricks.  The piece reported polling data from FYE.com of 1,000 Millennials and 1,000 Americans over 50 on seeing top IMDb-rated films.  The results were eye-opening.  I get that differences in quality and tone from classic films to modern films and how audiences and tastes have changed.  Still, I will stand up as a guy calling for young people to respect history and educate themselves before they rant.  Learn the roots that inspired the films we’re watching today.  Go discover the endless buried treasure that comprises lists like the BBC’s Top 100 Comedies and the IMDb Top 250.  Even if they don’t like what they find, they’ll at least be an educated voice instead of an ignorant one.

LESSON #3: LET’S VISIT JESSE AND CELINE EVERY NINE YEARS UNTIL THEY DIE— If note-worthy director Michael Apted can revisit the same group of British citizens every seven years in his beloved Up documentary series that started at 7 Up in 1964 and turned 56 Up in 2012, then let’s have a narrative feature do the same.  Word fluttered recently that there is hope for a fourth Before film from director Richard Linklater and stars/co-writers Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy.  To whatever studio gets that pitch, move heaven and earth to make it happen in time for 2022.  Linklater, Hawke, and Delpy have built a trilogy of perfection since 1995.  How beautiful would it be to follow the star-crossed couple of Jesse and Celine from the twentysomethings to their silvery senior years? Gosh, that’s a good dream!

LESSON #4: L.A. CONFIDENTIAL IS CURTIS HANSON’S MASTERPIECE— During the recent Noir City Festival in Chicago, the famed Music Box Theatre in Chicago hosted a 20th-anniversary screening of Curtis Hanson’s L.A. Confidential, complete with author James Ellroy in the house for a rousing introduction and post-film talk back.  Here fellow Chicago critic Jeff York and I talk about the experience on the Page 2 Screen podcast on the International Screenwriters’ Association Network.  Twenty years ago, when I was just getting into movies as a high school grad approaching his freshman year of undergrad, I was lucky enough to discover L.A. Confidential on the big screen and it was a gateway drug to learning about the noir genre and smart procedural films after a decade-long buffet of 90s action films built as trashy and excessive glamour projects (go look at the 90s filmographies of Steven Seagal, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger).  The film should have beat Titanic for the Best Picture Oscar that year and it still stands as a watershed today.  Curtis Hanson died a year ago this month, leaving behind a resume of The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, Wonder Boys, White Dog, The River Wild, and 8 Mile.  L.A. Confidential is his unquestioned masterpiece and one of my Top 5 all-time films.  If you’ve never seen it, treat yourself.

LESSON #5: THE WORLD IGNORED THE RETURN OF STEVEN SODERBERGH AND IT’S A DAMN SHAME— Speaking of masterful directors, Steven Soderbergh’s Logan Lucky deserved better at the August box office.  The whole month has been a hot mess and dumping grounds for trash left and right for the last three weeks, but Soderbergh’s heist film is a gem.  The guy came out of retirement and delivered a crowd-pleasing winner.  I’m surprised in the summer of Baby Driver that Logan Lucky couldn’t find a similar niche audience.  Here’s to hoping it finds a sweet spot on the next level of VOD, Netflix, and home viewing.  Consider that film a current treat to wash down the Curtis Hanson one with a smile.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  He is also one of the founders and the current directors of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  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.